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Chapter 1: Be. You.

November 27, 2012

Chapter 1

November 25, 2012

Be. You.

Be. Me.

My best friend Liz, also known as Pickle was the subject recently of a feature article in the local paper. The article is called “Be. You.” You know the kind of thing. A writer interviews a local citizen, asks broad, cliché questions, takes a snapshot and prints the interview in question and answer format. I used to do something similar for a weekly paper on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I interviewed local artists. I enjoyed writing those articles. I liked getting people to talk to about themselves which is pretty easy. The results were often surprising. I liked telling their stories, especially after Hurricane Katrina. Featured Artist became a series of survivor stories. What once was mildly interesting bios became compelling stories of loss, pain, recovery, growth and rebirth.

I was a bit surprised when I saw Liz working on the answers for her article at a coffee shop. I never allowed my subjects to take time to contemplate and compose their answers. I recorded the interviews and transcribed the answers almost verbatim. I tried not to print anything that made people look stupid or foolish unless they were being douchebags then I’d let their words speak for themselves.

So, I needed to have an opening chapter that sort of set the stage and told who I am and where I am and I thought…..why not do it like a Be. You. interview. Opening paragraphs, stupid questions and all. So here goes. I didn’t answer the questions the way I would for an actual newspaper publication. These are the answers I would write for myself or my blog or, you know for my pretend book that I’m going to publish and get rich from. These are the actual questions from Liz’s interview.

Marie is a 43-year old, 5’ 3”, 140lb, single woman of Cajun-French descent. She can be fun and energetic but has also been described as a smart-ass bitch. She’s a bit of an acquired taste like strong coffee or a fine, red wine. She doesn’t always make a good first impression and even some of her biggest fans will tell you it took them a while to warm up to her. She is outspoken and opinionated but can be cold, detached and surprisingly shy.

She’s newly single and finding out what that means. She’s a photographer, a graphic designer and a writer. She paints. She’s the mother of two children, Lauren, 25 and Christopher, 20 and the grandmother of a four-year-old, Chuck.

She was born in Mansura, Louisiana. She lived in Lafayette for 13 years, moved to Ocean Springs, Mississippi for 11 years and just moved back to Lafayette in July 2011.

That’s the saddest opening paragraph ever. Sigh.

What was your first job?

In 1988 I got a job at Taco Bell on Johnston Street near campus. I was 18. I worked there for 3 days before a division of Benetton called Sicily’s offered me a job in the mall. I remember slicing tomatoes in the automatic slicer machine and the polyester uniforms. When the manager interviewed me he said I was overqualified. I’m not sure why a high school graduate with no work experience would be overqualified for a job at a fast food restaurant. Maybe my grades were too high. When I told the manager I was quitting to work in the mall he said, “What about your commitment to Taco Bell?”

By the next day I was in the mall in a swanky store with cool kids my age. The tiny store was just outside the atrium cafe, where two adorable brothers worked every day. I spent all day folding sweaters the Benetton way and staring at them across the way. I used to walk all the way around the cafe just to look at them closer. If I recall, one in particular had my special attention. Kyle, I think his name was.

Describe a typical day in your life.

I snooze my alarm until the last possible minute, not wanting to leave the dream that has transported me to another world. I reluctantly get up and attach my little speaker to my iphone and turn on National Public Radio via KRVS. I listen to the news as I shower, find something to wear and go through the ritual drying of the hair.

I ride my bike three blocks to the museum, where I work, sometimes stopping for coffee at Carpe Diem on the way. I’ve discovered that if I get a double espresso, I can put the tiny cup in my bike basket or bag and add coffee and milk to it at work. It beats the piss water my coworkers call coffee. There are two reasons to drink coffee. Flavor and caffeine. When you make it weak, you defeat both purposes.

I check my e-mail and facebook and try to wake up. If my crazy co-worker is in we usually exchange stories of the previous day or weekend. When I started working there, these updates usually involved dilemmas with my husband. Then it was tales of The Four or escapades of the Splat Pack.

I work on whatever my boss needs and try to make head way on the research I’m doing. I go home for a lunch of ramen noodles or get a subway then work until 4pm, 5pm if I’m being really good.

Then comes my favorite part of every day. My walk in the park. I rush home, change and ride my bike to the park. I’m up to 4 laps around the track now. That’s 5 miles a day. This daily ritual has become a need of mine. It is so different from the way I used to be. I’ve lost 20 pounds in about 6-8 months. It’s the first time in my life I’ve experienced all the things I ever heard people say exercise can do for you. I feel better. I have more energy. I eat less and the endorphins. I’m addicted to the endorphins. Sometimes I go out there feeling sad, depressed, angry, disappointed or confused and by the end I feel better. I’ve cried, laughed, danced, had panic attacks, flirted and just enjoyed music at Girard Park.

After that I eat, shower, watch some Netflix or Hulu, write or sometimes go to a coffee shop and work and people watch. Often I go for a glass of wine at Pamplona’s. Then if it’s a normal day, I happily give my consciousness over to my dreams and return to the worlds beyond this one.

I forgot an important part. Every day is interspersed with random phone calls, texts, visits or meals with Liz. More about her later.

What advice would you give your younger self?

That’s a hard one. Don’t get pregnant. Don’t have sex with what’s his name. He’s an asshole! But it’s OK to have sex once you’re 17 or 18. Just find somebody nice. Maybe wait until college. Finish college. Major in history. Trust me on this one. Get your master’s in history. You can take some art electives. Knock yourself out. Take all the painting electives you want. While you’re in Fletcher Hall, go find Liz. Make friends with her now. She needs you and you need her. Travel. Study abroad. Take risks. Appreciate your family. Things are going to change. Put yourself first. Create a future. Don’t wait for it to come find you. Don’t be reactive to life. Exercise! Tone up that young body. Do something with that hair! Don’t wear baggy clothes.

Here’s a big secret you haven’t figured out yet: You don’t have to let others influence whether you are happy or not. You’re in charge of that. Chose joy. Sometimes it really is that simple. Surround yourself with others who also chose joy. Let the dead weight go. Deflect the critics, the blame, the depression, the negativity and the doubt. SWERVE. DUCK. DODGE WEAVE. Remember who you are. Know what you deserve and don’t accept less. Follow your instinct. There’s going to come a moment when you’re going to know that you should leave him. Do it. You’re going to do it eventually anyway.

What event in your life most shaped who you are?

My first thought was to write, ‘having my daughter’ but that’s not true. Becoming a mother at 18 certainly did change my life. I was a teenager then I was a mother. But it was the relationship that produced that child that shaped the decades that followed and probably who I am though I wish it hadn’t. It scarred me. It became the base line relationship with a man on which the ones that followed were compared to. It confused me. It was not good.

I would have become a mother no matter what. I know that. I could’ve done without the two years with him.

What values do you live by?

This is one of the questions I think is lame. I hate questions like this. You know people are either going to spew some religious bullshit or paint an altruistic picture. It’s a difficult question to answer honestly and it’s unlikely to reveal anything about the person answering it but here goes anyway. I guess I just try to do my best to be the best person I can be every day, though I fail at it every day. I believe that when you fail you should get up and try again and learn. I believe that the most important things in life are people, love, laughter and enjoying being alive as much as possible. See, that sounded stupid.

What do you most appreciate?

Integrity. A sense of humor. A nice smile. Beautiful weather. A good kiss. Large crawfish.

What is your favorite journey?

Another stupid question. I’m not sure what this means or how the interviewer wanted it answered. The walk around Girard Park, which I already mentioned. The walk from the door of Pamplona’s to the bar, especially when I’m meeting someone or see someone I know. The ride to an airport before a trip. Taking the back roads to Mansura with good music.

What is your favorite place to be alone?

The park or a movie theater. It used to be the huge bathtub I had at my house in Ocean Springs. But now I have a crappy tub. I don’t spend a lot of time soaking in that tub.

What was the best advice you were given?

One of the last things my mom said to me was that she hoped she had taught us to live with courage. I try to remember that. I recently listened to a Ted Talk lecture that espoused the value of being vulnerable and its connection to being happy. So I guess, be vulnerable and be courageous.

What book would you tell everyone to read?

Pride & Prejudice. A Fine Balance. Actually, this is coming from an atheist but really, The Bible. Everyone should know their Bible, especially in these days of blurring dogma and public policy. You’d be surprised what it actually says in there! Oh, and The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels. Blew my mind!

What is the best thing about where you live?

Live music. An appreciation of our unique culture. The diversity and open-mindedness that comes from a university town. Oak trees.

How do you let the good times roll?

Wine. Friends. Laughing. Dancing. Flirting. More dancing. More wine. More laughing. Kissing would be nice. Then Taco Bell and sleep.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

An artist.

How would you like to be remembered?

Another lame question. If I ran away to Europe tomorrow I’d like people to say, “Hey, remember that chic Marie? What happened to her? She was a trip. She was funny. Yeah, I liked her. Oh well.” I know how my kids will remember me. I don’t need to worry about that. As far as history remembering me. I don’t give a shit.

What do you say to yourself when you doubt yourself?

Stop your whining. There are lots of people way worse off than you. Get it together. Try again.

What three things are vital to you?

People. Music. Sunlight.

What words or phrases do you most often use?

Shut it down. Son of a Bitch.

What is your favorite word?

plethora

What food could you live on for a month?

Boiled crawfish.

What would you change about yourself?

What a horrible question. There are a million things I would change about myself. Let’s start with the vain, physical things. I’d straighten my teeth and give myself a little face lift. I would add a few inches of height and make my boobs a nice, full B-cup. I’d fix my bad knees and neck. And fuller hair with a bit of curl to it, please.

Now I’ll attack my character. I’d give myself more drive, ambition, energy and discipline without losing my sense of humor and love of fun. I’d like to be less clumsy and goofy and lose things less. I might want to be less shy, definitely less awkward and less defensive.

What literary, movie or cartoon character do you most identify with?

This doesn’t fit the above choices but Liz Lemon on 30 Rock.

Describe yourself in five words.

Mother. Artist. Weird. Goofy. Unfinished.

What is your idea of happiness.

Reaching my potential as a human being and finding balance.

What is your favorite movie?

A Room With a View. Pride & Prejudice. The Paper. Oceans 11 & 12.

What do you most regret?

Forgetting myself and allowing others to manipulate me when I knew better.

What question did you wish I had asked?

What is your favorite color?

What would the answer be?

Sometimes it’s blue and sometimes it’s purple. I kinda like green too. You know what?  I don’t fucking know. A splash of red is always a good thing. And then there’s pink. Sometimes you just need some pink and black is my favorite color of clothing and shoes.

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