Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Shrewdness


I am the introvert hostess hiding inside her bathroom. Guests arrive to my writings on the wall, to platters of awkward tension and to unopened bottles of confrontation. I stand at the sink, blushing, stammering, despising the work of my blistered, blabbering fingers. I wipe soap scum from the shower tiles, replace the toilet paper, brush my teeth and cut my finger nails. I am stalling my entrance to the room of snide remarks and negligent ignorance. I wish I had sewn my written opinions into silent stitches along the inside hem of my whitening hair before taking the needle to my lips and making a straight seam. Yet, here I am, with fingers tapping keys. 

I am tired of what tired people think and how tired people think. Sick of watching sick people sleep walk, slurping curds and whey, and pausing only to recite rituals, recipes and out-dated data. Then call me, the vagabonding vegan, strange. I follow my family around with a book of warning label prose, refusing to ignore my impulse to speak. No longer my mother's "peacemaker". She calls me "the protector" now. I sit belted in the back seat, alerting drivers of pedestrians, red lights and ambulances until someone I love turns around to press his/her thumb to my mouth in a hush. Apparently, precaution, self-reflection and change are all abominably rude suggestions. 

I am striving to prevent the infiltration of this society's contrived laws of living, which coerce me from my intelligence, individuality and independence. 

Every day, I am beating back my subconscious from convincing my conscious mind that the only women who get anywhere in this country are those with bodies of rails and surgically inserted racks and whose groins and botoxed lips pucker sex appeal. Photoshopped photographs of nearly naked girls flash before my eyes, embedding me with an unquestioned normalcy of 97 pounds of puffy lips, fragile bones and stretched skin. And just when hope for gender equality flickers in the future, some snarky television personality rants that we'd never want a woman president because she'd wage war whenever her monthly menstrual cycle was underway. 

Oh, to be the cliche of the perfect American woman. To be skeletal skinny, ageless, frail and in need of a big strong man of masculine brute force to throw me over his shoulder and carry me to the car. To bolster my breasts with sacks of jelly, rolled up socks or push up bras. To remove my brain entirely for it is far too distracting and heavy. To have men whistle at me from passing cars. To have groups of gangly teenage boys gawk at me from across the mall. To be the ultimate woman. My closet would be gluttonous, swallowing sweaters, screaming for purses with golden clasps and new knee high boots, fish net stockings and mini skirts. I would never be president. I'd never bear children. I'd never go running, do push ups, or play basketball. Never shout, spit or intimidate anyone. Never be a doctor. I could never go to law school. Never build a house, drive a boat or grow a garden. I could never do that. Girls are supposed to be fairy tale princesses. Women are to be queens of magazine covers, the art across city buses and the boobs blown up for sparkling billboards. I don't want to be called a tom boy, butch or manly. I want to be pretty with pink doilies and daisies in my hair. So I hide my sneakers and books. I don't care about school, I say. I care about getting drunk and easy with the football team. I care about blow job technique and dry hump dancing. I care about snorting coke from makeup mirrors and sneaking into clubs with fake IDs to swing on poles and see how many drinks creepy old guys will buy me. I care about rumors, cell phones, and the opinions of boys. I will wear fat diamonds on my fingers, toes and along my collar bone. I will dress in slinky tank tops and underpants and take picture to post online. I will be desired and admired. I will be loved.  

I prefer pursuing personal strength in a country which idolizes female frailty. However, despite my covetable searches for light phrasings, silly jokes and the pleasantest point of view musterable, my pessimism still kicks me down. I don't know my place in the car anymore. Whose ears I've made bleed. So I'll pose my criticisms as questions. Why does anorexia exist? Why do teenage suicides happen? Why is conformity so comforting and all rebellions considered irresponsibly rash? Why do we know our pharmacies, but not our farms? Why do people litter, drive Hummers or refuse to recycle? Why do so many refuse to believe they have drinking problems because they're younger than 40? Why are there teachers who are bullies? Why is there a war on drugs, but not a war on the fast food industry? Why are we bogged down with things we don't need and harmful habits we should do without? Why does bigotry continue to kill? Why is every generation a shock to the one before?  And why do I fucking care so much? 

Scott and I are sitting each on the ball of a sewing pin, waiting with draining patience for news. The ball I sit on is red with dread. His, yellow with hope. We stalk the mailbox for news of graduate school acceptances and rejections for three months. I hear a news report on the radio that there's been a rise in loans, a sign for an upswing in the economy. Faith in the end of this recession, the newscaster reports before sneakily stating that most of the loans granted are for education and car loans. I'm afraid that isn't because the economy is getting better, but because so many do not know what else to do. We, the college educated children of the baby boomers (who were once forced to get "real jobs" with "good educations") graciously encouraged us, their idealist children, to be whatever we wanted to be. Now many of us are college educated nannies, grocery store cashiers, clothing store stockers and restaurant waiters. We have bachelor degrees in English, Theater, Film, Music and Fine Art, however we are stuck in a world too preoccupied with pornographic advertisements, social network updating, celebrity tabloids and binge drinking to go to a play, museum or to pick up a book. We children are then caught in the rip tides of the real world where strength to build new sculptures, soliloquies and stories has been entirely exhausted. Now nearing the dreaded age of thirty, we become too nostalgic to leave our learned love of art and so we search for the acceptance of master degree programs in desperate hope for professors to nod their gray haired heads and imply such statements as: "You belong in this field" and "You will one day be famous for your work".  But what happens when we are not accepted to these programs? Do we start over entirely? Forgo having a family and go back to college to add new bills to the pile of imaginary money we already owe the government for the first time we went eight years before? Get that bachelors degree in business we probably should have gotten the first time around? Because I'm too stubborn now. I don't want to be a manager or saleswoman. I have no interest in nursing school, law school or to obtain a doctorate in biology. I don't want to be a teacher, police officer, or librarian. I want to be a writer who encourages introspection and an actress who reveals the complexities of character. Scott aggrees. He wants to pursue the life as a director and performer whose work reflects life's intricate toils and bountiful bliss. 

A total of ten rejections arrive in our mailbox. Briefly saddened, Scott quickly encourages me to embrace this new found freedom. We will not be tied down to school schedules, particular cities or to student debt. We are free to go and do as we please. I suddenly feel relieved and even grateful for our rejections. A couple days ago, I dig up this Calvin Coolidge quote my brother sent me three years ago. 

"Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'press on has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race." 

Many might think I should be settling down with a bump beneath my shirt and a fifty year mortgage on a two bedroom ranch in the sticks, but instead my husband, Scott and I are moving. We emptied our storage unit and I held a yard sale. I dragged our unwanted possessions to the driveway and stuck them with price tag stickers. I put on my fanny pack and made $713. Next, I'm making an appointment with the used book store in town and then I'll sell my wedding dress. I no longer feel compelled to nest, instead I want flight.     

When we graduated college, Scott and I moved to New York City. After one year in New York, we moved to Boston. After two years in Boston, we moved to Western Massachusetts. After three years in Western Massachusetts, we're moving to Chicago. There we hope to make our own film, starring and written by yours truly: a real American woman.