28 April 2007

Four Sides

On the Seventh Day of Four, I think about shapes.

I'm square.

My freshman fall at college, we weren't allowed to go to fraternities (a new policy, later recinded, that aimed at decreasing fraternity influence on the social scene). I seemed to be the only one in my class for whom this wasn't a problem. (In winter, I did go to a frat party the first weekend it was legal, but I didn't stay long. Too much beer, too much noise, too little point. It took another two years for me to finally find the social circle of other similarly disaffected students.) I ended up a member of a co-ed fraternity whose two major yearly activities were a contradance and a pancake breakfast (and we later deaffiliated from the fraternity system; it now exists as an affinity house, I think).

I'm risk-averse. I don't like rollercoasters, don't like going fast, don't like horses. I have, for love, on three occasions gone riding with Politica. The first time, outside Logan, Utah, I thought that it would make sense for me to try it again for the first time since my Girl Scout camp equestrian disaster. (I was riding a horse named either Pepper or Salt; the other of the pair was sick, and my horse didn't want to go out on the trail. It bolted back to the barn, and I was terrified. When we stopped, the horse woman said to me, "Your feet fell out of the stirrups." I thought, "I could have died and you're talking about stirrups?!?!" but of course I didn't say that, talking about emotions not being much modeled in my family.) In Utah, I spent the entire ride tensely muttering to myself, "this really isn't so bad." But apparently the look on my face belies my muttering, and Politica has since released me from any sense of obligation to ride with her. The last time we were near horses on a vacation, Curious Girl and I went to the Alaska Zoo while Politica rode, and everyone had fun.

I don't think I'm graceful. I had private swim lessons for a year (not quite sure why my mother arranged them, but I was grateful to get out of swim classes in which I was always the last person across the pool, always unsure of how to find my class in the big pool area when I'd left my glasses in the locker). My swim teacher told my mother I was very graceful in the water, and I still feel pleased when I think about that, because there aren't a lot of times I get complimented on the way I move through the world. Like many women, I don't have the greatest of body images, and my unwillingness to expose my body always kept me shy about sports. I regret that now (and am considerably more athletic in my forties than I've ever been before--in college I learned to play squash, cross-county ski, and contradance and all that was good for my body and soul). I wish I had learned, as a child, to have a less square sense of my body.

I've never done drugs or smoked. This is partly out of a philosophical commitment to good health, partly out of a fear of rule-breaking, and partly out of cheapness and unsureness about where anyone would actually obtain illicit drugs. I've never run with a fast crowd. We square types fit well together.

Mostly, I like being square. It's a sturdy shape, a strong shape. I like the hopelessly unhip things I do: contradancing has come in handy for spinning Curious Girl around the house, for instance. Being a Girl Scout leader has given me lots of good ideas for things to do with kids. I like to garden, I like to read (even if I have a terrible memory for book titles, plot points, and character names. But I know how to look them up again when I forget them.) I like staying home more than I like going out, although I do love to travel, and I love being outdoors. I like good conversation.

I don't think I'm dull. I'm not indecisive, and I'm not inertia-full. One of the reasons I'm a good academic administrator is I'm not much tied to the past as a guide to future practice. I'm attuned to institutional history and context, don't get me wrong, but I'm not afraid to look at what needs to change. (What am I afraid of? dogs and the dark, although Curious Girl has motivated me to at least hide those fears, and in hiding them, I'm getting over them. Sort of.)

When all is said and done, if I had to pick a shape for myself, I would have to say, it's square.


Phantom Scribbler said...

I've always considered myself too eccentric to be a square, but by these definitions I am decidedly squarish.

Genevieve said...

Me too.

And I also joined a co-ed fraternity filled with people who had no interest in the regular kind of fraternity!