A while back I ran into an old acquaintance, a Facebook friend, on a busy national holiday at my place of former retail employment. I knew from my newsfeed that the she was living in Chicago working at a finance company dating a man with a chiseled face, and I remembered from what I knew about her before that she was biding her time. She was the kind of girl who everyone was in love with, or at least they wanted to screw the shit of her, and she had perfected the art of polite condescension. I was training a cashier and too busy to notice her at first, but she called out my name in that same tone that I can still remember cooing “Francis, can you see my underwear?” in freshman year English class. A tiny piece of me smiles every time I remember that story – I won that battle without my thong sticking out of my pants, and I suspect that’s how I gained the calculated respect of said beauty-queen. From across the room I could see boys I would later date chuckling, boys who would later love those boys rolling their eyes, and girls who would later come to hate me for invading their side of the classroom scoffing.
Hiiiii! I smiled cheerfully, like any good sales girl, and I asked how she was and what she was doing. She was great, and this was Kevin, she gesturing with pride to the chiseled face beside her. “And what are you doing? Oh, well I guess you’re working here!” she chuckled in an ambiguous way. “I’m getting my masters”, I replied, and the cashier I was training had a question. Enjoy the holiday! I smiled, and it was her turn to be rung up. I could hear the cashier behind me chatting with her, and as her purchase went down on the counter next to that of the chiseled face the cashier asked “Are these together?” The woman I knew laughed, throwing her head back and cooing, “No, not yet.” Her shirt was fashionably long like they are today, but I could see her thong in my mind, peeking out, Barbie pink.
Not yet. Something about those words and the way she said them turned my stomach for the rest of the day. It wasn’t the condescension with which she met a former friend, and it wasn’t jealousy for her grown-up job in a real city just like it wasn’t jealously that struck me when she cooed to the man I knew I loved (even then). It was awe and sadness. She was always one of the smartest people in our Goshorn-Honors-English cohort that would continue to be bound for the next four years, and though the child of a particularly despicably-suburban mother, I had hopes that when she left home she would find herself. She and I had a lot in common, actually, and I always felt an affinity for her when so many people I knew felt disregard or disgust.
This story certainly is not a recent one, but it came into my head again this morning as I was making breakfast. Here I am in California, scrambling eggs with fresh vegetables listening to the blues in boyshorts and a tye-dyed tanktop. I’m 3,000 miles from where I was born, working as a disguise but secretly searching for Zen, exceptionally single, and as strong and calm as anyone you’ve ever seen. And though my journey has not been so much Fear and Loathing as some, I can feel that I’ve left the path that I was on. The girls like I was in high school are married now, or engaged, or not yet either, but close. A conversation with a friend the other day made me realize that I will not be the first to be married, and in fact I may be the last. Consciously, or not, the last four year I have been choices that ensure I will not be the young bride, and that I will instead be the woman who sits in the pew, wearing the kind of gorgeous dress that only a girl without commitment can afford (and justify) buying – watching, speculating with an accomplice which of the groomsmen are single. I’ll be the woman with stories, the woman who answers to no one, and the novelty who makes everyone I know smile and chuckle “that woman is really something.” Eight years ago, everyone I knew expected to see me shining pure and white, and as it stands now, I’m not that kind of girl.
Not yet. The funny thing about those words is they may be true for me too. I may, yet, be a stay at home mom with cookies in the oven of my beautiful house in the suburbs. My husband may come home and take off his tie, and I may hand him a drink and mention that I finished the Christmas letter and that everything is ready for the holiday party this weekend. He’ll go change and I’ll rush dinner because I have to lead the PTA meeting, Elliot has soccer practice, and Lydia still needs help with her English homework. The difference, between me and my friend and the woman I may have been, is that my husband will laugh. He’ll come downstairs in his tye-dye tee-shirt chucking “Look at us; Can you believe this?” And I’ll smile – knowingly, and a bit seductively, saying “I think, Darling, that we’ve got them pretty well fooled.” And in the mean time, I’ll write my stories. I’ll see the world, and I’ll chase dreams that I may catch and chose to let go. I’ll live for now, and not yet worry about what is not yet here.
“We’re so busy watching out for what’s just ahead of us that we don’t take time to enjoy where we are.” – Calvin & Hobbes