The-Whale-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

JCP_9355Friday night found Kellan and I at an office happy hour.

His office, clearly. Not mine. My office currently consists of the “most called” list in my cell phone and the scrumptious little elderly Asian man that occasionally works out beside me at the gym. He doesn’t speak of lick of English, but he and the juxtaposition of his formidable pot belly with his tiny chicken legs are just darling. We don’t need words, my chicken-legged Asian buddy and I. We just do our treadmill thing with the occasional appreciative nod in the other’s direction that says, “Yeah, YOU. Get on with your bad self. You are OWNING that treadmill.” His steady, shuffling gait makes paint drying look thrilling by comparison, but the whole ordeal leaves me feeling very athletic indeed and for that I am forever grateful.

Back to the point. Kellan works in renewable energy, which means that I spend the vast majority of my time around his coworkers in a state of complete and utter PANIC, desperately trying to avoid calling wind turbines “wind mills” [trust me, not a faux pas you want to make in this crowd] and praying to the baby Jesus that I look like someone that recycles and composts and wears birkenstocks. In real life, the down and dirty truth is that every now and again I just don’t feel like separating my trash. And honestly, I find the idea of keeping a box of worms and dirt and rotting food on my back porch repulsive, and I believe that if shoes could speak, birkenstocks would scream I GIVE UP.

I do, however, feel very strongly about buying organic. As long as your definition of “organic” includes dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets and nutella. So at least I had that.

I am what I am, and I am NOT the earthy, crunchy granola, tree hugging, save the aardvark, bring-your-own-bag-to-the-grocery-store engineer that I ought to be to truly fit in with Kellan’s crowd. It’s not that I have something against the environment, it’s just that my cute little reusable bags still have the tags on them. I have unbelievably wonderful intentions, [I even registered for cloth napkins when we got married! Sustainable AND they go with my color scheme.] …it’s just that my addled brain turns to non-organic swiss cheese come grocery store time. I’m too busy dreading the look of disdain I inevitably receive when YES I would like my milk in a bag, and come to think of it would you be a dear and double it up for just in case purposes?

Just, whatever. To all of my SUV driving, pesticide-eating, only sometimes recycling compatriots: I salute you. You are my people. And goodness, I wish you’d been there on Friday night.

Attempting not to humiliate myself at cocktail hour was vaguely reminiscent of the American lit class that I took my senior year of college. It was a graduate level course at UNC that I slipped into by sheer luck, and I was positively over the moon because CREDIT FOR STUDYING THE WRITTEN WORD. In a sea of pierced, thrifted, dreaded, I-know-those-glasses-aren’t-prescription grad students who seemed to feel every letter of every word with agonizing, painstaking effort, there I was on the front row. The cheerful, preppy brunette stuck out like a bottle of Budweiser next to a 1936 French merlot. [Which I was informed that semester, was a very good year.] I was Elle Woods stepping into her first class at Harvard, and I was simply too excited to waste precious moments being daunted.

Under the leadership of a masterful professor who loved his job more than life itself, we plunged wholeheartedly into the greats. Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Whitman, Hemmingway—my heart was joyfully swept up into every beautiful story. Fascinating class discussions were punctuated by regular enthusiastic arguments over obscure literary points of contention, and I quickly made friends as my frowning hipster classmates discovered that even though I bathed and shaved my legs with some regularity, I could pontificate about Thoreau with every ounce of passion as our androgynous plaid-wearing friend in the back left corner.

We were buddies, the hipsters and I. That is, until Melville.

Herman Melville. Forget Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, when I attempt to scare my children into behaving one day, Melville will surely be my villain of choice. My classmates and I were deep in the throes of analyzing Moby Dick.  Our hearts had set sail on the great ship Pequod with Ishmael, and we were captivated. Lively discussions of class and societal status,  Melville’s use of Shakespearean literary devices and Captain Ahab’s peculiar bent on revenge made fifty minute class periods fly by with heartbreaking speed. It was all going just swimmingly, until one tragic Wednesday afternoon.

I remember it like it happened yesterday. [And goodness knows, I’ve done my very best to forget.] We were in the throes of a debate, and I was espousing the virtues of American Romanticism as displayed in Melville’s writing with all of the confidence of someone that had invented the internet. Or fire. The tight-panted hipsters and their non-prescription glasses were nodding vehemently as animated gestures reinforced my supremely eloquent points, and I found myself half expecting an “amen” for the gift of wisdom that I was so graciously bestowing on my lucky classmates. I think I would have gotten one too, up until it happened.

In the throes of an excited point and practically standing on my chair with gusto that would have made Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” look like he was placing a tired order for a double cheeseburger, with every eye in the classroom on me I ended my impassioned soliloquy with a self-satisfied, “Which is WHY Melville wrote Free Willy in the FIRST place!”

Drop mic.

…I could tell in a heartbeat that something was terribly, terribly wrong. And all of the sudden, I realized.

Free. Willy. Free. Willy. FREE WILLY!

Never before, has silence been so deafening.

In one humiliating, blushing, crawl-under-my-chair-is-it-too-late-to-drop-this-class instant, I DIED A THOUSAND DEATHS. Free Willy. That was the wrong freaking whale. Like Cinderella at the stroke of midnight, I was a beer bottle again. We all erupted into hyperventilating laughter, but you can take it from me that you just don’t come back from that one. Not even if you buy a pair of fake glasses and start wearing flannel. Oh no, the hipsters are not so forgiving. Not in that class.

You’ll be happy to know that on Friday night, I didn’t call Wind Turbines “Wind Mills” one single time.

Nor did I attempt to discuss Moby Dick.

Who will henceforth be known as the great-white-sperm-whale-who-must-not-be-named.

Goodbye forever.

Comments

  1. Chris Pappa says:

    I have one of these moments about weekly. But this one was beautiful.

  2. When driving across Kansas two years ago, I texted my brother with a picture of these giant white ghosts that now dot the landscape. Thousands of them. I asked if they were windmills or turbines. The response was swift and stern and followed with a long explanation of the difference. I’ll never forget and never say it incorrectly. Oy.

  3. My biggest problem with recycling is that I always forget what I can and can’t recycle. I know this seems easy, but can you recycle dirty things? What about random plastic wrap? What if it still has half of my non organic food in it? Plus, one time James told me that it takes more non-renewable energy to break down most recyclables (other than glass and tin) than we are saving, so I use that to excuse myself.

    I hate Melville, despite my hipster husband trying to make me like it. Give me Whitman any day. I do, however, LOVE Free Willy, and I will now spend the rest of the day watching clips on YouTube and singing that awesome Jackson song that they used.

    • I’ve heard the same thing! Yeah, it makes it a little tougher to muster up the willpower. I’m glad that someone else hates Melville too–and if I didn’t have such emotional baggage attached to Free Willy I’d join you on YouTube! ;)

  4. (So I’m a stalker).
    I read your twitter (see point above) and saw you are going to be in Oregon. Point A, I’m sure you will be super busy with your friend! and Point B, Kellan’s not with you and he’s the one who’s actually MET me but…
    if you want to get together for coffee or come to my house for tea or dinner or a walk… I would love to meet you. :-)
    No pressure, but just wanted to extend the invite!

  5. Also- this post was great. Once on a spiritual retreat in college when asked for examples of what happened in the Bible to represent Christ’s resurrection, I raised my hand and mentioned the stone table cracking…

    • Girl. I’d totally love that! Would lunch work for you? The only snag is that I won’t have a car…but if you wouldn’t mind picking me up, it would be really great to get to hang out! Let’s figure it out. :)

  6. my birkenstocks salute you….

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