Friday, November 20, 2009

Always Switched On

Dear Shiddy,
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

File Under: My Hood

Our family just got back from a little sojourn to Austin, TX. I don't need to tell you Shiddy, that while Austin is riddled with rock bands, indie folk, students, and hippies of all sorts- it's home to some of the nicest people I've ever met. Within minutes of arriving there, people were initiating pleasant conversations with our toddler, giving us gifts, nodding their heads in sincere approval (of our life choices apparently?), and just being all-around accommodating.

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? You people are out of school, with jobs (ostensibly)! How about you do my community a service and grow the hell up?

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

Re: Penises

I first saw one, I think, when I was about four. I have this one unconfirmed memory of my mom taking me into the bathroom and explaining to me what a penis was while my dad was toweling off. I shit you not. This has been a vivid "memory" of mine for decades, but I hope I'm imagining or mis-remembering it. And I don't want to have a verifying discussion with my mom ever, so I will probably never know what actually happened.

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.