When I was in the 9th grade, I saw the movie Love Story. By that time I was already a generation late for it, but for about a year I was slightly obsessed with the film. The lead in it was named "Jenny" and I am convinced that movie is responsible for the fact I went to high school with 20 Jennifers--all of us born in the mid-seventies by mothers who had seen that movie. (I was almost a Jennifer myself.) She wore black tights and turtlenecks with adorable tartan minis: a look you can nearly always get away with in any year.
After a big fight between the two main characters, she storms out and he spends half the day hunting the city for her. When he returns home, she is sitting on the front porch. He becomes very apologetic (as he acted like a big, fat jerk) and she interrupts him saying, "Being in love means never having to say you are sorry."
I loved this phrase and believed it. My mom (what did SHE know, anyway?) vehemently disagreed, for all that she had nearly named me Jenny. "No, being in love means always having to say you are sorry."
The thing is, I think both Jenny and my mom are right, with qualifiers. If two people are in love--and not just that infatuation/attraction love, but the kind of love that is a daily decision of working together and working it out--then they should not have to apologize to one another for who they are. For example, Plantboy knows I'm a bit (read: insanely) neurotic about certain things. But he knew how Type A I was when he married me, and he loves me anyway. On the other hand, I think when you are in a loving relationship (any type of love, really) then you need to constantly be on your guard against hurting one another's feelings and ready to apologize and make amends when you mess up. You should never have to apologize for who you are, but you should be quick to apologize for what you do.
But none of this is the reason I brought up "Love Story." The opening line of the movie, just so you know you are headed for absolute disaster, is "What can you say about a twenty-five year old girl who died? That she was beautiful and brilliant? That she loved Mozart and Bach, the Beatles, and me?"
In less than 20 words, her husband gives a succinct summation of who his wife was. I'm working on a piece as a guest blogger right now, and the blog's author asked me for a biographical blurb to put in front of it. She gave me 50 words.
This is a hard thing. Is there anyway to get to the heart of your self in so few words? Each of the following is a biographical statement in less than 50 words, and each is the absolute truth. Taken singly, each might give you a very different idea about my character.
* I loved Barbies as a child because Barbie could always be a grown up and go to college or have a career or a boyfriend or her own house. I preferred to design my own clothing for Barbie.
* I love to hike and submerge myself in nature. My parents are talking about taking their whole family to Disneyland later this year and the very thought of it makes me cringe, for all that I am keeping on a brave face for my excited kidlets.
* I once bungee jumped from a 170-foot crane with no mat underneath. Three weeks later I had the opportunity to go up in a hot air balloon and had the terrible desire to jump out of the basket when we reached the zenith, just for the rush.
* I have fallen in love three times. Once for friendship. Once for attraction. And once for good.
* As a missionary I was cursed off the doorstep by a woman who spat at my feet and told me I was headed straight to Hell. I walked away. And I cried.
* In retrospect, I realized I had severe post-partum depression with my oldest child. I was 800 miles from my mother, new to the area, and without a single close friend (yet). I thought asking for help was tantamount to admitting failure. And I felt like a failure.
* I long for a daughter, but I'm not entirely convinced I'm a great mother to the kids I've already got. I sometimes pray that my sister, who also has three sons, will get the girl.
* I lived in the same house and ward from age 3 to 18. In the last fifteen years, I have had 25 different addresses and about that many wards in 2 different countries and 4 different states. To say that my perspective has changed is putting it mildly.
* I've always had a slight distaste for people who wasted any amount of time playing video games. We got a Wii for Christmas and I have since become a Jedi Master in the Lego Star Wars gaming universe. May the force be with you.
* In high school a family friend told me not to worry about my looks, because "everyone goes nature in college." As I've gotten older, I've become more interested in clothes, hair and make-up. I think it is to assert my femininity in a house filled with male energy.
I sometimes feel like a bundle of contradictions. I keep thinking I will get to a place where I understand myself and my reactions, where I behave with some modicum of predictability. If such a place exists, I have not yet found it. But I do know this: I used to think I had to choose between strength and femininity, between being tough and being tender. I don't think that anymore. I am both, and the women I admire are both. Maybe it is enough to know this about myself.