Monday #35: What Would You Say?

Dar in CeeCees Basement 1980

My childhood bestie posted this on Facebook yesterday… and it wasn’t even Throwback Thursday! I don’t have any recollection of this photograph but she remembers it down to what I did that day… “It was so fun seeing these pics again…(they were) taken in the basement of my dad’s on Aldeha. You had just come from having Dinner at Red Lobster with your mom and sister. Remember that night?” No, actually, I don’t. How does she remember that?!

It’s interesting to look back at old pictures, especially when they belong to someone else and you don’t exactly remember them being taken. Check out me, striking that pose, pretending to be sultry, as if I had any clue what sultry was. I think I am all of 12 or 13 in this shot, but there I am trying to work the camera. I wonder how long I spent on my hair that day. Looking at the girl in this old picture feels a little bit like looking at another person who isn’t me.

A couple of weeks ago I was away in Atlantic City doing a couple of school programs. After the day was finished, I went back to my hotel (inside the brand new, very big and very flashy casino, Revel) and had dinner at the bar of an Italian restaurant downstairs. I don’t know about you but I love having dinner at the bar, especially when I am alone. I like the noise and the casualness, I like the conversations you can strike up with the person next to you, I like little scenes that take place at the service bar with the waiters, I like the wine and I like bartenders. Once upon a time I was the girl behind the bar and the memories of this time remain among my all-time favorites.

On one of the two nights I pulled up to the bar for a glass of Malbec, an amazing arugula salad and the best beef carpaccio I’ve ever had. There was a cute, spunky, young, ginger-haired gal named Samantha working the bar. She was all of 21 years old, just out of the chute, so to speak, and she did something that usually irritates me as a seasoned, middle-aged Malbec drinking former bartender… she called me “hon.” Not just once, but every time she addressed me or brought me anything. “Can I get you a drink, hon?” “Are you ready to order, hon?” “Your salad will be right out, hon.” Is it just me or is there something that feels just a little wrong about a 21 year old girl calling a woman old enough to be her mother, “hon”?

After a while, I let it go and we struck up a conversation about her life–where she was from, what school she went to, what she wanted to do when she was finished. And, all of the sudden, it occurred to me that what she was there doing there was what we all do when we are younger than we want to be–we practice our future selves. We try on different personalities and see how they feel. We experiment with the camera-loving diva or the friendly bartender who calls everyone “hon.” Over time, the things that feel right stick and the others get cast aside like the old costumes of Halloweens gone by.

But, sitting on the other side of the bar being called hon and looking at a picture I don’t remember being taken got me thinking about what I would tell that girl who was me but didn’t feel like me, if I could. I took a quick inventory of my life and tried to come up with three things I would say to her in the hope that she could absorb them and use them as the prophecy I was imagining in this daydream. Here goes:

1. Slow down. Growing up needs your full attention. It’s about more than Farrah hair and great shoes. Growing up happens on the inside, too, and this is probably the most important part but it takes time… lots and lots of time. Ha! Guess what? It’s never over!

2. Stay calm. Reactions are natural but not all of them are good or necessary. Let the reaction sit there for just a moment before you decide to unleash it.

3. Believe that you are in the right place and don’t worry if it’s not where you thought you’d be. You’ll get to all of that somewhere on down the road. Or not. You’ll see.

And, of course, the thing I realize now is that the girl in the picture is still here. She still needs reminding and a good talking to now and again. I just sorta wish I still had her hair and her jean size.

TRY THIS WEEK: What three things would you say to your younger self?

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About Dar Hosta James

I am an artist living in New Jersey. I write and illustrate children's books, paint, draw, blog, coach, teach and speak about creativity.
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2 Responses to Monday #35: What Would You Say?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Loved this one Dar. All girls – young and old need to behold your excellent advice. Btw, I think your hair looks better now (I had a similar style too with the popular “curling iron” back then). xo

  2. Anonymous says:

    Great writing and I’ll let your 3 simmer for awhile before I come up with others.

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