By Tara Cohen
I talk about sex. I talk about politics. I talk about religion. I talk about race relations, health care, family dynamics, social networking, autism, aerobics, child birth, breast feeding, diaper rashes, potty training, and baby snot. I talk about vaccines and cloth diapers, computers and blogging, insurance and therapy. I have weight issues, food issues, and volume issues. I am tough to embarrass, easy to wind up, and hard to shut up. So when I start talking about colorectal surgery, it’s safe to say that the couple at the next table is officially done eating. Now.
And that’s exactly where I found myself earlier this week: two chocolate martinis into a girls’ night at a local restaurant, discussing the not-so-finer points of pregnancy-related hemorrhoids. Given the inverse relationship between my ability to keep my voice down and the number of drinks I’ve had, it’s safe to say that any teenager within 30 feet received the absolute best possible dose of reality-based contraceptives money can’t buy.
As the topic morphed from pregnancy and childbirth to family dynamics and in-laws, almost everyone had a story to share: In-laws who show up with no notice, adult siblings who ignore their own kids, manipulative mothers, parents who don’t make time for the grandkids. I was struck by the realization that there was a single common message all of these women wished they could get across to some family member or another: This is not about you. And this made me think of my father. Cue flashback…
I failed my Driver’s Permit test the first time. By one point. I reacted much as one would expect from any healthy, well-adjusted, typical 15-year-old girl: with utter devastation and certainty that no such injustice had befallen anyone, ever, in the history of humankind. I was crushed that I would have to wait yet another month before learning to drive, incredibly disappointed in myself for having failed, and mortified that all my friends knew I’d gone to the DMV and would be asking about it the next day at school. I went across the street to my boyfriend’s house to commiserate. He and his mom reassured me that I would eventually get my Permit, that this was a temporary setback, and that it happened to a lot of people. Though grateful for their love and support, I was, after all, a teenager. I had an inherent, hormonal need to mope. So I headed home and slumped upstairs to sulk, turning up Morrisey or The Smiths or whatever other maudlin mood de-hancer I could find in my mix-tape cassette collection.
Now, for me, time is both a magnifying glass and a fun-house mirror. While some events fall into sharper relief over the years, others are distorted, twisted, and bent to the will of memory, viewed through percolated bias. The majority of my life is documented in the cerebral equivalent a dollar-store paint-by-numbers book, narrated on a dubbed-over cassette tape. For the moments of greatest emotion and consequence, however, my grey matter has its own digital widescreen home theater on which to play its hi-def-and-surround-sound-mental-blu-rays.