Packed up my still-crumpled silk dresses from Oxford costume parties, fur mittens bought after crying from the English winter biting my skin for the first time, Nike running leggings bought for my first half-marathon with my coursemate from Women’s Studies, and Yves Saint Laurent pants bought in a vintage shop in Paris when the label made the announcement that it was going to drop Yves from its name. My room is empty and I now know why I hate moving so much. It’s not the packing that bothers me — I like looking at neatly folded clothes in my suitcase. I like looking at rows of colorful fabric. I hate, however, the bareness of a room that contained so many of my emotions and memories for the past year.
This summer, I told a friend that I’m unattached to people and things because I have moved around quite a bit in my life, but now I’m pretty sure that I’ve been lying to myself. I get very attached to places and people, and I don’t realize it until I’ve said goodbye to everyone (or, in more than one instance, stared numbly at the ground and refused to make eye contact with the individual hugging me goodbye — why did we have to say goodbye?) and I’ve cleaned my room and my suitcases are packed. And now my room smells like bleach and disinfectant, and now I look like sweat and tears.
I hate takeoff on airplanes because I always feel like I’ve left a part of me behind on the ground.
See you soon, New York.
There are so many bears in Slovenia that the small Balkan nation exports them to countries like France, where the bear population has been dangerously dwindling. The motorways in Slovenia remind me of the freeways in California, wide and surrounded on all sides by proud mountains and ancient trees. The guidebook I browsed at breakfast described the Slovene people as “miraculously able to combine a Germanic work ethic with a Mediterranean joie de vivre.” One morning, my friend’s mother served us chocolate buckwheat cake, called Ljubljana cake, for breakfast. Officially, I only had one slice, but I skimmed a couple of forkfuls from the extra slices in the middle of the table.
My most vivid memory of my trip to Slovenia, unfortunately, was of being approached by a man while my three friends and I were walking down the street in Llubljana, the capital, minding our own business.
"Do you speak Slovene? Do you speak English?"
We ignored him and averted our gaze. We also, I might add, stopped talking.
"Well, fuck you, bitches! Do you understand that?" His body language became aggressive and I held my breath, walking faster down the street. But yes, we understood those words all too well.
Those are words that men throw at you when you didn’t do anything at all. Those are words that men throw at you when you just want to be left alone.
"She had stayed a virgin so she wouldn’t be called a tramp or a slut; had married so she wouldn’t be called an old maid; faked orgasms so she wouldn’t be called frigid; had children so she wouldn’t be called barren; had not been a feminist because she didn’t want to be called queer and a man hater; never nagged or raised her voice so she wouldn’t be called a bitch … She had done all that and yet, still, this stranger had dragged her into the gutter with the names that men call women when they are angry." — Fannie Flagg, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
"And when she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of Hollister, Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, For I will not have that Shit. I will not have it." — Tina Fey, Bossypants, The Mother’s Prayer for Its Daughter
I have some highfalutin Gwyneth Paltrow-inspired ideas of how I’m going to raise my nonexistent, hypothetical children who will probably be named after my favorite fruits and the most obscure names I can find in the Bible (Clementine, Peaches, Zebedee, and Amaziah — go back to your rooms!).
I earnestly write all of this down, and I suddenly realize that in reality, should Clementine and Amaziah actually exist someday, they will probably ask me for McDonald’s Happy Meals and I will acquiesce because I may be too tired and stressed for reasons that do not pertain to them and their momentary satisfaction may be enough. They will probably find me really embarrassing and complain about me to their friends, even when I’m convinced that I have their best interests at heart. No matter how many books I buy them, they will only discover heartbreak and disappointment and love and gratitude on their own, and they might not even tell me when they do. Like me, they will eventually discover that their parents do not have all the answers, and like my parents, I will eventually realize that the songbird fledglings will fly out of the nest with weak wings and a leap of faith.
And actually, I won’t change the endings to fairytales, because I grew up on Sleeping Beauty and Snow White and I still grew into a loud and proud feminist. Sometimes, you can’t change the happily ever after — but you can ensure that it happens.