On Monday I was told I would have to junior volunteers help me on my afternoon shift at the animal rescue.  The girls were around fifteen, giggly but personable, awkward in the way most typical fifteen year-olds are.  Because I do not consider myself particularly good at managing people (I care too much if people like me as apposed to not knowing exactly what needs to be done and keeping a mental tab of what that is and silently resenting those with me who do not read my mind and know about it and the specific order in which it is composed), but being in a hurry, I attempted to overcome my phobia of direction and bite the bullet.

Water dishes needed to be checked and refilled, food dishes filled, removed and cleaned.  Likewise, observation forms needed to be filled out, and four of the grumpier cats (specifically named) should NOT be let out.  I anticipated some need for checking work and redirection, and I even allotted time for the girls to mindlessly play with the kittens in the back rather than help me work.  

Call me silly, but I was shocked to not even be granted a blank stare.  Instead the girls did exactly what they pleased (put the kittens into a four foot rabbit run made of steal wire and laugh like mules when the kittens did exactly what kittens do: run about and lose traction on a slick floor).  The dishes were soaked and poorly cleaned—soap clung to the seams; and when I tried to change learning styles, as my mother would suggest, and SHOW the girls the soap and TELL them why the soap would harm the digestive systems of the very kittens they loved SO much—they stared at each other with open mouths and then went back to their kittens.

Moving into a type-A hyperdrive, I finished alone, letting the girls keep vigil on the kitten ring while I cleaned dirty litter boxes wondering how I’d become so old I no longer could identify even in the slightest way, to a fifteen year-old girl.  After all, I was one, and a pretty horrible one at that.

And so as I cleaned I listened to their conversations, those two gawfawing girls, with their too tight pants and bad eyeliner, the converse I still wear and the two inches of overly feminine underpants sticking out of the back of their jeans—Victoria’s Secret clearance, sorted by sizes and colors—and waited for some shred of relate-ability, some point in the conversation in which to jump in, so I could offer proof I was not out of reach, but fun and hip, despite the directions I was barking out like a warden, falling on deaf ears.

In the end I gave up, realizing it was a relief to be twenty-eight, and shuddering a little, to realize that at fifteen, my diatribes on John Lennon and fear of Sunday School were probably just as uncouth and hee-haw sounding as their discussions on Justin Beeber and The Jonas Brothers, their mouth breathing and excessive sniffling.  

It is not so bad, despite financial concerns and work schedules, to be a little more diverse and to go where you want to go and see what you want to see, rather than waiting for your parents to take you there, or not knowing about it at all.  And now, when a group of us nearly thirty-somethings does something silly, at least we paid for it ourselves, and our parents will never know they should be disappointed. 

While reading Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, I remember my French Studies professor muttered, while turning to write something on the dry erase board; that memoirs were, by nature the most unreliable of all written materials.  Quite simply, we have too much invested in ourselves and our histories to assume we “accurately” remember much of anything.

When James Frey was so scandalized upon the realization via Smoking Gun, that the author had not, in fact, been in prison for the several month-long duration he claimed within one of his novel/memoirs, it seemed unnecessary and even absurd anyone would assume his “memoirs” were truthful.  Who could possibly write a completely truthful memoir, or even autobiography?

Nonetheless, the idea is more than a bit entertaining.  What would I rewrite, omit or edit a little, in my own memoirs?

When I was a child I was terrified of wasps and hated room temperature milk.  Some where along the line my own mother began to believe me claims I was “allergic.”  To this day she will supply to anyone who’ll listen I am both lactose intolerant and might swell and die if stung by wasps or bees.  In a biography I might more easily just claim this misrepresentation was true.  I would say I stayed at the New York drama camp I actually left after only a week (homesick), and three of my years in college I might erase from mention entirely.

I think I would say I was a pretty child, who grasped things easily and was sweet and good-natured, rather than whiny and a little strange, with a sagging sort of frown while I either cowered in the coat room or screamed to dominate the attention of my classmates.  Perhaps I learned to read, like a little prodigy, at two and a half, (that was a childhood friend of mine) or spent part (a very influential part) of my childhood in Europe.

One of Sylvia Plath’s biography’s outlines that the poet/author stood five feet nine and weighed (usually) around 130 pounds.  Although it would require a little heigh embellishing, I should like to say the same about myself.

Even now, I look back on a photograph of us at the beach, taken last week, and remember our arms are raised to combat the freezing waves that hit like a punch to our guts, and stinky, salty kelp tangled around our legs until we ran back to our towels in defeat.  

But if the scene were in my memoir, I know I would remember it as a luxurious paradise.  The perfect afternoon in a sepia-colored Malibu—the same shore Charlie Chaplin and Jean Harlow once enjoyed (kelp and all).