How To Learn To Love Again
Move your hands like this. Do things that you do every day and start doing them every other day. Brush your teeth on weekends. Brush your hair once a month. Listen to Bach instead of Brand New. Take up the bassoon and donate to a charity that doesn’t exist yet. All of these things will blend together with time — much like spring into summer, and you finally get the point.
Start cheating on your husband. Create a list and tick off ‘cheating on my husband’ as ‘completed.’ Tick off ‘cheating with a husband’ as also completed. Start to watch your face turn into a different face in the mirror. Stop feeling the avocados for freshness in the produce aisle. Stop answering calls from your children and tell them you’ve moved to Acapulco. Don’t move to Acapulco. Move to rural Nebraska. Marry the man you met at the bakery. Lust for his love for French cuisine. Give him a French kiss when he least expects it. Start cheating on Monsieur Garçon approximately one month after meeting him. Tell people you’ve never been married.
Walk by store windows at nighttime. Change your entire wardrobe to match the autumn season, even in the middle of summer. Envision your body in the dresses you see with the mannequins stuffed inside. Start to see people as not wearing clothes but as the clothes wearing people. Become interested in fashion design and move to New York City. Don’t live in Manhattan. Blow out your 36th birthday candles. Lie about your age. Lie about your weight. Don’t lie about your shoe size.
Start hanging out with your art school friends. Go to a slam poetry reading and listen intently. Go vegan. Start looking at other women not just as comparisons to yourself but also as potential lovers. Start having your first lesbian experiences. Work the clit. Don’t forget that just three years ago you were married to a man and had two children. Start a family tree but don’t finish it because the branches are too lopsided. Email your mother. Don’t email your professors. Paint your nails an exotic color to compliment your daily moods. Start seeing a psychiatrist as quickly as possible.
Gain an extra 30 pounds. Start to cry every morning when you wake up. Go to the park and just sit and look at all of the strangers and feel alone. Hug yourself and look in the mirror and tell yourself that you aren’t worthless. Buy a purple futon. Start going to karaoke bars. Make sure you know all of the lyrics to “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman. Cut your hair short and donate it to a cancer foundation. See a woman with cancer in a wheelchair at the park. Recognize your hair woven into a wig five years later waltzing down 5th avenue.
Start doing karate. Learn to respect yourself and the others around you. Apply for a job in an office setting. Agree to meet your co-workers for brunch. Eat brunch for the first time in your life. Learn to embrace your curves and realize that you don’t need a man to feel whole. Start writing a book of short stories. Eat breakfast every morning. Watch the evening news at 6 p.m. every day. Develop a routine. Develop an eating disorder. Take pills for your social anxiety. Take pills recreationally. Use your karate skills to fight off a rapist in Central Park at 11 p.m. Kill someone.
Visit your parents for Thanksgiving. Tell them how different your life has become. Tell them about all of the good things and leave out the bad things. Call your mother into the kitchen. Help her stuff the turkey. Whisper in her ear I love you and I’m going away for a very long time. Watch her eyes fill with tears. Listen to your mom tell you oh child oh my baby girl what have you become and nod accordingly and knowingly and hug your mother with all of your might. Tell her not to tell your father. When she asks where you are going change the subject. Change the tablecloth. Change your outfit. Change your life.
Move to Boston and start working as a waitress in a seafood restaurant. Learn to shuck oysters for a living. Start to settle down and realize that your life will always be like this. See the world for what it is really worth. Begin to think about death. Ride your bicycle home in the rain. Leave the house without a tampon. Turn the lights off before you enter a room. Meet a man on the subway. Tell the man your life story. Fall in love with the man. Marry the man. Start a new life in San Francisco. Start working at a fashion catalog. Take maternity leave. Buy your first house. Build a white picket fence. Give birth to your third child. Tell your husband it’s your first child. Accept suburbia. Make key lime pie for the first time. Kiss your husband on the lips before you go to sleep. Tuck your baby boy into bed. Look in the mirror and smile. Tell everyone about your perfect life.
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I wish to God I’d had a list like this when I was 23.
Answer phones better than anyone else has answered phones before. Relay messages so brilliant, they bring people to tears. Turn the coffee run into the choreography of Swan Lake. Become best friends with every intern and every underling and every taxi driver you encounter.
I remember taking the pen and notebook from that woman outside the courtroom, flipping to a clean page in the book, and writing, JESSICA IS SAD in big, bold, uncoordinated letters. “My sister is going to be a good writer someday! Look at how nice her lines are!”
To begin, I got totally screwed over in the dental genes department. I was born with a pretty severe overbite and a mouth that was too small.