The VFW Parkway: that’s my strip. Home Depot. Jo-Ann Fabrics. Starbucks. The connector to 95S to get to the Cape. I drive it often, practically hypnotized by the same-old-sameness. Not mindful, not in the moment. Lost in my own reverie.
Many times I’ve passed this group of signs without really seeing them. Every time around this point, I’ve thought long and hard about vanity. (Interestingly, I haven’t dwelled on Jennifer, who is my cousin.)
Vanity, all around us. The guys at the gym who look sideways at themselves in the mirror while gently running their palms over pecs (the self feel-up?). My dentist, the competitive weightlifter in the 50-and-over division who introduced me to “cut” as an adjective. The lushly pregnant celebrities on the cover of People. The botoxed and lip-injected woman on the T with eerily old hands. Old feet, beautifully pedicured. The accumulation of friends on Facebook. Black and white photos of authors on book jackets: eyeglasses, bemused grin, hands placed just so. Shaved heads. Waxed crotches. The tanning salons clustered around Boston University. Clarice’s good bag. Modesty, an eschewing of vanity, and therefore vanity supreme. Pynchon, Dickinson. White teeth. Sunglasses. Bonfire. The memoir. The blog. Tweet. I’m guilty, too.
Vain, vain world.
My rumination was interrupted, finally, by an ah-ha! moment one day as I drove past the stacked signs, and concrete meaning derailed my train of thought: “Oh, bathroom sinks!” I laughed over the repeated misreading and my elevation of the prosaic to the profound. Ha, that, too, a kind of vanity.