So the semester started and then M and I flew to New Orleans to spend a long weekend with my mom and stepdad (on Bourbon Street, no less) then back here, to host a reading for Fiction Collective Two authors Kate Bernheimer, Noy Holland and, yes, the beloved Matt Kirkpatrick, at the University of Utah (it was fantastic! Except for that stomach plummet when I realized I hadn’t ordered books to sell at the reading! But someone in the universe who pays more attention than I do had ordered them and friendly Frank showed up with things to sell and I set to scraping my stomach lining off my boot toes.), and then we flew to D.C. for AWP wherein I saw too few chums and ate too many mediocre $40 hotel bar dinners.
I kept meeting people I wanted to talk to but not hearing their names (because the venues for readings and events and even the bookfair were really loud; but also I think I have permanent hearing loss, part of which I blame on my father for loaning me his sweet Chevy convertible that one summer in high school and the rest of which is my own stupid fault for refusing to stuff toilet paper in my ears at CBGB.) and then later M would be like, “That guy I introduced you to was Bill Bob Smith!” and I’d be like, “Oh I really wanted to meet Bill Bob Smith!” and he’d be like, “That’s why I introduced you!” and I’d be like, “Yeah I couldn’t hear a thing you were saying.” And Bill Bob Smith would be gone and my ears would be ringing and I would probably also be hungry, since I was always ravenous at the conference and seemed to be operating at some sort of calorie deficit the entire time.
I used to go to AWP solely to see friends and drink at bars in major metropolitan areas. One year, the first year, I didn’t register. I ended up bed hopping with poets and (one night, TWO!) fiction writers. It was all innocent, of course, but in its innocence, also slightly naughty. All those possibilities. Another year my friend got me a somewhat fraudulent press pass through his out-of-state weekly paper (those registration fees were steep! I was broke! Stop looking at me like that!). I remember walking into the hotel and thinking, “Maybe I should interview someone?” because I felt kind of guilty and that lasted another five steps and then I saw some friends and completely stopped caring that I never did intend to write a single word about the conference at all. And in fact, I haven’t until right now.
This year, I didn’t even go to the extremely hip Literature Party because I did all that a decade ago in cowboy boots and a knee-length fur and once Leif Garrett even hit on me and tried to get me to ditch my boyfriend for him because he (my boyfriend) was wearing a silver lamé shirt (he was a rock guitarist, okay?), and Leif thought he looked like a tool, and it’s not that Leif was wrong, but Leif, himself, was wearing a sweat-stained bandanna at the time. So really.
I guess what I’m trying to say is: I’m old. Old and hearing damaged. I watched that Alec Baldwin/Meryl Streep movie this year and liked it. I have a mountain range of beautiful neglected heels in my closet because I’m getting bunions. (I am not even kidding. I just thought my feet were looking rather shapely and defined until I got a pedicure with my mother who told me that my feet weren’t pretty, they were in the process of becoming deformed and someday I would need to have those bones broken and reset.)
This has all happened this year, my 33rd, by the way, which will come to an end in a month and a half. This was the year that put the biggest dent in my youthfulness yet. Maybe it’s teaching all those teens and young adults. Once, last semester, I said something about yuppies to my rhet/comp students and they got that really confused, squinty, pained look, like someone has just rubbed sand directly onto their eyeballs and I had to explain about yuppies and they totally didn’t get it because they weren’t even alive yet when yuppies were around and in some cases their parents, themselves, would have been too young to be yuppies. Yeah, my brain exploded too.
There are trade-offs, of course. I feel more confident. I’m a lot better at owning my mistakes and sticking up for myself. I care so much less what other people think of me than I did a decade ago. Oh man, do I care less. These are, actually, great trade-offs. But they’re abstract. What I see every day is that mountain of shoes, the gray in my hair that seems to cause a low-grade physical revulsion in my hairdresser (she’s great otherwise). It’s not that I’m so old–I know I’m not, age wise, not yet. But I’m starting to feel older, which has never happened before. It’s kind of wistful and nostalgic and kind of empowering. And you know what, I’ll drink that cocktail. Just as long as it’s followed by the early bird special.