Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Tie Your Napkin 'round Your Neck, Cherie, And We'll Provide the Rest

For various reasons, I’ve gone home to my parents’ house twice in the past two weeks. The first, Thanksgiving, was non-negotiable. The second was to pick up a pair of glasses I’d ordered the week before—glasses that I am, by the way, ecstatic about, although I don’t think anyone’s noticed the difference besides me.

I took the train up the second time and my dad and I drove directly from the station to get my specs. It was hard to rationalize a two-hour train ride for a ten-minute visit to the optometrist so I bummed around the house until I’d earned up enough visiting time to justify the trip back to Brooklyn. It was a quiet day. One brother was away at college and the other was out working on some group report for Social Studies, I think.

I spent most of my time in the kitchen talking to my mother. My father dozed on the couch in front of a football game. I ate boiled kielbasa for dinner. I flipped through the Sunday Daily News, a paper I haven’t opened since I moved out. It was, in most respects, typical of any Sunday I’d ever spent there growing up, until my mother offered me a piece of cake, took out party plates and a pie server, and offered to make coffee.

I, I realized, was a Guest.

My new status may qualify me to dry my hands on the seasonally embroidered towels in the bathroom or sit on the couch in the Good Living Room, but have I lost the right to steal entire bags of pasta from the pantry? Guests bring pastry and bottles of wine. I tend to bring my own weight in dirty laundry.

I pay bills, I write checks, I file taxes, and I have health insurance. I am legally permitted to operate a motor vehicle or ingest alcoholic beverages.

On the other hand, I am afraid to answer the telephone, I cannot tell time, I have the love life of an eight year old, and I ate a chocolate turkey for dinner last night.

The spectrum that runs from kid to grown-up is one that’s always been very clear to me when I am planting other people somewhere along its length. Your dad pays your credit card bills? Baby. You’ve been living on your own since you were eighteen? Big-time adult. Can’t go see a movie alone? Child. Knows how much to tip your mail carrier for Christmas? Not just grown-up. Classy grown-up. But I am perpetually my own gray area, which is probably the sign of a personality disorder, but let’s not get into details. I react to the stupid situations of my life at once as a thirteen-year-old and a thirty-five-year-old and a seventy-year-old. This produces a crisis for decisions as simple as what to buy from the vending machine at work (“Pepsi!” “Diet Pepsi!” “What, no Cranberry Juice Cocktail? When I was a girl there used to be a fruit juice machine at my dad’s firehouse and it was only fifty cents!”)

When handed cake from a silver pie server on a dessert plate by the woman who once deemed me too immature to be able to handle “You Can’t Do That On Television,” I’m so paralyzed by the left-fieldness of my own age that even my individual brains can’t figure out what to do. Thirteen feels like she’s sneaking into an R-rated movie, but also like when she realized she was too old to watch Nickelodeon anymore. Thirty-five would love a cup of coffee and to gossip about work, but has a niggling guilt about eating seven hundred empty calories before bed.

Seventy loves those plates, and thinks that at this point she can get away with belching at the table. Excuse her.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I call it "My Fair Lady" syndrome where you don't fit here, you don't fit there, you don't fit anywhere! I have the same problem when dealing with my friends and then with my co-workers.

1:28 PM  
Anonymous anonymous mom said...

very well put... i love how you can make sense of the crazy shit most of us think about...

4:03 PM  
Blogger katy said...

My father used to call me a "tweenager" whenever I complained that I wasn't getting cast in plays because I was either too old for the part or too young. I've been living in "tweenagedness" ever since.

Nice to know I'm not alone.

6:18 PM  
Blogger katy said...

My father used to call me a "tweenager" whenever I complained that I wasn't getting cast in plays because I was either too old for the part or too young. I've been living in "tweenagedness" ever since.

Nice to know I'm not alone.

6:21 PM  
Blogger katy said...

My father used to call me a "tweenager" whenever I complained that I wasn't getting cast in plays because I was either too old for the part or too young. I've been living in "tweenagedness" ever since.

Nice to know I'm not alone.

6:23 PM  
Blogger katy said...

My father used to call me a "tweenager" whenever I complained that I wasn't getting cast in plays because I was either too old for the part or too young. I've been living in "tweenagedness" ever since.

Nice to know I'm not alone.

6:24 PM  

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