Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Let me begin with all the things I *didn't* do this year: I didn't sleep (because the baby didn't sleep), or make a ton of money, or wean said baby, or move somewhere cool.
But I did get pneumonia, become an aunt, attend five weddings, take the helm of a large commercialization project, lose 5 lbs, work on my marriage, refinance the house... I cried watching Obama be sworn in, made a lifelist, dragged my in-laws to the beach, taught our toddler sign language, fantasized about living in a different climate, rode on a yacht, took tap class, wrote a children's book, bought a live christmas tree, and generally came to the conclusion that I need to be investing way more time in my intellect and in my life-of-ideas.
I'm not sure how else to phrase that last part. Often, I observe my husband making these huge leaps forward, such is his voracity for reading and studying and learning. It's humbling. His energy reminds me that those topics that used to inspire me somehow aren't triggering the part of my head that catalyzes projects and ideas and initiative anymore. As if part of my brain is dormant and listless. What do I need to do next?
I want 2010 to be a year where I wake up and ask myself continuously "What do I want?" And if I am not doing the things I want to be doing, I need to police myself and ask over and over: "Why aren't I doing what I want right this minute?" Is there ever a good enough reason to ignore what you want?
Friday, November 20, 2009
There have been more work moments than not lately when I feel as if I must remain in a constant state of hostessness - ever having to be the smiling, nodding diplomat immersed in a sea of sharp-toothed suits.
For instance, here I am from 9am-2pm on an average weekday:
That's right, my professional life IS THE STUFF OF CLIP ART. And beyond the horrifying turquoise blazer I'm obliged to wear, it's all about the handshakes and tightlipped business smile. (Why does everyone else get to wear gray? And I don't even like bangs!)
While most of my adult life I've acknowledged that my natural "peacemaker" tendencies have been a boon, sometimes the constant exercising of this one aspect of my personality GETS OLD. As in: Why don't I ever get to be the bad guy? The bitch? The hard-liner? The slacker?
Is it all my fault because I am simply too lazy to try out any new role? Do I fall into the easiest or most comfortable position just like that? How do I make use of any other unknown facilities or talents I may have when I subvert myself thusly?
Back in graduate school, a colleague once gave me a piece of frank advice: he told me I ought to pursue becoming a dominatrix. At least as a side-career, he said. Whatever character assessment he made to come to that conclusion, he never shared. But now I am wondering if I should have acted on that advice a long time ago. Because honestly I feel stuck in this place where I am a kindly and pandering middle manager.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Which brings me to the stark contrast that makes with my current 'hood.
Midwest Scenario #1: It's 9pm, my husband and I are quietly reading in bed. Off in the near distance we hear a clarinet playing Westminster Chimes. We look at each other and go back to reading. The "chimes" become obsessive, repetitive, strangely rhythmic. Suddenly, a 5-7 member drum circle joins the fray from across the street. We look outside to see a burgeoning group of amateur musicians on lawn chairs. Also in the works: a pair of random barking dogs (one pit-sized, one yippee) and then... a circular saw. Then there is a combo yawling/moaning/chanting happening that can only mean raw male bonding at its finest. We try our best to laugh it off. Update: that clarinet is STILL playing Westminster Chimes.
Midwest Scenario #2: 11pm, everyone is asleep. Shrieking emanates from the center of the four lane through-way directly in front of our house. This is not completely unusual, since we have the good fortune of living next door to a "Church House" (read: Flop House). The inhabitants of which, over the course of the last seven years, have held keggers and smokeouts and all means under the guise of holy bible study and extraChristian awesomeness. One favorite activity of theirs is a game my husband has affectionately named "Street Douche" which involves just standing in the middle of traffic screaming. When my husband or I have tried to engage them in logical dialogue regarding typical workday hours or noise levels or the trials of living with a sleeping infant, they've either been unbelievably clueless or offered a holier-than-thou/condescending excuse such as "Umm, well that was a REALLY important party where we were fundraising for Habitat for Humanity." Really? Really really? Community service with bongs?
Midwest Scenario #3: 4am, I wonder why it is so goddamn quiet and why I cannot hear either of the two different types of buses (city, university), or the recycling truck, or the dumpster hauler, or the drunk driving drag racers, or the half-disabled crane that has been positioned near the abandoned house in the alley for the last six months pretending to do work. I get up to look out the window. It's snowed 21 inches overnight and the whole city is on shut down. That's why it's silent around here.
This is what I have to do to get some quiet in my neighborhood: invoke a fucking blizzard.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
About a year or two later, my parents did make me watch a VHS with Henry Winkler. The creep in overalls strumming about penises haunted me vaguely until a few months ago, when I realized I could simply Google "henry winkler child molestation" and find the specifics.
When I was about seven, my aunt and uncle gave me a copy of The Anatomy Coloring Book along with a set of fucking sweet magic markers. I'm pretty sure the male genitalia page was the first to get Marvy-ed.
Basically, my fascination with dicks began early, long before I found out that babies didn't just "happen" to women once they got married. I didn't see one in its proper state until I was 17, but it wasn't much of a surprise because of the following fact: I discovered my dad's porn stash* when I was 11. On the outside, I was a quiet and studious adolescent with an autistic level of interest in Mozart. But being an only child of two working parents allowed me to spend my summer days paying excruciating attention to every minute of my dad's VHSes, each of which was like 8 hours long, crammed with back-to-back pornos from the 1970s and early '80s. It was the same scientific-inquiry skill set that had me winning state science fairs. And yes, I knew who Ron Jeremy was long before anyone else in my age group did.
As for your memory, Middy, I have a few questions. Did he whip it out without warning or explanation? Did he fiddle with it? While (in theory only) I admire his spirit of adventure, I wonder why he chose to show it to you in its revolting, flopsy** baseline. Samey for the solidly middle-class-looking man who whipped it out for me on a deserted side street in Chartres when I was backpacking solo in France. I was already pretty familiar with dicks by that point, but it was extra startling and pathetic-looking for being uncircumcised. I walked straight to the train station from there.
* We're talking boxes and boxes of mags here, and about a dozen videos.
** Best word choice ever, Middy. Bravo.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
P.S. Re: Penises. I have a lot to say. More later.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Years later in college, I had to workshop a poem by a fellow student about the first time she touched a penis. She compared it (numerous times) to a luminescent mushroom. Now I don't know about you, Shiddy, but when I saw L whip it out on the plaid couch, there was nothing particularly radiant or woodsy about it. It just seemed to me (at the time) a long, flopsy, flesh-colored tube sock with night crawlers just under the skin.
Yep, I'm a horrible person.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
You were in town for a New Years party. We were searching for a bottle of soy-based non-dairy creamer for your morning coffee. Up and down the refrigerator cases we ambled, separately, with me pausing at whatever Target's latest melamine offering was on display.
Here is what I only half-remember: who saw them first. That's right, I said them. (And also, I think I reached for my phone to urgently find you and the aisle you occupied.)
Why? Because there was more than one microcephalic Somali female adolescent shuffling past me. They were wearing matching pink jumpsuits. Only one dragged behind her a small wooden pull toy. Could've been duck or dog, really. I had trouble catching my breath.
So, there it is. It was what it was. Suddenly, a David Lynch miniseries.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Unfortunately, since hitting my late twenties, I've found that there just isn't enough room in there for all that. My memory's been importing at a shittier bit rate, doing a kind of Cookie-Monster chew and not swallowing much of anything.
I've done some housecleaning and found suspect memories in there: things that may not have happened as I remembered, things that may not have happened at all, and weird lacunae for things that probably did happen. Then there are the things my memory stole: things originally described to me secondhand, which I eventually began remembering as having seen myself.
So I must ask: Was it just you, or was it both of us together, who saw a Somalian (or Ethiopian?) microcephalic pulling a toy dog (or duck?) on wheels in the food aisle of your local Target?
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Because after my last somewhat morose post, I watched some prime time TV (never amounts to anything beneficial). And then, I couldn't stop pondering this question:
What ever happened to that slightly pretty/funny girl a class ahead of me in high school... the one who had kind of sold out to the popular crowd, but whose lining was strange and smart and oddly humorous? At a cast party I remember her making up some ridiculously funny 'forbidden dance' involving "flossing her crotch" with a football scarf. See? She got away with that kind of shit and was STILL invited to the sleepovers, WTF.
Anyway, turns out I cannot look her up on Facebook because I am not prepared to be devastated again.
Also, there's this. And I have so many feelings about that - right now hysterical laughter is winning out against horror. So that is probably a good thing. For me. At least.
Your last post made me feel sad and worried. I wish you were feeling less frazzled and stuff. The post instantly brought to mind the purported benefits of transcendental meditation (being able to block out noise and all sorts of other external stimuli). Unfortunately, I myself am horrible at filtering things out or performing any of those disciplined mind exercises (though I've never actually taken a class). But the husband has had some success with it. Worth a try? Who knows.
I am in a similar boat to yours in the sense that I have never really liked the city I live in now. Many people and books and other assorted sources of supposed wisdom tell me that you can learn to love your life anywhere, that it is all in your head, etc. And it's true that I've got a lot of community here, but from a purely aesthetic perspective, for example, I find this city incredibly ugly and barren and boring. And what, what can you do about the climate? Puhhhh.
In summation, this post contains no actual advice, only a bit of commiseration. Sometimes, I find it's nice to spend some time with your imagination, detailing with exquisite specification the exact type of place and environment you'd ideally want to live in for all times.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
1. It is deafening. There's a John Cheever story whose protagonist, a 1950s New Yorker, is startled by the sound of a bus outside his window. Cheever plops down a line that might be the most resonant thing I've read since moving to NYC (despite the fact that I don't like Cheever that much): "It seemed to him that the penetrating noise of the city had a mortal effect on the precious lives on the city's inhabitants and that it should be muffled."
I have worn earplugs every day since May 2007. At first I only wore them in bed, to hide explosive bus brakes outside my bedroom window and the sounds of people shouting to each other, which, even if jocular or celebratory, always sound to my WASP ears like fighting. I quickly graduated to wearing them on the subway. An express train barreling through a station, squealing brakes, intercom announcements = repetitive aural rape.
It's not just my sensitivity, which is admittedly high*:
2. It smells like piss. The streets, the subway stations, even the subway cars. I've always been aware of what piss smells like (I have, in fact, been pissing all my life), but since moving here I have learned to identify all piss varieties, on a spectrum that includes alcoholic, dehydrated, and kidney-failure pathologies. On the Times Square platform where I change lines every morning, there is a reflective, congealed film underfoot. By smell, you know a train is on its way even before hearing it because the train pushes out
3. It's fucking expensive. This one's obvious, but I'll never get used to it. I'll be brief: The other day I was staring in the window of a store selling interesting items, and I saw this:
These knick-knacks (specifically, the owl, the squirrel, and the polar bear platter) filled me with a kind of hysterical longing I didn't understand. And then I did understand: I hadn't bought a single knick-knack since moving here two years ago. I have almost no disposable income because I spend nearly half of my net income on rent.
* I don't normally relate to this kind of self-diagnosis--in fact, I hate what it implies about me--but when I took this quiz I literally selected all of the check boxes.
** Not to imply that there isn't an overabundance of R.F.A.s here.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Dazzle ships haunted me; I even dreamt about them last night. (Also: why is spell-check getting in my face about this? I have always said "dreamt," and I am rarely wrong.)
Speaking of dreams, Middy, I've been meaning to tell you about a recurring one that's been visiting me for about the last year or so. It's really a nightmare, although there is something satisfying about it. Here's what happens: I am in a professional or public setting of some sort (e.g., office, subway, crowd). Someone irks me. I audibly refer to this (usually female) person, in his or (usually) her presence, as the c-word. (This differs from my real-life experience, where I usually say this word under my breath.) I wake up relieved to learn, of course, that I haven't in fact stepped in a steaming serving of Great Dane-sized professional cacky, or that some angry young lady hasn't thrown me onto the tracks.
P.S. I debated whether to spell that one out or not.
Friday, August 28, 2009
One thing that is highly stressing me out is my total inability to have EVERY ROOM in the house clean at the same time. It might be making me insane. As soon as we tidy one room, another becomes a disgusting flop-house tornado of smushed grapes, scraps of chewed paper, pee puddles, cheerio dust and other (often sticky) detritus. Oh sure, I know that is just life with a toddler, but I have to believe that somehow, SOMEHOW if I had the time to do a hard reset and find a permanent home for all our objects, then this chaos would be kept to a minimum. Right? At this point, every evening and weekend is spent agonizing over whether or not I have the time and energy to confront the monolith. You know, thats what I do; I narrate the awfulness as I am participating in and prolonging it. Sweet.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
The trash can in my local laundromat. I guess this is what they call "trash cans" in foreign places.
I didn't move to this part of Brooklyn expecting Middle America (or even Middy America), but I didn't expect alienation and bafflement, either. Here's an example.
Let me begin by telling you I am one of a minority in my neighborhood. There is a crippled Haitian man with one crutch who sits outside on a folding chair, one block up from me, whenever it's warm. This means that during the spring and summer I walk by him every day on my way home from the train. He tends to call out after me when I pass. Pretty early on, I began to suspect he was either lewd or retarded, because he alternated between saying things like "I like your boots" or "I like your eyes," and saying things that sounded kind of like, "Do you want to fuck me?"
Eventually, he upped his game. He began asking me how I was doing, but he'd add the n-word at the end. Yes, that's right. The n-word. So I would simply hurry by, not knowing if this was a bit of insane (but ultimately forgivable) banter along the lines of "I like your boots; do you want to fuck?," or if it was a form of ridicule so advanced that I should perhaps consider moving.
"Hey, n-word." "How you doing, n-word." This kept up for about a month. Each time, I said nothing; eventually, I felt comfortable glaring. Returning from the cleaners one day, my guard was down. He caught my eye, and seeing his face as he said it revealed what he'd actually been saying (with a somewhat distorting accent) all along. "Hey, neighbor."
P.S. I still feel uncomfortable walking past him, mainly because I can't determine whether he did indeed ask me if I wanted to fuck.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
In the early nineties, high school was finished with me. I'd accepted the role of borderline nerd, cool enough for ski club, say, or a part in the spring musical. But too bookish to be invited to any real parties or be part of anyone's inner circle. I was awkward enough that there were many playback moments where my vocabulary solidly alienated me from boys. It was generally a bummer. I've spent lots of time reliving it, can you tell?
(Note: I'm sure hundreds of thousands of Gen-Xers have already written their versions of teen angst and embarrassment, so feel free to roll your eyes, be bored, etc.)
Throughout high school I'd had more guy friends than girl friends but that never equaled any physical action for me. Despite the raging hormones I was dramatically virginal and whiny about it. Perfectly Catholic.
At some point in the spring of our senior year, Jude asked me for a ride home from play practice. For years I'd been somewhat close to him - an AV/TV nerd who had managed to remain uncool, almost strikingly handsome, and above the fray at the same time. As I stopped in front of his driveway, engine idling, he pounced on me. I think that is the word I mean to use. He lunged over the console, took my face in his hands, and commenced making out with me. Hardcore. (It is so hard to contain my laughter as I type this). It was a good twenty minutes, and by that I mean, it was really, really good. Liberating, fun, random... It was probably the hottest moment of my adolescence. Well, I still remember it quite vividly, so it must've been seminal, right? (snigger)
The next day at school it was like it never happened. We still chatted in the hallways, acknowledged one another's existence during Chemistry lab, smiled, but that was it. There was no repeat performance, and I never saw him again after graduating.
Last week, while trolling Facebook, I noticed that kid (now obv a grown man), had friended me. So I took a look at his profile, browsing the pictures and becoming increasingly confused. Even anxious, because this guy looked nothing like the kid I knew some 15 years ago. This could not have been the kid that I knew back then, right? Yeah, people put on some poundage, they lose hair maybe, they hunch. But 15 years isn't a lifetime, or half of one. This guy didn't even seem to have the same jawline.
But there he was, standing around drinking a beer in a snapshot containing at least three other people from our class whom I could clearly recognize. What happened?! Surely my memory could not have fucked me so hard, right?
I was DEVASTATED. Frantically, I retrieved my yearbook from the basement. I tried to remap his old visage to the new one. It was total cognitive dissonance. Half-laughing/half-ranting, I told my husband the entire story-- and his only suggestion was that possibly this guy contracted moonface. That did little to cheer me.
There are questions here, Shiddy. Did I totally imagine the whole thing? Was the episode magnified by my nutso, melodramatic teen fantasies? Did this guy really get in my pants? Didn't I really want him to? Doesn't my brother still harass me about it (after overhearing me on the phone weeks after the event)?
Sigh. I regret ever getting an account on Facebook. It destroys what small succor nostalgia brings.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
That said, I had the unfortunate opportunity to see some cable last night. The commercials I saw brought me to levels of horror/dismay/sardonic laughter heretofore unrecognized. Maybe my guts have been replaced with those of some whiny old hag who yawps on at length about the old times... but can you please reassure me that these products (and their attendant ad campaigns) are some of the most OMFG you've seen?
I need you to have my back on this. It took every ounce of strength I could muster to not post THIS WHOLE ENTRY in ALL CAPS.
- Vagisil Infection Screening Strips (tagline: BRING YOURSELF BACK) These little wonder swabs come with a full-color infection reference card with a gorgeous piss/pus gradient so you can instantly tell how deep into the shit you are. This was advertised on ABC FAMILY prime time.
- Fancy Feast Appetizers (tagline: THE PERFECT WAY TO EXPRESS YOUR LOVE) Since there aren't any restaurant chains catering to pets (yet), someone had to market the equivalent of Applebee's Parmesan Chicken Tanglers to your cat? (by the way, WTF is a chicken tangler?) The Flaked Skipjack Tuna in Delicate Broth is my favorite of the series. Do we not have more pressing societal problems to address than the pre-dinner hunger of your pussy?
- And speaking of pussy, this third item lacks Internets documentation because I've failed to remember the brand name of the product. Regardless, it was a disposable bikini hair trimmer, which in and of itself is not horrifying. However, the TV ad featured women walking by roughly-hewn topiaries that suddenly morphed into perfectly coifed femail pube styles (triangle, landing strip, brazilian, etc.). It was advertised during AFV. Yes, that's right. My 14-month-old sat transfixed for a moment as the glossy, animated image of pubic greenery flashed repeatedly across the screen.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Sunday, August 9, 2009
First, your mention of underwear a few posts back was timely. I'm currently reaching the end of my tolerance for a set I bought from American Apparel when I was twenty-five. In 2003, they were bright, flattering, and adorable. In 2009, they're faded, holed, discolored (yes, I did just type that), and barely holding it together. They've been slowly dying off over the last two years in a drawer-to-trash war of attrition. Their replacements are cheap crappies from Target, which proves that in 2009 a) I would rather spend my money on the clothing that goes outside the underwear (which, I should mention, is also barely holding it together in 2009); and b) I am in a long-term relationship.
Second, shiny ideas generally cause me to start Googling and amassing Post-Its at my workstation. Unfortunately, I generally don't think of new or useful items; it's more that I remember or realize things (arcane and basic) that I want to look up or know more about.
Here are some things I have recently Googled or looked up on Wikipedia:
- Cats (Wikipedia)
- Cat Meat (Wikipedia; n.b. The link to this was in item #1, and I couldn't not click it)
- pregnancy symptoms (Google)
- Swastika (Wikipedia)
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Speaking of random thoughts, dear Shiddy, what do you do when you have effervescent, sparkling, shiny, wondrous ideas and no place to put them (or time to ruminate on them, or ability to act on them) between the hours of 8 and 5?
Sunday, August 2, 2009
I think maybe you glossed over the whole white hair thing rather quickly and without due coverage. WHAT? While I am no stranger to impulsive hair choices (impulsive for the purposes of this post shall mean 'mind-fucking and agonizing over it for weeks but then ultimately making a split-second decision to do it'), I have successfully avoided it for the last few years. There are some key memories I've tucked away in dark recesses which I allow to surface briefly when there is immediate danger of me repeating a bad style decision. For example, beginning 11th grade with shoulder length straight hair and one week into the semester getting it razor-cut (basically shaved) off. Instantly I added about 40 years to my "look" and it was clear I had just walked out of a fiber ad.
P.S. I had one of those awesome high school girlfriends who relished my every misstep. She dramatically fell down a half-flight of stairs after seeing my haircut during the change of classes. She made a monkey face combining alarm and glee (schadenfreude?) and lunged over the railing. Things were never the same between us after that.
Five things I have feared since childhood
2. Certain large insects
3. Recovering repressed memories
4. Death (mine)
5. Balloons popping
Five (additional) things I have feared since adulthood
1. Coming home to discover a suicide
2. Pictures of outer space
3. Walking along/near the subway platform edge
4. Millipedes and centipedes
5. Death (others')
I can't say that my intention was to look natural. I was going for something extreme but toothsome. I thought about it for months beforehand. I had grown tired of the ashtray darkness my hair had been slouching into since my late twenties.
P.S. I woke up around 2 a.m. last night with pangs of remorse, in the same way I occasionally wake with thoughts of an/the/my eventual death: How would I be perceived in the office? What did this say about my personality to my co-workers? Would they feel bad for me? Why couldn't I be reasonable like everyone else? Why was I apologizing to the professional world from my pillow? I fell back asleep.
Friday, July 31, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
This then commences a whole psychological reevaluation of where you are in your life, what type of provisioner you should be buying age-appropriate undies from (VS, aerie, Wal-mart, Nordstrom, 7-11, etc.), what the purchase says about your standing in the world. All because you need a butt-covering.
Editor's note: I recognize I used three different words for what my husband would simply call "underdoo." Look people, I have to use my English degrees for something.