Many moons ago, I was sitting with my dear friend “Rosalina” at one of our favorite haunts. This bar is the kind of place where the English professors can hold office hours for the over-21-ers during the day, and where the “younger crowd” can shake its collective booty to a live band at night. At that particular moment, the bar was still quiet. It was early evening, earlier than our usual arrival as we’d had a pretty rough week. We had no intention of shaking anything (although our original intentions rarely mattered once the music started). We just wanted to sit at a small corner table, have a beer, and try to wrap our heads around just what had happened the week before. I don’t remember what the particular drama was. There was always something, and drama has a way of being like quicksand. The harder you fight it, the further it sucks you in. Somehow Rosalina and I had a knack for stumbling into quicksand.
In hindsight, that’s not really shocking. Rosalina is a passionate person who bears a strong resemblance to Angelina Jolie, but is, in my opinion, more fabulous. Of course, mine is a somewhat uninformed opinion as I do not personally know Ms. Jolie, but I do know “Rosalina” and she’s pretty darn fabulous. And then there’s me, who at the time had a penchant for wearing leather (okay, “pleather”) pants and other assortments of tight fitting, uncomfortable attire. It really can’t be considered surprising that we tended to cause a stir, or at least fall into one.
So there we were, at our two-person table in the corner with our dark beers and frustrations, minding our own business because we didn’t want people in ours. And then he showed up. This is the point at which you might be wondering who he is. Is he the strikingly handsome man who walks in the door with a well-timed breeze blowing his wavy hair across his chiseled face? Is he the man who slows time upon his very arrival thus throwing the monkey-wrench into our intentions? Nope. This poor guy, whose presence indicated that he was at least 21 years of age, buzzed like a bee from table to table of women. He was handing out flyers for a party he was going to throw. Sounds a little off? It was certainly creepy behavior, but he was so socially inept that we were less creeped out than we were sorry for him. He had the air of someone who truly thought that this was the best way to make friends, not one of someone who was going to slip us drugs and have his way with us if we had poor enough judgment to go.
Rosalina and I felt sorry for him, but had no intention of dealing with him or making nice. It had been a hard week and we were in no mood. We had just been talking about how exactly we would react and how firmly we would be forced to tell him to buzz off when he approached our table.
Luckily (for us and for him), he didn’t get more than a few words into his introduction. The bartender, a friend of ours, came out from behind the bar so quickly that he seemed to have just appeared. Suddenly he was there, his hands placed gently on the shoulders of our little buzzing bee, saying, “No-no-no. You can’t handle women of this caliber.” I can’t remember if the buzzing bee had tried to say anything as our bartender friend gently dragged him away, but he certainly said no more to us.
Our night went on, but in a somewhat more lighthearted fashion than we had originally assumed. We heard no more from the bee. After all, we had a caliber high enough to be considered a caliber! It’s not that we hadn’t suspected it. We knew that we were smart, talented, and hot (and humble too), but we weren’t always so sure that it was recognized by others. I can’t speak for Rosalina (although the fact that we both love this story and tell it proudly suggests that she might be able to relate to my response), but something snapped in me at that moment. The outside recognition of caliber had affirmed that perhaps I was truly beyond the junk that was going on around me, or at least should be. For me, that moment was a turning point for my level of ambition. I have a caliber. I deserve better. I’m going to go get it.
That is not to say that things suddenly got peachy and I stopped doing dumb things and falling into monotonous, self destructive ruts. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was my self esteem. My self esteem at that point was just good enough to tell me that I deserved to have a better one, and that it was horribly unfair that I didn’t have a better one to begin with.
I mark that moment as a milestone of growing up. Sure, I was 25 or 26 at the time, but the older I get, the more growing up I realize I have to do.
Rosalina’s doing great. She’s about to finish law school. I’m not doing so bad myself. I work in publishing and I have number of projects going. It hasn’t been an easy road. It’s been a journey of frustration and self doubt, of heartbreak and disappointment. But perhaps that road is what has made us “women of that caliber.”