So you may or may not know (or care) that I am in Jamaica for 5 days with my cousin, Lindsay celebrating her birthday, the birth of her first niece and our littlest cousin - Devin Claire (congratulations Courtney and Paul!) - and celebrating our general awesomeness. But I am away and desperately missing my daughter. It's amazing how this precious jewel to whom I birthed and gave life has this power over me. Even when she is in school during the day, I miss her. She is the very best of me and probably the very best I will ever do in life. (Except those times when she is whining or has bad manners. Then she is her father's daughter. He knows. He digs.)
Often when I travel for work or fun or fun work (i.e.:working on writing stuff with Ms Carrie in LA) I wear my "Anna" necklace. It was a gift for my first Mothers' Day. Very Carrie Bradshaw. And it keeps me grounded, believe it or not. I think of my Anna all the time.
So naturally, I'm wearing my Anna necklace on this vacation. And in just a few short days, I've become known as "Anna" at the resort by our activities staff friends and now the bartenders (just the dudes).
I'm hearing "Anna, why did you run away from me on the beach?" (answer: because you ass-hats tricked me into twerking on stage last night and it's too bloody early to do Jamaican dancing without appropriate coconut rum lubrication - duh!) And "Anna, can I give you another dirty banana?" (answer: yes, because that is a delicious drink even though I know you meant that in a very, very dirty way, Dwight. Gross. As if.) And my favorite, "Anna, I will give you a spa service. How would you like my deep tissue massage?" (answer: who are you Donald Trump? Bill Clinton? No thanks, but I'll take that dirty banana now.)
Even though I'd prefer not to have Jamaican dudes saying really raunchy things to me - and because I only think of the good come backs hours later - I don't mind the role of Lauren being played by someone else this week. Lauren is on vacation. Although, I'd rather it be someone besides "Anna" since she is my child, the fact that no one seems to accept that my name is anything other than Anna, is kind of ok. (For the record, I tell them my name is Lauren, but Anna just seems easier. Whatever.)
Back in the day in my 20's (like 15-20 years ago - shit, I'm a GD dinosaur), I liked to pretend I was someone else. Yes, alcohol was involved, but I found it to be a fun game. One of my great God given talents is impressions and accents (ask me to do Cher - I'm spot on!). I am told I am quite good at mimicking accents and mannerisms. And they're so right. I'm the boss of random European accents. And this is mostly because no one knows what a Romanian accent sounds like. Except Romanians. So this game can go terribly wrong in a hurry...
Flashback to 2003: my best girlfriend and I have just graduated from Law School and our good Colombian friend and work study buddy, Pilar has also graduated from her Masters' program in International something-or-other. (give me a break, I've been drinking coconut rum drinks all day! This was a long time ago.) She invites us out on a night on the town to celebrate our graduations, oh and her program-mates will be there.
Lots of cocktails and congratulations later and suddenly I am Natasha from Romania speaking to some dude from Italy who was late to the party. I don't know why. It just came out. But then Italy guy introduces me to...you guessed it, Romania guy.
"You are from Romania? I am also from Romania...(says something Romanian)..."
"Oh, I am sorry, I could not listen to your words...what you say?" I ask in my best fake Romanian accent.
"Where in Romania are you from?"
And this is where the gig is up. I'm not even confident I can remember where on the globe/map Romania is. Actually, after all the drinks I've had, I'm not even sure where my apartment is.
"Oh, I moved to Ireland (note: because I've actually been there and know stuff) when I was school age...I don't remember Romania well."
"I see, but where are you from, originally?" (Dude is not going to give up!)
Suddenly I remember Bucharest! So I say...
"Buzau?" He interrupts.
"Yes, yes." I respond. Sure. Whatever. Just make it stop.
"Me as well..." Oh, of course you are, Vladimir. (I don't know that his name was Vladimir. That just seems right. We'll go with it.)
Luckily, I was able to sneak away from that uncomfortable conversation, but it was a good lesson: if you're going to pretend to be someone else from somewhere else, make sure it's somewhere you know because chances are you're going to be talking to someone who is from that place. Murphy's Law. Or rather, my dumb luck.
And of course, that happened again. But this time I was prepared with a fantastic Irish brogue and lots of details about my hometown of Ardee, a suburb of Dublin, where I had also been. But, actually, I was originally from Northern Ireland, from Derry (yup, stayed there for 10 days in 1992 - I'm an expert!). Let me tell you, I was convincing and very charming. So I was Ms. Ireland a number of times and may or may not have convinced some Irish footballers I met at a bar in Teaneck.
Is it weird that I want to pretend to be someone else sometimes? Maybe. Like any modern girl in her 20's (when I was in my 20's), I used fake names and phone numbers to end a conversation at a bar.
"Sorry, we're leaving. Nice chatting with you, cheers..."
"Wait Katie, can I have your number?"
My friends would try to stop me from transforming into Kerri from Derry and they would often blow my cover anyway.
"Why did your friend call you Lauren?"
"Don't know. She's really drunk and stupid."
Looking back, I really don't know why I would develop these characters. Maybe I believed it made me more interesting to be someone from somewhere else. Probably, and more likely, I was bored and wanted to see how far I could take my little play acting. Then it became a weird habit like organizing my M&Ms by color and eating them in rainbow order, only green went last of course, for good luck. (Of course).
So this week, as much as I have been answering to "Anna" I've really just been me going by a different name. Perhaps I no longer have the energy or creativity to pull off a character. Maybe my weird social anxieties have dried up and I don't need to pretend to be someone else to take part in a conversation with a stranger. Really, this resort is teeming with Brits, Canadians, Irish and Italians. My chances of successfully convincing any of them that I am someone other than a white chick from Jersey are slim. Besides, I'm out of practice.
A couple of our activities friends referred to me last night as Chakira after a stellar karaoke performance (stellar might be overstating it, but I don't think I embarrassed myself like I usually do, although I chose a completely boring song, which is totally against karaoke etiquette and protocol. Nevertheless, it's the only song I could think of on the spot when the activities girl demanded "You're singing, Anna." You don't have to hand me a microphone twice.) - I do have Chakira's hair and as anyone who has seen me dance knows, my hips don't lie. Often, when I go to Mexico, I am mistaken for a girl from Chihuahua so Colombia could totally be in my wheelhouse.
"Well, that makes sense," I replied, "Because I'm Colombian," and now I have recovered my general Latin accent from a decade ago. That familiar, exciting rush comes over me as I gather my best Spanish phrases in my head, ready to use them at a moment's notice. Thank you Señora Montanye, mom and Spanish for Dummies.
"You are?" my Jamaican friend asks with wide, impressed eyes. "Habla espanol?
"Si, un poquito por que mi madre es de Colombia." - That's what I wanted to say in my head, instead I replied:
"No. I'm just Anna from New Jersey." It was late and I had to pee.