Published by In Her Place on November 29, 2011

Advice for Living in Your Hometown as a Woman

by Lori White

Some say “You can’t go home again,” but you’re determined to give it a try. Consider these tips before you unpack your new clothes in that one-signal California ranch town.

Tip #1
First, you must accept the spectacle you’ll be making, the stares, the gossip and the rumors that will follow you. The fact is you won’t be able to leave your house without someone looking at you sideways, frontways, backways to catch something the doctors might have missed.

Tip #2
Prepare for the disappointment in your father’s face when you tell him that you are no longer his only son, his family namesake, his promise of another generation. Anticipate his distrust, his distance, and, eventually, his dismissal. But then again, there’s always a chance he may surprise you.

Try using language he understands. Until now, the parts didn’t fit together, like using the wrong size wrench. Nothing turns, never loosens, never tightens, never grips. Tell him it was a necessary step, like a fine sanding before the primer. Like well-oiled ball bearings that eliminate friction and keep the wheels moving.

Tip #3
Move to Sweden instead. Forget about that little boy who ran the register in his father’s hardware store.

Tip #4
Show your best friend Elizabeth all the benefits she’ll enjoy. You can share a dressing room at Macy’s during their One Day Sales. Get makeovers, mani-pedis and go for weekend getaways at the spa. You can even lend her clothes if she sheds those pesky ten pounds—what better motivator? Offer these up to balance the sadness when she realizes she’s lost the illusion of romance in her life. Remind her that she hasn’t lost your love. And now, when she meets a new man, he won’t have to measure up.

Tip #5
Expect Joann at Food King to take a step back when you hand her money, even though you’ve known each other since kindergarten. Carl—the boy you gave clarinet lessons to—may not ask if you want paper or plastic. Marilyn at First Valley’s merchant window could refuse to cash your personal checks and point you to the line of regular customers. Irene might drop your packages, even the ones marked fragile, and never put extra Bed, Bath and Beyond coupons in your mailbox like she does for your mother; and when you want to buy the new Humane Society stamps, don’t be surprised if she says she’s all out. Harold Cook, proprietor of the Jolly Cone, could forget the burger he concocted in your honor—extra pickles, extra cheese and a dollop of Hunt’s BBQ sauce—when you returned from the state spelling bee finals. Give him some time and he might remember. And if Pastor Moore tells you, “Man can change the body, but only Jesus can change your soul,” smile, bow your head, then turn away.

Tip #6
Your mother will be easier. At first, she may blame herself for letting you play dress-up in her closet, or for agreeing to call you Susie when you invited her to your tea parties, serving her lemonade and cookies in the tree house your father built. But, in time, once she sees you happy to be the woman you were always meant to be, who, deep down, she always knew you were meant to be, you can joke that, though she lost a son, she also gained a daughter. Hope that she laughs. And when you tell her only now do you understand how she suffered during those years of mood swings and crying jags, she could take you in her arms and dry your tears, something she hasn’t done since you were twelve.

Tip #7
When you can’t keep up appearances, when you don’t want to explain, appease, or reassure anymore, take comfort in the pleasures you’ve claimed as your own: the shift of silk against your knees; the binding elastic of your Playtex bra; the first time a man held the door for you, tipped his hat, bought you a drink. In the mirror, you see what was always there, waiting for you to rescue. The counselors said it would feel like coming home. Perhaps you took that too literally. You want to believe people change. Just look at yourself.

Read Lori White’s bio »

2 comments

So well said. There is an ache here so delicately portrayed.

by Emily Rosenbaum on December 1, 2011 at 2:08 am. Link

This is just brilliant.

by Mira on December 1, 2011 at 10:35 am. Link