Wednesday, March 24, 2010

(Mrs) Adventure #5 : Shoes Optional

“I didn't know you two knew….”

“But how well do you know…?”

“It’s so nice, but you’re so…


“I guess opposites do attract.”

“Well…good luck with that.”

It is a lazy Sunday afternoon and I am reading through old emails I received when my husband and I announced our engagement. My initial purpose is early Spring cleaning, but I’m not certain how many people take the concept of ‘Spring cleaning’ to go as far as dusting their electronic mailbox. I was told to keep myself busy during times of deployment and seeing as I had already washed and waxed the hardwood floors three times, I knew that one more rinse and I’d be doing some heavy petting with an obsessive compulsive diagnosis. Even my dog had given me the shifty side eye as I banished her to a small two-inch section of the floor where she was allowed to sit while I got down with the mop. Really, I certainly had more important things to do (like actually leave the house) but a Chicago spring day awaited outside and I couldn’t bring myself to put on my long johns, parka, gloves, hat and snow boots.

At the time of our engagement, I remember the congratulatory missives swarming around my inbox like Africanized Bees to their hive, and I hoarded each any every one like honey. I was getting married! To a man that my parents loved and that didn’t have a felony record, hadn’t spent a considerable amount of time (or any time rather) in a club that ended with the word “Anonymous,” and actually understood and respected my obsession with my work.

Here was a man that I did not have to apologize for the next day to friends, family, complete strangers- much unlike others for whom a typical night out began with tequila shots and ended with him being chased by an angry bouncer after he had ripped the plastic gun from the arcade game “Deer Hunter” and gone traipsing down the streets of Lincoln Park like some bizarre Christopher Walken on speed. It’s not every day that one might be walking home to find a young man shuffling down the sidewalk with a bright orange plastic gun complete with a frayed rope at the end whistling a very bad rendition of “Home on the Range.” At least not in Chicago, city slickers hate campfire music.

Of course, there was the congratulatory message that, well, stung. Mostly along the lines of, ‘you two seem so different,’ and ‘how in the world did you two get together?’ Certainly, people were just interested, but I can’t help but wonder why no one seemed to mention anything when I was dating the sordid group of boyfriends past. (Authors note: for any ex-boyfriends reading this note to which these scenarios sound familiar, ahem: The characters in this book are purely fictional. Any similarities between them and real individuals are purely coincidental. End note. P.S. If you are reading this, please send back the first three season of Nip/Tuck. They are mine and I want them back). Did I really outwardly have so much in common with a group of men who would steal an essential piece to an arcade game, confuse Canadian geese with swans, or give the Tin Man a run for his money in the heart department?

I remember posing this to a friend one day and her response was simply, “Kate, let me put this delicately. You’ve,” she hesitates, “well you’ve always loved characters.”

I laughed. There is some truth to this statement. I clear my throat and smile, “Well then, I suppose I realize what a difference a tiny little thing like an ‘s’ can make. Now,” I pause, “I just love character.”

I continue sifting through my emails and placing them in a folder I’ve reserved for wedding planning, thank you letters to write, issues in which to follow up when I stumble across an old entry I had written some three years prior. It has always been a habit of mine to email any ‘notes’ that I’ve written to myself in order to access them from any computer, or in my case, when my old computer decided to finally head to electronic heaven. There, hidden between sales notices for clothing stores I can’t afford and persistent gym trial offer memberships I will never get around to accepting, I discover an old blog posting. I had titled it “Cinderella’s Lament” (a bit presumptuous, eh?).

I scan the document, the first paragraph immediately popping out at me:

I admit it: for a twenty four year old woman, I seem to have wracked up quite a few ex boyfriends. My past reveals patterns of impulse picks and re-shelving much as I do with shoes; each season bringing about the desire for something new: the exotic and skinny model, the comfortable and wise sole, the expensive designer, the funky cowboy boot, and the down to earth sandal. Each pair unique in its own right but never a perfect fit for my stubborn foot.

Honest, I suppose. And I continue:

Yet, as we Cinderella’s pull open the curtains of the Dark Age, rip off constrictive corsets, and free ourselves from the shackles of pea soup green kitchen aid appliances and silly pseudo smiles, we’ve stopped worrying about finding the glass slipper and started concentrating on breaking that glass ceiling. There are choices, now. Rows and rows of choices: options, sizes, hidden deals, each leading to obscure and mysterious paths. Really? How am I supposed to know what kind of shoe I’ll need in the future? What if my chosen path takes a daring dip, presents an enormous mountain, or requires I cross the whitest of white tipped waters? Indeed, the advance o f the role of modern woman in society and business practically requires a very serious entourage of armor. We must be strong, yet vulnerable; tough, yet soft; we are forced to redefine the terms masculine and feminine, and of utmost importance, we must be absolutely the smartest and quickest person in the room if we desire to even set foot upon an even playing field. And for this we are still supposed to be bound to one? Choose wisely.

This must have been my Betty Friedan/I want to write for Glamour Magazine stage. But it is the last fragment that hits me the most: Choose wisely. A warning written not exactly to the myriad girls out there in dating la la land, but rather, to myself. I know I repeated it throughout my head, choose wisely, choose wisely, choose wisely. The dating world may not look like “The Temple of Doom,” but for any girl that’s ever been a part of the urban single scene, it certainly does feel like that sometimes.

So, I delve back into those stinging emails, analyzing them for content and ulterior motive. And then I examine my husband and I, pulling myself out of body and trying to stand on the sidelines of my memories:

My husband was in the Naval ROTC Marine option as an undergrad. While attending our alma mater, he was dedicated to physical training, maintaining high marks and educating himself on all the qualities needed to be a leader. While not preparing to be a Marine Captain, he spent the majority of his time reading and discussing ‘Great Books,” as a select member of the Program of Liberal Studies (or PLS) and traveling to Spain to study Spanish Literature. Between his junior and senior years he attended Officer Candidacy School. Upon graduation from both Officer Candidacy School and University, he spent six grueling months (he will tell you he loved it and he won’t be lying) at The Basic School, or TBS. For anyone not familiar with TBS- it is boot camp. It involves demanding physical exertion, extreme survival techniques and intimidating and very large individuals yelling in your face about stuff I can’t understand (not unlike my first job as a waitress at an all night diner, actually. Except, of course, the people yelling at my husband were speaking English, and not, as in my case, broken Spanish or booze-ese).

While at University, I was dedicated to talking my way into straight A’s and finally finding that perfect shade of blonde. I was typically heading home from a night’s rehearsal at a local pub for a theatre production I was in, while Matt was waking for PT. Between my junior and senior years of college, I attended the City of Los Angeles, where I interned at a rising cable network. After graduating from my internship and subsequently my University, I spent six grueling months (I will tell you I love it and I won’t be lying) navigating The Basic School, (of Hollywood). For anyone not familiar with TBS (of Hollywood): it is entertainment boot camp. It involves demanding physical exertion (how to get to the boss’ dry cleaner by six pm in heels while trying to cross between Wilshire and Santa Monica), extreme survival techniques (what bars to avoid because they are known hangouts of Phil Spector) and intimidating and very small individuals yelling in your face about stuff I can’t understand (the accounting department).

When my husband entered into the high stress world of flight school, I entered into the high stress world of talk show television. When my husband coordinated flight and navigational details, I coordinated with airport security in order to get one of my guests on the plane after he peed himself in line. When my husband essentially learned a new language of air commands, I essentially learned a new language from the sub-cultures of our country: the difference between prison and jail, the many uses of the word, ‘ain’t’ for example. When he contemplated the techniques of ejecting out of a plane, I contemplated the technique of jumping out of a building (kidding, really).

So, see, we really aren’t that different at all!

In all truth, my husband and I share many similarities. We both approach everything with intensity, are passionate about our families, friendships and work, share a strong love of literature, the South, writing, history and history books, off-beat humor, debating (it’s amazing we both avoided the legal profession), politics and especially travel and adventure. We also both love talking. A lot. Especially about things we like. I’m sometimes sorry for people that get stuck in a room with us. We both use our hands to emphasize points. It has often led to drinks being spilled or one or the other of us unintentionally flinging the other in the head. We both have, admittedly, a flair for drama.

So, when asked how we got together, well, I guess that’s it. A television producer and a Marine aviator may seem at first to be on the opposite sides of the spectrum, but in what other professions and personalities are you going to find two people who love nothing more than to push the envelope with as many fancy edit tricks and barrel rolls possible?

As I am thinking about this, my eyes return back to the note I had written nearly some four years before. I had closed with the following argument:

I can only guess that perhaps a jelly sandal might be my perfect fit: Classic, cute, unbreakable, goofy like summer camp and peach pie, and able to bounce back whatever I throw in its direction. Yes, ladies, a glass slipper might be pretty to look at, but I highly doubt it’s going to withstand all that mountain climbing in your future.

I grin, not just because it is a wonderful treat to discover old pieces of yourself and your history, but also to observe how much you can grow and change in a few short years. See, I was pretty accurate in my description of what I needed in a shoe, except I was off on the make and model. (Really, what self-respecting man wears a jelly sandal??) I’ve come to find that there’s really nothing wrong with wearing a glass slipper every once in a while, it certainly makes a nice tapping sound on the ceiling right before the ice cracks start to form.

After all, if we are to believe the fairytale, the townspeople never expected Prince Charming to pick Cinderella-that pairing came right out of left field, didn’t it? He fought dragons in faraway lands, while she entertained tiny animals and completed chores for people, (like finding the nearest medieval drycleaners for her evil step-sisters). I happen to think that after they rode off into the sunset and began their happily ever after, she still enjoyed putting on those glass slippers every once and a while. So long as, of course, she had an extra pair of combat boots to lace up when needed.

So though it may seem on the surface that two shoes or even two people do not a suitable pair make, it is important to remember: it is not the shoe on the foot that matters, but rather the ‘sole’ inside.


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