See that grinning girl standing in front of the Arc de Triomphe? C’est moi. One of the best trips of all time. Off all time.
As I stood in line at the café at work and watched one of the employees step over to the espresso machine to whip up a latte for a customer, I thought of him. It was such an interesting time in my life, really, all of it, and he was, by far, the most significant part.
I was 19 years old when I met him. He and I started at Borders Books (I still miss it, sniff, sniff) on the same day, in the same orientation group. I noticed him immediately. Having long been a lover of cute faces, the combination of said cute face, those blue eyes, and that brownish-blonde hair got the heart racing. But, believe it or not, I told my prone-to-endless crushes heart to stop itself. I was tired of silly crushes. I was journeying into adulthood, wasn’t I? So I valiantly ignored R., not even allowing myself to swoon at his Texas drawl and those eyes.
Didn’t work, though.
When we began our first task of shelving books, he called my name. Ever hear your name being uttered by a boy you’re trying to ignore because you understand the inevitability of your soon-to-be deep feelings for him? Yeah, it was like that. I nearly collapsed, threw up, and smiled all at the same time. I heard you’re a writer, he said. I said yes. I write poetry, he then said. Maybe we can talk about books sometime.
A poet? A poet? I knew, then, that I was toast.
We discussed a little about writing, my then in-progress major in English at my college, his former college in Texas. It was a nice conversation. Soon, we were directed from the books to training on the cash register, where we stood next to each other, our shoulders slightly touching. I knew it then. I was in like.
For a year and a half, I went through the usual infatuation journey with R. I alternated between wanting to gaze at him 24 hours a day and wanting to push him down a flight of stairs for one silly reason or another. One distinct memory: as he tied my apron for me in the café, where we were frequently assigned together (which is why I thought of him yesterday), he asked me to be his creative inspiration. Dizzy from our proximity, I merely smiled and went into the back of the café, where I stuck my head into into the freezer.
Eventually, the crush dissipated and we became good friends. We shared poetry and book recommendations, laughed, talked, joked. When he decided to leave Borders and go back to Texas and back to college, I was sad, but not heartbroken. Before leaving, he gave me a sweet letter about enjoying our friendship and the “inspiration” I provided, although I think he was just happy to be around someone who loved writing as much as he did.
I last heard from him in 2000. He sent me a letter and a bunch of his poems to review, for which I never received a reply. I was angry about that.
A few years ago, while perusing the Internet and suddenly wondering what became of him, I googled him. That’s when I learned that he died in May 2002.
The death was unexplained. I merely saw his obituary, and cried, and reached out to the university he went back to, in order to learn something about the situation. Of course, the cause of his abrupt death was his family’s to own and to know, but the shock of it all–the untimely death of this young man that I once knew and treasured…it was unbearable. I was able to communicate my condolences to his family through the university contact that I found. (A memorial scholarship/award, for poetry, was established in his name.)
The triggers can be anything–coffee shops, bookstores, someone bearing his resemblance–and I am instantly transported to that time in my life, when a wide-eyed nerdy girl swooned over and ultimately found friendship with a sweet poet from the South. What a time it was.
You’ll recall that the Fabu Fashion feature started on a Thursday…then next occurred on a Friday. Ah, well. I run this, right?
So, sharing what I wore a few weeks ago to a dance party in Connecticut. Don’t want to brag, but This Square Peg was all gussied up and she liked it. What whaaat?
Dress – very 70s Good Times, huh? Something Willona Woods would wear? Found it at Ross and fell in love with it immediately.
Earrings – Target.
Belt – snazzy, no? Borrowed from my friend’s closet. I’ll be purchasing one that looks just like it.
And can I wax poetic about my hair? I have a hair crush on my own natural mane, and I was so digging the frohawk style my pal created for me. Yay.
Good times, indeed.
So, yours truly is a travel bug. I love everything about traveling, from airport eating (i.e., all diets are quickly hurled to the ground and abandoned once your feet touch the terminal floor), to the tons of people-watching I participate in, both at the terminal and wherever I travel. Having just returned from a relaxing trip to visit my cuzzo and her hubby in Puerto Rico (I’m actually sitting here at JFK airport, waiting to board the plane back home), I thought I’d delight you with This Square Peg’s personal do’s and don’ts for traveling. (I remain a square peg even while traveling, in case you were wondering.)
This Square Peg’s Travel Do’s
1. Do find a Cinnabon at the terminal. Just do it.
2. Do pay attention to your surroundings. Not merely to ensure that you’re not in the vicinity of possible weirdos, but because people-watching grows exponentially at the airport and on the plane. As a writer, I can’t emphasize the creative boon that comes from all these walks of life converging in this one place.
3. Do bring your patience. I just saw a pigeon walking around the terminal. Screaming babies, people randomly staring at you, flight delays–bring your patience and hold on to it for dear life.
4. Do abandon your high-brow reading choices and take advantage of the glossy, fluffy magazines around you. Come on, do it. Replace the New Yorker with Us Weekly. At least for now.
5. Do expect to pay $1,000 for bottled water and snacks/food. Your budget is out the window, friend.
6. Do remember that you’re traveling! It’s fun, even if a TSA agent pulls you aside to do a random security check on your palms, ostensibly to double-check that you haven’t been handling incendiary devices. True story. See #3.
This Square Peg’s Travel Don’ts
1. Don’t walk on the moving terminal thing. Oh. Just me? Cool. I don’t walk on the moving terminal thing. I just mastered escalators. I’ll walk to my gate, thank you very much. And I find that I’m moving at the same pace as the elitists on the moving thing who cast uppity looks in my I’d-rather-walk direction.
2. Don’t use your headphones in the terminal. I mean, unless you’re blasting Streisand on a low volume (impossible, if you ask me), you need to listen out for gate changes, flight delays, opportunities to upgrade to first class. And you want first class. You do.
3. Don’t forget to marvel at these airport employees. They answer the same question 100 times in a row. Some are crabby, yes, but most seem calm and collected in dealing with all these people.
4. Don’t forget your phone charger!
5. Don’t diss long layovers. In fact, seek them out. I’d rather wait two hours for a connecting flight than nearly fall to my death running on that slippery terminal ground to get to my flight in minutes before it leaves. (True story. Sigh. See #3 in the Do’s.)
6. Don’t forget to travel as much as you can, as much as you can afford, as much, as much, as much.
Something a bit different this Gratitude Friday.
I’ll start by telling you that I wasn’t the kind of girl that the boys ran after. Those kind of girls were a different set; far removed from my small group of funny, wisecracking nerds who liked to correct your grammar and spout critiques about books and independent films. We were silly, goofy, at times obnoxious and snobby, in love with British movies and the Academy Awards, lovers of Barbra Streisand and musical theater. We were gangly and chubby and average and mostly unsure of ourselves, but somehow this was ok. Yet, although I was largely content with my little group of like-minded friends, admittedly, I sometimes looked at those other girls with longing. Gorgeous, popular, constantly on homecoming court, and always attached to a boy. Wouldn’t that life be far more interesting than teenaged Oscar parties with a little contraband champagne to celebrate the winners?
Adolescent longings go away. I am now a grown woman and 90% content with who I am inside and outside, with the 10% being the welcomed merry-go-round of constant change and improvement to the woman inside. But you know what? There remain vestiges of that little girl inside who longed to have a beau on her arm, although cute and cuter (the only requirements back then) have been replaced with spiritual, kind, mature, generous, faithful, and…cute. Let’s say handsome. Anyway. It would be nice to be the kind of woman who walks into a room and shuts it down. It would be nice to stop traffic, to turn heads, to so and so forth. Don’t get me wrong, please: I appreciate my beauty. It’s ethnic and different and unique and comes from Mom and Dad, and I love that, especially the latter, more than I can say. But those longings sometimes pop up here and there, you know? They do. Nevertheless, I’ll venture to say that those little girls and teenagers we left behind don’t vanish completely. They’re just quieter and far too impressed with the women we’ve become to complain. But once in a while, they just won’t pipe down.
Therefore, on this Gratitude Friday, I present 10 things I truly and wholly love about my physical self. Note that these were aspects of myself that, in the past, I despised, felt embarassed by, hid, and/or never noticed and appreciated.
- My eyes, which have a curious almond shape that remind me of my mother and my grandmother.
- My lips, which are big and shapely and come from my father.
- My legs, which–hello, Dolly–are shapely and loved to be shown off, when possible, by yours truly.
- My round face.
- The gap in two front teeth.
- My hands.
- The dimple in my right cheek.
- My smile.
- My ears.
- The way I am shaped. It’s not an hourglass, but it’s feminine and it’s mine.
What are you grateful for, loves?
Oh, hi there. It’s been a while, huh? In short, I loathe winter and with all the polar vortexes and all that, my writing has been suspended by a lack of desire, inspiration, and general movement in my hands. But here we are. Hi, again.
This will be brief. I’m here to post a song that I find hard to not play 100 times in a row, something that pretty much exemplifies my absolute and near manic love of music. (I’ll write another post about music and writing and how, for me, the two go hand in hand.) It’s a song entitled Hercules by Sara Bareilles (if you’re not a fan of hers, I very much want to pinch you for this error in judgment) and I just think it sums up the struggle and the subsequent rallying that exists in the writing life, the female life, the daughter life, the sister life–essentially, everything it takes to be a woman and an artist living on this earth right now today. All encapsulated within an inescapable melody, lovely vocals, and a thumping beat. Listen, won’t you?
1. You, because you visit this blog.
2. You, because sometimes you click “like.”
3. You, because sometimes you leave a comment.
4. Anyone who supports my writing.
5. My 4th grade teacher, who inspired me to become a writer in the first place. (Have I mentioned her before? I am mentioning her again. I love you, Mrs. Chrytzer!)
6. My 11th grade English teacher, who recognized my love of writing and shaped it by saying, “I think you should major in English in college. That would be perfect for you.” (And I did, and it was.)
7. My mother, who shaped my love of writing and storytelling from the beginning by telling the most marvelous stories and introducing comic books and fairy tales into the lives of her daughters.
8. My creative writing professor in college, who taught me the value of research in fiction. It’s important!
9. My old college friend, who told me to stop using writer’s block as a crutch for not writing.
10. Music and art, for being the best friends this writer could ask for.
It’s Casual Friday here at the farm, so the details on what I’m wearing:
Skinny jeans, gifted to me by my sister. I was late to the skinny jeans thing, so, in actuality, she forced me to wear them. They’re nice. I’d like to happily report though that they’re now a bit loose. Time for new (skinny) jeans…
Cowl neck blouse – this may have come from Mom’s cloest. Love cowl necks. You can’t really tell from the photos, though. Plus, I tend to pull up the cowl part, which hangs a bit low, to prevent the entire office from seeing the world up top, if you get mah drift…
Silver chain, Avenue – they have terrific accessories. Got this one on sale.
Standard Black Boots – the usual. I live in these things.
Bon weekend, all!
35 is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years. — Oscar Wilde
Reflecting: we’ve been together for three months now, me and 35, and I have to say that I’m enjoying it so far. A few things…
1. Keeping it All in Perspective. My back hurts, you know? I need an Advil, not your complaint about the long line in the store.
2. I Sing the Body Electric. I accept that I will never have a flat stomach, or abs, or actual, visible hips. I’m so ok with that right now in my life. So, so, so ok with that. I’m not entirely sure where this peace of mind about my body and loving it came from, but I will take it.
3. Some Things Need to Be Said. I tend to shy away from confrontation. (My Sissy will dispute this, but whatever you do, don’t listen to her.) I’d rather let it go and leave it most of the time. But these days…certain things need to be said, acknowledged, dealt with, and then let go. If you say something silly that bears discussion, we will discuss it. K?
5. My Mother, my Friend. I think my mother and I are at a stage where we can really be friends. Although I very much respect her role as mother, parent, and all-around CEO of everything, I still think we can chat, laugh, and joke without me worrying about not being able to sit down because of being swatted on my rump. Within reason. Within reason.
6. This Writing Life. I’ve experienced the following phases with my life as a writer: joy, confusion, comparison, quiet, returning, acceptance, joy. The latter phase is what I feel at present, and I believe I feel this way because I stopped comparing my work to the works of others; stopped putting pressure on myself, stopped giving in to the excuse that there was nothing there, creatively, for me to work with. Once I left many toxic habits behind, my writing and the process itself has taken on a completely different and exciting feel.
35. What whaaat?
I’ve been a lover of words since I can remember, especially when my father bought me my first dictionary when I was 10 years old. (Being 10 and randomly finding the definition for decade one day made things even sweeter.) Once in a while, I’ll tell you some memorable stories about my ongoing love affair with words.
Aplomb (noun) – complete and confident composure or self-assurance.
I was 17 years old. He sat behind me in our English class. Every day, while our teacher (who shared the same name with the leading actress from The Excorcist, a fact we discussed almost every day in light of her very uncheerful demeanor) lectured in front of the classroom, I felt tiny stings coming from the back of my head. You see, I began to gray when I was about 14 years old, an inheritance from my father, who began to gray when he was 20. Every day, he would gently pull out some of my gray hair. I rarely reacted to this tender assault to my scalp, being that 1) I wanted them out of there, as well, and didn’t fully believe that when one came out, 100 replaced it; 2) I kind of liked the feeling, because I’m a weirdo; and 3) this had been happening since I was 14 years old, random kids behind me in class pulling out my gray hair.
Eventually, we began to have intriguing conversations in class when our crazy teacher allowed us to discuss a novel or something else we were reading. With his bright blue eyes gleaming, he asked if I felt him pulling my hair. I said yes. You never react, he said. No need, I replied, smiling. A few weeks later, he said the following: “You have such aplomb. I love that about you.” I remember replying, I’m a ploom? Aplomb, he repeated, laughing. “You’re so poised. You never react.”
Later, I looked up the word in the dictionary and smiled at his mispronunciation (I’m really a plum, not a ploom), and at the compliment itself. If only he knew the complete lack of self-assurance I felt most of the time, the teenaged/puberty/girl storm raging inside of me. Nevertheless, it gave me a warm feeling to know that he thought I had poise. We were already becoming fast friends–I loved his quirky personality, his brilliant mind, and those eyes–but that word seemed to make him even cooler.
Alas, people drift apart after high school. Last I heard, he’s an attorney living on the West Coast. If we saw each other now, I’d ask whether those court cases are being argued with aplomb. And then I’d gently yank any gray hairs I find on his big head.
I went to NYC this weekend, on a Saturday and back on a Saturday, and visited the Met museum.
I met a man who wore humility like a coat. It was refreshing.
I froze in NYC and was reminded of my very strong feelings about the city.
I said my peace.
I think I’m getting sick.
I won’t go Negative Nancy on you.
Just know that NYC is the pits. (Oh, but NN strikes again…)
If anyone is wondering, I would very much like to eat, sleep, and breathe in a museum. You’ll find me under a Rembrandt.
How was your weekend? Any vignettes you’d like to share?