In 2009 I started a blog called 26-Minute Memoir and started publishing 26-Minute Memoirs–stories that describe the essence of your life written in 26 minutes–from students, friends, Facebook and blog followers. In my book Writing Is My Drink: A Writer’s Story of Finding Her Voice (And a Guide to How You Can Too), I encourage readers to write their own 26-Minute Memoirs and send them to me, and now they are! Below you’ll find Dana Montanari’s 26-Minute Memoir. Please feel free to write one of your own. You can find instructions and links to other 26-Minute Memoirs here: https://writingismydrink.com/26-minutes/. Please note: I am rather behind on publishing the 26-Minute Memoirs. Average wait time is about six months! If it takes longer, email me and give me a nudge.
by Dana Montanari
When I was 17, I thought that being a career secretary was a good idea. I would be able use my outstanding typing skills while wearing a pretty business suit and sporting a perfect manicure. First, I’d have to stop biting my nails and lose 10 pounds.
At 24, I had achieved my dream job – only the job title had been updated to “Administrative Assistant.” I fit into the suit but my nails were another matter. Still ragged and torn, I picked at them. They served as an external visual clue of my inner life.
I wanted to look like the other career women at my company, a prestigious financial services firm in the heart of Boston. I wanted perfect hair, white teeth, a runner’s body. I pictured myself jumping off the train, grabbing my espresso and toasted bagel, and sprinting to the office where my day of important business was already in motion.
In the evenings, I spent hours looking through catalogs that came in the daily mail – one well-known lingerie company had suits in the professional section toward the back. The skirts were mini, the jackets even smaller. The message was clear: No sexy woman wore a button-down shirt underneath the suit jacket, just a lacy camisole to give a hint of mysteriousness. Luxurious navy crepe fabric, high heels essential.
The harder I tried to look like the catalog models and the office girls, the more complicated achieving that persona became. I started a diet only to gain a few pounds. I joined a gym. I didn’t go. I had the time but not the discipline.
By 30, I had been promoted into senior leadership roles, somewhat surprisingly because as the importance of my position at work grew, so did my waistline. I worked long hours while drinking gallons of coffee, as all my peers did. I loved the big titles and all the perks that came with them. I felt proud of my external life but my internal one was still the same 17 year-old girl who wanted the pretty, well-fitting suit and the matching heels.
On my 35th birthday, the scale glared the 100 lbs. since graduating from high school.
After leaving my corporate job recently, I began to think about my life’s purpose. What is it? What am I meant to do now? I talked to my best friend about it and told her that maybe it was time to give up my lifelong, mentally consuming guilt around my body weight and my inability to do anything about it. Maybe effective weight loss was too elusive. Maybe the suit doesn’t actually fit. Maybe the heels are too absurdly high.
She told me that in her child development studies, she learned that humans never stop developing and, now, at 44 years old, we are at the period in which we start to understand and feel our pending mortality. I told her I noticed a few friends from middle school who turned up on a Facebook memorial page and how sad that made me. We’re at the halfway point, she said.