Tuesday, September 21, 2010

all grown up

we parked and scooted out to the edge of our seats to lower ourselves out from the truck. it is very complicated, it seems, to wear a skirt with high heels and get in and out of an suv. especially when your skirt was hemmed just a wee bit higher than you are now comfortable with, considering that when you hemmed it you were thinking “oh, i’ll be wearing tights, and i will want it higher, like retro 60s looking.” and then when you put the tights on with the dress about 30 minutes before the event began, you realized, “oh, crap, i look like a smurf. or a leprechaun. this isn’t going to work.”

as we walked toward the building, i saw girls up ahead. as we drew closer, i recognized them as the girls who had encouraged me to attend this thing in the first place. they are the ones who said, “come! we would love to see you!”

we caught up and exchanged hugs, which helped ease the nerves that had been churning in the pit of my stomach ever since i had realized the skirt was hemmed too high. it was dark at least, so not everyone would be able to see every single baby vein, as i affectionately named them during the weekend. after all, i had earned every one of them during three different pregnancies.

suddenly a guy i did not recognize said, “hey! i think we went to a dance together!” and i thought, “really? am i that old that i cannot even remember the dates i had in high school?” (there were only 2 dates, and they were to dances. i did not have any other dates whatsoever, so i should have been able to remember…)

he backed up and said, “i mean we rode in the same car—to ringdance our junior year. right?”

at this point, i could have said just about anything, and preferably something like, “oh yeah, i remember that. good times!” you know, something benign, something that wouldn’t draw attention to myself. instead, what i said was, “oh! ringdance. ugh. i try to forget that night ever happened. my date ditched me once we got to the actual dance.” everyone’s face seemed to fall and suddenly fill with pity. i would like to tell you everyone laughed, and i think they did, but all i could hear was myself talking, and my other self trying to get my first self to shut the hell up and just be cute in my hemmed-too-high skirt.

then someone said, “oh! that’s horrible. who did you go with?” as soon as i heard this question i realized his ex-wife was standing to my left. i mean, i knew she was there the whole time, but you know in these situations how cloudy your mind can get. or is that just me? please tell me no.

after blurting out his name and some awkward laughs all around, we said, “ok, let’s think happy thoughts and head straight to the bar!” and off we teetered and tottered to the door (or maybe that was just me, who also thought it would be a great idea to buy shoes with 4-inch heels because i am short, after all, and did i want people to think i had grown over the past 20 years?).

the rest of the night really doesn’t warrant much discussion. there was a mean girl group, if you can believe it. i had been told that the 20-year reunion really doesn’t have much of that anymore—people are grown up, beyond that, with families of their own and finally mature enough not to play the stupid “i’m-better-than-you” games. on the dance floor, at one point i was dancing and happened to catch a girl pointing at me (there was no one else around, so unless she was pointing at the decorations i was clearly her topic of discussion). when i saw it and saw the not-so-nice look on her face, i flashed her a big, confident smile (i have the gin and juice to thank for that), and she looked away in horror at having been caught.

i like to imagine that she was raving over my dress, which by the way i got for $39.50 at our local vintage store, and it’s from the 1960s. or that she loved my hair and heels (which i danced in all night—i wasn’t about to take them off and look as short as i really am…did i mention my skirt was too short?). but she and some other girls had shown ugly colors earlier when we had been hanging out on the patio outside, so i really should assume whatever it was she was telling the other girl was nasty.

the food was lame. the cost was $50 per person, and the menu consisted of meatballs, chicken fingers, vegetable egg rolls, barbecue on grocery store style buns. dessert, you ask? cookies, lined in a neat row, like they had been taken straight out of plastic containers and laid on a plate. seriously? for $50 a person? we should have had dinner. however, in the moment i didn’t complain because i had been worried i’d be tempted to blow my diet. whew.

the music was lame too until i started requesting that the dj play rap. keep in mind that my graduating class had only one black student. and i think one or two hispanic students. the town is beyond racist (or at least was when i moved there). so the minute the dj broke out with fergie and jay-z he got complaints. but i was happy so i didn’t care. i can’t imagine going to a reunion and wanting to hear only the songs that were popular when you were a teenager. 

i reconnected with several people, but the conversation never got beyond “where do you live now?” and mostly i was doing the asking. a couple of people reciprocating and asked where i lived. that was it. not “what do you do now? why do you live there? are you married?” nothing. it was weird.

granted, i don’t think i was being the best conversationalist. so i started giving myself a complex, suddenly doubting my social skills in a serious way.

i think it was a bit awkward because i attended the school for only 2 years, so some people just had a hard time remembering me. and i definitely had a hard time remembering them. these people grew up together for the most part, in a small town in the south where folks just tend to be tight-knit (and not always in a good way). so there wasn’t really much room for me then, and that was confirmed 20 years later.

i left that night feeling glad that i am where i am and that i know the people i know (near and far). there are lots of people who love me, and who appreciate me, and who love the quirky things about me, and who ask what’s new and different in my life. so it was fun to see a few people, but i wouldn’t want to go and do it again in 5 or 10 years.

i am grateful for my all-grown-up self and everything it embodies.

Monday, September 13, 2010

going back

my twenty-year high school reunion is this weekend. until about seven days ago, i had not even considered going. when i graduated, i left and never looked back. though i did go back...to teach in the same high school from which i had graduated, but that's a different story.

as i have been thinking about what to wear (do you have any idea how stressful it is for a work-at-home mom to suddenly have to buy a cocktail dress? what is that?), about who i will see, about what i will talk about, about whether i will dance or sit still, i have been thinking, "no one will even remember me. no one will care about asking how i've been."

and i am not saying that in a feel-sorry-for-myself kind of way. more because i attended three different high schools before i graduated. so i always feel out of place in those conversations about "where are you from" and "what school did you go to."

i moved to this small town in virginia when i was 15, right before my junior year. i went on a church trip before school started, and that helped me meet new people. in general, i hate meeting new people. i think i'm bad at it (though i've been told as an adult that i'm pretty decent at it). i generally assume no one will really want to know me, want to know the "real" me anyway.

my junior year, i took a year off from band and just was a "normal" student. (those of you who were in band will understand what i'm talking about.) it was boring. i didn't have a natural in-group. so my senior year, i joined, and even though there were only about 35 of us (i told you it was a small town) and we sounded totally pathetic, i ended up leading the band as drum major.

i was bossy in high school. prudish. judgmental. bookish. pious. academically competitive. a know-it-all. all the while, i desperately wanted to be popular. to fit in. to have the "preps" include me.

naturally i assumed that at a reunion no one would even notice if i was there or not. i probably had a lot of enemies. well, maybe not enemies. but probably a lot of people who thought i was, well, a stuck-up bitch.

in contemplating this spur-of-the-moment decision to attend the reunion, i have come to realize though that my only enemy was me. and i think this is true of everyone with whom i went to high school. i mean, we were all teenagers. we didn't know who we were. now most of us have families of our own, we have wrinkles, we have muffin tops (though mine is slowly shrinking thanks to my workout program and diet--can i just say i would have started this a few months ago had i ever planned on going to this thing?!). we don't have time to be petty anymore because we are too busy living our lives, dealing with the real world.

at least that's how i hope it will be. maybe revisiting this part of my past will help me move a little closer toward learning to accept myself, past, present, future.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

the long view

i want to believe that when i set out to do something i give it my all. in some cases, this is absolutely true. i think it mostly has to do with not disappointing other people. but not much of this motivation comes from within myself.

case in point: i just started weight watchers last tuesday. i'm coordinating with a friend online, and we have been emailing every day. i've also been doing a pretty difficult pilates-style exercise program for about 2 1/2 weeks now. (incidentally, i've lost 2 pounds and my bicep muscle actually popped up and surprised me the other day.)

this is my thought process regarding sharing this here: if i tell readers i am doing this, and then i fail, what will they think of me?

which means that i was (and probably still am) thinking that i am going to fail at this. see, whenever i set out to do something big, i am all excited and gung-ho at first. then, after a couple of weeks, something happens: i start thinking, well, nothing's changed. i haven't lost 10 pounds. i don't look like wonder woman yet (some of you will get that joke...).

but i desperately need to shed my short-term blinders--regarding exercise, eating healthy, raising my kids, loving my spouse, budgeting my money. because none of this stuff changes or gets that much better overnight. but long term, these are sweet investments. they could and will reap sweet rewards.

so i'm trying to take the long view.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


on monday afternoon, my sister called. we talked for a while, and then the conversation turned to discussion of happiness. we both talked about how we go through bouts of anxiety and depression (although she is able to label these better since she is schooled in this field). i mentioned how i think i am most comfortable when i'm sad. this unsettles me. i have found myself feeling weird, or unbalanced, or like something is actually wrong when things are going smoothly around here--when we have enough money, when we are all getting along.

then i told her, "well, look at both sides of our family. not many people in our family are happy." the people in our family who *have* made a difference in their lives and seem happy seem to have been very intentional about making this choice.

so then later that same day, a friend stopped by and i was telling her about the phone conversation with my sister. just processing it aloud.

that night, i saw that she had written a blog post with this same title, "abundance." it was short, to the point, just being thankful for the goodness around her. and believe me, she could write a novel with all the not-so-great things in her life. but she chooses to embrace the good.

on tuesday, when i was at the park watching my son play, i read an article in the september 2010 cooking light called "deciding to be happier" by kate meyers (you can see the article on this blog). there is so much in here, and i am thinking about discussing it more in another post (tied to spirituality), but one thing that stuck out with me is making a list of 5 things every morning that i am grateful for.

so yesterday afternoon, i shared that with my friend who had written the "abundance" post, and she piped up, "oh! i make a list in my head every  morning of things i'm grateful for. it really makes my days better."

since i have already shared that i am a glass-half-empty kind of person, i think it's extra important for me to try to take time every day to try to figure out what the blessings are in my life. the good things. the abundance.

because i have so much of it: a great husband--who cooks, cleans, plays with the kids, works hard. beautiful, healthy, intelligent, funny, and mostly well-behaved children. enough money to eat. general physical good health. a hilarious dog. a very cool (as in hip, not temperature wise...) place to live. friends and family who love me just the way i am, even if i am incessantly hard on myself.