Twenty Questions

From the June 28, 1976 issue of New York Magazine.

1. Can a person who used to wear a Ban the Bomb button
And a Free Angela Davis button
And an Uppity Women Unite button
And a Get Out of Vietnam button
Find happiness being a person with a
Set of fondue forks, a fish poacher, and a wok?

2. Is there an economic rule that says
No matter how much we earn and how little we’spend,
There’s no such thing as getting out of hock?

3. How do I know if the time has come to
Accept my limitations,
Or whether I still ought to try to
Fulfill my promise?

4. How come I’m reading articles
With names like
A Woman’s Guide to Cosmetic Surgery
More than I’m reading the poems of
Dylan Thomas?

5. If I had an either/or choice
Would I prefer to be deservedly respected,
Or would I prefer to be mindlessly adored?

6. If we totally take the blame when our children
Stutter and wet their beds,
And are busted and maladjusted
And drop out of school,
Do we get to take the credit if our children
Grow up to be brilliant, plus very nice people,
Plus mentally healthy and chairmen of the board?

7. When, instead of vice versa,
Did I start to pick investments over adventure,
And clean over scenic, and comfortable over intense?

8. Why does a relationship
Between an older woman and younger man
Suddenly seem to make a lot of sense?

9. Why am I always buying the clothes which,
When they first come out,
Nothing on earth (I swear) could make me buy?

10. What are the things which,
Even though people won’t be upset (they swear)
If I’ll only admit,
I should always deny?

11. Are some human beings
Intellectually and emotionally incapable
Of ever reading a road map,
Or could I still learn to?

12. If six days a week I’m responsible
And self-sufficient and competent and mature,
On the seventh could I go find a womb to return to?

13. Couldn’t a person who isn’t expecting
Praise for what she’s doing
At least expect some praise for not expecting it?

14. If I think that the fellow next door
Is attempting to give me a kiss in the kitchen,
Am I first allowed to be kissed before rejecting it?

15. How can I learn to relate to marijuana
And bisexuality
When I’m more at home with
“The Anniversary Waltz”?

16. How come I’ve got these incredible insights
Into all of my faults,
And I’ve still got my faults?

17. Why couldn’t somebody tell me
That I haven’t changed since college
Without being practically blind or
A terrible liar?

18. Why, since I’ve never had any intention
Of going out on the streets and selling my body,
Is it hard to be reaching an age where
I won’t find a buyer?

19. How come a charter member of NOW
Is afraid to confess to her husband
That the first day she drove their new car
She dented the fender?

20. How will I ever be able to tell
If what I achieve in life
Ought to be called serenity—not surrender?

“Twenty Questions”—copyright ©1976 by Judith Viorst.
Reprinted by permission of Lescher & Lescher, Ltd.
All rights reserved

Twenty Questions