When I was born, I became a daughter. Sixteen months later, when my brother was born, I became a sister. As I got older, I became a friend and later, a girlfriend. At the age of eighteen, I became a debutante. Not once, not twice, but three times. Three times? The other labels had come to me naturally through birth and the playground. This label, "debutante", was thrust upon me by my mother, her estranged husband (my father) and, by my particular segment of society (traditional and rule-bound) Truth be told, I loved the entire process. The elaborate ritual of a virginal white dress, boys to attend to me and a deep curtsy to make it official. The fact that I made my "debut" three times now seems absurd. Was my first curtsy to shallow? Was I not pretty enough the second time? Was my escort to drunk on my third and final attempt? Never mind, because there were more labels to come.
When I married I became a wife. When my daughters were born, a mother. As the years flew by in a haze of diapers, ballet lessons and storybooks, the labels slowed down. I was simply a wife and a mother. When I had the time, I was also still a daughter, sister and friend. I certainly was not a girlfriend or debutante anymore (though at times I wished I were as I folded laundry and baked potatoes)
Then, something happened. I woke up. I realized I had been asleep and my wife and mother labels had become so much a part of me that I had forgotten about the most important label of all-me. I realize, even as I write this, how clichéd that sounds. Being a wife and mother was not enough? "Get back in the kitchen", I told myself. But it was to late. Not only was I not in the kitchen, I was not even in town. My daughters grew up and went to boarding school and I got on the road (both with and without them) I had a new label-traveler. There was not a country I did not see or plan to see. I was running as fast as I could from those old labels, all the while trying new ones on. The new ones felt good. They were brave, adventurous and alive. Potatoes were not getting baked on a regular basis, but I was fed.
Now, I have a brand new label-divorcee. This label was never in my plans. This label did not come to me naturally-it was difficult to face and expensive to obtain. This label, like my three part debut, was thrust upon me. Circumstance and survival made it necessary. No virginal white dress or deep curtsy was required. As I settle into this latest label, I look forward to the labels to come. In the meantime, I wouldn't mind a few boys to attend to me-hope springs eternal and I do look good in white.