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More Than Enough

My freshman year at UC Santa Barbara was one of complete culture shock. In high school, I was part of the goody-two-shoes gang, know-it-all four-eyes who always raised her hand, always had the right answer. So I felt like a brand new person moving into my double room at Santa Cruz residence hall.

With early admission, I lucked into the very best on-campus dorm — the one right next to the beach volleyball pits. I saw college as my opportunity to create an entirely new image. Looks-wise, I fit in well with my long beach-y, bleach-y hair, aqua contact lenses, and cute figure. But inside, I was still very shy and nerdy. I drank a lot, so as not to stand out.

Goal number one: find a boyfriend. Since I never dated anyone at my own high school, I hadn’t learned the rules of playing the field in a closed, gossip-filled environment like the on-campus dorms. So it didn’t take long for me to start making rookie mistakes. I set my sights on the cutest guy, flirted with him at a party, went back to his room and slept with him. There was no date, and no second time. Soon after that, he hooked up with another girl who lived on our floor, and they ended up dating the rest of the year. So I drank some more.

The guys in room 204, Jake and Tim, were epic hosts. Most weekends were an all-day/all-night open house party in their room, starting about 3pm on Thursday afternoon. They kept the Beastie Boys on repeat, bongos at the ready, and the cheap beer flowing. They convinced us drunker girls to dance topless one time. I never did that again; I felt way too insecure about my flat chest.

Everyone knew my roommate, Stacey, was a virgin. She studied opera, but we had some things in common: She was valedictorian of her senior class in high school, and I had the highest SAT scores at mine. We both loved Depeche Mode and would plink out the song, “Just Can’t Get Enough” on her little electronic keyboard. Every Saturday morning, though, she would wake up at 8am and start practicing her arias. So I started sleeping over at room 204 from time to time.

One morning I woke up naked in Jake’s bed. He wasn’t in it. I scrambled to find my bra, underwear, shorts, and crop top. Reaching down to the floor from his top bunk made my head spin. I took a breath, and the previous night’s events came flooding back.

I’d drunk way too much the night before. The last thing I remember was taking a little nap in the room next door from 204. The guys who lived there were friends of Jake and Tim. People came in and out, smoked pot, chatted, and laughed at me all passed out. At one point, Jake came in and told the guy whose bed I was in, “Make sure she doesn’t leave. She’s mine tonight.”

My reaction to this was very odd. I felt simultaneously terrified and honored. I knew I was in no state to consent; but of course, that concept was not widely discussed in 1987. I honestly just felt like I owed Jake something, for all the kegs he bought and all the times he let me sleep over.

So although I could have gotten up and walked down the hall back to my own room, I waited obediently. I didn’t tell whoever that guy was, who was watching over me: “No way. I’m not staying here.” So, yeah. I woke up in Jake’s bed the next morning, and thought, “This is all my fault. I’m the slut of Santa Cruz dorm.” My internal narrative echoed in the whispers I heard in the corridors and dining hall, for the rest of the year.

As spring quarter of our freshman year came to a close, the dorm’s social committee organized an impromptu little awards ceremony. Everyone got a song dedicated to them, representing something funny or memorable about them. My roommate Stacey got the “Like A Virgin” award. The one they gave me was, “Just Can’t Get Enough.” I pretended not to be insulted, and held my head high as I carried my award to the edge of the beach, where I sat alone.

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Breathe

Twenty-five years ago, I got my first apartment in the city. It was a ground floor studio, perched above the intersection of Union and Van Ness. Despite the constant hum of traffic, I loved the neighborhood, its mournful foghorns, and the quiet that descended every Sunday evening. I would sleep undisturbed until around midnight, when I’d be jolted awake by the sound of shaking, crashing, jingling.

After three months, I stuck my head out the window to see what was causing this weekly disturbance. I spotted a man in dirty clothes with long hair and a matted beard. He was wrestling with the newspaper vending machine, trying to shake the coins free. I opened the window and yelled, “Hey! Stop that! Some of us have work tomorrow morning!” Unconcerned, he continued. “Hey!” I repeated, feeling brave.

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Left or Right

When the new neighbors moved in across the street, Major Charles Cornelius McWilton counted two hippie parents and two small children. One, a babe in arms; the other, a little girl who was past toddling, and well into running. Though retired, Major McWilton continued to live a highly ordered life and was none too pleased about these new arrivals.

The husband had a shifty look about him, with that wide tie and bushy mustache. The wife wore a shapeless muumuu every day. She also left her long, lank hair hanging down in her eyes. She probably hadn’t seen the inside of a beauty salon in her entire life.

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The Predetermined Path

“I’ll be right back,” the doctor told me. My feet in stirrups, my sit-bones teetering over the metal edge of the table, my lower back and upper ass stuck to the paper sheet. Call me hysterical, but I do not much enjoy the spread-eagle position while my gynecologist leaves unexpectedly to do something mysterious elsewhere.

I know I shouldn’t have, but I’d stayed up late the night before, reading everything on WebMD about the fertility-confirming procedure I was having, called a hysterosalpingogram. Vast numbers of Internet commenters warned me it could be painful. Very painful. Like screaming painful.

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The hidden message

Try as I might, I struggle to hide my emotions. I have dimples and I blush like nobody’s business. My cheeks give everything away.

At this morning’s monthly videoconference, a beloved colleague hailed me via instant message. It lightened my mood considerably. “I SEE YOUR DIMPLES!” she wrote.

We were both onscreen with about 39 other people. I’m sure no one else was looking at me except her. But I still tried to keep a poker face. No dice.

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The empty vessel

As a researcher, I’m trying to get better at losing myself.

I see my job as creating open space for other people’s words and stories. I do this by bringing as little of myself as possible into the interactions I have with interviewees.

It’s not like I say nothing; quite the converse. I practice active listening. I aim to provide well-timed, brief, and contextual prompts, so that those I’m speaking to can figure out what it is they have to say.

As I examine my motivations, it’s hard to distinguish. Do I employ manipulation, or is it allowing? Am I getting people to open up? Or am I trying to get people to like me? Trust me?

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A tight spot

I put down the phone and pulled the car keys out of my purse. “Dave!” I shouted through the bathroom door. “Mom told them you’re her attorney, and that you’re coming over there to sort things out.”

“I’ll be right there!” Dave shouted back. “I cannot wait. You know I love Sonia.”

“Yeah,” I muttered. The bathroom faucet was running, so he couldn’t hear me. “You want her wrapped around your little finger so she’ll put in a good word for you. I told you, I am not marrying you. Ever.”

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