There are many “not-yets” in this particular life. A lot of firsts yet to come. In my clever disguise as “me,” one consistent fact about my me has been its surprising lack of aplomb when doing something for the first time.
My reactions are aplomb-less because they are reactions, not responses, usually. It is often as small a matter as declaring out loud with my outdoors voice, “This is the first time that I have … .”
There is one thing I recall from my first day of kindergarten: Being shoved off a three-step cube that bridged two sides of the classroom together. I had decided to greet each new classmate with a handshake and that was my reward for acting like a grown-up. To this day, forty years later, I am rarely the first to offer a handshake in social situations, and on the annual occasion when I do offer my hand first, the party whose acquaintance I am making usually reinforces my reasons for not offering my hand first.
(A couple years ago, I met someone, stuck out my hand, and then watched as the guy looked at my hand, at his hand, and then back at my hand. He did not shake my hand. Had I challenged him to a duel or something? We did not become friends, and the one time we hung out with each other he spent several minutes verbally lusting for one of my female friends, which I ended by walking away after pointing out that she and I were friends. A first impression may not always be right, but they can be.)
I do not often wear life like a loose garment, as it says somewhere that I should, but there are exceptions: The moment I met my girlfriend. (Her name is Jen, by the way. I have not formally introduced her to you or you to her: Jen, readers; readers, Jen. This is probably because I consider her The Reader and have told her that “Dear Jen” is at the top of the first thing I wrote after she and I met, and that everything I have written since has been the body of that letter, including this website.)
I aspire to wear life like a loose garment. A condition that I have, spinal muscular atrophy, is helping. SMA is a genetic disease, but for me, an adult with the adult-onset version, it is not a life-shortening illness. It reduces my mobility. I move slowly and sometimes walk like I am a flat, two-dimensional, cartoon character. But I can walk. Sometimes, but not often, it hurts. I am not as sadly intimate with pain as so many others are, but what little I get to suffer as my muscles fight a silly fight against atrophying make life into a tight garment for me and every role I embrace—lover, writer, son, brother, friend, handshake specialist—goes out the nearest window.
There is a last first and I hope it is faaaaaar off. It is reported that W.H. Auden desired that his last words would be, “This has never happened to me before.” In a great speech, the basketball coach Jim Valvano explained life:
There are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.
A full day in a loose garment and life will offer no more rude handshakes. As the sadly late Stuart Scott used to say, “Boo-yah!”
* * * *
In answer to no one’s question: Yes. I chose a new layout. I was using “The Columnist” all 2014, was happy with it, but thought I would change things for the new year. I am using the free layouts still, but might invest in this website. Any suggestions? Does this layout make my ideas look good?
The WordPress Daily Prompt for January 4 asks, “Tell us about your first day at something—your first day of school, first day of work, first day living on your own, first day blogging, first day as a parent, whatever.”
* * * *
Please subscribe to The Gad About Town on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thegadabouttown