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Sticky Old Gum

by Andrea Henderson about a year ago in humanity
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The gritty and the smooth

Sticky Old Gum
Photo by Pablo Merchán Montes on Unsplash

I am sitting in a bar by myself at a boutique hotel in Washington DC. It's the complimentary wine hour and guests line up by the bar.

I had arrived early and settled in a quiet corner where I could fade into the scattered throw pillows and watch the guests. To the right of me, laughter as a group of women recount to each other their shopping scores of the day while a young couple debates where to go for dinner. I sip my wine, disappointed that it lacks the subtle earthiness of the pinots found near my home in Oregon.

I stifle my irritation as a 20-something girl enters the bar uncertainly as she searches for a place to sit. She sits next to me uttering a shy hello. The insecurity on her face pushes an unbidden hello from my lips as I reluctantly lay down my iPad.

We talk and I learn she just graduated from college and is here for her first job interview in the morning. She is nervous about it. She motions to a girl across the room who is her competition. With a touch of longing she tells me that the other girl has her mother with her. With that I put my iPad away in my purse and ask her if she would like to go to dinner and talk about her interview. A look of gratitude flashes on her face as she agrees.

We go next door to the Habard Inn. The evening is a success as we talk about her interview, what her fears are, whether she really wants the job. We talk about life, we talk about her hopes, and about the excitement of standing on the brink of her career. Dinner is over, I pay for it over her protestation, handing her my card and explain that letting me know if she gets the job is her contribution for the cost of dinner.

I tell this story often, explaining my tendency to pick up strays, whether a dog running loose or an elderly woman stymied by an airport kiosk. I am the heroine of this story, riding to the rescue of a motherless girl stepping into post-college adulthood. Invariably I am asked if I ever I ever heard from her again. I prevaricate, and claim that she emailed me after she got the job, justifying to myself this minor falsehood as it makes for a better story.

Yet each time I tell the story, a finger of disquietude hovers at the edge of my consciousness, a prim judgement of my motives. Softly hissing in my mind are denigrating thoughts that I tell the story to appear noble and worthy in the listener eyes.

Perhaps I lie about the ending because I am uncomfortable with truth. I want truth to be pretty, and smooth, and easy. But it isn't. Truth is sticky like old gum, inconveniently adhering to your fingers, despite multiple trips to the sink to scrub it away, to sanitize it, so you finger appears pretty and smooth again.

Authenticity is hard. I want my life nearly packaged up so I can present the pretty smooth surface to the world. The sticky truth is uncomfortably, it's messy. Part of owning who I am is a caretaker, a fixer, a problem solver. What if rather then doubting my motives I share that story as a representation of who I am, the gritty and the smooth. If I am comfortable with who I am, I don't need a fairytale ending to tie it up in a bow.

humanity

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Andrea Henderson

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