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.
Dana, I really, really related to your 26 min. memoir. Your creative spirit will keep you going, I can assure you. You have no idea what wonderful creative adventures lie ahead of you. I walked out of a corporate job at 52. We never stop developing. I’m in a Memoir Writers Group. Believe me. At 78, I can say, “The best is yet to come!” My blog is: BlueTomatoJournal@blogspot.com.
Thank you for your comment. I appreciate your optimism. Looking forward to reading your blog. – Dana
Dana, wow! I related so much to this. Tough topic and you tackled it head on. You’ve hit a rich vein here. Your realization about the suit not fitting was really insightful and made me realize how far we’ve come in being able to step back and see the corporate life for what it is — not much really, beyond the window dressing. And I’d forgotten about the time when being an “admin assistant” felt like a promotion! (Lord have mercy!) Keep going. I definitely want to read more.
Thank you so much, Jan! You are too kind.
Dana, how wonderfully authentic your words are and how poignant. In the end, what we embrace is our most essential, stripped down self. When we get there, to that open acceptance, there is wholeness and a compassionate, transformative energy that goes out, it seems, into the lives of others. This topic is healing and necessary. Many thanks!
Thank you so much for your lovely words.
I thoroughly enjoyed your piece. Thanks for writing it and thanks for sharing it.
Thank you! I appreciate your comment.
Very well-written story about “…how we invent ourselves through our relationships with — our stagings of ourselves for other people*.”
[*Kathy Acker, BookForum, “I’m Very Into You,” April/May 2015.]
Love this. Kathy Acker is wonderful.
Thank you for your comment.
Beautifully done. I admire you and miss you,
Rob, thank you for saying that. I miss you too!
I admire your honesty in this piece. It takes courage to look at ourselves and then come to a point of acceptance exactly where we are. Bravo.
Thank you. I think our last talk was very helpful in this learning process.
Dana-26 minutes? How amazing! I love the way you start with humor, slip into more somber thoughts, and leave us with reflection. What a moving story in such a brief moment. Thank you! And, thank you Theo for posting.
Thanks so much! Congrats on your successes as well! 🙂
Stunning piece! I walked and trudged with you through the career steps and waistline growth. For me, after a 32-year career, the corporate exit point was my resurrection because I trained as a life-and weight-coach last year. At age 64 I discovered a healthier, slimmer body while creating fitness for mind and soul. Happy to share this journey with you: email@example.com.
Good for you! That’s wonderful. Thank you for your comments.
Really beautiful. Thank you!
Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
wonderful! thank you for the courage to share…beautifully and honestly written. so important for us to share with each other the intense pain and pressure we feel to look a certain way…and how many years we lose as a result. this is important stuff. more, more!
Thank you, Ms. Rabbit. 🙂 I am regularly inspired by your blog as well. You are a terrific writer and a brave soul.
Clear. strong words repeated. Simplified. Dandy, maybe The skinny you’ve been looking for. Simplified. Amplified you.
Healed. With new spikes. Poke into the Earth.
Thank you for your poetic response.
Spoke into the earth. Family.
Well written. You aren’t alone in the struggle for personal identity. Hope you find it now.
Thank you, I am certainly trying. Best to you too.