Thursday, June 21, 2007

Black and white

So I was pretty miffed about the Convergences thing and I thought long and hard about composing a letter of protest to Lawrence Weschler, but really I have no evidence of a crime and no way to prove my essay came first other than an email I sent that he never responded to. Plus I would likely spend hours agonizing over every word in the letter and then when I got no reply (again) or a reply of denial, I would kick myself for wasting my time which is what frustrated me about the whole thing in the first place. I have better things to worry about right now. Like the fact that whenever I put her down in the backyard, my daughter won’t stop eating dirt clods.

Another thing I’m worried about right now is my 20th year reunion coming up in two months. Several months ago when I made the realization that it had been 20 years since I graduated from high school, I vowed to get in shape and look my best for the reunion. I’m not sure why this is so important to me. My friends – the people I hung out with in school and still keep in touch with – have already seen me at my best and worst and love me for who I am. But strangely, it’s not them I’m worried about. I want to look good to all the other 450 members of my graduating class whom I hardly know and have not seen in 20 years and will likely never see again. This is completely absurd, I know, but there it is. I’m a mother, a college professor, a confident, mature adult; but put me in a room with my graduating class and I am 16 again, obsessed with what other people think of me, worried that my hair will go flat before 4th period, convinced that all the keys to happiness are held by the thin, tan, well-dressed popular creatures who glide down the halls like demigods.

But then I have those rational moments where I say, “pshaw to the class of ’87! What do I care what they think of me?” and I sit in bed reading the fifth Harry Potter book for the 4th time instead of jogging and I eat chocolate chips by the handfuls, which is why my vow to get in shape isn’t going so well. I’ve always been a black and white thinker. I don’t spend much time in the gray areas of life. I am skinny. I am fat. I am dieting and training for a marathon. I am a slug.

Mark Rothko, Black on Grey
I feel this way about most things, not just dieting. Maybe I take the whole “those who are lukewarm will be spewed” warning too seriously because I tend to go for the extremes. Some days I come up with a stroke of genius idea for my class and I think I’m the worlds most brilliant teacher. Other days I stand up there struggling to remember a simple word like “superstition” and I realize I’m a total fraud. One moment I’m already mentally spending the millions I’m going to make from my best-selling novel. The next I’m utterly embarrassed by my various pathetic attempts at a first chapter. Are my kids fortunate to have me as a mom? Or will they rightfully tell their therapists someday that all their phobias, hang-ups and failings are all my fault? She was always nagging me about putting away my cereal bowl and she never shared the chocolate chips!

Maybe I need to wallow in moderation once in a while. Today, for example, there’s a lull before the storm (end of one term, beginning of another) and I don’t feel like donning my Nazi uniform for the SS Chore and Practice Patrol. My boys are playing with Lego in their pajamas and I’m okay with that. My house is not a total disaster, but it’s not clean by any stretch of the imagination either. I’m an average mother of typical dimensions with a medium-sized collection of un-recycled grocery bags wadded up in her garage. I am not Paris Hilton and I am not Rosanne Barr. I am something in between.


Klutzmom said...

Just remember that there are probably 450 other people trying to think how they can impress the classmates they haven't seen for 20 pounds.

Maybe this is why I've never been to a class reunion.

But I'll bet not too many have accomplished as much as you have and still remained a wonderful, normal person.

TARA said...

Aw, shucks.... we love you just the way you are!

And I may not be in your graduating class, but I have known you for these 20 years, and you forget that some of us who have known you that long are in complete awe of who you are and what you do. And, um, from what I've seen of your readership there are plenty who haven't known you all that long that feel the same way.

Beautifully written, as always.

Radioactive Jam said...

Probably not the world's most significant insight, but I wonder if more chocolate chips would mean fewer dirt clods?

I'm thinking mainly of Nora, but at the same time maybe the reverse applies as well: if you fill up with dirt clods, you'll have less room for more fattening snacks.

Also have you considered sending a total stranger to the reunion in your place? A guy, even? Your close friends could be in on the little joke, and video clips of the remaining hundreds' reactions would be priceless. Seriously, no one expects you to look exactly the same.

Think about it.

Sandra Tayler said...

If you take Rothko's painting and cover the top part with your hand, then you have a bland whitish rectangle. Boring. If you cover the bottom part, then you have a bland blackish rectangle. Also boring. The drama, the tension of the work is that line in the middle.

"Something in between" is sometimes the best bit of all.

An Ordinary Mom said...

Simply brilliant.

I always feel like I am the something in between.

Scribbit said...

Something in between Rosanne Barr and Paris Hilton? I'm trying to visualize that disaster of genetic mutation . . . .

Luisa Perkins said...

My 20-year reunion was terrific; I was so glad I'd decided to go.

I wouldn't worry about the dirt. Dirt therapy is recognized as effective for children with severe asthma; perhaps Nora is merely self-medicating in a preventative manner.

I wouldn't worry about the chocolate chips, either. You're gorgeous.

You are nowhere between a troubled girl with an eating disorder and addiction issues and a troubled older woman with an eating disorder and addiction issues! I see Paris and Roseanne on the same end of a spectrum, with you far to the other side.

allysha said...

I like the chocolate chips with peanut butter chips. Oh the lethal combination.

Chanel said...

why do we always choose white over black? i say eat twice as many choc chips and show up as the LARGEST reunionite! take the road less traveled- purposeful weight gain.

Stacey said...

I subscribe to your blog because I love your insights, and this post makes me just want to give you a hug (or a high five...whatever works). And then I'd holler a grateful AMEN, SISTER.

Dedee said...

I think we all have things where we are black and white, and things where we can wallow in gray-ness. I like reading your blog a ton. You always make me think, so I'll take whomever you are!

Geo said...

Wallowing in moderation is exactly the choice I'm after these days also. La Dolce Bipolar Vita does wear one out after a while.

Love this post . . . and all 20 extra pounds of chocolate chip-inspired you!

Hope you make it to your reunion.

compulsive writer said...

I haven't been to a single one of my class reunions, but I did get to see a few photos from the last one. The thing that was funny to me was that in all the time since I moved away and have never returned, every time I correspond with someone I picture them the way they were. I mean I know logically I'm not the only one who now twice as old as when we were last together, but I still picture them as if they had never changed.

When I saw the pics from the last reunion I was honestly shocked. I wondered who were these people with white hair, glasses, etc.?

Jenni said...

Poop on moderation!! I just love the idea of it, but honestly I don't think it makes for very interesting people. Besides, bipolar is so hot right now!

Seriously, I predict you'll have a great time at your reunion, no matter what your size. Just tell people you *used* to weigh 800 pounds, and they'll be super impressed at how thin you are now. Assuming that you aren't, in fact, 800 pounds right now.

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