If we were having coffee, you would find me sitting outside in front of a computer. I’ve been focusing a lot on my writing lately, and today is no exception. Last weekend, I began trying to pinpoint my “voice” and I’ve been practicing with different styles of writing. I took a look at my blog, too, to see how or if it fit. One thing that struck me was the name of my blog: “Creo Somnium.” Sounds cool, right? Short, a little mysterious. Cooler than the original name: “I Didn’t Just Wake Up This Morning With A Craving.”
“I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?” Stephen King
This quote becomes especially poignant on this, the day of my 20th high school reunion. I’m not there, obviously, but I wish I was. Every time I’m with someone from high school (except for My husband Cohiba (Have I told you we met in high school?)) I remember someone I used to be.
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is brought to you by cigars and a whisky flight. (Oh yeah, and it’s the Wee One’s first birthday today! I lost my baby today and gained a toddler!)
Last Monday, a girlfriend and I went out and had so. Much. Fun. I mean, so much fun, and since then, I’ve been thinking about how similar going out after baby is to going out in junior high and early high school. Unlike previous Top Tens, these listed in the order in which they come up in a night.
(Note: This was in the early to mid 90’s, so we didn’t have the internet or even ubiquitous computers. We had landlines and cassette tapes. And acid washed jeans.)
You dress differently. In youth, since I was going out, I wanted to look cool. So I would wear the one shirt that was a little tighter/lower cut, the one I wouldn’t normally wear. When I go out after baby, I’m not worried about access to my boobs, and I knew I wouldn’t get any spit-up on my clothes!
You wear makeup, usually badly. In junior high, I wouldn’t wear makeup really, and when I did, it wasn’t put on very well. It wasn’t always even mine own make-up! I have found that post-Wee One, I wear make-up so rarely that I’ve kind of forgotten how to put it on. When we went out, my friend was wearing perfume – she got in the car and she DIDN’T smell like baby wipes. I was like, “What is that weird aroma?”
The first few minutes together are spent telling stories about how you got away. In junior high, the story may involve what you told your mother or what you had to go through to get a ride. After baby, you’re dancing around bedtimes and evading separation anxiety, so it can be hard to leave the house. My girlfriend’s daughter has strong separation anxiety right now and her husband distracted the child as my friend slid out the door. She said she could hear the baby’s wail as she went down the hall. On her way to the car, she tore her pants. “But I worked so hard to get out, and I couldn’t go back in and have to leave again, so fuck it.”
Once you get out, you go to a place you wouldn’t normally go. In junior high, we would go places our parents wouldn’t want to hang out, maybe even places we weren’t supposed to hang out. This time, my girlfriend and I went to a cigar bar, a place I used to go with fervor, as you well know, and I haven’t gotten to do as much since the Wee One came along.
One there, you tell everyone you meet that you got away. Not that we would do this in junior high, but there were several references to it amongst the group. When my girlfriend and I went out, we told the hostess at our restaurant, our waiter, then later, a bartender and a couple of strangers that we were having a girl’s night out.
You eat what normally wouldn’t or couldn’t. I feel weird drinking alcohol when I’m out with the Wee One, unless it’s wine and I’m in an Italian place. When I was a freshman in high school, I would go with girlfriends to Applebees and we would all order virgin strawberry daiquiris. We felt so cool drinking those, but we wouldn’t try to do it in front of our parents, who would look at us sideways.
You scream with laughter. As much as we loved our families as kids, and as much as we love our babies now, we felt free in a way we normally weren’t. We felt joyful and full of life, and that was our way of expressing it.
You talk to lots of people. When you’re finally out on your own in JH, you’re the one doing that talking, not your mother. Your opinion is the only one that matters. AB, you can suddenly make conversation with anyone about anything and stand there and talk for as long as you want! Which wasn’t always a good thing, as it might lead to #9
Get talked to by someone inappropriate. In JH, it was the creepy guy in the food court who kept smiling at you when he refilled his soda. This time, it was a guy at the craps table who thought he was slick in asking about my friend’s husband. (Now that I think about it, it was probably the same guy.)
Come away from it feeling very much alive. Both then and now, you laugh for days afterwards and hold on to the memories for a long time.
In this past week’s Downton Abbey, as our dear Mr. Carson said, in the best quote of the episode, “The business of life is the acquisition of memories; in the end that’s all there is.” <sigh>
And to that end, I roast chestnuts over the memory fires about my 16th birthday. As it happens, I was not really deserving of the wonderful celebration and events around that year, which may even make them more special.
Ah, being lost in translation. I have lived most of my life in the same city, St. Louis, and so, as a Midwesterner, don’t find myself blessed with the cute regional accents of Boston or Savannah, or even Dallas. There are a few little unique things to STL, though, in a way that toasted ravioli and gooey butter cake is unique to us. Probably the most unique question and the one that newcomers notice first is: “Where’d you go to high school?” (For those of you familiar with this, I went to Parkway South.) This question is almost automatic to any STL native. It’s compulsive.
I have a friend, Ed, who moved here to go to school from Seattle, and he was working a job as a tour guide in the museum under the Arch (which, by the way, is free and really cool). He walking talking about Samual Clements, I think, or someone like that, and someone asked jokingly: “Where’d he go to high school?” Ed was like, “Does it matter?”
Perhaps needless to say, the crowd cooled to him after that. This reflects the small town nature of this city, and it also stems from something else important to understanding the city: City v. County.
There is St. Louis city and St. Louis county. And the county is actually made up of dozens of small cities, like Affton, Sunset Hills, and Hazelwood. So those little cities have their own high schools, and their own “flavor,” if you will. Part of the reason we ask about your high school is that we, frankly, stereotype people based on that. If you told me you went to Ladue, Rockwood, or MICDS, I “know” something about you. (I don’t really, but we stereotype.) Also, I can see if I knew someone who went to Ladue, Rockwood or MICDS during that time, and we forge a connection.
If someone is from south city and especially south county, they may pronounce words with an “or” like it’s “aa.” For example, Corn:Caarn. Four:Faar. This is not completely confined to the south side, but it tends to be like that. Also, the more “aa” your “a’s” are, the more hoosier you are. Which brings us to the next point:
In St. Louis, hoosier, or hoozsh for short, doesn’t mean what it does in Indiana. Here, a hoosier is sort of like a hick, but more educated. Sort of like just white trash, but a little less mean, if you will.
I am now coming to an age when I have lots of memories, like a basket of chestnuts to turn over a bored fire. Some memories are painfully embarrassing, though I suppose I should enjoy it though; this is the marrow of my life, and those days are not coming back. Which is sometimes for the better, as there are certain things I don’t need to live twice.