When we first met, those 27 long years ago, you were kind of a mess. You strutted around with proud A’s emblazoned on everything you owned, like a 21st-century Hester Prynne. You were such a picky eater that you only ate at the same 10 restaurants, on the same street, for every single meal. And you still believed in cooties. We were friends, but it never even crossed my mind that we could be together. What could you, an old-money Northeasterner, have in common with a Canadian molecular geneticist who cloned the first mammalian gene, like me?
So for 15 years, we were just friends. You sometimes gave me mice to play with, and I, in turn, gave you reams of paper about their genes and embryos. Even when you gave me my very own institute, I didn’t think anything of it. But the whole time, I was falling for you. I didn’t realize it right up until you asked me to be with you. Before I knew what I was saying, I had blurted out a yes, and our 12-year engagement had begun.
But like Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, you still remained on the strugglebus. After a few weeks, it stopped being cute, and it became a problem. Instead of giving up, though, I decided to fix you. I took your A’s, locked them up and threw away the key, just so you’d look better when prospective employers came around. With the help of my friend Meg, I built you a grey, faux-antique castle to give you a different place to eat. I replaced the ugly southern part of your house (well, the part not named after Tom Hanks’s volleyball anyway) with clean, air-conditioned spaces that feel like hotels. I opened a lemonade stand on Nassau and sold $1.88 billion dollars worth of that cool, refreshing beverage to confused tourists in order to fund your overseas gallivanting and give you some experience with other cultures. I even cleaned up that silly toy train you insisted on leaving laying around.
It wasn’t always easy, and our engagement had its rough times. You forced me to put my foot down when you screamed that you didn’t like my friends from different races, cultures and creeds and wanted to hang out with your Greek friends instead. For a little while, I thought about leaving you for Sergey and Larry, but, in the end, they couldn’t help me find what I was looking for. You insisted on calling me Shirley, no matter how many times I told you that, yes, seriously, I should be “Ms. President” to you. In the end, though, these were just speedbumps along the way. After 12 years, you aren’t perfect, and I’m not sure you ever will be. For one thing, you still blame me for everything, including things clearly beyond my control, like the weather, the economy and the fact that Carousel closed.
But you know what? You’re much better than when I found you. As we’ve grown together, the passion of our early years has simmered to a blue corona, though it burns no less hot. Which is why I think I’m finally ready to settle down. I’ve just really missed curling up in the lab with a nice, hot cup of embryonic cultures on a wintry day. In the meantime, I could use a bit of a vacation. Don’t worry, I’ll be back before you can say, “Wait, Tilghman had a silent ‘gh’ in it that whole time?”