Transitions in American Girlhood

When I got home last night, I navigated the maze of boxes to go out to walk the dogs.

I’m moving tomorrow.  From downtown, to the Upper East Side.  I’ll be an uptown girl…like my blonde waspiness always foretold.

Tights and a sweatshirt donned post-flight, I reached into the hall closet to cover up with a jacket.  The thing I always reach for this time of year–Andrew’s fleece and a scarf.  Automatic, reflexive; blue-grey fleece on tights the way I used to wear my high school boyfriends’ letter jackets when I was a teenager.  The way I could play the all-American girl.  The way, in some ways, I am the all-American girl, even if the role doesn’t fit seemlessly.

All American girls are all-American…a bit of a tautology, but it works.  There’s no avoiding it.  It is what it is.  By virtue of being American, you’re all-American; one can suit any cookie cutter of American culture by virtue of being raised here…the first-generation American born or raised of immigrant parents; the waspy blonde raised with everything who battles her own demons; the corn-fed midwesterner; the hard-bitten city girl…modern literature has taken anything American and made it unavoidably complete.

I digress.

Despite the legality of it all having happened a long time ago, after tomorrow, there won’t be a man’s jacket in my hall closet.  There won’t be a husband’s coat there; no fleece to grab to walk the dog; no dog to walk–at least in the short term.  I’ll be a different kind of American girl.  American woman.

What of that?  What of choosing to walk away from the dark, clubby furniture; of choosing to walk from the life where I was constantly being accused of the things I wasn’t doing?

I like men.  I like the smell of men’s coats; I like wearing men’s sweaters; I like the company of gentlemen and brutes.  I like sports; I like men’s straightforwardness.  I’m not the kind of woman (any more) who will tell you she hates women; hates working with women; can’t have real relationships with women.  I’m not that person.  But I really like men.

I’ve come to grips with being a statistic; or maybe even an “I told you so.”  I’ve made peace with all those things.

Last night though, as I walked along the river with the dogs, wearing the fleece for ostensibly the last time, it struck me that this is real.  That I tried; that we tried; that we didn’t make it and that this is perhaps the only thing I’ve ever really failed at in my entire life.

I’m watching as my friends have babies and buy houses; as other friends raise their school-age children and transition their lives through the same things I’ve just begun.  This is a different kind of travel–a kind I didn’t anticipate; a kind I didn’t really want to undertake.

And a kind for which I find myself needing a new overcoat.

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