Who Are You and Why Are You So Reluctant?


When I was a pre-teen in Indiana, I read an article about then TV Heartthrob Dirk Benedict, who said his ideal woman was one who could throw some things into a backpack and spend three weeks with him in the desert without worrying about her hair. I was certain I could do this, despite the evidence in front of me: I hate heat, I’m a pack rat who has never learned the less-is-more rule of packing, and I’m allergic to the outdoors. The only quality I really had going for me, then or now, that would have met his needs was not caring about my hair. I’ve got that one nailed down.

So, I did things like sign up for Girl Scouts, an experience that was mostly torturous. I loved collecting badges and following a code, but I wasn’t crazy about my troop mates, had gastrointestinal distress whenever we had an overnight, and generally looked completely wrong in the uniform. After two months in Troop 91, I should have known it wasn’t for me, but instead, I wanted to add Girl Scout Camp to my list of accomplishments (and also, there was an awesome camping badge), so I signed up for a miserable six days at Camp Wapi Kamigi, where I was damp, homesick, cynical, and just wanted to be home with my mother, watching Dallas.

I still sign myself up for things and then spend the first day and a half crying because I’m homesick and hate it. What’s worse, I have no idea why I do it. For my first forty years, my adventures were mainly of the Girl Scout camp variety and I lived as low-regret as possible. I didn’t marry. I never left my hometown. I took trips to “safe” places for short durations. A lot of my clothes were black.

And then I met the Zimbabwean, and despite all my very best feminist training, I changed everything. For a man. He’s a good one, though to be with him, I had to move to the Pacific Northwest, and I’m now earning (metaphorical) badges in City Life, in giving-up-everything-I-know-for-something-new, in cross-cultural marriage, in travel, in quitting my eighteen year college teaching job for the question mark of a year off writing, and in a lot of stuff I haven’t even figured out yet. While he hasn’t dragged me to the desert yet with only a backpack, he has introduced me to Zimbabwe and a continent I thought I’d only ever see in Out of Africa. He’s introduced me to other things too: being content in a moment, eating an occasional green vegetable, and the value of a well-honked horn in Seattle’s ridiculous traffic. (It seems so impolite. We sometimes still argue about this one.)

What I write here is true, the best I can remember it. Unless it really annoys you. That stuff is all a big lie, meant only for entertainment purposes.

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