mad in pursuit memoir notebook

DISPATCHED FROM THE intersection of yesterday and forever

The Late Bloomer: Letter to My Younger Self

Susan, let me whisper in your ear as you pose for this picture [on the right]. It’s Junior Prom night, 1966. You’re 17. Your date is blushing because the photographer told him to hold your hand. Your eyes have that anywhere-but-here look that people mistake for serenity. You may be grateful that your friends found you a date, but you’d rather be studying for your Saturday morning Chinese class. He's a nice boy, but you can't dance, you’re no good at small talk and, no, he doesn't kiss you good-night. 

I’m here to tell you that this is the last formal dance you will ever attend. You will never waste another minute trying to scrounge up a date taller than you, getting shoes to match your dress, or spraying your hair into a perfect bouffant.

You'll get out of town. You’ll take on the world. Oh, you'll never really get the hang of dating and you'll never really have a conventional boyfriend, but you’ll be surprised as all get-out to find yourself married at 23.

But slowly that anywhere-but-here look will return to your eyes.

she can dance! ... but not till 1975...It won’t be till 1975 that you finally learn to dance [photo left]. Your follow-the-cookbook dinner parties give way to roll-up-the-carpet bashes. You’ll walk away from being a wife. You’ll meet a man named Jim, who will teach you that being conventional is for funding your pension plan, not for living.

You will endure the prom and tomorrow you'll get back to studying Chinese. No, you'll never be a Chinese scholar, but in 1992 you'll be in a jeep with Jim on the western border of China giggling with a Chinese soldier, piecing together a conversation by passing a phrase book between the two of you. And at 56, you’ll still be dancing. Go ahead and smile for the camera.

6.30.01 (revised 4.15.05)

Junior Prom