Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What's wrong with conservative? Everybody likes vanilla

If I'm going to read, I need to see, so I decided it's finally time to replace my old glasses which always make me feel a bit like I'm looking through a fog. The practical aspect is easy - go to the eye doctor, get a prescription. But then I find myself standing in a room surrounded by eyeglass frames, and I have to decide. I don't know ... be practical? I really should. They're glasses, I wear them all the time, they should be conservative and go with everything and not draw comment from the suburban SUV mommies that I live in fear of. But then again ... why not get something fun?

My husband suggests practical. "When I get fun frames, I don't wear them, and then I end up replacing them with practical ones," he says.

I throw the question out to my facebook friends. The subject of glasses resonates with a lot of people, it seems. But the comment that resonates with me is from an old high school friend. 

"Conservative ... Jess? I don't think so."

I didn't used to be quite so dull. My favorite sweater in high school was a bright green affair with footprints all over it in even brighter green - people are walking all over me! Worn with amazing sparkly earrings (ouija boards!) and a crazy watch collection (personal favorite: Jesus Christ watch with the name of all 12 disciples next to the numbers; Dan Quayle watch with mixed up numbers was another) and lots of long fake pearls or vintage rhinestone pins or whatever took my fancy.

In college, I turned my brown hair into bright red hair (think Molly Ringwald), and then went platinum blond (think Jean Harlow). I was going to be a filmmaker (college major) or a writer (post-college dream) and Do Great Things.

But I had bills to pay and took jobs to pay them, and discovered I was a fairly good editor and that was close to being a writer, so I kept doing that and figured I'd write on the side. Then I got fired from a job, and found a better job, but they wanted me to finish my college degree, so I worked during the day and took classes at night.

The job was on Wall Street, which paid well, better than publishing, and I liked the financial security so I worked hard and tried to fit in - and the green footprint sweaters became black and navy blue suits. Once a friend talked me into "branching out into brown - live a little." The sparkly earrings became demure little studs. The hair color became my own color - at least, the color I think it originally was - applied professionally, to cover the ever-increasing gray. I dated a lot - guys who wore suits, mostly - and was incredibly frustrated at my inability to meet "The One."

Then I met my first husband (you already know how it ends), who encouraged me to write, and I wrote one short story (a good one), but somehow with all the moving and chaos and drama that accompanied that marriage, I didn't manage to write, even though I quit my job to do just that. We moved constantly, buying and selling houses as we went. At the end of that four-year tornado through my life, I found myself a single parent of a toddler, in Seattle, working full time at a bank.
And so on. I think this is the part where the violins start playing in the background. But don't bother with that: I am not complaining - I have a good , secure life; a nice house that, if you visited, you would compliment; and I have a bookshelf full of classics and assorted bestsellers, many of which I haven't read but which I always mean to. If this is what life is, then I consider myself fortunate indeed.

Still, I feel a bit of a pang now and then. One of my college classmates wrote a series of acclaimed children's books, about pigeons, no less (I consider pigeons to be flying rats). A high school classmate became a movie star; my friend's kids recognized her quickly when they were playing some video trivia game. An old work friend quit her job, went to pastry school in France, and now has her own patisserie in a trendy Manhattan neighborhood. My high school English teacher, who always encouraged me to write, wrote a book and won a Pulitzer Prize.

And here I am, trying to decide whether or not to get the fun eyeglasses or the boring ones.

It's easy to get into a rut when you're busy - and playing it safe is a lot easier than taking chances. When life is hard in some places, you play it safe in others - and before you know it, you're in a rut. You're vanilla. Nothing wrong with vanilla - everyone likes it. But what if your heart is really New York Super Fudge Chunk?

Time to take some chances.

Lately, when I choose books, I look for something by an author I've read before, or perhaps I go on Amazon and look at things I've read and follow the recommended title links (people who bought this, also bought that) until I find something. Sometimes I buy things from the book section at Costco. Once in a while, I will see a magazine review and buy the book. 

I mostly read chick lit. It's pleasant enough. After a while, it kind of all feels the same, though. Maybe that's why I don't read so much.

Maybe, what I need to do is find my way out of the book rut. Find new ways to do things. New ways to find books, new books to read ... something news. I don't know about life, but with books, at least for the next 9 months, I can do it. One extra rule is added:

6 - Can't read two books by the same author.

Of course, I have a few books on my library reservation list that are by authors I've read already. And that's fine - I can still read them (if I am ever first on the waitlist) - I just can't count them. I still have 40 more books to go, but there's no reason I can't read more.

I still haven't decided about the glasses, but only because I haven't found anything quite fun enough, yet.

1 comment:

  1. I like your antidote about suits and demure studs.

    Branch out lady, branch out.

    I hope you find new favorites with your challenge ;-D


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