Oh. Oh, God.
I just finished reading Why We Broke Up. I bought it yesterday. Yesterday, I bought this, and I finished it about a half hour ago. I finished it at my kitchen table, sobbing, as Min, the teenage narrator, went through a devastating litany of everything’s she’s NOT.
I’m not a goth or a cheerleader, I’m not treasurer or co-captain…I’m not anything…I have bad hair and stupid eyes. I have a body that’s nothing. I’m too fat and I’m idiotic ugly. My clothes are a joke, my jokes are desperate and complicated and nobody else laughs…I just babble and sputter like a drinking fountain broken…I talk shit about everybody and then sulk when they don’t call me, my friends fall away like I’ve dropped them out of an airplane…I can’t run four blocks or fold a sweater…I lost my virginity and couldn’t even do that right, agreeing to it and getting sad and annoying afterward, clinging to a boy everyone knows is a jerk bastard asshole prick…I’m not a romantic, I’m a half-wit. Only stupid people would think I’m smart. I’m not something anyone should know.
I wept, sitting there at my kitchen table with the dishwasher thrumming behind me and my husband in his office mucking around on his bass and my two cats doing that passive-aggressive thing they do where one bathes the other until the one being bathed gets annoyed and skulks off the chair that the bather wanted to sit in, alone. I am a 41-year-old with a trash compactor and bills and mighty plans involving painting the dining room this spring and this YA novel (that’s “Young Adult,” btdubs) reduced me to a blubbering mess.
I don’t think many of us are ever really that far removed from 16, even as the years, and ensuing responsibilities, pile up and we’re all of a sudden at kitchen tables that we ourselves shopped around for, picked out, purchased, and had delivered to our houses. I know I’m not, certainly, or I wouldn’t spend so much time getting up onstage and reading my high school diaries in front of total strangers, or assisting fellow masochists in doing the same. There is always going to be that part of me that goes to parties and sits by herself in the one empty room there is, reading another person’s books and waiting for her soulmate to find her. Hello, it’s me.
She loves a boy that doesn’t know she loves him. Or he does, and just doesn’t know what to do with that information. And it’s at turns icky and frustrating and exhilarating and heartbreaking and on any given day she’s tiny and insignificant, or held aloft on a smile in the hallway. Christ, who doesn’t remember all of that? Why would you want to forget it, ever? I don’t understand my friends who say to me, “God, I could never do what you do. No, I really COULDN’T, because I threw all that stuff away.”
Me, I can’t lose sight of that tenderhearted thing inside of me, because I want to make things happen for her. I’ve kept her diaries and her dreams and I’ve even kept most of her friends as close as I can without it being creepy and weird.
And it’s not as if I’m stuck there, really, because – as I’ve said – I own preposterous things like a trash compactor, and just today I had to be a responsible adult and call the administrators of my Flexible Spending Account to explain my late-December eyewear binge. I don’t spend all my time with her; I just pop in now and then, like a slightly eccentric aunt, checking in on her the way you check in on your past, make sure it’s all still there. Because without it, you don’t sit at your kitchen table weeping because you remember what it’s like.