So I bought a fish on vacation in Maine this summer. Not as a dinner entre–although I had some wonderful haddock while I was there–and not as a pet either.
No, I fell for a large, welded metal fish. I found it while browsing in a gallery in Boothbay Harbor with Glenn.
I don’t actually know what to call the thing I bought. Statue? Object d’art? Tchotchke? Dust-catcher?
Glenn didn’t love The Fish but could see that I did, and we agreed that it could go in the breakfast nook. We have a peace-promoting policy in our partnership: we have to both really like a piece of art for it to be placed in our living room, but we can each decorate our offices, the TV room, and other smaller spaces more or less at will. Glenn remained stubbornly immune to my new-found fish’s charms, but I knew it would enhance my coastal themed nook, so I was fine with that.
We had it shipped home, and I beamed at Glenn as he placed it carefully on the shelf I had decreed as The Fish’s spot. Glenn chuckled, clearly laughing at me, but gently and with love and appreciation for my weird self.
I’ve now shown The Fish to several friends and family members, all of whom have given me the same vague “that’s nice” response. No one else sees the magic and whimsy. No one else detects the playful contrast between live, floppy, wet, fish bodies and a cold, sturdy fish made out of scrap iron. No one else senses that this fish radiates a happy energy.
Hey, you gotta do you, as my hip young students say. And I gotta do me. It’s liberating to be able to say, even in this small way, that I don’t need others’ approval to express myself. I don’t need to bow to what’s cool or trendy or fashionable rather than embracing what brings me joy.
The Fish is only the latest of my unusual collection. In my school office, I have a mobile of multi-colored cats and a bi-plane made out of Diet Coke cans hanging from my ceiling. A Periodic Table of the Desserts adorns my wall, adjacent to an old-school metal Rosie the Riveter “We Can Do It!” sign, a sun-catcher with a cute cat on it that my paternal grandmother gave me years ago, and a miniature drawing of the “Make Way for Ducklings” statue in Boston’s Public Garden. I have a giant pen shaped like a flamingo with a head of fluffy feathers, and thanks to my BFF, a Crazy Cat Lady action figure, complete with several tiny plastic cats.
Following in the long tradition of eccentric women, I am comfortable with my oddness and aware that it sometimes sets me apart. I don’t know if it is my advancing age, intersectional feminist values, or fabulous role models — probably all of the above — but it feels good to embrace the metal-fish-loving person I have become.
As I sipped my chai tea and ate my muffin this morning, I smiled contentedly at my fish — and at myself.