Though a little outdated, I stumbled upon an audio-recording I'd made of this piece today, and, nearly three years later, still find it poignant.
I used to believe I wasn’t naïve.
But falling in love with a 28 year old Republican has somehow proven me wrong.
My father tells me I think the world is kinder than it really is, and that sometimes I need to respect its danger.
My independence tells me that I shouldn’t be afraid of walking down the street my whole life. If something bad is going to happen to me, it won’t happen under my pretense.
But my independence has begun to fail; I used to spend Sunday afternoons on a whimsical jaunt through campus or along the river road, finding whatever I might find in old buildings and in river-muck. No one to keep time, I’d drop schedules and deadlines aside for a while and turn to my shuttered craft of focal length and light. But those other kinds of Sundays were years ago, and Sundays now mean the couch. We sit curled, vegged, and wedged. Between his chest and the furniture's brown, leather skin I pass time without a thought.
The light this morning is shut out by a gray filter; clouds and dotted precipitation slow traffic as I dive through a hole in it toward the Hennepin and Uptown. I don’t usually turn here from 394, but the hunt for breakfast and wi-fi has my stomach pulled in several directions. After a meandering drive through the morning’s dimness, I park both my Corolla and myself at the Longfellow Grill. An americano and a breakfast of oatmeal pancakes and fruit wait while I write here in a pensive calm as rain patters outside the window. As the earth cleanses itself, I’ve found my own moment to breathe.
The question was posed to me yesterday: “Have you found that you’re missing the weekend?” Though missing the weekend doesn’t mean I was so drunk I don’t remember it, I’ve begun to book myself with events that would normally take place during the week. I schedule them in and around my work schedule because the week brings my thesis and midterms and essays, and I feel like my blue papermate pen will never leave my hand.
It follows me to work where I take orders in its script; it’s responsible for filling my calendar; it writes assignments and my to-do lists that rival the length of a library catalog. Yet I cannot seem to separate myself from it. It is my favorite thing, this blue pen. Sometimes, when I write with it, all slows for my thoughts to collect, but usually its ballpoint can’t scribble fast enough. I have a box of 64—which reminds me—I started to write this because I fell in love with a 28-year-old who thinks I’m naïve.
After dating a week, he had wrapped that box of pens in brown paper. “Happy Knowing for a week,” he said, handing me the smallish box as I sat across from him on the couch. As I tore the sturdy wrapping, I realized he’d paid attention and noticed my favorite and only kind of pen and I had sort of melted right there. Well, I would have melted save for the fact that his apartment—a drafty, converted stable house with its original 1911 windows—was particularly cold that November evening. Playing dumb and pretending he hadn’t intentionally turned down the heat, we made a fire in its space and spent the evening as close to its flame as we could get without burning ourselves. The pens watched us from the coffee table.
It was yesterday afternoon we’d fought. Not in a screaming and yelling sense, but a frustrated confusion. He called me naïve for buying a solo ticket to Atlanta that landed at 10:00 PM. I didn’t understand the problem. “You don’t wear a bullet proof vest you know,” he said and furiously ended the call.
With wet eyes and my defenses alert, I demanded a second opinion on the matter.
And after no one else picked up, I called my father—a 54-year-old Republican—to find that he sort of agreed.
He was laughing when he answered, knowing the question’s premise before I could even pose it to him. “You know you’re not supposed to call your father when these things happen,” he chuckled. I defiantly asked him not to get too excited, reporting that he was the only one in the moment who’d answered the phone.
But the truth is I call my father for advice a lot. As the old saying goes, your parents become your friends as you age, and so far I’m fitting the bill like every other twenty-something on the planet. Allowing the other man in my life to do so, my father doesn’t take me on dates to dinner and the theater like he used to when I was in my teens, and our relationships has taken on another kind of form. He’s removed much of the say-so and control he once had… allowing me to figure out my own agenda, and call on him when I need a little support in my endeavors.
Nevertheless, he will always be the person I seek for gentle reassurance, and all the right words when I’m upset or discouraged or in a general disarray with my life’s plan. He speaks softly when he explains matters to me—the words come almost under his breath, as if he’s reserved them only for my ears. But as his own ears age, I’ve found that my own volume requires increase. It's nice, though, to have the option to speak up, to own up, and to explore my own words as they exists in the lives of those who surround me. And so I turn the volume up when ears become deaf or I must match the volume presented to me. But when it comes to my father, I tend to turn my own volume to a bare minimum—catching the bumbles and mutters of his speech. He is not an old man, but as he ages, I realize just how carefully and intently I must place myself within his life and his advice.
But as the volume of my naivety has become lowered, it has not disappeared.
I used to think I wasn’t naïve at all.
But I also used to think I knew everything at 13.
Once I hit 16, of course, then I knew better.
And then, there was 18 and college.
And at 22? I used to think I’d be past all that.
March 8, 2009