Have you ever seen the movie Harold and Maude*? Happiest sad movie ever, maybe. I think. I'm not sure I really got it, but I do like Cat Stevens.
It must happen all the time; the official population of New York City is 8,175,133.
Ted and I were waiting to take the elevator up to Julianna and Ed's for a Saturday catch-up party. Summer night, circle skirt, bottle of wine. We were waiting there with a lady and a puppy and when the elevator on the left finally came, there was chaos and doors closing on people and when the practical-looking nurse lady and the neat, older gentleman with the round glasses finally got out and decided which way to turn (toward the service entrance, not the main door), we had to flatten ourselves into the notch of the elevator on the right so they could wheel the stretcher away. And, pressed against that elevator door, we widened our eyes as we realized the sheet was pulled all the way up.
The lady and the puppy were still processing, but we got in the elevator. By the time we got to the sixteenth floor we were in fits of nervous giggles because sometimes big emotions come out all wrong at first.
And we had a party. We ate and laughed and celebrated and played with the puppy and forgot about it for a while.
*Harold and Maude was made in 1971 and is full of awesome. It's only 90 minutes long and it's streaming on Netflix, so I suggest you just watch it for yourself.
i started writing a story with heavy, morbid themes, but then i got distracted because i was hungry and also wanted to see if any wedding invitations came in the mail. (some microwaved, frozen veg mix and a cherry yogurt; and yes, one for september 24.)
and then i got further distracted by the general internet and started thinking about writing a satirical piece entitled, "date a girl who refuses to drink non-dairy creamer". As a work in progress, it only has a few lines:
Understand that she prefers electronic books to real books because real books are heavy and new books to used books because used books make her itch. Never mess up. Everyone knows that sequels suck because they are always trying too hard. Never propose to me over Skype. Well you can. Because I collect proposals. But I will ignore you.
It's summer and about 135 degrees. Fahrenheit. That's 57-ish if you live in Canada. A girl from Canada stayed with us for a few days, and she was like, "Is it always like this, eh? I can't dry my hair." and I was like, "Dude, it is always like this in the summer, and think about it. You are only in the very top part of this country. When I lived in the bottom part of the country, I used to have nightmares about drying my hair."
Well, anyway, I've been spending a lot a lot of time eating Italian ice. Actually, I've been spending a lot of time eating Italian ice (in heels on a corner in the East Village, on a walk through Fort Greene, at a Carrol Gardens street fair, etc.) and some time trying to figure out if I have one dollar (or two dollars if the boy wants Italian ice, too) and if not, where I can get some cash, because mostly you can't charge Italian ice.
I have a sandal tan line. I think the last time I had a sandal tan, I was in high school. It is actually a tan line, not just dirt. Sometimes it is partly dirt. The rest of my tan lines I've been changing up: scoop-neck tank top from going to Target, slightly askew oxford-shirt V from going to Trader Joe's. Currently, the most distinct print is one spaghetti straps and one extra wide handbag strap.
He met a girl and she told him she worked in television. He told her he didn't watch television because his real life was so much better.
There's intrigue, girls with boyfriends, boys with anger issues, love triangles-- and more complicated geometry, the addict friend with the girlfriend he might love. It's always left to be continued. It never gets simpler, just more convoluted and harder to follow.
On the way home from a concert with his pretty friend, he stops the car and they get out to stand in the street because millions of magazine pages are raining from the sky. You want that to mean something.
He might be dating the girl from the magazine night. He's probably dating her. But it's complicated. It's always complicated.
She wanted a late-night snack. She's drunk but he's sober. You get a few months of sober when you throw up massive amounts of blood and end up spending a few days in a Bahamian hospital.*
She points out a couple a few booths away, saying they don't match because the girl's hotter than the boy. He asks if she's looked at the two of them.
He drops her off but doesn't stay. When you aren't drinking, you have to make decisions.
I'm captivated, but I want it to work out this time. I want it to work out every time.
*You also get very close to figuring out how quickly your parents' friends can arrange for private international flights.
I don't like scary movies. I don't like ghosts or murderers, and I really hate invisible people. But I think the absolute most terrifying thing on television is I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant. I hate it, and sometimes I watch it. I think I'm equally intrigued by the bizarre plot lines and the reenactment format. It's like some really boring improv exercise where one person describes eating a lot of green apples and throwing up while someone who looks kind of like her acts it out.
So, it's scary because you can be pregnant and not know it until a baby comes ripping out of you even if you are skinny and have your period and never want to eat pickles and ice cream together. (But, seriously, if you've been having a lot of back pain and have been wanting to eat a lot of tacos, you should probably see your doctor before you reach down to find a person coming out of your crotch. That is what I learned from The Learning Channel.)
But the scariest part would be the explaining. Like, what if you were at brunch with your friend and you just thought you had to poop but then you had a baby in a public restroom and had to explain to your friend where you got that gross naked baby. And then you'd have to call your parents, who might be upset but would probably just be confused. And then you'd have to pretend that everything was normal and put some pictures on facebook and pretend that, oh, everyone just wasn't paying attention, you were pregnant all along, and of course you didn't have a baby at brunch and think it was a poop.
TLC, I did not need another thing to worry about. I should put a lock on that show, except I don't know how to work my television. (Three remotes!)
I had insisted. It was the solstice, meant to be enjoyed outdoors. He brought his glass of wine and I'd brought my bowl of blueberries, feeding him every third or fourth one in what probably should have been an embarrassing way. If I wasn't over that by now.
Little kids were running around on the roof, babbling nonsense, and someone somewhere was smoking pot. How do you know when kids get a contact high if they act like this all the time?
The sun went down on the longest day of the year, the day's heat coming from below now, oozing back out from the concrete and metal. He kissed me. Then he kissed me for real.
And. . . fireworks. Big, literal, professional fireworks. Directly in front of us, perfectly timed.
Writing is hard, these days. We both feel it now that we're in the part of the romantic comedy that happens after the credits roll. But fireworks? The sequel to our first movie is straight to video.
"I'm actually afraid if they aren't, we won't be able to connect with them. I feel like if we had a baby, we should hang an embroidered sampler over it's crib -- 'Don't worry. I'm pretty sure you'll grow out of it.'"
"Or 'There's still time. No one wants to peak in high school.'"
I love him, but if you'd seen our third grade school photos, you'd be worried about our hypothetical children, too.
I wonder if I'll ever stop being surprised: Surprised that, no, I cannot just keep living my life the same way, no matter how productive I am, if no one is paying me. That, yes, the boy from when I was seven and the boy from when I was twenty-seven and my sorority great-grand little sister (or something) all got married in the same weekend. That the people I was surprised to see get facebook-divorced are engaged again. Surprised that my friends were trying to talk us into what was not necessarily a scheme but was, undoubtedly, a pyramid. That I can stay calm enough to actually be helpful when my baby brother calls from the Caribbean to tell me he is throwing up blood and on the way to the hospital (and that my credit limit might have actually been helpful, if it had come to that). Surprised to find out in a single day that two of my friends-- real friends, college friends-- are having babies soon (one on purpose, and both very excited).
I wonder when I'll stop being surprised to be a grownup.
We took off. We escaped to the beach with a swimsuit under my clothes and a tent and a cooler and sunscreen and all the things to make s'mores. We were going to camp, though it wouldn't really have been roughing it to sleep in the back yard of a house we had all to ourselves and I'm not sure it counts as camping when you've got a kitchen and two bathrooms and a washer and dryer and a television and a piano. But I got a cold, and we slept inside and that was fine, too. It was good to get away for a few days.
I could hear his heartbeat, with my head on his chest, watching Veronica Mars. The gentle scents of fresh paint and reheated stewed okra mingled in the air. . . . Whose life is this? So far away from where I was a year ago. Everything is different from two years ago. But this is how we spent our Sunday-- one year and 363 days after the Sunday we first met-- after we painted our new bookcase.
For all my falling apart lately, some days our life feels like a movie montage or a commercial for a home improvement store. How do I look playing one half of a Young and Happy Couple? I've been experimenting with new ways to braid my hair.
"Being two people is harder than just being one person. Being with someone is harder than being alone."
I regret the words. We were in the car in a tunnel, and I was still twitching with the anxiety of my first freelance job, which had been over for approximately fifteen minutes.
It's not true. Being alone is hard and there's no one to put the extra sheets on the high shelf or listen to my bougie problems (like, seriously, who puts coffee in styrofoam cups that are squishy and spill-y) or pay the bills when I quit my job. He's so much to me; I don't want to not keep up my end of this bargain.
I've never been much of a team player. Selfish has always been my way of life. But I'm working on it. I am working on being an us.
I had the best idea. Me and the boy could get civil unioned and then we could share insurance without having to get married for boring, practical reasons. Getting courthouse married would also mean either keeping it a secret from our parents or making them really angry at us for ruining the fun party part of it. And we could still get married later and get presents. And it just makes sense as I’m pretty sure we are civil unioned in practice.
As a special bonus, civil unions in New York are a bargain-- only $35.
I am brilliant. Brilliant.
The boy’s work doesn’t count civil unions unless they are between same-sex couples. So one of us would have to have a sex change to make it work and that probably costs more than insurance and I wonder if his insurance covers that because then it would have to be him and I’m not really sexually attracted to women (it’s this catch-22 situation I can elaborate upon later) and I don’t think he’d agree to it anyway. . . .
So at any rate, we can’t share insurance because we are straight.
(I mean, please don’t think I’m some awful person. I realize we have the right to get married which is cool, and I think we all deserve that. But right now I’m just pretty sure that we all deserve the rights that come from marriages or civil unions because that would mean that my plan had not been totally thwarted.)
My boy’s boss has a wife. The wife is from Portugal. They got court-house married because that one piece of paper saved them from so, so many more.
It’s easy to get married. In New York, it costs $40. Forty dollars is such a deal on insurance for forever.
I can’t believe we are having this conversation. But it makes sense, and we wouldn’t even have to tell anyone. It seems like a good idea for about ninety seconds until we realize that it is just too practical.
I have a cousin, Lillian, who is my opposite, not just because she has fair, straight hair and brown eyes and freckles, but because of. . . everything. She perms her bangs. She was practically born wearing sensible shoes. When she was 14, her dream car was a minivan. While the boy cousins and I spent our summer nights catching milk jugs full of tree frogs and playing sardines in the dark, she was probably watching The Sound of Music again. She played with dolls until. . . . Actually I’m not sure she ever stopped.
Lillian is a teacher for 4-year-olds. She’s slightly overweight and is married to a very overweight man and they have two obscenely overweight dogs and they all sit around and watch NASCAR. She eats fast food and posts inappropriately personal things on Facebook. She lives in the same small town she always has, in her husband’s house where she moved from her parent’s house when she got married.
I loved to dive when I was little: stretched out full and eyes wide open, even off the high diving board at swimming lessons. Lillian, though, with her goggles on tight and her nose held and her little toothpick jumps, still got nosebleeds in the pool about once a week.
And once, when she thought I was still under water, I heard her say, “I wish we could all be as brave as Beatrix.”
I became a freelancer, which is to say that I quit my job.
It was a brave thing to do, I think, but it’s a fine line. What if we take a dive off the highest cliff, not because we aren’t afraid of the water below, but because we are terrified of what might be up there with us?
They use to be so content-- blissfully unaware in their drug-induced stupor, emerging only one week out of four into a zombie-half-wakefulness, begging for chocolate, Google-ing puppies in baskets, and occasionally making me cry for no good reason.
But I don’t think I can trick them for much longer because lately. . . lately, they’ve been waking up, announcing their presence, coursing with impatience, becoming increasingly insistent in demanding more than pictures of puppies, and making me cry for what seems like a very good reason.
My ovaries have been going through the motions, faking it for more than a decade. I started taking birth control in the spring of 2000, ostensibly to clear up my still-teenage skin and to regulate my unpredictable periods. So I haven’t ovulated since I was 18, when Bill Clinton was president and we’d never even heard of Survivor.
And suddenly, or not so suddenly, after years under our strict regime, we fall out of step at the sight of a tiny foot. We Google our egg supply’s rate of decline. We feel womanly in ways that are embarrassing.
I just turned 29. Ted celebrated by taking me to one of my favorite restaurants on the Lower East Side; the universe celebrated by seating us next to a toddler singing Old McDonald where we were waited upon by a tall, blonde, and beautifully pregnant woman. And I felt old.
Because 29 is so close to 30, impossible to ignore, impossible to pretend it’s mid-20s and impossible to pretend there’s all the time in the world. And maybe all those years of forcing my hormones into hibernation has just been pushing snooze on my biological clock, and maybe if my ovaries are trying to wake up, maybe it’s time.
There was a short list of things I made, once, of things I needed before I was ready: The walls I’ve got, in Brooklyn of all places, where people come when they need space for a stroller. The health insurance is taken care of. And I’m pretty sure I’ve found the person I want to do it with. There was that time my mom laughed at me when I told her I’d rather have a washing machine than a baby. Well, I’ve got my washing machine.
My body, my choice? My education, my career, my bank account, my city, my boyfriend, my Better Judgment. . . It’s not my body that is making this choice.
I keep chemically regulating, shutting down, postponing. But at 29, the math is hard to ignore, and so is the hollow yearning that makes me feel like one of Those Women. Women, not girls anymore.
And I’m sorry I cried, sorry I got impatient, sorry I wanted more than what we have right here, now, in this apartment that feels like it chose us. I’m greedy for a lifetime of things, but most of all I want you. It’s that that makes me feel ready, and that that makes me willing to wait.
p.s. I do not recommend leaving this tab open on your computer for at least a week like someone might have: http://nymag.com/news/features/69789/
“Why?! Why don’t you want me to have my cutting board?”
It’s not like I wanted to make a scene in the kitchen chairs section of Ikea; it just felt necessary.
It was $12.99 and I needed it and I know we have cutting boards already, but I’m tired of my broccoli all falling off of them because they are from the tiny-kitchen days. (How quickly things become nostalgic from a cozy, white, fold-out sofa across the bridge.)
Once my Aunt Stacy told me she cried because she wanted some kind of floor in her bathroom that my Uncle Mac said wouldn’t work.
“What did Mac say?” “Nothing. But I got the floor.”
I thought it was silly at the time, but I might have cried for this cutting board. It’s kind of like all those tears I might have cried for lonely nights or boys who didn’t call back have to go somewhere.
And I love my new cutting board. My broccoli doesn’t fall off and it even almost fits in the sink.