40 Years of Me

June 25th, 2008 § 4 comments

Those Peace Lovin’ 1960s
June 25, 1968: I was born. Flower and Fifth Hospital in New York City, although my parents at the time were living in West New York, New Jersey.This causes three decades of debate (it wasn’t an issue that first decade) of whether my home state is New York or New Jersey.
1969: TV enters my life, in two notable ways:

  1. My father props me up to watch on TV the first moon landing/walk. My father says that he wanted me to witness such a monumental moment, but really (he claims), my sister got the better show, because he let her watch Hank Aaron’s 733rd home run. “Lots of people will walk on the moon,” he told me. “I don’t think anyone will break Hank Aaron’s record.” Dad, meet Barry Bonds.
  2. My mother discovers the wonderful world of Sesame Street. My father claims this is the root of all my problems. “Your mother heard about this great new show for kids. The problem is, she heard about it after the first day it had aired. You started with the letter B and the number 2, and you never caught up.”

Those Wild and Crazy 1970s
1970: Family lore states that I attempted to kill passers-by by tossing blocks off our 22nd floor balcony. My mother ran downstairs, saw some dented cars and a very angry doorman and pedestrians. She acted shocked and indignant that someone could be so irresponsible as to let her child do this and she retreated upstairs. I never saw those blocks again. Also, my best friend was Feefer, I sucked on a LaLa, and apparently, I liked apples and was “scared cows.”
1971: We’re movin’ on up, movin’ on up, to the ‘burbs: The Brown family migrates to Westchester Country, and all hopes of my having any pretensions of being a city girl are shot. And, oh yeah, my sister, the Tweedle Twirp, is born. This is significant because from here on out, she protected me from the cows.
1972: My family makes the move from Briarcliff Manor, New York, to Miami Lakes, Florida, and thus my identity as a Miami girl begins its formation.
1973: 1973 was the year of the gun. Already told you about it; no need to repeat myself.
1974: From Miami Lakes to South Miami. A play house in the front yard, built by my mother out of–why?–railroad-ties. A front walkway, laid by mother built out of–why?–railroad ties. These railroad ties always turned my feet orange and were a nuisance to walk on barefoot. In the house: Halls with orange and brown stripes painted by my mother. An orange metal fireplace in the living room that us children were not permitted in under punishment of death by my mother. I remember being allowed by my mother to watch TV at dinner for one event and one event only: Richard Nixon’s resignation.
1975: I get in trouble for fighting with the boy down the street. My mother tells me that violence is never an option. My father tells me, If someone hits you, you hit him back harder. I decide my father’s philosophies are more in tune with my own. I get in trouble a lot this year. But only with my mom.
1976: The whole country is celebrating the bicentennial. I’m mourning the fact that I am the youngest person at Pinecrest Elementary School–possibly even Dade County, possibly even all of South Florida!–to ever get braces. A full headgear. To be worn twenty-four hours a day. Yes, I know my teeth look great now. No, it was not worth it.
1977: I’m looking at my diaries. 1977. None of it’s ringing a bell. End of third grade, beginning of 4th grade. Not a memorable year in any way.
1978: Was the headgear not enough? Let’s add glasses to the repertoire. Farrah Fawcett-style. Tinted, partially, a gray and blue. My initials are in gold foil on the corner of one of the lenses. This year, I also take my first trip abroad.
1979: How to torment an almost-eleven year old? Uproot her and move her across the country. To a land where there are no Jews. To a land where this strange white stuff falls from the sky and where the snazzy jean jacket her mother bought looks nothing like the space-age parkas everyone else wears. A land so liberal and crunchy that her father’s new job, as the president of a company that turns animal poop into gas (hey, thanks Carter years!) is actually considered cool by the kids in her class. Bye Bye, Miami. Hello, Boulder, Colorado.

Like, Gag Me with a Spoon! It’s the 1980s!
1980: From my diary, Nov. 11, 1980: “The world is going to shit! The Presidental [sic] Election is today. I want Carter to win. Of course he’s losing. Reagan has 252 electroal [sic] votes so far. Carter has 15 & Anderson has 4. Even Anderson would be good. Reagan is against E.R.A. & abortion. This country is falling apart. Between Reagan & the hostages in Iran.”
1981: From my diary, a selection of things I received for my 13th birthday: bicycle helmet; 2 cassettes: Pat Benatar’s Crimes of Passion, and Styx’s Paradise Theater; 2 tube tops, pink and blue & white striped; 2 books: Petals on the Wind and If There Be Thorns; a “gorgeous” card with a unicorn on it. I also recorded a description of myself: “I have a volunteer job at North Boulder Rec Center. I help teach swim classes. It’s great! I’m going to try to describe myself: braces, plastic rimmed glasses, a bit of acne, tan on my nose that stops where my glasses start, dark eyebrows, fairly dark brown eyes, dark brown hair that parts on either the middle or side depending on my mood, small (real small) bust approx. 32 inches (really 31 but…), A cup (ugh) so I hardly ever wear a bra, I’m 4 feet 11 3/4 inches. I’m 13 and I still don’t have my period!”
1982: And little did I know… the beginning of my running career. I joined the Casey Junior High Track Team. However, I had a dismal coach who did no coaching and who neglected to tell me that when running the mile, I should hold myself back, and not try to sprint the entire way. Despite my $45 Nike shoes (my mother asked my father, “How much did you spend on running shoes?!?”), I consistently came in last place in every track meet.
1983: Deep sigh. Nightmare over. We return to Miami Beach. In my Colorado years, I made exactly one friend (hi, Karin!), learned how to roll a joint, and almost flunked out of Algebra. I pretend the previous four years never happened.
1984: The future is now! But I’m still stuck with an old Atari and we still don’t have MTV in the house! I sneak General Hospital after school (no TV allowed) and I spend more time grounded than not. Life pretty much sucks, but in your normal, I’m sixteen-years-old sucks kind of way. On the plus side, I do get a driver’s license. But also a serious curfew to go with it.
1985: I GET MY MTV! And use of a car (a a manual Volkswagen Rabbit) to drive to school. I force the Tweedle Twirp into 1) waking me up 2) making my breakfast peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, and 3) having my Diet Coke ready to go. She complies because 1) She cares about getting to school on time, 2) I don’t, and 3) see #1. I grudgingly drive her but do insist she move to the backseat when I pick up my boyfriend, Greg.
1986: Who are we? Wild and sick! Senior Senior ’86! Whoo hooo! I’ve got Hi Tide Pride! Go Beach High!
1987: Hook ’em horns! One semester at the University of Texas lets me know that 1) I would never be the president of Chase Manhattan Bank 2) I will never get the bows in my hair to stay that neat and pretty and 3) Texas, well, let’s just say, me and Texas, not such a good fit.
1988: Bye-bye bowheads. Hello city that never sleeps. Film school NYU. Much better fit.
1989: My first solo trip–three weeks in Europe. I’m hooked, starting a decade-and-a-half obsession with travel.

Grunge It Up, Girl. It’s the 1990s
1990: After working for a glamorous nine months in the world of advertising, I discover I hate advertising. I become an editorial assistant for the glamorous pay of $14,000. I share a one-bedroom apartment (my share is $450) on the fifth-floor of a walkup on 11th, between Avenues B & C, where the front door doesn’t lock and the light on the third floor landing is always out, which means stepping over the men sleeping in the hallway. I survive by dating for the free dinners and swapping the free books from my publishing job for the free concerts and movie tickets my friends get from their jobs.
1991: I leave the lucrative publishing job for a stint as an assistant at a talent agency. This job pays the even more astounding $11,000 a year (to be raised to $13,000 at the three-month point). It was not a good fit. I’m not perky. I can’t stand Off-Off Broadway theater. My movie tastes ran that year toward Delicatessen, Barton Fink, and Thelma and Louise; the agency cast deodorant commercials and soap operas. I never made it to that raise. I retreat back to publishing.
1992: I test the waters of adulthood. Steady boyfriend. Job that has potential for a career. A decent (well, for New York) apartment. Testing. Testing. Testing…
1993: Nah. Not for me. Which leads to 1993. I remember nothing of 1993. Well, I remember getting the phone number for that door-to-door pot delivery service. But other than that, 1993 is a complete blank.
1994: Time to try a new tack. I pack it all up and head west. Onward to U Dub for grad school. But first, a three-month cross country road trip. My mother is so freaked out about the idea, she leaves me a letter the morning that I am to leave that reads in part: “It’s 5 a.m. and I haven’t been able to sleep. As usual these days, I’ve been worrying about you…I keep wondering how I could live with myself in the future if you’re dead (a very distinct possibility) from some mishap on this trip, and all I was was be ‘supportive.’ … Sylvia Plath aside, I have no romanticized notions of the young, dead writer. I don’t thinky our father or I could function after having buried one of our children. … I want you to live to have the experience of being a parent so you’ll know exactly what I mean….” I can report that I survived the trip, with nothing more harmful than one speeding ticket, a new boyfriend, and enough material to get me through two years of a Creative Writing master’s degree program.
1995: Write. Read. Write. Read. Write. Read. Write. Read. Write. Read. Write. Read. Write. Read. Write. Read. Write. Read. Write. Read. Write. Read. Write. Read. Write. Read.
1996: My degree is done. I have two choices: Find a job, marry my boyfriend (different one from 1994), think about procreating. Or, run away. I choose run away. I head for a kibbutz for six weeks to work in the kiwi fields.
1997: Six weeks somehow became six months plus a couple of months trekkin’ through Eastern Europe. I return back to Seattle, and begin the glamorous life of freelancing, as a proofreader and copyeditor.
1998: A friend says to me, “Hey, have you heard of that little Internet bookstore? I heard they are hiring copyeditors.” I apply. I get a job. My father, the Certified Financial Planner lectures me, “Take this job if you like the job. But don’t take it for the stock options. This company is worthless and you’ll never make a dime.” I bitch and moan and th
en ask him to tell me what a stock option is.
1999: I cash in my worthless stock options. I take my sister and my best friend on a bike trip from Vienna to Prague. I undergo Lasik. I get a DVD player. I buy a house.

Bring on the Minivan! It’s a New Century!
2000: My father says, “The stock is at the highest it’ll ever be. Cash it all out now.” I ignore him. I lose thousands upon thousands of dollars. My father continues to remind me of this fact even now, eight years later. In other news, there’s this guy. He’s kind of cute, but rather arrogant and when I asked him out, he simply said, “No.” Assohole.
2001: Got engaged to arrogant guy.
2002: Got married to arrogant guy. Let arrogant guy drag me across the country so he can attend the most arrogant school in the country and become arrogant MBA guy. Should I procreate with arrogant soon-to-be MBA guy? No let’s not procreate. Instead, let’s go to New Orleans and spend the entire time drunk off our asses. Oh, what’s that? Too late? The genesis of Brown Brown occurs amid the primordial haze of hurricanes and Cajun martins.
2003: Bye bye martinis, hello breastmilk. Little do I know that I’m about to spend the next five years either pregnant or with a child at my breast. Brown Brown enters the world, and formally becomes known as… Doodles.
2004: I think life is tough with a baby. I think it’s impossible to get any writing or work done. I think that I’m exhausted. But it turns out I know nothing. But this is easy compared to…
2005: Welcome to the world, Pie!
2006: I breastfeed. And cosleep. And breastfeed some more. And cosleep. Did I mention the breastfeeding? There was quite a lot of that going on. And a bit more. Yes, I breastfed this year. Boy, did I breastfeed.
2007: For 11/12 of this year, I continue to breastfeed. But then, miraculously, children leave my breast. They sleep for longer stretches of time. They enter school programs and make friends with whom they can be dropped off. Visions of not necessarily my old life, but some sort of life begin to emerge. Which leads me to…
June 25, 2008: I turn forty years old. Happy freakin’ birthday to me.

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§ 4 Responses to 40 Years of Me"

  • Daniel says:

    What a great post. Happy Birthday, Jenny!

  • Jen says:

    Yay, 40! I’m looking forward to it. 🙂 So, the whole kids-not-allowed-in-the-living-room thing – as I’m sure Adam can tell you, Chip lived through that. I guess you can imagine that, I just think it’s weird, but I was an only (read perfect) child. Although it still makes me feel uncomfortable in the in-laws’ living room. Happy Birthday! -Jen and Chip

  • Veronica says:

    wow!! Fab post. Quite impressive!

    Happy Birthday again, Jenny. Hope that it went well and the kids smothered you in kisses. Without any food at least. 😉

  • Alisa says:

    Happy Belated Birthday! In the 70s picture I see that Doodle looks a lot like you.
    I enjoyed reading your personal history. And I completely know what you mean about envisioning getting some kind of personal freedom back as the kids get older. Of course I have just started that clock all over again!

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