Saturday, September 11, 2010

129. My Past-Tense Future Self

When I was in college, I spent a lazy summer semester “studying” (if you can call it that) in the central Loire Valley, where the vast majority of the historic castles in France are located. Of course, I was impressed by everything: the food, the scenery, the history, the fashion, the architecture, the art, the people. Aaaahh, j’adore toutes les choses Francais.

But the thing that impressed me the most was this random woman I saw on the train: My room-mate April and I are in the middle of our two-hour train journey to Paris, inhaling the typical student diet of chocolate eclairs and Orangina soda, when She steps onboard.

She is in her early forties, tan, petite, slim, with flawless skin and sculptured bone structure, and She is stunningly beautiful (typical French). She’s traveling with her cover-model husband and their two precious children. Her honey-colored hair is long, luxurious, and wavy—She could be an ad for conditioner. She sports a classic outfit: a navy and white striped boat-neck top, khaki capris, crisp white tennies, a Hermes scarf tied around her wrist (wrist? why have I never thought to tie a silk scarf around my wrist? is that even allowed—wrist? The most daring I ever get—if I deviate at all from the standard and quite boring scarf around the neck—is ponytail scarf), pearls around her neck, and big bold silver hoops making their own statement (that would be “bling!”) near her ears.

I also notice that She is carrying a smart chartreuse leather attaché—is she going to do a little work in between sight-seeing? (What fabulous job does she have? Because I know it must be fabulous.) The reason She impresses me so is that She possesses this certain Grace Kelly “air” about her, as if everything is effortless. It takes no exertion on her part to be beautiful—She just is. She is confident and in control. Her husband dotes on her, and her young children exhibit ideal behavior for the duration of our train ride (the adult me now realizes She must’ve Benadryl-ed ‘em up ahead of time).

I nudge April with my elbow.

“Do you see that lady? That’s me,” I whisper with all the certainty of a teen-ager who Has All Life’s Answers.

April rubs her eyes; she must’ve been dozing. “What?”

“That lady. Her! That’s me!”

“I don’t know what you mean, MOV,” April gives me a quizzical look.

“I mean, the Future Me. She is exactly who I want to be. Look at those calves!”

April interjects, “My God, she must run 10 miles a day!”

“Exactly! And look at her outfit. Look at her family. She’s perfect! Mark my words, when I am her age, I will be her. That's my new goal in life.”

“I thought you wanted to be an architect?”

“Nope. Not anymore. I want to be Miss French Model.”

“Well, you’ve got a point: I would take her husband—he’s pretty hot,” my pal grins slyly.

“Not just the husband, though, everything,” I reiterate.

“I’ll bet her apartment is messy,” April adds, trying to console us.

“You mean house,” I correct. “Wait, no, chateau. Yeah, I’ll bet her chateau is tres disorganize.”

This realism gives us a sliver of hope; no one can have everything. She sure as hell seems to. Anyone with eyeballs would describe her with the phrase: “pulled together”.

Flash forward twenty years. Am I She? Do I have everything She had?
  • Husband? Check!
  • Darling kids? Check!
  • Job I love? Check!
  • But am I "pulled together"? Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ho ho hee ha ha! I am the antithesis of “pulled together”; I am “pulled apart”.
And all those lovely adjectives that one could use to describe She? Would anyone apply those words to me?
  • Petite? no.
  • Slim? no.
  • Flawless skin? no.
  • Sculptured bone structure? no.
  • Stunningly beautiful? no.
  • Classic? no.
  • Grace Kelly “air”? no.
  • Effortless? no.
  • Well-behaved children? uh, no.
  • In control? bwa ha ha ha! Perfect? clearly no.
How does She do it? How does this other-worldly Venus manage to exist here on along side us mere mortals on planet Earth? I would still love to be She (her looks, her polish, her ease, her finesse, her confidence), if I only had the magic formula. But I am just too exhausted all the time to be She. Even now, twenty years later, I remember She vividly. I tell myself that I COULD be She, if I really really wanted to. I just have to eat healthier, work out three hours a day, have weekly facials, get nine hours of sleep at night, shop at Neiman’s (and have the budget to match), accessorize my outfits, get my hair high-lighted and cut more than once per year (and maybe get a few behavior-modification classes for the kids). 

Why don’t I do all that? I know why: no one would recognize me.

(“Matriarch On Venus”)

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