Happy birthday, column! Usually I’d just post on your Facebook wall something quirky like, “happy birthdayyy” or “BIIIRRRTHDAYYY!!” But my column doesn’t have Facebook. If it did, it would disable its wall anyway, because it believes public displays of friendship (PDF) are tacky and public displays of rejecting PDF are really sweet. So without that option, I thought I’d just honor this anniversary with reflections on the past year of growth and change.
Boy, has science made great strides in the last 12 months. When my friend’s appendix almost burst last week, the doctors at Yale-New Haven informed her of a revolutionary appendectomy procedure. No incisions! No scarring! Speedy recovery!
“Sounds great!” replied my friend.
“It’s called natural-orifice surgery,” the doctors explained. “We take your appendix out through your vagina.”
My friend’s morphine-mottled mind processed the idea, as the doctors became increasingly insistent.
“How many times have you done this before?” interrupted her sober companion.
“Once,” they said, because doctors speak in uncanny unison.
My friend settled for the more traditional abdomen entry-point. But still! Delivering an appendix through your vagina! Beautiful!
My personal growth has been less impressive. No surprise, I’ve always been a slow developer. My nickname was “tween” until junior year of high school (tween, noun: “A child between middle childhood and adolescence, usually between 8 and 12 years old”). My sister coined the name, in part because of my tweenie face, dress, behavior and penchant for Smirnoff Ice, but mainly, I suspect, because it rhymed with peen. Oh the odes composed in my honor!
I’ve only recently graduated to the teen-stage of life. I rim my eyes with charcoal as if I still had authority figures to rebel against. I listen to Brand New when no one is around and then loudly when people are around in a way that the casual eye might think is ironic.
It is not.
This was my destiny. My friends and I recently shared tender recollections about our first concert experiences. They all had the foresight to deflower themselves with Radiohead or Wilco. So timeless! So enviable!
Some had dads who took them to see the Rolling Stones and they’d smell weed in the parking lot and there’d be a moment of awkwardness, but then Dad would flash them a knowing glance, a sneaky smile. Surreptitious laughter! Bonding!
“Good Charlotte,” I say.
“Doesn’t matter,” they console me. “It’s the experience, not the band, that counts.”
“No, you don’t understand,” I correct them. “I loved and still love Good Charlotte.” For all of eighth grade, I proudly displayed a photo on my locker of Benji Madden and me in sweaty post-show embrace. He was making a gangster gesture. I was squirming in my chucks.
Sigh. I casually brushed my hand against his upper thigh first, Paris Hilton.
My sister has made noble efforts to free me from my perpetual adolescence. But after years of failure, she eventually gave up.
“Your sister could get a boyfriend if she just put on a pretty dress and was a little less outspoken,” one of my sister’s friends suggested to her.
My sister shook her head in resignation. “Not only does she not want that,” she rebutted, “but that’s her anti-mission in life.”
But I decided to grow up last week. I’m not sure what sparked it. Maybe it’s seeing classmates around campus in suits interviewing with consulting firms, while every e-mail I get with the subject line “Summer Opportunities!” or “Everything You Need to Know to Plan Your Junior Summer!” I flag, feeling really responsible, and then never look at again. Maybe it’s the cast of “Gossip Girl” getting into college. I don’t know. But it was time for my life to pubertize.
First step: laundry. So I dropped my washing off at the Howe Street Laundromat. Next step: manicure. Usually I just slap on one of the two shades I own (black or gold glitter), which begins to chip after five hours. I got them in my stocking for Christmas 2001. I sport my flaking black or gold glitter nails for the next three to six weeks.
But well-kept hands are the sure mark of a lady, and I had 52 minutes until the dryer was done, so I set off across the New Haven Green to NailPro on Temple Street. It was around about when I passed (the other) Starbucks that I became conscious that my laundry day outfit — a grey sweat suit with “Yale” emblazoned on chest, thigh and ass — made me a massive dick to the larger New Haven community. But I had a purpose, so onward I trooped.
I was the only white person in the bustling nail salon at 11 a.m. on a Friday morning. I was also the only customer not getting acrylics. I sat there for half an hour in NailPro, staring at the woman next to me. My peach polish was significantly less badass than the miniature Lacoste alligators the manicurist was carefully diagramming on her two-inch canvasses.
The varnish began to chip after two days. It’s my body revolting, I think, but two whole days is still some personal improvement. I’m not going to remove the chipping peach polish. Instead, I’ll surrender myself to the whims of destiny and let it flake off in its own time. No need to rush progress. I’ll forgo birthing an organ, thanks. I’ll take the scars.