The Jennifer Chronicles - Volume XII
May 31, 2010"This is what you picked?"
I winced at the accusatory tone in Carrie's voice. Okay, so I had made a plan to boldly go where I had never been before. And that plan wasn't quite the Lewis and Clark, Land Ho! expedition it was supposed to be.
To be honest, all I came up with was a museum exhibit, a day trip to the Space Needle, and a reunion concert of a 1970's folk band at the library.
I was stuck. I couldn't get myself out of the gate from Point A - no friends, to Point B - many friends. And I knew I had to de-Duncan my thought process. I had to act like he didn't exist. I was lonely and Duncan happened to be in my line of vision. This naturally led to ridiculous, childish fantasies of "if Duncan and I had a relationship, I would have a ready-made, built-in life."
Excellent Joan, I thought. Way to keep your eye on the reality ball. What is that noise I keep hearing? Oh I know, it's the sound of Betty Friedan rolling over in her grave.
I gave myself a continuous mental talking to, a psychological Cher slap from Moonstruck. I had to snap out of it. I had to find my own life and my own friends. Existing as an extension of someone else was so last year, so Project Jennifer. Literally.
Last year, I had made an all out effort to build an entirely new life, but not for the right reason; as a Jennifer. When I was done, I was still on my own, but as a new Joan. I liked to think my own unique "Joanness" was a good package albeit not as glamorous, sophisticated, or toned as a Jennifer. Still, my "Joanness" was nothing to sneeze at. I was quick on the uptake and projected a pleasant, confident, yet non-threatening air. Not to mention I saw the looks the men gave me when I sat in on meetings wearing my white silk blouse, above the knee black skirt with side slits, and two inch pumps. Eat your heart out Jennifer. But that didn't help my dilemma. And I think Betty just started spinning like a top.
The question: who would I like for friends, for a boyfriend? Did I want colleague friends or Carrie friends? Was I looking for a boyfriend based on a shared working experience or a favorite band? It was an unfair comparison, I know, but I always felt I was being asked to make a choice: did I want to be a kid or a grownup? And what if there were no takers?
I had explaned all of this to Carrie. Conversations between us were still easy enough, but an unspoken frost could blow through at any time. I felt she was muscling in on my parental territory. Not only was I convinced Carrie knew how I felt, I was certain she knew I was right.
The silence on the end of the phone reminded me I still hadn't answered her question.
"I'm thinking about easing into this slowly," I said. And cutting down on the chance of rejection, I thought.
"So you're going to wander through a museum wearing those little headphones, talking to no one."
"How do you know about the little headphones?"
"I saw it in a movie. Then you're going to stand around looking up at the Space Needle?"
"There's an observation desk," I protested.
"If you stand there long enough, do you know what it's going to remind you of?"
Duncan's needle parked in my space, I thought. I have to say, I get sick of Carrie always being right.
"And for the big finish, you're going to see a trio of seventies potheads at the library. What's their name? The Hallucinations? They imagine they still have a career. And this is your plan."
I ground my teeth. "Did you have alternate suggestions?"
And then suddenly I began to cry. Nothing was wrong, really, except for my soul sucking fears of rejection and loneliness. My apartment was fine, my job was fine. I like to think I keep the glass half full. Still, all I wanted to do was get on a plane and go home. I hate being a basketcase. It's very time consuming.
Carrie stayed on the line, letting me have my babypants blubber.
"I'm done now," I said, when I was down to sniveling.
"Joans, you should come back to New York if you want to."
And then I felt guilty for thinking Carrie wasn't a friend.
"I can't," I said, snerveling. "My mother turned my room into a home office."
"You can stay here."
And then I felt like shit for thinking Carrie wasn't a friend. On top of my sniveling cowardice and raging jealousy, Carrie was being nice to me. What a rotten thing for her to do.
I thought hard about coming home.
I couldn't do it.
I couldn't admit failure.
"I'm okay," I said. I meant it.
"Listen to me," she said. "You need to try three different activities, meet different kinds of people. Then just pick what you like and go from there. I want you to go to the weekly "Non-Fiction Forum" at the Downtown bookstore, the weekly Best in New Bands show at The House of Music and join the gym and take the six a.m. spin class on Wednesdays."
"Excuse me? I don't mind the first two but is that last one a joke?"
"You could be having sex soon. Really soon."
She had a point.
We sat on the phone, sharing the silence. She was right. It was time.
"Okay," I said. "Wait a minute. How did you pick these?"
"I didn't. Scott did."
Scott! I was trusting my social and romantic future to Carrie's monosyllabic husband? He only emitted sounds on days with an "r" in them. Or when he ran out of chips. Besides, Scott didn't impress me as being in touch with his "Venus" side.
"Scott is arranging my social schedule?"
"He looked at all the websites. Trust me. He gave me a really good explanation."
How? I thought. Did he use a flag signaling system?
"Really, Joans, he helped Marty's sister choose between two guys and it turned out for the best."
I bit my lip. That should count for something. Marty's sister should be happy. Last year I scared the shit out of her while riding shotgun on one of Carrie's merry misadventures. Last I heard, she still leaves all the lights in the house on at night.
So Carrie's mute husband planned my social agenda. Fine. I was fine with that. I think.
"Which one does he think I should start with?"
I waited while she turned away from the phone and mumbled something. I heard the drone of the television. Then I heard the drone of Scott. Then the drone of the television.
Carrie came back on the line. "Go with The House of Music first."
I took a deep breath.
"Look on the bright side," she said. "If it doesn't work out, at least the spin class covers one of your New Year's resolutions."
I couldn't argue with that.
Next Week: Making Friends and Influencing People - Joan Style, Part I