Dave was assigned to night float last week, which meant that we were transformed into two ships passing in the night, lucky to fit in a kiss goodbye here, a note jotted there, a few minutes of jealousy that his scrub-clad body was collapsing into our bed as I was rushing off to work in Wilmington.
I’m sure it’s harder on him than me, since he’s the one working the 12-hour shifts and inserting catheters into important veins and all, but at 11 p.m. on Thursday, when I was facing down a cockroach the size of my fist in our bedroom, wielding a sparkly sandal (weapon of choice, obviously) and no back-up plan, things seemed pretty tough for this girlfriend of the med student too.
I lost it right around the time the thing that I thought was a cockroach decided to take flight, like actually started flapping wings I didn’t know it had, thus commencing a battle like none our apartment has ever seen, complete with screams and phone calls to my mother.
Making up the futon in the other room in defeat, I was sniffly and hiccupy and just generally miserable, as anyone who’s ever lost a battle with something 1/100th of its size probably is. But the weird part was that even after I finally ousted the sucker – in a final, surprise attack! – and regained control of my previously occupied bedroom, the feelings of ickiness remained.
Who was this girl who couldn’t handle killing a stupid bug?, I thought to myself. Who gets sad and mopey when her boyfriend’s not around? Who double locks the doors and tip-toes around the apartment when she’s the sole occupant? Like, grow a pair.
But the answer, of course, is that that girl is totally me, and, in a way, always has been. I’ve always made my roommates (generally, my dad) dispose of critters that get too close for comfort. I’ve always been happier surrounded by friends than sitting alone, and I never should have been allowed to watch Scream during my baby-sitting days. In so many ways, I’m basically just a huge pussy with a great shoe collection.
And I never really had a problem with that, until I moved up to Philly to be with Dave. Suddenly, being girlie seems loaded with all of these other meanings. Night float and bugs and evenings alone make me feel sad, yes, but also vulnerable and hugely dependent on another person and like the worst feminist in the world. I have a hard time reconciling some of my natural inclinations (like, toward tulle and away from tasks that require physical exertion) with my beliefs (liberal girl power to the max!)
Can you do, and be, both? Can you desperately want a pouffy white wedding dress but still believe that the idea of asking someone’s parents for permission is antiquated and distasteful? Can you spend your weekends baking peach crumbles and daintily lathering your makeup brushes, and still critique mascara ads on TV for damaging adolescent girls’ self-images? Can you desperately support and push for women to ascend the corporate ladder, while still knowing, in your heart of hearts, that you don’t want to have to be the primary breadwinner for your family?
I really don’t know the answer to those questions. I’m still trying to navigate the intersection between all these aspects of my personality, shifting and changing and building different parts of myself to accommodate the often-clashing principles and preferences and other things I hold dear. I’m still trying to grow up, I guess, is what I’m trying to say.
And while I don’t know if I’ll ever be completely comfortable with it all, with all of my different selves, I do hope that there’s a place for me, and other torn and confused girls like me, in the political and social and emotional communities I encounter along my way. Because the bottom line is, I’m really nowhere near ready to vote Republican, or to get rid of all those high heels. So something else has just got to give.