Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2004 - 10:14 p.m.
After a protracted and ultimately successful annoyance campaign involving lunging repeatedly toward my plate, pushing her head through the hands I put up to block her, and yowling loudly for several minutes, Ronnie discovered that she did not, in fact, like gingerbread. She scooped the piece I put in her bowl out with her paw and smeared it around on the newly mopped kitchen floor.
When I lived at home, one of my main chores was putting away the laundry. My mom still did the actual washing, but I’d have to fold and separate the clothes, collect hangers, and return everything to the proper closets and drawers. I’d always have to be reminded to do this task, but when I actually did it, I performed every action with careful deliberateness, pretending the whole time that someone was watching me. I’d have conversations in my head with the lead server at the restaurant where I worked as a cashier, with an imaginary European boyfriend, with a young Bob Dylan. They’d watch me fold the laundry, marveling at my unerring knowledge of which underwear belonged to who, admiring my careful hanging skills.
These days I find myself doing exactly the reverse, showing off the most mundane skills for my faraway parents. I imagine my mother walking home from the grocery store with me, carrying canvas and reused paper bags full of fresh fruit, organic coffee, and cheap but good Californian wine. I stand with her admiring the new magnetic knife holder that I mounted on the wall myself using L’s power drill. I show my dad the front page of the South Carolina paper, snickering at our Republican senator.
I don’t know why I’m doing this. At age thirteen I did even the smallest things with an eye to what other people would think; this is perfectly consistent with adolescence, with the formation of an identity. But at age twenty-five I should be doing things for myself, not for other people, and especially not for my parents. Of course I care that they know I live in a clean apartment and eat healthy, good-tasting food. But I don’t know why I summon their imaginary stamp of approval for my every action and acquisition.
At a stoplight this weekend, a guy rolled his window down and asked me to recommend a bar nearby where he could watch the game; he was from out of town, staying at a hotel nearby. Then he asked if he could buy me a drink. I kindly demurred, and he revved his engine and drove away.
I thought about delivering my lecture today in a throaty yell punctuated by bizarre frat boy whoops (a la Howard Dean), but it’s a good thing I refrained; only three people in my class of twenty-five knew about the results of the Iowa caucuses.