I was half asleep on the couch the other night when something struck me: I’m the human equivalent of a soft-serve “twist” cone.
I jumped slightly at this realization — nothing makes me sit bolt upright, mind you. I’m a twist cone: a safe mix of vanilla and chocolate.
I was the third child born to middle-class parents of moderate intelligence and looks. I’m a size 8 from my shoes to my hips. I can’t decide whether I like spring or autumn better. My hair has never chosen a ballsy gold or a subdued chestnut shade — it hangs somewhere near the dishwater mark. Dishwater.
The existence of God is, to me, neither a given nor a riotous joke. “Who the heck knows?” sounds like something I’d say. And though I waffle between whether this life is too short or too long, every time I’m at the doctor’s office he marvels at the consistency of my blood pressure and jokes that it will take an Acme anvil to break my first bone. He thinks I’m OK.
Academically, I was a C-student whose catalog of progress reports is littered with words like “sufficient” and “average.” It was revealed to me recently that I was ambidextrous as a child. My first-grade teacher, reportedly in the interest of workable seating arrangements, made the decision for me by tying a pencil to my right hand with craft yarn. I think about such humble caretakers. It’s a pity she’s not around today to ration my food intake and monitor my spending.
My experience with relationships — both platonic and sexual — has been marked by long periods of stalemate: Let’s just wait and see what the other side does before jumping to any rash conclusions, shall we?
The Beatles or the Rolling Stones? Seriously?
Sausage or bacon? Please stop.
I’m the only person I’ve ever known who gropes so desperately for medium. Why try to skate backwards when you’ve finally mastered standing upright? Lavender has worked so well that magenta would be whorish.
Give me a three-lane highway, and I’ll choose the middle every single time. I’m not Speedracer, of course, but I’m not Mawmaw either.
I nodded fervently at my best friend’s side while the priest told her that “routine” and “ritual” were the keys to a happy marriage. Quick to believe what someone in uniform tells me, I agreed with him that there’s no good to be found anywhere after midnight.
I am, at any given moment, stuck somewhere between inciting a riot and going back to bed.
My personal philosophies — hell, even my private journals — reek of moderation. My lifelong inability to “strike a balance,” “find a happy medium” and “get square” will be as boring to posterity as it is to me — that’s if I can muster the courage to bear children, you know, given my indecision over whether the state of this world warrants procreation.
I’m only semi-ashamed to admit that I’ve sent more than one not-so-nice e-mail to fastfood chains and hotels whose combo meals were too big or beds too hard. I’d be just like Goldilocks if I had more than half a nerve.
I’ve never stayed mad at anyone for more than two hours, not even Hitler. On the one hand, it’s my maddening, crushing desire to be fair (read: equal) that says, “Give the guy a break.” I mean, no one asks to be born with a booming speaking voice in a Prozac-less era.
For that matter, my politics are like that scene in Fiddler on the Roof when Tevya, chastised for seeing the validity in two very different arguments, turns to his heckler and says, “You know … you’re right.”
I think I must have subconsciously recognized my inherent duplicity a long time ago, but I rather enjoyed the positive spin I used to be able to put on it. I’ve always fancied myself a moderator, the one who’s able to walk miles in a thousand different pairs of shoes at once, all the while granting credit where it’s due, turning the other cheek and taking all kinds of other non-action.
It’s only in the dwindling light of my barely noteworthy twenties, in the quiet moments between moisturizing and martinis, that I’ve begun to glimpse where the middle lane takes you.
I’m not sure, but I think I’d like to rage about something. I want to pick a position and get high on my own relevance. Throw away my sensible loafers, don “fuck me” pumps.
I can’t go back, right? And I haven’t won a trophy thus far for riding the fence.
Screw history to the sticking place — maybe I’ll choose an extreme or two. Maybe. Women do it all the time. And sometimes they’re even right, right?
My old friend, the Middle Ground, is beginning to stare at me from the overlooked corners of my feng shui’d existence. “What are you afraid of?” it wants to know. It startles me like an impossibly pretty face. You don’t seem like an idiot, it says, so you must be a pussy.
It followed me to lunch with my dad the other day. It quietly took note during the goodbye hug when I held on a little longer, confused by a strange and new thinness in his shoulders. There’s a man who never went for broke, it whispered.
And it’s true. My dad has been called a few things, but never “crazy.” His rational wisdom and steady belief have kept him sane and fed. He’s never even broken a bone.
It’s a marble in an infant’s mouth, this voice. A dishrag flirting with the stove. It could be something. Or nothing.
Going away is what it ain’t.
CONTACT HANNAH ROBERTS: [email protected]