“REUNION YEAR” warns the (appropriately black) banner in the alumni newsletter, along with a number that just can’t be real. Didn’t we just do that? I’m pretty sure I wrote about it. Well… yes and no. I did write, but it was a newspaper column back in 1991. I’ll let you do the math about which reunion is coming up this time, but meanwhile here’s the blast-from-the-past, or at least from the Champaign-Urbana News Gazette in April, 1991.
I’m not old enough to attend a 15th reunion.
When my first daughter was old enough to ask my age, I said I was 21. Now that she knows a bit more math, she wants to know why my parents let me go to college at eight and get married at twelve. I told her it was because I grew up in California. Here in Illinois, girls can’t get married until they are 32 and have completed their PhD.
“Profession?” asked the enclosed alumni information form. I don’t mind answering easy questions — name, sexual preferences, bank balance, how I got that scar way down there, etc. — but this was a tough one. When I started practicing motherhood, I didn’t exactly respond to a help-wanted ad in the classifieds:
Expanding organization seeks Director. Qualifications: must know how to put toilet paper on spindle, prepare creative and interesting dishes for staff to refuse if they don’t involve the words ‘peanut butter’ and serve as walking Kleenex to small staff members. On-call 24/7, no pay, no sick leave, no chance of promotion. Job security, annual recognition breakfast, company car.
For help I looked at the Reunion Directory which listed my fellow graduates and their professions. The majority were professors, doctors, attorneys, or vice-presidents. The closest to my life was the one who listed ‘doorman’, but my guess is that he didn’t mean holding closed the doors of public restroom stalls while inquiring if the occupant needs to be wiped.
Another classmate claims the title ‘psychotherapist’, but she probably would not agree with my behavior modification technique of sending patients to their rooms, sometimes without dessert, until they are ready to be nice. And she would probably lose her license if she tried kissing the ouchie to make it better.
Other job titles I considered:
- Statistical Analyst. “I don’t care if 98.9% of the third-graders on the face of the planet have a later bedtime — GET IN THE BED.”
- Media consultant. “No, you can’t watch Geraldo talking to men who used to be women who used to be hookers.”
- Investment Counselor. “I know it’s your allowance, but 4-year-olds can’t buy flamethrowers.”
- Fiscal Manager. “Sure we can afford to go to Disneyland — we’ll just give up luxuries like food, clothing, and the mortgage.”
I considered various job titles suggested by my friends. Housewife, they told me , was déclassé. Homemaker was out because if I’d been around when my home was made, my bumper sticker could read “Life begins at 120”. Domestic Goddess sounded promising (porcelain throne first door on your left; flush when you’re done, and put the lid down please) but the only way the goddess could be the object of worshipful glances is to sit on the TV.
Another suggestion, Domestic Engineer, implies a degree of household competence that nobody in their right mind thinks I’ll ever achieve. In fact, each time I had a baby, I abandoned some aspect of domestic maintenance. First it was ironing, then cooking, and finally housecleaning. Since all that’s left is personal hygiene, I think we all hope the stork avoids Chateau Taub. [NOTE: Luckily for Child #4, the stork didn’t get that message.]
I almost settled on “Perfect“, a job title which my mother claimed for years. I still remember how surprised Sister Mary First Grade was when she read that my father was an engineer and my mother was Perfect. The problem is that someone at my school might remember me, or even worse, have a few of my old transcripts lying around.
So at the class reception in June, when one of the doctors or lawyers or vice-presidents, or doormen asks me what I do, I’ll probably have to tell the truth.
“I’m a dictator. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.”