Flashback to the year 2000
June 25, 2009
I found this in my files today, back from my days as a crazy single gal.
Elizabeth is no longer my neighbor, and I’ve been married for 7 years now, but what tickled me the most about finding this again was to see that I made mention of Seattle 9 years ago when I wrote this. Perhaps a person’s destiny truly *is* pre-determined and mapped out somehow in the subconscious mind?
“Never?!?” Elizabeth’s pencil-thin eyebrows shot up into her hairline.
I replied, “Well, I guess you can never say ‘never,’ but…”
Elizabeth leaned forward in her chair in expectation, studying me shrewdly.
“…probably not,” I finished flatly.
My neighbor’s mouth dropped open into a tiny ‘o.’ She looked completely horrified, as if I’d told her I liked to barbecue newborn babies.. “Why on earth not?” She began tapping her sensible shoe nervously under the table.
I paused for a moment, considering how to best respond. We were talking about getting married, or rather my aversion to it. Holy matrimony. Getting hitched. Settling down. Even considering it made me shudder slightly. At 26, I enjoyed the status of “old maid” according to my old-fashioned family, who’d unofficially conferred upon me this supposedly-negative designation when I announced my plans to leave Pasadena, Texas after high school to pursue (gasp!) higher education in another state. At a private, co-educational university, no less. And worse—a METHODIST one. Evidently leaving the state all by myself and then returning with a college degree would automatically eliminate me from Pasadena’s list of decent and marriageable women, much to my unexpected delight.
Elizabeth, however, was totally pro-marriage. She had a “wedding file” which was threatening to take over her file cabinet, filled with clippings and photos and magazine articles and sketches and ideas…My dear neighbor had her entire wedding planned out to the very last detail: colors, flowers, who would officiate, which church, her dress, seating charts for the reception (updated quarterly or as necessary), the size and shape of the ice cubes…The fact that Elizabeth hadn’t quite crossed paths with an appropriate groom did not seem to dampen her enthusiasm in the slightest bit, nor did the suggestion that said groom—once found—might have some sort of differing opinion or preference regarding the wedding preparations. Elizabeth couldn’t wait to get married.
I took a deep breath, and began, “Well, why would I? I like things the way they are, I can do exactly what I want, whenever I want, and be totally responsible for myself.”
Elizabeth didn’t look at all convinced. “But think of what you’ll be missing out on!”
“Like what?” I queried. “Give me an example.”
She narrowed her eyes at me over her teacup. “Well, for starters, true love, a lifetime companion, financial security,…and KIDS!”
I couldn’t stifle a chuckle as I realized how little my neighbor understood me. I’d moved in next door to her several months earlier, and while we’d become fast buddies and hung out frequently, we seemed to be total opposites in so many things. It was amazing we got along so well, I had often mused. All signs pointed to mutual hatred, after all. Pro-choice versus pro-life; lower middle-class background versus Daddy, the president of a Manhattan bank; hippy-dippy universal spirit versus strict Catholicism; clean modern lines versus poofy floral chintz…yes, it seemed to be a doomed friendship from the start. Nevertheless, for all her idiosyncrasies (and my own), I found Elizabeth to be a truly remarkable person. She was even more optimistic than I was, making my bright side look like Seattle skies in mid-January. Her university experience at a prestigious women’s college had exposed her to fabulous ideas, which had been rounded out through extensive travel around the world. All in all, Elizabeth’s idealism and genuine concern for the other people in her life made her quite a delightful friend.
“Kids! Slow down, that’s another subject altogether! Besides, who says I have to be married to have kids?” I laughed.
Poor Elizabeth looked even more scandalized. Eyes wide, she stammered, “Wh-wh—what do you mean?”
I knew her brain was about to explode, and I shook my head, “No, never mind…I just don’t think I have to be married to find true love…or financial security…or lifetime companionship either, for that matter.” I folded my hands on the table and waggled my eyebrows at my neighbor.
“And just how do you propose to have a companion for life without being married?” Elizabeth demanded to know.
I grinned. “That’s the easiest of the three…I’ve always imagined myself being described by my family as crazy old Aunt Shawn…the one that travels around the world, enjoying life, sending shrunken heads and crazy presents to the nieces and nephews, keeping a lover in every port—“
Elizabeth could bear no more. She interrupted, “A lover in every port?!?! Are you saying—“
Just to get under her skin, I cut her off with a sly smile and replied, “Sure, or at least in seven or eight cool places…” I began counting off on my fingers, “Let’s see, how about London, Paris, Barcelona, Prague, St. Petersburg, Hong Kong, Sydney, San Francisco, Buenos Aires, Rio, New York, Toronto…” Seeing that Elizabeth’s eyebrows had shot into her hairline again, I couldn’t resist adding, “At least for starters.” She was entirely flabbergasted, and I was cracking myself up. “Oh, wait, that’s more than seven or eight, isn’t it?” I grinned again.
“Oh, Shawn, you’re always such a joker.” In typical Elizabethan style, she’d washed her hands of the conversation. I recognized the tone as the ‘I’ve had enough so I’ll tactfully change the subject to something less offensive’ tone. She beamed, “Won’t you have another cup of tea?”