Sunday, September 6, 2009

The truth will out

posted Sun, 25 Jul 2004

Before Leigh and Megan write nasty notes to me about it, I need to correct something I wrote last week. I was not the only founder of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer group for M’town, I was the co-founder with my friends Leigh and Megan. Megan had just moved here from Pittsburgh, I from Cedar Rapids. Leigh had lived here before joining Peace Corps, but found upon her return that either her friends had changed or she had. We met each other through various Peace Corps connections, then formed the group so we could meet men.

This was before we realized that most of the male RPCVs were either married or old or gay or otherwise ineligible. But it was a good idea in that it actually worked for Megan, who found the only single, straight, never-been-married, thirtysomething and with a for-profit job RPCV male in M’town. She did have to wait a year after we had formed the group for Steve to move here so they could meet, though.

In retrospect, it seems obvious they were destined for each other. Both from big Midwestern Irish Catholic families (Megan has ten siblings, Steve has nine), both outgoing, charismatic, boisterous and witty. They finally married last May, moved to Kathmandu in July, where Megan is the new business manager for Peace Corps Nepal, and had a baby in April. All is well.

Megan and Steve's kids Henry and Norah.

Leigh and I were not so lucky. Our politics do not fit into the Peace Corps mold, although I suspect there are more of us conservative RPCVs than the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) leadership wants to admit. The regional representative for the NPCA was gobsmacked when he found out I was conservative. “But you were a Peace Corps volunteer!” he sputtered. “How can you be conservative?”

How can you not? was my answer. There is nothing like living in a third-world country where poverty exists because of almost insurmountable barriers – class structures, access to capital, lack of education – to make one realize that there is no excuse for living in poverty in the US. To paraphrase an immigrant from Korea who was interviewed for Parade magazine a few years ago, all you have to do to get rich in America is work.

He went on and on about how remarkable it was that I was a conservative and did anyone else in the NPCA know about this and maybe they could use me in recruiting to get other conservatives to join. I finally had to tell him my boss needed to talk to me to get him off the phone. I don’t have time at my job to spend all day on personal calls, but apparently, in his not-for-profit environment, it was OK. That’s fine, I suppose, as long as there are enough of us profit-makers around to pay the taxes that support the non-profits and governmental agencies.

So neither Leigh nor I met any men we were interested in through the group, although we did meet our friend Lindley, whose husband was a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa. Lindley was never in Peace Corps. Instead, she worked as a designer for Ralph Lauren and, as she says, ministered to the poor in the Hamptons.

Leigh's daughter Sophia.

Leigh had to resort to picking up men in odd places. She finally found one she liked in a coffee shop. Stephen probably didn’t know what hit him. Leigh is a steel magnolia – a tiny blonde with a mind like a steel trap that men don’t see at first because they are so caught up in her coquettish Alabama charm. She is a flirt.

It is fun to watch her in action. A few weeks ago, she and Stephen (who married two years ago) puttered up to my house on their new Vespa. Harpo and I were out in the front yard, working in the garden. Well, I was working while Harpo talked to me, but that’s OK. Rather than just be straight with Harpo, she teased him. “Harpo, do you think I’ve gained weight?”

Harpo froze. He knew there was no right answer to this question and that it was somehow a trick. “Leigh, you are not playing fair,” I told her. “Just tell him! You know he can’t answer that!”

She moved the motorcycle helmet away from her abdomen. “I’m pregnant!” she announced. Harpo looked relieved that he didn’t have to tell her that yes, she had gained weight, or that no, she hadn’t, thus uttering a bald-faced lie, even though Leigh has just gone from being very tiny to being tiny with a tummy that is no longer concave.

And I – I met my Harpo via the internet. But I’ll save that story for another time.

1 comment:

  1. all you have to do to get rich in America is work

    This is so untrue. Even in 2004 it was untrue.