All About Me

How I thought I’d turn out versus how I actually turned out are two separate stories

When I was a kid, I had a book called “All About Me,” which incidentally ended up being the theme for my entire life. The book asked questions and had blank spots for you to fill in your answers with your crayon. My mom saved the book to whip out when I was 15 and my first boyfriend came by.

Thanks again, Mom.

I remember one of the hard-hitting questions in that book was, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My answer was "princess and movie star." I guess I wanted to be Grace Kelly even then, without knowing who the Sam Hill Grace Kelly was yet.

As I moved past crayon quizzes and onto writing with scented ink in my equally hard-hitting teenage diary, I pictured my grown-up self as not exactly a movie star, but still impossibly beautiful and dazzlingly glamorous. At the time, I resembled Barney Fife, so when I thought this magnificent transformation in my looks was going to take place is beyond me. I think I kind of hung my hat on age 16. Yeah, 16. That’s when I was gonna be so stunning that the whole world would take notice.

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I hope you’re sitting down, but at age 16 I’d moved on to maybe "Barney Fife in drag." I was a little more feminine, but I was hardly setting the world on fire with the white-hot heat that was my beauty. Throughout high school and college, I saw myself leaving the smallish town I lived in as soon as I could. I’d move to a big city and become an extremely well-dressed, brilliant writer. Everyone would admire me. Vogue editors wouldn’t be able to get enough of me. I wanted to be Carrie Bradshaw, without knowing who the Sam Hill Carrie Bradshaw was yet.

It turns out being a really brilliant writer takes, you know, effort. It required a lot of thinking and reading and a lot less concentrating on how many Lemon Drops I could slam before last call. Also, seeing as I was majoring in English and all, I was meeting a lot of writers, and it turns out they generally don’t dress all that well. I don’t think you can really trust a well-dressed writer.

Well. Mark Twain was well-dressed. But he still looked rumpled. I think you have to have a rumply look to seem deep and tragic and writerish. At least that’s the theory I’m going with now, because I can’t really afford to dress the way I want to. I’m a writer, man; I’ve got no bread. (I have no idea how I just transitioned from writer to beatnik, but there it is.)

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My point is, if you’d wandered into my 1979 bedroom today (past the 482 Barry Gibb posters) and you asked me what I thought 48-year-old Karen would be like, I think 1979 me would say I’d left my hometown for a real city (I did), married someone smart and funny (I did), wouldn’t have any kids (I didn’t) and would be incredibly glamorous (I’m not).

Present-day me thinks that if I’m still alive 35 years from now I’ll be living in a big old farmhouse with 29 pets, I will have had some success with writing, and I will be one of those cool old women who says what she’s thinking and shocks you every once in awhile.

Oh. And I’ll be really hot and incredibly glamorous. Keep hope alive, man. Keep hope alive.

Tags: memoirs