I’m reading a book I don’t want to see end: Juliet Naked, by Nick Hornby. He is a British writer whose work I really admire because his plots are so poignant and characters so lovable that I get totally swept away. I will miss Annie and Tucker, the main characters, when I finish reading this novel. Annie is an articulate former English teacher who realizes she has wasted fifteen years of her life in a relationship with the wrong guy, and Tucker is an enigmatic, washed-up Eighties rock and roll star. Tucker is looking back at his stalled career and is unhappy with what he has done. Fans still tell him he is gifted, but he doesn’t see it that way. He says, “We don’t value those things we do easily.”
I frequently look at myself and see mediocrity at best. Sure I can cook, but others cook better especially my children. I can write, but I should, as I taught creative writing for years. Anything else that I do well I attribute to my genes. My mother was “artsy” and my father was an avid reader.
I prefer to examine my flaws and weaknesses. As my son Natty says, “Numbers are not my friend.” I am dumbfounded by numbers and would go so far as to say I am Innumerate. I can’t guesstimate the number of miles between Black Mountain and Asheville (Black Mt. to Asheville 10 miles; Asheville to Black Mt. 150 miles). I never check my bank balance for fear of what I might find. I prefer to think that all is well and that whatever figure I find there must be correct, as the bank is better at calculation than I am. I don’t remember the ages of my children or grandchildren, let alone the year of their births. And just five minutes ago I screwed up making change for a customer. Luckily she caught me and questioned the incorrect amount I handed back to her. Oops.
I am also an extreme klutz. Years ago I decided to brush up on tennis. I enrolled in an adult ed tennis class at the local high school. There we were in the gym hitting balls when the instructor came over to watch my swing. He seemed to be considering carefully what to say, but finally he spoke. “Do you see that old lady over on the other side of the gym?”
I looked over and snickered. “She’s ridiculous, isn’t she!”
“Well,” he answered, “she’s actually better than you are. I suggest you find another sport.”
I couldn’t find any other sport I am capable of performing. And still can’t.
Not only that but I am unsteady on my feet and fall a lot. Because of that failing, I am terrified of heights, especially when I am near a drop-off. Mainly, I am scared I might get wobbly and fall off the ledge. Steep stairways and escalators are a real problem for me. The last time I was at the mall and went up the escalator at Barnes and Noble, I had to wait twenty minutes for another customer to go down the escalator so I could hop on behind her so I couldn’t look down and lose my balance. Ergo I stay on the main floor whenever possible.
I am also a terrible swimmer. Last summer I slipped off a foam noodle and slid on my back under the dock at my friend Janet’s lake house. Luckily Ron was sitting on the dock and rescued me. Little Aliza, my granddaughter, nervously swam back with me to the main dock so I wouldn’t disappear under the dark water. I prefer to go into the water up to my knees and do the old lady scoop of water into the top of my granny-style bathing suit.
I could go on and on in this vein, enumerating my failures, but then I would have to admit that I am really good at putting myself down. And that would be admitting that I am excellent at something. We can’t have that now!