Today, a team of corporate folks and bookstore pals are helping my BFF/ex-wife pack up what’s left of the Rosemont College Bookstore so the company that took it over can move in. That doesn’t sound like a situation that should feel personal, wrenching, and melancholy/beautiful, but it is.
Three summers ago, when Amy was offered the job and it turned out she needed an assistant, I was recovering from Philadelphia School District induced Acute Stress Disorder and panicking my way through a fun but demanding summer camp job, realizing that I wouldn’t be equipped to handle long, loud days with kids any time soon. I knew the assistant job was for me, so I expressed my regrets to the camp and took what turned out to be one of the most happy-making jobs I’ve ever had.
I worried that it was CRAZY to work with my ex-wife, even though we’d already morphed into being best friends. I dreamed we were stuck on the Lost island together, bought myself a necklace with a little airplane charm so I knew I could escape. I worried that proximity to the snack section would make me fatter, and it totally did, but who cares?
Even though it was a corporate bookstore, letting me use all of the deliciously tedious and emotionally neutral skills I’d gained in twelve years of day-jobbing at different colleges, the Rosemont store meant so much more that that. The time spent grumbling about politics with my best friend, the time we helped register young voters during the 2016 election, all of the deep conversations in the back room, (okay, and also at the register, when I couldn’t help myself) it all reminded me of the old-fashioned Seventies feminist term consciousness-raising. Amy, with her bajillion years as a philosophy major, is much more equipped to handle disagreement, so she was able to form an even deeper bond with our brilliant student employees, almost all of them young women poised to take over the world in their own precious, unique ways. I learned so much from those young women,and will continue to treasure them as beacons of hope in my social feeds.
I love the way feminism and politics merged with pop culture joy at our store. I love the way we were able to revel in the brilliance of Hamilton ( R.I.P. Hamilton Wednesdays, which really were to sweary for work…) and also talk about what a rapey colonizer Thomas Jefferson was. I love that I know everybody’s Harry Potter house and that they’re who I was with when I took the Pottermore quiz and finally admitted I’m a Griffindor. It sounds braggy, I know, but the quiz said! I loved fangirling my way to the Gilmore Girls reboot and disagreeing with a favorite customer whether Jess was trash or not. (They all are. Glad that (spoiler alert) Rory’s true love was her writing.)
I loved parking my little red Yaris next to Amy’s (formerly our) little blue Yaris, with our matching rainbow Hillary stickers. I loved making us coffee maybe too many times a day. I loved our matching purple Rosemont travel mugs, which I hope we’ll use for road trips. I loved when, because a mean lady made fun of the Matthew Shepherd Foundation charity bracelets, Amy and I immediately bought ourselves matching ones. I loved watching each year as the campus’s flock of baby Canada geese waddled their way fuzzily to adulthood.
I loved having Pheobe Robinson’s You Can’t Touch My Hair and Other Things I Still Have to Explain at the register, giving me an excuse to lecture snide undergrad guys about consent. I love the day I convinced a curious young woman to buy Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump's America (Which I just discovered you can get for $2.25! OMG! )https://www.barnesandnoble.com/p/nasty-women-samhita-mukhopadhyay/1125780108/2679971094578?st=PLA&sid=BNB_DRS_Core+Catch-All,+Low_00000000&2sid=Google_&sourceId=PLGoP212586&gclid=Cj0KCQjwjtLZBRDLARIsAKT6fXxXhlKJgubXV_KosqoiJ-jtT9de69XyUct_4KTwFifgFOv198sfJE0aAnPkEALw_wcB)
On the day I was banned from campus, (A Nasty Woman story in itself, which I will someday have the strength to put into words even though it is the stupidest thing that ever happened to me. I’m assured it’s not why our contract wasn’t renewed…) we had a Student Walkout poster on the door, and I feel grateful to have made such a small gesture in support of students who wanted to walk out. (You can read about my own Walkout experience here: http://theserotoninfactory.blogspot.com/2018/04/activist-kids-rule.html)
Not long after I was banned, I found out the store was changing companies, and I feel really sad that I won’t be calling Amy at that store anymore, that I won’t hear the voices of those wonderful coworkers in the background. But I’ve realized something about happiness, about college bookstores. Although, like all institutions, colleges can be very stupid and sometimes terrifying, I need the combination of exquisite boredom, mundane-to-miraculous chitchat, and walks past lovely architecture that college bookstores can provide. My new bookstore home doesn’t have an intersectional feminist book section, but it does have heart, and beauty, and the lively workout of carrying heavy books. This line of work is one of the great loves of my life, and I am so grateful.