Making it up

(post soundtrack: “Imaginary Friends” by Nada Surf)

I fell in love with “The Office” actress/writer/producer Mindy Kaling’s “Unbelievable Holiday Tales” guest column in The New York Times … and maybe identified with it a little too much.

She’s prone to dreaming up imaginary versions of the “family” she hasn’t started; in this column her spouse is “a dark-haired agnostic architect husband named Alex who liked ethnic food and zombie movies. … He did little things that drove me crazy like leaving his suitcase in the middle of the room when he returned from a business trip.”

And as my close friends can tell you, I have formulated similar scenarios about imaginary, occasionally incredibly thoughtful boyfriends. One, after a giant misunderstanding, accompanied his (small-for-his-age — important plot point to whole story) nephew’s first-grade class tour of my smallish Northern California newspaper; at the end of the tour, the kids all flipped over cards that each contained a single letter, which in order spelled out “will you go out with me.” He held the sign with the question mark, at the end of the line.

Last weekend when I was shopping for last-minute Christmas gifts, I saw a guy at Eddie Bauer who was the physical incarnation of this imaginary guy — sort of like the adult Athena springing, fully formed, out of Zeus’ head. For a second I thought I was hallucinating, since (a) he had long since fallen by the wayside, and (b) even if he hadn’t, he wasn’t supposed to exist anywhere except my imagination. I was taken aback to the point where the friend I was shopping with said, “Why do you have that confused look on your face?”

Kaling points out that the problem for a writer “is that my capacity for creating and believing in fantasy is huge.” Meanwhile, you have to remember that reality should not be measured against the customized, idealized fictions stacked up in your brain. You don’t want to turn into “that lady who appeared on ‘Tyra’ because she ‘married’ the Eiffel Tower.” (Actual episode.)

For now, the scenarios remain “a silly bit of mischief, a game of pretend,” as Kaling says – a fun way to pass the time while stuck in traffic, in line at the grocery store, or at the airport. But I like how she’s hopeful that her new family might be just around the corner — and how she hopes it will feel like it does now: like getting away with a little lie, “with accomplices.”

(Except for the fact that the parking attendant had asked about her holiday plans, I’m still not sure how it qualifies as a holiday story, though.)

WHAT SAM WORE: 12-22-09
The sweater: Lambswool/cashmere collared pullover from Banana Republic.
The shirt: Spread-collar cotton dress shirt by Thomas Dean,
on sale at Dillard’s. (I went shopping for myself this weekend.)
The pants: Boot-fit trousers from Banana Republic.
The shoes: Black “platypus” lace-ups by BCBG Max Azria,
from Saks Off 5th at Arizona Mills mall.
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