It seems wrong to be the kind of mother who pressures her son to socialize over studying sometimes. Especially when he goes to one of the hardest schools in the country. But the life lesson I want to teach early and often is about balance. If you can’t work hard and also figure how to enjoy yourself, you’re screwed.
Speaking of screwed, a big lesson in balance came to me my senior year in college, at Northwestern.
A guy who shall remain nameless asked me out my senior year. It was strange. We’d always been pals, and I never guessed at anything romantic, but one night, at some gambling party, he looked at me over the blackjack table he was dealing with a sexy stare and said boldly, “Do you want to go out with me Saturday night?”
I had to do a double-take to think of him that way. But when I did, he was pretty cute, and the way he was looking at me was definitely enticing.
So I went that Saturday night. I was not the kind of girl who got asked out on dates. I was the kind that got whisked out of the bar at 2 am on the handlebars of bikes to make out in gardens. (Okay, that exact scenario only happened once, but you get my point.)
It was fun, though, to be on a date, at a restaurant, like a normal. It was Thai food, and we had a great time. We talked comfortably, and our hands found each other across the table by the end of the meal. He walked me home, taking me in his arms and kissing me at the bottom of the steps of my house with such passion that when it was over I was completely breathless.
“I’ve wanted to do that for a long time,” he said.
That was clear.
I’m no dummy. I invited him up and the rest of the evening, well, let’s just say it was one for the newspapers. Excitedly, I invited him to a date party the next week. We didn’t speak in between, which didn’t seem like a big deal given our great night. I was not prepared when he showed up with roses but, seemingly, without the self he had made so available to me the week before.
He wasn’t with me, not from the beginning and certainly not at the end when he pulled up in front of my ramshackle house and sat staring straight ahead, hands at exact 10 and 2 position on the wheel.
When I asked him to come up, I could see the heat rise to his cheeks even in the dark. He turned then and lashed out like I’d struck him.
“All I want to do is get into graduate school!” he screamed.
Ummmm … I could hardly see where our coupling for the evening would prevent him from completing graduate school applications in the days to come, but somehow, actually, I did understand. He was on a mission. He was not to be distracted.
I was a potential distraction. I knew it from the way my classmates tsk tsked me for going out too many nights during the week and not staying home to study enough. I was, as a friend once called me, a “time suck,” someone without a plan, who just wanted to float through and learn and talk and party and enjoy. I was seductive that way, and therefore someone to avoid. I actively wanted to get sidetracked from the hard work, ask my friend with the gold T-tops who drove me around Evanston one afternoon to see if we could find a barbecue. I desperately wanted to find a party. I probably had a paper due.
See, I’m a Libra. I have always sought balance, some pleasure to keep the pendulum from swinging too far over into serious, and that — for better or for worse — is what I show my kids.
There are serious things in life, things you can’t avoid, like death and taxes. But then there’s laughing and playing and, of course, sex, and those things should be a pretty big priority if, in fact, you want to enjoy your life.
At least, in my opinion.
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