I am currently dealing with an upper respiratory infection that has moved on microbially, but rendered me voiceless. Classic laryngitis. I can make guttural noises that resemble words, but it all sounds like the by-product of an unholy merging of the vocal stylings of Rose Marie, Brenda Vacarro, Suzanne Pleshette and Harvey Firestein. Family and friends love this forced silence, meaning it allows them to get a word in edgewise, but make no mistake, I am taking my current aphasia out on my keyboard.
While trying to remain quiet yesterday, I decided to do the most dumb ass thing in the world: I looked up old boyfriends. After a few inquiries I got bored. I guess I’ve moved on…
I’m not so emotionally evolved that I couldn’t pass up the chance to check out the people I once. knew, tolerated, liked, and considered to be a friend, even though we were both forced upon each other, thanks to work or collegiate environs. In the real world, we would never have known each other. Our paths would never have crossed. And that’s okay. Life is like a trellis and we are the vines, forever trying to climb upward, or at least, that’s what we should be doing.
And nothing can remind us more of all that we haven’t done or become or accomplished or faced, quite like looking at an old acquaintance’s life through FACEBOOK eyes. Yes dear friends, this is the new millennium’s version of beer goggles.
I dropped out of the whole FB scene in early January. I got tired of the ‘look at me/notice me” effort that I was making and that so many people yearning for their eight and half minutes of fame.
It used to be 15 minutes, but with the sequester and all…
Anyway, I found a woman I once knew a lifetime ago. Thanks to blogs, a few podcasts, FB, My Space and an article or two, I was able to glean together what her life has been like in the absence of our friendship. Hers has not skipped a beat. And really, I didn’t expect it to.
She came from money and because water, they say, always seeks its own level, she married money. And her wealth isn’t that storied old money kind…you know, with longtime family friends named Bitsy, Roth, Barren and India who all look like they stepped out of a Ralph Lauren ad shot at Martha’s Vineyard. Well healed and well wheeled trust fund babies who knew how to eat lobster and use finger bowls while the rest of the infantile world was still making uncoordinated jabs at cold Spaghetti O’s slathered across the tray table of a high chair. No, not this woman. To be more succinct, she came from new money and she married new money and she is what I can only describe as a “contained version of being over the top” in everything she does. Does that make sense? Not quite Phyllis Diller, but not Grace Kelly either. She takes chances with texture,color and style in ways I couldn’t.
Based on what I read; on what I saw, she seems to consistently makes eclectic choices that go beyond my comfort zone. And mind you, I’m not such a fashion backwards kind of broad. Not all that long ago, I used to have and yes, used to wear, a mini dress patterned just like the Partridge Family’s bus. It made me look as wide as one, but dammit, I took chances in my own way, but this woman and her bevy of friends make me look like a piker.
And why shouldn’t she? Why wouldn’t they? She…they are much younger than me. If memory serves, she’s in her 40’s now, she has three children and still ridiculously pretty. That Patrician profile of hers gives way to a face that is Hollywood gorgeous. She’s genetically gifted with symmetry. But somewhere along the way, since getting married and birthing, she became someone who I no longer recognize. In articles, she frequently drones on applying the adjectives such as glam and fashionista in everyday affect. Then, there’s the insertion of yummy, delish and fab to describe clothing or decor. Bracelets are fun. How about a kicky pair of earrings? I was waiting to read the word jaunty in her description of a set of tea towels.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a very decent woman and there’s nothing wrong with her parlance. She appeals to a certain type of people, a different demographic and they all speak the same lingo. Her’s is an audience who knows about pretty living and pursues it regularly. Again, she is kind, considerate and generous as the day is long, but it was obvious the day we met, that yes, we had similar backgrounds, but we lived them very differently.
When we knew each other, we only spoke of that which we had in common, which wasn’t much, but enough to keep a friendship fertile. . As sophisticated as I thought I was–and I wasn’t–I always felt like a pretentious hayseed around her. She knew about Maxim’s; I partied in a field with cases of beer or kegs , and peed next to piles of cow dung and cactus. As a child, she was reading all about Captain Horatio Hornblower while I was grappling with Captain Kangaroo. She traveled extensively all of her life and even lived abroad on several different continents on several different occasions, courtesy of Daddy’s largess. She was fearless in her pursuit of life as she wanted to live it, not really giving a damn about anything else. I respected that. And I respected her and she liked me. If she ever found me pretentious, I never knew it. For all her abundant wealth, she was still a very real person, who just happened to be very lovely and kind, as well.
God’s trifecta. I would eventually learn a lot about that in my life.
When I was a Freshman at the University of Texas, I lived in a lovely all woman’s dormitory. The place was rife with sorority types. In fact, my floor’s RA was textbook Greek. Pony tail with a bow, Anne Klein Espadrilles, painter’s pants and corresponding striped rugby shirt. Our first meeting on move-in day consisted of her telling us how accessible she will always be and how she loves to celebrate the holidays and when any girl on her floor gets “pinned” or “lavaliered”.
What the f— was she talking about??????
I came from a small town in South Texas. We were practically Neanderthal back then. A guy called dibs on the girl of his choice by giving her his Jr/Sr class ring and/or his letterman jacket providing he was worth a damn in football. I knew nothing of the Panhellenic ways and means. Consequently, I stuck out like a sore thumb on that floor, in that dorm. These women were all from wealthy families who called Dallas or Houston home. Most were nice, some were snobs and all were pretty and thin and put together. They could come down for breakfast wearing their hair up, sans makeup, in over sized T-shirts and sweats and still look like a hundred bucks. There was an ease about them that only affluence gives. Poise, perhaps… confidence, for sure, but at age 18 it was obvious to me that they had what I didn’t. I so wanted to be like them, but I wasn’t and I was so sorry for not being up to par in my mind. They were worthy of the good life, warped as that mindset was. Chubby match girls with a decent vocabularies aren’t.
Later on, as I finished up my collegiate matriculation, I worked in the fine china and crystal department of a retail store in Austin, where I watched women walk in and spend more than I made in a week to buy Waterford wine goblets and other pricey sundries. They were grown versions of those girls from my Freshman year and I still allowed them to get to me. They were graceful, carefree in style, yet so in concert with their well being. I remember one day going back to the stockroom where I cried a bit — tired of my wash stone existence of college drudgery and swore to myself in a soliloquy befitting Scarlet O’Hara that someday, I too would buy Waterford goblets and decanters and all the other retail niceties that represent fine living as I saw it back then, and I would strew them effortlessly throughout my home.
That memory made me laugh, even as I sat at my desk, reading about my long-lost associate, tweezing post-menopausal whiskers from my chin(s). That’s when I realized that I was happy for her. I really was. If there was ever a shred of jealousy anywhere in my core of emotions it had vanished, which of course, confused me, because that normally would have been my initial reaction reading about the fabulous life of this member of the “mommies who lunch” set. Wonder of wonders, I had grown up somewhere along the way.
This is her life, the result of all her choices. Shes is who she is. She speaks several languages, watches foreign films–by choice–and has memories of attending boarding school in Switzerland. As for me, I can, if properly inebriated, order beer and nachos in Spanish. I’ve seen “La Bamba” once or twice and I spent a week at cheerleading camp, my Freshman year of High School. My tuition was funded by a grant.
I am who I am, nuff said. I am fine with my aging process. If she’s happy, great. I feel she has to be well aware that her situation is rare–the woman isn’t stupid, but I couldn’t help but think how vapid her life seemingly become, after counting 21 full body shots of her reflection in a closet mirror and said closet was so large, condors surely had to be nesting in their somewhere. And this was simply for shots to show off a pair of earrings. Then again, she has the courage to put herself out there. Yes, it is a bit excessive, but I had to look at her self placed photo spread from a different perspective. If I don’t include pictures of myself here or anywhere else, that’s because I don’t want to hear the comments. Conversely perhaps, she includes photos because her self esteem desperately NEEDS to hear the “Mein Gott, you’re so pretty and/or hot or lovely or smokin’.” Perhaps, she was always like. I would never have seen that needy side of her all those years ago. I would never have allowed myself to see her as anything but flawless; as anything other than who I thought I needed to be. Pretty, wealthy, thin...worthy. I would have coveted her life, her wealth, her daring fashion sense, her two children, her live in nanny and housekeeper. Her face, her metabolism. There was once a time when I was also young and my metabolism was like a blast furnace. I could take a vitamin with iron and 20 minutes later, fart nails.
But what I now know and what took me forever to figure out, is that her life is hers and despite all outward appearances, it’s really not what I have deigned for myself during the quiet hours of my youth when the day was done, but Morpheus was late his sleep inducing ministrations. I would love to jet set hither and yon, but at 54, the sense of urgency has waned a bit. There was a time when I would have wanted that Country Club membership and to be a part of that lunch crowd with enough disposable income to buy place settings for 12 in expensive Christmas, Thanksgiving AND Easter bone china.
With matching table runners.
There was a time when I would have loved to have loved opera, but it never really appealed to me. I know who the Sisters Bronte and Jane Eyre are but, have I ever read their books? No. Poetry leaves me cold (the Nantucket chronicles not withstanding). Camus leaves me completely and I do my best to stay away from Cervantes. Dickens, too. Perhaps, I am a literary and social hick, but at least I’m no longer grappling with that fact. I am who I am. I’m fine with what I am and comfy with what I’m not. And I will no longer apologize for the directions I’ve taken in my life. What I’ve done is not who I am. That also applies to WHO I’ve done. Finding self absolution is a wonderful, wonderful thing. I highly recommend its anesthetic powers.
And sometimes,good things do happen for the patient. That said, a lot of water has passed under the old puente since she and I last spoke. Many, MANY changes have transpired and happily, I can tell you that a few months ago, I made good on my promise and bought several Waterford crystal decanters, replete with sterling bottle necklaces indicating which one contains the Scotch, the Whiskey, the Vodka and the Bourbon. They now grace my newly designed bar and yes, they look imperial.
As I purchased my prizes, I wondered if I had somehow, after all these years, finely acquired that style, ease and grace that I witnessed in women of privilege so many times before. I wonder how I must have looked to some other big dreamin’ neophyte of life, hoping to break free of whatever societal or emotional shackles she felt held her back. If so, I wondered how she processed it when I had to admit to the cashier that I only had enough money to buy four of the five decanters.
Lucky for me, most yard sale hosts are good about their willingness to break up a set.
I too, am blessed.