Sunday, October 3, 2010

#1 in a Long List of Do-overs

About twenty years ago, I worked on a staff of thirteen people. Every Christmas, a guy in our department hosted an extravagant holiday party at his house. An extravagant, exclusive holiday party. Most of the people he invited were friends of his who weren't on our staff. A few times, one or another of my glamourous contemporaries made the cut, but I never did.

Here's how the annual gala became a bee in my bonnet.

This man would begin bragging insufferably about the festivities weeks beforehand. He'd describe in painstaking detail to anyone within earshot about who was invited, what catering company he'd chosen, which hors d'oeuvres would be served, how much champagne he was buying, and the name, as well as a detailed physical description, of the handsome bartender he'd selected.

And he did it as though it were perfectly acceptable to tell those of us who weren't invited what a great time we'd be missing.

A week or so after the party, he'd gather us together so that he could dramatically unveil the party pics. And there they all were, everyone who wasn't us, all glammed up in their black-tie finery and fancy holiday dresses, toasting, laughing and smiling the smile of the chosen. It was all so "Gatsby."

The weirdest part, in retrospect, was not his boorish behavior, but that the rest of us "uninvitees" acted as though his boorish behavior were acceptable.

Now that I'm older, what I wouldn't give for a do-over. I'd go back in time, armed with my newfound feistiness, and the first time it dawned on me that he was bragging about a party I wasn't invited to, here's how it would play out:

Him: . . . and my holiday party is going to be December blah, blah, blah, and it's going to be more amazing than ever this year because blah, blah, blah, beluga caviar, blah, blah, blah, crudités, blah, blah, blah, Dom Pérignon and blah blah just-kill-me-now blah.

Me, putting out a Max menthol in my crown-shaped ashtray, because you could smoke at your desk back then: So when did you become such an ass?

(He'd look at me speechless, his expression even more surprised than his eye-lift had already rendered him.)

Me: What I mean is, at some point, you must have been a nice guy. If you'd always been this insensitive, you wouldn't have enough friends to have a party, so what happened?

I don't know what would have happened next because it doesn't matter. All that matters is that I would have stood up for myself, and said the right thing and the right time.

Anyway, I've been thinking lately about the past--about things I should have said that I didn't (and vice-versa), relationships that I've hung onto that I should have let go of, people I thought were one way who turned out to be another, and expectations I've held with a death-grip that I'm reluctantly and finally setting free.

So, that's what I'm going to write about for awhile. I'm a little smarter now that I'm in the third quarter of my life. I'm much more realistic. And I'm working on becoming braver. It reminds me of when Piglet said to Winnie-the-Pooh "It's hard to be brave when you're a Very Small animal."

While I am by no means small in stature, I'm still quite small at the brave thing. Someday I hope to summon bravery in the moment, but I've got to start somewhere. For now, rewriting the past seems like good practice. Neurotic? Of course! Satisfying? Absolutely. Really, you should try it for yourself. It's pretty fun.


  1. Oh I would love to give you a Big Fat Hug!

    Here's what I think about your story. You're not rewriting your past at all. You're imagining a new future, built on banishing the bees from your bonnet by envisioning a bunch more options for yourself than you felt like you had in the past.

    So go on, girl! I can't wait to see what else you do with the "third quarter" of your life. If you get any more brilliant, we're all gonna need to wear sunglasses.


  2. P.S. I love your new blog title.

  3. Love this blog concept! WishI'd thought of it -- damndamndamn

  4. Love this! I look forward to more!

  5. joy, i wish it hadn't taken 20 some years for us to get back in touch. you're an inspiration, and i'm not blowing smoke. also, i owe the first half of my title to my friend toon. he has his a fantastic blog you should look at. and toon, you should read joy. she's also fantastic. thanks, snakey. if only i could figure out how to put Alanis Morrisette's Univited video at the end, and how i can transfer my old posts to this new blog, and other boring stuff, i'd be home free. thanks you guys.

  6. Sing it, sister. Love the do-over concept, too.
    I enjoy calling someone an ass, because it has kind of a Hollywood-in-the-40s ring to it. Keep 'em coming, please. This is great.

  7. Hey, you got the video up! Now you can celebrate your new level of geekhood. I love this post even more with the music. And I love you BIG!

  8. LOVE this!! You're my favorite.

  9. i like your story about do-overs...that guy was a buffoon!

  10. Thanks! I wonder if I know the mystery ass? I'll be wondering all day...but that's half the fun of it. (I never can figure out how to make my identity pop up here, so I'll be anonymous Alarie. LOL)

  11. Love your writing Renee. It's so refreshing. You are my hero.
    Ann Ottewill

  12. Utterly and completely brilliant! I am in awe. Love it.

  13. you all are so nice to take the time to read. thank you. ann, how can i be your hero, when i haven't done anything? all i do is think, and write down what i'm thinking. oh, and then edit for 7 days. but that's not heroic.

    lilmommahund, next time, your burger is on me!

  14. I love the stand-up-for-herself Renee of today!!!!