My Archenemy

For an internship application, I had to write an essay to answer this question: “A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.” – Oscar Wilde. Othello and lago. Dorothy and the Wicked Witch. Autobots and Decepticons. History and art are full of heroes and their enemies. Tell us about the relationship between you and your arch-nemesis (either real or imagined). A lot. I know. Here was my response:

So I met a guy. He seems absolutely fantastic and just my type. I like to think I’m strong and independent but still, I’m nervous before our first date. Some of the butterflies come from the simple idea of meeting a new person that I’d like to impress, but the majority are swirling and fluttering around from the pit of my stomach to the itchy top part of my throat because he suggested grabbing a cup of coffee and (gulp) going for a walk through Central Park.

I enthusiastically agree – of course that sounds great! But in my head, a familiar scenario unfolds: we’re walking side by side with new, hot cups of coffee in hand, talking about sophisticated things like literature and politics. I’ve got my eyes on him rather than on the ground in front of me, as they’ve been so carefully trained to be, and it happens. The toe of my boot gets caught in an invisible crack and I am airborne. In slow motion, the cup of coffee spirals out of my hand, like a football thrown in the last 25 seconds, and touches down right on his face. Brown liquid is dripping and oozing down his neck and second-degree burns are slowly bubbling into visibility. I will clumsily get up and profusely apologize but at that point he needs to go to the ER and that’s the end of it. I sadly look down at my own two feet, which are sickled inwards in shame and apology, and wish for the millionth time that plastic surgery could get me a new, more coordinated pair. I come back in from my daydream and suggest lunch instead.

Those feet, with which I often refuse to associate, have been my archenemies ever since I understood what it meant to be embarrassed. My poor mother has tried relentlessly to teach me lady-like coordination and when that failed, athleticism, but those feet have an evil mind of their own. “I said turn OUT, not IN,” I can hear my ballet teacher sternly scolding, a look of hopelessness painted on her face. They would flex when they should have pointed and get caught as the other girls gracefully sasheyed. Each of my legs is covered knee-down in scars and bruises. I’ve tried to correct for them, but after 22 years, there’s just not much I can do.

Instead, I’ve learned to embrace my inattentive, blundering feet. Those bad boys have taught me a lot of valuable things, though I might hate to admit it. I tripped over a wire and knocked over a microphone in front of everyone’s families and friends at my 6th grade graduation. There was nothing I could do except get up, smile and take a bow as I heard my dad obnoxiously guffaw at this classically Paige move. If life gets you down, you have to get back up and keep going. I’ve learned to be humble, how to laugh at myself, and that life cannot be taken too seriously. If I replayed all of the embarrassing moments I’ve had in my head, I wouldn’t be able to leave my bedroom, and so those clumsy feet have built my confidence. They have taught me to own my flaws and mistakes and acknowledge them rather than try to hide them. Do not hand me that crystal vase because you know me, I’ll probably trip on this smoothly carpeted floor and drop it. All I can do is live with this deck I’ve been dealt and make the best of it.

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