To assure that such a terrible fate would never befall me, I memorized 'I Won't Grow Up' and all the rest of the lyrics from Peter Pan by the time I was 6, became a beatnik at 12--dedicating myself to Poetry and Life--and at 19 hooked up with an artiste-cowboy who was a dead ringer for Bob Dylan and had a taste for mind-altering substances. Together we bummed around the globe, living in Volkswagen vans and liberating T-bone steaks from supermarkets as part of our mission to crush capitalist pigs everywhere.
For a while I really believed I could break free from my middle-class roots by becoming a batik artist, a craftsy lovechild who earned her bread (homemade, 107-grain) with her own hands. The plan worked brilliantly until lack of sales (and even barter) made it obvious that I had absolutely no talent. Before long I set our cabin on fire with my cauldron of hot wax and I was out of business.
It seemed that the universe was trying to tell me something. Like: grow up. I decided to give it a whirl, praying that there was some middle ground between stultification and irresponsibility, between June Cleaver and Squeaky Fromme.
Here's what I did, more or less in order:
- Had a son, got indoor plumbing.
- Held down a succession of real jobs, including publicist for an outpatient leper colony--an especially challenging position for a world-class hypochondriac.
- Quit the colony and became a freelance writer, a move that would indicate a serious relapse until you factor in a new husband with a good job, a 401K, and practically no interest in illegal drugs.
- Took on a mortgage (in progress).
Barbara Graham is a contributor to numerous magazines, as well as the author of Women Who Run with the Poodles (Avon, 1994). To her shock the mortgage has been approved.