A find myself in the midst of a late night conversation between my childhood friends and family members wondering how typical or atypical these kinds of conversations may be. My friends and I, all having our own relationships, homes, and even children, sometimes retire to my mother’s house after a night on the town where we can pretend we’re unchained teenagers again.
“Shhhh, your grandmother is trying to sleep!” my mother scolded. I had knocked over a side table, not solely because I’d had some to drink but because it had been moved to a new spot for the first time in twenty years. I moved it back to where it’s supposed to go.
My mother smirked and shook her head, “You haven’t changed a bit since you were a kid.”
“Why fix what isn’t broken?” I replied.
“Oh, here she goes. Little Ms. Narcissistic,” one friend joked.
“Notice how she grammatically corrected the phrase ‘Don’t fix what ain’t broke’ too,” another said.
I shrugged,”I like things how I like ’em. I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam.” I made a fist and flexed my bicep, squinting an eye Popeye style. I’m playful, clever and unabashed at my best.
“And you don’t mind telling anyone exactly how you like ’em, either,” my mother chimed in.
“I know! Ms. Diana, she went on a tirade on my Facebook the other day because I liked the Twilight movies,” a friend piped up. I chuckled over the same proper name she’s titled my mother for the last 15 years. “She told me she was embarrassed for me and expected better from me. I knew she was being sarcastic and teasing and I’m use to it. And I know you secretly read those books, too, you faker!” she pointed her finger at me accusingly, “But I got messages from my other friends asking me ‘What the hell was that all about?'”
“I’m passionate,” I said simply. Another friend who has recently moved away has always called me a literature snob. I’m fickle, dismissive, and quick to judge at my worst.
“Ha! Napoleon,” my friend prodded. One word but we all knew what she meant. During a discussion I once earned the nickname of Bonaparte as my friends decided which historic figures we all most resembled. She’s tall and I’m so not.
And that’s how this one particular conversation started. This time, we were trying to match each other with classic literary characters. I pushed to be crowned Alice in Wonderland but my friends weren’t having it.
“You’ve got a lot of Alice in you, but you’ve also got the Red Queen, too,” someone reasoned.
I pouted. As this completely whimsical and inconsequential discussion took place, I glanced around at all these people who’ve known me as a child, and as an adult and still like me anyway. One of my biggest faults is a quest for perfection. It’s a habit for me to view any sort of detour as an unwanted distraction, and this quickly leads to frustration and overall dissatisfaction. These people have watched me grow. But I have not always been thankful for them. As a self-declared misanthropist, I let my disdain be known, usually as jokingly as possible. They all know I’m not as tough as I pretend, and as indifferent as I seem.
In fact, just this morning I received a letter in my email from a fellow blogger who felt compelled to let me know how my honesty has been an inspiration. His was not the first letter I’ve received of such. How can someone who’s truly given up on humanity be any kind of an inspiration to anyone else? They see something in me I am ignoring in myself; I still hope. The letters I’ve received touting praise for my talents each mean something to me, but not for my usual narcissistic reasons. I already think I’m amazing, so I don’t need someone else to think so. But they’re important since it means I’m making a difference to someone, that I’m touching lives one by one. And that dim hope flickers a bit brighter.
Am I concerned that my pretentious, egotistical, and callous persona is being seen through by otherwise strangers? Sometimes. But those are big words and I feel a little lighter as they fall away. To hope and be disappointed is a stance that I have not yet learned to handle gracefully, but at least I’m not so much ashamed for hoping anymore.
“You all may have been too young to see it, but when Cheri was a child I swear she was exactly like Anne Shirley, and I honestly don’t think too much has changed,” my mother insightfully declared.
An enlightened hush came over the room. Then an eruption of agreement.
“Oh my God, Cheri, you’re just like Anne Shirley!”
“I can’t believe I haven’t thought of it before!”
“You are a LIVING book character, holy crap.”
Anne Shirley is extremely smart but stupidly stubborn, preoccupied with ideals of beauty and poetry, and constantly absorbed in daydreams while being quick to temper at minimal provocations. She is convinced of her immorality, and that she is a disappointment to those around her when she is, in fact, an inspiration for her genuineness. Anne strives for elegance in all things, but falls short from her emotionality. I didn’t know whether to be embarrassed or not.
Anne of Green Gables and I share name similarity. I assure you it’s no coincidence that Cheri Anne sounds a whole lot like Anne Shirley, and why I was exposed to both the novels and the films at a young age. But much to my mother’s surprise, did she know she was writing a character with these actions. I don’t recall reading the book, or watching the movies, or ever recognizing myself in this character as a child. But just as Juliet said: What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
Or would it? If she had named me Alice, would my curiosity have a more even temper? Would I have been more appreciative of home in the past? Would I be more apt to strive for reality and logic, like Alice, than get lost in imagination, poetry and reverie, like Anne? My phone buzzed and my internal musings were interrupted by a text message that made me smile, and warmed my heart. I guess it doesn’t much matter how I turned out, as it seems this who I should be. I suppose I shouldn’t hide as false antagonists and beyond guises of spite and unpretty sneers. I have people who love me. It’s high time I didn’t make it so difficult for them. I have people who are inspired by me. I must remember to always stay true to who I am. And mostly, I shouldn’t take those around me for granted, and kick dirt on my hopes for humanity. I’m longing for what I have already, what’s right in front of me and under my fingertips. How did I ever convince myself that I was so unsated, so thirsty, so empty?
My cup runneth over.
Marilla, isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet? – Anne Shirley (Lucy Maud Montgomery), Anne of Green Gables
There’s such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I’m such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn’t be half so interesting.
– Anne Shirley
It’s so easy to be wicked without knowing it, isn’t it? – Anne Shirley
And people laugh at me because I use big words. But if you have big ideas you have to use big words to express them, haven’t you? – Anne Shirley
It’s all very well to read about sorrows and imagine yourself living through them heroically, but it’s not so nice when you really come to have them, is it? – Anne Shirley
Next to trying and winning, the best thing is trying and failing. – Anne Shirley