Rain Delayed [ 2004-12-12, 5:54 p.m. ]

It�s been a tiring week.

When I was a little kid, I had a pretty baby doll � given to me by my mother�s best friend � with a sweet face and expensive French dresses and short brown hair. I pulled off the dresses and named the doll Earl.

A million years ago, I took swimming lessons with a boy named Earl, the only actual living person named Earl I have ever known. I suppose Earl The Boy made enough of an impression on me to beget Earl The Baby Doll. She was a beautiful doll, and I assume she is stored safely in a box somewhere, waiting for me and my husband to decide Do we or Don�t we, When or If or Maybe Never. I have no idea what Earl The boy is doing now. The last memory I have of him is the two of us at age four, both wearing only boys� swimming trunks, eating chocolate chip cookies on the pool deck while chlorine burned in my eyes.

Earl The Baby Doll is safe in a box and is it any wonder that a girl with a doll named Earl would grow into a person winding her way through careers, tripping over her own feet while stretching and reaching and trying to do the right thing?

Girls with long blond hair and ruffled skirts had dolls named Susie and Jenny and Betsy and they grew up and went to UCLA and Stanford and Wharton and Williams and are now women with long blond hair and business cards who never forget to take in their dry cleaning.

I quit my job last week. It�s a good thing, a great thing really � I accepted a new job, one with a lot of opportunity and career development, more money, still in retail but now corporate, back in the land of cubicles and salad bar lunches by the pound and my good friend, the F Train. Resigning was hard, even though I think this new job is a really, really good thing. Resigning was hard, and I cried when I did it, and I made my boss Jennifer cry too. I told her that I had never had a mentor before, never had a boss believe in me the way she believed in me, and that�s when she cried. It�s true though, and I am still trying to figure out if it�s a cruel twist of fate that the best boss I�ve ever known comes with the one job that offers no advancement, or just the way It Is, perfectly balancing vices and virtues of any work environment. Whatever the answer, I quit my job and people keep congratulating me and asking me if I�m excited and I feel so monumentally uncomfortable accepting their congratulations and saying Yes, I am excited.

Do girls with baby dolls named Maisy and Daisy and Debbie keep starting over? I don�t know how many do-overs I get, and if I dragged a naked doll named Earl everywhere with me when I was a kid, isn�t it possible that I might not be the best decision maker?

Regardless, I am starting a new job in January, and I hope it fits me.

We had dinner on Thursday night with friends, dinner at a lovely table in a fantastic loft with views of midtown glittering under the Manhattan Bridge. Congratulations, they said, Are you excited, they asked. Thank you and yes, but what I really want is a good nights� sleep.

Last week was hard because I kept getting caught in the rain.

I have more umbrellas than anyone I know. Most are just the cheap black collapsible umbrellas you can buy on the corner for $3, but a few are bigger, colored, logo-ed. I would estimate that we paid for maybe half of them; the others have just accumulated. One time, we had friends over and those friends brought friends with them, and after we hung out for a while it started to rain and when all the friends and friends of friends left, Kent and I kept handing umbrellas out to everyone. My friends said their friends kept talking about all the umbrellas, even after leaving town. Somehow all those umbrellas made their way back to us. I even have one that is leopard-print, and I have no idea where I got it. But the point is we have a coat closet teeming with umbrellas. Yet all week long, I would button up my coat and step outside and realize that it was cold and rainy and I had nothing with me at all. I just squint in the rain and hunch my shoulders up and walk faster, cursing myself for yet again being that poor bastard caught in the rain.

A few years ago the New Yorker ran an article by Adam Gopnik that has since popped up on many a blog (back in 2002, when I was still unaware of all the people writing on this here innernet thing�) called �Bumping into Charlie Ravioli.� Gopnik�s three-year old daughter Olivia had an imaginary friend named Charlie Ravioli, and the article was about her constant efforts to spend more time with Charlie Ravioli. They would meet for coffee but then Charlie Ravioli would have to run. Olivia would call Charlie Ravioli, who was never available, and have to leave messages for him on his answering machine. She was always bumping into Charlie Ravioli, but he never had the time to really visit with her. It is one of the greatest essays I have ever read, and I have absolutely no idea where my copy of that issue wound up, but what I remember is Gopnik writing about how �Charlie Ravioli� became shorthand for his wife and him, a phrase that perfectly captured the ongoing re-shuffling and re-scheduling of plans, the true and earnest desire to spend more time with more people doing more things and the utter lack of time or conviction to actually do those things. I think of Charlie Ravioli as residing solely in New York, but he may live in San Diego or Charlotte or Sheboygan. He fits perfectly here, though, where I am forever emailing and returning calls and making plans and promises and with no malice or meaning, canceling plans and breaking promises. I am always bumping into Charlie Ravioli, but that�s the extent of our relationship.

This time of year I am especially guilty of bumping into him. It gets dark at 4:30 and the new year is only weeks away, and I�m suddenly acutely aware that it�s been three months since I�ve seen my friend S, the one I�ve known since I was 8 and who was one of my bridesmaids. It�s been at least six months since I�ve talked to Lee, who I�ve known since I was 11 and was the other bridesmaid. I been to California twice since getting married there, in February of 2002. Every day I wake up and remind myself to call or email Shayna, but there have been three career changes between the two of us since we last talked. Ravioli never has time.

Instead I keep finding Earl. Earl, whose pants are too tight and who woke up with a pimple and who got halfway through making a batch of cookies before realizing she was out of flour. Earl forgot to pay her cell phone bill and dropped a frying pan on her toe the other night. Earl needs to get her roots done and unclog the shower drain. Earl has blue felt arms and legs and needs to be re-stitched on her neck. Earl came with a pretty eyelet dress but that got lost years and years ago. Earl has a bad haircut, a result of trying out bangs and realizing that bangs are better on dolls like Katy and Cindy and Lucy.

Last night Em and Brian had a party, and it was the last time I�ll see their apartment. They�re moving to D.C. next month, and I�m going to miss Em a lot. My girls were all at the party � Em and Pastry and BritGirl and Beck. They are my heart, they�ve got my back. They took Earl out of the box and dressed her up pretty for the night. Yes, I am very excited, but it was a long week and I�m tired and thank god for my girls.

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