We took turns in the shower, and then we diverged. He trimmed his beard while I shaved my legs. I put on a bathrobe and glopped color onto my nails; K pulled out his netbook and his tie and spent forty-five minutes failing to tie a Windsor knot. After waiting for what I hoped was a suitable interval, I tried to towel-dry my hair, and the towel scored deep grooves into my attempt at nail polish. I took it off, finished drying my hair, and tried again.
From the bed, K looked up from his tie. "Do you even like putting on nail polish?" he asked me.
"Not really," I said. "But I'm supposed to be a girl, and girls are supposed to be able to take care of their hands and do their own hair nicely and so on."
"I don't care if you can't do your nails or hair," he told me, watching the frustration bloom on my face. "I still love you."
I paused with the brush in mid-air. "I know," I told him. "I still feel like I should be able to do these things."
I try to cultivate these skills: the ones that don't come naturally to me, but the ones that may allow me to fit in a little bit better. Theoretically, employers evaluate your merit based solely on your work performance; in practice, I feel like I miss some interpersonal-interaction targets because I'm too different. I use different words, think about different things, participate in different leisure time activities*. When I'm at work, I prefer to focus on work, but the package of professionalism includes appearance and the ability to find enough non-work-related common ground with the people around you to build relationships and trust. It means cooing over baby pictures, carefully remaining neutral when the people around you discuss television shows you wouldn't watch even if you had cable, and participating in office celebrations-- all while attempting to demonstrate your value and your focus on the work at hand. I can do it, but it takes effort.
Struggling with my hair and my nails in preparation for a wedding seems like practice for a career in which I'll have to do things with my hair and my nails on a regular basis, so I didn't give up. Eventually, I managed to stuff myself into a thrifted dress and a pair of heels I can't walk in. We cut our nap to twenty minutes and got to the wedding ten minutes before the ceremony began.
|Foreground: my foot (without the heels). Background: my dress.|
Perhaps attending weddings as an adult signals impending adulthood across other areas of my life. The feeling resembles the one I had the first time I signed a brand new rental agreement-- K and I had elected to room together as a matter of convenience, and reading through the paperwork, placing a security deposit, and signing every page of a twenty-page document seemed like an adventure. (The semester I rented space with a couple of guys, filling the vacated room of a guy who had taken off to parts unknown on a journey of self-discovery, does not count.) It feels good, like I'm stepping into something approaching a permanent place in society (carving out bits to improve the fit whenever I feel I can get away with it).
In that case, the wedding contained another signal. I love to dance. I took dance classes every year except one from the age of five until I graduated from high school. When there's socially-sanctioned dancing, I dance.** The last time K and I went to a wedding, he amiably held my bag and watched me dance with a group of friends.
This time, he beat me onto the dance floor. Apparently, he secretly spent some quality alone time with the Kinect and our copy of Dance Central and developed some dance moves. (He convinced me to leave it with him while I interned in Florida, claiming he couldn't resist the challenge of a new video game.) Now, it appears that he took time to learn how to do something that I love to do so he could do it with me, sore leg muscles and all. He may not be a polished professional, but he's mine, and I couldn't have picked a better partner.
*I love following baseball with K in part because it lets me have acceptably neutral conversations with people. Apparently, it's OK to publicly disagree with Yankees fans, but publicly disagreeing with people who oppose marriage equality isn't-- even though both groups of people are clearly wrong.
** I also dance in situations when it's not socially sanctioned, such as in supermarket aisles, when I think no one's watching.