I’ve just completed my
weeklong “shift” of hostess duties: drafting and emailing a wedding
announcement for the local newspaper, ironing crisp white tablecloths and chair
covers, and decorating a spacious venue, to be exact. This is in addition to
pulling frequent all-nighters for a daily entertainment writer gig and defaulting
to a 24-hour nanny role that I never signed up for. So after the nuptials, I sit
quietly, observant near the dance floor in figurative retirement.
If I danced, I
would’ve sashayed to the dance floor. But that’s not my thing. I don’t like to
be watched and scrutinized, and as the tallest person on the dance floor, I’m
almost guaranteed to attract more attention that I can ignore. However, being a
wallflower was more noticeable, eliciting a countless “Come on!” with each
motion of a curved finger elevating my blood pressure five millimeters of mercury
at a time. I remain at the front table with the purses, fuming, while everyone
else shimmies, shakes, shuffles, slides, and steps across the dance floor. It
sways my response.
“If one more person
asks me…” I say before I exhale. “Yes!”
No one else inquires
about my well-being, not even the next day during brunch when my physical
features literally relax.
I’m sitting at the bar
enjoying sushi and my second $9 cocktail when one of my friends taps the
shoulder of the guy sitting next to me.
“Hi!” she says to him.
“What’s your name?”
He tells her.
“Have you met my
friend, Tee?” she replies, as she turns her back to us to continue conversing
with the group behind us, as if she has just accomplished a major task.
It’s an awkward
introduction. He’s confused and annoyed – mainly, I presume, because dude is
already engrossed in a conversation with a young woman on the other side of
him. So I’m initially horrified because all my friend has done is inadvertently
let him know that I’m possibly 1) a relationship reject; 2) incapable of
meeting men on my own; or 3) a homewrecker. Then I grow angry because I’m none
of the above, and she’s placed me in a humiliating position all because I’m not
flirting and mingling to her satisfaction. I’m left seething in my seat, mumbling
under my breath that if I wanted to meet dude, I would’ve introduced mydamnself.
Since I was a
teenager, I’ve been conditioned to be independent and ambitious. Against some
family members and friends’ advice, I applied to a more selective university
and was accepted. Upon graduation, I relocated to urban Northern Virginia
instead of returning to rural hometown Virginia. And when it came to building a
finance career, I was focused on promotions and paychecks. But being a
go-getter came with a whole other set of responsibilities that I had to fulfill
that weren’t even my own.
In a scene from
Tuesday’s “Purging and Cleansing” episode of Being Mary Jane, Kara pretty much tells MJ that she can’t be the
head of everyone’s household. MJ not only takes care of her own home, but she
also maintains order in her parents’ home, including supplementing her family’s
financial downfalls and acting as the family spokesperson to deliver the news
everyone else needs to say but no one wants to deliver.
As I watch the dinner
scene on Tuesday night’s Being Mary Jane
unfold – the one where MJ educates her family on money management – I smirk.
Here’s the family, finally happy together in one room (with the exception of
PJ, who’s back in LA price-rigging on his new job) and MJ feels it’s the best
time to tell her folks how to spend and save their dollars courtesy of Suze
has no chill, I initially
say to myself.
But I can’t get
annoyed with her – this time – even when she tells her dad that he isn’t buying
Niecy or anybody else a car, because something about the whole situation
suddenly seems so familiar.
At 15, my mother
succumbed to metastasized breast cancer and instead of me continuing to be a teenager,
I immediately assumed responsibility for my family’s business affairs. I was
the one to interpret the fine print on documents and balance accounts and dispute
and negotiate bill errors.
I vividly remember calling Verizon several times on my grandmother’s behalf over some Miss
Cleo-typed calls a relative had placed on my grandmother’s phone. For at least
three months, these charges appeared on her bill.
“But she didn’t make
them and we called about them last month, too,” I’d cry to the customer
Finally someone initiated a block and authorized a credit but it
didn’t cover what I had combed through the multi-paged bills and calculated as
the “fraudulent” charges, maybe because of taxes and all those additional fees.
“There’s still $27!” I
say, exasperated, to the rep.
I dread reconnecting with friends and colleagues. Once we navigate
all the pleasantries – where do you live, what do you do now and
how's your family – the conversation eventually shifts to and
dwells on my unmarried status.
wish the conversations were limited to “Hi” and “Good seeing
you again” and didn't wander to “You ain't getting any younger”
and “What you waiting for?” I'm very aware of the fact that I'm
some strange reason, it's always the ones I converse with the least
on a personal level who launch a no-holds-barred matchmaking campaign
with a two-part preference survey, leaving me to feel like an
unwilling contestant on
“The Dating Show.”
one outing, a colleague spends the first hour asking, “Do you think
he's cute? What about him?” This, of course, is a trick question.
Reply “Yes” and she's bound to give the “come hither” finger.
Respond with “No” and the line of questioning never ends.