Much as I’d like to think my life until now is largely speckled with bouts of bad-girldom (you know, the usual suspects? bad habits, bad turns of events, bad company, bad decisions), the honest truth is it is largely layered by a safe mask of good-girldom. All that stuff I deem bad that happened in the past, is not nearly half as bad as the things I see kids growing up these days get up to. Amongst the worst things I did were probably sneaking off into Pecos and catch a beer on a weekday evening, when I was supposedly at the British Library getting in a few extra hours of research. And then gradually grabbing a smoke or two in the dark alleys behind ‘Ganja Park’ as it was called. Only to discover that I quite disliked the taste of tobacco and most importantly how it made my throat feel hours later. A couple of years later, I did the customary escapade on a couple of nefarious trips with a couple of boys (different boys, at different times, before you get any ideas about how wild I was and where this post might be headed) I dated. Nothing outlandish. Just weekend getaways close by. They had their fair share of, I want to say drugs, sex and rock and roll, but since I was not that cool I’ll settle for: young love, the kind that can make a twenty-something heart swell with joy, illicit intimacy, and alcohol. That’s pretty much it.
Yes, my first taste of pot happened when I was 16. Under the supervision of a friend of my mother’s, in whose care I had been stationed for a whole month. Ha! Fortunately or unfortunately, that habit didn’t stick either. I guess one try for a non-smoker isn’t enough to get addicted. But that was then.
When I was slightly older, working, earning my own money, but still driving around in my mothers car, I had my fair share of sneaking out of home at night, slipping away in a car to visiting places I thought I shouldn’t really be at. But the silly, devious ways of a young girl in love, are twisted. Often too twisted to make sense of. especially in retrospect. So I conveniently dismiss it all on emotion. Yes, I was thinking through my damned heart. While my head might have given me good reason, safety, economics, moral values and all that jazz, my heart was high on love. And so I undertook many a nightly drive. Criss-crossing town, slinking in and out of one close have after another (of being caught, that is). It was slightly convenient that I had a job in advertising. One that came with the predictable crazy hours. So work and life blurred and I would use one as the excuse for the other and take off. By the end of one year in my first job, it got so tiresome, I began to lose track. And I just wanted to go back to the simple days. Of sneaky beers, the occasional cigarette and late night telephone calls.
It was also then that the husband, then just colleague, dug his heels into my life. After a year of trying to figure me out, he decided he was in for the long run, and knocked a good load of sense into my head, over many, many months.
Exit: Bad-girl phase. More because I’d lost interest and I’d begun to feel settled in life. (Yes, I blame it all on VC!)
Enter: the confused state of limbo; between fighting the waning interest in hitherto crazy, erratic and spontaneous life, peppered with all things bad, and the little voice in my head that just wanted to be a good girl after all those years, and be looked after by a good boy. There was a goo-oohd boy in sight. One who wanted to do the honours, so no prizes for guessing which way I eventually chose to swing.
Just over a year later, when I was at the quintessential meet-the-parents dinner, one of the first questions I was asked was, “So, do you drink?” And unthinkingly the words slipped out of my mouth, faster than I could gather them and shove them back in.
“Yes, I do. Occasionally. Only when I have company,” I said. Not completely lying. But not completely being honest, either. And thus ensued mini volley of questions, which I diplomatically and deftly deflected by engaging in clever conversation that was neither entirely untrue, nor completely true. For fear of painting a pious picture of myself, I found myself choosing the middle path. Firmly walking down the safe path of truth, but never too far form the fire escape, through which could let the momentary guilt slip through.
Four years of being married later, I often think of how much I have to straddle both these worlds. My long gone past, flecked with its healthy share of reminders of the bad girl in me. An unabashed, unflinching, unapologetic bad girl, at that. Because I had only my own parents to answer to, and unfortunately that has always given me a long rope to yank. And then there is the recent past, of living alone and discovering a whole new life, parts of which can be deemed as bad in some eyes. Because suddenly there is a whole new set of pairs of eyes watching you. Judging you. Sometimes silently mocking you, I think.
Marriage is quite the inflection point. Of letting go of some of the past, of embracing some of the new, of making changes big and small. Sometimes of discovering a you, you didn’t know existed. And wondering which part of your life this new you would fall into. The old bad? The good new? The normal in-between, with a balanced mix of both? Neither? Somewhere in between?
The truth is, I am not quite sure. It is mostly about a pleasant see-saw. Of wearing skivvies when we’re by ourselves and track pants when my in-laws visit. Of vehement, strong opinions about having babies, lashing out behind the scenes, but cowering under the pressure in public and seething with suppressed profanities when confronted with intrusive questions. Of spontaneity and youth, at the risk of being misunderstood as unsettled. Of choosing a life of discovery, even at the risk of being deemed wayward and aimless.
The see-saw continues. And I make peace with the fact that what I am just might be a good-bad girl, and thankfully, I don’t have to choose.