Thursday, December 16, 2010

Willful Thinking

Now that Baby Daddy and I are married, we're finally getting around to doing that other grown-up thing that grown-ups do: writing our wills. First we had the excuse that we'd just have to redo them post-nuptials and name-changes and all that stuff. Then we put it off because as awful as it is to buy life insurance (which we did after the baby was born), it's worse to imagine worst-case scenarios and one's desired outcomes, legally speaking, in said scenarios, and then to put them in writing, and with a raised seal and witnesses at that. Our material assets don't amount to much beyond some sweet vintage vinyl and a car with 125k miles; if we didn't have kids our wills would consist of a couple handwritten "pull the plug" requests. But with the joy of progeny comes the duty to not only protect and provide for them, but also to arrange for their protection and provision in the event that you...gulp...can't.

I did write a will once before, probably with a magic marker, and very likely with open circles over the i's. I was in junior high, which is nearly as painful to think about as the aforementioned topic. My parents divorced and we moved after sixth grade from a rural hippie town to the only real estate market close enough to her job that my mom could afford: a factory town that no longer had factories and was so depressed the Burger King couldn't even stay in business. I went from a progressive elementary school of 80 kids to a sprawling regional high school with low achievement-test scores and lower expectations. I was the youngest kid in my class; I turned 11 a few days before 7th grade. After a miserable transitional year during which: 1) I learned that wearing one's same (and only) pair of jeans every day will inevitably earn one the nickname "Jordass"; 2) A girl who would today be cyberbullying with the best of them cornered me in the bathroom and threatened to beat me up if I didn't date her older brother. I stopped using the bathroom. Then she started calling me at home. I stopped going to school; 3) While I was out "sick" my supposed best and only friend (Missy Williams, I'm talking to you) decided I was a social liability, what with my fashion faux pas and magnetism for mean girls, so she broke into my locker and hit the public-humiliation lottery: my diary. I don't know why I kept it at school; probably so my mother wouldn't read it and discover I was being threatened and make more trouble for me.

It contained my last will and testament. I can only surmise that the impetus for drafting this particular document  was a genuine terror of my bathroom stalker -- whose name was Melanie Perkins, while I'm naming names -- and a recognition in her presence of my mortality, for the first time in my prepubescent life. I've forgotten what it was I bequeathed to whom. My worldly goods consisted of a collection of pocket-sized Beatrix Potter books, a Morris the Cat T-shirt for which I'd diligently peeled, saved, and mailed the labels of numerous cans of cat food, and a few other childhood keepsakes; a denim-texture three-ring binder that smelled like cat pee unsuccessfully masked by Love's Baby Soft (which, come to think of it, may also have hindered my social standing); a 10-speed from Sears, and a fold-up hairdryer. Undoubtedly I left my lone possession of material or personal value -- those designer jeans I'd rallied so hard for the summer before after spotting them in a chance encounter with "television," having lived without one for several years, having not a clue what was in fashion but in hopes of fitting in -- to Missy Williams.

Once retrieving the diary (which had been reviewed and annotated by an untold number of my seventh-grade peers with an enthusiasm and creative use of language that roundly belied the school's drop-out rate. Why, with the proper materials and encouragement, these underprivileged youngsters could be the next Danielle Steeles or Dan Browns!), I destroyed it. My next journal detailed not my personal thoughts but an action plan titled "How to Get Popular," crafted over a summer spent alone in the cool, dim respite of our unfinished basement, studying Seventeen magazine and daytime dramas on our new-used TV. I don't remember what was on the list, besides a plan to select my week of outfits on Sunday night to assure no duplications. Whatever it was, I implemented it, and it pretty much worked. I was no longer bullied, at any rate, and didn't again feel the need to put a post-mortem contigency plan in writing, until now.


Unknown said...

Oh Jess, you are so clever. What was the deal with Baby Soft, did we all wear that crap? My dorky but sweet and innocent inner twelve year old reaches out to you! Thanks for sharing. love, Tedessa

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr