Wide Open Spaces

So I’m totally cheating this week and pulling out some old, unpublished stuff, but it’s kind of fun to look back on some of my thoughts when I was a naive twenty-something. I was reminded of this essay when I once again rejoined the very same dance aerobics class at the YMCA only to find the same two instructors AND the very same Jane with her still stunning legs. So I dug up this little treasure to share with you–from when I was a mom of a single instead of a single mom. Enjoy!

Before Jolie, I had a vague notion of my own space. There is a 4’x4’ square of grass in a park off of Charing Cross Road in London that I declared my own when I studied abroad in college. I even planted the flag holding together my club sandwich as a symbol of entitlement. There was something incredibly liberating in the fact that for 45 minutes, one patch of land on one tiny part of this world belonged to me—in my mind at least.

Now I am lucky to claim 4 square inches to myself. Especially since Jolie became mobile. I expected the toys to be underfoot and the presence of baby to be throughout the house, but I could not be prepared for the complete and utter foreclosure on all Destiny real estate. My car, my bed, my mind…none belong to me anymore. I am a tree in the zoo’s Ape House, constantly being scaled, danced on, bananas mashed into my extremities, severely lacking in my own space.

Yesterday I had had enough. In a moment of complete surrender, I took to my sanctuary, my closet. Whenever I need some alone time I can shrink in the corner behind the shirts and count to 100. Sometimes I take my cell phone with me and call my gay-boyfriend Hunter (Okay, so he’s actually quite straight, but he’s in the design industry so sometimes it’s just easier—for him and for me—to pretend he’s one of the boys). Hunter has a way of always making me laugh so it is not uncommon for shrieks and howls of laughter to come from behind a row of GAP button downs. Cellular therapy—works like a charm.

After ensuring Jolie was safely sleeping behind bars, I slinked into my closet to meditate next to my salsa red stilettos, a cruel reminder that style used to mean more than matching flip-flops. As I inhaled my first deep cleansing breath, I felt a sticky squish between my toes and I visualized my happy place spiraling away. Half-afraid to open my eyes, I looked down to find a half-chewed, spit out strawberry fruit and cereal bar. It was as if Jolie had tucked that last bite of breakfast away until she found the only remaining part of the house that she had not discovered and upchucked it in an exuberant proclamation of ownership. Jolie the Conquistador strikes again.

It’s not just Jolie who is invading, either. She has enlisted the aid of the citizens of Cincinnati, and they are responding to her call to arms. Whether on I-275, in the aisles at Kroger, or at the gas station (Was that extra 2 inches closer to the pump really worth tapping my bumper, mister?), my personal space is shrinking faster than Travolta’s hairline.

The last straw came today in my dance aerobics class when I walked in to take my regular spot next to the mirror at the back of the class only to find a perpetrator in my space. Now, perhaps my recent situation has me a bit sensitive, but Oh no– I was not going to give up this land without a fight. Those 4 feet of dance space were mine, etiquette toward the New Chick (NC) be damned.

I squeeze between NC and Jane, the ex-dancer with killer legs, and arch my eyebrow toward my opponent. The suburban mom’s version of a bull snorting and pounding its foot. She smiles unsuspectingly, but remains steadfast in my space. Game on, sister.

As we start our warm-up, I stretch my arms extra wide, brushing her hand as a warning shot. She darts a glance and smiles apologetically, but doesn’t move. Okay, this is getting personal. So I double-time the grapevine and stomp on her shoe. This time I get a “Sorry” in between huffs, but the witch won’t give. I make my side kicks Rockette-style, laces nearly touching her nose. Jane looks at me like I’m nuts, but this has become a grudge match. I refuse to give ground, newbie is going down.

We step through the songs, neither of us willing to budge. We are inches from each other, our arms are flailing, and rock-hops and knee kicks are punctuated with “oops” and “sorry.”

And then comes the Dixie Chicks. Between pants I sing along, “She needs wide open spaces…” And I pull my country knees just a little too high and my elbows just a little too wide and NC gets it in the left breast—hard.

“OWWW,” she howls, as I am sobered into reality and apologize profusely, sincerely this time. She retreats to catch her breath and wipes the sweat from her brow. When she returns, she yields the spot to me and takes her position on the other side of Jane.

Four feet suddenly seems like acres when you are two inches tall. And I look again at NC and realize that she, too, is probably trying to eke out her own space in a world full of dancing monkeys.

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