28 March 2006

Size mic Mis fits

(Oh, the themes we are revisiting here...)

It wasn't until a few years ago - a respectful grace period after the fact - that a friend relayed his story of delight in my very certain college failure.

A little less out of touch with myself than I am now, I entered college as a biology major, embracing my desire to study environmental science and do my part, one solar panel at a time. After enrolling in BIO 101 for concentrators - the first day of class I perhaps fatefully missed due to my visiting long-distance boyfriend (I can still remember the shocked faces of my hallmates when I asked them to bring me back a syllabus) - I was quickly and with certainty weeded out, fulfilling the instructor's brisk vow to take down over half the lecture course's enrollees by the end of the semester. I received my first (and last) failing mark - ever.

My friend had known me through my over-achieving years of high school Honor Roll, Honor Society, Advance Placement courses (ironically, none in science that I can remember), nerd camp, and all too serious behavior. And he has known me since my more laid-back recovery from the lower ranks of alphabetic achievement and upper echelons of Type A tendencies. It wasn't until after I was distanced from grade-based success, though, that my friend let it slip that not only he, but he and his father, had shared a great belly laugh over my topple from the academic pedestal. He chuckled when he told the tale, and I could hear the utter humor in it - then and now. I couldn't stop my own laughter as I thought about those two clutching their sides in male-bonding glee over an unexpected situation that had left me a tad morose and rearranged, freshly out of the glow of the academic limelight. He was so, so happy that his do-gooder friend had "flunked college." And you know what? So am I. I am delighted.

I got weeded out. The shoe didn't fit. Found myself confronted with an environment that I just wasn't cut out for. And it's happening again. Learning through doing, my skill sets are being whittled away, my clarity and awareness of task-reach increasing while inversely the task-reach itself is narrowing. And I'm sure we'll be laughing again. After the grace period of time ticks off some distance.

Let me back up and just say I've always had issues with fit, with size. Numbers are not, and have never been, my metier. If measuring is an art, my HB pencil is too soft, my paintbrush too large.

When I was little, my Mom would withstand shopping trips with her energetic daughter, who not only collected some of the most unfortunate fashions from the racks (Remember that olive green tie-dye legging and t-shirt set, Mom? The shirt was supposed to be oversized...my hair, not so much.), but in sizes she could only labor to one day fit into, years and calories down the line. So many trips I made between the racks and the dressing rooms. I established myself as a conceptual thinker at a very young age.

Lately, I've seen the transference of this phenomenon to other areas of my life. In the test kitchen where I labor - years and calories down the line - this has rather wasteful and exasperating effects. I grab, I assume, I use my skewed inner-ruler to act. What is a large skillet, really, or a medium onion, and how scientific do we really need to get about it? Re-test. A common question I am asked is whether I measured a given recipe's yield; my common answer? No. Re-test. I see gallons of ice cream where there are halves. The other afternoon I sat in my office clothes (which I have learned do so much more for, well, everything when they fit properly) at the tasting table, sipping a punch made runny from not enough ice cream. I was surrounded by food critics who pronounced the drink "watery," "fermented," and in need of a re-test. My ill-made drink. My lapse in accuracy in this case, but on a grander scale, it cinched my lack of "fit" in the TK like a wide belt around an oversized shirt. I wanted to run to my Mom, my 14-year-old hair trailing behind me, and ask her for help with measurements and fitting; I wanted to check out of there and ask my friends to bring me back any necessary paperwork; I wanted to laugh, shaking, tearing over the silly misfortune, reducing the seriousness of capital letters and drinks made with melted ice creams to their appropriate, lesser states.

These days, it's test kitchen cooking that doesn't fit. It's constricting, uncomfortable, and it doesn't make me look good. Time for a size-up and an alteration. The shoe doesn't fit, so to speak, but I don't think I need have much concern for that. Isn't life just a series of alterations anyway?