The Coffee Table


Square Pegs & Round Holes

I am the descendent of my father’s Eastern European/cabbage eater family and my mother’s American roots/white trash heritage. One can put me in the slot that best fits their present day prejudices, but I am probably none of those things.

I am educated, having earned some professional initials to print after my signature. I am undereducated to some and ridiculously over educated to others— a damn know-it-all.

I was raised in the North, in big cities, spent young adulthood in the Deep South, and now live in rural Arkansas.  Southern folks think I’m a Yankee. The Yanks can’t understand why I moved south. Although everybody thinks it’s “cool” that I lived in the Southwest for a dozen years. The Arizona/New Mexico cool-factor is higher than most anywhere. And when I left the Land of Enchantment to move to the Ozarks, I was warned, by a Southwesterner, that Arkansans have no teeth.

When I am on good behavior, minding my manners, people might think I’m rather square. Naive, even. But when curse words come out of my mouth, I can see some people taken aback—they thought I was a nice girl! Others finally relax around me.

I almost always wear dresses or A-line skirts with cotton knit shirts. I just don’t like the binding sensation of pants. Don’t like the feel of elastic. Don’t like belts or fluff or cuffs. I dress for comfort. Some folks interpret my mode of dress as religious, while others see me as an aging hippie.

Prior to the 1940s, female leg-shaving was not “a thing.” But hair removal products became big business and a new social norm was born. In the 1960s junior high locker room, leg-shaving was a survival mechanism, along with donning a bra, and garter belt—with stockings attached. All were necessary. 

But as soon as I was able, I moved my “physical education” to the music department (a viable option back then) and found freedom. I have only shaved my legs once since my school days—to see if my husband would notice. He didn’t. But when others saw my hairy limbs, they often assumed I was European, lesbian, or a ball-breaking feminist. (Or all three?) 

Now I’m old. My hair is too fine to show up against my skin. And the salt and pepper on my head signifies that I might be looney. Slow. Forgetful. Or, on occasion, wise.

In short, no matter how I might or might not try to fit in, I have always been a square peg in a round hole. But a psychologist once told me that everybody feels this way. If that is true, if we all feel like we are on the outside looking in, gosh we are burning up a lot of energy unnecessarily. I wish none of us was subject to judging or being judged without all the essential facts.

But that is difficult. It’s hard to regard a man sleeping on the sidewalk with the same esteem as a man leaving an expensive restaurant in a tuxedo—even though the tux might be Jack the Ripper, and the sleeper might be a nice guy whose home got repossessed.  

The older I get, the less important all this judgement is—but it never goes away completely. So to all the square pegs, I say —  See ya ‘round.

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