A Confused Armored Vehicle

All of a sudden, I’m a person with a house, a mortgage, a driver’s license, and a car. And it’s not just any car either (details to follow).

This is too much in too short a period of time. It’s too confusing, and I haven’t had the time to process it.

“Congratulations! You have now moved into a different social class!” an American friend announced with a look of extreme satisfaction after I drove her to look at The Hedgehogs. I went to the bathroom and threw up. And I concealed it from her because I didn’t want to make my utter terror public .

When I moved into my current rented townhouse I thought it was the height of luxury. I had never lived in such an enormous space. It had two floors and household appliances I had never even seen before. I laughed for a week about the weirdness of having a dishwasher. I’m not one of the people who have dishwashers. I never wanted to be one of these people. A dishwasher is one of these completely superfluous, weird items that make me feel like a spoiled princess. And not in a good way.

And now I’m moving into an even more luxurious lifestyle. I’m freaked out beyond what I can tell you. I even have a gym membership now. To two different gyms! People say I now need to buy a parking spot on campus. I’m also hearing that the neighbors in The Hedgehogs’ subdivision are dying to meet me. They might even bring pies (or is it just something I have seen on TV? Does this happen in real life?), and the idea freaks both me and N out enormously. And what are you supposed to do when people bring you pies? I can emigrate twice, get divorced and remarried, raise a teenager, have 4 part-time jobs at the same time,  deal with having -4$ in my checking account and no savings account at all, but I have never dealt with friendly neighbors who want to know my name, and that shit is scary when you have to face it at 38.

I’m a proletarian by nature. Wherever I go, I always pick the most low-class place to patronize by instinct, and I love it. I like people who take buses, I get them, they get me. I like having dinner at 5 pm. I’m terrified of the very concept of coffee-tables and having a formal dining room (which I will never have, unless I’m sentenced to do so by a court of law, believe me.) These middle-class Americans confuse me. I mean, they are great people, but I’m so different from them. They go to church, and they pay for horse-riding and tennis lessons. This is just freaky.

I’m scared, I’m confused. I’m disturbed by this talk of retirement accounts and mortgages. I feel the need to make some spaghetti and eat them with my hands just to reaffirm my low-class identity. And I don’t even want any spaghetti. Plus I’m working hard not to develop Type II diabetes, and how middle-class is that?

I don’t even recognize myself any longer! I look in the mirror and I see a stranger. She has a husband, a banker, a psychoanalyst, a handyman, and actual jewelry. And she prefers to stay at home and read to going out to a bar, and that’s just not normal. I don’t even have a favorite bar any longer and I barely ever drink.

And you know what? I worked so hard on moving on and not being the me who is shiftless, messy, poor, irresponsible, debt-ridden, profligate, spontaneous, lazy, and freaky but now that I achieved my goal, I’m terrified of letting her go. It wasn’t all bad. She had some really good times, and it’s very hard to accept that it’s time to let her go.

I spent the entire night walking around the house, crying and trying to accept that it’s OK to let her go because I’m not that person any longer. I don’t do any of the things she used to, but it’s still hard, it’s too hard.

As a Russian-language novel I like says, “enjoy the unusual experience of seeing an armored vehicle in a state of utter confusion.”

Your favorite armored vehicle is in a state of utter confusion right now.

19 thoughts on “A Confused Armored Vehicle

  1. Welcome wagon etiquette: neighbors might bring you baked goods of some sort or produce from their gardens (if they have gardens). Not necessarily pie–more likely cookies or banana bread, but you never know. Sometimes it’s an excuse for finding out more about the new neighbors, sometimes it’s just a gesture of neighborliness. All you HAVE to do is accept with a smile and polite answers to any questions put to you. A short, chirpy thank you note on a card stuck in the giver’s door a few days later is appropriate but not necessary. It will signal “one of us” which could be a good thing (if you want to be part of the community) but can be a bad thing if you’d rather people didn’t knock on your door when they need a jump-start or to borrow a ladder or whatever. If the baked good was delivered in a non-throwaway container, it’s expected that you will return the plate or Tupperware. If you want to make friends and/or gild the lilly, return it full of something you’ve made–for a certain kind of American matron, never returning an empty container is a point of pride, but you can decide whether or not you want to aspire to that degree of assimilation. 🙂


    1. GEP covered what I would say about the welcome gifts (and then some).

      You probably know this, but as they say ‘every beginning is also an ending, you can’t have just the one’.

      I’m sure that your resources of personality will see you through the uncertainy of your transition into the bourgoisie.


  2. Good luck in a new situation. I am sure the confusion of the transition will pass soon, and you’ll be (already are) happy with the change.

    “return it full of something you’ve made” – what if one is a bad cook and buys something cooked?

    Wanted to ask, how does it sound in Russian? The phrase sounds funny. Probably haven’t read the novel.


  3. Am I the only person who read the headline and the first paragraph of this post and assumed that the title referred to the new car? I wish you a speedy path through this period of discombobulation, but I’m relieved to know that you’re not DRIVING a “confused armoured vehicle.”


  4. El, not to be too snarky about my countrywomen and fellow matrons here, but the sort of person who feels strongly about only returning Tupperware with something in it tends to be the sort of person who has no problem declaring things made with boxed mixes and other covenience foods “homemade.” Should you find yourself wanting to impress such neighbors in the US, all you need to do is melt a bag of chocolate chips in a pot on the stove, stir in a half a bag of chow-mein noodles or a few cups of some crunchy breakfast cereal (maybe some chopped nuts ifyou have them), then then drop globs of it on a sheet of wax paper to harden (might need to put the in the fridge if it’s a hot day and you’re not running the AC). You’ve just made delicious chocolate candy! Problem solved.


    1. Nothing says “Welcome to the neighborhood” or “Thank you for welcoming me to the neighborhood” like Rice Crispy squares. As a child they were not only delicious but seemed exotic and complex and far beyond the abilities of my kitchen indifferent mother. After learning to cook I still thought they were too complex for me (though I routinely did things that were much more complicated – childhood impressions win again).


      They might make you seem more assimilated than you think you are. A Ukrainian (or Soviet era) treat might be welcomed.


  5. I loved this post. It’s so difficult knowing what to do in the face of all these transitions. I felt the same way once I got a tenure-track job. I had never hoped to get one after so many years on the job market, but once I did, I felt this awful culture shock. Once that goal had been reached, I didn’t know what else to do.

    I think all these experiences will make us both better teachers and better people though. Experience rewards suffering with wisdom. Good luck with your new house, car, and neighborhood.


  6. I read this and thought somebody had hijacked your blog. All I can say is “first world problems”.


  7. // All I can say is “first world problems”.

    Now I understood what paradise on earth would be – when everybody has only first world problems.


    1. People who choose to develop and grow experience identity crisis everywhere. The paradise where such crises don’t happen is the paradise of cows in a field.


  8. And this is why you need to buy the cheap white bread for your peanut butter and jelly sandwiches …

    Because now that you have done all of this, it is your connection back to the things you miss. 🙂

    “Choosy armoured vehicles choose Jif!” [evil guffaw] 🙂


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