25

September 18, 2012

Life is changing.

I’m careening toward the end of my 25th year and 10 months into my first job. I get up and go to work every morning wearing heels and something semi-professional. I do my make-up and hair in the morning and undo it every night. I’m getting really sick of that already.

A few months ago, I bought a house – me.

My life has almost all the trappings of adult-hood. But, sometimes, I still get deja vu. I flash back to a day when we lived in Louisiana, so I must have been 5 or 6. I’m shuffling through my mom’s closet, picking out the prettiest jacket and skirt I’d wear if I got to go to work like she did. I put on a white suit with shoulder pads — and a pair of her high heels, too. I look at myself in the mirror. Not as pretty as my dress-up clothes, I think.

You see, I am not an adult. I am still in the throes of growing up, nagged by a mix of annoyingly existential and incredibly superficial questions – am I making a difference with my life? Is this is where I should be? What if I had become a singer instead? Should I grow out my bangs?

They are questions left over from an adolescence of insecurity coupled with a future of unending potential. Forever, the possibilities were endless and I could do anything. And I expected I would. That was my story — the one I’ve been writing for myself since I was 10 years-old.

But, at some recent point, I put down the pen. I gave up writing my never-ending draft and decided to sit back and drink a glass of wine, or something. It didn’t last long.

Now, with each question I ask myself, I’m trying to edit my life story — starting somewhere in the middle. But, with each answer, I’m closing another door. I bought a house. I picked a city to live in. I chose a career.

My life is not only already half-shaped — so am I. The possibilities are no longer endless.

I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction lately written by not-very-old women who have gone through some kind of  transformative experience, usually involving some kind of travel, or great loss, or something. They find themselves and then they find love. It’s a coming of age tale, a common enough narrative that should inspire me. But lately, this story line has become my obsessive mantra. I repeat it to myself, find it in everyone around me and continually fail to live up to it.

I’m constantly watching the lives of other women and writing their life stories for them. There’s always a clear path and a for-now conclusion. If I commit myself to one life, I’ll be strong like my sister. If I can stop feeling sorry for myself, I’ll be content like my best friend. If I could take the risks I know I should, I’ll be more like the woman I want to be. 

But I’ve never been a risk-taker. When I was a kid at a sleep-over three blocks away from my house, I’d get homesick at 9 p.m. and call my Dad to come and get me. But, every leap I’ve taken in my life — and I’ve taken some  – has been in direct retaliation against this part of myself.

I knew my instinct was to huddle up in my bed at home, so I moved across the county to New York the first chance I got. When I was 15, I refused to risk speaking even one word in French to our exchange student from Paris the whole summer he lived with us, so I majored in the language in college and spent 6 months living in Paris. I made myself do the things that terrified me most.

It’s the central paradox of me. And it means I’ll never stop striving — to achieve, to succeed, to love, to live. And it means that I’ll be fighting myself every step of the way as I do it.

I am not an adult. I am still in the throes of growing up. But, then again, I probably always will be.

Raised on Musicals

October 1, 2011

It’s happening again. I can feel myself being pulled back in.

My Mom and I sat in the highest balcony at Gammage Auditorium last night and mouthed every word of West Side Story. We were offended when the producers of the show’s revival added a scene that wasn’t in the original. We didn’t like when they switched the order of the songs. But we still cried when Maria sang her final farewell to Tony, kneeling beside his dead body on the dark streets of New York — ahem, I mean, on the stage in Tempe.

Oh no. It’s all downhill from here.

I just spent the last hour watching every scene that’s posted on YouTube from the original 1961 movie of West Side Story. (“A Boy Like That” is my favorite, thanks to the fiery Rita Moreno). And, on the drive home from the theater last night, I played selections from Wicked on my iPod because it’s the only musical soundtrack I have on there. Lucky for anyone sitting in a car next to me at any red light on the way, I drove with the top down on my convertible and could be heard clearly, belting out every note.

The Cult of the Musical has a strong pull on a generation of women like me (and our mothers). It’s an obsession that usually rests nascent in the back of our minds as we go about our everyday lives as seemingly normal people — until we hear a Sondheim melody or see a Fosse dance move. Then, the obsession is triggered and it could be weeks before we are back to normal.

It’s not our fault. We were raised on musicals.

In fact, most of my childhood memories are mixed up with musicals: My sister fast-forwarding through the slow songs in My Fair Lady every time we watched it. Both of us refusing to view the second tape of Camelot because everything gets sad after the end of the first one. My mother making us sing the “Sisters” song from White Christmas every year. Me, spending hours playing with sponge-rollers, trying to figure out how to make my hair exactly replicate Shirley Temple’s.

Like great literature might do for some other (smarter) children, my concept of historical places and events was almost entirely framed by these films. Ask 7-year-old me what slavery was, and I would tell you about “Old Man River”  and the Show Boat on the Mississippi. What’s an arranged marriage? When Tevye tried to make Tzeitel marry the butcher in Fiddler on the Roofbut she had the courage to defy him. What were they fighting about in World War II? I wasn’t quite sure, but I knew it kept Liesl and Rolf from falling in love even after they kissed in The Sound of Music.

Courage, tradition, love — especially love.

Even now, the biggest mysteries — the ones I still am grasping to understand — just make more sense in a musical. And, for my generation of women, in between Feminism and Whatever’s Coming Next, that kind of high drama hits a nerve. There’s a longing for something more — something grander — within us. And musicals give it life.

Thanks to my childhood of musicals, I have always known exactly what love would look like one day. Thanks to the world I actually live in, I have been consistently disappointed. Shocking, I know. Instead of ballads and dancing and long, flowing dresses, we get hook-ups and Match.com and text-messaging.

I’m not blaming musicals for giving me unreasonable expectations about love. I’m blaming myself for not living up to my grand musical ideals.

When Tony sings an entire song just about Maria’s name — repeating it over and over again at different pitches and volumes, just to hear it sung — it’s hyperbole, sure. But it also touches on something true. And, when he hit that last, quiet, high note of the song on the stage in Tempe last night, it gave me chills. And maybe even a bit of hope.

This Christmas, I will be a bridesmaid for the fourth time. My best friend will steel her nerves and walk down a long aisle looking like royalty to commit her life to the man she loves. For the fourth time, I will stand in awe watching her, wondering how she could be so brave, so beautiful, so sure.

But, like millions of women before her, she will do it without a moment’s hesitation. Like millions of weddings before, the music will swell, the steps will be traced, the words will be recited — and I will cry just like I did last night watching that musical.

Courage, tradition and love — especially love. Only, this time, it will be in real life, not just the movies.

Lost in Paris

June 11, 2011

As we landed in Paris, my head was between my knees, a travel pillow pulled tightly over my ears. I was motion sick.

After one glorious week in Rome amid the talking, smoking, singing and smiling Italians, I was back in Paris. Paris. Paris.

I spent five months in Paris as an undergraduate, living at the Cite Universitaire in the 14th Arrondissement, attempting to learn to speak – and be – French, only to discover that both tasks were largely out of my reach.

Now, I’ve returned. Not really by choice, but by chance. I’m spending these three weeks in Europe as a teaching assistant for a small, lively group of journalism students from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. Rome, Paris and London. We’re spending one week in each place, learning about European media and seeing the sights.

On our flight from Rome to Paris, I listened as the woman behind me jabbered away in rapid French with my head between my knees. I cringed when I heard the flight attendant announce our arrival at Charles de Gaul.

Merci de voyager avec AirFrance.

Merde.

I stared at the floor between my feet. If I hadn’t realized it before, I did now: I seriously resent Paris.

Paris, to me, is that girl. You know the one I’m talking about. That impossibly beautiful girl who has long, luscious hair, great style, a family with money and the most strikingly beautiful eyes you have ever seen. She is also probably smart and she is definitely popular. You’ve hated her from the moment you met her – whether it was in elementary school or grad school.

She is perfect and no one should be allowed to be perfect and, so, you hate her.

The only problem is, you can’t. Because, most annoyingly of all, she is also incredibly sweet. She is kind, caring and unassuming. In short, she is unbelievably deserving of all of the wonderful things she has in her life.

Paris is that girl.

Paris is perfect. The City of Lights, full of women who eat bread and don’t get fat, straight men with great hair who wear scarves and children who should be in Ralph Lauren ads.

Last night I saw an old French friend who lived in the U.S. for six weeks with my family eight years ago and still speaks English more correctly than I do. He is incredibly kind, smart and successful. He has gotten better looking with every year he ages. Of course he has: He’s French.

Au revoir, merci! The flight attendant chirps at me as I walk off the plane. I’m still nauseated from the flight, my hair is piled on top of my head and my makeup is running down my face.

Merci I say back. I look at her and immediately feel fat.

As an American in Paris, I was hopeless – except I looked like I was merely helpless. I could dress like the Parisians, walk like the Parisians, I could even talk something like the Parisians – but I could never do any of it perfectly. And I don’t particularly like doing things that I can’t do perfectly.

I would walk briskly through the metro tunnels, order espresso and drink only red wine, but I could never shake the feeling that I was 5 years old in my mother’s high heels. I felt like a fraud in my scarves and knee-high boots. I had lost myself in Paris.

That night, after I’d recovered from the flight, I left our hotel at midnight and started walking. I couldn’t remember how to navigate the city at all, so I started walking in the only direction I recognized, toward the Seine.

I wanted to get lost. I had managed to lose myself in this city for five months in the past. Why not let it take me again?

I was already feeling frustrated and every beautiful couple I saw on the sidewalk made me more so – every gorgeous windowsill and every perfectly organized park.  It has been three years since I lost myself in Paris and I was still angry about it. Even now, Paris still made me feel like a fraud.

I walked and walked that night – until I lost myself in Paris again.

I got lost in the lights, the curving streets, in the bend of the river, the sidewalk cafes and the fluttering lilts of the language floating in the air around me. I got lost in the memories that arose as I skipped across streets and turned corners. I couldn’t escape that unmistakably French feeling of déjà vu.

I’d laughed at that café, drank too much wine at that bar and ran for the last train at that metro stop before. I’d been young and stupid in this city before and, yes, I’d tried to be something that I wasn’t in this city before.

Walking in the city that night, I think I figured out the problem with Paris and me: I will never be Parisian. I like open spaces and big skies. I like to drive. I like the sunshine, girly country music, my VW convertible and hiking with my dog.

Paris forced me to finally accept something I spent all of middle school, most of high school and at least some of college trying to fight: myself.

I walked along the Seine and down Rue de la Huchette and down Boulevard Saint-Michel and past the Pantheon and down Rue Clovis to Rue Monge. I had lost myself in Paris again.

Then, I turned a corner and, to my surprise, saw our hotel. Finally, I had found my way back.

Post-Grad: Part 2

May 22, 2011

Well, it’s official. I’m a graduate. Again.

Last week, I stood on stage at Gammage Auditorium as Associate Dean Marianne Barrett placed a graduate hood over my head. I walked across the stage in ludicrously high heels and shook the hand of Dean Chris Callahan and then made my way to my mother, Associate Dean Kristin Gilger, who handed me a diploma — and a very big hug.

After two long years of writing, shooting, laughing, crying, running in heels and sometimes falling on my face, I now have a master’s degree in journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

My post-grad life is about to restart. And so is my post-grad blog.

I will wake up tomorrow morning, drink a large cup of coffee and then pack up my life in Phoenix. I’ve been grinding my teeth a lot lately. I think it has something to do with this impending reality — not the coffee, leaving Phoenix. See, there is nothing I want to do less.

Last month, I found myself sitting in a tiny room inside a shop in Sedona with my two best friends and a woman named Ashiko. She had a vague Eastern European accent, round glasses and three decks of Tarot cards. Now, as a Catholic, I don’t believe in this kind of thing — fortune telling or auras or palm readings. But, as a Catholic, I was also raised with an innate respect for — and fear of — anything that hints of the supernatural and superstitious. So, as I should have expected I would, I believed every word Ashiko said.

She read me like the open book I am, and we spent the majority of our time talking about my career. Where will I go when I graduate, she wanted to know. I did too. So, I pulled a card for each place I might end up — New York, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, New Orleans. They were all promising, she said. There were cards with words like “Power” and “Prosperity” on them. Nothing ominous at all.

Then, I asked Ashiko if I could pull one more. “What if I stay in Phoenix?” I asked, and flipped over a card.

There was a picture of a Gollum-like character on it gripping onto the bars he was trapped behind. “Clinging to the past,” the card said.

Out loud, I laughed at the cryptic message on the card. In my head, I was shouting at Ashiko and all of her supposed wisdom about my life. My life. What did she know, anyway?

I left the shop secretly devastated by that card — not because the card would somehow force me to leave Phoenix, this city that I love with its mountains, heat, space and my friends and family within its boundaries. I was devastated by that card because I knew what it said was true.

Tomorrow, I will wake up, drink a large cup of coffee and then pack up my life in Phoenix. I’ll spend the summer in Europe and New York City. I’ll become a Carnegie fellow at ABC News under Brian Ross’s investigative unit. I’ll apply for jobs all over the country — the world, really. I’ll convince myself I’m ready for another adventure and I might actually be ready for one by the time I start it.

But, all the time, wherever I end up in the coming months and years, I’ll know that I was devastated when I saw that card.

After a lifetime of moving from place to place, the last occupied always became my new answer to the question, “Where are you from?” In Oregon, I was from Louisiana; in Phoenix, from Oregon; in New York, from Phoenix; in Paris, from New York. Then, I moved home. Now, I will always be from Phoenix.

I was devastated when I saw that card because I knew what it said was true.

That’s how fortune telling works, after all.

One Week in Mexico

March 24, 2010

There comes a day in every journalism student’s life when they get in over their heads.

Mine came last week.

As part of my graduate program, I’ve spent the last four months working on one, huge story about women on the border. I’ve studied the issues, talked to every lawyer, advocate, professor, official and agent involved in the issue. I’ve read every report and article about it. I even analyzed a database of coroner’s reports. But it wasn’t until I met one woman — a girl, really — on the border last week that I really got it. It was the day I realized I was in over my head.

But there also comes a day in the course of every story when you realize that you’ve nailed it. For me, it came at the same moment when I realized I was in over my head. There’s this kind of sniff-it-out, animalistic sense that they try to cultivate in you as part of your j-school education. It goes something like this: You’re sitting in a shelter in Nogales talking to someone and they say something off-the-cuff about their sister and an alarm goes off in your head — “that’s a story!”

Problem is, it’s usually something rather morbid — exposing hypocrisy or uncovering an injustice or the dirty underbelly of…well, anything. Maybe this is why the general public respects journalists about as much as car salesmen or lawyers. Maybe it’s also why we have the amazing opportunity to make a difference.

When you sniff it out for the first time, it’s something like biting into a plum that looks ripe but is still sour. It’s hard to swallow, until you remember that there’s a big picture — until you remember that people need to hear this story. It will make a difference.

This is the difference between journalists and everyone else.

I majored in Visual Arts at Fordham. I spent two years in a dark room learning about photographic composition and form. My professor was a successful photographer in the New York art gallery world.He told us once that on 9-11, he walked outside of his apartment but couldn’t bring himself to shoot that day. He just had to take it in, he said, without his camera.

When I told this to my mother, a lifelong journalist, she was incredulous. “How could you not shoot on 9-11?” she asked. At the time, I agreed with my professor.

Last week, though, when a volunteer was stitching up that girl’s hand where she cut it from falling in the desert, I took the shot.

The new chain-letter: The never-ending e-mail

December 21, 2009

[On not losing friends, post-grad]

There is an e-mail that I never move out of my inbox, it’s subject title is “My girls, how I miss you,” and it dates back to June 14 — exactly 14 days after my lease ran out in the Bronx and moved back to the desert city that is Phoenix.

There are five of us who try to keep in touch using this ongoing chain of communication — on top of text messages, gmail chat, a phone call here and there and the occasional drunk dial (college reminiscence, you understand).

All in all, keeping in touch with college friends post-grad is hard. Two of us have never been so busy in our entire lives, others have never been so happy and others have never been so far away. Yes, keeping in touch is hard.

But let’s start by saying this: College was fun.

Oh how our lives have changed.

I’m not the only one living with my parents again — thank God. We have a substitute teacher, an accountant, a first-year analyst on Wall Street and a burgeoning publishing assistant in midtown.

Life post-grad isn’t exactly what we all thought it would be. It’s probably not quite as bad, actually. See, there was this mounting fear of the future toward the end of senior year at Fordham. The senior class, as a whole, decided to ignore it with all of our might (as you may be able to guess from the photos above).

Instead, we decided to throw parties with every theme imaginable (luaus, balls, high school stereotypes, etc.), to lay on the quad in the sun, to write amazing final papers and relish the fact that they had no real-world application. It was perfect.

So, now that our lives have changed so much and have gone in so many different directions; now that we don’t live two doors down from one another and share morning coffee and late-night bottles of red wine — now what? Do we lose all of that?

Luckily, I’m a bit of an expert in the moving-away-and-keeping-in-touch-while-starting-over area.

Growing up, we moved a lot. When I was 7 years-old, it was from Louisiana to Oregon; when I was 13, it was from Oregon to Phoenix. Then there was the end of high school and beginning of college in New York.

Every move means the same thing: old new friends become new old friends and new friends find you.

And then I graduated and found myself back in Phoenix again — back with old friends who became new old friends with my now old college friends scattered about, busy finding out what their lives will be.

It was a perfect storm of starting over at the beginning of the…well…old beginning.

We’re not great at this never-ending email — there are weeks when no one writes and periods when we can’t even get a hold of the one living across the world (literally) on Guam. But then one of us sends out a new message in this ongoing chain — she’s sick, or in love or she’s found a new career path she never thought she’d pursue.

So, how does this last, post-grad?

By not letting it go.

4 Days with my family

December 6, 2009

I have an interesting family. Really, we’re very out of the ordinary. And very different from one another.

And, sometimes, four days together in my sister’s 1,100-square-foot house with her new husband and her dog can be interesting as well.

I’ve told you all about my stay-at-home, do-the-laundry, amazing Dad and my Mom, who I still haven’t friended on Facebook, by the way (please be patient with me). Now, I’ll tell you about the rest of my family, in hopes that they’re something like your family — except not really at all.

First, there’s my sister, Dana.

Enough said? Probably.

Nah, just kidding. Dana is the person who raised me. I mean, my parents were there, but she was the one who dressed me (in various neon outfits with side-ponytails), taught me to love NKOTB and to play sports like my life depended on it. I told a story in my maid-of-honor speech at her  wedding last month that will explain this all perfectly:

When I was little, my mom would ask me, “Who do you love the most, Lauren?” And I would look back at her and say, “Dana.” (And then Dana would look at Mom and say, “See.”)

I will never not want to be just like my sister…(which makes her recent wedding a bit of a challenge for me). Other than the fact that she is a counselor and I could never do that.

Then, there’s my big brother. Paddy to everyone he’s ever known since college; Patrick to us.

Patrick is a Jesuit priest…(that’s Catholic). They’re the really cool ones who run colleges and all-boys high schools around the country whose students love them and tell stories about the secret kegs they have hidden in a closet somewhere on campus. And my brother is pretty cool.

He is a passionate philosopher, teacher, learner — and a passionate Brewer’s fan. He is the one who led me to journalism, actually. Not that he meant to, really. Well, he did mean to lead me to Fordham (a Jesuit university) and he did mean for the Jesuits there to instill in me a sense of duty akin to something in Star Wars. (In fact, the whole family has a theory that Patrick really became a Jesuit because he thinks he’s a Jedi. He’ll even point out that George Lucas named the Jedis after the Jesuits).

In other words, because of Patrick, I knew I had to do something for others with my life.

That’s right, this guy right here — Pabst in hand — has set the standard for morals in our family.

But family is an odd thing like that, isn’t it?

And all of the oddities come out when all five of you spend an extended weekend together over food, wine (Scotch for the Jesuit), board games and way too much football on TV. At one point when we were playing Catch Phrase — the greatest game known to mankind — I shouted “it’s like Dad’s head!” My brother yelled, “balderdash!”

Amazing.

The nicknames also come out over the holidays. According to my Dad, I am “Fork,” “Squirt” or “Little-Biggie.” I couldn’t really tell you why. Dana is “Biggie” (she loves that) and Patrick is almost inevitably “Spud.” He doesn’t seem to mind. Or notice. It has also been established that I am my mother’s doppelganger. It’s getting embarrassing.

Nobody can get to you more than family. Nobody has shaped you more. And nobody else will refrain from judging you while you scarf down the largest plate of food you’ve eaten all year…because they are too. Here’s what Patrick and my sister’s new husband, Brandon (he doesn’t normally have that stache, but he should) looked like after the big meal. Mmmmm.

Hope you enjoy the holidays with your family!

Women in Journalism (and Bob Dylan quotes)

November 13, 2009

That’s the name of my Mom’s last PowerPoint presentation for her JMC110 class (minus the Dylan parentheses). That’s the last hour-and-a-half-long lecture she gave to 125 squirming Freshmen.

I sat in on it because I didn’t know who Ida B. Wells was, and it got me thinking.

That PowerPoint was chok-full of MegaWomen, and students cited their favorites — Christiane Amanpour, Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Barbara Walters. And that classroom was absolutely full of young women. (I won’t mention the fact that some of the young men in the class cited Erin Andrews as their favorite woman journalist “because she’s hot” — oops, I mentioned it).

I am in a graduate program in journalism right now that has 19 young women in it, and one guy. One. You know what I have to say about that? The times, they are a-changin’ my friends.

Let’s take a quick look at the newspaperman past: (I’m going to dress up like this for Halloween one year)

newspaperman

Now, a look at the newsman — past (and present):

newsmen

There’s no way of knowing if this is just us Cronkite…ah…ites who are witnessing first-hand the changing of guards of the journalism profession. And it’s purely anecdotal from my point of view, but things seem to be shifting. All colleges around the US are 60-40 women on average and the trend doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. (Anyone know what the classes look like at other j-schools around the country?)

There are two questions that come to mind with this: 1) When did journalism become a woman’s field? and 2) Will we still have to spend most of our lives on morning television before we finally getting the job we’ve always deserved?

And I can make two guesses in answer to those questions: 1) Probably about now, and 2) There likely won’t be morning television jobs to giggle through for the next 20 years.

OK, I thought of three questions: Does this, perhaps, have something to do with the concurrent (and complete) demise of the news industry as we know it? There’s a theory I learned in my Freshman year Sociology class that blew my mind at the time. It said that necessary, subservient, under-appreciated, jobs — teaching, nursing, office management — have become women’s jobs in order to maintain the patriarchal social structure. Or, the social structure forced women into subservient jobs…etc. (Chicken or egg?)

I can’t help but think it at least timely (at best ironic) that more and more women are becoming journalists at a time when all that’s left of the journalism strongholds are a lot of (male) executive editors who watched from their corner offices as innovation was laughed away and the Internet blew up their business model.

And then there are the ones who stood up to the publishers and those who are working now to help the next generation innovate — many of whom are now my professors.

No, in the future, the face of journalism will look probably look more like this:

newwomen

Oh, and this (the one guy):

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Well, I agree with Dylan in this case: Don’t think twice, it’s all right.

(Thanks to Lisa in Phoenix and Grant’s facebook for the photos)

Call me Swine-y

November 8, 2009

…my sister has been calling me that all week (safely, via phone).

This Wednesday, after a few days of an increasing fever and generally feeling crappy, I went to the doctor. When he came into the examination room wearing a mask over his mouth and nose, I knew this wasn’t looking good.

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When he told me I had the swine flu, though, I almost laughed. Knowing that that would seem rather inappropriate, considering the face mask and the cotton swabs and all, I coughed instead (which was convincing, considering the state of my lungs).

It’s not that I didn’t think it seriously sucked that I had managed to catch this ridiculously contagious virus, or that my entire body didn’t feel like it had been put through a meat grinder — no, it was just that it’s funny when you’re life is actually affected by the news…when you spend all day, every day talking and learning about the news.

It was rather ironic, too. You see, I’ve been making fun of the hysteria over swine flu since the outbreak began last year while I was interning at a major news network’s Web site. I’ll never forget the look on the harassed health reporter’s face that day. “It’s just the flu!” she would screech. Yes, I mocked the frenzy over the vaccination (“It’s just the flu,” I repeated with an heir of superiority) and I laughed at the incessant coverage and claimed it was all being manufactured by the media.

Well, I got mine.

I’ve spent four days now at home on the couch, drugged up on painkillers and tossing and turning through Nyquil-induced sleep. And let me tell you, if you want a flashback to childhood, get really sick while you’re living with your parents again. I’ve never felt less my age.

I drank 7-Up, read bad novels and watched Pride and Prejudice (not the 6-hour BBC version, mind you, but not for lack of time). I was spoon-fed cough medicine and always had a cold towel to put on my forehead (I’ve said it before, I have the best Dad ever). I haven’t spent this much time in my pajamas since that semester during my freshman year of college when my dorm was located approximately 50 feet from my 8:30 am class.

It’s been a refreshing experience for a self-confessed workaholic like myself, knowing that I wasn’t allowed to be around people. It’s also been about as boring as the subway ride from Fordham Road to Coney Island — and waaaay longer.

When I left the doctor’s office Wednesday, he offered me his hand to shake, probably out of habit. Shaking it, I said, “You’d better go wash your hands now.”

“I think I’ll go boil them,” he said.

The Bridesmaid Years

October 23, 2009

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It’s begun. My mid-20s. Or, as I have quickly come to understand it: The Bridesmaid Years. That time of life when, at least once a year, one of my wonderful, talented, strong, smart, gorgeous best friends will ask me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding.

Just a few days ago, it happened again. Almost exactly a week after I was honored to be the maid of honor in my big sister’s wedding, one of my best friends, Katie, called to say that he had done it! Joe had proposed. I literally shrieked and jumped up and down in my kitchen. We have been waiting for this one. (Katie and I picked the ring out at Tiffany’s at least a year ago now.)

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I will help her choose flowers and colors and venues; I will squeal when she finds the dress; I will love whatever dress she picks out for me and I will hold up all of those white layers of silk when she has to pee right before walking down the aisle. (I didn’t make that up, it happened to my sister).

I will love every second of it.

Having already been maid of honor twice before my 23rd birthday (which was the day after my sister’s nuptials about two weeks ago), I am an early inductee into the 20-something post-college Bridesmaid Years.

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I expect this phase to last for about 5 years, with some outliers and a congested period in the middle somewhere. (This will be a recurring segment on my blog, as you can tell).

You all know what I’m talking about, 20-somethings out there. There are movies about this phase of life. (Not very many good movies about it, but they’re there.) When I updated my Facebook status after Joe proposed on Monday, I said, “It’s wedding season again!” A high school friend commented: “Isn’t it always wedding season in your 20s?” Yes. It seems to be.

But here’s the catch: In every single one of those movies, lonely girl (whether she’s played by Jennifer Lopez or Katerine Heigl, it’s the same girl) finds that perfect guy by the end of the movie who understands and loves her even though she is a neurotic workaholic. Ah, how art imitates life.

There was this moment at my sister’s wedding — it was a moment when I found myself, somehow, standing in a bustling, pushing, pretty drunk crowd of young, unmarried women in heels ready to fight for the bouquet. The bouquet that meant you were next.

I didn’t expect to be one of the girls in that crowd. I’ve been raised by a staunch feminist mom and the least macho dad in existence. I’ve never been all that concerned about being perpetually single, which I am. I usually enjoy it, actually. But I am hopelessly romantic (blame it on a childhood full of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers).

I hate to sound like a stereotype. I really hate to actually be a stereotype. But something happens when I see that diamond ring on someone’s finger. And then there’s that look on her face. That peaceful sort of knowing — that she is settled, that she is done, that she is ready.

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I have realized by now that being romantic and being a feminist are not mutually exclusive things, but part of me instinctively cringes when I think like that. I hate to feel like there’s some existential race going on, in which I’m quickly falling behind. Two weddings have gone by already and I have yet to reach the end of my own terrible romantic comedy.

So, even though I have no answers right now (except when it comes to mermaid cuts versus A-line), there is one thing that I do know: The Bridesmaid Years will be nothing but lovely, gushing, romantic fun — if I can just stop watching those movies.

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