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An autoethnographical excerpt:
"So, I guess you heard about Erin and me."
"I heard something. So you're bi?"
"Can I watch?" (He laughs, thinking that he's the first person to think of that one. I glare.) "I'm kidding. Why is everyone so upset about it?"
"Because it was wrong. We cheated. We really hurt Kyle and James."
"You didn't cheat."
"You're both girls. How is that cheating? I wish my girlfriend would fuck another girl. That's not cheating. That's hot."
Three words. Three little words was all it took to completely negate my sexuality.
That's not cheating.
"Psst. Some good weather just passed." It's our code for hot girls.
"Yeah, I saw. The one in green was cute."
He looks up, waiting.
"Am I still good weather?"
"Of course," he says.
"I'm just fat weather," I say bashfully.
"But you're good weather. You know how it rains here in the middle of summer? The big fat warm rain? You're that weather."
I grin. I love that rain.
"It's fun to play in," he continues.
It is. Fat, warm rain that plunks on your skin and leaves a comfortable line of dampness.
I'm that rain.
Three pulses of a hand.
Or three nibbles to the ear; same pattern.
Three kisses to the top of the head, to the inner thigh.
Three squeezes on the sides.
It's funny that I got it from an old "American Girl" magazine. It was a father's day article; I knew my dad would never like it and always hoped for a boyfriend that would.
Three pokes to the breast, returned only in a frown.
Three pinches of the ass, ignored.
Three beats of the heart, yearning.
Three moments sometimes perfect, sometimes wasted.
"Queer theory, I quickly discovered, did not get along well with identity politics. It was an unfortunate collision of ideas, and I began to worry. It was bad timing with my recent feminist adoption; it was good timing because of an also recent sexuality questioning. Having identified as bisexual since I was barely 16, it came as a shock when I suddenly began to dislike the word at 20. There was suddenly something about the dichotomies it perpetuated that began to bother me.
Through queer theory, I began to question these notions of identity, community, sexuality, and the dichotomies therein."
There's something invigorating about being freshly clean. Especially when I've gotten a decent amount of sleep, I feel like I can conquer the world in the morning. Freshly showered (and, if the world is lucky, shaven), face scrubbed and moisturized, teeth de-fuzzed. Usually this feeling fades when I realize how much homework I've procrastinated or how little sleep I got, but for those few minutes every day I feel powerful. I don't know how to carry that power into the day with me, how to make it stretch through my hours of studying and writing. I'll figure it out eventually.
I don't know if Meme has changed with age, or if I was just naïve when I was little. I also don't know which I'd prefer.
I've always sensed the animosity between my mom and my aunt; they've always hugged coldly and avoided each other at family functions. But I never noticed if Meme treated my mom with any disrespect; I always thought mom was paranoid when she talked about it. But after what I went through with Kyle's parents and what I know his mom has the potential to be like, I doubt my mom's paranoia a lot less.
Hold your thumb over the hole on the side of the bowl. Dip the flame into the bowl and inhale, hold it in your mouth as long as you can. If it burns your throat and tickles your nose, you've held it just slightly too long. The taste is horrendous. I balanced it with lime-filled Perrier.
Afterwards we heated up Krystal burgers and laughed more than we would have had our eyes not been flaming red. It wasn't as impressive as I'd expected, hardly worth the persistent burn at the back of my throat.
But I had to try once.
Topics to be avoided during the 15+ hours I will be spending alone in the car with my mother:
-Grades, including my continuing chain of I's that turn to F's.
-Finances, particularly my lack of responsibility involving them.
-Weight Watchers, as my minimal success is best kept under wraps for now.
-Sex, as she is worried that my lack of libido is one more reason I should see a counselor.
-Kyle, because a rocky relationship always makes mothers nervous for their baby girls.
-Dad, because I don't want any crying theatrics on my mini vacation.
I'm praying for interesting weather.
It occurs to me as I tip-toe down the eerily dark hallway that what I'm doing is ludicrous. The whole family seems to be aware of my weight loss plight, and they are doing that annoying relative thing- masking insults with words of "encouragement."
"I'm so glad that finally decided to take care of yourself."
"Have you tried Atkins? It helped me kick five pounds. I hear it works well for large weight losses, too."
I've always been afraid of the dark, but I make it to the kitchen and the box of oreos. I eat them quickly and angrily.
Furniture is never lost in my family. The table on which I colored in my grandparent's WV breakfast nook took residence in our living room in Cocoa; it is now in Steve's dining room in Clearwater. The antique bed in which I spent my childhood nights is residing in one of Nancy's rentals. The white wicker chest from Meme's guest room is currently in my car, because though I don't want it, we don't refuse furniture.
Aly told me she'd sold her bedroom set because she was tired of 80's wicker. I groaned and told her I'd just inherited some.
I really didn't think we were going to do it, partly because of the hotel mishap and partly because I'd heard bad things about timeshares. We toured the property, but while we were impressed we knew that the beach resorts would not have the historic feeling we loved about the Charleston one. It was the getaway trips that sealed the deal for us. You could book a week-long trip in a 5-star resort for only $99 because of cancellations; it appealed to our spontaneous side. We are now the proud (duped) owners of a BlueGreen timeshare- Cancun, here I come.
While on a quest for the perfect bronze sandal for my new skirt, mom was continually telling people about why we were here. The southern hospitality thing is real, and everyone would smile and go on about how great Charleston and MUSC were. The only problem I had with this is that I know if I get my hopes up too high and don't get accepted, I will fall hard. Mom is excited and says she "just has a feeling" that I'm going to get in. I'm glad she has a feeling, because all I have is a mediocre GPA.
I almost didn't want to like it, because I felt like I'd be betraying the adorable little apartment we found yesterday (that was, of course, already sold). Once we began surveying the grounds, however, it became apparent that this was the perfect place for me to live. Not to far outside the city (30 minutes in bad traffic), delightfully spacious (a must after the tiny place we're in now), brand spanking new, and reasonably priced. Mom paid a down-payment and we'l move in mid-December if I get accepted (I might move either way). I'm scared, but so very very excited.
He cried, and he never cries, and he seemed so sad, and he seemed so frustrated, and he really cared, and he had so many ideas, and he was reeking of romance, and he was so tender, and…
I realized with a painful sting that I hadn't thought of him much. Hadn't missed him after the first night alone, hadn't worried about the relationship.
And he was so sad, all I could do was hold him. He held me so tightly, like he never wanted to lose me.
And I am so torn. I love him but…
Is that enough?
There are certain scents that you will never forget, many of which will conjure a memory promptly when smelled. When I smell the cologne "Obsession," I immediately picture my parent's bathroom in River Ridge. It's steamy from a very recent shower, and my dad is sitting on the vanity putting on his shoes and socks. I keep his old bottle in my closet and smell when I miss him the most.
When I smell bologna, I can see Kalen and I sitting on her porch eating lunch in our roller-skates. "Freedom" cologne reminds me of my first kiss with Kyle.
Ever since spring break, I've been incomprehensibly lazy. I ended up with a C in A&P lecture and a B in lab, a C in religion (which I thought was going to be an A…gotta figure that out), a B in psych, and a delightful F in queer theory because I never finished the final (gee, sounds familiar). I let the laundry slide, along with the dishes and the litterbox. I just can't seem to find the motivation to much of anything. I don't know why, especially when nursing school is so tangible now. My brain and body are slacking.
I raised my hand sheepishly. "Hi. I'm back."
To my surprise, she smiled. "Good."
See, I took this class my first semester in college. It was fascinating; Dr. Eichner herself was fascinating. But the amount and level of reading which is challenging but certainly doable now was nearly impossible then. I pulled through with a B until the final, when I just couldn't squeeze out enough bullshit to write the final paper. I got an incomplete that had long since become an F. I'm also retaking nutrition this summer. Yes, my college transcripts and GPA are just dazzling.
If you read closely, you will notice that all hormonal contraceptives warn that they could cause "sexual side effects." What this means is that you will be spending x amount of dollars every month to prevent pregnancy and concurrently have little interest in sex. Raise your hand if you know what "irony" means.
I have had a low sex drive for 15 months now. It waxed and waned during this period; sometimes I didn't want to be touched and sometimes I'd get horny all of the sudden. It's beginning to really take a toll on our relationship. Birth control- funny!
I don't really know who I am. Growing up, I heard from most of family that I was just like my dad- strong, hard-working, smart, and compassionate. My strength doesn't come close to his; he lived through 30 years of illness without a complaint. My strength is comparable, but it's dwindling the more I keep everything inside. I've never been hard-working; I'm much better at bull-shitting. I am compassionate, but let jealousy override that compassion too often.
So who am I? I'm not just a miniature of my dad. I think they expect me to replace him somehow. I can't.
I have an old burned Everclear album, "So Much for the Afterglow," in my car. I keep it there because although the songs all sounds alike, the beat is peppy and the lyrics are good. One line in particular stands out because it describes a lot how I feel.
"You are neurotic and depressed
It doesn't mean that you're sad"
The song is about a guy who's depressed, but not so desperate to feel normal again that he'll resort to anything. I've been thinking about seeing a counselor, because neurotic and depressed I am indeed. I keep sad locked away.
I've been consistently putting off my queer theory final paper, which is stressing me out and pissing him off. Why I don't know, because he's screwed up many more classes than I have.
But that's not the point. The point is that the relationship feels sour. We've been fighting, and I realized while he was telling me about how much he thought about our relationship on the camping trip that I was in Charleston not thinking much about him at all.
I don't know what to think. I'm terrified and sad all at once. I don't even think he knows.
Maybe…I just need to fess up.
Maybe…I just need to admit it.
To myself, and to everyone else.
Myself first, with time to take it in.
I'll cry a lot. I know I will.
Probably more than I can imagine.
Not to mention the little things…
Who changes their WW meeting day?
Who goes through shared boxes?
Where would he live?
What do we tell the family?
People will want to know.
We will want to know.
Because neither of us knows.
What went wrong?
I wonder if he knows.
I wonder if he meant it.
What happens next?
Little things that make my day:
Adorable shoes that only match one outfit.
Adorable purses that don't match anything.
Big fat drops of rain in summer heat.
Several of my favorite songs coming on the radio in a row.
Snail mail from my friends.
A parking meter with time on it.
Seeing a butterfly in the middle of a city.
Fresh strawberries with sugar.
Catching all green lights.
Getting complimented by a stranger.
An old favorite movie coming on TV.
The first cool day of fall.
A sudden breeze when you're hot.
No line at your favorite ride.
The class gets on tangents frequently, because we want to dream about what it must be like to see the world as Dr. Eichner has. "What is Paris like?" we implore; "Is Tuscany as beautiful as the rumors?"
There is an impulsive, impractical, impossibly romantic side of me. I don't like to show it, and I don't like it when Kyle tries to bring it out. No one will ever propose to me under the lights of the Eiffel Tower; but if they did, would I say yes? Or would I just be annoyed at my obvious vulnerability peeking out?
The only job I've ever had was working at a day-care center for two months.
I'm sore loser, especially at pool and air hockey.
My favorite card game is gin rummy.
I've sewn a quilt.
I believe in socialism (but that doesn't make me a terrorist, Mr. Bush).
I'd like to move to Europe, though I'm not sure where yet.
I want to learn Spanish, French, and Italian.
I love the smell of a freshly-struck match.
I watch cheerleading competitions on ESPN when I can't sleep.
I wear chandelier earrings every day.
I never take off my watch. Seriously- never.
What would have been flirting is now tidying before bed. What would have been foreplay is now avoiding catching his desperate glance. What would have been sex is now reading. What would have been cuddling is now staring at the wall in the hours it takes me to find sleep.
He knows the drill now, too. He still tries, but his books have become his escape. I've walked in on him several times when he thought I'd left, compensating for my lack of performance. I don't even like to be touched anymore. The effect on the relationship is becoming tangible.
The thing that annoys me is that most of them don't even know where the idea came from. They parade around in their gaudy outfits, unaware that Jenny Joseph had never planned on the existence of red hat societies when she wrote the poem "Warning, When I Am an Old Woman." It's as though someone read the first two lines and stopped, seeing a money-making scheme. There are purple bags and outfits and accessories with red hats on them all over my mom's house. They're growing exponentially. They've become exponentially more irritating, too. I expected it; she is my mother.
We drove to Melbourne, and I was amazed to see that the construction that had been on US1 since like 1963 was finally gone. We met Aunt Carol (not my real aunt) at a cheerful little restaurant for "high tea." We were served strong tea, finger sandwiches, and petit fours outside under a big umbrella. Carol was her usually brass and ever-amusing self, and Bonah enjoyed her birthday lunch. My mom and I can't believe she's 84, though the age has been catching up her the last few years. Her goal is to reach 100 years- God help us all.
"I still feel guilty about it," she began, and her eyes teared up.
"About what?" I asked, not catching it. "Having sex?"
"No. About the abortion."
It hit me like a ton of bricks. How could my best friend have had an abortion and not told me? I leaned over and hugged her hard. She told me the whole story, from the realization that her period hadn't come to the sobbing confession to her mom to the double pink lines to the decision made on Christmas day. I just hugged her over and over, wishing I could have been there.
The three of us walked through the mall, laughing and, amazingly, not spending too much. Kalen bought me clothes with her Old Navy discount (she works at the new one in Viera), and we all delighted in the 20 Questions game we bought at Brookstone. We huddled over it in Maggiano's which is our new favorite Italian restaurant. Later on, we bowled with bumpers at the local lanes where Kyle beat us easily. Kalen and I shared a blanket and many stories late into the night. I realized that I've missed her terribly, and I know the feeling was mutual.
We spent the afternoon swooping through the kid-oriented exhibits at MOSI; we played with everything and rode two simulators. It was the kind of fun that I couldn't have with anyone but Kalen, because we're still childhood playmates when we're together. After my class we got Thai take-out and plopped ourselves in front of
The Fox and the Hound
, a movie we used to love but hadn't seen in a decade. We decided quickly that I was the fox and she was the hound, and donned our "Best Friends" fox and hound pins. Then we talked like grown-ups until 6am.
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