the "good life"

My entire sense of self had imploded, and once the dust settled I could see, finally, why my suburban fairy tale wasn't coming true: It was my worst nightmare.

For two years after college I rented an apartment in The Gables, a cheaply-constructed condo community where budding yuppies flock to breed. The Gables is famous for its pool: Throughout the summer young singles gather there like mosquitoes in a birdbath. A few swim laps, but mostly they wade. In the shallow end.

That the entire Gables neighborhood is painted in shades of beige is a perfect metaphor -- or a beacon of warning, depending how you see it -- for the homogeneous hell that lies within.

At the time I was living the prescribed life of a young Potomac Jew. It never occurred to me to question my fate; In a year or so I'd meet a Jewish doctor/lawyer/consultant and float down the aisle in big cupcake of a dress, the kind inspired by Disney and stitched by Vera Wang. My hus-bot would buy us a big new house with lots of chain stores nearby, and fill it with overstuffed furniture, overindulged children, and the spoils of our extravagant wedding registry. I would quit my beloved career to spend afternoons steering a stroller around Nordstrom and lunching with other women my age and their matching babies. This is what I would do because it's what I'd been made for. It's what we were all made for. Like cows for milk, or horses for glue. We were the Stepfordsteins.

A few years went by. I went on dozens of dates with nice-enough men. Some of them really wanted to get married, and if I'd let them into my heart even a little bit they might have wanted to marry me. I kept working, wondering when I'd get to stop but secretly hoping I'd never have to. First I learned to live alone. Then I learned to be alone. I read more. Wrote more. Made more music. I sampled just enough independent joy to make me restless for more... But still I dated and waited, and the beige life did not come.

Then I met John and we fell in love. I wasted no time plugging his likeness into my little template of life: He was older than I'd planned -- older and more Catholic -- but I loved him and our children would be smart. They might even have a shot at being tall.

I waited. I prayed. I loved him as hard as I could. And when it eventually fell apart, I crumbled with it. Turned out that was just what I needed: My entire sense of self had imploded, and once the dust settled I could see, finally, why my suburban fairy tale wasn't coming true: It was my worst nightmare. Beige wasn't a life, it was a lobotomy. All these years I'd been tripping over myself to step around it. Now I was free to build a newer, stronger, truer self from the pieces John had left behind.

Once I realized what I didn't want, I was free to dream up a future that's uniquely mine: A bright home with an old soul; a textured community; hundreds of pageworn books to devour in secret corners; creative, nourishing work; inexhaustible love; and a perfectly imperfect partner whose misshapen pieces fit my own puzzled person. All this and a stack of wild cards, because the best thing about it all is that I have no idea what's really coming. But it certainly won't be beige.

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