September 15, 2010
You know the rant I gave a couple months ago about the horrible things romantic comedies do to single girls? I still stand by everything I said, but I need to make a small amendment. I learned a valuable pearl of wisdom from a romantic comedy a few years ago and it’s stuck with me ever since.
It’s from “The Holiday” and if you’re judging me right now, take a step back and assess your own DVD collection. If there’s one single Nicolas Cage movie on that shelf…well, you know what they say about stones and glass houses.
The character of Iris is having dinner with her newfound Old Hollywood friend Arthur and he’s telling her how in life there are leading ladies and there are best friends and what he doesn’t understand is why she’s acting like the best friend when she’s supposed to be the leading lady. And Iris ponders it (yes, ponders – she’s British) for a minute before coming to a hefty realization that not even her therapist could pull out of her: You’re supposed to be the leading lady of your own life.
Easy enough, right?
So why do I feel like the best friend most of the time?
* * *
I haven’t really stopped moving since I turned eleven. Puberty coincided with harder classes at school and the combination created a work-a-holic monster of epic proportions. I was the embodiment of Hermione Granger – bushy hair, hand constantly waving in the air, and a general sense of precociousness that keep most of my classmates at bay and most of my teachers in fear of what I’d say next. If I’d had magic powers, I would have been incredibly dangerous.
I worked even harder through high school and had even fewer friends because I was different and busy and uninterested. Part of me, though, thinks that if I was to return to Groveton and spend any amount of time around the people I graduated with, I’d find out that I was actually a bully and a terrible sarcastic bitch (ala Liz Lemon on 30 Rock).
Then on to college, where I had to keep above a 3.2 to maintain a couple scholarships and drinking was outlawed (yes, outlawed – as in dry campus, as in “We the management of Norwich University would prefer you drank in secret so we can claim nothing is amiss“) and there wasn’t enough time in the day to have friends and boyfriends, so I studied and had friends and had some fun but mostly kept my nose buried in textbooks and spent a lot of time in the library.
(In my defense, the library is gorgeous. And full of books. Obviously.)
Graduate school was a little of the same, but a little more partying because I was a) legal and b) not living on a dry campus. However, I’d gone from a 17:1 male to female ration in undergrad to a complete desolate landscape of manliness in grad school – which really sucked because I was actually in the mood to date, finally.
But there were issues: I was fat. And thought myself homely. And I insisted on cutting my hair shorter and shorter as the stress piled up.
So at the age of 22, when I auditioned for the leading role in my own life, I instead ended up cast as the “chubby best friend”.
* * *
Okay, fast forward four years from the first day of grad school. I was almost 26, I’d just left my job in DC (which was the equivalent of working for a hydra – only I would have preferred the hydra) and had started working at the Sheriff’s Office. I was no longer eating takeout food on a daily basis and because I was getting home before midnight I was going to the gym. I’d lost 35 pounds in four months and I felt fantastic.
Leading lady, here I come!
Then came the heartbreak…and the drinking…and the two month long crying jag and I was back to a supporting role. It was a Lindsay Lohan fall from grace, only without the rehab and horrible collagen job. I gained back some of the weight and once again started hating the reflection in the mirror. I did not, however, cut my hair. Well, not all of it. I did attempt bangs.
Horrible, terrible bangs.
* * *
I just turned 29 a few weeks ago. I’d been dreading my birthday like the citizens of Tokyo dread the arrival of Godzilla – I imagined my birthday cake would grow to the size of a giant lizard and just start stomping on me while I screamed in dubbed terror.
This did not happen.
Instead, my birthday came and went with friends, beer, cake, and the knowledge that while I may be another year old I am not, by any means, dead and disliked so I should therefore suck it up and have a good time. Jilly and Jessica both put this into much more eloquent words, but I’ve broken down the meaning into layman terms – it doesn’t negate the sentiment any, though.
I made myself a small, quiet promise on the morning of my birthday as I stood in front of the mirror attempting to get my hair to stop acting like a poor imitation of Medusa’s vipers. I promised myself that I would not spend anymore time in the chubby best friend role, that I would step up and audition for (and subsequently get without sleeping with the casting director) the leading lady role in my own life.
I did all of this in my underwear, with a comb stuck in my tangled messy hair and my hands on my hips in a Wonder Woman pose that would have made Linda Carter proud to know me. I also promised myself that no matter what happens come November, I’d stop blending in with the wallpaper.
(Stop thinking about me in my underwear.)
* * *
November is two months away and I’m beginning to take stock of the many things I’ve learned over these last four months. I’ll share everything when the end of my six month hiatus comes to a close, but I will tell you this: it is important, in your life, to be the person you must be – not the person your family and friends feel you must be. If you believe that it’s your destiny to start a cult devoted to the worship of a goat named Fred, then by all means go for it (so long as you don’t eventually sacrifice Fred, because then there’s something a little off).
My parents will love me no less if I never marry.
My brother will love me no less if I never settle down.
My friends will love me no less, even if I decided to live alone well into my old age.
And I can always (always) change my mind – even when I’m 99.9% positive it’s set in stone.
(Profound, I know. Now seriously, stop thinking about me in my underwear.)