I remember being ten in my room singing “Every Woman in the World," belting it out really. Standing in front of the mirror, looking at myself and seeing this woman that I just knew I would become. I had ideas and dreams and I knew that someday a man would feel about me that way the guy who wrote that song felt about his woman.
Fast forward 43 years...
That image of ten year old me, in my room, thinking up all the way my life would look, who I would be, what I would do, who I would love, and who would love me back. Back then, everything was possible. Now, that is less true. I mean not in the love department, I still believe that love does not discriminate, age matters little. Whether you are 18 or 80, falling madly, deeply in love is still within the realm of possible.
However, there are other things that are off the table for me now. I will not ever become an Olympic diver. Likely not to go back to school and become a veterinarian. And I apparently am not going to become a National Geographic photographer either.
And for the most part I am fine with those dreams that were never actualized. I lacked the discipline to ever train enough to become an Olympic hopeful. I have a hard time seeing animals in pain, and signing up to do that every day might have been the end of me. And as much as I love to travel and see the world, I kinda want to do it on my timetable, not National Geographic’s. Also, I like being home far too much for a career that has you traipsing all over the world.
But in that room I hatched a great many other dreams which I somehow knew were more realistic and attainable, even at ten. I decided diving would be something I would do, until I didn’t want to anymore. I decided that instead of being a vet, I would be an attorney. And that photography would be something I did for me, not a magazine.
And I am not really sure why...but that was kind of that.
I dove through high school, making it all the way to state. But my penchance for boys and booze ended my diving career right there because without practice, talent really doesn’t get you further than state.
I spent time deciding where I wanted to live and who I wanted to be. I wanted to be an attorney, with my own firm, living in an old brownstone in Georgetown. I would have a BMW convertible and a dog. I would not marry but have a baby when I was about 40.
And that is basically what happened...I did become an attorney, I did move back to DC but I lived on Capital Hill instead of Georgetown. I did have that BMW convertible. And I had two babies and did marry but at 35 and 34 respectively.
I don’t know if I have ever inspired the kind of feelings a man has for a woman in an Air Supply song. But I did kind of know, even as a child, that love and commitment and partnership and all that goes with it was going to be the harder thing for me. I have no idea how I knew that, I just knew it. Thus the no marriage and no kid until 40...
And what I have learned about myself, looking back at this time, was that I have always been my own air supply. I so wanted back then, and now if I am honest, to be someone else’s. But that just doesn’t seem to be my fate. I tend to stand alone a great deal and while there are not so tiny parts of me that wish for things to be different, being my own pilot, air supply and inspiration has always seemed like the only trajectory for me.
I look back at that ten year old girl with her trauma, unhealed, raw and roiling and where she would go in the years to come with all of that. Where it would take her. And my heart kind of breaks for her longing for the kind of love that is the inspiration for songs like those of Air Supply. I can see now that there was never a stage that was set that would create the conditions for me to be that kind of woman. Too much had already happened. Too much water already under that bridge.
So I ask myself a different question...what would ten year old me think of me now?
I picture the two versions of me sitting in some sort of late night talk show kind of venue. Ten year old me sitting with my legs crossed up under me, petting a cat in my lap, hair all haywire and uncombed, likely dirty from the fort I was building earlier, sweaty and a bit feral. And then there is the me now, sitting in exactly the same position, petting a cat in my lap, my hair in much better shape, clean because fort building is something I haven’t done in years, sweaty only if I just came from the gym, and still quite a bit feral.
I picture the two of us talking. Ten year old me checking me out, sizing me up, unafraid to utter exactly what she thinks about this older version sitting next to her. And the me now would be so tender to the ten year old me. Seeing how lost she was in all that childhood and trauma. I imagine us getting along fine. Ten year old me having the intrepid intelligence to ask about things that were beyond her grasp at the time: sex, boys, careers, schooling and the like. And I picture me now laughing at her daring and likely inappropriate inquiries, but never at her. Laughing in a way and manner that communicated love and understanding, not any kind of patronizing.
Yes, we would get along famously. Because whether I am 10 or 53, I have always been my own air supply...
Which I know now, that I didn’t know at ten, makes the love sung about in Air Supply songs a little out of reach. But, but, if you are really very lucky and have done the work, you can love yourself like that with sentimentality, love, lust and complete abandon.
And as we sipped our beverages on our very own late night talk show, I would pull her close to me, hug her tightly and tell her that she is worth a million times over the kind of love that Air Supply sings about, but she might just have to be the one to love herself like that, and that is absolutely, totally ok. In fact, it just might be the bravest, most amazing thing she would ever do...