No, I really am allergic!

I am awkward in social settings.

The line at my favorite downtown Starbucks was unusually long.  At 8:24 each Monday and Friday morning the line has four people in it and usually goes no farther than where the Rice Krispy type treats are in the display case.  Today, however, I was late. The line placed me with my back against the door behind ten people; the 8:24 crowd was in the front placing orders for their usual morning vices and were followed by a large family from out of town. The family was causing a minor scene with its  teenage daughter ordering something complicated and acting loudly embarrassed as her father was confused about what to call a medium.  Following the family was a short guy dressed in sharp jeans, a black t-shirt, and a black flat brimmed snap-back hat.  He kept darting from the line to his seat and back and the young woman directly in front of me politely was holding his place which lead me to assume that they were together.

While the Dad was stumbling over his order and the teenager was looking embarrassed and annoyed, the short guy mumbled something about a chocolate croissant to the young woman.  She responded with a noncommittal answer of, “I’ve had it before and it’s pretty good.” When it was his turn to order he looked at her and asked if she wanted a chocolate croissant, she looked very confused and said no.  He leaned back and asked me the same.  I quickly shook my head and became engrossed in digging quarters out of my wallet.  He still told the Barista that he wanted two croissants.

After paying and going back to his seat, the young woman laughed and said, “I thought he was asking if they were good or not, not if I wanted one! That was so awkward!” Apparently they weren’t together. I responded with an awkward laugh and a “No!” Why that is what I chose to respond with, I don’t know, it didn’t even make sense with what she was saying.  Luckily it was her turn to order so any chance of more social fumbling was avoided.

When it was finally my turn to order, I was already five minutes late for work and flustered by the croissant situation, so I hastily picked something that I hadn’t tried before that cost me an arm and a leg.  At the serving dias a Barista called out “two chocolate croissants!” For fear of interacting with the short guy again I became engrossed in playing Kim Kardashian Hollywood, the new and highly addictive game on my phone that caused me to use up 75% of my cell phone data allotment for the month in just a week and a half.

This guy would just not get the message and came up to me with the little pink paper bag that one of the croissants was in.  He dangled it in my face and asked, “Are you sure you don’t want one?” Annoyed, I looked up from the “high profile appearance at Panino” that I was playing in my game and said, “I’m allergic to wheat, sorry.”  Something about being allergic to one of the most widely used ingredients in our country, makes people uncomfortable.  While not intending to make another awkward moment, I unfortunately did.  He scrunched up his face in a confused way and walked back to his seat.  In hindsight, he probably thought I had just made something up to make him leave me alone, which in his defense I kind of did, but his confusion really made me want to say, “No! I really am allergic to that croissant, it is made of flour, which I can’t eat because flour is gluten and I have a gluten sensitivity!” I refrained.

Finally my iced mocha was ready and I could leave the Starbucks. In a hurry to get in my car and speed down main street I somehow became entangled in my skirt.  Since I was parked on a hill my car door swing shut and closed half of my body in the car while I was trying to juggle my oversize handbag and my coffee in one hand.  Subsequently I spilled the drink all over my car seat, blotted it with the towel I keep in my car (thank you Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) and was a grand total of fifteen minutes late into work.

I’d Rather Feel the Earth Beneath my Feet

I, like many others, have numerous and conflicting dreams; I want to live the American dream with the white picket fence complete with garden gate, beautiful home, and loving family.  I feel called towards being a mother and a wife, lovingly sliding sandwiches into plastic baggies and tucking sweet notes into my future husband’s coat pocket before he walks out the door.  I hope to be like my mother and have my little girl sit on my bed watching me in the mirror while I put on my face and brush out my hair to teach her pride in herself.  I see my children having a wonderful relationship with their grandparents, going over to be spoiled and do things they don’t get to do at home.  But there is a part of me that resents this stereotypical life for fear of being inadequate and out of control.

While this retro view of family is lovely, I am also attracted to the Beat life, the Jack Kerouac experience.  If I were to be locked down into the nuclear family before I got to experience the world I would be heartbroken that I never was able to relax, disconnect with the material, and just drive toward the sun.  On a few occasions, I have driven with no destination, no map, and no schedule.  I felt no anxiety or pressure, which by itself was freeing, but in combination with rolled down windows and beautiful music playing, it was both satisfying and hungering.  So hungering in fact that it eats at my mind, forcing me to take the long way home and go on random, secret drives through the country, just to quiet it down.

I know one day my little excursions will not be enough to quiet my curiosity, I will have to pick up and leave, hopefully, with a companion who could play acoustic guitar and sing with me as we drove wherever the road took us.  I want to see America and her many cultural pockets, biomes, and her people. I want to see what made colonists and explorers so enchanted, and I want to feel like I belong to a community much larger than the sleepy little town I, my mother, my grandfather, and my great grandparents have lived in.  While on my trip, I want to crouch down and put my hands on the earth at every stop, in every state to feel its texture and warmth, from the deserts in White Sands, to the pine-strewn carpet in California’s Sequoia forest, and to the wet and rocky cliffs in Maine.

The pain of pushing on day after day becomes too much sometimes; it forces me to lie on the floor and float in the hurt of it all. I feel inadequate as a person and particularly as a woman, struggling with infertility issues and fighting depression and anxiety. When these episodes come on, I mentally get on the road.  I can see a place so flat the curve of the earth is the only thing lying on the horizon; it is an hour or so out from sunset and the sky is glowing.  I am in the driver’s seat letting my hair fly around my face and dance in the wind coming in from the open windows and sunroof.  In the passenger’s seat is a boy with a cheerful face, grinning and strumming a guitar, singing with a voice like my father’s, full of soul and still very clear, the voice of America.  I know what I ate, the outfit I had on, the color of the car, and every single crack on the road we were riding on, the scene I have is so detailed that it is on the line between something imagined and something remembered from an earlier time, though I know it hasn’t happened.

It is very important that I take this  path. That I turn the hours spent dreaming about it and running through my short vision on repeat into reality, it has always brought a smile to my heart. My journey would feel disappointingly incomplete if I were to settle into a domestic rut without stepping out and feeling the embrace of the world. Looking out over water and at pictures of the far reaches of outer space never fails to make me feel cold, depressed, and lonely, while gazing across land, knowing that for thousands of miles farther than what I can see with my own eyes, it stretches on, has always been incredibly comforting.  Like Simon & Garfunkel said, “I’d rather feel the earth beneath my feet, yes I would, if I only could, I surely would.”

Look How Much You’ve Grown part 2

I felt the pressures to lose weight, to be thin, to make others like and want me because I looked a certain way. I gained 25 to 30 pounds. None of my clothes fit and I was miserable.  My metabolism slowed drastically, I was no longer exercising for two hours a day, and I was enamored with the delicacies afforded at the university with the best food in the nation that first year.

 

I was disgruntled because as a free spirited individual, I knew I shouldn’t have cared about my weight or the way I looked because that was how I was. People should have focused on me as a person and not me as something to look at, but I did care, I really did. Breaks from school were stressful, I wanted to shed all the pounds and expected I would because I would eat home cooked meals and not drink alcohol, but they didn’t help, especially not because my mother pretended that I hadn’t gained any weight at all.

 

I could deal with it though. I could deal with having to buy new jeans and having a higher number on the scale, until I looked up “ideal weight for 5’6 women” and the US Army guidelines came up. I was outside the bracket that the Army would allow in. I definitely was not interested in joining the Army, but realizing that I was heavy enough that the Government did not want me to fight or our country was horrible.

 

I think it’s unfair that children are praised for growing bigger and bigger because growing up is such an exciting thing to do, it means new shoes and brightly colored clothes at Target, but as an adult it means stretched seams on the inside leg of jeans, shirts that pucker at the chest, boots that don’t zip up all the way, and marks on your waist from where the waistbands cut in. I’m not looking for praise. I’m looking for support.