As a young girl I would have been started on a strict regimen of Meg Cabot and Gossip Girl. My mother or father would edit out inappropriate parts, where people kissed or smiled. I would paint my nails plum purple with glitter and work my precocious pink lips into an appropriate smile when necessary. My bed would be made and at night, early, before I lay down to sleep I would cross myself and hope to never be alone.
Nostalgia would be discouraged as the poison that leads to grimaces and old age, especially for a girl. I would be encouraged to highlight Cosmopolitan and cut out the words into little strips of paper, like I was making a poem, except it was for my idealized life and my idealized lover. I would go to debutante parties and sit on lake beaches, drunk, wishing for a city where no one pretended to be anything except eclectic. I would punch my thigh and yell:
“Damn, I love Virginia!” forgetting how much I hated it.
As a woman, I would never leave the family that haunted each year of my life. Every funeral would be in Arlington, where we would bury another dead comrade, the women always staying immortal, like that flame that licked the top of Kennedy’s old bones.
I would never be alone, just as I had wished. I wouldn’t work, either, and I wouldn’t change. The parties would get stranger and stranger and start to look more and more like a page from a catalog. John Calvin would stand next to me with his blond hair and blue eyes and talk about banking and golf. On the way home we would listen to Rush Limbaugh on the radio, forgetting that we were much too intoxicated to be trusted.
Maybe we would crash, burn a few buildings as our gas tank sprayed over the expanse. Maybe we would sever the jugular vein of some young idealist just a few hours shy of saving everyone’s souls. Probably we would just hit a stop sign and pay a few thousand dollars and complain about it for three years.
I would force myself to talk. I would have one child, then five. When they played video games I would stand behind them and wish that I was living inside the television. Later, when I sat up in bed and stared at the lump of my spouse’s body under the covers, I would realize that I already was. I was already living inside the television. I would look out windows and see the sun rise and set in a time-lapse set to classical music.
My mom would call sometimes and laugh and say happy things because she assumed that I could relate. I would assume so too, because I would be a lady.
The lucky part is that I’m not a lady. The unlucky part is that everything is the same anyway.