It’s been a rough end of the year for me on a personal level. It’s amazing the ancient things that can fly up in your face when you’re off, trying to live your life in the moment. I’ve had some stunning ones this year. Horrific moments when you look down and see the yawning temporal pit below you. I read how Millennials, my generation, are massively narcissistic, and introspection like this blog can look to be so. But I think it’s unfair to say we’re any better or worse than those who came before us. It’s the shrinking of the world and digital reality skewing an aspect of human nature that’s always been there. It’s terrifying out there, in this super huge insanely tiny world. It’s good that we’re scared. It’s good that we’re asking questions, of you, and of ourselves. How else are we going to find answers?
I had never seen an ocean before I was 19. I’m always wary of saying I grew up poor. I know what real poverty looks like and that wasn’t my childhood. But there was minor food insecurity, I was aware of my mother’s stress and strain. We never took vacations. So I grew up never leaving my home state and I’d never seen the ocean. But I met the man who became my husband. He had left his home state of Virginia. (This is where he interjects, Northern Virginia. Ah, to love a NoVa boy.) And when we were 19, he took me down to Virginia Beach. I saw the ocean, I stood in it, I even woke up early and sat on the beach and watched the sunrise over the Atlantic.
What made me look down into that yawning temporal pit this year was being on Virginia Beach again. The BONI retreat was not on the beach of Virginia Beach. However, before my flight home, my husband’s childhood friend picked me up and took me to the beach. Squishing my toes into the sand, I suddenly saw ten years under my feet. Ten years? Oh God, what happened? Ten? Ten yea-oh, I think I need to sit down. Where did she go? Who am I? What is this? TEN YEARS?
Time finds a way of speeding up in adulthood is my only conclusion. You never see a ten-year-old pondering their infancy, or a twenty-year-old reflecting on their pre-teen days. But you hit the mid- to late-twenties and you realize how different things look. How different they are-you, are. The strangest twist on this awareness came just after my thirtieth birthday. After a belated birthday lunch with my best friend, we went shopping for a few hours. Nothing too serious, just strolling and wandering through our favorite spots. In Henri Bendel, I found a piece of who I use to be, fused with who that girl became.
I hated being a girl. Sexual maturity is crap for girls. Gender inequality, the glass ceiling, the pay gap. I was intuitively aware of it even when I was very young, shunning pinks and purples because they marked me as a soft, squishy, baby doll-loving girl. And like hell I was going to let you think of me that way! So puberty was obviously a bitch. I got boobs that there was no hiding under sports bras and flannel shirts. I refused to carry a purse. My wallet went in my back pocket. Makeup? No. Nail polish? Only in moody colors like dark blue. Jewelry? Chokers. And finger armor. And my ultimate favorite: ear cuffs. As my teens progressed, I suppose I softened in some ways. I’d wear black skirts and chunky sandals. I grew more confident with it and found other ways to keep you from putting me in that “girl” box, like being good at science and working on my car, and dating older boys.
I blame my current true girlishness on the Gossip Girl novels. I read them when I was 20. By my 21st birthday, I asked for…a purse. Not just any purse. A $120 Kate Spade. Mom bought it for me, but made me pay for it in cash, in the hopes of curbing the handbag desire. If you could see in my closet, you’d find it stocked with many examples of her failure on this count. Which is where Bendel’s comes in now. I bought that cuff, the “Royalton Cuff Earring“. Because it was all of me. It was the detail to craft and style that is Henri Bendel, the cuff being a burst of rhinestones set in gold, linked to its rivet-styled post earring by a chain of gold. But it was a cuff, the type of ear piece you could only find in Hot Topic or at Renaissance festivals when I was younger. It was her. It was me, now. The Bendel stylishness and that rebellious unorthodox sentiment in one single piece. It was me, in one single piece.
So of course it went home with me. I still don’t know where those ten years really went. I certainly have no clear view on who I am. But I know where I’ve been. I honor that past. It’s helped me create what’s certain to be a very interesting future. Ear cuffs and squishy sand and all.
Thanks for reading my narcissistic introspection 🙂