I probably wouldn’t have read this particular Dr. Seuss book, anyway.

There’s this weird place you wind up in when you give yourself permission and have a really lovely relationship with a man in his late-ish 20s, and then things other people did to him for a long time when he was a kid come back to haunt him, and he does something he shouldn’t that’s destructive to your relationship even though it isn’t really about you at all, and he asks you for some time, and in the two weeks after that, you realize he lied about what he did, that it was worse than he made it out to be, and he admits it when he finally calls to tell you he’s moving to another state in 36 hours for a job you knew he was waiting to hear about, but didn’t know he’d gotten.

When Dr. Seuss wrote “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”, I don’t think he had this place in mind. Where was THAT book of wisdom? Hmm?

Look out! Don’t crash!
Your snarfle will hurt!
You’re headed for trouble –
stay out of his yurt!

He’s all the good things
that your whole self can see,
but a trigger’s the problem,
eventually.

His whole self’s amazing –
no, really, quite great! –
but some people before you
created a weight,

And he carries it mostly,
but sometimes, you’ll note,
it will tear him to pieces
– unsettle his boat

– and the next thing you know,
his kersplinker’s kersplat,
and there are no repair shops
for fixing all that.

So he’ll do what he can
and you’ll tinker with bits,
you’ll be quite glad you’ve tried it,
it’s well worth the fits –

But here’s the kerfuffle:
kersplinker and all –
It will loosen your droozle
and throw off your haul.

You’ll wonder if your parts
are working quite right –
or if somehow you could have
unlit what won’t light.

It’s not that it’s your fault –
good heavens – it’s not!
It’s just that his whole self
is tied up in knots

and he wants to untie them –
truly, he does,
but it’s hard to know which way
to get them unfuzzed.

And for all you both do,
his kersplinker’s kersplat
– and there is no repair shop
for fixing all that.

 

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Why Did I Do That? No, Really – Why?

The internet is an asshole and my fingers are ungrateful little twerps.

And because of their cruel, cruel partnership, I now know what time Jack and Gwyneth will stand before God and some other beings to swear their lives to each other tomorrow.

Also I know what day he gave her her ring and how.

Stupid internet and its finding of things.

By the way, I just now realized how bad it was to pair up my fingers and the asshole reference in the first sentence. I trust you know that’s not what I meant. But now you’re thinking about it.

For the last few days I’ve been strangely calm about the impending occasion. It’s other-worldly – something I know exists but doesn’t have anything to do with me. I’ve been all, “Jack gets married in three days. Huh.”

“Jack gets married in two days. Huh.”

“Jack gets married tomorrow. Huh.”

Admittedly, the last two days, these thoughts were accompanied by the fleeting idea that maybe she’d said potato and he’d said potahto and they’d called the whole thing off. But really, how would that help? Other than making me feel better at the reassurance that he still doesn’t think he can hack a substantive long-term relationship, and the sick and completely misplaced schadenfreude of him jilting her (I should want her to jilt him), what difference would it have made? Wouldn’t it have just prolonged some strange sort of agony?  Yes, right? I can’t help but think that my odd disconnection to the reality of impending vows is related in some way to the sense that 

Shit. I completely forgot what that thought was going to be.

But I do kind of feel like it’s a point of no return. Like once tomorrow draws to a close, he will be married, and that will somehow delete from my being all care or concern I might have about him. Like somehow after all the anguish of the last year and particularly the last few months, and somehow after all the feelings of the decade before that, it will all cease to matter in any relevant way and will float away from my smushed soul as though it never actually weighed anything at all.

Which won’t happen. Would be nice, though.

I tried not to go looking for trouble. I haven’t trolled for information since a few days after I found out about their engagement. As soon as i knew the date of the wedding, I got busy figuring out how to stay busy that day. I’ve generally stayed busy all year because of him, since long before they got engaged. (It started with putting an offer in on my house.) I debated going away for this weekend, but wasn’t confident. I wound up inviting a dozen people to my house for dinner tomorrow instead, which means I will be busy all day cleaning and cooking. But I’d been doing relatively well and avoiding all temptation to seek out anything more than I knew. Tonight, though, it was nagging at me. Tonight I messaged Angie on Facebook:

Stop me from doing something psychologically destructive. The internet is on. Jack gets married tomorrow. I have homework. Which requires the internet. Also Jandsome Javi exists. I HAVE SERIOUS PROBLEMS AND I NEED SERIOUS PEOPLE TO SOLVE THEM.

Unless, of course, your children and/or husband require your attention. Or you’re not interested in my first world dramas of pain and the world-wide web.

That lasted 90 seconds. No, wait – 30. Then Google happened – one single search of just his name – and now I know, after the briefest, fleetingest of looks, where they’re getting married and what time. And I glimpsed really quickly the reception venue which, in the 0.5 second vision I had of it, appeared to be the most tackily opulant place I could imagine and so. not. his. thing. In much the same way that marriage is not his thing.

I think he’s been anally probed by aliens and had his entire inner self replaced. It’s kind of fascinating.

And then I had to say this to Angie:

Too slow. Now I know more stuff. And have chest pains. Oh, why, internet, why? Why, fingers of betrayal?

And now I’m fantasizing about showing up and kind of ruining it silently, but only to him – somehow standing in a doorway at the reception and catching his eye, freaking him out a little bit, raising one eyebrow, shaking my head, turning around and leaving. And making him think about it for the rest of his life.

I would never even drive by the place, actually. But if I could just strike in his heart some dissonant chord that mixed fear with something that felt like missing me…

Oh hey, I just figured out how psychosis starts!

It has also just occurred to me that I need to find something to keep me busy Sunday, because the hangover from wedding day distraction could really be a bitch. Oh, I’ve failed to adequately gird my soul-loins! I’ve been so good and so careful and now this!

Not at all coincidentally, I’m sure, I’ve seen Javier twice in the last week. Not dates, you understand; I have this interesting way of mentioning his girlfriend exactly once each time I see him. Casual-like. But we were at the neighborhood gathering place for drinks last Friday night, and then he was here last night to watch football for a little while. Not just the two of us – my neighbor had knocked on my door an hour before kickoff and invited herself over to watch the game. He invited me out for a drink after she did that, so I told him I had the neighbor here but he could join if he wanted.

Still, we’re getting to know each other more. It’s a problem. He’s smart. And humble. And considerate. That accent… and then once in a great while he gets really impassioned about something and ay yi yi. And then after we do a chaste friend-hug goodbye, he texts me to thank me for my company and sometimes gets a little nervous if I don’t answer right away. I tell myself it’s not cute or charming, that he has a girlfriend and shouldn’t do this. He doesn’t deny her when I mention her. But he never talks about her, either.

And he’s coming to dinner tomorrow. I made a point of telling him his girlfriend is welcome, too. He’s not sure whether she’s coming. I’m not sure he invited her.

I’d like to think that this is a temporary salve, that I’ve let myself slip just a liiiittle bit to help me get through the specific and anticipated hard days, and then I can pull back when I don’t have that anticipation and struggle. But in the back or sometimes middle of my mind is the accusatory question: Why do you find unmarried but unavailable men interesting?

Maybe what I think is the pain is actually the salve, and I haven’t identified the pain yet.

Gah, that is going to suck.

 

 

 

 

Serenade, motherfucker. Or: On the Occasion Of Your Wedding

I’m slowly congealing a fantasy about showing up at Jack’s wedding reception and blowing the doors off the place.

Metaphorical doors, since I imagine it will be outside. I don’t know why I imagine that, but I do. He’s not one for showiness, and it’s hard to find an indoor venue that doesn’t fairly smack of showiness, even in tasteful settings. I don’t know exactly what I would do, but I’m pretty sure it would involve a mic drop immediately followed by – in a graceful fit of vengeance I got from my gay-bor Steve the other night when he was telling an interminably long but hilarious story about how he was cock-blocked at every turn one summer by a particular Asian doctor – the single-motion swiping clear of every finger sandwich from the refreshments table on my way out.

It seems I’ve made it to the Passive-Aggressively Bitchy Stage of Loss/Grief.

Do you ever get pissed off at yourself for not being over something that happened, let’s say, four to 18 months ago? Yeah. Me too.

But how bad-ass would that be, for me to show up at wherever this bullshit joke is taking place (poor Gwyneth – no idea) and somehow pull off with class and grace and aplomb a giant Fuck You? “And although there’s pain in my chest, I still wish you the best with a fuck you…”

Cee-Lo Green is a damned poet.

I feel like I would need to channel Audrey Hepburn instead, though. But singing. I just Googled “song about a guy getting what he deserves” to figure out what I could sing at the tasteful reception that could end in a mic drop and the spectacular hoarding of crustless watercress-prosciutto-and-cucumber nibbles. And then I tried “song about guy who cheated getting divorced.” That brought up, I shit you not, 75 country songs. 

I hate country. And I can’t do a mic drop after “Friends In Low Places.” Also I’m now irrationally angry at Tracy Byrd for recording a song called “Revenge of a Middle Aged Woman.” Predictably, it ends with Tracy in the woman’s bed.

Someone send Cee-Lo over to Tracy Byrd’s house.

(Pause for image of miniature Tyrannosaurus Rex trying to throw punches at a doofus in a ten-gallon hat.)

(That’s funny ’cause Cee-Lo has weirdly short arms.)

Then I Googled “song about woman getting revenge,” and either there has never been such a thing or I’m starting to freak Google out, because the screen was blank.

Sara Bareilles has a song called “Sweet As Whole” that I find completely delightful and very singable and even kind of pretty, but it blames Gwyneth a little too much. Still, it would work with my voice.

Jack never heard me sing. In ten years he never once heard me. He had plenty of opportunities, always knew when and where I was doing it, but he never once showed up. Didn’t even ask, usually. One time he offered to pay for my voice lessons because I was stressed out about a vocal problem I was having and about being able to afford the lessons. He said it would mean a lot to him if I let him foot the bill. Which I, of course, refused to allow because no one else should have to spend $200 a month on a voice they never care to hear.

Huh. Not even once.

What do we think of Kelly Clarkson’s “Never Again”?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GVYesEpMr84

Yeah. That’s the one.

The Question

Over the long holiday weekend (the university closed on Friday, too – is this real life?) an old friend from grade school – grade school, I say – was in town with his wife and three daughters on a whirlwind road trip, so we got together for brunch. 

He looks exactly the same as he did in eighth grade. No, really. Exactly. Even his wife agreed that he hasn’t changed since she met him in high school. She and I are Facebook friends, which is how this whole thing went down (we went through three years of HS together before I moved). And honestly, you would think there would be awkwardness when you meet for brunch with the guy you had a crush on when you were eight through 14 and who you haven’t seen in 19 years, but no! No awkwardness at all! We chatted endlessly for like two hours! Including that usually awkward time when you’re standing around waiting for your table because the joint is crowded.

The only thing I really didn’t understand was that Jenna and the girls all ordered lunch food. I never understand ordering latter-hour food when breakfast is an option. I’m a breakfast- all-day- long kinda girl. David backed me up, though – ordered almost the exact same thing I did.

His midwestern gentility and kindness haven’t changed, either. Then again, that’s probably because they still live in Indiana. About four miles from where they grew up, actually. He teaches at the Catholic grade school around the corner from where my family and I lived (which was not, to be clear, the one we went to – that was 15 minutes away). Whatever else one can say about the midwest (and I’ve said some stuff), its residents are just good people. I’m pretty sure, in the 15 years I was in Indy and Ohio, the only asshole I ever knew was me.

Oh, wait. I forgot John Kasich.

john kasich

Seriously. I met him on election night 2000. He’d been voted out of  Congress in 1998 and wasn’t yet employed with anything else and he was still incredibly rude. What a dick. Now he’s governor of Ohio. For some reason.

David caught me up on all the folks we have shared history with – some we went to grade school with and some from high school. He and Jenna have dinner once a month with a few folks. Seems everyone’s married with kids, doin’ the midwestern living thing, suburban tract houses in the same zip code as their parents, all things I just can’t relate to. And then he, very pleasantly, asked The Question.

“So! Did you ever get married?”

Wait, you know what? Let me back up. That’s not The Question. The Question is actually one of two:  “Why aren’t you married?” or “are you seeing anyone special?” It struck me that this Question was actually past tense. As in, “Now that we’re on the downward slope of our mid-30s, are you divorced or what?”

None of our friends from Indy are divorced except for one that I can think of. She just bought a house on the street where I lived, which is down the street from her oldest sister, who has lived with her husband in that house for about 25 years. I used to babysit their kids.

Anyway.

I smiled around the inquiry because he was smiling and he was totally meeting my eyes, which told me it was an honest to goodness curiosity and not a judgment. “Nope,” I replied with the return smile. “Never married!”

“Just livin’ the single girl life, huh?” he grinned, nodding.

“Yep! Just…” I was looking out the window at the view of the city from the table, trying not to use those exact words in my response, thinking about how much I actually like being single here, and how much better it is than being single in Indy.

“Well I would guess with your old job, the schedule would have made it hard,” David offered as an explanation for my marital status.

“Well, yeah,” I cooperated, “because the hours can be crazy and you work holidays and stuff. Actually, you wind up dating people you work with, or at least people in the same field, because they understand, you know.”

David’s head was set on Affirmative Bob.

Do this right, I was thinking. Talk just enough, but not too much. Too much sounds kind of pathetic. Don’t let your indignation at perceived judgment make you go into how you’d like to get married someday but you’re nowhere near it right now and you’ve had kind of a rough end to a complicated relationship not too long ago but apparently he’s getting married which what the hell is THAT about and you’re not really interested in having kids even though they would be nice to have around when you’re old if you don’t do such a bad job at parenting that they’d rather smother you with a pillow which you’re pretty sure is why you haven’t had any and hey why are your daughters suddenly crying?

Every time someone asks me one of these Questions, it feels odd to answer. I guess that’s because I always infer judgment from it, when that’s only the case some of the time, and fairly often it’s probably wonder at what life is like when you don’t get married and pop out offspring by 25. It’s a totally different life and people like a glimpse of the other side. Those who are married with kids rarely get that glimpse because all their friends are also married with kids.

It’s like the Rare Species exhibit at the zoo. “Wow, look at that! Do you see it? It’s single and childless. It seems just like the other ones, but there’s something so different about it!”

We moved on smoothly from that and it really was lovely to see them all and catch up. That evening I spent several hours with other members of my own species (I’m so glad I moved into this neighborhood). Saturday Sister and BIL 1 and Twin Nephs came to visit for the first time since I bought my house. A few of my neighbors – none of whom had been at the previous night’s gathering – stopped by late for drinks as Twin Nephs slept soundly. Three of them belong to the other species, but they’re cool with my genus. When all is said and done, I like both varieties just fine almost all the time. But it’s nice to have other members of mine around… even if we never get around to propagating the species.

 

Rubik and My Brain

So, my internet went wonky for a while and I couldn’t post anything – or read anything from any of you fine people. Please don’t take it personally. I know you’ve missed me so badly that you felt betrayed by my absence. Shhh. It’s okay. It’s gonna be okay.

Internet’s fixed. Glory, hallelujah – I can now search for videos of how to solve my infuriating miniature Rubik’s Cube. I keep getting one side done and then flying into a rage about the other five.

So, while I was away, I was losing my mind. In case you wondered. Did you know that I have some serious issues with being attracted to unavailable men? What is that? I’m not attracted to the married ones. Not even a little bit, though three such men have professed their “love” to me (to zero interest on my behalf). No, I’m just attracted to the ones who can’t make up their minds. Seriously, I have a history. Jack. This other ten-year thing before him with a guy named Ryan. And now… now it’s Javier.

Well, not really.

Lil bit.

Javier is very nice and fairly attractive. He lives in the neighborhood. He’s smart and he has an accent on account of he’s from Colombia. He loves his mother and sleeps on his own couch when she comes to visit for a month because his brother has lived with him for four years without paying any rent and Javi doesn’t have the heart to kick him out, so when his mom comes from Colombia, Javier gives her his own bedroom. He’s a gentleman and took the blame when I broke a glass at our friend’s house Saturday night. He loves wine and it’s his fault that I had a raging headache for most of Sunday. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the fact that I kept swallowing the wine and champagne he was pouring into my glasses at two people’s houses between the hours of 8pm and (oh, dear) 4am.

Fortunately, one of those houses was mine.

Javi, however, has a girlfriend. A girlfriend he never brings to anything. She shows up occasionally, but not often. I think I’ve met her twice. He also has a very close female friend, Adhira, who has a serious boyfriend for whom she’s moving to South America in 3.5 years. Allegedly.

South America’s a big place. I don’t know exactly where down there she’s going.

Not the point. Point is: Javi is unavailable and is rather Jack-like and Ryan-like in his way of having a girlfriend he never talks about and close female friends he may or may not have a more-than-friendly connection with and I kind of have a crush on him. Also he got me drunk.

Totally his fault except for the part about me drinking what he poured so many times.

To his credit (and this is what I tend to do, by the way: give guys gold stars for behaving the way they should behave, as though they’ve done something epic and amazing), at 4am when most of the people who had come to my house after the first part of the evening were leaving, and I had scurried about putting sheets on extra beds for those who couldn’t manage to walk the block or two to their own homes (oh yeah – I throw a good after-party), and, when I (think I) told him he could either sleep in the basement or go home, he chose to go home.

I say I think I told him he could sleep in the basement because in my head, that’s where he was going to sleep if he stayed. I had just put the sheets on that bed. But at the door when we were sort of awkwardly exchanging “what do you think you want to do?” phrases after cleaning up, there seemed to be some uncertainty. But I’m pretty sure I pointed at the basement and the door to indicate that those were his options.

Anyway, he went home. Which is totally good, because I wanted him to kiss me, but that was all. Mouth to mouth with hands held firmly away from flesh. Truly. I lay in my bed afterward, having somehow absented my contact lenses from my eyes and wondering if the people in the other bedroom were having any kind of really silent sex in there, thinking about how much I did not want anyone else in my bed because that would be a really bad idea right now in my world. Especially if he were emotionally unavailable. I’ve had enough of that particular variety.

Sure, sure, one can avoid that brand of attachment if one doesn’t have anyone in one’s bed other than one’s partner in marriage. Alas, that horse has left the proverbial barn. I’m 36 years old. Sorry, Mom and Jesus. Couldn’t wait.

Jesus was dead by 33, anyway.

Aaaaaand I’m going to hell. For that last comment if not for the sex.

Wow, do I lack focus in this post.

Alright, so the problem that’s gelling in my head (one day away from my reunion with my shrinakpist, Ali Velshi, who I thought I was going to see last Tuesday, but alas, I had gotten the appointment date wrong, which I only realized after I had walked into his office, signed in and presented my new insurance information to the receptionist) is that I have a pattern, and that pattern is that I fall for unavailable men. Why? I’ve scoured my brain for Daddy Issues and, on a relative scale, find none. I developed this tendency when I was 15. No kidding. Twenty-one years later I’m still stuck in it. Anybody who’s been the slightest bit available has failed to stick to the relationship longer than a year.

Pretty sure I’m broken, you guys.

Unlike my internet and my Rubik’s Cube.

My Mental Exercises Should Be Sponsored By Mountain Dew

I’m evidently in a fasten-your-seatbelts-and-keep-your-arms-and-legs-inside-the-mindfuck-at-all-times kind of phase.

Most of you are familiar with the sagas of my mental musings… the stalker and the parents and the Jack and the Rick. It would not seem that they should all blend together and then get lumped in with my job, but somehow the elements of my life keep doing tricks worthy of X-Games entry and I’m all, “Oh! Well isn’t this an interesting development! Where’s the vodka?”

We had a staff meeting at work the other day to talk about some divisional goals. One of my boss’s suggestions was to increase awareness of our department and what we do by posting photos of ourselves, along with our names, professional contact information and a summary of our jobs, on one of the university’s websites.

Perfectly reasonable, really. As is legend for academic types, one must knock on their door, hand them a cup of coffee and personally tell them about everything, or they’ll never know, because apparently doing field-specific research renders them otherwise incapable of reading emails, looking at the front page of a university website or getting a text message to inform them of things like, “Yes, it snowed a little, but you have to work today.” So if you want to tell them what you do for them, you have to shove it under their noses and point their heads down.

I personally think it’s just smart not to circulate one’s name, workplace and photo around on the internet in general, if one is merely an ordinary citizen. But I blog anonymously, so of course I feel that way. My natural inclination these days is to tense up at the suggestion of my photo, name and location of employment being so easily available in a handy package, but I know there’s a degree to my sensitivity that’s largely unique because I’m the only real-life person I know who has had a stalker who went to prison for his actions and is now out. I don’t wish to inflict my sensitivities on others to a degree that might seem too far, in their minds. It’s actually a detriment, in business, to refuse this kind of PR. Still, when my boss, who knew nothing about my experience, made the suggestion, he happened to glance at me. He saw my reaction and I saw it register on his face.

So then I had to go into his office after the meeting and explain: he didn’t see me disagreeing with the idea or being critical of him. He saw my visceral reaction because I had a stalker.

Hate that guy. Keeps meddling in my affairs. Keeps making me feel like an over-sensitive attention whore who doesn’t want the attention. Very confusing.

So then what did I want to do? Well, I wanted to stop having a minor anxiety attack, for one. My anxiety level always goes up a little when I have to confront the stalker thing in any way, but the problem here wasn’t that; it was having to tell my boss a little bit about it so he would understand my response to his suggestion.

The other problem was this: I also wanted to tell Rick what had just happened. Not helpful. I’ve been telling myself and telling myself that I need to maintain a professional relationship with Rick and that’s all, not talking even a little bit about anything that pertains to personal lives. He asks me about how my weekend was and I’m like, Don’t ask him about his weekend. We don’t care about his weekend. That’s my intellectual awareness. My emotional awareness differs. Because of things like Jack’s engagement and my parents’ ignorance of why maybe my feelings about the stalker situation count more than theirs, I’ve found myself wanting to seek comfort from Rick. After all, this is the man I couldn’t help but like. This is the man who kissed like a dream and spent eight hours on dates. This is the man who sat with me for six hours in an emergency room, starving and covering me with cold compresses when I nearly passed out. This is the man who made my call for help for victims of crime a personal crusade.

Today, though, he made it the butt of a joke.

I had stopped into his office to talk with him about something that had come up in a meeting. He wound up bridging the conversation into whether I’d heard from his former boss, the state senator, to whom I’ve wanted to speak for seven months about further legislative proposals for victims’ rights. The senator, knowing he’d ignored several phone and email messages, had approached me after running into me at an event about helping him out with something in exchange for his willingness to listen to my ideas (though that’s not how he worded it, obviously). I made myself available. He hasn’t followed up. Rick wasn’t surprised and advised me on some other legislators I should approach.

He also, while conveying a story about something the senator had said, referred to his girlfriend.

Ah. Confirmation. He’s back with her.

Well, I had assumed that, hadn’t I? Yes. Yes, since the week before Mother’s Day when he made reference to going to see his mom, I had assumed that the reason he was no longer staying with his parents was because he was back with his girlfriend. This was the first official confirmation that I was right.

Dashed some of my hopes, though. I won’t lie. But it’s alright. I needed to know this for sure, and I needed  not to be the person who brought it up. I needed to be the person who didn’t react at all when he said the word “girlfriend.” With hesitation.

Yep. He hesitated. Don’t think I didn’t notice.

And then, minutes later, on another floor of the building, I nearly literally ran into him, and he said this:

“What are you, stalking me? You know there’s a bill about that in the senate.”

I think the look I gave him could have melted steel. “You should know better than to ever joke with me about that,” I said.

The apology landed in my email inbox two minutes later, sent from his phone before he even got back to his office.

Still, it felt like a betrayal of sorts. I mean, of course it wasn’t, but here I’d felt for two years like this man was my ally who understood. I never thought he’d make a joke about it.

Eh. Men are stupid.

When I replied to his apology, I made a point to say “thanks” instead of “it’s okay.” Because it wasn’t okay. But then I wound up mitigating my stern disapproval by saying that it’s already a touchy subject presently made touchier by recent repercussions.

He replied by urging me not to hesitate to let him know if I needed to vent.

You know what? No. You don’t get to do that. You don’t get to try to be my friend after making an insensitive joke just to try to make yourself feel better. I don’t want to be your friend. I don’t want to lean on you if all it does is massage your ego before you go home to your girlfriend. You don’t get to feel reassured that I still like you.

In case you’re wondering, the insurance issues have been worked out and I’m going back to see Ali Velshi tomorrow evening.

What Women Want

This week I spent a workday at a conference for women leaders. They fed us twice and also gave us wine and goodie bags – and I don’t mean crap, I mean free makeup. We’re going to sort of blow by the fact that never in my previous 16-year-long career would anything like this ever have been encouraged, let alone funded at employer expense, and move straight on to how I pissed myself off.

So I go to this conference, at the invitation of my boss, who’s awesome, and along with several other women from the office. Lovely. We’re all divvied up so nobody is sitting at a table with anyone else from their respective organization/office. Fine. Except I realize very soon after I sit down that I’m judging. Not only am I judging the other women; I’m judging myself in comparison to them. This apparently NEVER ends in life. There was one woman at my table who I hated within two minutes of sitting down, even though she had not yet so much as moved by that point. Otherwise I was looking at clothes and jewelry and feeling frumpy (my wardrobe choice was sub-par even by my own standards) and cheap (said wardrobe came partially from Target – handed up from my sister – and my accessories were plastic).

The first problem, if I’m being honest, was location. The host site was very near Jack’s place. I generally try to avoid that whole area now because it’s an old haunt for me, and his ghost (and corporal being, as far as I know) is there. Gag. So already that’s in my subconscious. Like, as I was driving, I quietly thought that if I saw him running down the road, I might run him over. You know. Accidentally.

In addition, there were two women at my table (of eight) who were engaged and talking weddings. During the first discussion session right before lunch, the discussion leader (a fellow academic admin employee, but from another school) commented to the chick I hated that her being from a tiny town in Montana must have made it hard to find a future husband. WTF. Is that really what we’re talking about here? Wedding plans and lack of potential for mates in freaking high school? At a women’s leadership conference? Have we not evolved AT ALL?

From time to time, I was checking various things via my phone, as were all attendees. At one point I posted something to my Twitter page, which I only use for work-related stuff. While there, I quickly scrolled through the tweets from people I follow to see if anyone else was discussing the event, or anything related to where I work. Somehow, Jack showed up in the list. I don’t follow him; he must have referenced someone I do follow – I didn’t read his tweet, just scrolled quickly past when I saw his face and wondered how he got there. Then I wondered if I could block him from ever showing up again.

However, in my defense, I feel my instincts about the chick I hated were correct. To wit:
1. She was wearing a knit dress with horizontal stripes and didn’t look fat, so I’m pretty sure she was showing off.
2. She emptied the table’s water pitcher so as to fill her own Nalgene bottle from its empty status.
3. Twice.
4. During a presentation by a major player at a Fortune 100 company, she loudly demanded that he show the full Old Spice buff guy commercial instead of just the photo, and then muttered that one of their upcoming ad campaigns “sounds dumb.”
5. When the host started playing a Shakira song and told the room to close our eyes and dance like no one was watching, she did. Unabashedly. Mostly with her ass.
6. She chewed with her mouth open.
7. She reminded me slightly of Gwyneth. In that she was blonde with blue eyes and young.
8. She rolled her eyes a lot.
9. She laughed loudly at weird times.

So I’m completely justified, yes?

It’s frustrating, you know? Ironically, during the wrap-up, as moderators were working their way around the room asking representatives from each table to share what had been discussed between tablemates, my boss stood up and said that they’d talked about how nasty women are to other women. Yet another demonstration of how like-minded my boss and I are: I’ve been saying that for years – that women are who get in the way of women now. Yet I had spent the day judging, hating and feeling emo. And wondering whether any other women were doing the same thing.

I have to believe they were.

Because I’m crazy, but I’m not the only one.

I got a lot out of the conference, actually. Besides the psychological un-fun-ness of being in Jack’s neighborhood sitting at a table with a woman who reminded me of Gwyneth while listening to two other women talk about weddings and seeing Jack pop up randomly in my Twitter feed.

That was just a bonus.

Rendezvous, Then I’m Through With You

One of my friends wants to set me up with her friend’s neighbor.

Liz doesn’t know about what’s happened with Jack. In one of those classic crazy life twists, she actually knows Jack from about 15 years ago when they worked together, but she doesn’t know much about him. She knows we were good friends, but that’s all, and she used to tell me all the time that she thought he was a great catch.

Sigh.

Liz had emailed me the other day, telling me that she thought either our friend Alicia or I should go out with this guy, Ben. She particularly thought I might be interested because he’s a classical pianist and violinist, and an economist, to boot. Given my love of classical music as a singer and my pseudo-wonkiness, she figures this is right up my alley. He’s also a runner. Because apparently everybody is a runner these days. The only problem, as she sees it, is that he’s short. She doesn’t know how short, because she doesn’t actually know him.

“I’m told he’s taller than Peter Dinklage, but shorter than me,” she told me.

So that means he’s between 4’6″ and 5’10”. I’m 5’7″ barefoot.

Well, that’s not the only problem. The other problem is that my heart is currently sitting on my counter in a blender.

Also, he lives an hour away from me, and I just can’t stand the thought of going back to driving back and forth after finally ridding myself of my 100-mile-per-day commute. But that’s really neither here nor there. Although it does add to the list of reasons I slump over when I think about this idea.

So why even consider it, right? Well, that’s the thing. It’s not that I have any interest in running the risk of attaching myself once again to someone who, in a month or a year or a decade, will walk away. I know I don’t have the stomach for dating at the moment, starting over with getting to know someone from zero, investing time and energy into something that ends with a whimper or a thud or an explosion, but ends nonetheless.

But I know that I am dangerously close to never trying again.  I feel like there might be a delicate balance, and that if I listen to the voice that tells me not to bother, I’ll shut it all down for good.

I ran into Rick the other day at work and he was telling me something that doesn’t matter because all I could think was that I have to keep it professional or I’ll get stuck again, falling for someone I can’t have. Every time I have to ask him for information on a project we’re both involved in, he responds to my cold email with a phone call. Someone says something nice about me in his presence? He leaves me a handwritten note at my desk. I send out an email to the people involved in the project? He replies just to me. We went on a site visit for the project the other day and while everyone else was talking amongst themselves about planning an event (which we don’t have a role in), we wound up standing off to the side together. I looked up and he was looking at me from behind his RayBans.

It helps that it’s difficult to have a meaningful wordless exchange when you’ve both got sunglasses on, but I suddenly remembered what he once said about me wearing his, and I had to walk away.

I can’t get stuck again.

So, what do you think? Should I tell Liz I’ll go out with the economist musician runner (damned runners)? Swallow the trepidation, dose up on anti-anxiety meds, drink a couple glasses of wine and pretend I have the emotional energy required? Is that fair to him? Or should I spare us all the struggle?

*In case you’re wondering, the title of this post is a reference to the ’90s Eve 6 song, Inside Out. “Wanna put my tender heart in a blender, watch it spin around into a beautiful oblivion/Rendezvous, then I’m through with you.”

The Crazy

So now I’m pissed at my best guy friend for up and Facebook-friending Jack after YEARS of not giving half a shit about him and frankly disliking him for the way he treats women.

Brad friended Jack. What the fuck. We all worked together once upon a time.. Brad left back in 2007 and literally has not talked to Jack since. And NOW, now that Jack is getting married, now that Jack has done so much to hurt me, now that Jack is somewhere between the love of my life who I lost and the object of my most penetrating hatred… Brad has friended him.

I’m so pissed I’ve tried four ways to contact Brad and tell him he needs to tell me why I shouldn’t be pissed.

Meanwhile, what did I do? Well, I went to Jack’s Facebook page, of course. We’re not friends, but some of what he posts is public. Including the new pictures of him and Gwyneth and the story of how he proposed during a marathon training run and “she gets her wish that I stop calling her my training partner.”

Memo to Gwyneth: he called you that all this time because he was HIDING YOU.

“We couldn’t be happier!” Jack says.

Good for you. Who are you, by the way?

Another memo to Gwyneth: the trail you were running on when he proposed was the one where I took the picture that’s framed in his condo. I gave it to him for Christmas in 2011. That’s my handwriting on the matte. He loved it. Loved it. I’ve never seen him react to anything with as much gratitude and emotion. I bet he never hung it because you would see it and ask about it. But it’s there somewhere. Hang it, please. So you have a reminder of where you fell in love. And where you got engaged. So he has a daily reminder of how he treated the woman who gave it to him.

I have called Joey and messaged Angie telling them I need them to talk me down given Brad’s move. And to once again stop me from sending Jack a really hateful message. Oh, it would feel so good. Here are some drafts:

You are going to ruin her.

OR

I heard you were marrying Gwyneth, eight months after throwing away ten years like it was nothing and telling me you were not capable of sustaining a substantive relationship. Good luck. You’ll both need it.
OR
How long were you sleeping with her and spending nights with me? When you cancelled on me Christmas night, telling me it was something that made you sick from dinner, was that because you were spending the night with her instead? Does she know you spent the next night with me? The night I gave you the framed photo of your running trail?
I kind of wish I could post a comment on his “could not be happier!” FB page that simply says, “Whatever.”
But I know that all makes me the smaller person. I know I’ve actually crossed into the Crazy that I always envied other women for being able to pull off. Brad says Jack contacted him via Facebook last week about tickets to an event and that’s why they became friends. I call bullshit. Defriend him now, then. You don’t even talk. I need to know that my best guy friend, who has been supportive and thoughtful and derisive of Jack, isn’t dividing his loyalties. Like Jack did.
Facebook is so unnecessarily… whatever.
I’m so upset I can’t even find words anymore.

Who Wrote Every Radio Song Ever? I’d Like A Word.

I’m at the point now where I think that all music with words in English needs to be banned from my earshot, and I’m talking to rom-coms on television trying to convince the stupid women in them to stop falling in love with the guy who can’t make up his mind.

I’m smart enough not to attempt the radio or most of my music collection. I usually have Pandora going on my laptop (the internet music service, not the band) while I’m cleaning or cooking, but I didn’t do it yesterday while I was frantically dusting and scrubbing and washing on deadline because having one neighbor over for dinner turned into a party of eight and I hadn’t cleaned in two weeks. But I had to go to the grocery store for tomatoes and mixed greens, and everything that played over the speakers high above my head was about love or breakups, or came from the standard 1990s collection of wedding songs.

So for now, I can’t go to grocery stores. Or watch Sunday afternoon television. Or see a random issue of People Magazine, because Gwyneth Paltrow is on the cover as the most beautiful woman in the world. (Which, let’s be honest, is nauseating even if Jack’s future wife didn’t look like her.) I also have to avoid everything relating to baseball (Jack’s passion), horses (long story, multiple chapters), several streets and restaurants, an entire television station (another long story with multiple chapters) and a lot of non-rom-com movies.

And certain cocktails.

And church.

Ralph Lauren Blue. Listerine Pocket Strips.

And, weirdly, zebras. He’s afraid of zebras. Not that I see zebras a lot, but when I do, I instantly think of Jack.

I’m taking to heart a lot of what friends have said – including blog friends – about Jack’s impending marriage and what it means, or doesn’t, about our relationship and about him. I just got off the phone with Joey, himself heartbroken over the breakup of his first real relationship in years. He somehow was the first one to get through to me that it doesn’t matter what I knew about Jack before, and it doesn’t matter what Jack thought about his capacity for relationships before, and it doesn’t matter what I understood before. Jack has changed. That’s all that matters.

It’s hard, though, to synthesize that with everything I know about him for the last ten years, and what he’s told me about the ten years before that. It’s hard to believe that after ten years of showing him what love is, and nearly 50 years of his own life, it only took eight months for him to completely turn around his whole understanding of himself. The only way his marriage will work is if he really did turn that around within himself.

What still hurts is that, when I asked whether I had any significance in his life, he had no answer, which meant the answer was no. I asked him that more than a year ago, and I’m still not over it. I have realized that there were lies and there was hiding and there was evasiveness and there was a fundamental lack of respect for me after all the years we were so many things for one another – but that doesn’t mean I don’t love him anymore. I don’t wish he were marrying me instead of Gwyneth –  not because I don’t love him or can’t imagine it, but because he’s hurt me too much. But I can’t understand, at bottom, why he didn’t have the respect for me that I had earned.

I’m angry with myself, too. I have been, I guess, for a long time. It’s another thing I made peace with and now it’s come back, in light of the change in conditions that makes me wonder what was true before. I’m angry that I let myself love someone who wouldn’t love me, even though I tried more than once to stop and I couldn’t. I’m angry that it wasn’t the first time. I’m angry that I considered his feelings above mine all the time, that I avoided showing him the fullness of how I felt – good or bad – because I didn’t want to scare him away, and in the end he walked away anyway. Who wouldn’t have seen that coming? I’m mad at myself for hiding the nature of that relationship from even my closest friends other than him, because I knew they wouldn’t approve, that they would warn me it was a bad sign. That’s what I would have done, too, if it were them instead of me. I’m angry that I was happy loving him and only thinking, or guessing, or hoping that he loved me.

I have learned a few things, yes. And I applied some of what I learned with Rick. I’m hoping those are lessons I won’t forget. But I worry about what effect this will have on me in the future, should I meet someone else and have the stomach for anything more than “hello.” I made a conscious decision, at more than one point, to trust Jack. I wonder now if I will be able to do that again, or if I will struggle with it so much that whoever he is will be discouraged.

And the memories that float to the surface unbidden – I’d like for them to stop. Images and impressions and senses and jokes and looks and touches and the indelible mark of his condo and the smell of the air there when I walked through the door… now when it flashes, she’s in the room, too. It knocks the wind out of me every time.

Day six. Breathe in.