seriously

Recently someone wondered at me how people judged him for hanging out with the fat girl. He has five or six inches on me, and I have five or six pounds on him. The weight sits lithe on his frame. How do you think people judge me for being the fat girl? I want to ask him, but I don’t. Instead, I think it every time I see him. How do you judge me for being the fat girl?

These thoughts, and thoughts like these, are things that consume my mind every day. On the street walking, on my bike. Eating lunch and buying groceries. Seeing advertisements in the bars of my web browser and on buses, the T, taxi cabs. At work.

My being fat isn’t really a secret. These sorts of things can’t be. I am officially listed as “overweight” on the BMI charts passed around in doctors’ offices and gyms around the country. I’m one of those “healthy fat people.” I can run a 10 minute mile, and average 13 when running three of them. I bike the three miles to work every day, 20-minutes or less in traffic. Like a delivery man. I like hiking. I’m not fast, but I can handle nine miles and thirty-nine hundred vertical feet–it just takes me nine hours.

Even though I wish it didn’t, my brain tracks these numbers. These distances and times and splits as evidence–empirical evidence, quantitative evidence–that being fat is only one part of having a body. I take these numbers and I repeat them to myself: One mile. 5.9. Sixty seconds. 12 miles. 12-hundred vertical feet. 370 miles.

One of the things about being active and fat is that you have to prove yourself to everyone around you constantly. When someone puts you on a 3 mile round trip hike with a climb of 900 vertical feet, you have to kill the thing in two hours and bushwhack your way around the peak, climbing over rocks and through underbrush. You have to bike to Walden Pond and then swim across it. You have to go down and up the rocky and icy steep sides of a lake without taking your skis off. You have to do what everyone else does and then you have to do more and hope that maybe, just maybe, someone takes you seriously because even then, they don’t always.

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Self

Three or four years into my tenure as an electrician at the Philly Folk Festival, we were sitting around in a rum circle. The rum circle is a fine tradition of Fest. It’s pretty simple: we sit in a circle and pass a bottle of rum—preferably clockwise and never widdershins. I like the rum circle. At this particular one, JG slided up next to me and draped an arm over my shoulder. She said something to the effect of:

At first I thought you were just one of those people [they] bring who comes for a year or two, does no real work, and flakes out. But you’ve really proved yourself. You’re crew.

After getting over my initial discomfort at the idea that I was “just another flake” (not denying I am a flake—I totally am), I found comfort in knowing I was (am) crew.

Being crew is like being in a family or a gang—it doesn’t matter how long you go without showing up, whatever else you do, you’re crew. There is a history, a lineage, you become a part of.

We are by no means close. As far as I am aware, there are few close relationships outside of the several weeks we spend relying on one another entirely. (I understand that everytime someone foots a poorly balanced ladder that holds me 25 feet off the ground, I am trusting them to keep me alive.) There are occasional e-mails and facebook posts. My experiences with these people are fairly isolated.

My relationship with the crew is the same as some of my other important ties. During the brief times we are together, things are as they always have been. In this particular case, our physical location reflects our psychic one. The site is isolated from the rest of the world, it’s own special place, and our home beneath the stage is separate and hidden, it’s own magical, safe realm. The space creates a static reminder of who we are and who we can be in relation to each other and that this is separate from everything else.

Not to say the rest of our lives don’t matter.

Place, geographic, has always been important in how I think of myself. People create a different kind of space. Without us, the area beneath the stage is stark, cold, quiet, and empty. With us, it’s home.

I was in Seattle two weeks ago. Seattle is a strange place I don’t know how to interact with. G visited once as an undergrad and fell in love with parts of it in a rush of lusty passions for something different and a great glass library. S and T moved there after graduation and I went out when they got married.

Seattle and I had a whirlwind reminiscent of Celine and Jesse’s in Before Sunrise. Our time together was marked by the Burke-Gilman, dumpsters, eating from trees, bikes, getting lost in the woods and bay, and feelings of desperation, love, and loneliness.
This recent trip was more subdued. Instead of our initial intensity, we had a much delayed day-after trying to figure out how we could interact with each other—or even if we should. I went to different parts of the city with different people: I was with people I like quite a bit and don’t know how to be around. People I don’t know who I am around; people I don’t know if I’m able to be who I am around.

And then there was S and suddenly I was home and me and everything in the world made sense. For the first time in months, possibly a year, I was m. again. I knew who I was because the strangeness of Seattle now had S, who turns a stark, cold, quiet, empty space into a place I belong to. S and I, the crew and I, have spent seven years building places together. In these places, there is nothing to be except for ourselves.*

*These statements reflect my feelings and interpretations of the world.

Impostor

It’s easy to forget that it’s okay to be down at parties. My typical drunk pattern includes a possible phase of acute melancholy. Being drunk is a condensed version of being at a party (any party); being at a party is a condensed version of being at an con or a conf or a camp or a fest.

There’s some point when things start to slow down, or where things don’t start to slow down but I do. I feel alone. I feel like the other: separate from the community at large. Part of this is impostor syndrome, a common phenomenon among women in tech and women near tech. (I am a woman near tech. Wow, I am a woman. Wacky.) Part of this is social anxiety–which is likely tied in part to impostor syndrome.

Impostor syndrome is the feeling that you are an impostor. Impostor is a lovely, broad category. It can present itself in feeling as though you know nothing about something, you know less than everyone else (and are not their level), or you just don’t belong.

One of the ways this presents in me–aside from being nearly constant–is feeling that I am alone. As a woman near tech–as someone who hangs out with all sorts of hackers: genetic, biological, hardware, software–I do not claim any knowledge of these things. Instead, it’s some sort of “I do not do this thing, therefore I don’t belong.” I have no connection to anyone else around me. Then I feel alone. Then I feel down.

The trickiest part of my feelings isn’t even impostor syndrome–it’s the down that comes with it. I ought to be having fun; I am supposed to be having fun, but I’m not. This is something I don’t know what to do with: I have no clear conclusion to tie my thoughts together with. In truth, there is none. All there really is is to work through these moments, to feel them and let them wash over me and pass. I may hide in my personal spaces–the physical and non. Afterwards, I will have fun again. I will talk and I will laugh and I will dance.

Cool

Tonight I am going to see the Protomen. Sure, I Fight Dragons and Br1ght Pr1mate are also playing, but let’s be honest, I’m going to see the Protomen. I once started writing a post about seeing them at PAX East 2011, but I could never bring myself to finish it. Mere words could not express how much I loved the show.

Mere words cannot express the unnatural, unfamiliar, bordering-on-mad lust I have for music of the Protomen. I don’t know why, but they make me shake and weak in the knees. They make me want to scream and shout and melt and grab the person nearest to me to hold me up. They make me feel like I did when I was in high school and wanted to be cool.

When I was younger, I tried to look cool. In fact, when I was younger I think I looked pretty cool. Sure, I spent part of my teenage years decked out in cutoffs and t-shirts. I also spent part of my teenage years like some cross-breed between a lazy person uncomfortable with their body, someone trying to look like a punk, and an unmitigated nerd.

I looked cool in my combat boots and fluffy skirts, my suit jackets and tight army-navy pants. My plaid shirts and clashing plaid skirts. I wore my dad’s leather police jacket. I had large, square black plastic glasses. I had great, uneven haircuts, brightly dyed, and often faded, hair, chipped nail polish, bracelets, rings, and necklaces. I had braces with the brightest pink bands the dentist could find.

Then I gained a lot of weight, stopped caring, and retreated into a sad little self-punishing world of wearing oversized t-shirts, size-twenty jeans, and unflattering short hair styles I didn’t need to comb.

Those were dark days. No one makes affordable, cool plus sized clothing. When you have no money, you can’t afford the nicer things, but even those weren’t my style. I looked awful in anything I tried on. I’d been chubby all my life, but at a size ten it was manageable. I could still be cool. After I got puffy, when nothing fit anymore, the mere mention of clothes shopping would send me to near tears. I refused to go with anyone else, for the most part, because I wanted to hide my shame.

I got older, and lost some of that weight. I’m still pretty puffy, but less puffy than I had been. I’ve reattempted “looking cool” at different times. At parties or, most notably, concerts I’d wear one of my three or four shirts that aren’t totally lame and try to convince myself that I was as stylish as I remember being. I know I’m not, or at least I think I’m not. I think I look awkward and funny. I think things don’t fit. I still get upset when I go clothes shopping, but it’s not as bad as it used to be.

The last time I saw the Protomen, I wore a purple sweater and purple leggings, a blue shirt with penguins on it, a short green skirt, and blue chucks. A little nerdy, a little cute. It wasn’t ideal, but it was enough to convince myself I was trying. I don’t know why I was trying, who I was trying to impress or show I was cool, but I was doing it anyway.

This morning, I thought about my day. Work, class, and then the show. Regardless of what I do, I will be sweaty and smell a little off by the time I get to the Middle East. I didn’t want to haul with me, on top of my gym clothes, another outfit. My bag is already not small and pretty full. I have no clue what I’ll do with it tonight. More things inside of it would be even worse.

Still half-asleep, I looked at my clean clothes, quickly assessed that it is still the case that none of my pants fit, that I still look funny in the shirts I have, and that none of the even remotely unlame ones are clean or appropriate for my somewhat respectable office job. I pulled on one pair of ill fitting jeans, a soft shirt, and my sweater. I looked at myself in the mirror and acknowledged that I wasn’t cool at all.

Then I realized that was okay.

Just like that I let go of wanting to look cool. At least for tonight, I am okay being the dork at the show. No one is going to care what I look like, and I’m going to be too tired (and too sore) to give a damn anyway. My hair will be a mess. I will step on the bottoms of my pants. I will have an obnoxiously bright yellow jacket tied around my waist. I won’t look cool and I won’t care.

(Although, I still hold out hope that Raul will meet me after the show, fall madly in love with me, and talk to me every night in his wonderful, wonderful voice.)

Expectations

When I tell someone that I just rode a bike to Philadelphia–and that I did it last year–there are two kinds of looks people give me. Some people look impressed. This makes me feel awkward because it really isn’t that hard and I lame out and trains are involved and all of that. Or, more commonly, they give me The Look.

Women's Montreal UCI World Cup 2009 winner Emma Pooley of Britain on her Cervelo.

Image courtesy of Flowizm on Flickr. CC-BY.

This is Emma Pooley, winner of the 2009 Grande Boucle, or Tour de France Féminin. She was the last person to win this tour (the fancy term for long distance, multi-day bike racing), as it was discontinued after she won. This is what a long distance lady cyclist looks like.

Marianne Vos cycling on a mud track in 2007.

This image is public domain.

Marianne Vos, a Dutch cyclist, is the most recent winner of Giro d’Italia Femminile, a tour in Italy. Emma Pooley finished second. This is what a long distance lady cyclist looks like.

Mika Matsuzaki on a fixed gear bicycle by the Charles River.

Image by mako. CC-BY-SA

Mika Matsuzaki is a friend of mine. She does not ride this bike on long distance rides. She rides a different bike, one with gears, for instance, and a backrack, when she covers many miles over several days. This is what a long distance lady cyclist looks like.

I do not look like any of these people.

To quote myself, I am in a round, soft-and-squishy shape. I’ve hinted at the level I dislike my body, which is, I gather, a very normal level to hate your body as an American girl. We, as a culture, have created expectations not just about how people–or we–should look, but about how different kinds of people should look.

Duh.

Even the most understanding and liberal, the most socially conscious acquaintances I have, people who fight for equal rights, who think very hard about everything they eat, and the impact of their actions, and the meaning of advertising and the world around them, have given me The Look. The Look expresses, in a momentary flash across their face, that they don’t believe me. They might consciously understand what I just told them I do, but they cannot, even if just for a breath, comprehend that I biked 300 miles.

Then their conscious mind takes over and they acknowledge that I, a size fourteen, XL, one-piece swim suit kind of girl, can bike 300 miles.

I hate The Look. It makes me feel small. It makes me feel ashamed. As the look fades and the other people’s conscious mind takes over, my shame fades and my anger takes over. I think of all the snippy remarks I want to make. I think about how I want to tell them they can’t call themselves accepting when they still have The Look in their repertoire. I think about how their expectations about me are one of the things wrong with our culture.

Then my conscious mind continues to race ahead. It reminds me that people are taught these expectations and they’re an intrinsic part of who they are. They aren’t in control of what they think or, really, their immediate expressive actions. They’re in poor control of those anyway.

Recently, at work, some people restarted a weight loss pact that they had put on hold for a few months. I decided to join in. I mentioned this to SG and she had a rather negative, immediate response. I found myself mumbling over the intellectual reasons why I think losing weight is a good idea: I will be able to do more things–there are yoga poses I can’t do simply because I have more body to try and squeeze next to other body. I will be able to lift myself up by my arms if there’s less to lift. Cute clothing is easier–and cheaper–to find in a size eight than a size fourteen. But underneath all those conscious, logical reasons, I want people to stop giving me The Look. I don’t want to feel that strange twinge of shame when I need to explain that I swim, run, and bike long distances.

Dekita, 04

I graduated.

Graduating from university was something I doubted I would do. If I’m being completely honest with myself, there was a large portion of my life when I didn’t think I would even go to university, and during my time there a seemingly larger portion where I didn’t think I would finish. I wasn’t the best student, and I was more interested in things like sleeping with people and learning than doing well in my classes. I went through periods where I would blow off my more traditional academic responsibilities to do things like write. I would sit there, sure, but I wasn’t paying attention. I didn’t do especially well in more traditionally structured classes. I did mediocre with regular assignments and multiple choice tests. In all honesty, that’s probably why I gave up on science.

You see, I wanted to be a scientist. I wanted so hard to be a scientist. I wanted to explore and investigate and create things. Unfortunately, I didn’t want to muddle through the classes. I liked the lectures. I liked the discussions. I liked hearing about the “cutting edge” of biology research. I didn’t care about the exact order of steps in the Krebs Cycle. I couldn’t care less about how many carbon atoms are in a carbohydrate molecule or how to differentiate one from a protein.

The thing is, I was interested in what people could do with ideas rather than the ideas themselves.

At some point, I embraced the fact I was never going to be an engineer. I was never going to be a scientist. I took classes I did well in. I studied things I could read about and then talk about. I took classes where I could sit down for three hours and write a paper that would get me a B with minimal effort. I did all the things they tell you not to do. Luckily for me, my school was wonderful enough to give me an opportunity to study something that I, I learned, utterly loved and found totally interesting where I could still get Bs with minimal effort. But, I still didn’t do what I needed to to succeed.

I didn’t work hard.

I mean, I worked hard, but I didn’t work hard on the right things. Rather than focusing on my studies, I helped organize a conference. I worked. I was in clubs. The orchestra. I went swimming. I played games.

When I was in high school, my father asked me what I cared about. I rattled off some things, things I intellectually cared about. But, none of them were things I actually did with my time. Back then, I walked, read, wrote, and cooked. I played music with people. I played games and watched movies and talked about them. Some part of me thought that when you were young you did these things and at some point, you got older, and then you focused. They you started doing the things you thought were important. I mean, after all, at fifteen how could anyone “be a doctor” or “be an engineer” or “be a lawyer”?

But, since then, I’ve met the people who did these things. They were the people who, as kids, volunteered at hospitals, who built things, who read the newspaper and legal cases and followed what was happening. Kids who did mock trial and were volunteer firefighters. Kids who wrote for the school paper.

I used the excuse that I was home schooled for not having done things I said I wanted to do, but the fact is, the honest truth, is that I never really liked doing them. I liked the things they meant, I admired the things they were, but I wasn’t the kind of person able to do them.

In spite of everything else going on, no matter how much I denied it, even back then, I couldn’t admit it to myself, but I knew: I really just wanted to write.

My parents knew this, even though I didn’t, and suggested that perhaps traditional education wasn’t for me. They suggested this in the wake of a particularly bad semester–where I barely passed biology for the third time, almost failed Japanese, and actually failed a maths class I was perfectly capable of doing all the problems for but for some reason never did quite successfully. So rarely did they tell me what to do, that I hated it, resented it, when they–or anyone–did. But, I listened. I had to.

I took time off.

This was a struggle and a fight. Taking time off meant giving up and I hated to give up. I bit back against this and hated my parents, resented them. We stopped talking to one another and at the first opportunity I went back to school.

I wish I could say I came back reformed. That I did better and worked hard, but instead I declared a humanities major. History and Philosophy of Science is actually best compared to a person you meet and sort of like well enough. You find them generally attractive and easy enough to get along with. Then, one day you’re in love. They didn’t do anything special, but suddenly you realize how everything about them is perfect for you.

I threw myself into HPS and I loved it dearly, but I never loved it quite enough. It never drove me to push myself.

I was lucky, that’s the short of it. I graduated because I was lucky. The HPS classes were supplemented with anthropology, Asian culture, and writing classes I collected enough As in, picking up flowers off the ground rather than reaching, that I somehow found myself holding a 3.0 with the last of my final projects. By sheer stubbornness, I graduated. I just refused to give up not because I thought it was the right thing to do, but because other people wanted me to.

I walked with my friends and my parents beamed. My professors said nice things about me. Somehow, I didn’t feel like I really accomplished anything. I understand, conceptually, that my degree is proof that I did something, was able to do something, that about one-third of Americans have done. However, I feel much more accomplished when I pedal up a large hill than I did when, seven years after I first stepped into a college classroom, I graduated. It might have just been the moment–years of work is slow and hard to see while a hill is there and then you’re done with it.

However, getting a degree was a lot like biking up hill. It’s just one small part of what’s going on. There were things that happened after it that couldn’t have happened otherwise. I’ve had jobs that I wouldn’t have, experiences I wouldn’t have.

I would never say I regret a decision on my academic career because somehow it led me here. It led me to the people I care about the most. It led me to employment. It led me to looking out my window at the Charles, with a belly full of a lunch I shared with friends from out of town–all of whom I met because I graduated from university.

Physical

I have problems with my body. Some of these are functional–my eyes don’t work quite right, my tongue is quite likely permanently numb, sometimes the hearing drops from one of my ears (it switches) at random and it sounds like everyone is very far away, my left ankle will likely never fully recover from when I hurt it in March of 2010. Some of these problems are aesthetic–my hair has a tendency to frizz up; at the age of twenty-four I still have acne; I am covered in scars. My eyes are already forming little lines from squinting and the area below them is constantly stained like I rubbed cooked blueberries there. I am fat, My upper arms are unreasonably thick and flaccid. When I hold them out at my sides, the layers of fat cells cling down and hold on to nothing to maintain shape. My legs giggle when I walk. My knees hit my stomach when I crouch over and pedal. Sometimes I lie in bed at night on my side and look at it, protruding out from me as though I am pregnant, stretch marks like veins in marble cutting across it, and I hate it with every thought in my mind.

But my body is amazing.

This summer, like the one before it, and the one before that, and the one before that, I found myself peeling off the layers I hide under, appreciating and admiring my body for what it is: a beautiful piece of biology that straddles the line between machine and art.

There is enough science that in and of itself is amazing that I’m not going to talk about any of it directly. It’s worth it, it’s important, to spend some time learning anatomy and physiology, taking a physical anthropology class and learning how the bones are the way they are, breaking down biology to processes in cells. The ability of life to persist, the body to function, is great.

But I want to talk about my body specifically.

My body persists. No matter what I’ve done to it–all the tortures I’ve made it endure–it persists. When I stood for seven hours a day, it complained, but it took it. It adapted. It allowed me to push it, running miles (not many, just three) every day afterwards. It let me throw it into water and force it lengths, only to make it pedal to stand to run.

These days, the torture I throw at it is different. It works for hours, sometimes days, on end. My leg muscles tense and flex, stretch and tighten round and round as I pedal. My back slowly begins to ache in small parts after the miles it sits, hunched over. Let’s not even talk about my butt. My poor, poor butt. My hands are calloused and my elbows sore–which is probably a bad thing. I don’t feed it enough during these times. After a point, we fight over every calorie it expends.

But when I finish, I can’t wait to go again.

My body adapts. Muscles grow and blood vessels strengthen. All that “biology” stuff goes on and slowly it gets better at what it does, but that doesn’t matter. What really matters is that I can spend a day hiking, I can ride a bike sixty-five miles one day and fifty-five the next. I can stand on one foot and hold the other in my hand behind and perching my body curled around itself like a flower.

My body takes everything I throw at it, every single impossible task, and it does it. It complains, it whines, and sometimes it takes a while, but it does what I need it to do.

Like

I like someone.

This is very hard for me to say in any way. The first time I liked someone–liked them in that way people use the word in sixth grade, all nervous and concerned–I was about to tell my best friend when, out of no where, she said to me “Don’t you think [that person] is weird?”

I mutely agreed and shoved the fact I had a crush on that person down inside of me and tried to forget about it. It, in this case, being my feelings that had become, in my mind, “bad.”

With that idea squared away in my mind, I entered adolescence with a general inability to talk about people I was into. The end of my first relationship was met by private confessions from many of my friends that they never liked my new ex in the first place. What followed were crushes I viewed as inappropriate, bad or downright abusive relationships, and an overarching, ever growing discomfort with my own feelings.

Being able to say to someone “That Carly girl, I totally dig her” or “Kyle? Man, I have such a crush on Kyle,” might not be the most important of social skills. They’re not the content of conversations that really matter, in theory, but there is this cultural idea of the normality, the soft necessity, of being able to have these conversations. Every teen sitcom has some sort of open conversation about how into someone some other character is–usually with the bearer of the feelings being on screen at the time. Years of living with friends, open conversations, and a not insubstantial amount of alcohol got me to point where, through veiled discomfort and mumbling, I can admit to a friend that I like someone.

I can’t do this with my mom.

However, I’ve reached a point where, thanks to the advent of parents on IM, I can chat with my mom about such things. This is something else I feel I -ought- to be able to do, even if there isn’t justifiable utility behind it. I mean, justifiable utility beyond “My mom is interested in my life, loves me, and has way more experience than me so sometimes she has useful things to say or important notes of distinction to share.” I mean, having found my father, and successfully having managed twenty-seven years of marriage so far, counts for something.

(Ida–also known as my mom–on the right in Provincetown. That’s right, my mom liked P-town before it was cool.)

My mom, in case you don’t know, was ridiculously cool when she was younger. She went to Woodstock. She saw “Stop Making Sense” live. My mom once had Michael Bacon play guitar in her living room. Michael Bacon! She’s been through her share of crushes, dates, relationships, one night stands that become good stories when you’re older, and this aforementioned marriage thing.

(That sweet convertible in the background? It was my mom’s.)

I can’t actually stress enough how important the fact she is my mom factors into the equation of me telling her things. She loves me. She cares. She’s full of infinite understanding and forgiveness. I could tell her I was in a poly relationship with a straight drag queen, and dating a lesbian with a coke habit and she would be right there, reading articles about poly relationships, checking out the drag queen’s videos, and giving me advice on how to help my lesbian girlfriend overcome her coke problem.

Which ties in very well to my next point: Someone gave my mother the internet.

I talk to her on it, which is great and has made a huge difference in the openness and comfort of our relationship. However, she is not just armed with a screen name for instant messenger. My mom comes with a Facebook account, a blog, a linked in profile, and a twitter. She has great google skills and an uncanny ability to follow links and search across mediums and networks to find whatever she wants to find.

And my gods does she find things.

My nervous admittance to her that I like someone easily drops me into a world where she is commenting to me about things they say on twitter, her looking at photos, and her even going as far as to make up nicknames for this person she hasn’t even met yet. She asks me about how they’re doing, or tells me about what they’re doing.

A conversation with my mother might go like this:

Mom: I was watching this documentary with your father and they were talking about how plastic bottles are washing up on the shores of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area and causing some damage to the reefs there. Johnny McScubaface tweeted about a research trip they were going to go on out there, is their team still going to go?

Obviously, the above comment is a work of fiction. I mean, my mom’s nicknames for people aren’t like “Johnny McScubaface” at all. They’re more like “Kyle Kyle Crocadile” and “Carlotta.” (These are also fictional, but I could totally see my mom calling a Kyle or a Carly names like these.)

In one sense, this makes me regret opening up to my mom. On the rare occasions I see her, she’ll wait until we’re alone and then say “Tell me about that person you like. How did things work out with that? Did they not?” and I’ll cringe and mumble away the conversation. Some realistic part of me is recognizing that this is one of the few ways I let her into the personal aspects of my life. As a child, she was there for everything and it was inescapable. Now, she sees the public and gets the pieces I pass on to her. Now that she is no longer literally dressing me every day or comforting me when I cry, these bits about who I like are the most intimate details I can pass along. They’re secrets she gets to have and share that I don’t–and frankly wont–give to most anyone else. It’s a point she can connect to me with and something she can hold as her own, a rare thing even she gets to keep from my dad.

Plus, everyone loves gossip. And–I love you mom–her life isn’t exactly the non-stop party-fest it was when she was my age. My life isn’t the non-stop party-fest hers was when she was my age. In some sense, I assume that she gets a thrill when I proffer late night IM confessions or awkward mumbling. The excitement of meeting someone new, and coming to be attracted to them, has been replaced in her life with the commitment and love that comes from being married for twenty-seven years.

(My mom is the one wearing white.)

And even if it makes me feel a little awkward and embarrassed, lots of things do. I’m adjusting to being a person and learning to share is part of that. Besides, talking with her will probably never be as bad as the time NN turned to look at me and then, in a gleeful and accusatory tone: “Is that a hickey?” She cracked up while I turned bright red and people around us made noises about how they were “trying to be polite.”