By Andrea Scarpino
If I learned anything from the US led invasion of Iraq, it is the importance of an exit strategy. But my mother had already taught me in eighth grade about giving people, as she called it, a “graceful exit.” I had asked a very cute blue-eyed boy named Doug to the Sadie Hawkins dance—and by “asked” I mean that I asked his friend to ask him while Doug secretly listened in on another phone line. It was the early ‘90s.
In any case, Doug initially said yes, but then refused to speak to me for the week leading up to the dance—wouldn’t even look at me in history class, where our assigned seats put his desk directly in back of mine. Finally, I told my mother what was happening, and she insisted that I call Doug and offer him a “graceful exit” from the dance, that it wouldn’t be fun for either of us if he didn’t really want to go with me. I called Doug’s friend who spoke to Doug and called me back, sounding very relieved for the both of them when he said Doug would rather not go to the dance. Maybe not the most graceful exit, but for my first attempt at an exit strategy, not bad. (And, let’s be honest, about as sophisticated as our exit strategy from Iraq).
Now I’m on to another scene: an increasingly hostile family situation. I don’t feel respected, basically. And more than “feeling,” I have been clearly told that I don’t matter, that my contribution doesn’t matter. This is incredibly painful, incredibly difficult to maneuver. For now, the benefits of this particular situation still outweigh the negatives, but I can feel the balance shifting, can feel my weariness growing. I can feel that my current fights won’t interest me for much longer.
So I’m beginning to think about an exit strategy. This isn’t easy; some of my income is tied to this situation, and in a terrible economy, when I have so many friends without work, I must tread carefully. But I’m not someone who believes in being miserable if I can help it. I’m not someone who believes in sticking with something that isn’t working year after year.
So I have started brainstorming, started thinking about how best to move forward, started enlisting Zac and close friends to help me think things through carefully, consider as many options as possible. As much as I like to imagine the thrill of making a crazy loud exit—of storming off in a fit of rage, ceremoniously burning important documents on another’s front lawn—the likelihood is that this will be a long, slow exit—again, not unlike our exit from Iraq. But hopefully, more controlled, mindful. Hopefully, filled with at least a little grace.
Poet and essayist Andrea Scarpino is a frequent contributor to POTB. You can visit her at: www.andreascarpino.com