Getting To Know You

Getting To Know You

Every summer when I teach, I plan these social mixing activities where I can put kids at ease with me and each other. They tell their favorite bands and TV shows and whether they have siblings and pets and whatever and I do the same. We all partner up and ‘get to know each other’ and it’s all groovy and awkward and necessary in a room full of introverted smart kids who like to write.

Do you know how difficult it is for me to describe succinctly myself? My hobbies and likes and dislikes? In a sanitized, easy-to-swallow form? It’s like a personals ad, only I’m not writing it to attract anyone.

My name is Carrie. I like coconut popsicles, dogs, running and hanging laundry on the line.
My name is Carrie. I hate making the bed, traffic, pantyhose and Wal-Mart.
My name is Carrie. Please call me Carrie. 

That is all so boring, though. Instead, I would like to say something true like, My name is Carrie and I hate weddings.

But that makes me sound crazy, right? Who hates weddings? People loving each other?  A party based on booze and cake? What’s your problem, you horrid wretch of a woman?

If I wasn’t so pressed for time and space, if I was convinced that 13-17 year olds would be able to capture all the nuances, if I thought it would help me teach them better, this whole idea of knowing me authentically, I would tell them the whole story. I would tell them that I have never been a girl who dreamed about her wedding. I have never been a girl who wanted to walk in a room in a princess dress and have all eyes turn to me. I have never been a girl who could stop biting her fingernails. I don’t dance. I don’t like flowers or wearing my hair up. I don’t like public displays of affection.

I have only wanted a man who was so taken with me that he’d scoop me toward him and not let go. Who would listen to all my shit and laugh at my jokes. There is no ceremony for that. Everything I do is rooted deep in my own self-horror. Everything I do – even writing – is to get validation that I am not a shitty person. But the validation from a wedding is a sham. The Hokey-Pokey? Standing in a church? Bouquets sprayed with fixative so they don’t wilt? It’s a crappy facsimile. A paste buckle ritual for a girl who hates diamonds. Talk, not action, gilt, not gold.  So much rubbing for so little warmth.

The validation I want is true and intimate and vulgar. I want to be petted and grabbed and whispered to in the dark and told I’m lovely. Like you’d pet a handsome dog with soft fur. That’s what I want. But I don’t get that from my beloved. Because if he were the kind of man who would pet my hair and tell me I’m lovely, I would think less of him, would think him weak and shitty and stupid. To be loved by me, he has to be better than me, this puppy who wants to be petted, this child who can’t sleep in the dark, this beggar grabby for coins. 

This doesn’t make any sense. This doesn’t even make for a good relationship. But neither do weddings, right? Weddings have nothing to do with the relationship, right? They have to do with money and family and Jordan almonds and romantic slow songs and the church of your upbringing and seed pearls and cumberbunds and rehearsed toasts and a hotel ballroom with a removable dance floor and cater waiters and a whole bunch of people who have no idea what your voice sounds like when you’re naked in the dark with another. 

A wedding doesn’t symbolize true connection.  It has little to do with whether someone can give me what I need, what I can’t provide for myself.  Adrian fixing everything that breaks and nodding at me, and surprising me with random affection, shaking his head at my flightiness, laughing when I’m funny, knowing that I must stop seeking approval from everyone else but myself.  None of those things about him were clear at our wedding.

That is why I hate weddings. Kind of hard to explain that to a class of kids you’re just meeting, though. 

My name is Carrie. I like herb gardens. I like hot wings. Venice is my favorite city in the world. I don’t dance or drink whiskey. I don’t like air travel. I used to teach high school Spanish.

Why don’t you teach high school Spanish, anymore, Carrie?

Because I can’t hear very well and when I’m using my receptive skills, I’m weak and listening becomes high stakes stress. Because I’m bad at the precision which is verb conjugation. Because I don’t dance or sing or like to lead educational field trips to El Burrito Mercado. Because loving Neruda is different than knowing how to ask for directions. Because I don’t want to do anything in Spain but eat calamari sandwiches and smoke black tobacco. Because the only country in South America I still want to visit is Argentina, where, good luck with the Spanish, because the accents there are CRAYZEEE. 

My name is Carrie. Here were some of my favorite activities in South America:
Drinking rum and lemonade and make out with boys behind discotecas.  Sitting outside little stores on the curb drinking beer until finishing the bottle and returning it to the shopkeeper for the deposit. Playing three-handed bridge after a hike in the rain forest in Ecuador, which involved crawling through a cave of bats.  Bowling in the giant shopping mall in Bogota that was guarded by men carrying automatic weapons. Rambling drunkenly with taxi drivers at 4 am while my travel companion’s hand inched toward me across the dark backseat. 

I cannot teach in a formal school because I am a terrible role model. 
I used to grade my students’ homework while watching television. 
You must not know this about me. 
Please understand that I like watching turtles swim. 
I enjoy reading.

I got married when I was 24.

I have one daughter.

I live in a yellow house.

I’m half-Armenian, half-Norwegian and I love Chopin’s Preludes for piano.

My name is Carrie.  Good to meet you.

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