For two years after college I rented an apartment in The Gables, a cheaply-constructed condo community where budding yuppies come to breed. The Gables is famous for its pool: Throughout the summer young singles gather there like mosquitoes in a birdbath. A few swim laps, but mostly they wade. In the shallow end.
That the entire Gables neighborhood is painted in shades of beige is a perfect metaphor -- or a beacon of warning, depending how you see it -- for the homogeneous hell that lies within.
At the time I was living the prescribed life of a young Potomac Jew. It never occurred to me to question my fate; In a year or so I'd meet a Jewish doctor/lawyer/consultant and float down the aisle in big cupcake of a dress, the kind inspired by Disney and stitched by Vera Wang. My hus-bot would buy us a big new house with lots of chain stores nearby, and fill it with overstuffed furniture, overindulged children, and the spoils of our extravagant wedding registry. I would quit my joyous career to spend afternoons steering a stroller around Nordstrom and lunching with other women my age and their matching babies. This is what I would do because it's what I'd been made for. It's what we were all made for. Like cows for milk, or horses for glue. We were the Stepfordsteins.
A few years went by. I went on dozens of dates with nice-enough men. Some of them really wanted to get married, and if I'd let them into my heart even a little bit they might have wanted to marry me. I kept working, wondering when I'd get to stop but secretly hoping I'd never have to. First I learned to live alone. Then I learned to be alone. I read more. Wrote more. Made more music. I sampled just enough indepdendent joy to make me restless for more... But still I dated and waited, and the beige life did not come.
Then I met John and we fell in love. I wasted no time plugging his likeness into my little template of life: He was older than I'd planned -- older and more Catholic -- but I loved him and our children would be smart. They might even have a shot at being tall.
I waited. I prayed. I loved him as hard as I could. And when it eventually fell apart, I crumbled with it. Turned out that was just what I needed: My entire sense of self had imploded, and once the dust settled I could see, finally, why my suburban fairy tale wasn't coming true: It was my worst nightmare. Beige wasn't a life, it was a lobotomy. All these years I'd been tripping over myself to step around it. Now I was free to build a newer, stronger, truer self from the pieces John had left behind.
Once I realized what I didn't want, I was free to dream up a future that's uniquely mine: Confident, independent children who bear my grandparents' names and the qualities that made me love them (like my Nana Millie, who was beautiful and laughed all the time, and my Grampa Ben, who always survived); a bright home with an old soul; a textured community; hundreds of pageworn books that my kids will devour in secret corners; creative, nourishing work; enduring health; inexhaustible love; and a perfectly imperfect partner whose misshapen pieces fit my own puzzled person. All this and a stack of wild cards, because the best thing about it all is that I have no idea what's really coming.
So give me colors. Lots of them. All of them - except beige. Beige is not my hue.