Tuesday, June 29, 2010

22. Mental Aerobics

You know you have one friend like Her, everyone does. She is the one that, when you meet Her for lunch or coffee, you must be up to date on all current events, including ones that have not yet happened. Because you will be quizzed. You don't realize it yet, but just think back to last time.

Now, after knowing Her for a long time, you have gotten smart. You go to the drug store and buy three  newspapers (and consider purchasing one in French, even though you do not actually speak or understand French-- but Her father is French, and She speaks the flawless French of a native; maybe reading French will instantaneously make you fluent as well? or at least smarter? like osmosis).

You grasp your receipt as you walk out with your Washington Post, your New York Times, and your Wall St. Journal (while you look longingly in the direction of USA Today-- no! not that! too pedestrian! Her potential dismay mocks you). At home, you flip thru your husband's Consumer News and World Report, just in case. You are gorging on information, the way that Morgan Spurlock gorged on fast food in his documentary "Supersize Me."  Please, dear God, you think, supersize my brain.

She will want your opinion (She always does). It is difficult to finesse your way out of the situation. You think up possible replies to Her in your head ("My opinion?! Umm, I infinitely respect your opinion, and would love to hear what you think."). No. That will not work. It did not work with Her last time nor the time before that. You have to be Prepared.

Why is She like this? Why are you even friends with Miss Know-It-All anymore? Just because you were friends in college? Just because She whispered to you in Economics class Buy stock in Starbucks back in 1993 and you did and you made a boatload of money on that one tip? (Random Stock Tip #2: Buy stock in Starbucks.) Just because She introduced you to your future (current) husband and all kinds of other fabulous people because She was always super-outgoing? Just because She is kind and generous and always remembers your birthday and calls just to say hi and that something reminded Her of you (maybe Starbucks)? Just because She has a razor-sharp wit and is charming and funny as hell and you admire Her and look up to Her and wish you were more like Her? Well, yeah, you think, that is probably why.

But back to the task at hand. The News. She will nonchalantly bounce back and forth between the oil spill and politics and Sarah Palin (is she current? do you need to refresh about her too?) and the Polish plane crash in Russia (is that current? should you even mention that?) and maybe even something about American Idol or Lost or some other quick nod to pop culture. It is exhausting to be Her friend.

What if you get something wrong? What if (the horror) She corrects you? in front of other people? Why do you feel that She is ... condescending? Is She? Is it because you are a tad bit insecure? Is She really acting superior, or is She naturally very confident (which She obviously has every right to be)? Is She genuinely glad to have you as a friend, or ... was Her schedule surprisingly empty this day you proposed to get together? Wait, did you call Her or did She call you? you can't remember. It doesn't matter.

You decide to peruse another book, this one with a bit of dust on the cover. That's right: the dictionary. You need a better vocabulary when She is around. She is like a rotating 3-dimensional Scrabble game while you are talking to Her. Why use "impatient" when "petulant" is a better choice? Why say "everywhere" when you can get the point across with "ubiquitous"?

Your husband sees all the new reading material ubiquitously scattered about. He, at this stage in your marriage, knows better than to ask. He of course knows Her, and he knows how crazy (demented? insane?) you can become before you plan to see Her. He asks (jokingly?) if you want him to quiz you. For a moment you think he's serious, and you are about to say, "YES! That would be GREAT!" when you realize he's smirking at you. He asks earnestly if you plan to stay up until 2 AM (he is perhaps familiar with last time as well).

The next morning, you awaken and petulantly scoot the kids off to school. You're ready to see Her. You are not relaxed nor refreshed (having slept only four hours), but you've crammed just like you did back in college, and now you will be rewarded for your valiant efforts.

You put on a cute top. No, not that one. You try a different one. (You have not seen Her in over a year.) Now four wrinkled tops lay on the ground (lay? lie? She would know the proper usage of those words). You decide on an outfit, finally. You grab your purse and head out the door.

You hear your cell phone ring deep in the recesses of your purse. It is Her. Her dog has suddenly become very ill, and She's calling you from the vet. They think it might be some sort of internal bleeding. She sounds shaken (perturbed, agitated, flustered) because Fido (yes, that really is his name-- She was always one for irony) is about 199 in dog years. You want to offer your dear friend some sort of solace, even though you are simultaneously realizing that She is indeed cancelling on you.

You offer the only thing you can: you tell Her who won American Idol last night.

("Marks Obscure Volumes")

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