Earlier today I posted about a 26-Minute Memoir writing exercise I recently ran across. I’ve now completed the exercise, and while it didn’t turn out as I envisioned it might, I’m going to post what I produced. Honestly, when I started off writing about being a loner (and perhaps, lonely) child, I had no idea it would head in the direction in which it did.
While not the result I’d hoped for, here’s what I wrote about my life in 26 minutes:
“Go outside and play,” my mother implores.
I walk out the front door, pouting.
I don’t like to go outside to look for people to play. I’d rather be inside reading. Or playing with the cat.
I sit outside on the curb in front of our house on a cul-de-sac. I think of a nursery rhyme, repeating over and over in my head, and then, after several repetitions, very quietly, out loud:
“Nobody likes me.
Everybody hates me.
I think I’ll go eat worms.”
As I repeat the mantra, I create patterns with a stick in the dirt and leaves that have collected beside the curb. I look across the cul-de-sac at Eddie Baker, a popular boy a year older, playing basketball in his driveway. Eddie Baker would never like me. No one would ever like me. I wonder what worms taste like.
Later, I fall in love with Bernie Lane, a boy I meet working part-time as a checker at a grocery store while I’m in college. Bernie was a tennis player who dreamed of going pro. In the meantime, he went to community college and worked as a stocker at the grocery store. Little did Bernie know, I had started a relationship with another boy we worked with at the grocery store, Joe Lindy. Joe went to college with me, real college, not community college, in a nearby town. When we went away to school, we dated. I had a boyfriend at school, and a boyfriend when I went home on the weekends. I dated two boys at the same time who worked together and were good friends.
Everybody loved me. And soon would hate me. They didn’t sell worms in the meat section of the grocery store.
At my first real job after undergraduate school, I met Jeff Houseman. Jeff was married at the time, and I was seeing someone who physically abused me, so Jeff and I were platonic. But he was handsome and nice. And oh so vulnerable. After Jeff got divorced, or rather during his divorce, Jeff and I started dating. His soon-to-be ex-wife was not happy.
“Please tell me you’re not dating Elle. Anyone but Elle.”
It didn’t occur to me at the time it wasn’t very nice of Jeff to tell me his wife had said this to him. Jeff would later dump me for another woman, whom he would marry.
Nobody likes me. Where’s that can of worms?
Ten years later, Jeff would profess his undying love for me, and we’d carry on a years-long on-again off-again affair. I grew so weary of my inability to end things, I told his wife. I knew he’d never forgive me and there’d be no chance of him ever seeing me again, even if I wanted to continue the soul-crushing relationship.
It worked. Jeff didn’t like me. His wife didn’t like me. Worms were my only friends.
I’d bounce from man to man over the next 10 years, but none of the relationships lasted. I ended most of them, having allowed myself to get involved, yet again, with the wrong man. Wrong because they were married. Or too old. Too young. Too unemployed. Too alcoholic. Too prescription-drug dependent. One of them, Bill McCann, dumped me.
“There’s just something missing. There’s no spark.”
He married the woman he dated after me.
Here I am at 50, never married, and mother to three black cats. Do I regret my choices? Some of them. Do I wish I’d married one of the men I’d dated along the way? I wish I had married the men I’d wanted those men to be along the way. I don’t regret not marrying the men they were.
I call myself an Unconfirmed Bachelorette, but as the years pass, I’m considering giving up the “Un” and making a firm commitment. How would my life be different if I changed the title of my blog to Confirmed Bachelorette? Would giving up the conventional idea of happily ever after free me up to live my unconventional life more happily? More fully? Without holding back?
I think I need to give this 26-minute thing another go. In the meantime, what do you think: should I give up the “Un”?
- Thinking About Writing (unconfirmedbachelorette.com)