Monday, February 16, 2009

One of Those Girls

This has been a crazy week. I graded, graded, graded. I ran, ran, ran. I tried to tie up all sorts of loose ends before the Boy From Work arrived in Maine on Friday with a suitcase full of sponge candy (orange, milk, and dark) and a new haircut--two things of many he would roll out over the weekend in order to make a strong case for us getting back together.

A lot of those things were sweet and serious--a book of short stories he'd written about me, for example--but some of them were of the more frivolous variety. The sponge candy (delicious). The new haircut (adorable). The trip to see the Portland Pirates (awesome).

While we were at the arena, I busied myself with my usual Jess at Hockey Game Fare: discussing how much I love watching men play sport on ice, discussing how I could listen to the song "I Want to Drive the Zamboni" every day for the rest of my life and be happy about it, dissecting my love for Ryan Miller, recounting the days in grad school when each Maverick home game was preceded by cheerleaders doing lifts on skates, and screaming things like Eeep! and Ack! and Jesus! and I will kill you if you don't score!

And even though I was pretty busy with all of that, I still managed to squeak in some time to be charmed by the girls sitting behind us.

The row directly behind us was filled with seven eleven year-old girls who were extremely excited to be at the Friday night hockey game. They were also extremely excited that they knew one of the boys who worked the ice--you know, cleaning up after Chuck-a-Puck, shoveling ice shavings off the lane by the boards, making sure the goalies had their water bottles safely stowed in the nets.

Every time that boy would make an appearance, the girls behind us would stand up and sing out, "Oooooooh, Robbie! Oh Robbie-Robbie-Robbie! Ooooooooooooh, Robbie! Hiiiiii, Robbie!"

And that boy on the ice--Robbie--would blush and shake his head and look at his toes. It was all very charming and sweet, and I felt like I wanted to turn around and tell those girls they were just about the cutest thing in the world.

This feeling only intensified in the second period, when those girls started talking about the boys they were in love with.

"Did you, like, see him the other day?" one would say.

"Oh my God!" another would squeal. "He's sooo cute!"

They were eleven year-olds with high pony-tails and sherbert-colored hoodies. They had hot pink nails and scrubby tennis shoes. They were sugary, jittery, giggly whirs that buzzed up and down the stairs to get snacks, to get Robbie, to get the camera man's attention. What they wanted more than anything was to get on the Jumbo-Tron, where they would dance and squeal and hug each other.

I understood them. I understood them a lot.

Sadly, though, the woman sitting next to me--the woman sipping light beer, leaning against her husband--did not.

In fact, at the end of the second period, this woman--who had, at the end of the first, turned to me and said, "Those girls need to have their mouths sewn shut!" before informing me that she didn't have kids and was never in a million years going to have any--whirled around, raised her voice, and started yelling.

"Listen!" she said, sounding like any number of the evil math teachers I've had over the years. "I paid money to come and watch this hockey game! I did NOT pay money to come here and listen to YOUR CONVERSATION! You girls need to be QUIET!"

Oh my God, I thought I was going to die. I nearly crawled into the Boy From Work's lap to get as far away as possible from that woman. I wanted those girls to be certain that I wasn't with her and that I didn't share her views. I'd paid my money to see the hockey game, sure, and I was sort of in love with the weird background conversation that was playing as a soundtrack to the sport playing out below. It was making me nostalgic. It was making me think back to the days I roamed Holland Speedway with Tammy, giggling and sipping Pepsis we'd gotten from the cute boy down at the beverage stand. We sat behind numerous families who'd paid their money to watch drunk farmers derby their cars around an asphalt oval, and they were getting us--and all of our, Oh my Gods! and He's so cutes! and Do you think he'll let me drive his race car when we get marrieds? No one said a single word to us. We were allowed to scale the tall steps of those bleachers and gallop back down whenever we pleased and with as much fanfare as we found necessary.

People didn't need to turn around and yell at girls like us. We weren't like the tough girls my mother turned around and yelled at when I was a little girl attending one of my first races. It was the late eighties, and those girls looked like something out of a Whitesnake video. They had tall hair and red lips and stacks of bracelets climbing their wrists. They were wearing tight acid-wash jeans and matching denim jackets. They were beautiful in the way that was just right for that moment in time, and they knew it. They were showing off. They were tough and they were pretty, and they were talking about their racer boyfriends and how those boys were going to kick the fucking shit out of that motherfucker and that asshole and that dickhead.

My mother couldn't take very much of that before she turned around and told those girls that there was a little girl sitting right next to her and they needed to watch their language because that wasn't the stuff a little girl needed to be hearing.

I was horrified. I felt uncool. Babyish. I couldn't believe my mother would do such a thing. And when one of the girls--embarrassed and horrified herself--leaned down to pat me on the shoulder and say, "Hey. Hey. I'm so sorry," I could have dissolved into a hot little pile of ash.

Those were the girls you yelled at--foul-mouthed filthy girls--but even they knew when they'd done something wrong and could apologize for it. But the girls behind me at the hockey rink? They probably had never been yelled at before. They were probably good girls who volunteered to work in the library and held elaborate fashion shows at sleepovers. They probably cut their crushes' pictures out of the yearbook at the end of the school year and pasted those pictures into their diaries. And all they were doing was being themselves and having a good time. But the woman next to me couldn't stand it. She hated the giggling and the talking and the frivolity. It made her clutch her armrests, her beer, her husband's arms. It made her turn and yell.

I felt so bad for the girls. I felt so angry with the woman next to me. I was half hoping that one of the girls' mothers would come down and tell the woman to mind her own business or get up and move seats if she couldn't handle a little girl talk. But that didn't happen. I just burrowed closer to the BFW and said, "Jesus. SOMEONE needs another six wine coolers to calm herself down."

But deep down I was hoping that I would never become one of those women--one of those women who hates kids, who thinks anyone who makes the decision to have kids has been ill-advised--because there are days I wake up thinking, My God. Will I ever feel ready or capable or prepared? I don't want years of that wondering panic to spin into bitterness, into black hatred for kids--something so strong it makes me turn around and tell them that they are not important, they are not part of the deal, and they need to shut the hell up. I'd rather stay one of those girls--pink and blushing and twitchy--forever, running up and running down, making my way as loud as humanly possible.

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