The Girl in the Woman Suit

I’m 22 years old, but I’m 12. I’m 5’4″ and shop at J. Crew, but I’m 4’8″ and the only clothes that fit me are sold at Abercrombie Kids. I cry when I read that ISIS has beheaded another hostage, but I laugh at Adventure Time. Somewhere along the way I grew up, and I’m not sure how.

For the last spring break of my academic career, I went to visit my mom’s parents in St. Louis. I used to drive the two hours (but really the hour-and-a-half because I took the highways at 85) there from Mizzou on weekends when I needed a refuge. I’d spent summers at their house since I was three, and the piney, sweet smell of their walls meant I was safe and happy and there would be a dark chocolate Hershey’s Kiss waiting for me on my pillow. I used their creaky old home as a refuge; spending time there was like floating in an impenetrable bubble 10 feet off the ground. Nothing could touch me.

In a mad dash toward that feeling, I took a plane from Laguardia to Lambert and was relieved to find my grandparents waiting, open-armed and unchanged. The same fragrance filled their old house, the same bed was mine, and the same chocolate awaited me just where I knew I’d find it. Familiarity breeds content, and I’ve never been one for surprises.

I had almost five days there to hide from my commitments in New York. My mom drove up from Texas and was there to greet me too. She took me underwear shopping. Then it was my birthday, and I could have anything I wanted. We went to the restaurant that had been my favorite when I was six, and I ordered the same spaghetti and meatballs I’d ordered every visit since my first, except the recipe for the marinara sauce was different.

Then, disaster: It was going to snow in New York Friday, and my flight that afternoon was canceled. I panicked and called Southwest. Was there any other flight to Laguardia that day? No, but there was one Thursday night. Tonight. In an effort to eek more time out of my last day in St. Louis, I had already packed.

Time was ripped away from me as my mother and I sped in her sequoia–the car I’d crashed at 16 just after I got my licensee and have to heave myself into to this day because we never replaced the running boards–to the airport. The end of the end of breaks had arrived too soon.

Before you’re released into the real world, you have a concrete concept of home. It’s where your parents are, where your bed is still made in the sheets you chose, and your walls are still painted poinsettia red. It’s where your mom lives, and your books, and your aging cat, the one you picked out at age seven and named after a character in a “Boxcar Children” book. But then you’re 22 and home isn’t that anymore. It’s of your own making. It’s the place to which you return, exhausted, after work every evening. It’s where you’ve stored extra food in the freezer just in case, and where your own cat waits, meowing to be fed.

It’s not the cushy respite of your parent’s house, where you’re loved and welcomed and where you can take a break for a bit from the crushing world. It’s where you pay the bills, because this is adulthood or bust.

The Girl in the Woman Suit

8 things no one tells you about adulthood

Tidbits inspired by the post-grad life.

1. Making friends happens more than once.

It happens multiple times, in fact. And, every time you move to a new city, you have to start from scratch. Prepare for some friendless weeks, a whirlwind of socializing and a few friendship flops. If you’re lucky, you will eventually find people who share your interests and whom you can text to hang out without feeling like a nuisance. But mentally prepare for a dull period of loner looserhood.

2. There is no better feeling than clean sheets.

Seriously. None. Need a pick-me-up? Change your sheets. (Bonus points if, at the end of a long day, you snuggle into sheets that are still warm from the drier. Best feeling.)

3. Shit’s expensive.

Things cost money, and they usually cost more money than you expect. Food, clothes, entertainment, rent, insurance, medical appointments, utilities, pets, travel, phone plans… it adds up. At times you will feel penniless. At times you will be penniless.

4. Cooking nice meals is a matter of self-respect.

If you want to be kind to yourself, buy/make food that is both healthy and delicious. You’ll be in a better mood and will have more energy than if you eat lots of processed, micro-heat food. The occasional pack of Oreos doesn’t hurt, but overall stick to things with a short, natural ingredient list. And, contrary to popular belief, eating healthy is not expensive. Shop in the produce section.

5. Social media is a farce.

If you really want to stay in touch with someone, call them. Text them. Send them a letter. You don’t need a constant stream of communication to keep someone in your life — occasional contact will do, provided that contact is meaningful and concerns matters of substance.

6. You don’t actually need most of your stuff. 

Getting rid of unnecessary things is, second to clean sheets, the other best feeling in the world. If you don’t wear it, get rid of it. If you haven’t used it in years, throw it out. Or donate it. Or sell it. Purge.

7. Self-motivation is crucial.

No one will tell you what to do or when to get it done. If you never want to be a productive human again, you really don’t have to. If you do, though, it’s good to learn how to self-motivate. This can be tricky. Find out when you’re most productive, and make a list of things to do during that time period. Set deadlines for yourself. Tell other people about them so they can hold you accountable.

8. Be nice to yourself.

Things won’t always go your way, and that’s okay. You’re allowed to sulk, but not forever. If something goes wrong, give yourself some time to pout, and then get over it.

8 things no one tells you about adulthood

A staredown with adulthood

When the song came on, it caught me unawares.

My friend Celia says packing is always depressing. According to her, internal packing dialogue goes something like: “Hmm, guess I’ll get rid of my school supplies because I’m entering the Real World. Oh yes, time to take down the memory board with grinning faces of friends from college past.” From experience, she’s pretty much right.

But I needed to start. The sheer number of things I’ve accumulated during my three years here makes packing a daunting business. The song came on though, and I had to stop. It’s difficult to pack through tears.

I’m not even sure what song it was. I was sifting through a new playlist from Rob and paying no attention to warning signs such as soft acoustic guitars, minor keys and mournful lyrics. (I have since determined the most likely culprit to be “Year of the Dragon.”)

The point isn’t the song — it’s my reaction to it. There are lots of chances for existential crises while you pack your entire life into boxes.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited for the future. I have nothing but great adventures in great cities to look forward to (#blessed). I made the decision to graduate in three years and stuck to it. At times, though, I can’t help but feel short-changed.

I knew neither aforementioned Celia nor aforementioned Rob until this year. Nor did I know Rachel, ColetteVeronicaMadeline, Daisy, Madeline, Jessie, Nassim, Brad, Ciara, Steph, etc. etc. It’s a strange sensation: meeting people you instantly click with and then, just as suddenly, having to say goodbye.

There are iconic places in Columbia I’ve never been. I’ve tried to bully just about everyone in my contacts list into coming to the Pinnacles with me… and Piano and Stephens Lake Park and the Diner and the farmer’s market and and and. Suddenly I’m a tourist in my own tiny town making a last-ditch effort to cram in activities before departure.

Goodbyes are difficult, and my fondness for this place and these people caught me unawares. Just like that dumb song.

Regret caught me unawares, too, and the feeling that I wish I maybe had a few more weeks in Como. For those of us soon to be scattered cross-country, regret is as real an emotion as giddy excitement. There’s no shame in letting it wash over you.

When the song is over, though, stop crying. Keep packing. Move on.

A staredown with adulthood

The young and the pantsless

The office of the Columbia Missourian at the University of Missouri is a serious newsroom. It is full of serious reporters and serious editors who take their work seriously. Not that they shouldn’t — the Missourian is, after all, the training ground for a future generation of serious journalists.

The newsroom hums, as any good newsroom is apt to do. It buzzes, it rumbles, it thrives. No one is stationary. People weave between desks, make calls, take notes, talk in low voices to editors over black coffees. Everyone is sharp, focused, clear-eyed and limber-minded. Everyone is wearing pants.

Everyone except me.

It’s late in the afternoon, and I’ve ducked into the newsroom to borrow a roll of tape and some scissors: necessary supplies to repair a slight spiral notebook mishap. I look around, notice that I’m sorely out of place. My outfit consists, as it does every day, of a large-ish T-shirt, chacos with raspberry-colored straps, and Nike shorts (read: not pants).

I despise pants.

Pants are a symbol of power. To say someone “wears the pants” is to give him or her the upper hand. Pants lend weight and importance to the wearer. When women first donned trousers it was revolutionary; a right formerly reserved for the male race. Then, pants were a symbol of liberation. Now, they are oppressive.

I survived the Argentinian winter in leggings and tights. For the past month I’ve existed in Nike shorts, skirts, and dresses. Come fall it will be leggings and tights again, sometimes thin and sometimes opaque. The day I’m forced to button a button and zip a zipper is the day contentment dies.

Pants are not freeing. They squeeze and squish and prohibit a breeze or a tan or the occasional high kick. They limit your creativity. They turn you into a real, working journalist — the serious kind.

One day I’ll join the ranks of the pants-wearers. I will buy a pair made with as much polyester as possible (mustn’t restrict those high kicks), I’ll suck it up and I’ll act like an adult.

For now, though, my childish desires to frolic in pantsless liberation knows no bounds. I run, I dance, I lounge, I dream, all with my thighs exposed. Adulthood is on the horizon, but it hasn’t engulfed me yet.

The young and the pantsless