I was 24 and I didn’t own one plate, one fork, or one piece of furniture. All I owned was a mountain of books on literary criticism. Tears rolled down my face as I taped up my boxes of books to take with me to Seattle, where I would be studying for my Ph.D. Why am I doing this on my own? I thought. I had never thought of marriage before, I thought only about my career as a professor and playwright, like my mentor, Paula Vogel, who went on to win a Pulitzer Prize and teach at Yale. That was my destiny, I was sure of it, my mother was sure of it. My mother had always championed my literary aspirations, despite her suggestion that I should get a job working with computers. But life hadn’t happened to me yet; I hadn’t had to make tough choices.
I’m not sure if I was really crying about leaving the East Coast. My parents had made it clear that after age 21, I could never again live at home. And my mother was so cranky, stressed, and shrewish that I only took jobs during college where I could live somewhere else, and this also made it impossible to live at home on Long Island while searching for a job in Manhattan, or getting an internship.
“You’ve got to come see Jack’s house that he’s building for his son and his new wife!” My mom urged. But my face belied that I had just been sobbing, and I couldn’t get it together. Finally I relented and met the young couple, who were my age, to my chagrin, and toured their beautiful new house.
When I returned home I cried again. People my age were already married and living in houses. I would be making $700 per month in Seattle as a teaching assistant. Was this really what I wanted? I decided I would rather be married and having my father-in-law build us a house.
On a plane ride to my father’s condo in Bermuda, while I was dreaming up the first monologue that would be published, I realized my own self-worth. I realized I loved myself, my talent, my sense of humor, my intelligence, my long thick hair and long legs and big breasts. I thought anyone would be lucky to love me. I had taken the first step to finding love: I realized I loved myself. Or possibly I was a conceited narcissist.
My mom had gone out for a while and she returned with two thoughtful surprises: a red balloon, because she knew that was my favorite movie, and a book with photos of Seattle.
The only photo I had seen of Seattle was on a poster displaying tall evergreen trees. “When I think of Seattle, I think of tall trees and tall men,” I told a friend.
While speeding down a highway from Providence to Chicago to visit a friend with my colleagues from Brown, driving a stick shift when I didn’t know how to use the clutch, before almost flying through the toll booth because I didn’t know how to downshift, I said, “Maybe when I get to Seattle I’ll have a boyfriend. Maybe he’ll have a car. Maybe he’ll have a luxury car!”