White-Knuckle Fists

And how to pry an idea out of them

By Jenna Biter

More often than not, I’m wrong — not about any one thing or even a short list of several things. No, not me. I cut a wide swath. I sprinkle conjecture willy-nilly as if it was fairy dust, speaking too soon and judging too quickly. I find myself nursing a bout of foot in mouth so often I should be vaccinated for it. Luckily, erosion of excessive pride is a by-product of my blunders, so I’ve learned to take jokes at my expense gracefully (ish) and to hold my opinions loosely.

Growing up in rural Pennsylvania with a mile-long driveway seemed dull to a 13-year-old with the dream of becoming a fashion designer in a big city, and, to my 20-year-old self, my Perry County upbringing was merely fodder for comedic storytelling. Tales of my Amish neighbors or the eccentric neighborhood survivalist, Emerson, who had constructed a bomb shelter beneath his garage, were megahits with my city-dwelling college mates. “I’ll never marry a man from home,” says I, after breaking up with my high school sweetheart. Wrong. I’m newly married to a man I met in seventh grade. We settled here in the Sandhills, bought our first housea modified Cape Cod with navy shutters and a fenced-in backyardand I began prying some of my dumbest preconceived notions out of my white-knuckle fists.

I used to avoid Lowe’s. It wasn’t the garish inflatable holiday decorations that offended me but the garage-style concrete floors. The scuff, scuff, scuffing of my shoes against that cold, hard floor pooled in my head like an invasive earworm. Wriggling into five layers of snowsuit in the backseat of a Suburban was more fun. Then, my husband, Drew, and I became homeowners, and now we worship at the altar of Lowe’s. Somehow my newfound interest in orbital sanders, wainscoting and dovetail joints drowned out the sound of shoes on a floor. My re-evaluations didn’t stop at home improvement.

“But, I want to sit beside you,” I whined into Drew’s ear. “I know, I know,” he cooed as he squeezed my hand and pulled me to our two-person table at our favorite breakfast spot. He slid into his seat, and I plopped into the chair across from him with a huff. It was 10 a.m. on a Saturday. The restaurant was slammed. We crossed our fingers for a booth, so we could cozy in beside each other, hold hands and pull up a Monday or Tuesday puzzle in The New York Times crossword app. Finger crossing has a fairly low success rate when the line snakes out the door and halfway to Savannah. Begrudgingly, we accepted the wooden two-top. Drew concentrated on the menu, even though he orders the same thing every time; I’ll cough out my latte the day he orders differently, and I’m not one to waste a coffee. I glared at him from across the table. Then it struck me. You hypocrite, I chuckled to myself. How long ago was it when I rolled my eyes and held back laughter at the Romeo and Juliet feeding each other French fries while snuggled up side-by-side at Applebee’s? “Weirdos,” I muttered back then.

Now, I’m the weirdo. But I’m OK with that. The list of things I once avoided or mocked now sports a new title: Things I Do or Will Do. I married a man from my hometown, shop at Lowe’s, sit beside rather than across at restaurants, and use an electric toothbrush daily, even though its wet grossness still makes me cringe. I live with a big, hairy dog that drops poufs of fur like tumbleweeds on Route 66 and own utility pants from REI Co-op. On the flip side, my husband now likes mushrooms and red onions and wears clothes that aren’t only for utility.

I’m not saying all of my opinions have or will reverse themselvesI’m still too stubborn for that. And, who knows, some may even withstand research and reanalysis. Hell, there’s an off chance I could be right. You know what they say, even a broken clock is right twice a day, and I think my odds are better than that. Hope springs eternal.  PS

Jenna Biter is a fashion designer, entrepreneur and military wife in the Sandhills. She can be reached at jenna.l.knouse@gmail.com.

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