How Old Are You?

posted in: Day In The Life 12
“Reverie,” also known as “The Days of Sappho,” by John William Godward, c. 1903. Image: Wikipedia.


I was always “young for my age” in relation to school.

This is because I turned five years old just a few weeks before kindergarten was to start. My Uncle Dave — who, fun fact, is my mother’s fraternal twin — had come to visit our family in Iowa that summer and likes to tell a story about how nervous I was about starting kindergarten. I guess I was talking to him about it.

“Well, kindergarten is a big deal,” he said. “Do you know how to count to ten?”

My uncle says that I counted past ten all the way up to 30 before he cut me off.

“That’s good. Can you sing your ABCs?” he asked.

I promptly sang my ABCs for him and like, did a twirl. He rolled his eyes.

“You’ll be fine, kiddo.”

So throughout my grammar school and high school years, I was among the youngest in my class. Then, once high school was over, I went straight into college at the University of Iowa, which meant I was one of youngest in that class, too. And I grew to like it. There was something satisfying about being the youngest in the group, though now that I’m writing about it, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the reasons why I felt that satisfaction. Did I think being younger than everyone else gave me some advantage? What kind of advantage? And if I was winning something, who was losing? Weird.

Well, whatever it was, it’s definitely over. I can’t recall if I’ve mentioned this on the ol’ PG or not, but 90 percent of the people I engage with at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) are younger than I am. Sometimes by kind of a lot. Whether it’s my cohort in the MFA Writing department, the other students in my elective seminars, or the gang at the school paper, the average age of these folks is probably 27, tops. For sure tops.

Which means I’m roughly ten years older than the majority of the folks in my peer group. Most of the time I don’t think about it, but sometimes I do think about it and when I do, either of these thoughts come to mind, depending on the day I’m having:

  • We are all basically the exact same age.
  • I am literally a different species than these people.

I mean, we’re all using Snapchat now, sure, but I got my first cell phone in college and these people had them in fourth grade. It’s pretty weird. I just keep wondering what will happen if there’s a party and I start dancing. Will I make a fool of myself? You can really tell age differences with the dancing.

Maybe this has come up for me more lately because I met an interesting young man. I’ve been spending a little time with him.

This young man is not quite as young as this young man, who, by the way, moved back to Miami some months ago. I never said too terribly much about the end of all that but I can tell you that though I grew to care for him a great deal and will always care for him a great deal, things ran their course. (Someday I’ll tell you more about all that when you and I get a margarita. It’s a great story that you could only read part of for a number of reasons. Maybe I should start a second blog: PaperGirl AFTER DARK!)

Anyhow, this newly-met young man definitely had a cell phone in fourth grade, you know? There’s a difference between me and him in terms of life experience and perspectives and all, and it’s way too soon to tell if this will be a barrier or a boon. All I know is that I have been going on some really lousy dates lately and then pizow! Here’s this great person and I like to talk to him and stuff.

So we’ve been talking. And I’ve been wondering how old anyone ever really is, in the end.

Hat Frisbee.

posted in: Art 0
This hat came up when I searched for a public domain image of a stocking cap. You should've seen the other ones.
This hat came up when I searched for a public domain image of a stocking cap. You should’ve seen the other ones.

On the train late this afternoon, I was out of sorts. My psyche was pulling to the right while some other part of my self was tugging on the leash to go left. This is a strange feeling but I was on a wobbly train on top of it. Good thing I had a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee or I might’ve slipped through the cracks.

The train conductor announced the next stop: Smithsonian. I jerked up in my seat, seized with the desire to not go home but go there, to Smithsonianworld. Seeing some art would jerk my brain stem back into alignment for sure. I could do it fast, too; take a quick dip in the eternal pond and then get back to my day. The Smithsonian museums are all free, so you just walk right in, fill up your tank and walk back out the door. Surely a painting or some kind of strange installation would break my mini-fugue.

I decided this almost too late, however; right before the doors closed at the Smithsonian stop, that’s when I decided to execute my plan. I shot out of my seat at the last possible second — scaring the bees out of everyone, I’m sure — and jammed my body through the closing doors. I was the person that annoys everyone riding a train: the person who delays the train leaving because they’re standing in the doors. Sorry about that, comrades.

The doors released their silver jaws and I went, “Phew!” and began to walk away. Then I hear this, “Hey!” and I turn around to see my stocking cap flying through the air.

I had left my stocking cap on my seat and someone inside the train had chucked it out the doors as they closed for real. “Wow, thanks!” I called after the car as it pulled away. Someone threw my hat out for me. They saved my hat. I stood there for a second, feeling my heart get warm and my brain get right. Also, flying stocking caps = comedy.

Up at street level, I passed several museums but couldn’t go in. I couldn’t handle the Holocaust Museum, clearly; I couldn’t give proper attention to the African American museum or the Chinese art collection at another grand building I passed. I saw a Barbara Krueger exhibit advertised at the Hirschorn but no freaking way could I have handled Barbara Krueger today. I found the sculpture garden out back of the Hirschorn, though, and that was just right.

My stocking cap kept me warm as I walked among the statues.

“For Improving.”

posted in: Story 0
Well, it's something.
Well, it’s something.

I will be in New York City for the year, I think, but no more. I have yet to fall for this place. I’m waiting by the phone for New York to take me out, wine and dine me, leave me breathless, but apparently, New York is okay with me staying home to wash my hair. Fine, New York. But you don’t know what you’re missing. Besides, you smell.

So I will return to Chicago in time and reunite with all my stuff, not that I have a lot of it. I heard once that “every object in your home is a thought in your head.” There’s no room up there as it is, so I am ruthless in getting rid of things. Sometimes I cut a bit deep, e.g., the time I was up at the family cottage and sailed letters from my estranged father into the fire, one after the other. They were all from a particularly morose and self-drenched period in his life and there were just so many of them. Later, I thought, “One day he’ll be gone and you’ll regret that one, Fons.” But there’s nothing to be done about it now. Ashes to ashes and all.

For some bizarre reason, I have kept a chemistry award I got in high school. Oh, I was no chemistry whiz. As you can see by the scan of the award, my distinction was for “improving.” Not even “Most Improved,” just “improving.” I seem to recall that I improved from a D+ to a C-, by the way. I couldn’t have cared less about chemistry but I did care about a bad grade. My strategy in high school was to be so damned good at the things I was good at that no one would really care if I sucked at the rest of it. A+ after A+ in English, Speech, Reading. Those were all slam dunks. Algebra II? I’d rather not think about it.

What’s strangest about this award, though, is not that I’ve kept it, but that I brought it to New York. It wasn’t stuck in a book that I just found. No, I remember distinctly putting it into a box to bring here. The only reason I can imagine for doing this is that I planned to blog about it. That must be it.

That must be why.