Back when I was a teenager, my mom would always say, ‘My Tanja is still playing with Barbies!’ Well, I wasn’t exactly playing with Barbies, but I was still ‘riding’ my bike all day with my friends, spending summers swimming in the Danube, and considered going out with my gang or eating Banini cookies on the Tamiš riverbank in Pančevo (where my mom’s from) the ultimate fun. There were various childhood crushes, hiding in grandma’s barn gate, but I was already 19 when I had my first ‘official’ boyfriend… And then everything just went on as it went… Some relationships were shorter, some were longer, some were unjustifiably stretched out like a chewed gum that lost its flavor… In some, I was disappointed after a month, in others after a year, and in some, I was disappointed every day… but they clung on like chewed gum, needing a stronger means to be removed from my fingers. In nearly every one of my 26-year-long relationships, I entered with an open heart and the intention of making it forever. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen… and I’m not someone who can endure much. When you tell me I have to do something, I won’t do it even if I could. And when you tell me it’s time to let go of something, I hold on with my hands, legs, teeth… just to save it and make it right, even though a small corner of my consciousness told me it was just a series of electric shocks… And that’s why… I got married twice, lived with more than two men… From the ordinary to the unusual, from artists to craftsmen, from writers to publishers, from ambassadors to officials, from Dutch to Croatian, from the young and boring to the old and interesting, from tightwads who don’t turn on the boiler unless they plan to bathe, to spendthrifts who squander lavishly, from animal lovers to those who shiver at the sight of hair,… I stayed with some, I persevered to the limits of human capability with others, and some clearly and loudly ran away… How do I know if something works or not if I don’t try? How do you know how a cake tastes if you don’t take a bite? Will you smell it like a cat smells bacon? Well, even cats eat bacon… Unfortunately, my cat sometimes chokes and throws up even from ordinary chicken meat, but she persistently and repeatedly seeks it out, thinking it’s a new piece of pleasure and happiness… just like her owner… When you give your all, take headache medication, can’t sleep at night for no reason or pleasure, don’t hear what others are saying, aren’t smiling, have no trust, put everything in third place even though the first and second don’t work,… and hold on to all that with your teeth, it’s time to exit the movie, walk out of the final frames so that no viewer knows or needs to know whether you left with or without teeth, or maybe… just maybe… it’s time for a change of scenery.

Too Many Husbands, Film (1940)

The viewers? They’re a whole different story… There are those who have no clue how many teeth you’ve lost, how hard you’ve tried, how much you’ve given, how many tears you’ve shed, how many puzzle pieces you’ve put together… and still walked into the next movie with a smile on your face. Then there are those who have no qualms about making fun of other people’s lives, which you swallow twice, five times, but eventually, you get sick and tired of hearing about how many spouses someone has had and will have.

Maybe when they grow up, they’ll understand that there are different people with different desires, different wants, different smiles, different… parts, different priorities? So the number of spouses isn’t limited by any law (unless you have them simultaneously), especially not by someone else’s opinion and the constant repetition of a topic as a joke to be “interesting”… There are better jokes and life is only one… you never know how many teeth someone will have left in the end – whether for smiling or for cold pudding.

My teeth are only mine, even if I don’t have a single one left. My happiness is only mine, even if I never find it with anyone else. But I love vanilla pudding. Warm. And laughter.