As I was walking out of Fred Meyer* the other day, I heard the woman walking behind me begin telling a story to the man walking with her. The preface was, "At work today, I heard the most horrible thing I've ever heard in my life!" The man's response was silence, the silence of one resigned to his fate. The fate of hearing some gory account of murder, domestic violence, or animal abuse that would not be out of place in a psychological thriller, but is in fact real. The fate of hearing this story as a non sequitur, completely unconnected to all preceding conversation or to his current surroundings. The fate of hearing this story in a public place, where others, like me, think, "Why is she talking about this right now? What is wrong with her?"
My inner monologue began to form those words as I picked up my pace to avoid hearing anything upsetting. Yet as I hurried to my car, a realization stopped me in my tracks, right there in the middle of the Fred Meyer parking lot.
I have done the exact same thing as that lady. Now that I have a boyfriend, I exhibit the same behavior. Sometime during my five months with this kind, patient, attentive audience to my every blathering syllable, I have begun turning into a stereotype of womanhood.
These things have been weighing on me and I just have to confess it to you, dear readers, that I've lately found myself doing the following:
1) Telling detailed unpleasant stories. See above. It is only a matter of time before I begin calling people to tell them, "Do you know who just died? What a sin." My mother does this. She also includes, in her cross-country care packages, obituaries of people she thinks might have gone to my high school.
2) Telling unnecessarily convoluted stories. My boyfriend has met the main characters of these stories perhaps once in real life, but more often than not, they are distant, thrice-removed acquaintances of relatives of my friends. After the stories wind on, going off track as I get distracted by details ("Anyway, so Vito and Anthony &ndash you know who that is! That's the cousin of the fiancé of my best friend back East, who I'm always telling you about and showed you a picture of that one time and said she was prettier than all the other girls in the wedding party! Those dresses they had to wear were so stupid! What kind of friend makes anyone over a B-cup wear strapless? Oh, so anyway, they were at this pizza place in Edison and oh my God, I miss that pizza so much! Hey, what are you doing? Put the ice cream in a bowl. With a clean spoon. I wanted to take that to work! Oh, the pizza place wasn't in Edison; it's in Milltown.") and ultimately come to some inane point like, "So then they find out she's marrying him, and he is a JERK!" Realizing what I've done, I sometimes try to circle back to the present time and place with an epilogue that loosely relates the story to our lives. "I'm so glad you're not like that. You're wonderful." And did I mention that the characters of these stories are all in New Jersey, three thousand miles away?
3) Nagging. This is the most upsetting to me. I have not nagged to the point that anyone would call me a nag, but it's enough to upset me. Because I know that nagging is as productive as saying, "Do the opposite of what I just said, and make an irritated face while you do it!" I once vowed to never be a nag. But recently, I've heard myself say things I immediately regret. For example. "You didn't want to eat my mastic gum ice cream last night, that I made myself from scratch.** You don't like the dessert I make!" or "I'm not coming over if you're playing the zombie shooting game." I feel like a horrible person just writing this.
4) Classifying grocery shopping as a date. Going to the farmers' market and buying each other Sol Pops is one thing. A trip to Safeway, Fred Meyer, or even New Seasons is not that thing.
5) Classifying an evening on the couch as a double date. This could just be a function of the rainy season's onset, but more evenings than I care to admit have consisted of knitting on a couch next to my friend, who is sewing handmade brooches, while our boyfriends sit on a different couch playing a zombie game. Then everyone goes to bed at a sensible hour, because we have to work in the morning.
I have also found myself defending the functionality of throw pillows. Please help.
* For my readers unfamiliar with the chains of the Northwest, Fred Meyer is like Ames or Jamesway, had they survived, crossed with a complete supermarket. (More complete than a Super Wal-mart.) Safeway is just a grocery chain like Shop Rite or Pathmark. New Seasons is like Wegman's &ndash a regional chain similar to Whole Foods. Which we also have.
** that tastes like pine trees and is left over from the dinner party last month and has unfrozen and refrozen enough to collect water crystals, that has a few un-ground pieces of mastic in it so big they got stuck in your teeth for an entire day