I am an ape. An animal more specifically described as a human ape, but there it is. Out and proud, I say. Somebody's got to start the dialogue.
Despite that, here's some stuff I know about me. Like a chimp, I always want to touch everything and anything that piques my curiosity. (In fairness, I like to think I share the keen intelligence of a chimp, too, which calls for a proper degree of caution and no small amount of fear when it comes to real danger.) But as an example of chimp / ape-like behavior: My husband and I were standing on a treetop-high deck years ago, only a few feet a way from a pair of flying squirrels. He could see I was practically quivering with the desire to reach out to one -- something that was A) likely to get me bitten, and B) certain to interfere with our observation of the sweet squirrelly courtship. "Why do people always want to touch everything in nature?" he asked. As if this was a rhetorical question aimed at no one in particular.
Touch? I wanted to grab one of those cute little suckers up, turn it over, and see if I could find and name all the internal organs under the soft belly fur.
Whoops. I may have skipped purple prose, and gone directly to naked.
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So believe it or not, this blog is about someone else. An ethnography, if you will -- let the folly commence. Or continue.
In the late 1990s, a quiet young woman came into my life through a work association. She would become a close friend, but it could so easily have been otherwise. Whether she becomes a friend all depends in part on whether you notice her -- she's so extraordinarily quiet -- and then on whether you have a high comfort level with someone who, without a trace of self-consciousness or even of awareness, completely resists definition.
Strange that I say people wouldn't notice her, because she's got certain traits that we apes tend to notice. She's very tall and very angular; she has delicate hands and fingers that, because she is a born leader, creatively and technologically, she must use to illustrate and to teach. She has dark walnut hair that she has often worn buzzed boy-short. She surprised me recently, though -- we hadn't seen each other in a number of years -- with her hair in a shoulder-length sweep, magazine perfect, blindingly shiny after so many years of acute cuts. Short or long, the dark hair frames crazy-colored hazel eyes (teal?), round and fascinated, that swivel together to take everything into view, the world every moment with a childlike wonder. Whether she is trekking around Europe with a backpack slung over her shoulder, or sitting with hot tea at your kitchen counter, she is content in her own skin. She's always smiling. She likes to go and to play. Golf is a passion, as is sunshine on her face, and heaven help the person who gets between her and a county fair and a funnel cake.
She knows what she likes, and if her haircuts have dumbfounded people, so too has her unchanging wardrobe. Whose wardrobe doesn't ever change in this day and age? Jeans, comfortable cut; tennis shoes; t-shirts in the summer; sweat shirts in the winter. She has thus far forcefully refused to get married or to have children, and fiercely guards her time alone.
For the life of me I can never remember her age; I had to ask yet again, for the purpose of writing this. She is nearly 37, and though she does not seem to change one iota over the years, she is not a grown child. She can be extremely motherly, super smart to begin with but also with a wisdom that comes from not having the sometimes emotionally flighty encumbrances of a spouse and children. She is kind and a very moral person -- but imagine a razor-sharp sense of humor, too, which will bust you in your follies, and make you laugh at them. (As in, once when from the back of a two-person kayak, as I was failing miserably to keep up with her athletic prowess, she said, "Just sit there and look pretty.")
People are always trying to label her. "Are you ________?" they ask when they believe they've gotten close enough to beg "the question," whatever it may be. I leave the space for the descriptive term blank not because of some concern for political correctness, but because that's the whole point. The question varies. There are no easy labels. Her surprised but not offended answer is always an honest "no." A little bafflement. "I am just me."
I understand this human -- or is it ape? -- need to categorize absolutely everything. I also understand that sometimes, you just can't. That's why I adore the study of humans. In addition to the usual biological variation within a species, we have consciousness and cultural variation that allows for infinite words with which to fill in the blanks. Think about it: infinite.