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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 

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Things I thought I would do as a grown-up, when I was seven.

Wear pantyhose.

Okay, I have worn panytyhose in my life, but not with the regularity I assumed I would. I do not even own a pair, currently. If my mother found this out she would be scandalized.

Get brainwashed.

I didn't know if it would be by an underground militia or a cult, but I was pretty sure that at some point in my life, I would be wearing white robes and my new name would be Snowfall. I wasn't looking forward to deprogramming, but I knew that when I did, my brooding deprogrammer would fall in love with me even as he brutalized my warped mind back into reality. It's for your own good, he would whisper over my inert body. Still hasn't happened.

Quit smoking.

I have never smoked, so I have never been able to quit. I have been robbed of that triumphant feeling of removing the nicotine monkey from my back.

Play bridge.

I barely know what bridge is, but the adults I knew, they all played it. As I came of age, I suspected that I would be indoctrinated into the ways of bridge. So far no one's come at me with a pack of cards.

Play tennis.

I hated tennis, I could never play, in school I was always assigned to hit balls against the side of the building because I disrupted everyone else's game—but when I reached some milestone of adulthood, I knew that I would simply begin sporting tennis whites and calling my gal pals up for doubles. I thank God every day that this has not happened.

Attend corporate black-tie events.

This would be for my husband, who would be some sort of corporate stooge. See above re: thanking God. Then again, paid vacations would be nice.

Enjoy cocktails at 5.

You know in Annie Hall, when Woody Allen has dinner with Diane Keaton's family? That's how Scott describes meeting my family, a lot. And it's all because of the cocktails. (Also some other things.) Mother likes her Manhattans. But here I am, almost 40, and if I have a drink at 5 p.m. I'm asleep by 8.

Have a nervous breakdown.

Having read "The Yellow Wallpaper," I figured that at some point in a woman's life she succumbs. And everyone knows I'm the nervous type, prone to hysteria, given to fits. I assumed that at some point I would take to my bed for a period of weeks, perhaps in the country. There would be hushed voices outside my door, the occasional cool compress. And yet! Although I have suffered the melancholia throughout my life, I have not yet felt my mind completely fracture. There's still time, though.

Reader Comments (78)

Maybe you are just having a slow nervous breakdown. ;)
August 14, 2007 | Unregistered Commenteraimee/greeblemonkey
You never really wanted to have a nervous breakdown? I have about one a day and highly recommend it...When I was 7 I was positive I would be on Broadway. I got close.. I'm gay and a drama queen!
August 14, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterfrankie
I imagined myself having a fabulous career -- maybe Broadway star, maybe secret agent -- then either adopting a baby or having one without benefit of a husband, and being a cool and stylish single mother by the time I was 40. As it turns out, I am a single mother at almost 36, but it's not by choice and totally sucks. (The single part, not the mother part.) I'm not cool or stylish either. Dammit!
August 14, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterVanessa
Sorry again about being cranky on the smoking! I know it was a joke and meant no disrespect to you or your post! Like I said, it's pretty personal to me..

Glad you don't want to have a nervous breakdown either.

August 15, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterbubblewench
Alice, I just wanted to tell you how much I always appreciate your posts. Always.
August 15, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJulie
Funny how we want to wear pantyhose as little girls and when we finally get the chance, would rather walk around with glow-in-the-dark, hairy legs than that itchy, tight crap!
August 15, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterE!
I thought I'd be dead by the time I was 21, well into my teens. Just never had a ton of "when I grow up" thoughts, because I expected not to be around. Morbid, but true.

I did think that 26 was high time to be in full baby-production mode. When 26 rolled around, I was nowhere near ready. Waited until 32, and it was absolutely better timing.

Did anyone else have fantasies about what they'd be doing on Dec 31/Jan 1, 2000? I imagined myself at the Taj Mahal, Times Square, Paris-- anywhere glamorous and exotic. Turns out I was with college buddies, exhausted from a road trip, toasting each other with plastic glasses in someone's parents' basement. Oooh, so sophisticated and memorable.
August 15, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterfuzzy
Fuzzy, I'm with you. I had big plans for New Year's Eve 1999, calculating how old I would be (21, how glamorous!) and where I would be. New York, or maybe Europe.

Ended up spending the evening in my hometown with a friend and her parents--she'd just had her gall bladder removed. Hooray!
August 15, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterThe Other Melanie
For some reason, I think heavy tranquilizer use and repeated adultery goes well with this list.

I love how fifties it is. Did the fifties create everyone's imaginary adulthood? I had a more beatnik version but mine was heavily fifties as well.

You'd have to be wearing one of those poofy Dior dresses to pull of 75% of these, for sure.
August 15, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterozma
Adding: John Cheever! Did you read John Cheever? Cheever, Updike and Bellow completely shaped my idea of adult life...and man, was that twisted!

This is also a very Cheeveresque list.
August 15, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterozma
Young Bossy shared your fascination with The Nervous Breakdown. She even referenced the Giant One she was going to have if her parents didn't get her a dog. Bossy's pretty sure she spelled it "nurvis" though.
August 16, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBOSSY
I have actual proof - a school days journal - that at the age of 7, I wanted to be a nun and a Dallas Cowboy Cheeleader. Did you catch that? That was an "and" not an "or".

When I was a little older, I wanted to live across the street from the Hatch Shell in Boston where classical music would waft into my sophisticated loft where I would be reading in dim light, sipping wine and deciding which handsome man I would allow to take me out for the weekend. I didn't know it at the time, but I think I imagined I would be a Massachusetts version of Carrie Bradshaw.

Not. Even. Close.
August 16, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterEm
In my mind, I am singing the song "One of these things doesn't belong here, one of these things just isn't the same...." ala Sesame Street.

Because, truly, I can see the allure to most of the items on your list to a 7 year old who is looking in at the adult world. Really I can.

But the CULT thing??? hahahahah I'm thinking that must give us all a bunch of insight into your 7 year old psyche or something. That's crazy-awesome. I wish I was edgy enough to have such thoughts when I was 30, um, 20, I mean 7.
August 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJustLinda
When I was young I always assumed I'd be married to someone whose job took them away a lot (usually an astronaut). This allowed me to raise the kids exactly how I wanted and have dramatic 'reunion' scenes when hubby returned. My actual husband rarely travels but the reunion scenes are still very nice (even if he never brings me gemstones from distant planets).
August 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLori
Another tennis failure! I'm so thrilled to hear it -- years and years of tennis lessons and I could NEVER hit the damn ball -- turns out I have no depth perception, which we didn't find out until I was in high school and by then I was in deep rebellion against the tennis-playing country club world I grew up in. Now i sort of wish I could play since I have some very nice friends who enjoy a pleasant, not too competitive game ... sigh
August 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCharlotte
You are so damn funny it hurts.
August 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLisa C
Very funny.

I thought I'd be hitting the disco every night of the week.
August 18, 2007 | Unregistered Commentermopsy
When I was five my greatest aspiration was to be a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader too. My only defense is that I WAS five and we lived in Dallas. I think I was ten when I found and read my moms copy of "The Golden Boy". Frighteningly (sp?) enough I understood it too. At twelve my friend and I would play at being "cool girls" and pretended to be bartenders. And wouldn't you know, I am now a bartender. Weird.
August 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJena
I thought that the day I became an adult I would instantly understand how to work the thermostat.

"The Yellow Wallpaper," has been my how bad is it gauge. Is it "The Yellow Wallpaper," bad or is it just a drop in blood sugar bad?
August 18, 2007 | Unregistered Commentergaladriel
How do you know that you haven't been brainwashed. Isn't one of the hallmarks of good brainwashing the fact that the brainwashee cannot detect it?
August 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterThomas
To me, it appears that your Stomach Electrocutioner in your masthead is wearing pantyhose, albeit baggy ones. Previously, I had been uncertain of his age, and now I am relieved that he is a grown-up. Phew!
August 19, 2007 | Unregistered Commentersveedish
You know what? I'm pretty disappointed in the no-cocktails-at-5 status of my life. When I was in college, I used to very much look forward to 5pm, because it was the end of my last class and the start of my first beer as soon as I could get back to our apartment and crack open the fridge. That'd be the first of at least 5 beers (post-class, pre-supper, supper, dessert, and Simpsons at 10). Now, like you, if I have a beer after work I'm too damned sleepy to do anything at all with my evening that's even remotely useful or productive. What the hell? I think it's a sad, sad reality that those who are on the grind all day every day can't relax with a bit of booze at night. Maybe I'll have to save it all for swilling brown liquor at 10am when I'm retired.
August 20, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterNathan Pralle
Great post, Alice.
August 20, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterrascoagogo
For years and years I told my parents that I wanted to be a truck driver, and would perform puppet shows in the back window of our VW bus for truck drivers as we drove down the autobahn.

August 20, 2007 | Unregistered Commentermotomama
When I was a teen, I thought it would be glam if, as a grownup, I had to quit drinking. But, like your nicotine monkey, drinking has never been mine. But nicotine has been, so maybe I have indeed lived dangerously after all. I also dated an alcoholic and in his own way he was pretty glamorous, and definitely dangerous. Not to mention the schizophrenic boyfriend who did indeed cause me to suffer some sort of breakdown. He was definitely dangerous. I Googled him last year. He's in jail. Looking pretty damned glamorous, though, judging from his mugshot.
August 20, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda Crabmom

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