On Saturday, I had a dream that I went out to dinner with a random bunch of people I know who would never have the occasion to meet one another in my waking life. Some were family, some were co-workers, some were friends, but for some reason, we were all out socializing together.
Somewhere in the blurry course of events, we decided that we needed to leave the restaurant after just a few drinks, and much of the group left without paying. Appalled, I sought out the server to obtain the bill.
The server, quite amused with my profuse apologies, asked me for my phone number. I wasn’t pregnant, and I wasn’t married, so it was quite flattering. It took the dream version of me a while to remember my phone number, but after many cross-outs, I scribbled it for him and skipped from the restaurant, feeling quite good about myself.
“You gave him your phone number?” Mike said when I told him about the dream the next morning.
“Not in the dream I wasn’t,” I tried to explain. He wasn’t having any of it.
It’s not much of a surprise that I’d have a dream like this, considering how unattractive I’ve been feeling lately. At seven and a half months pregnant, I’m huge, and maternity clothes aren’t exactly the most flattering or fashionable. I am exhausted and cranky, and I no longer enjoy most of the activities I love best: shopping, eating, sleeping.
Now, I don’t mean this as a list of complaints, and I don’t expect sympathy for my woes. Pregnancy is temporary, and I know I’ll have no problems getting right back into my shopping routine. But will I ever feel attractive again?
I’m having serious doubts.
Last week, when we discussed Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle” in my American Lit class, we spent a lot of time on what it would mean to fall asleep for twenty years. A literal twenty-year sleep would be quite terrible. We’d miss out on family and friends and much of life’s greatest pleasures. We’d skip over opportunities to travel and explore, to see the world progress and change. It would be time we could never recover.
But in our conversation, we also spoke about how much of life can feel like a dream. In reference to my college days, I’ll say to someone:
“A few years ago…,” and then I’ll remember that college wasn’t just a few years ago. It was, well, many years ago. I feel like I was just there, so it’s shocking to count the years and realize how long it’s been since I grabbed lunch with my friends over at The Caf or spent my time debating whether it was too windy to walk to a class on the other side of campus.
I’m starting to notice that many of my pop culture references are outdated. In my Comp II class a few weeks ago, I was trying to make a point about a poem we were reading, and in doing so, I mentioned My So-Called Life, a favorite of mine back in college. The students stared at me as if I was speaking a foreign language. They’d never heard of the show, and they found it more than a little amusing that I would it as an example. Then again, when I mentioned Ellen during the same lesson, they said:
“Degeneres,” I said, stunned. “She has a show on TV right now.” They had no idea what I was talking about. Perhaps the real problem is that I watch way too much TV.
About a month ago, when I began the poetry chapter, I decided to bring a set of spoken word poetry clips to class. I hadn’t shown them in a while, and when I pulled out the dinosaur relic of a VCR tape on which I recorded them, I felt pretty ridiculous. The funny thing is that I made that tape the year I began teaching at my current school. It was an acceptable form of technology. Now, like most people, I don’t even own a working VCR.
“What, you couldn’t find it on laser disk?” one of my friends teased me.
While Mike and I walking around Charleston last week, we heard a band playing a version of Stone Temple Pilots’ “Creep” through a bar’s open door. It was a favorite of mine years ago, and hearing it made me nostalgic. Realizing that it’s almost twenty years old made me feel a bit depressed.
So, I didn’t technically wander off into the woods to escape a nagging spouse and fall into a twenty-year respite like Rip, but in some ways, I do feel like I just blinked and all of a sudden I have a husband, a career, a mortgage and a baby on the way. All of a sudden, twenty years feels like five minutes.
I just saw the seventeen-year-old college freshman version of myself in the mirror, but when I turned my head to look at something, she vanished.
Even though there are more important things in life than feeling attractive, it is important to feel good about oneself. And though I don’t want strange men to ask me for my phone number, it would be nice to get noticed for something other than my big belly.
In time, I know I will get back to a new version of normal. I won’t be waddling around the grocery store, hitting my limit after twenty minutes of pushing the cart around. I may even fit back into some of my old pairs of pants, you know, the ones I’ve got buried deep in my closet. My skinny pants. I don’t want this pregnancy to hurry by me, but I do look forward to feeling good about myself again.
I just hope it’s not tomorrow that I turn around to find myself waking from another twenty year nap only to find that Baby Boy is grown and headed to his first year of college.