Q & A

by Tracy Manaster

The day I graduate from college, I will make my smooth transition into international super-stardom. Failing that, I will join a nomadic band of hunter-gatherers. It's good to have a back-up plan. It's also good to have a stack of one-liners stockpiled to use against the parental, grand-parental, avuncular, and professorial battle cries of "What are you going to do after graduation?" Under siege, I've learned, it is possible to subsist on sarcasm.

One of my housemates has a job offer already. Her prospective employer sent her a gift-basket filled with shortbread teddy bears frosted to look like cheerleaders and quarterbacks. I have job-offer-envy, a rough resume, and the results of an online quiz that tell me I am an ENFJ (an extroverted, intuitive, feeling, judging type), and so would make a good teacher.

Another housemate tells me he thinks I would make a good rabbi. The rabbi plan would be a worthwhile one, maybe, if I were Jewish, I say. Maybe I could convert, he says, and bursts out laughing. I resist the urge to snarl at him while he parades around with his new interview suit and his highly marketable degree in Economics. As a peace offering, he offers the underwear plan: a career designing sexy lingerie.

I study off-campus in the public library, to keep my distance from other students, especially seniors who gloat across tables about the interviews they have. Today, a man carrying a stack of mystery books sits down across from me. His white hair sticks straight up. He gestures to the texts piled around me and smiles.

"You're up at the school?"

"Yes. A senior."

"So, you're graduating this year?"

"Yes," I cringe, waiting for the question I'm sure will follow.

He asks, "Do you have a boyfriend?"

"Yeah," I say, momentarily relieved at the non-sequitur.

"You going to marry him?"

This isn't the question I'm usually asked, but through force of habit, I armor myself with sarcasm. I ask, with mock incredulity, "You mean you didn't get the invitation yet?"

He laughs again. "So you're not getting married. You're going to law school."

I chuckle at his improbable either/or.

He opens his book. I reflect on how this is no longer an either/or society. Of course, it never was a marriage or law school either/or kind of world, but in the not terribly distant past, choices for a young woman like myself were marriage or not marriage, the latter being a nebulous and somehow lesser option.

Today, law school is an option (as relatives periodically remind me), as is medical school, or starting my own business. And although I have no specific blueprint for the coming years, I am not obliged to select a pre-designed scheme. My future is uncertain not because I am a young woman with severely limited choices, but because I am a young woman who has not yet made up her mind. Honestly, the sheer number of possibilities before me is dizzying and a little intimidating.

I'll likely come to a decision arbitrarily. Maybe I'll reject one path because I never really liked shortbread, and follow another because it lets me end up in the same city with my boyfriend (who I do love, even though it isn't any of the library man's business). I might succumb to bribes of gingersnaps and practical goodies like medical coverage, or I might work towards a master's degree.

The important thing is that I will come to a decision (although not as soon as Mom and Dad would like), and that despite my sarcasm, I am looking forward to life after commencement, however arduous my rise to international super-stardom may be.

In the meantime, even my one-liners are purposeful ("Grad school, Professor? I'm holding out for the Presidency.") My buffering comebacks ("Dad, I'm not going to have time for business school. My high-pressure career in espionage will keep me far too busy for that!") are funny because the goals I cite are out of character, not because they are impossible.

I admit I am uneasy in the face of the real world. I am, however, aware that I will eventually replace sarcastic parries with more in-character outrageous ambitions. When I do I will be glad that the world I prepare to enter has room even for my sarcastic answers, and the possibilities they entail. There is no reason why I can't catapult myself into fame and fortune, and no reason why I won't design a gravity-defying bra. All my sarcastic, half-joking options are real (as is the effort that will have to go into implementing them). This leaves me here, snickering in the library, half-terrified, half-giddy, and fully glad to live in a world where there are more witty comebacks to the question "what are your plans for the future?" than "to marry wealthy."

Submit your comments on this story to our MoxieTalk discussion group by clicking here!   You can also send your comments directly to the author using the form below.

You can do both by typing your response below, submitting it and then copying it, going to MoxieTalk, and pasting it into the form there for posting a message.

Please include your e-mail address if you would like the author to be able to write you back.  

[FrontPage Save Results Component]

Copyright 2001 Moxie Magazine All Rights Reserved