Petites Boîtes

When I was but a francophiliac teenager, we learned a song titled “Petites Boîtes.” The first stanza of lyrics is as follows:

Petites boîtes très étroites
Petites boîtes faites en ticky-tacky
Petites boîtes, petites boîtes
Petites boîtes toutes pareilles.

Translated back to the English version written by Malvina Reynolds from Graeme Allright’s fun-sounding word-rhymes, it says:

Little boxes, on the hillside
Little boxes made of ticky-tacky
Little boxes on the hillside
Little boxes all the same.

The obvious gist of the song is that everyone goes through life staying in these boxes that look the same, that they’ve always been in: growing up in the same neighborhood, attending university, making children, their children follow exactly the same path; we even die and are put in boxes in the ground.

I hate boxes.

When I converse with people, I begin squirming at social categorization. Ironically, I have (of course) already placed the other person into neat little groups in my mind. Ah, he’s wearing a camouflage coat and just got out of his jacked-up pickup truck. As he strokes his mustache and stubble, I can tell he must be in favor of: hunting animals, no gun control, and (perhaps) being suspicious of all authority figures.

Meanwhile, I feel like parking down the block so no one sees that I came by minivan. I dislike discussing religion or politics. When asked about favorites, I sweat.

Thing is, I may fit into many of these boxes (petites boîtes -it’s so fun to say!). I just don’t like the idea that someone places me immediately into one, only one, and assumes I’ve all the associated characteristics of someone else who also might behave in a way that places him or her in there.

So… I tend to introduce myself in a way that shakes up typical introductory patterns. “Hi, I’m Chelsea and I can write with my toes,” or “My favorite food? Good food, definitely.” Or, most often, I’m going to just sit and nod and pretend I also like what’s-her-name-Gaines and that I actually watch TV and so they assume I can hang out in their little corner of interests.

Mature, I’m sure. Perhaps you, the reader, have a better approach.

In the meantime, I’ve got to get into my mom-van and pick up children from school, as part of a carpool. I’ll be listening to alternative music on the way and acting like I own a much different vehicle.

I’ve always wanted a lifted pickup truck and camouflage jacket…