If I Could Open My Eyes, I Might See the Light At the End of the Tunnel

So, I might hate grad school. Lil bit.

I had a meeting at the end of last month with one of the deans, who happens to be my client. Upon an exchange of pleasantries and my inquiry as to his well-being, he said, “I’m intermittently fine.” I thought that was a genius way to describe my own status and seconded. 

“You’re getting your master’s, right?” he asked.

“Trying to, yes,” I replied, because it was precisely the reason I was only intermittently fine.

“How many classes are you taking this term?”

“Two.”

His eyebrows went up. “Two? That’s a lot, with a full-time job.”

“Turns out!” I replied. 

And then he told me how I might be able to get around taking a 200-level stats course prereq with a bunch of sophomores by taking a special topics course in one of his college’s programs instead. Memo to me: if this works out, buy that man a fine bottle of his favorite liquor.

One of my classes features a six-phase case study. Since it’s done in phases as assigned, you can’t procrastinate and do it all at the back end of the term, which is great… but you also can’t get ahead. Because of that, and the fact that I have to write a 20-30 page research paper for the same class, due the same day as the case study, I decided to knock out the 20-25 page research paper in my other class well ahead of time. I can’t actually even remember when I got that paper done, but I think it was about three weeks ago. Seems like longer. 

Anyway, the case study. Handed in phase one. Aced it. “That’s the hardest part,” said the prof. “The rest is going to be easy.”

The man lied.

Having believed him, I handed in phases two and three on the appropriate date. A week later, he was set to return them. I sat in my tiny little desk like Will Ferrell in the opening scene of “Elf,” listening to him talk about how they were, on the whole, kind of disappointing. I was anxious. My fingers had heartbeats. What if I didn’t do well?

It was worse than I thought.

I didn’t do well. 

I bombed.

“I’m not even going to grade this,” he said. “Just do it over.”

His handwritten notes said, “Wrong,”  “Wrong,” and “This totally misses the mark” in the three sections of the grade sheet.

Do you remember how it felt when you were in high school or college and you got a bad grade on a test or a paper? How the bottom seemed to drop out of your stomach while your throat closed up? Pro tip: happens when you’re 37, too. 

Just do it over, he says.

*whimper* *moan* *sigh*

I had already spent hours – hours and hours – on this case study. And now I had to do these two phases again… and do the next phase. Due in two days.

I had to take a personal day to spend 11 hours working on this thing.

The end of the term is coming. All the stuff is due very, very soon – so soon that I should probably stop spending words on this blog post and write another page or two of a paper, instead. It’s so much harder to write them now! But by the end of this term, I will only have completed three of the 14 courses I need for my degree. The school is only offering one over the summer that can count toward my program. And the no-skin-in-the-game dean says, “Two… that’s a lot with a full-time job.” 

Well, here’s the thing: I don’t do a thesis in my program. I take comprehensive exams. And if I only take one class per term, it will take me 14 terms (4.66 years, assuming I can take a class every summer term) before I graduate. Nine terms (three years – same assumption) before I can take the first comp. I will have forgotten everything from the first classes by then.

Not happening. Gotta double up if they offer two program courses in a term.

I got back the three still-questionable phases of the case study on Monday. Wonder of wonders: I aced them all on the re-do. Now an implementation timeline, a budget, and a package and polish, and that baby is put to bed. I have written seven of the 20 pages required for the research paper. I have bled on the keyboard of this here laptop.

Tonight, I got back the four-question essay exam I had to take in the other class. I had had to completely BS one of the answers; he asked a question about the topic from the only class I’d missed. If I got partial credit, I would have had an 85 and I would have taken it.

I looked at the paper.

95%.

Whoa.

I looked at the question I couldn’t possibly have answered well. “I can tell you read the chapter,” he had written in red, “but be more specific.” And then he went on to talk specifics about the chapter. Which I had, in fact, not read. 

It was the only chapter I had not read, out of 21.

Fooled you, pal.

Maybe I’ll make it to the M.S.

Inspirational Videos Make Me Sad

I’ve mentioned it before: my friend Joey telling me once, “I think you feel things more deeply than most people do.” I remember feeling doomed when he said it, because I’d always thought everyone else was just like me and I, for some reason, just couldn’t handle Normal and had to compensate accordingly. But no. Joey says I’m not Normal. Joey says I’m Different.

I realized it kind of explained a lot. It explained depression in my teenaged years (not the typical teen angster, I—writer of poetry, listener to Pink Floyd in the early ’90s, singer of classical music—everything was just slightly to the wrong side of typical). It explained anxiety in my adult years. It explained my tendency to shut down emotion so I can function without feeling like I’m at the bottom of a dark hole by myself, or at the highest point in the world, but knowing I’m soon going to be in that hole. (This is different from depression. This is existentialism. One is a medical condition, the other a philosophy. Admittedly, they’re probably linked. And I’m actually kind of a rational existentialist, which is, in itself, contradictory. Sigh.)

Which, really, explains the choice of my first career, one in which you can only thrive if you’re jaded and cynical, because letting humanity enter in will basically ruin your faith in it or make you cry all damn day, every day, for various reasons you can’t always pinpoint.

Or maybe that’s just me.

I’d like to believe it made me Exceptional, like Woolf or Van Gogh. But though I do buy the flowers myself, my writing isn’t required for tens of thousands of students. I still have both my ears and would probably never lop one of them off of my own volition, and I can’t paint for shit. I’m worse than Bush 43. Way, way worse.

I actually think he’s pretty good.

I don’t understand why people will stop their day to watch something they know is going to make them cry. I don’t want to cry. I think I overdosed on it when I was younger. So I skip over those videos that are supposed to inspire you, because I prefer Sweet Brown memes. Sweet Brown memes do not bring my day to a screeching halt, never to be restarted, because I can’t get out of my own head.

Apparently, for the people who watch the tearjerker videos, it’s just for a minute, and it actually kind of makes them feel good, and then they go about their day. But for me, it creates this whole thread of thinking, and suddenly the really beautiful Thai Life Insurance commercial that will totally get you if you have even a shred of a soul becomes an entire internal debate about how much of my money I should give away and why I can’t keep a potted plant alive (obviously it has to do with my selfish inability to remember need when none can be voiced).

Really.

And then my whole day has gone to hell and I’m sad.

Also I fall in love with the guy in the commercial. Who is probably an actor in California only pretending to be the nicest guy in Thailand, but still. And then I think about why I can’t find a guy like that. Or why he would definitely, definitely dump me, even though he seemed really interested all along. Or why I probably wouldn’t like him if he stuck around, because I’m a heartless bitch.  Or something.

When really, the problem is that I’m not heartless at all. The problem is that if I let myself watch three-minute inspirational commercials for Thai Life Insurance too many times, I’ll just want to go to bed.

Existentialist bed. Not depression bed.

It’s really no wonder so many somewhat existential artists killed themselves or died some sort of sad, pathetic, poetic death. (Suicide and sad, pathetic, poetic death really are the pinnacles of existentialism, no?) Not me, though. I’m only an average existentialist. I’ll probably die falling down the steps with a basket of laundry in my arms after contemplating the pointlessness of laundry, my final thought being one of irritation at polyester, my face obscured by a small pile of panties when someone finds me days later. Someone who holds them up and says, “I never would have thought she’d wear leopard-print thongs.” Because they didn’t know the real me.

Or someone who holds them up and says, “I knew it. Damn!” Because he always thought I “oozed sex.”

(Somebody told me that once.)

Or my mother, who would find time in her overwhelming grief to be disappointed in my undergarment choices.

(They are not white. They do not cover everything. They’re probably not even really clean, because they can’t be washed in original formula Clorox. My house probably isn’t really clean, either. Clearly I’ve been sent to hell for wearing hoochie pants.)

Sigh.

And so this is why I don’t watch most of the inspiringly heartbreaking ads people post on Facebook. This is why I shut out sad realities in favor of unintentionally funny news soundbites that make frightening situations seem hilarious.

Because I cannot afford to fall in love with that guy from the Thai Life Insurance commercial, who will never love me back, and whose rejection will leave me despondent enough to listen to listen to “The Wall” again.

P.S. Check out this list of artists who have committed suicide. Some of the descriptions are kind of funny. This list was obviously complied by a cynic.

P.P.S. Seriously, though, watch that Thai Life Insurance commercial. 

P.P.P.S. Or this.

It Could Have Gone Either Way

My life cracks me up.

Last night I was at a fundraising event for a local charter school. I don’t have skin in the game, except that I care about kids’ education because it keeps them out of trouble and makes them productive citizens on the off-chance I happen to live past 70 and need a workforce to put something into the economy to help support those of us who can’t work anymore, in the interest of the humane treatment of the aged. Also my friend JW is on the board of the school, and, while dining at the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall the other night with Javier and me, he roped me into going to this thing. Having exactly $21 in my checking account and no cash, I made sure I could do the ticket and any auction bids on a credit card (don’t worry – I carry no credit card debt now, so this is okay for a month) and then agreed to go.

It was a lovely evening, of course. The art was an eclectic mix (as all art is wont to be) of local artists and kids who attend the school. All the proceeds from the auction went to the school, and the open beer & wine bar’s pours were all donated by a local establishment. The hors d’oeuvres were tasty, I won three pieces of handcrafted jewelry at auction—one of which is a 50th birthday gift for my friend Ali, who is presently an hour late for dinner at my house—and I was happy to contribute to the cause. And I’m only slightly pissed that I missed out on a beautiful necklace by five dollars because I was an idiot with my bid. And several of my friends were there, including Javier and his girlfriend, Lydia.

Lydia and I have a funny acquaintance, which I credit to the fact that Javi is a flirt and has, as you know if you’ve been reading my blog for a year or so, made overtures toward me a time or two, in small but fairly obvious ways. I’ve kept him at arm’s length because of Lydia and because I don’t want to fall for another charming deceiver. (Aside from his mild implications of willingness to deceive Lydia, don’t ask me why I know this, but Javi is divorced while claiming he’s never been married.)

Staring at the artwork of sweet, city-dwelling ten-year-olds juxtaposed with the artwork of odd grown-ups, Lydia and I caught up on life since we last saw each other. I can’t remember for sure, but that might have been at my house in the wee-bitty hours of New Year’s Day.

“So what’s new?” I asked her.

“Oh, you know… went on vacation, looking for a new job,” she said, smiling and nodding.

“Wait,” I said, thinking that, with the brash emcee yelling into the microphone on the other side of the room, I might have misheard her, “did you say you went on vacation, or you’re going on vacation?”

“Went,” she said.

“Oh! Where’d you go?” I asked.

“Colombia,” she said, as if “of course” were implicitly, but silently, added. Javier, being a Colombian native whose family is still there, had gone to visit for two weeks in February.

“Oh! You did go!” I responded, with absolutely no way of hiding my surprise.

See, the funny thing is, before Javier went, I asked him, “Is Lydia going to Colombia with you?”

“Uh-uh,” he replied.

There is a Colombian accent for this, and so I wasn’t sure I’d heard him correctly. Had that been negative or affirmative?

“Yes?” I asked.

“No,” he said.

“Oh,” I said.

But… yes, apparently.

Interesting. Why would he lie to me about that? That’s dumb.

A bit later, standing next to each other in front of a photograph of a backlit, vinyl-lettered, side-of-the-road sign with a pithy artist’s thought in typeface around it, Javier nudged me with his elbow. I turned to him, blinked, opened my mouth and then—

“No. Nevermind.”

“Wha?” he wanted to know.

“No. Another time.”

At the end of the event, with my three pairs of earrings, receipts, program, ticket, and invitation from Adhira (another neighborhood friend and Javi’s best female friend) for her board’s gala fundraiser in three weeks in hand, I cabbed it a couple miles to a bar where Paul’s band was playing. Around the corner from the bar, my phone buzzed with a text message from Elaine. “Are you coming?” Paul’s band was about 15 minutes into their set when I walked in, to much welcome from Elaine. Within minutes, I found myself chatting with a young woman who’d also come to hear them play. She asked how I knew Paul and Elaine, and after I answered, she said, “I used to date”

I knew, somehow, the next words—

“Paul’s old neighbor, Liam”

 This is hilarious.

“He’s apparently all hung-over, so he’s not coming tonight”

Okay…

“It’s cool, we’re still friends and all”

I don’t… why are you…?

                                                                                                         “But maybe”

saying this?

“it’s good that he’s not coming out, you know?”

 It’s not cool at ALL, is it? No, I don’t think it is. Oh, awful. I’ve been there.

I am standing next to, and chatting with, Liam’s ex-girlfriend, who, no matter how hard she tries to sell it, is not over him, and who has no idea, nor will I tell her, that I, too, dated Liam recently. 

Oh, this is rich.

She is NOTHING like me!

Who does this happen to in life? 

Well, at least he isn’t dead. I half-wondered if he’d died in Australia during his business trip and that was why I’d heard nothing since his last message, which had said, mixed in with some other words, “I’m going to send you some pictures when I get to Sydney… Maybe we’ll be able to chat via Skype… I look forward to talking with you…”

And then vanished.

(And yes, I did breezily offer two messages in the three weeks since. Nothin’.)

Elaine turned to another friend.

“Lisa, this is Jen—”

“Oh, yeah!” Lisa reacted to Jen, “you used to date Liam!”

Ha! Holy crap, this is happening! 

At no point did I say anything to Jen about having gone out with Liam. There was absolutely no reason for it, and I’m not upset about the situation. I mean, look. We had two dates and an attempted third, some lovely conversations on the phone,  and a few contacts while he was overseas. I thought for sure we’d continue to see each other at least for a little while, based on the level of interest he showed and which I reciprocated proportionately, but there wasn’t a lot invested in this thing. But how often does it happen that you run into that guy’s ex while you’re watching the friend who set you up rip a sweet riff on an electric guitar, so soon after that guy disappeared?

Hilarious!

A little while later, with Jen on the other side of the bar, Elaine leaned toward me and asked, as though she knew the answer, “So what’s going on with Liam?”

I casually said that I hadn’t heard from him in a while, but that it was funny to find myself standing next to his ex-girlfriend tonight.

“Yeah, that was kinda weird,” Elaine said with a squished-up face, “but I didn’t know what to do.”

Well… you invited us both… 

I assured her of the truth, which was that it didn’t bother me in the slightest.

“Well, maybe that’s the problem, then,” she said, without offering an established problem for her theory. “Maybe that’s just what he does.” She gestured toward where Jen had been.

I had no idea what this meant, and I didn’t care to know.

Looking up at the televisions in the corners of the bar, I saw that Wisconsin had just lost the NCAA semi-final basketball game to Kentucky by one point. Which meant I had just lost a $360 pot in which I had made everyone nervous by being the only top ten player to pick Wisconsin to win it all. Eight of the ten had picked Florida, who’d been bounced the round before.

Saturday night. And so much that could have gone either way.

Random WTFs including why Pinterest is the devil

Couple things.

Someone wound up on my blog because they searched the entire internet for “images of men in england wearing speedos whoeing two inches…”

The ellipsis was included in the search terms in my dashboard, but I couldn’t find out what it represents. I can only assume it means the search was still more detailed than it appeared.

I literally have no idea why they landed here after searching that. I have never written anything about men in England. I don’t think I’ve ever written anything about Speedos, mostly because I’d like to pretend they’re not real. I don’t know what “whoeing” is. And “two inches”… I don’t even want to think about what that could mean, corresponding to the Speedos.  Usually people land here because they Google plastic surgery and I wrote ah post about that that seems to have been SEO optimized while I wasn’t looking.

(Click here and watch til about :55 seconds in to find out where I got my tendency to say ah instead of “a.”)

Also: got a 95% on the first official research paper I’ve written in nigh on 15 years. An arbitrary 95%, wherein no specific reason for subtracted points was noted. Fine. I don’t care. Ninety-five percent on the first research paper I’ve written in nigh on 15 years. I will take that. I will take it and I will like it. Because grad school.

But here’s the main reason I’m posting right now. I’m posting right now to ask all the mothers of young children to stop consulting Pinterest for stuff. You people are going to drive yourselves insane.

Shiny New Niece turned one a few weeks ago, and Youngest Neph turned four last week. They have the same mother: Sister 2. And she loves theme parties.

You see where this is going.

I can’t post the pictures of the stuff she did because the person who searched for men in England wearing Speedos and whoeing two inches would probably be able to figure out who she is if I did that… but suffice it to say she lost her damn mind.

I will say this. I will say Google “Pinterest Octonaut party” and you will get just a vague idea of the madness involved in this two-hour birthday party for a four-year-old.

I’m talking about marshmallows covered in just-the-right-shade-of-blue frosting, their bottoms rolled meticulously in graham cracker crumbs intended to look like sand, with tiny pearl candies to look like bubbles stuck strategically about, and little Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers stuck to the sides.

I’m talking about a not-insignificant amount of the dwindling supply of helium packed into balloons of varying blue shades, covering the ceiling to make it look like the attendees were under water.

I’m talking about Rice Krispie treats rolled in Gummi Worms and masquerading as sushi.

I want you to know that I actually Googled images of those things, found them, inserted the pictures into my blog post and then deleted them, because I don’t want to drive traffic to Pinterest to encourage this kind of insanity.

Today on Facebook I saw a Pinterest picture of little Teddy Grahams, cut just so, appearing to drive cars made from bite-sized candy bars with mini M&Ms stuck to their sides as wheels.

You guys.

Stop trying to impress the other moms.

Look—I get it. It’s fun. It’s a challenge. It makes you feel like you can really do something when you attempt something like this and it turns out well and everyone marvels at it. But mostly, you’re making people wonder how you have so much free time to do this kind of crap for the sake of a four-year-old’s birthday party. 

What happened to cone-shaped cardboard hats with pinchy rubber bands under the chin and some boxed cake mix?

Why are you doing this to yourselves?

As is well documented here, I am not a mom. I suppose I arguably have never loved another human being with such ferocity that I felt the need to put this much effort into something that was going to last two hours and get destroyed or thrown away. I appreciate the art of well-crafted meals as much as anybody, and I love to entertain. But they’re kids. They really don’t need all this stuff.

Do you?

Really?

Who is it for, really? Why stress yourself out? Isn’t there enough to worry about without pulling your hair out over algae-inspired guacamole?

Your mothers and aunts, by the way, resent this stuff. They think you spend too much money and too much time making them look bad for the parties they threw for you when you were a kid.

Give yourself a break. Give Pinterest a break. Give all the other moms a break.

Failing all of that, give me a break and don’t post the pictures of your attempts at wee children’s party favors on social media.

Unless they look like this.

pinterest fail

 

 

 

 

21 To Life

When I turned 21, I had already embarked on my dream career. My 21st birthday was spent with coworkers and a couple of my roommates. I’d been at work for a year, carrying a full course load in college in Ohio while my family lived in South Jersey. I saw them about three times a year, because between college and my job, I didn’t get a lot of time off, and because I had a sister in college and another in high school and a third in grade school, so there wasn’t a ton of money for airfare.

I didn’t have a boyfriend. I can’t remember whether I dated anybody at 21—I didn’t date much at all before I graduated—but I do remember the mess I was kind of in with a married guy I worked with. It wasn’t a relationship, not an affair, though how do you define an affair? Does it have to have a physical element, or does a one-sided series of “I love yous,” a dozen gorgeous, unwanted roses at work on Valentine’s Day with an unsigned card quoting a country song, a fear of never hearing anyone else say what he’d been the only one to ever say, and a threat of suicide without you qualify? At 21, I wasn’t sure, but I felt certain that, when I dug my rosary out of a drawer in search of comfort and found it broken, I was in some very serious trouble. He was messed up and I was a little messed up in the most conventional way possible, and he loved me and I needed to hear the things he said so I could feel a little less messed up.

Twenty-one was a lot of work for me.

Twenty-one was a lot of country music.

Yet I thought I would get married and have kids in the way that every girl thinks she’ll get married and have kids, like it’s just a course of nature, a foregone conclusion, that stuff that always happens because it’s assumed to be guaranteed from the moment one enters the world.

I’m a few years shy of doubling 21, and almost everything has changed. That dream career for which I had sacrificed so much so willingly for so long turned into a bittersweet kind of misery for which I wasn’t willing to give up any more. It almost ended on someone else’s terms at 31 and again at 32, and then I left it willingly and very happily at 36 and three days. But for all I lost in those years, I gained a great deal, too. It made me different in a lot of good ways. Smarter. More able. More agile. I can’t imagine what else I could have done. I don’t have a dream career now—in a lot of ways, the one I left is still the dream, and it’s how I learned that when a dream goes bad, it’s not necessarily replaced by a new one dreamed with equal passion. But I have a life. I have the freedom to make new, exciting plans, and look forward to whatever happens next.

The college-owned apartment with three roommates morphed into a small rental place of my own, and then another in another state, back east, still not with family but much less far away. Then another, and then a house I bought myself. The guilt I used to feel about not living in the same place as my family is still there, but the excuse I thought I would need—that my job kept me away—no longer seems required, because I have chosen my second hometown for myself, and I no longer care who’s offended by that. I see my family every month now instead of three times a year. I live in a tremendously diverse neighborhood in a tremendously diverse city, instead of in the very, very white Midwest. I make less money, yet I am richer than I was a year ago.

My state does not get blamed for elections, nor credited for them.

The man who swore he literally wouldn’t live without me has been out of my life for 13 years, but as far as I know, he’s still alive. Divorced, but alive. I’m still a little messed up, and who isn’t, but I’m past the particular problems that put me in that situation and I have never allowed it to happen again, and I never will. My rosary, which I fixed, remains intact…even if what I believe has changed a little. There has been love since, and for all its twists, it has hurt me more, but hurt others less.

I have come to fairly loathe country music.

A few years shy of doubling 21, I am single and childless, and I like it that way, even if I’m not entirely comfortable with the way everyone else sees those words, and even if I feel bad about who it disappoints. I still want to get married, but it doesn’t have to be soon. I know that, if I find the man I want to spend my life with, he may want what I don’t. I know it may be the deciding factor in whether he spends his life with me. I may one day wake up suddenly feeling every loss of what I don’t have, but I know myself well enough to know that having it now would probably not be good for anyone. And I know that, when I’ve tripled 21, I may see that I would have been better than I think, and change my mind too late. But I have to live with what I know now. I’ve been told that my spine can’t do the job anyway, and even if it did, I couldn’t pick my children up once they got past 25 pounds. Some decisions are made by something other than the mind or the heart. Right now, I’m glad they all seem to agree.

Right now, my only true regret was the connection to a man whose feelings for me helped bring down his marriage. My role in that is one I had to struggle mightily to forgive, even though his marriage likely would have ended without him ever having met me. That part of what my life has been is not the only hard part, but right now,  it is the only part I would change. It is the only thing that doesn’t pass the test of time, the only thing for which the lessons were not worth their cost.

I don’t look back at 21 and see my biggest concerns, dreams, fears and realities of the time as trite or simple or quaint. I respect who I was then. I like her. There are a few things I would tell her now, but she wouldn’t have listened to me, and I wouldn’t listen now to what I’ll want to tell myself in 21 years. She had to learn it her way, and I have to learn it mine. I saw some very difficult things when I was 21, and I’ve seen more since. I know more now, but I don’t mock who I was then. She never would have thought she would be this happy being me. She’d be pleasantly surprised. But she got me here. She’s every bit a part of why I’m me as anything else. Maybe more.

We’re friends, she and I. Soul mates. I am at once her mother and her daughter, the one who protects her and the one who has come after her.

And I will always have her.

That will never change.

This post was prompted by FiftyFourandAHalf’s post, When YOU Were 21. She welcomes everyone’s stories.

What was that thing I used to do sometimes? Blogging?

A month. A whole entire month since I posted.

That, my (remaining) friends, is the longest I have ever gone. Tomorrow marks the third anniversary of my blog, and this is my gift to those of you who have been here almost all that time. Admittedly, it’s not much of a gift, and all you had to do to open it was click on the headline, but if we’re being honest, that’s all you’ve had to do to get anything from me in that three years.

I have thought of you. Oh, I have. I have thought, “I should write a post about that!” or “It’s been forever since I posted… and I feel like I had an idea… that one day…”

Mostly, though? Life. You know. You’ve had it. Not bad. Not amazingly good. Not whisked-away-to-an-awesome-deserted-island. Just living. Trying to stay above water. Trying to write, in one weekend, despite all best efforts at head starts, two 10+ page papers for grad school when it’s been 14 years since you wrote more than a page and a half. And doing it while possibly also having had a martini.

I swear to God, I wrote five paragraphs I didn’t remember writing. And they were good. The martini was merely average, and I so completely forgot I’d written them that I actually made a note to myself to write about the stuff that, it turned out, I had already written about.

I don’t know if that’s alcohol or age.

Also? It occurs to me that the paragraph up there was eerily disrespectful of the Malaysian Airlines situation right now, with its deserted island and above water references. Except if they’re on a deserted island, it’s probably not awesome.

See? I’m still a bad person. That hasn’t changed.

Speaking of that, though, my new fun game is playing Whack-A-Conspiracy-Theorist. My father thinks the plane was stolen for ransom. I’d like to know where he thinks some asshole landed a 777 full of people without anyone noticing, and how he thinks said asshole was gonna get picked up from wherever that was and delivered to his reward.

I personally am pretty sure it was hijacked, the flight crew was overcome or forced to fly a new route, and then the plane ran out of fuel and is now in the water. Nothing that’s real becomes an ABC series that pisses everyone off in its finale. Mini-series, tops.

You’d think I would have stopped being disrespectful when I actually noted that I was being disrespectful. Huh.

In other news: Bill O’Reilly should go away. Did you see this thing with his simmering disappointment about the president going on Zack Galifiniakis’ web show and degrading the presidency? Like nobody’s ever done that before. I mean I’m pretty sure that breaking into an opposite party’s office to steal stuff during a re-election campaign or getting blown in the hallway outside the Oval or being a general moron “decider” aren’t things that do favors to the institution. You know? But here’s Bill-O, Mr. Falafel, flatly stating about the president’s appearance on the web show that “Abe Lincoln would not have done it.” 

Well, no shit. There are a lot of things Old Abe would not have done. He wouldn’t have tweeted, sent an email, flown in a plane, driven a car, ridden in a car, used a telephone, taken penicillin…

You see where I’m going with this.

…wouldn’t have read “Killing Lincoln” by Bill O’Reilly…

…and not just because he would have to be alive to read it…

I’m saying “Abe Lincoln would not have done it” is not valid unless the “it” was done by James Buchanan or Andrew Johnson. And they were both dull, so there’s a lot of wiggle room there, too.

For those who may be wondering, Liam is presently out of the country on business in Madrid. To be followed by a quick layover in Singapore en route to Sydney. By which I mean there is basically nothing that is “en route” to Sydney, but anyway, that’s the itinerary. We’ve had two dates and a third attempt, thwarted by family obligations on both sides. He’s not back for another week and a half, but he may be in touch before then.

Since I’ve been gone, Shiny New Niece turned a year old and Neph 2 informed me essentially that I suck at Super Mario Brothers. Also I beasted “Killing In the Name” on the easy setting of Guitar Hero and am now seriously thinking about joining a band. Both aforementioned papers were finished, if not good, and I await grades. I enrolled in a summer class, a political science elective about public policy. Oh! And I testified in the senate judiciary committee of my state legislature in favor of a bill my state delegate wrote at my behest, asking that offenders who have violated terms of home detention not be granted eligibility for home detention in the future. It seems like a common sense thing, but the bill isn’t going anywhere. It’s not written well. But that’s okay. We keep on.

I am well.

I hope you are, too.

If not, I hope you’re completely nuts and leave an amusing comment.

All It Has To Be

The message popped up on Facebook a week and a half ago, the day after I’d gone to Paul and Elaine’s house for game night with some other neighborhood folks.

“Paul and I just ran into one of Paul’s old friends, and we thought we’d love to introduce you. He’s a really smart, good looking, nice guy. Sorry if we’re out of line here, just tell us to back off if so here’s-his-facebook-pagecheckitout.”

Alright, so that last part with the words all running together isn’t how she wrote the message, but it was how I read it because I know her, and this was probably how she tried to just casually toss out that I could view his photo.

Well. Hello Liam. What might be wrong with you?

I know it sounds terrible, and I know it’s probably what other people think when they’re first introduced to me as an available woman in her mid-30s (I’m not quite 37 yet). But Liam is 40 (I know because his apparent sister mentioned it on his page) and single, attractive and professional, and seemingly never married. Which generally means fucked up in some hidden but very significant way.

I’m not saying that’s not the case for me as well. Seuss probably had it right when he said we’re all a little weird and if we find someone with whom our weird is compatible, we fall in mutual weirdness and call it love. Therefore, I do subscribe to the belief that some people just have a hard time finding their Compatibly Weird Person. But by and large, in my dating life, I have found that if a guy is never-married and not with someone at this point, there’s a reason, and that reason is eventually going to make me really sad or really bitchy. Possibly both.

And so I wonder what might be wrong with Liam. But hey, it doesn’t hurt to meet people and I have no real reason to avoid it. Just last week I found out that Jack sold his condo two miles and a body of water away from me, and now lives in Gwyneth’s house, one mile and a park away. This affirms that I will eventually run over them nearby.

Into. I mean into them. Damn. I always make that mistake. *shifts eyes*

The point is, the last guy I loved is dangerously close-by and, by some absolutely insane twist, married—to a child, comparatively speaking—and I know he’s Fucked Up In Some Hidden But Very Significant Way. The last time I had a date that I knew was a date was in April of 2013. Javier is still with Lydia and is presently visiting Colombia (without her), and it’s been relatively easy to dismiss his mild advances as unconvincing. I’ve learned some pretty important lessons. And I’ve been really comfortable not-dating and not-looking. I’ve enjoyed that. What harm can it do to meet someone? Especially if he’s been endorsed by friends who have known him for years? We don’t have to date.

Stll, the winds of fate seemed a little dramatic when they decided we should meet the night of an epic snowstorm and preceding Valentine’s Day by 12 hours.

Elaine had decided to have us both over for dinner. My only question was whether Liam knew this was a set-up, because how awkward would that be? But she replied yes, he’d seen my picture and heard their descriptions of my personality and wanted to meet me.

So I slopped two blocks through a snowy mess, wearing jeans and an enormous, heavily-pocketed, highly unflattering coat (hood up to defend against large drops of freezing rain) out of necessity, carrying a spare pair of shoes in a bag along with a bottle of Bordeaux, and praying my armpits wouldn’t sweat through my curve-appreciating but cleavage-covering shirt. (Hyperhydrosis of the underarms. Thanks, Dad. Cool trait.) Dramatically misjudging how long this walk would take, I got to Paul and Elaine’s a few minutes early. Liam arrived a few minutes late, having caught a cab from his house because the idea of finding parking in our neighborhoods right now is nothing short of hilarious, and a mile is too far to carry a six-pack of craft beer through slop to get to a set-up dinner.

The liberating thing about having been through the six-bladed blender of misguided love is that it makes you stop trying so hard. I looked as nice as I could under the circumstances, but refused to obsess. I was with other people I knew, so I couldn’t act like anyone other than myself. And I honest-to-God could not have cared less if this guy wasn’t into me. Beef stew, sourdough, multiple tiny cups of amazingly delicious mousse and some red wine were all perfectly lovely reasons to spend an evening with friends and their friend, and I didn’t need it to go beyond that. I quite literally have no fucks to give. So I guess thanks for that, Jack.

Result: zero awkwardness, zero discomfort, zero anxiety and only a teensy bit more wine than I maybe should have had in this circumstance. Which was Elaine’s fault, and barely had an effect on me at all, while Paul was rather suddenly overtaken by Dr. Feelgood. Always best for the hosts to get blitzed and the guests to remain comfortably in control of themselves.

Things were casual and maybe a little cautious before dinner. Dinner itself was delicious and comfortable. The after-dinner showing off of the delightfully retro basement saw us divided girl-girl and guy-guy for conversation, but without any sense that something was going wrong. Sampling the mousses Elaine brought home from an event she organized was a stand-up affair, and maybe the first sign that there was a little chemistry; Liam seemed to deliberately cross to my side of the kitchen-to-dining-room pass-through, to stand next to me while we faced Elaine, and only hesitated for a second when I offered for him to get a spoonful of the chocolate coffee mousse I was trying not to wolf down like a fiend. He recommended that I try the chocolate-chocolate-chocolate version he’d just eaten. He loves chocolate and coffee. Excellent.

After dinner, sitting in the living room, the conversation continued to flow freely and we got to talk about his travel (he’s in international sales, which means I am madly jealous of his trips) and my music (a previous topic had revealed to the room my classical training, and Paul had been trying insistently to convince me to sing with his rock-blues band). I was embarrassed by my passion as I described a moment singing Mozart’s Requiem in a Parisian church, but Liam seemed to fully appreciate it and reciprocated with other interests.

Also we talked about how the skeleton event at the Olympics is fucking insane, and then discussed which slightly less crazy things we’d want to do. He thinks it’s nuts that I’d do time in a cage while sharks swam around me. Elaine said everybody thinks they want to parasail until they see a guy get hanged by the cords and watch the crew reel in his body.

That was a kind of weird moment.

As we were re-suiting ourselves in winter paraphernalia to gird against the sleet that was now pummeling the neighborhood, Liam flat-out asked if he could call me sometime. In front of Paul and Elaine. This is the kind of stuff most guys don’t do; they try to play it a little quieter. But I guess since we both knew this was a set-up, he didn’t feel the need. I babbled about how my phone isn’t working as a phone at the moment so he wouldn’t be able to hear me if he called me, and he said, “…Okay, but I can text you, right?” and I told myself to stop talking and just say yes and give him my number.

But the best part is that I’m not waiting for the text. I had a lovely evening with friends and their friend. And that’s all it really ever had to be.

In Soviet Russia, Lucky Get YOU

This is a thing that really actually happened and I can’t embed it as a video because I’m seriously not upgrading my WP account for that, but you have to watch it, HAVE TO WATCH IT, both because it will make your life better and because you won’t understand this post if you don’t.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.
.
..

….
…..
……
…….
………
……….
………..

OMFG, right?! Can you even breathe right now? Do I need to call someone?

This is my favorite thing now. When I first stumbled across it (posted on Facebook by a more-than-slightly-weird young opera singer I know), I thought it couldn’t possibly be real. I thought it was a spoof. Like Fred Armisen had returned to SNL and was doing a brilliant skit. But then I realized that the source for this was the NBC Olympics website, and if you want to talk about harsh punishment for minor crimes, I can tell you that NBC is as close to the Russian Police as you can get when it comes to sharing their Olympic content anywhere else. This clip does not exist in full anywhere but on that site. It cannot be YouTubed or embedded on another source or Vladimir Putin’s American cousin Lenny will come to your house and break you like a little bird.

I have watched it about five times now, and though the NBC Olympic site will not allow for frivolity, the comments on Gawker and Deadspin are nothing short of brilliant. And then I started watching it full-screen and discovered the choking, sobbing-with-laughter joy of interpreting the priceless facial expressions. And since the NBC Olympics site will not allow for frivolity (you gotta wonder who’s worse, Putin or NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel), I have wasted a great deal of the time I intended for doing my taxes and cleaning on making screen-grabs and accompanying thought bubbles. And then I cocked that whole operation up because I’m not that good at stuff like that, so you’re going to have to be okay with just pictures and captions.

"I am sorry, Mother. Please, no shoot while on TV, ok? Mother watches."

“I am sorry, Mother.
Please, no shoot while on TV, ok? Mother watches.”

(Guy on left actually WAS up all  night, actually DID get lucky.)

(Guy on left actually WAS up all night, actually DID get lucky.)

"Maybe American talent scout sees me, gives me part as handsome, brooding bad guy, eh?"

“Maybe American talent scout sees me, gives me part as handsome, brooding bad guy, eh?”

"Goddamned Apple Maps. How the hell did I wind up in Russia?!"

“Goddamned Apple Maps. How the hell did I wind up in Russia?!”

"Old Russia NEVER do this. Everybody think Putin sooo scaarrrry. Bah. Stalin! Stalin scary."

“Old Russia NEVER do this. Everybody think Putin sooo scaarrrry. Bah. Stalin! Stalin scary.”

"Oooh! Heehee! You see what he just did with his hips? Wowee."

“Oooh! Heehee! You see what he just did with his hips? Wowee.”

"Finally... I am STAR!"

“Finally… I am STAR!”

"Please, no shoot. I do good job. Look! I dance for you."

“Please, no shoot. I do good job. Look! I dance for you.”

     -"Oh my God. You see that? Shit." -"I saw, I saw. Act natural. "Shit."

-“Oh my God. You see that? Shit.”
-“I saw, I saw. Act natural…Shit.”

-"This is best day of my life. Better than day I got out of gulag. Better than day I fight bear. I am STAR!"           -"I hate this guy. Guy is... how you say? ...Douchey."

-“This is best day of my life. Better than day I got out of gulag. Better than day I fight bear. I am STAR!”
-“I hate this guy. Guy is… how you say? …Douchey.”

As Sochi's mayor said, there are no gay people in his town. So these guys had to be brought in from St. Petersburg.

As Sochi’s mayor said, there are no gay people in his town. So these guys had to be brought in from St. Petersburg.

This sweet old man isn't even a member of the Russian Police. They covered his head with burlap, dragged him in off the street and trussed him up to make their group look more "perestroika-y."

This sweet old man isn’t even a member of the Russian Police. They covered his head with burlap, dragged him in off the street and trussed him up to make their group look more “perestroika-y.”

"Anybody notice yet I no sing at all?"

“Anybody notice yet I no sing at all?”

"Oh, God. Is Kalashnikov rifle..."

“Oh, God. Is Kalashnikov rifle…”

"Wait, THAT guy is star? Where is polonium?!"

“Wait, THAT guy is star? Where is polonium?!”

The Lost Art of Being An Ass. Or Maybe Not Lost. Because History.

Of all the ways to try to insult people, of all the ways to convey displeasure, of all the ways to express anger, I have the biggest issue with one simple gesture.

The Finger.

I actually looked it up, and Wikipedia (Online Knower Of All Facts) says it is “roughly equivalent in meaning to ‘fuck off’, ‘fuck you’, ‘shove it up your ass’, ‘up yours’ or ‘go fuck yourself.’ It is performed by showing the back of a closed fist that has only the middle finger extended upwards, though in some locales the thumb is also extended.”

I had no idea about the third and fourth definitions, which now has me questioning my previous definitions of those phrases and the antecedent for “it.” But I rather enjoyed the academic approach to the gesture’s implications and mechanics.

Whatever its intention, I find it to be, frankly, the least intelligent,  least creative way possible to share one’s unhappiness with another person’s behavior.

I’ve always had a beef with the finger. I can honestly say I have not once in my life used it in anger, irritation or frustration. In fact, rarely have I even used it ironically. I don’t know that I’ve ever been able to express exactly why I refuse to use it, but this morning, on my way to work, I think it finally gelled:

The only people who ever flip someone the bird are the people who are in the wrong.

I was proceeding in an orderly fashion in a westerly direction on a main road in my city when a woman decided she would neglect entirely the laws of traffic and attempt—nay, complete—a right turn from her southerly orientation across several lanes of westerly-traveling traffic so that she might arrive in the lane of her choosing at the time of her choosing. (The lane of her choosing was the second-to-left on a four-lane road.) In order to do this, you’ll perhaps not be surprised to learn that she wound up perpendicular to the westerly flow across 2+ lanes for a period of time, blocking said lanes from proceeding in their orderly fashion.

I laid on the horn.

Admittedly, I find that to be an irritating behavior, as well.

She looked over at me and I put my hands up on either side of my body, at shoulder level, palms up, and said aloud, “What are you doing?”

And she gave me the finger.

No. No, no, no. No. Sorry. You. Are. WRONG. You are in the wrong here. You do NOT get to do that. I don’t care that your gloves are cute. No.

After she had gotten to where she wanted to go at her will and against that of the rest of us, and after I had made it onto the expressway for which I was aiming, I kept contemplating that thought. And I realized… Hey, you know what? Every time anybody flips anybody else off, it’s because the flipper is the ass and the flippee is pointing that out. Ipso facto: all flippers are wrong, and usually selfish.

Think  about it: if you’re a finger-flipper, what makes you do it? Do you do it when you know you’ve done the right thing and someone is mistreating you for it? Probably not. You probably do it when someone shows you you’ve done or said or maybe just thought something wrong, and you don’t feel like addressing your conscience and correcting the matter. The finger is not the gesture of a martyr. It is the gesture of an ass. It is the witless expression of one too lazy to find a more creative, intelligent approach, or of one too self-absorbed to admit fault and simply wave in a gesture of apology.

Sorry. I like you and all, but still.

And since we are a community of writers, my dear frogs bliends froggers blienders bloends blog friends, I feel sure that we are a community with better ways of expressing ourselves. Or… you know… controlling ourselves.

Turns out, the finger dates back to The Proverbial Day in Ancient Greece and Rome. I had no idea humankind has been so afraid to use their words for so long. And the Greeks and Romans had some damned fine words—words from which our present-day language emerged. The finger was meant to symbolize the penis, with the fingers on either side representing the testicles (which makes one wonder what the extended thumb referenced above was all about, and which also confirms that one is always larger than the other, as implied by the two fingers to one side, one finger to the other orientation). Apparently it was also used as an implication that a man submitted to anal penetration.

I’m guessing the recipient of the gesture might have found that an offensive implication.

*Eye roll*

So, if or when tempted to use the gesture, keep that in mind.

But really, folks. Even if you do feel entitled to make this move, isn’t there some other, more creative, less over-used, more intelligent way you could find to make your feelings clear? It may seem odd, but I might actually prefer someone to actually say “Fuck you” aloud. At least then they’re using words. I realize that my preferences are diametrically opposite the flipper’s cares,  but most people don’t want others to find them imbecilic—particularly people who frequently use this gesture. So maybe try not to look imbecilic.

There are better ways to be an ass. Is what I’m saying. If all else fails, go with this movie clip’s method.

 

Random Observations As Re: Going Back To School In One’s 30s

So now that I’m expert at being in graduate school (read: I am exactly one week into my second term, taking two classes after having taken one class in the previous term—only 15 more weeks and then 11 more courses til I get my degree!), I’m beginning to realize some things about the unique challenges, rewards and like-such-as of this undertaking.

For example, I’m totally supposed to be reading some shit right now.

What? I read a chapter. I’m taking a break. I worked 11.5 hours today.

Observation #2 (because the thing about writing a blog post when I’m supposed to be reading an assignment was #1): Where am I supposed to do this homework, anyway?
In undergrad, we all sat on our beds. Because… where else? Now I can’t sit on my bed because my back will go out or I will lie down and go to sleep. It’s either the couch or the kitchen table, and neither of those seem to be particularly diligence-inducing locations. The kitchen table worked when I was eight. Not since.

Observation #3: I have forgotten how to outline. 
See the whole #1/#2 fiasco above as evidence. Be glad I can’t draw arrows on my blog post. That’s apparently what I do now when I want to elaborate on a point I’ve written down seven lines ago.

Observation #4: The best part about this whole graduate-school-in-my-30s thing? Drinking wine while reading the textbook.
Obviously.

Although I have been warned not to drink too much, or I’ll end up highlighting entire chapters. Since tonight’s reading was uploaded to an online educational server, I had to keep the marker tightly capped to avoid drawing on my computer screen.

Observation #5: It is much easier to get distracted now.
This seems like it shouldn’t be the case. I mean, there was a lot more streaking going on in undergrad, for one thing, and I lived across the street from the park for my upperclassman years. But now, instead of “I forgot to call mom,” “Why do I have to do this stupid paper?” “Instant mashed potatoes or mac & cheese for dinner?” “The fire alarm? Again?!” and “I’m so broke I can’t pay for the copies I have to make,” the distractions have multiplied to include: “What is that noise in the wall?” “Has that clock always ticked so loudly?” “Did I pay the mortgage?” “My hand hurts. Wait, do people still take notes?” “Reading while taking notes takes so much longer than I remember,” “I need gas,” “What time is my morning meeting?” “Did the boss say it’s not due tomorrow, or it is due tomorrow?” “I forgot to take out the trash,” “I forgot to call mom,” “I’m so broke I can’t even afford the copies I have to make,” “I can’t sit like this anymore; my back is going to kill me tomorrow,” and “I’m out of wine.”

Observation #6: No all-nighters. Ever. I have a job.
To be honest, I never pulled all-nighters in undergrad, either, but at least then I had the luxury of falling drooling-on-the-couch asleep in the middle of the day if I needed to.

Observation #7: Published academics need to get over themselves.
Here’s the thing about writing and editing for a living: it’s really, really hard to read academic works without wanting to ruthlessly slash their lengthy, innumerable paragraphs. I just read an entire paragraph of word salad that essentially boiled down to: No one understands exactly what this profession is. We’re going to talk about that for the next 600 pages. By the end, we will have affected exactly no change at all. We will have merely explained at length our thesis statement above. And this criticism is coming from someone who can write a damned lengthy blog post. But at least those make you shoot coffee out of your nose sometimes, amirite?

Observation #8: Can I even still write a 25-page research paper?
Alright, that’s more of a question. But you take my point. Sure, they’re double-spaced and include citations for reference, but still… writing papers now is very different from writing them as an undergrad. Aside from the fact that I was well-versed in it then, I also had little problem bullshitting my way through them and making them sound pretty great. Now? Bullshit capacity exceeded. Everything has to matter. 

Stupid paycheck-enforced accountability standards.

Out of curiosity, I pulled a 952-word blog post up, copied and pasted it into a Word doc and made it double-spaced. 

Not quite two pages.

Yep. I’m screwed.

Observation #9: I find research materials where?
Apparently I don’t have to go to the library anymore. The limitless expanse of the internet as a source of academic information is somehow terrifying. Oh look! Justin Bieber!

Observation #10: To Do has me done in.
I have a habit at work of spending the last minutes at my desk in the evening making a to-do list for the following day on a Post-It note and sticking it on the next day’s block of my desk calendar (yes, I have one of those). This is a habit that started—minus the desk calendar—in undergrad. Back then, I stuck the notes up on my shelf next to my bed. There were never fewer than two at a time, but it’s how I kept everything straight. Back then, the to-do list was always limited only to school. Now? Work to-do, house to-do, interpersonal human to-do and school to-do. Fuck.

(That one should be on a to-do list.)

Observation #11: I thought college kids were lazy. Turns out, I was way more motivated then. 
In undergrad, I don’t really remember feeling like I didn’t want to do something I had to do. I’m sure I felt like that. I just don’t remember it. Mostly it was really my only purpose in life, so I’d better get my ass to the library and find the microfiche I need for the research paper. Now, aside from apparently not even having to go to the library, I am overcome by what I can only imagine is Senioritis after 14 years dormant in my body. Back then I got up when I needed to (though I have been a snooze-slapper since God invented Snooze), traipsed around in all kinds of weather, did my full-time student thing, worked a part-time job and handled internships that often had me there for at least 25 hours a week. When I was a senior, between the job I got in my industry and the internship credit I was still able to earn, it was damn near 40 hours. How the hell did I do that?

This is the part of the post where I should go on, flesh out the theme, find a way to wrap it up… but I’m tired. Failing that, I should save it and finish it later, but I know I’m not going to be able to maintain the voice and the thought pattern. So you get this. 

Doesn’t bode well for those 25-page papers.