Monday, August 2, 2010

Love & Lust & Life American Style - 53 Years Worth

While I've been spending the last few days going through old papers, articles, notes, pictures, mementos and what-nots, I've been playing old CDs to while away the chore, and the whole Memory Lane thing has left me quite introspective.

That and the fact that another birthday is staring me down the barrel.

Anyway, I've just spent two days going thru (no kidding) nearly 53 years worth of personal artifacts and I'm somewhat shell shocked ... five decades in two days! And, in case you might mistake this for an anti-age rant, really it's just the opposite. Because I realized how much I've experienced and even, sometimes, learned from.

It's kinda groovy.

And, once I quit crying, it's was also pretty funny when I realized how my life has been so emotionally driven. Money (survival), sex (reproductive/species survival drive), and family (love/nesting) are definite biggies for all of us.

On top of that, we have the human ego shrieking in our heads, our entire life, "look at me, love me, notice me, want me, ... etc etc etc".

God, no wonder I'm so damn tired all the time :P

Anyway, it's been a wild ride so far, for me ... because basically I'm a very shy, sensitive person and I've had to struggle the entire five decades just to keep up with the rest of the herd.

Seriously shy.
I remember my very first job, going to work at a KFC when I was just fifteen, without a work permit for the first four months. I was absolutely miserable at home because I did not mesh well with my new stepmother and stepsisters, and anything that *got me out of the house* was tops on my list. Even if that *thing* included being covered in chicken grease and crispy batter for upwards of fourteen hours (this was before the child labor laws got tightened) and doing my homework at 1 a.m.

I remember when I learned to work the cash register/front counter. OMG. Since our little KFC was on the beach side in Fla, it was nothing to have about 10,000 college boys come through, usually drunk, and leer at you across the counter. They all thought themselves astoundingly witty when they'd suggestively ask for a breast or leg. Wink wink, nudge nudge.

Of course, I'd turn brilliant red and want to crawl back to the kitchen and hide. I was a tiny blond, cute and apparently had a very large neon sign above my head that proclaimed NAIVE.

I worked at KFC, off and on, for almost four years, and the one major lesson I had to learn, despite my overwhelming shyness, was to FAKE IT. To learn a modicum of poise, to learn how to banter, and not to let on that I was really an innocent (Catholic upbringing, ya'know). (As cliche as this sounds, one time at an after-hours work party, I was actually confronted with the 'put out or walk' thing by my boss' best friend. And, stubborn to the end, I walked the tipsy five+ miles home in my full-length hostessing gown at about 2 a.m. in the morning. By Golly.)

Ah, the teenage years. Someone shoot me, please.

But, again, more importantly were the experiences along the way. I learned, a tiny bit anyway, to stand up for myself. To withstand peer pressure (thank God for Irish stubbornness), and to use humor as a shield, or defense mechanism.

Although, and this is important, you can fake it TOO well, as I would discover years down the road. You wear the mask too long, it becomes a habitual response, and people misjudge you. through no fault of their own. But that part comes later.

So, last night I find in a tote, an old picture of me after graduation. This was around the time I turned eighteen, which was when I moved out of my parent's home (on my birthday, no less). I still hated my home situation, and couldn't get out of there fast enough to suit me.

And I didn't want out so I could sleep around, or party, or get high, or anything like that.

I wanted out because my nerves were in a trillion tiny pieces.

Basically, I lacked the courage to stand up to my stepmother and stepsisters. I'd been an only child up until age 14, and I'd never learned how to interact with the natural aggression that is sometimes part of a large family unit. I didn't know how to assert myself. I was an introvert in an extrovert dynamic.

Had I to do it over again, I would have grown some nads and taken less shit. I might have even dished some out now and then. I should have lived at home after graduation, worked hard, saved my money, and firmly explained to the parents that I loathed the idea of college (which btw THEY were not paying for).

Instead, in this emotional fight or flight situation, I fled.

So I find this picture of me, smiling, poor but happy. And I am reminded of how my entire life I've been driven to be my own person. To not let anyone boss me around. To live and survive on my own. Even if it meant no heat/propane in winter, cold showers and no food, transportation, medicine or clothing.

Yep. I was independent, alright. And at the time, it was worth every discomfort I suffered. But I was still avoiding dealing with confrontation, and with personalities more aggressive than my own.

The truth of the matter is, I was willing to put up with a high-degree of physical discomfort to AVOID dealing with unpleasantness. With the phony nonchalance, or the humorous quip, or the quiet distance/preoccupation, I was only learning the bare minimum and hadn't really conquered the basic issue ... which was entirely an issue of courage through self-confidence.

To be continued when I feel like it :D


  1. Mary Ann, this is a good piece! Love your KFC scenario.

  2. Thanks V! I swear, after writing this, I could almost smell the reek from the chicken pressure cookers again ... UGH :P