Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pop Culture Priorities...

I somehow got tricked into helping my friend Kiki move recently (I was lured there with the promise of endless Coldstone cupcakes), and as her son was on his second leg of his Guitar Hero World Tour in the living room, I climbed into the seemingly backless abyss that was her master closet, pulling out shoebox after shoebox for her to load by the half dozen into slightly larger cartons. As I slid the tenth or so across the floor to her, it suddenly dawned on me that I had never seen her wear so many pairs of shoes.

When I said as much aloud, though, Kiki just looked up at me as she tossed the next box in with the rest and told me that what I was handling without so much care were not actually Jimmy Choos or Donald Pliners or from Nine West. Instead, the contents of the boxes were worth a lot more—on a sentimental level. The boxes were her boyfriend boxes. Why I didn’t notice the guys’ names in Sharpie scrawl across the sides of the boxes in the first place, I don’t know.

Suddenly I flashed back: I had been here and done all of this before. It was a few years earlier, in a different part of town, and with a friend from college instead of the one who stood before me now. Only when we unearthed her boyfriend box that afternoon, she took one look at it, plucked a stuffed dog from its bowels, and told me to take the rest of it out to the trash.

“You know,” I laughed at her, “you don’t have to do everything Rory Gilmore does.”

Considering my friend from college’s boyfriend had dumped her for someone he had started seeing while she was away on business, she was not amused by my comparison, though. She handed the stuffed dog to my own new puppy, who happily abandoned sniffing the ball of old jeans crumpled on the floor of her closet in favor of gnawing on it’s head. Looking more pleased by this than she probably should have, my friend from college once again just told me to get rid of the box. I shrugged, and since I was not her mother or a person with spare storage space, I obliged.

“Be careful with that one,” Kiki’s voice snapped me back to present day, and I glanced down at the brown Ugg boot box in my hands. “It holds breakables.”

Instead of soft suede and sheepskin boots, the box that had “Will” written on the side held about half a dozen small Kim Anderson figurines wrapped in paper towels. There was a little boy popping out of a trashcan holding a bouquet of roses, a little boy and a little girl sharing a milkshake, a little girl in a sunhat holding a giant heart, and a few more that were damn near identical. I raised my eyebrow and caught her eye. “Will” was the guy who broke up with her because he realized he was gay.

Looking at the mountain of boxes that littered Kiki’s bedroom floor, I couldn’t help but think that my friend from college had the right idea after all. After a break-up, isn’t it best to purge one’s self of all of the things that remind you of the person who no longer takes up half your comforter or uses his socks to wipe up spills in the kitchen (true story)? But here Kiki was, not only holding onto old mementos of relationships she had no hope of (or interest in) rekindling but also asking me to help schlep them over the hill to her new house. A house, I might add, that held no emotional tie to anything in her past and would only serve as the setting of many future (and hopefully happy) memories; why would she want to taint it with the remnants of once-deep connections that are now reduced to nothing more than a seven by nine capsule of time?

And just how far back would these boxes go? Did Kiki have the “Do you like me? Check yes or no” notes from elementary school or the piece of gum that got stuck to her retainer when she had her first kiss during a game of Spin The Bottle in sixth grade (“never happened”)? Did she tuck the engagement ring from the last guy neatly alongside the restraining order she had to take out on him in end??

When I went home that night, still shaking my head at the ridiculousness that people hold onto (if you spend your time looking at old photos and trinkets and reminiscing, you’re missing out on new experiences and memories you could be making by living in the moment!), I yanked open my own closet only to have a box slide off the top shelf and practically crash into my face like an unruly bobsled. The lid sailed off in mid-air, and the contents of this dusty photo box bounced swiftly onto the carpet, including a Playbill from the first time I ever saw RENT on Broadway, a copy of the very first soap opera magazine I ever bought, a shot glass from my first trip to Vegas, when I filmed a behind-the-scenes at Cirque Du Soleil, the postcard on which Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen misspelled my name when they were signing autographs at FAO Schwartz (to be fair, they were only six, and technically my name is French), etc etc etc. It was my very own memory box of sorts-- only the items inside were not tied to memories of past boyfriends but instead important moments of pop culture in my life. Figures, right??

I sat down, cross-legged on the floor, and for the next hour or so began to do exactly what I had been mercilessly teasing my friend about only hours prior. I poured over each and every piece of my history with an ever-growing smile on my face as each one brought me back to a different time and place. There was the back to the director’s chair that my mother bought me when I directed my first play in high school; it had my name and “Director” in white embroidered script on the faded black fabric. There was the Polly Pocket I used to carry in my purse when I went to my mother’s office on school holidays—the one that she had bought me for my birthday in second grade but that I received a duplicate of the following month when one of my friends passed out the toy as a party favor for her own birthday party. There was the ID badge that marked me as a member of the Ellen: The Ellen Degeneres Show staff, granted me access to the NBC commissary, and still got me free parking at Citywalk.

All of a sudden, I had to wonder what the hell it said about me, then, that I was more interested in keeping a Pocket Mr. T (a keychain with six pre-programmed catchphrases from Mr. T—something my friend stole from the audience giveaway closet at On-Air With Ryan Seacrest when we worked there) and some random clippings from Entertainment Weekly than photos of the kids with whom I spent my formative years. After all, I had just spent the day slapped in the face with my friend’s past conquests, which were all actually her own, and I was slowly realizing just awesomely askew my own priorities may have been. Hell, I was in the middle of this blog when I looked up to see my cable box read “8:02” p.m., and I shrieked “Idol!” and promptly closed the lid of my laptop, losing my rhythm in the piece and not caring one iota. Yup, I know what’s important in life!

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