Smiling in the Face of Spinsterhood

At work the other day, we were telling bird stories around the lunch table. It was a “round robin” kind of thing. Here’s a majorly expanded version of the story I told.

Roughly three years ago, my boyfriend and I broke up. We lived together so it was a messy, exhausting process. There had been many, many arguments in the months leading up to the breakup. And describing them as arguments is actually over complicating them. It was basically just me yell crying so dramatically that I would be hoarse the next day. The actual breakup came just days before my 40th birthday. So, needless to say, it was a gross time. But I’m not one to wallow at home when things like this happen to me. I try to take action of some sort. I shut the front door on the breakup, slap a smile on my face and try to just get on with things. But generally it doesn’t work so well. I exhaust myself with the effort of slamming the door on my past. And the sound of the slamming door does nothing to help my breakup hangover headache.

So, anyway, the bird thing happened on a beautiful spring day in early April, several days after the breakup. I put on clothes and a wan smile and got into my car. I distinctly remember thinking, you can’t be a sad, angry, pathetic, spinster on a gorgeous, sunny day like this!

Sidebar: I like to try to sync my feelings with the weather. And it’s really only in the writing of this post that I’m realizing the depth of this … I don’t even know what to call it. Compulsion? It just seems so wrong to be sad on a sunny day! And, conversely, if it’s rainy and grey, I think “now this would be a good day to be sad about something.” And then I try to think about all the times in my life I’ve felt betrayed.

So, I pasted a smile on my face and climbed in the car. But I was still feeling spacey. It was like when you try on someone else’s glasses and they’re too strong for you and it’s blurry. But it feels weird because they’re supposed to make things clearer and better but instead they make it worse. The smile was like someone else’s glasses. I put it on but it didn’t correct my vision.

I don’t even know where I was headed. I think it may have been Easter brunch at my friend Carolyn’s? But whatever it was I was determined to enjoy the hell out of it. So I climbed in the car, buckled up and started my journey.

The birds were OUT. All over the place. One was in the road, right in my path. It was a robin. Its little head was turned up to the sun, enjoying the warmth on his face. I swear he was smiling. I said to myself, he’ll move when my car gets closer. Birds always move. Everybody knows that. But he didn’t move. He just stood there, smiling, and my right front tire went over him, a direct hit. There was a bump and a surprisingly loud cheep. I wish I were telling you this story in person because I’d imitate the cheep. It was like he had one of those little clip on microphones.

I was stunned by what I’d done. When I got to Carolyn’s, she tried to console me by telling me that there must have been something wrong with the bird’s mental state and he was probably better off in heaven. Together, we wondered what kind of creature sits in the middle of the road, smiling at the sun, when a car could just come along and flatten you? Well, I feel like I have a lot in common with that little bird. When the sun’s out, you smile, damn it, even when danger, sadness, and ultimately, death, are just around the corner.

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