I went through very odd, almost obsessive stages as a toddler, one of which centered around fake nails. The thrill I’d get from going to CVS and purchasing, behind my mother’s back, those fake press-on nails was enormous. I’d bring them home, glue those babies on, and play cashier woman like my life depended on it. “Cashier woman?” you may be asking yourself right now. Why, yes. Because for my young, ignorant brain, long and done-up nails were synonymous with cashier women. And I wanted IN. Those ladies were my heroes; I’d go to the grocery store with my mom just to hide behind the racks of gum and stare in envy as these women clicked away on their registers. “She loves your nails,” my mom would offer, sheepishly, attempting to excuse my bizarre behavior.
And I would announce my vocation publicly too, much to my parents’ dismay. I don’t know how they put up with it; frankly, if I was sending my daughter to one of the most elite private schools in the country and she came home every day talking of her cashier-working aspirations, I’d lose my shit.
But continued I did, drumming my nails on any counter I could get my hands on; scratching the shit out of my sister; and treating our home land line like my own personal, made-up PR business.
“Rachel? Hi sweetie, can I speak to your father? Tell him it’s regarding the AIDS medicine we just released to North Africa.”
“I said, BROOKS AND DUNNS MAY I HELP YOU??!!” I’d scream into the phone, and then promptly hang up.
As things often do, my life came full circle and 14 years later I found myself working in retail. It was only then that I fully realized how far I’d shoved my foot down my throat. Finally, my childhood dreams came to fruition—I was living alone without any nail clippers, and I was assigned to cashier duty for the day. But—curveball!—it was NOT as exciting as I imagined it’d be. However I think it’s also fair to assume that had I dreamed big—say, of being a CEO by age 25—than I’d be supremely more disappointed with my place behind the register. Am I right or am I right?
Sarah Silverman recently said that parents should stop telling their daughters they can be whatever they want to be. Girls are born believing this, she argued, and so telling them this just plants the opposite—that they might NOT be able to be anything they want to be—in their head. I kind of see where she’s coming from. I remember the day my mom first told me that I could be whatever I wanted to be. I ran to my room and picked up my latest copy of Seventeen Magazine. “Wait. So you’re saying I could be THIS??” I asked, pointing to models sitting on a pickup truck, looking straight out of an LFO music video. “Yep, that’s what I’m telling you,” she said. And yet, neither the LFO video vixen nor the Seventeen model gigs happened for me, and I’m still kinda bummed.
By contrast, my other childhood dream of owning a “house car”—my fancy term for a TRAILER—was and continues to be a very realistic and attainable goal. Dream small and it’s rare you’ll ever feel disappointed. Because when the most minor, tasteless and classless of things bring about insatiable joy, your life turns out to be pretty joyful.
The last time I dreamt big was age 6. The dream? To be an astronaut, naturally. My father still tenses up when I take cabs alone, so I can’t imagine he was thrilled with my proposal to go to space alone. But oh how I wanted to go to those NASA sleep-away camps and ride those gravity simulator machines!
Then I learned of the black hole and my dream was finally squashed. I wasn’t sure what the black hole was, but knew I didn’t stand a chance. And so I lowered my standards and opted for the second best option: table dancer.
That’s right, feminists of the world: a table dancer. I was inspired by this scene in Bye Bye Birdie, whatever, okay? And I’m happy to say I did go on to dance on a couple tables—slippery tables, usually at bar mitzvahs, on which I almost fell and broke my neck. I didn’t like it, but I wasn’t discouraged.