Mansion. Apartment. Shack. House.
While babysitting Elizabeth
– Robin, I want you to play a game with me. It’s a game we played at camp.
-What is it?
-MASH. You have to-
– I’ve been playing MASH since before you were born. Name four careers.
Elizabeth starts laughing. She can’t believe someone as old as I am has played the same game.
– Fashion designer, interior decorator, teacher and ugh a janitor.
I pause thinking about how the game perpetuates for kids what is desirable and what isn’t. At age 8, the worst thing in life is to end up as a janitor. I start to explain to her that there is nothing inherently wrong with being a janitor.
-It’s cheating to tell someone what to put down.
True. This is her fake future, not mine.
-Okay name four places.
-Greenwich, New York City, St. Louis and what’s like a really, really poor place? Somewhere I wouldn’t want to live?
-I thought it was cheating to tell you what to pick?
-What would you pick?
-Is it a poor place?
-No, just a cold one.
-Okay I’ll pick Minnesota.
-Name four boys.
-John, Chris, Rin Tin Tin and Mike.
-These are fake boys though right?
-It’s just a game!
-Okay and four numbers.
-1, 3, 537 and 4.
-Okay tell me when to stop.
I draw spirals. I stop at four and count off each fourth item from the list over and over again until I have one name in each category.
-Okay you’re going to live in a shack and you’ll be an interior designer living in St. Louis with four kids and a husband named Rin Tin Tin.
-That’s not fair!
-How isn’t it fair?
Elizabeth scribbles over the names. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could scribble over things in real life?
-I don’t want to live in a shack with a boy named Rin Tin Tin!
-At least it would be decorated nicely.
-I’m not marrying Tin Tin.
-His name is Rin Tin Tin and you haven’t even met him.
-I’m not Robin! I’m not!
The paper is destroyed.
-It’s just a game Elizabeth.
-Would you marry someone named Rin Tin Tin?
-Shoot yea! As long as he was smart, nice and cute too.
She starts to laugh.
-Robin and Rin Tin Tin. They would call us Robin Tin Tin!
-I don’t like that name.
-Well some boys don’t like the name Elizabeth.
She takes a moment to consider this and then finds her next argument.
-I don’t want four kids.
-You could have had 537. I’d be happy with four.
-But these things won’t really happen will they? Minerva told me it really would happen.
-You have a friend named Minerva?
-But you won’t marry someone named Rin Tin Tin?
-Just tell me if it’ll happen.
-It probably won’t happen.
-How do you know?
-Because when I was younger my friend told me I would live in a mansion.
I’ll Have One Chicken Sandwich And A Side Of Divorce Please
Libby: My friend’s coworkers just sent her a pizza, a cookie cake, coke and movies to her house.
Me: What happened? Is everything okay?
Libby: She and her husband are getting a divorce.
Me: How old is she?
Me: Okay. Not that the age really matters right? Or maybe it does. When people are 50, you say, “I’m sorry to hear that.” At 20 you say, “What happened?”
Libby: Yea, I know. I think he’s in love with a nurse he works with.
Me: Oh come oooon! How cliché. Ya know if I get a divorce then I would like red velvet cupcakes, a Chick- fil -A number 5 meal with sweet tea and lemonade mix and grapefruit scented candles. And stationary.
Libby: I’ll get you the other stuff, but not Chick-fil-A because I don’t support their views on marriage.
Me: That’s fair.
Libby: But I will put money in the pot if someone is collecting.
Me: Interesting ethics. I love seeing where people draw lines. Once my ethics professor asked, “If there was one lady lying on a train track and a hundred people lying on the other, would you move the train lever so it ran over the lady and not the group of people?” We said yes. Then he asked if we would kill a lady if we knew she was later going to kill a hundred people. We said no. Same outcome, but it feels different ya know? Is there a moral distinction between giving me money for a chicken sandwich versus buying the chicken sandwich yourself?
Libby: (ignoring my ethics talk) I would want matching luggage and a trip to Paris and some really nice clothes.
Me: You have really nice clothes.
Libby: This is my divorce not yours.
My boss walks in and is ready for our meeting.
Boss: What were you guys talking about?
Me: Oh nothing.
Me: We were talking about what we’d want our coworkers to get us if we were separated.
Our boss pauses briefly and looks over the agenda.
Boss: Teeth whitening. I’d ask for teeth whitening.
Appetizing Food, Not So Appetizing Conversations
While at my friend Jahaan’s birthday dinner party
[Me talking to the group] Dinner parties are among my favorite things in the whole world y’all. I said last year I’d have one once a month, but I only had two. I made tacos the first time and then after that I made…what did I make? Oh yea, I just had one. Just the taco dinner. Damn, I have to get better about my promises. Don’t worry though Jahaan, I have table topics for days.
Carmelle: Like what?
Me: Oh like tons of things. Liiiiiiiike, what did you want to be when you were little? We could all go around and say that.
Carmelle: That’s boring
Christina: Bill Cosby?
Bryant: He didn’t do it.
Carmelle: He grew up on Bill Cosby and thinks he can do no wrong.
Me: You don’t think he did it Bryant?
Bryant: Not all of that.
Me: That’s the fifth time I’ve heard someone say that.
Bryant: See I’m not the only one!
Me: And every time it makes me sick to my stomach. “All of that.” He’s guilty of raping one woman, maybe two, but past say 15 he’s innocent again because…
Jonathan: What evidence do you have Robin?
Jonathan who I’ve known since elementary gets the ‘you better not say another word’ stare.
Jonathan: [putting up his hands] Look! Just wait! I’ve been thinking a lot about this and I want to know. What proof do you have?
Me: I don’t have proof. Besides me thinking he did it, the thing that makes me mad is that people like Bryant don’t think it’s possible.
Jahaan: Robin, pick another topic.
Me: Okay so I found out the other week that I don’t believe in unconditional love and that really messed with my head.
Christina: You don’t?
Me: No, I don’t. I think love should have conditions. My friend and I were talking about this.
Christina: I believe in it.
Me: Did you love your ex-boyfriend?
Me: Do you still?
Me: How do you even know what love is then?
Christina: How can you tell somebody what love is?
Me: I’m not telling you, I’m asking you. If you thought you loved him unconditionally, but now don’t. What’s stopping you from doing that again? What if we fall in and out of love with romantic partners? What if we don’t need to be with one person?
I lost some of the guys on Cosby, but now Jonathan is my ally again. Sparks fly at the table as we differentiate between familial love and romantic love, monogamy and promises. I glance over at Jahaan who is mouthing the word lighter. I realize at best I’m ruining a dinner party with my table topics and at worst I’m losing a friend.
Me: What’s everyone having for dessert? Crème brulee or chocolate souffle?
Thank you Jahaan for a most wonderful time. Please invite me back.