mad in pursuit memoir notebook
DISPATCHED FROM THE intersection of yesterday and forever
1970 A Summer's Day: Job Hunt Funk
I have registered with an employment agency. My "agent" is a tall redhead, full of energy and ambition. Apparently, she expects the same of me. I am only tall.
I graduated magna cum laude from college, but she has assessed my skill level as zilch. Light typing.
One day she calls. She is excited for me. There is a job at Bell & Howell I might be qualified for. She instructs me on how to dress and gives me the time.
Next day. I get up. Dress. Leave the house. There is a little buzz at my back as I go. I suppose the couple I'm boarding with is rooting for me, but I feel punished. The Assistant Professor and the Mother-Wife are miserable and poor, and yet I am angry with them for pushing me out the door.
I head for the bus stop. I begin to feel sick. How can I go on a job interview if I am sick? Maybe I have strep throat. Maybe I need to go back to bed. But of course I can't because the Assistant Professor is now working on his dissertation in the attic office-bedroom that isn't really mine.
So I keep walking. It is a breezy summer day. I slow down when I reach the bus stop, ponder the horror of the interview that awaits me and keep walking. I am free, I think. I am free to walk past the bus stop. And I am free not to have to work for Bell & Howell. I am free not to be bossed around by an employment agency. There has to be something better for me. I walk to the lake and I walk the long miles down the shore to my old college. It is so comfortable there. Everyone knows me. Everyone thinks I'm wonderful.
I arrive back at the house after lunch. The Mother-Wife greets me with alarm. My ambitious redhead has been calling her, wondering where I am since I hadn't shown up at the interview. They were worried. Mother-Wife doesn't get me at all and hands me a slip of paper with the redhead's number written on it. She mocks the all-business attitude of the redhead too, but that gives me no comfort.
I retreat to my now-vacated attic bedroom and stare at the phone. Why is everyone torturing me?
I hear Mother-Wife talking to someone downstairs. She is explaining that they have a couple of "post-adolescents" living with the this summer. What a humbling expression.
But, as I look back, that might be a good descriptor. I had one foot into adulthood -- a college degree -- but I had no idea how adults behaved. My parents were adults who made responsible adult choices, but in 1970 you were not supposed to trust or imitate your parents unless you belonged to the Young Republicans.
Assistant Professor had told my roommate Trish that Mother-Wife was a perfect role model for young women. The college-educated woman ran a wonderful household and could really stretch a buck. All I saw was a worn out housewife who was always taking to her bed with some ailment. I got a flash of respect once when I saw her analyzing choices for a new washer and laying them out to Assistant Professor, so that he could go with her to the appliance store and make the final choice. Later, during a weekend in St. Louis, my mother was buying a refrigerator or something and I asked her about taking Dad to the appliance store with her so they could chose together. She looked at me like I had two heads and I got the message: she didn't need my father to join with her over appliance decisions. Seeing that my mother was (in the parlance of the day) more liberated than young Mother-Wife helped eliminate Mother-Wife as a role model.
Not that I thought about "adulthood" or role models very much. All I ever saw was one long day at a time stretching out before me.