Saturday, March 24, 2007

Welcome to the Row

The worlds most obvious sorority girl stood in front of Jackie, delicately running her fingers over the row of tiny, pink pearls draped around her neck.

"So, Jackie, tell me why you want to join my sorority."

I don't, thought Jackie, and then she wondered at the ego of this woman to believe that every single one of the 700 girls going through sorority recruitment wanted to be in this particular chapter. "Well, I am new to the notion of a big high school class had about 200 kids, and I'm ready to make some lasting friendships here."

"Oh." TWMOSG pursed her lips. "Well, tell me what you think friendship means."

"I don't think I understand the question," Jackie smoothed her hands over her khaki skirt, wishing fervently that she'd gone ahead and worn her favorite sundress. At least that one covered her knees and made her feel less conscious of how she sat, stood and walked.

"You say that you're looking for friendship. How do you think friendship here will be different than in high school." TWMOSG almost spat out the last two words, so far was she from those homework laden days.

"It doesn't have to be different." Jackie spoke quietly, her voice gradually getting stronger, "I have friends from high school that I intend to keep all my life, but they don't go to this school. I don't know yet how the friendships here will be different. I haven't even started classes yet!"

"I see. Yes, I want you to realize that being in a sorority is a COMMITMENT. That it will take time out of your day, your week, your life. The friendships you make here will change the way you see yourself. They will make you who you will be in your future." TWMOSG batted her long lashes and stared at Jackie.

Jackie opened her wide, blue eyes and looked right into the narrow green slits that passed for TWMOSG's eyes,"I know that a sorority will change my life. But I know who I am and who I want to be. I don't know much about sororities, since no one in my family has ever been in one, but I do know that I want to live with and be friends with the kind of women who will accept me, respect me and value me. And I want to feel the same way about them."

"Interesting." TWMOSG sighed as she glanced anxiously around the room for her replacement in the recruitment rotation.

Soon another woman arrived, this one wearing the same tight black pants and jewel-toned top of the first, "Hi!! I'm Casey! It's my turn to talk to you!"

TWMOSG stared at Casey, "Yeah, be a little more obvious. I'm going to go get some lemonade. It was so nice to meet you Jackie. Good luck with your recruitment. And I mean that. Best of luck." She turned and walked towards the kitchen, walked in, and let the huge oak door slam behind her.

"Well, she can be a bit picky! She's our president!" Casey smiled freakisly at Jackie and waited for a response."

"Lucky you," she said out loud.

Remember, you asked for this, she said to herself.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Observations on Toddlers

Standing in the library, she watches as the toddlers and babies, okay, mostly the toddlers, make their way around the space in that funny little way they have.

There's a little girl, with a neat braid, wearing a cute little sweatsuit, attempting to skip. You can just see the kind of girl she's going to be when she grows up. She's going to match her purse to her shoes. She's going to get her hair cut evey six weeks, but for now, she's just going to skip in a way that makes her look she's about to fall over.

There's a little blond boy. His mother brings him into the library each week. She dresses him in the preppiest clothes she can possibly find. Little sweater vests and khaki pants. Topsiders. Topsiders on a four year old! This kid is either going to be grow up to be a Republican, a Protestant or very, very gay. Or maybe he'll rebel and become emo or punk or whatever is popular when he's a teenager.

Then there are the usual rag-a-muffin kids, the ones who look more like her when she was little. Their clothes may or may not match, and not because their parents' don't buy them matching clothing, but because you can see who won the fight of "But it's my FAVORITE shirt" that morning. Their hair is a mess. They run. They yell. They ask "Why?" repeatedly. They are just your average, every day KIDS.

Some might wonder why it's not the babies she notices, but the babies don't turn around and wave as they walk away. The babies don't walk around like little old, angry men. The babies just don't have that certain toddler joie de vivre. The babies are also tucked into their carriers, being held by their parents and still just not quite old enough to ask for crayons at the reference desk.

And it's not the babies that make her feel almost ready to be a mother. It's the toddlers, with their over-abundance of personality that make her look forward to the moment when she brings her own mis-matched three year old into the library for storytime. It's the toddlers that make her curious about who her children will be and excited to meet them, whenever they should see fit to make their appearance.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Wasting Away

There's nothing like sitting in a hot tub with three strangers and your boyfriend to make you think about life.

No seriously.

Sitting in a jet-less tub with her boyfriend of less than half a year, surrounded by two women he's known since junior high and one guy who's married to one of the women, she had a thought.

None of us are as young as we used to be.

It's true, of course, that they are all still young, still safely on the young side of 30, but just old enough to start realizing that youth is wasted on the young. Did any of the women appreciate their bodies when they were younger? Before they settled into the routine of jobs and having fun almost exclusively on weekends, did they appreciate what they had going for them?

She certainly didn't. Only now does she enjoy the fact that a man enjoys looking at her body.

They are not yet 30 but are already getting older. There is a thickening around the waist and a thinning of the hair for the guys, a certain jiggle to the thigh and wrinkle to the eye for the ladies.

One girl is tired by 11 and wants to "get up early." Another who wishes the jets would just start already. And she wishes she could avoid the 8:30 start time at work the next morning.

She thinks about her own friends, the lives they're leading right this minute, and she's incredibly grateful that she's finally, finally figured out how to have fun.

Because she would hate to hit 30, looked back and realize she spent way too much time worrying about finishing work, preparing for the future and ignoring the good stuff in life. We all need to be the cricket and the ant...or whatever that story was...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A Day

Today is a day when I want to drive my car around all day, not being responsible for a single thing.

Today is a day when I realize that I'm still the restless person I've been all along, that I haven't really settled down in any way.

Today is a day when I feel fifteen, anxiously awaiting the announcement that will free me from the school day early and let me board the bus and head to a swim meet. Probably the first of the season.

Today is a day when the wind against my skin feels amazing.

Today is a day when I want to move to Texas and care about high school football.

Today is a day when I want to move to New York City, wear high heels without falling down, drink a mocha latte at three in the afternoon and stay out all night with my dark, moody boyfriend. Or better yet, my handsome, successful artist boyfriend. Moodiness is overrated.

Today is a day when I see children running around, and I feel grateful that I don't have a child yet but hopeful that I will have one in the future.

Today is a day when I deal with the ramifications of having dreamt that I had a daughter named Serena.

Today is a day when it feels unneccessarily cruel to make me stay indoors until 9 p.m.

Today is a day when I want to work in a bubble, in a safe, corporate office where I don't have to deal with snoring or screaming homeless people.

Today is a day when I want to not know that there are still people who need to shop at the 98 cent clearance center, because they have to.

Today is a day when I want to believe that everyone in the world climbed out of the need to have K-Mart layaway at the same time my family did.

Today is a day that I remember that though we were neither incredibly poor nor even remotely upper middle class, we have overcome some financial difficulties.

Today is a day I do not want to go back to how things used to be.

Today is a day when I realize I'm not entirely done finding myself.

Friday, March 09, 2007


Walking across Lower Sproul Plaza, late on an early September night. It's still warm, still that completely un-PC term of Indian Summer. There's a hint of a breeze. I almost wish I had a sweater, but I'm warm on the inside. I've just finished filling out my "preference card" for sorority recruitment (AKA Rush). I am a college freshman. I'm wearing a white t-shirt and a blue and white plaid "skort" (I'll soon learn why this is unquestionably not something I should ever wear in public). I've got on my favorite sandals, the leather soft and supple but the shoes still in good condition (unlike my favorite flip-flops, which have retired to my parents' garage), and my legs are long and tan. I can feel the breeze on my arms - also tan from a season of swim team and a summer in the sun. I feel beautiful. I feel like I'm in college.

That moment, that quiet, dark night, the campus belongs to me. Berkeley is mine and mine alone.

Heading to class, walking through the Eucylaptus grove, watching my feet on the flagstone path, I think about how one day, one distant day, I will walk that path with my husband, my child. That moment. Well, those multiple moments, belong completely to me. I breathe in the fresh smell of the trees. I feel my feet on the hard, cold ground. I brush autumn's leaves out of my path.

Late afternoons, walking up Bancroft Avenue, heading to the sorority that I chose and that chose me, I hear the sounds of people yelling, talking, living. I walk, sometimes hunched over with the weight of my backback, sometimes fresh and happy, eager for the evening ahead. All of Berkeley belongs to me.

Crowded in the bathroom. Hurrying around my own bedroom, curlers, hair dryers, makeup, clothes, scattered around the room. Making that wonderful mess that is getting ready for a party. Curling someone else's hair (even if she ended up not liking it later). Zipping dresses. Dancing around to whatever pre-party music someone had chosen. The smell of at least six different perfumes and a dozen different hairsprays permeating the air. Twenty different stereos playing throughout the house, creating a mix no DJ would ever attempt. Those memories, those moments, belong to us all.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


It's rather ridiculous that the moments when you realize how much you truly love someone are not the moments the movies lead us to believe. It's not the moments that are ridiculous. It's the movies that make us think it will only be when the man sweeps in his tuxedo and shoots down the bad guy or hands us a bouquet of roses that we realize the depth of our hearts that bring new meaning to the word ridiculous.

She stood outside of her work, anxious after having been yelled at by someone who had no business yelling at her. He was on his way over, bringing her a piece of equipment she shouldn't have brought home, that her bosses didn't know she had but that she needed right that instant, to appease the person who had yelled. He was on his way through the worst traffic she'd seen in weeks. And then he got there, and she found him, and her heart swelled. She felt about to burst with the strength of her, "I love you!" but instead she just pushed all of her passion into "Thank you" and a smile. That moment, though, she also saw a flash in his eye that let her know he wasn't ready for those particular three words. She could almost see him say, "No. Not here, not now. Don't you say it yet." And she didn't.

Two days later, while climbing up a gravel road, on the way to a Wine Cave, it struck her like a ton of bricks (cliched though it is, the phrase is true), that he wants to be only with her. If he wanted to be with anyone else, he would leave and be with her. The jealousy she has felt over nothing suddenly ended. She saw in his walk, in his smile, in his mannerisms, that he is hers and hers alone, even if he's not ready for that great big word.

And finally, in the smallest of moments, when no grand gesture, no release of jealousy, nothing special at all was happening, she recognized him.

He stood beside her, hunting amongst the bags of soil at Home Depot, quite possibly the last place on earth any screenwriter would set a romantic interlude. He was trying to pick out just what she needed, a bag that would foster her little seedlings, a bag that wouldn't sit half unused on her patio for the entire season. And she turned to look at him in the late afternoon sunlight (at least the lighting was romantic), and she recognized him.

Immediately, she thought of that poem she'd fallen for years before, that one by Jewel.

and I will recognize you
amongst the many
and claim you as my own

He smiled at her and walked inside to look for the perfect size bag of potting soil, and she walked beside him, just feeling that recognition.

She looked at him in the garden section of Home Depot and knew with absolute certainty that she had found him.