– Vain, vain world

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.

4 thoughts on “– Vain, vain world

  1. Three comments:

    1. When I saw the picture, I knew it was VFW parkway before I even read the post. It just has that “look” you never forget.

    2. I love store names like Vanity World. Others (and I kid you not) that I have seen are “Just Shower Doors” and “Only Bulbs”. There is never any doubt what they sell (although bulbs could be flower bulbs or light bulbs).

    3. I think we are all guilty of being a little vain. But I think vanity is best judged on a sliding scale. I don’t think a blog post, tweet or your memoir are calisthenics whose intent is to feel better about yourself…but rather your way of documenting your life and sharing it with others. Which obviously we enjoy (why else would I be reading this). Be as vain as you want, I won’t judge to harshly. 🙂

    P.S. I freaking loathe Jennifer Convertibles. They screwed us hard about 10 years ago in Cambridge and I will never forgive them. Well, maybe in another 10 years.

  2. 1. VFW Parkway is so familiar to me, that I had no sense of its uniqueness. So, it’s different from Fresh Pond, for example? (another strip)

    2. I’ve bought something from Only Bulbs.

    3. A sliding scale for vanity. That’s a keeper, Bryan. I do try very hard not to use my writing to show off or grind the ax. (Although I have had to resist both of those impulses a few times.) I hope readers are as curious about the way real people live, routinely or quirkily, as I am curious. Thank you for your faithfulness!

    I have no experience with Jennifer Convertibles, but you may recall my cousin, Jennifer Hale, who has not ever caused me a problem.

  3. I don’t remember Jennifer Hale being a problem either. As I recall she was very sweet.

    I married a Jennifer, but we don’t own a convertible. As for Jennifer Leather, that seems like something she wouldn’t be very interested in.

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