The other day Gabriel and I had that rarest of commodities, a Saturday night all to ourselves. Paula was having a sleepover at a friend's house, and Isabel was spending the night at my in-laws.
We wanted to watch a movie, so we ventured out of the suburbs and went downtown to watch The Reader at the Angelika. I felt completely out of place with my suburban mommy uniform of sweats and polo shirt.
Inside the theather, the couple sitting in front of me looked like UH or possibly Rice U professors. It struck me a bit funny, because they were having quite a rapid and heated argument, but trying to do it sotto voce so as not to draw attention to themselves. It seemed like it started as a disagreement of an intellectual sort, but devolved into something personal quite quickly. The looks they shot at each other were priceless.
As amused as I was, I could not help but feel uncomfortable, not because I was witnessing a badly concealed marital spat, but because these people seemed to be above the kind of pedestrian concerns that occupy my thoughts these days. They were up in their ivory tower, passionately arguing their views. There was a time during my college years and in grad school, when I used to hang out with that kind of people.
There was a time when I aspired to be one of them, when the conversations in my circle of peers were laden with words ending in the suffix ism. Poetry readings with wine were a common ocurrence. To be anti-establishment and pro-independence was de rigeur. Everything was post or meta.
I loved that world and hated it at the same time. I loved it because it showed me that there is more to life than the basics. I hated its affected, pretentious nature, and the fact that I did not quite fit in it. I was not precious or militant enough. I did not have a goal of getting a PhD. I loved writing my fiction, but it wasn't a burning passion without which I would be dead. I loved all the things they supposedly frowned upon: fashion magazines, TV, blockbuster movies. And I had no freaking clue what to do with my life.
Ultimately, I drifted away from that circle as a fork on the road made me choose between work and grad school, and to earn a living I entered the business world from the bottom rungs of the clerical ladder. When confronted with the (apparent) rampant mediocrity and narrow-mindedness of the people I found myself working for, I consoled myself by thinking I was above it all; that I was smarter and better than them. How very petulant of me.