Becoming Those People

The other day, on our early morning flight from San Diego to San Francisco, a baby was crying across the aisle from us. I mean, of course he was crying, poor thing: he'd been dragged out of his crib at four in the morning and made to sit in a cramped metal tube with a hundred strangers who glared at him. Have you ever noticed how people glare at crying babies on planes? Because that's going to help, isn't it: affixing a poor defenseless four-month-old with your iciest stare. Why don't you just steal his lunch money and insult his sister's virtue while you're at it? 

Anyway, I always feel sorry for babies crying on planes, or rather, I feel sorry for their parents. My mother traveled with us a lot when we were little---often alone if my father had moved to whatever new country ahead of us to start a job---and I never really figured out how she did it, or at least how she did it without losing her mind. One of my first memories, in fact, is of being on a plane. Another is of disembarking from one and seeing both of my grandmothers waiting for me at the arrivals gate, beaming. 

As we were descending into San Francisco last week, poor little Jonah---that was the baby's name, Jonah, I asked---was screaming his tiny head off. His ears must have been bothering him, I think, and his parents were distraught. As the plane swooped downwards, it took the four of us---me, Sean, and Jonah's mother and father---to soothe him into submission, and we did it through a complicated, finely-tuned collaboration: Jonah's mother bounced him on her knee, Jonah's father stroked his hair, and Sean and I sat on the other side of the aisle, maniacally making faces and playing frantic games of peekaboo in an effort to distract this tiny screeching baby. "Oh god!" wailed his mother at the straight backs of the other passengers, intent upon reading their paperback novels over the screaming. "We've become those people! How did we become those people?"


On Saturday night, I hosted a dinner party, and the dinner party was for nine people. On Friday night, before the dinner party for nine people, the thought I kept having was this: you know that crack I was apparently smoking when I decided I could handle hosting a dinner party for nine people? Get me some more of that. I'm going to need it.

But the dinner party turned out fine, of course; better than fine, perhaps. I pushed every table in my house together and gathered every chair I could find, used an old curtain as a white tablecloth, and turned the lights down real low so no-one could see the cat hair on the couch. I lit some candles, brought out my square white plates---much fancier than my round white plates---and got everyone nice and liquored up before I served them the main course.

But there was a moment during it that I stepped back, looked in on the scene as though from the outside, and had a brief, surreal moment of bewilderment. How did I get here?, I thought.  There I was, smart silver dress on, salad servers in hand, setting down a bowl of organic arugula onto the table, and I thought ten years ago I would have been vomiting into a toilet at a disreputable nightclub on a Saturday night. And now here I am.

When is that moment, do you suppose, that we become the kind of people who start having other people over for dinner parties, who use "entertaining" as a verb instead of an adjective? Why don't we notice when it happens? What are the coordinates for the exact instant in our lives that a nice glass of wine becomes more appealing than three pineapple Bacardi Breezers, a tequila shot paid for by that cute guy leaning against the bar, and an ill-advised McDonalds milkshake at 2am? When do we start cleaning the bathroom because company's coming over? When do we become owners of salad servers, for god's sake? When do we start buying organic arugula? How does this happen and why is it so swift and imperceptible? When do we become those people?


Until I was twenty-six, I never wanted to get married. Someone I knew asked me, when I was twenty-one, when Sean and I were going to tie the knot, and you'd have thought she'd asked me whether I liked my cockroaches roasted or deep-fried, the way I gagged and rolled my eyes and made the universal sign for Stop It Or I'm Going To Barf. I just wasn't interested, the way I wasn't interested in buying a house or spending a little extra for the fancy mustard or any of the other things I'm suddenly less repelled by now, and continue to be less repelled by as I age.

But then there was a moment when it happened, when I thought yes, I'd like that, I'd like to get married. And more importantly: I'd like to be married. And just like that, it became something I thought about---and then something I thought and thought and thought about, until I couldn't stop thinking about it, until being married seemed to be the thing I wanted most in the world. And I don't really know where I'm going with this, except to say wow, getting older, huh? Man, it's really something.

Jun 01, 2009

The whole getting older thing is so mysterious, isn't it? Sometimes, I sit in my classroom, and think I should be sitting at a little desk, or that someone is surely going to burst in and ask why a child is teaching! But then, there are moments that I'm so, so glad to be an "adult."

This is a lovely entry. Congrats on pulling off what sounds like an excellent dinner party :)

Jun 01, 2009

Just wait until you go to your first Tupperware party (if you haven't already). If someone had suggested to my 18 year old self that I'd be at one, and actually enjoying it, I'd have passed out from laughing so hard - after I stopped screaming that is. I think it's those moments of crystal-clear realisation that drive people to buy expensive red cars and have ill-advised affairs.

Jun 01, 2009

I am actually looking forward to the day when I buy the fancy actually sounds quite lovely.


Camels & Chocolate
Jun 01, 2009

I'm one of those people--the type that glares at babies, or rather their parents, on the airplane. But that's mainly because a) I don't like babies and b) for the life of me I don't understand why their parents don't just drug them with Baby Benadryl beforehand. It's like, hello, you're on a 14-hour flight from San Francisco to Auckland, it's going to be so much better for the other passengers, you AND the baby if he just sleeps in peace!

The dinner party was just lovely, and I totally had one of those, "whoa! We're the type who entertain (or be entertained) and who couldn't name five trendy bars in San Francisco as a result." But I like that, I do. I think the night at Bigfoot Lodge proved none of us should be allowed to step foot in a bar on a weekend night, HA.

Ditto to the married. And funny, it came at 26, too. Up until about two months ago I never thought I'd get married. And then, it's like I turned 26, I thought, "huh, Scott and I have been together going on four years; I totally could marry this boy," then he asked, and here we are.

So I guess you could say we're Those People, too.

Jun 01, 2009

Add me also to the list of never marrying. I really never thought I'd do it. Then WHAM! Husband came along and four months later it was set and now three years later I sometimes spend my Friday nights standing at Target mulling over the 10 different types of toilet paper and trying to figure out which one will give me the most value for my money while also providing ample cushioning to my delicate hind-end.

This growing old thing is mysterious, indeed.

Jun 01, 2009

Getting older is funny, but some things never change. For example, when I was 14 I started reading Seventeen magazine because I wanted to be prepared. I'd be able to breeze through my teenage years because those "What Kind of Girl are You?" quizzes would help me pinpoint and fix my flaws so that I'd be pretty! and popular! and fun! It didn't work, of course.

Today, I've become That Person who owns a home, reads Consumers Reports before buying anything, and owns salad tongs. But today, at the age of 37, I'll occasionally panic about my age, and in a fit of needing to "be prepared," I will pick up a copy of More (the "Seventeen" magazine for women in their 40s).



Anne in SC
Jun 01, 2009

Well put. Never really given it much thought, but that's exactly how it happens.

Anne in SC
Jun 01, 2009

Oh, regarding babies on planes...unfortunately the Bendadryl doesn't always work. I did that when we had a 10 month old on a relatively short flight and the Bendadryl actually hyped her up and made it worse. So that may actually be why all babies are crazy on planes...because all of us parents are trying to do the right thing and it's backfiring. Feeding them a bottle (or letting them suck a pacifier) is the thing I found that helped during takeoff and landings.

Jun 01, 2009

I agree that a bottle or pacifier are critical to keeping a baby quiet on planes. When the plane is descending, their ears get too much pressure & a bottle or pacifier is the only thing that's going to help that. We flew several times with our munchkin & never had problems. The key is getting them to suck the bottle/pacifier BEFORE their ears hurt, or else it's too late. Poor things.

Jun 01, 2009

I thank you for your sympathy for people on planes with babies! I have the most chilled out baby on the planet (who Does! Not! Cry! On! Flights! She LOVES airplanes! So far...) and the second I step into the aisle you'd have thought I was bringing the Bubonic Plague with me in a jar. (After the flight people tell us -- almost apologetically -- "she was so good! You couldn't even tell she was on the plane!" sigh.
It IS crazy how the things that appealed to you when you were younger just don't seem like fun any more (staying up past midnight?! Smoking cigarettes?! YUCK!). The thing I don't miss, however? being able to eat anything (and everything ... and that included lots of BEER) without getting FAT.

Jun 01, 2009

Soon we'll be Those People who wear support hose, eat dinner at Denny's at 4:30 in the afternoon, and kvetch about our aching joints.

(I'll probably still be locking my keys in my car. Until my much-putupon grandchildren rescind my driving rights.)

Jun 01, 2009

Heh. Ditto what Amy said; every so often I catch myself thinking, "How have I managed to fool everybody into think I'm a grownup?"

(And as someone else pointed out, Benadryl has the opposite effect on many children and unfortunately makes them more hyper. That's why the gods gave us earplugs.)

Jun 01, 2009

To Camels & Chocolate:

"But that's mainly because a) I don't like babies and b) for the life of me I don't understand why their parents don't just drug them with Baby Benadryl beforehand."

Because Benadryl makes some babies hyper, not sleepy. Because almost all pediatricians strongly oppose it being used as a sleep aid. Because Benadryl does nothing against the ear ache.

Jun 01, 2009

i have a lot of sympathy for people on planes with babes as well. but we a sad minority.
i never thought i would get married either. maybe it was an age thing, but maybe it was just an i-met-the-right-guy thing.
also if i drink one and a half gin and tonics and stay up past midnight now, i am a wreck the next day. i never thought that would happen to me.

Jun 01, 2009

This getting older thing never fails to amaze me. It used to be that I could stay up to the wee hours, have many cocktails, get up and go to work - NO PROBLEM! Then one day I got old and preferred my bed and a good book at 10am to staying out til 2am. How that happened is still a mystery to me.

Marriage - it sneaks up on you. I was cruising along, convinced I would never get married, meet someone I wanted to marry and who want to marry me. Then, one evening at a work dinner, I sat down beside this handsome man something inside me began to hum. After a while, I realized that hum was my inner wedding march and somehow I managed to turn the volume up so that he heard it too. Three years later, I am glad to report that it is so much more and better than I ever could have imagined.

Jun 01, 2009

I was the exact same way when asked about getting married - gag me with a spoon! But now it's definitely something I want. But I also don't think we need to get married, so that's what's confusing to me. Is it just social pressure? Ack. Anyhoo. Lovely post!

Jun 01, 2009

Aw, I teared up! This is really sweet, and I have those moments all the time. I'm curious about when exactly I'll stop being awed at my grownupness!

Jun 01, 2009

I had this moment recently, too. I remember when I used to think that being "conventional" would be boring. My nineteen-year-old self would have hated seeing me reading recipes for fun or cutting squares for a quilt. She would feel so SORRY for me. The funny thing is, I feel sorry for HER.

Jun 01, 2009

Great post! :)

I know what you mean. But its nice to find out that it isn't so bad turning into "those people". Being a grownup is ok!

Jun 01, 2009

I wrote my college application essay on "How I DON'T want to be like my parents." But there are something that ended up happening anyway. I got married, bought a house, and have a garden. My punishment in high school used to be working in my mom's garden 'cause I hated it so. Someone mentioned to me last week that a measure of "how grown-up you are" is how much you care about your yard.

Jun 01, 2009

I'm a bit of a glarer, but only at parents that appear to be doing nothing to soothe the baby. Even if you know it's not going to work, make an effort for me, okay?

Jun 01, 2009

I don't have any eloquent thing to say except to say that i understand what you're saying.

Jun 01, 2009

This was a lovely post; I love dinner parties and the grown-up fun entailed. I'm also reminded to bring earplugs for my flight tomorrow. But really, why use Benadryl with its potentially paradoxical effects when booze works just fine and is, maybe, less controversial? I mean, who doesn't like alcohol except for sourpusses? (Note: KIDDING! For reals!)

Jun 02, 2009

wow! What a great post! I can only relate to the marriage part. I got married on my 11th anniversary, before that, I never wanted to marry. We even had children first! Then something changed. I don't think I will ever change my desire to never have a dinner party however. It's bad enough when my parents come over! Getting older really is something though.

Jun 02, 2009

Hm, I just turned 40 and I don't use "entertaining" as a verb, like others here, I often wonder how I've managed to fool people into thinking I'm an adult, and I stay out until 4 a.m. listening to bands with friends many, many weekends. As in, most every one.

And, yet, there are nights when it's just too much trouble to go out, when I prefer a good episode of "The Ghost Whisperer," and yeah, wine is my drink of choice.

Somehow, even if they're very slight, the changes of getting older do happen, and most often take me by surprise. But that could just be because so many other things have NOT changed. LOL.

(As for marriage...maybe someday. I, too, wanted to at 26. And then that impulse passed.)

Tracy D
Jun 02, 2009

I was so totally the girl in the disreputable nightclub vomiting in the bathroom. Now, my slightly older self shudders at the thought. I haven't been in a bar in months and I haven't been drunk at a bar in years. I've been married now for exactly a year, and I couldn't be happier!

Dinner parties are just so much more sophisticated than bars, I think you get to a certain point and you are just tired of all the partying, drinking, and general stupid behavior.

Massive hangovers and vomiting on oneself are so out and classy dinner parties and wedding rings are so in!

Jun 03, 2009

Oh, Holly. Oftentimes when I read your blog I think, "Woah, did I write this?" despite the fact that it is far more entertainingly written than I could have done.

Some of my earliest memories are of being on a plane too (TWA!) and I've often wondered how my mother handled us three kids on her own on flights when my father had gone ahead to start a new job in a new country (Bahrain, Kuwait, Egypt, New York...)

And up until I was 25ish I didn't want to get married either. And now here I am (at almost 29) taking the first steps towards marriage.

I have to say though you seem to be doing the whole "getting older" thing very convincingly with a lot of ease and style. :)

Jun 04, 2009

I just bought hand towels that I DO NOT USE. There was a time not too long ago when I would have felt the ultimate scorn for the sort of person who purchases things specifically NOT to use them. Oh, look! Hand towels you do NOT dry your hands with ever!

It was a rather terrifying moment, and I'm pretty sure there will be more of them.