During the 70′s, in a fit of what I can only call bad judgment, my parents inexplicably bought a set of encyclopedias. I’m sure that when they bought them, they were imagining their children serenely sitting around together in a sunlit room, reading silently, occasionally sharing little tidbits of interesting facts. It was the 70′s, and there were (obviously) a lot of drugs.

They weren’t bad to have around, as these were the days before Google could bring me such searches as “mommy wants to run away*,” “what to make me loss total bladder control*” or ” best nursing nipples.*” They were helpful when doing research papers as I got older, and as I got even older, I was able to titillate my friends by looking up such terms as “boob” and “weenier” (some things never do change, do they?). They made excellent catapults and projectiles, and I can tell you from personal experience, those motherfuckers HURT when you got whacked with one, but they left a satisfying enough bruise, that the pain was a moot point.

*Yes, these are actual search terms that, along with a plethora of vodka related terms, have brought people here.

But when I was younger, I fell in love with the only section of the encyclopedia that was any color other than poo brown or grey: the anatomy section. In it, you’d be able to overlay the different organ systems onto a skeleton, and I loved it. You might imagine that I’d have had a stunning career in medicine by the way that I coveted this particular section at such a young age (you’d be wrong), but I have my suspicions that my adoration was a direct correlation to it’s shininess.

When I was in kindergarten, as a class project, we had to draw a picture of what we wanted to be when we grew up. Amidst a sea of astronauts and firefighters, I alone drew a picture of an obstetrician. Although it seems mighty advanced, once you learned that I come from a family of physicians, it made far more sense. I was less a child protege and more just apt to spit out whatever I had heard someone talk about at home.

During my next years of school, I noticed that adults, with an alarming frequency questioned children relentlessly about their future choice in occupation, and I began to think that it was stupid. I mean, I was more interested to see if my turtle would turn into an attack turtle if I played it The Sex Pistols on repeat than I was spending my days painstakingly charting out my wonderful life as a grown-up.

Seriously, as far as I was concerned, being a grown-up was much less awesome than being a kid. As a kid, I could fart loudly at the table and get away with it, whereas if my father did the same thing, he had to put a quarter in the “flatulence jar.” Maybe it was because my quarters were painstakingly saved to buy play dough and plastic earrings, and therefore off limits but it didn’t seem to be something to aspire to.

In 5th grade, on our end of year picnic, my teacher once again posed the question to the lot of us. What are you going to be when you grow up?” she asked us each to answer, and when the question came to me, I had no idea how to answer it. Every time I mentioned whatever it was that I was “going” to be, most of the adults smiled condescendingly and told me that I needed to do a lot of school to go into that field.

Sure, if I’m saying “doctor” that’s the case, but seriously, did I look stupid enough to not be able to be the next person who pumps your gas? And last time I checked “school” wasn’t a prerequisite for being a trophy wife.

So by the wizened age of 11, I had already learned that truth was relative to who you were talking to. I promptly panicked. My greatest aspiration at that point in time was to see how long it takes for a Twizzler to completely dissolve in a can of Cherry Coke, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t what she was asking for.

Um...” I stammered, “I think I’m going to be an actress...” (this was truly a lie, but my brother’s girlfriend was one, but no one had to know that I was copying her) “…or a secretary….” (I had no idea what a secretary did, but I knew two things about that occupation a) they got manicures which was as close to godliness as I could imagine and b) it would drive my parents bonkers) “or a marine biologist!” I promptly finished with (which was as close to the truth as I was going to get in front of 25 of my classmates and my teacher).

Oh,” she perkily replied, “you’re going to need A LOT of school for that!”

Wow, I thought to myself as I gritted my teeth, even when you’re lying through your ass, the adults STILL distrust your plans for the future.

Kids, or at least myself as a child, simply couldn’t win. I think what bothered me most about this realization was not that the adults couldn’t be supportive of whatever I spit out, but that they cared so much about something I wasted almost no time concerning myself with.

Poor Ben seems overtaken with worry about what he’s going to be when he grows up, I suppose the German in him cannot imagine a life not expressly dictated out ahead of time. He thought for a moment about being a nurse (something, I’m not proud to say I quashed), until he mused that he’s not a girl, so he can’t be one. Rather than point out that men can be nurses, I changed the subject. He’s currently considering a career on American Idol, which is probably not much better, but hey, I’m not going to say a word about it.

And as for me, I occasionally field a question about what I’m going to do with the rest of my life when my kids get older, and sometimes I’m so caught off guard that I let the real answer slip off my tongue, rather than claim that I’m going to be a naked homemaker or an atomic bomb diffuser (hey, I’m sure that SOMEONE has that job) or a prostitute wet nurse.

When I tell them the truth, I’m always met with blank stares and the eventual reply, which never, ever varies.

“Wow! Well you’re going to need A LOT of school for that!”

I suppose that in this case, it’s just me.

Comments = full of the awesome. Like gravy. I can haz an RSS RSS feed .

19 Responses to Somehow, She Never Lost Her Head.

  • Ashley says:

    Freshman year in High School I started telling people I wanted to be the girl who moaned erotically in the background of rap songs. Man I thought I was clever. I never knew what I wanted to be and that at least got a good reaction shock value wise :)

  • Tony says:

    My mom was telling me that she was updating my scrap book. Its one of those that has year by year my ‘stats’ (height, weight and so on) and the question ‘what do want to be?’. At about the age of 7, I started to say computer something or other every year till she stopped filling it out (about age 15). but I am an absolute freak, so dont count my experience as anything.

  • Karen says:

    When I was in middle school I told everyone that I wanted to write “trashy romance novels”. And it was not a joke. I would love to be Danielle Steel or Nora Roberts. Probably have 20-ish novels started and saved on my hard drive. Maybe someday. Until then I will keep trucking away at this lawyer crap – and much like you, Becky, discouraging others who show an interest in the field.

  • kbreints says:

    Ha! The story in my house is that I always said in repy to “What do you want to be when you grow up,
    “a giraffe!”

    Yeah– I was not the brightest kid. I also stuck m&m’s up my nose when I was 2!

  • becky says:

    Ashley, that’s the best answer I’ve ever heard. That would be a killer job.

    And Tony, I can see this all too clearly.

  • becky says:

    Karen, it’s funny how that works, isn’t it? Anytime anyone tells me that they want to be a nurse I have to supress a shudder before I try to answer diplomatically.

  • becky says:

    I shoved a dried pea up my nose THAT HAD TO BE REMOVED BY THE DOCTOR. Brilliance has never been my strong suit.

  • Jenn says:

    Unrelated to the post, but prompted by comments, I feel the need to share that when my mom was young she used to stick things up her nose. That resulted in many trips to the doctor and they even had to cut her hair extremely short because she started pulling it out and shoving that up there as well. And people wonder why I’m screwed up.

  • honeywine says:

    I must be the oddball. I don’t think anyone ever asked me that! But I did have more than a few people selfishly suggest I go into their profession. I was always pretty good at anything I did which made me a chameleon of sorts. You’d think that was a good thing but it turns out that I’m mostly a dilettante. That slips of the tongue better than slacker!

  • Emily says:

    I love this blog.

  • Kristine says:

    I started telling people at age 9 that I wanted to be a civil engineer, to which people were all “huh…a what?…what’s that?” And then a 9 year old had to explain to them what a civil engineer does – well I didn’t explain what all civil engineers did, I just explained what a structural engineer does. (Which is make sure your building stands up.) And I did manage to stick with it, as it’s what I do now (except I do offshore oil platforms and not buildings.)

  • Chris says:

    I originally wanted to be a ballerina. Then, someone (not so) kindly informed me that I was going to be way too tall to be a ballerina, so I thought I would do that as a hobby. Then, I wanted to be a doctor and a lawyer, so that I wouldn’t have to pay for these services, and when my parents bought our old station wagon, I added ‘auto mechanic’ to that list.

    Auto mechanic and Lawyer were the first to drop off that list, though I went to college thinking I might be pre-med. I dropped THAT off my list when I found my roommate (Swishy, for her fat thighs and swishy sweat pants) crying over her biology books. I remember thinking “Dude, I totally don’t need that.”

    So I went the total opposite way–English. My parents said, “What will you do with your degree?” I said, “I dunno. Publishing or something.” They said, “You should get a degree in Education.” I said, “Not so much. I’m not into school.” The said, “Get a degree in Education or we’re not paying for your dorm.” I said, “Fine, but I don’t have to like it.”

    After spending an extra year in college to get my degree in Education, I immediately got a job in publishing and never formally taught high school students. (FYI, your husband used to call this the “$100k Fuck You.”) Then I went back for a degree in Literature, thinking that I could, like, be a professor and shit.

    Yeah, one year into that and I decided that was totally not the way to go. I was really set to stay in publishing when I got this gig, and here I am in hospital administration, more or less.

    Which is not at all a doctor/lawyer/auto mechanic/ballerina.

  • Chris says:

    PS: I think that, one day, I’d like to be someone’s personal bitch for a living. Like, just look hot and drive around in their sexxxy sports car all day.

  • Jessi Louise says:

    This was hilarious and so true. I always got the same response too. I wanted to be a veterinarian. How original. I hung on to that until high school, when I decided maybe I didn’t really want to go through A LOT of school, so I joined the army and got the heck out of dodge.

  • Heather says:

    Kristine, my husband is also a structural engineer and ALWAYS gets a ‘huh?’ I was telling someone once what he did, and she said what railroad does he work for? Swear.

    I wanted to be dumptruck driver because of the rockin’ CB radios (clearly before cell phones, because I no longer need/want a cb radio.

    Then I moved to lawyering, which always got the ‘that’s going to be a lot of school.’ That’s my after-the-kids grow response too (if I manage to respond with more than “lay around on my ass all day recovering from years of parenting”)…law school. I ended up closet-ing my MS in Education.

  • Kristin says:

    I honestly don’t think that anyone ever pushed me to tell them what I wanted to be when I grew up. If they did, they must have taken “I don’t know” for an answer.

    Freshman year in High School, though, I took a marketing class and fell in love with demographic analysis and the subtle art of influence through advertising…I have strange interests, but it worked out for the best.

  • Amy says:

    Growing up I always wanted to be a marine biologist. First I would get the “you’ll need a lot of school for that” followed by a “maybe you should be a doctor, or a vet” to which I responded “no, I want to save penguins and whales in Antarctica and doctors and vets can’t do that, ONLY a marine biologist can”. Ahh yes… the days where I thought living on an iceberg taking care of whales and penguins was a feasible plan… who knew I’d turn out to be a computer geek??

  • Lindz says:

    Becky,
    you made it through “alot of school” good for you!

    I on the other hand still haven’t grown up, and am not sure what I wanna be.

  • Juli says:

    I had pretty much the opposite problem. I’d tell people what I wanted to be when I grew up and they’d say, “No, honey… I mean what do you want to do for a LIVING.”

    I showed them, though. I am an artist and I get paid for it, so neener on all of them.

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