Everyone chuckles at the bar mitzvah boy’s announcement. Not just because he’s so short that he has to stand on tip-toes to see out of his hat. But because we all know that, bar mitzvah or not, there’s no big black line that you step across to become a mature adult. It happens gradually, and not always at a regular pace.
That was what I was thinking about while reading some of the comments to last Monday’s post (“Are People Pitying Me?“). Far be it from me to say that people who get married at 19 are miserable and stuck in foreclosed identities (though I know there are some). The post was about me, and how I believe the extra time has made me more than ever ready for marriage. However, I know there are many women who didn’t need that extra time, and I don’t begrudge them their marriages.
Some of us are just late bloomers.
I’ve always known I was slow.
In 5th grade we learned about Helen Keller and our teacher asked us to write a composition about what we’d do if we had three days left to see. I didn’t have to think too hard about that one. I was in 5th grade, and had hardly seen a world that I’d read about extensively. I picked some of the sights I thought I shouldn’t die without seeing and wrote a little itinerary for my three days (allowing that my parents would have to escort me).
The teacher asked who wanted to read theirs aloud, and of course the class goody-two-shoes (G2S) raised her hand. Then she recited an essay all about how she would spend the three days memorizing the facial features of her family. As she read, a smattering of students around the classroom surreptitiously picked their pens back up and oh-so-nonchalantly added another paragraph to their paper.
I was among them.
It would be fair to say that I resented her and her dumb composition (and who needs three days to remember what their parents look like anyway?). She had the right answer – always had the right answer. A right answer that showed me up – not for having the wrong answer, but for lacking… lacking something, some instinct that led her to the right answer. What exactly, I couldn’t say. But it wasn’t something you could learn from a book, or look up in an encyclopedia, or even understand by being told about it. Either you got it or you didn’t. And I didn’t. And that bothered me.
My best friend (BF), on the other hand, didn’t understand why I was so bothered. She’d written about going skiing and hadn’t felt the slightest compulsion to amend her story.
G2S was about a decade ahead of me in emotional development. I should mention that she was in the first wave of engagements and marriages. BF also got married, but a few years later. I wonder when she finally understood G2S’s composition, and if it had been sudden or gradual, early or late, if she’d even noticed at all. I wonder about all the other surreptitious paragraph-adders in the class.
But most of all, I wonder about what else there is that I might be missing. And when I’ll finally learn what they are.