“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”Gilda Radner

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


My mother bought me this really fantastic hair straightener for Christmas. I used to faithfully straighten my hair every day, until one day I realized that stepping out of the shower and just being ready is actually way easier. Who knew? So I gave up straightening my hair for many, many years.

Until my mother bought me this present. I must admit, it's pretty amazing. It doesn't take me very long--which is saying something, since my hair is pretty thick (I've actually been told by snarky hair dressers that I'd just better WARN them on the phone next time because my hair is "unreasonably thick," as if I have any control over that), and it doesn't make my hair all large and in charge, either.

Well, today, time wasn't on my side and I didn't have time even for the super fabulous quick straightening, and I wore my hair curly. I must tell you, each time I passed by my own reflection it was like seeing an old friend I'd been missing. And oddly, I felt relieved. Like for a little while there, I hadn't quite been my real self, and now I am again.

The more I thought about it, the more reflective I became about when exactly I became definitively me. Waaay back when Joe and I first got engaged, a friend of mine and I were discussing the various ups and downs of embarking on a new life with another person, and she quite wisely said, "You just have to be really clear about what you decide are you non-negotiables." My response was quick (if naive), "That he love me, take care of me, not leave me or cheat on me or hurt me," and she sort of laughed and rolled her eyes and said, "Well, aren't those everyone's non-negotiables? What are yours?" But for me, at that time in my life, those were it. I'd actually been in a place where they weren't glaringly obvious to another person, and I figured I would never need much more than that, so as long as Joe could be counted upon to be, you know, a decent human, we'd be all good. And since I'd already known Joe at that point for ten years, I felt pretty confident I knew what I was getting into.

Lucky for me.

Because quite honestly, if you asked me today, I bet I could brainstorm a whole shiny new list of what my non-negotiables are. Topping the list would be do NOT roll your eyes at me and do NOT move things from where I put them. Ridiculous? Yes. Negotiable? No.

So what happened between then and now? The obvious answer (and the cliche one) is life. Life happened. More specifically? Let's see if I can outline a few of the more glaring specifics that have changed me into the curly-haired person I was so relieved to see in the mirror this morning.

1. Children. Children are messy and annoying and dealing with them alone totally sucks. Dealing with them with another thinking human is, like...impossibly hard. Imagine: I have one idea of how to handle Noah singing "Video Killed the Radio Star" at 2 am, and my husband--what is he thinking?--has the audacity to have a different one. The moral of the story: Nobody can predict their child will have an affinity for singing vintage rock songs in the middle of the night.

2. Mail. Young people really don't understand about mail. My older sister was completely in love with it. The affair began when my parents first subscribed to TV Guide, and it only became more passionate from there. For this reason, I wrongly predicted that one day receiving my own mail would be a magical and satisfying experience. How wrong I was! Mail brings bills and other kinds of bad news. It is a reminder of everything you have to do but don't want to do. It contains advertisements for things you want to buy, but your bank just sent you a letter saying you can't afford to. Sometimes, it contains random letters you suspect might carry illness. (At least if you're me.) And then these envelopes, these harborers of evil, pile up and up in a really inconvenient place in your home. Because half are for you and half are for another person and some are for now and some are for later. You create a system for managing it all, and then the other person, the person who was only meant to love you and take care of you and never hurt you (non-negotiably), comes along and moves the system to a different place. A secret place. It might be the garbage. It might be the cupboard. It doesn't matter. It was moved. Moral of the story: My sister is weird and mail is bad.

3. Modern literature. I have one name for you: Jodi Picoult. Reading Jodi Picoult, or any other writers who have subscribed to using her kind of endings, is akin, in my humble belief, to a person offering you a basket of freshly baked cookies. "They're still warm," the person might say. You're elated.You heart soars. Warm cookies? you think. How delightful! Calories? I don't mind spending them on freshly baked cookies! You reach in, take a cookie, and bring it to your mouth. You bite. And then, more than anything, you want to spit the cookie back out. Those were not chocolate chips. They were raisins. Oatmeal raisin cookies are my equivalent to Jodi Picoult books.

4. Owning a dog. I understand that Joe and I did things a little backward. The way most people do it is they get the dog before they have the children. Joe and I messed up. We had the babies first. Babies are hard! Babies are trouble! Babies do not sleep and then they grow up and sing "Video Killed the Radio Star" at 2 am. I actually rolled my eyes and laughed at people who owned dogs but had no children. But now? Now I see the usefulness of their choice. How much more patient I could have been with someone who isn't human if I didn't actually already care for and nurture small humans. Now, all I keep thinking about is, "I have to clean up your mess and you're not even a person. This blows." No moral here, as far as I can see. But I may not be seeing things in the clearest light since I've been up at 2 am for almost five years listening to rock songs.

I became a teacher because I was done with college. I became a wife. I became a mom. I own a house. I have an SUV that seriously hates me. I hate cold weather and I live in a place that has miserable weather for at least eight months of the year.

But when I looked in the mirror this morning, and saw my own old face surrounded by curly hair, I smiled and walked on, humming a certain Buggles song under my breath as I went. Behind my eyes a slide show played, showing me an array similar to the following.

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