I'm the kind of person who


Yesterday, via various miracles of modern technology and brave union brethren having fought for what's theirs, The BF done got a bum knee fixed up good as new (we hope) in less than seven hours, including schlep time to and fro.

While we were allowed a bit of canoodling time pre- and post-procedure (of a chaste nature, them curtains is flimsy), primarily we were on our own, him, blasted out of his skull on the good meds; me, making do with provisions from the local Starbucks acquired on foot.

Having been through many, many outpatient procedures of a colonoscopic nature thanks to my frayed internal jump rope, we brought things with which to entertain ourselves during our waking hours: he, a sole issue of Harper's; I, Quentin Crisp's autobiography, a self-help book, my current fatty spiral notebook (one should always have something sensational, etc.) and an iPhone. (Because really, if checking your email, Twitter and Facebook streams every five minutes isn't entertaining, what is?)

We brought them because we knew there would be down time. We brought them because we knew we would not have each other to talk to for seven hours. We brought them because we are the kind of people who bring stuff to read when we're going anywhere: the airplane, the surgical center, the toilet. God forbid we have a spare moment available and nothing good to fill it with.

As it turned out, I spent very little time with Quentin or Martha and a whole lot of time with Dolores. Dolores was there to accompany her friend of 35+ years who was finally having the cataract surgery Dolores had been begging her to have for ages now. She herself is very fit, save some miscellanea that comes with aging. (And she has had some of her miscellanea examined by the same guy who examines mine, Dr. Graham Woolf!) Dolores is 73 years old, lives about 10 miles due south of me and sings in several choirs (including a thing called a "bereavement choir," which she turned to on the recommendation of a fellow parishioner when she was "mad at God" for taking three of her five sisters from her in the space of 18 months).

Furthermore, Dolores grew up near Jacksonville, FL. She graduated from the last all-black high school in the state of Florida, a high school which had an over 90% rate of sending students on to college, where she was headed toward the end of this week for her 55th high school reunion. Husband #3 (she divorced #1 and buried #2) is not coming with her, as he's infirm, but Dolores seems not to mind much; in fact, Dolores seems like the kind of person who makes friends wherever she goes.

Dolores does, not me. I'm the kind of person who brings a stack of reading material because I'm the kind of person who is painfully shy around strangers, hopelessly introverted and most definitely does not make friends wherever she goes.

Only, it seems, I am not.

Somewhere along the line, I started talking to people. I started smiling, I guess, and asking questions. Offering chairs, runs to the Starbucks for muffins, information about my own I'm-the-kind-of-person-who self. I'm not entirely sure why except that somewhere, somehow, I started getting interested in people's stories, and people's energy, and seeing which kind of stories matched up with which kind of energy. Maybe it was a result of all those acting classes and shows and script writing, where one is forced to plumb the depths of one's soul to find where it overlaps with someone else's. Maybe it's latent Journalist's Disease kicking in, I am, after all, the granddaughter of a newspaperman.

I probably won't have a grasp of the wherefore for a long time. Hardly matters. Because what I finally realized yesterday is that I'm not the kind of person who I used to be, and moreover that it would probably behoove me to stop thinking of myself as "the kind of person who" anything. In my teens and 20s and even my 30s, it felt awesome to stick stakes in the ground, to say "I am for this" and "I like that" and carve out my identity. And it felt equally awkward to have that Person I Was change, to feel vaguely embarrassed about my earlier, over-the-top love of Aubrey Beardsley or Bachman Turner Overdrive or circus peanuts. I was the kind of person who likes circus peanuts? What the hell kind of loser was that?

We set so many unnecessary traps for ourselves, I think. And yes, I think other traps may be necessary, the shame in acting badly trap, or the guilt for not taking care of ourselves trap. At least until those habits are flipped over to their sweet side, those traps serve some kind of purpose. Pegging ourselves as this or that is perhaps understandable in our preteen and teen years, perhaps into our twenties. It's more of a trying-things-on activity then. But I've seen so many people stiffen into some grotesque version of something they should have tried on and discarded years ago, I'm not so much for the I'm the Kind of Person Who game any more. I still have ideas and preferences and loyalties, of course, but I'm far more interested in the Strong Opinions, Loosely Held game nowadays.

It is scarier to be fluid, for sure.

But it is far, far more fun in the waiting rooms of the world...


Image by hoyasmeg via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.