I stumbled down the old brick sidewalk into the patio party at my friend Paige Brooks Fowler’s home with mild trepidation and a sense of unreality.
I don’t often attend cocktail parties of any kind, let alone at swank homes on the toney side of town. In my crazy leggings and plain blue dress from T J Maxx, I knew that I’d look out of place among the rhinestone sandals and coral dresses.
But around the corner came Paige, blonde and beautiful, holding a grapefruit tequila concoction and reaching to guide me over the last few steps of the yellow brick road to Oz. The next smiling face appeared behind her, one of the women of Rotary, Melissa Mann Saubers, looking summery in a white top and capris with a cup from my favorite GF restaurant, tLoft. Another friend sat beside Melissa talking about that evening’s town meeting on the Plaza/Waldo zoning.
Though I didn’t know most of the women, a handful of Waldo Brookside Rotary Club members mingled with the others, enough to encourage me to relax. When Season Burnett came around the corner in her sun hat and long flowered dress, I knew that I could finally settle down, because Season — well, Season is Season, and in her company I have always found acceptance.
I’ve tried to trace my discomfort with my own gender to its origins. I understand that I’ve never felt good enough as a woman. Cruel comments from men reinforced that from nearly the beginning, as far back as grade school. I recall being asked if my “walking problem” would keep me from being able to have sex. The guy who inquired actually seemed to believe himself to be entitled to that information. Only later did I think of a snappy retort — “I can have sex, but not with you” — at the time, I mumbled, I don’t think so, and skittered away, red-faced and mortified.
Girls treated me just as badly, twittering about make-up and bras, braces and clothes, but falling silent when I entered a classroom. I learned to duck and scoot pass, hunching my shoulders and trying to ignore the giggles and derisive glances. I spent my teen years huddled in my ugly shoes, under my long braids, behind my thick glasses, praying that I’d disappear.
But last night, at Paige’s house, even though I have nothing in common with 95% of the other guests and literally not one scrap of commonality with the hostess, I didn’t stagger away early, glad to escape. Truth told, Paige knows how to throw a party; but the biggest change comes from within me. Because I’ve been taking this #JourneyToJoy, I found myself more sure-footed on that brick walk. Another day, I might have grumbled about the lack of accessibility to Paige’s patio. But yesterday, I took the inconvenience in stride, and enjoyed myself.
Talk about wonders never ceasing!
It’s the twenty-third day of the forty-second month of My Year Without Complaining. Life — along with my #JourneyToJoy — continues.