When I grow up

I’m shamelessly stealing Alice’s charming idea for a post, Things I thought I would do as a grown-up, when I was seven.

1. Throw dinner parties. Instructed by my parents’ frequent evening entertainments, I assumed that all grown-ups had regular dinner parties, complete with cocktail hours around bowls of salted nuts and stiff drinks on the the rocks, followed by a sit-down dinner centered around a rich casserole and possibly a bottle of Cold Duck. (Since Cold Duck was the only wine I was allowed to sample, I thought all wines were Cold Duck.) Of course, as I imagined this scene in my future, my own children would slip from their beds and sit, feet dangling through the staircase banisters, to eavesdrop on the incomprehensible conversation punctuated by bursts of raucous laughter.

2. Wear suits. Stretchy, colorful, double-knit polyester suits, with flared skirts and and fitted jackets and oversized buttons.

3. Wear high heels. Ha!

4. Own a fur coat. Hey, it was the seventies. Even my Barbie had a fur coat.

5. Grow my hair long and, on formal occasions, wear it tucked in a bun accented with a single flower. This appears to be my only sartorial expectation not gleaned from my Barbie’s wardrobe. Perhaps I saw one too many photos of 1970s brides.

6. Work as a cocktail waitress, and teach in a high school. Though I dreamed of earning a living as a mystery writer and worked diligently on my stories, even then I knew I’d need a day job. My father was a teacher, and we lived in faculty housing, so most of the adults I knew were, indeed, high school teachers. I cannot explain where the cocktailing career sprang from.

By the time I was eight, my ambitions had shifted: I was going to become a primatologist. Long-time readers will recall that, at four or so, I expected to become the Pope.

7. Stay up all night whenever I wanted, and occasionally have ice cream for dinner. This has proven to be true.

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A summer sandwich

With no shame, I present a sandwich from yesteryear, served at The Viking in Ogunquit, Maine, a (now sadly defunct) build-your-own sundae place where our grandparents’ propriety demanded we lunch before indulging our grosser appetites.

The sandwich itself arrives on a heavy, chipped plate: peanut butter (the spackly kind with transfat and sugar) and cheap grape jelly (the kind that breaks into wobbly little crumbs, not suave slabs of gel) on flabby white bread, served with a tall styrofoam glass of root beer and a pile of slightly soft potato chips.

Delicately insert one chip into sandwich. Do not break the chip. Do not let Granny catch you “playing with your food.” Take a bite and feel the crunch under your teeth meld with the unctuous pb and the cool jelly. Sip root beer and feel the fizz dance in your mouth. Eat to the very edge of the chip.

Covertly watch Granny until she’s occupied reprimanding one of your siblings; it won’t be long. Insert another chip.

my first kiss

I was a late bloomer.

In seventh grade, I had one close male friend: A. A. was just my height, slim, with wispy black hair always in need of a trim, and the shadow of a mustache blooming on his lip. His voice was gentle and he put a mouth over his hand when he laughed, like a Japanese schoolgirl.

I was a chunky girl with thick glasses, a clumsy haircut, and a ready braying laugh, always carrying a stack of books.

He never talked to me about girls, not even my pretty friends. I think maybe I had decided he wasn’t interested in girls, though I never gave it much conscious thought.

One day as we walked down the hallway together, talking in desultory fashion of the Honors English class we’d left, A. suddenly pushed me into the nook that housed the drinking fountain. Trapped there in the cinder-block corner, I opened my eyes wide, and closed my gaping mouth just in time as he loomed in and planted a kiss on me.

He pulled back, looked me softly in the eyes, a question on his face.

Reader, I punched him.

Really. I don’t know where this instinct was born. I didn’t intend it, I was ashamed of it then, and I’m ashamed of it now. (Though a little less, now that it occurs to me that he’s probably not ashamed of springing an unsuspected, unwanted kiss on a friend.) I hauled off and socked him in the eye. He sported a faint shadow of a black eye for days, a week… I don’t really know how long, since we stopped spending much time together after that.

Spring Break ’87

Today I present you with some notes I took from my senior year spring break before I toss them in the trash. (By the way, I went to an all-girls Catholic high school.)
25 March
Left for Galveston with twins, Paige, Jada, Diane and Debbi. We stayed with the twins’ aunt and granny. We walked on the beach coz they wouldn’t let us go out. At 3:00 a.m. Paige sees two guys outside the window. We freak. They drive to the beach and get out. Cops bust them. Turned out to be Jon, John, Justin and Anthony. (Boys from the school next door to ours.)
26 March
Go wake up guys at “SS Galveston Motel”. Sleazy! Meet up at the strand. Split up and went back to Bolivar. Guys came to take us back. Go to Yacht Club then Hilltop Motel. Drank some beer and tried to read tarot cards. Jada got really drunk and we went back.
27 March
Go to Jamaica beach after Bolivar. Pack bags to “go home” but meet Jon and John at Hilltop and stay there. Go into Houston to NRG. Leave at 2:00. Find Robert, Ken and some guy Steve they picked up on the seawall — they follow us back. John and I play with a oujia board in the bathroom until 6:00. Contacted a spirit in Limbo. Went to sleep.
The week went downhill from there with a slight sunburn, a game of “quarters” and some dancing on a jetty before returning home. Ah, youth.

A glorious retreat

I return from a family reunion, resplendent in a shiny carapace of baby spittle, yogurt, and biter biscuits lavishly applied by my two youngest nephews, N, 22 months, and A, 8 months. This impressive exoskeleton, resistant to sharp objects, thudding blows, and all forms of washing, is punctuated by smeary blossoms of Fluffernutter (and, yes, spittle) courtesy of S and J, 7 and 5. M and L, 7 and 9 10, displayed a mature tendency to retain both spittle and snacks within their interiors, or at worst to emit them in the vicinity of some other adult. Kudos to them.

Airdna fastidiously abstained from all application of spittle and foodstuffs, instead graciously providing me with a henna tattoo.

18

dormelli.jpg
Me in my dorm room 18 years ago when I was turning 18. A few seconds after this was taken, the sun hit my shirt and I melted into a pool of my own angst.
Okay, I wasn’t that gloomy, just a drama major.
Note the purple plastic dinosaur attacking a teddy bear. Those were the days I would stand on my bed and sing songs from Paul Simon’s Graceland to all who stopped to listen.

Monster exorcised

Wow, new entry so soon. Yes, well, that’s because I just got the news that I have another skin cancer (but the friendly kind). That spot on my nose, the one that wouldn’t heal, the one I had removed last week, will be the cause of yet another scar on my face. As if I don’t have enough already. This is where I am right now:
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I’m eight years old again, my own dog has gone mad, leaving hideous scars marking my face. I feel like Frankenstein’s monster. I am amazed when others don’t notice my scars, because that’s all I see. This is what fuels the low self-worth fire, which leads to grade school ostracism, which ignites the suicidal thoughts that plague me until my 20s.
I don’t want this new scar, the one I will be getting in September, to define or confine me the way I let the first ones do. I would like to think I have a better sense of self-respect, or at least where to look for it. So thanks little basel cell carcinoma, little monster, and happy transmigration.