I’m Like a Bird Kind Of
October 16, 2013 § Leave a comment
I am sick (again) with no voice. But I am working on the whining thing, so today I’m not going to complain about being sick. Instead, I am going to tell you about something that happened a few weeks ago. I had just picked up my daughter from her preschool and we were walking home. And she was running ahead of me, flapping her arms and pretending to be a bird, a crow to be exact.
“Mommy, be a crow with me! Caw caw!”
I eek out a few meager caws, still just walking, still lagging behind her, still mostly in my own world, not yet thoroughly transitioned from my morning of solitude to my afternoon of being with my kid.
“No, flap your arms and do it!”
I look at my 4 year-old and can see that, to her, this is a totally reasonable request. To her, picking a dandelion for someone is a thoughtful gesture. To her, getting a sticker is exciting, even if it’s at the grocery store and it’s the same sticker they always give her, some ugly and sad-looking Christmas bear. To her, we are rich because we have a big jar of money (pennies and nickels) on the shelf. There is no reconciling our perspectives. No way to explain.
“Not right now, honey. I’m not feeling well.”
Always this. “I’m not feeling well.” I’ve come to rely on it as my old standby, my excuse for why I can’t participate, the reason I need to lie down for a while. “I’m not feeling well.” Go ahead. Try to refute it. You can’t. No one can. Ah, the beauty of not feeling well.
Now I am often, in fact, not feeling well. It’s not that it’s untrue. I battle multiple physical and mental afflictions. I do need to rest and recuperate sometimes. But– it bothers me that this should be part of my daughter’s “normal”. That Mommy isn’t feeling well. Gotta catch Mommy in one of her rare moments of feeling well, that’s when she’s really fun! The rest of the time… Mommy kind of sucks.
I was tired that day, sure. I was a little down. But were my legs working? Could I breathe okay? Would I most likely make it out of the experience alive, and not at all worse for the wear?
My daughter didn’t push. Already accustomed to me not bending on the not-feeling-well thing, I guess she gave up. She kept on caw-ing and flapping all by herself up ahead of me on the sidewalk. I surveyed the scene. I was seriously considering this thing now. Could I caw a little louder? Could I flap my arms? Could I run alongside my daughter down this not-entirely-deserted city block? Okay, there was a massive construction project happening across the street. Cars passing. Some dog-walkers way up in the distance. What would people think if they saw me? They might think I was a crazy hippie free-spirit type who didn’t give a fuck what anyone thought about her. That could either inspire or annoy. The other alternative was that they could think that I was TRYING to be perceived as such, but was actually NOT so carefree; maybe they would detect self-consciousness in my tentative gait or in the height of my arm-flaps. They might pity me for that, for being so desperate for attention and yet so transparently insecure. I reasoned that those were the two main possibilities. I guess a third could be just, “Oh, PORTLAND…”
But none of the possibilities were really that bad. None were really incriminating. A person might decide that I’m not their taste. That already happens all the time anyway.
I don’t know. I had a FUCK IT moment.
“Caw! Caw!” and it was me this time, and I was flapping my arms and doing some kind of leaping/galloping thing that I’m sure looked ridiculous but FELT LIKE FLYING. I mean, maybe it’s just been too long since I’ve really jumped up into the air, but I was really leaving the ground for what seemed like a pretty long time before touching it again, and when I did touch it again it was just to spring up again into the air! I felt so light. I know my arms are just arms, but I really felt like flapping them was helping me get higher. It was such an unbelievable feeling. Me and my girl, side by side, just being crows.
We passed people. I tried to stay focused on my leaping. I had a really nice rhythm going. I wondered if people were marveling at how much air I was catching. Because I sure was. And I am someone who is typically very hesitant to leave the ground. I don’t even like to lean back in chairs. I have more than once completely killed the mood on a guy who was just trying to be cute and lift me off the ground. PUT ME DOWN SERIOUSLY PUT ME DOWN SERIOUSLY I AM BEING TOTALLY SERIOUS RIGHT NOW thank you sorry I have a thing about that sorry.
For all my tedious analysis, the whole thing lasted like two blocks. We ended up at home, which was, after all, our destination, and it was just like any other day. It didn’t seem to make that much of a difference to my daughter that I had done what I did. She was happy, but she didn’t throw her arms around me and say that I was the best mom ever or anything. And as fun as it was, I’m not going to do it every time. It’s not going to become, like, my thing. But there is something that I can’t stop thinking about– the way it felt to leap like that, and for a moment experience the tiniest bit of flying. It sounds so silly, but it was just so different for me, so fresh and new, and at my age I guess I do not expect to feel fresh and new things anymore. Another thing that I noticed is that it’s getting easier and easier to let go of caring what other people think, especially when the danger is just that they could find me “different”.
Today I am sick so I am actually, legitimately “not feeling well”. But I’m going to try not to be a total waste of human flesh about it. I am not going to vacate the premises. I am not going to opt out of the day. There is always something I can do. Even if it’s just sitting with my daughter and dosing off while she watches a movie. I’m going to be here.
October 2, 2012 § Leave a comment
Since I quit Facebook, there is nowhere for my status updates to go. My brain has almost stopped creating them. Not entirely, though. Here are some thoughts I’ve had lately that are so interesting that they’ve made me consider opening my account again, just so I would have a way to share them with the world. I’m sharing them here, so that I will not give in to that impulse.
1. Pho is the shit.
2. I FARKING LOVE READING!!!!!
3. My 3 year-old asked for a piece of ham by simply saying, “Ham me,” and holding out her hand.
4. FUUUUUUCK STREET FAIRS!!!!
5. I’m making kale chips, baby. “In the oven or in the dehydrator?” you ask. BOTH! Snap. I borrowed a dehydrator and I am comparing which works better. I’LL LET YOU KNOW!!!!
6. WTF???!!!! MY TEA’S GONE COLD????!!!! I’m wondering why I got out of bed at all. Seriously, WHAT IS THE FUCKING POINT????!!!! If I can’t count on my tea to stay hot indefinitely, I don’t want to live anymore.
7. I almost got hit by a car today. A lot of people say that when it was not that close to happening. This was seriously close to happening. I was in a crosswalk, this guy was making a left turn and didn’t see me. He was going too fast to stop so he swerved to avoid me and ended up all spun around in the intersection. And when he looked at me, I mouthed the word, “Sorry”.
September 19, 2012 § Leave a comment
I am not who the internet says I am. I am not who the internet says I am. I am not…
I quit Facebook and felt relieved. One less appearance to keep up. Perhaps a bit of dignity restored. I thought my days would expand with beautiful new hours for projects and cleaning and coffee dates with the real-life friends I would suddenly make.
But the reality is much more grim. I am still on the computer just as much as I was, but instead of looking at Facebook, I am looking at things that are MUCH LESS INTERESTING. Desperately. Boring myself into oblivion. Just to avoid doing anything real.
The thing is, I thought I would write letters. Longhand letters, on paper, with pencil, to mail in envelopes to friends all over the world. That was supposed to be my new thing. That and spending real, old-fashioned time with people. But I’m still at home with my 3 year-old most of the time. It’s not conducive to getting together with people and it’s not conducive to sitting and writing letters. (I’m still trying to figure out what it IS conducive to. I’m kind of stumped there.)
I did manage to write one letter. It was too whiny. I scrapped it and wrote another, slightly less whiny one. I sent it off to a friend from college. I haven’t heard back. The pace of this whole thing is quite slow, and in the most immediate future I am in dire need of some validation. Tell me I’m okay. Tell me I’m passing for normal. Throw me a “Like”, a comment if you’re feeling really generous. These things meant pathetically much to me when I was on there. Without them I feel a bit invisible.
Other problems include: Writing to men. Now that I’m older and in a committed relationship, it feels a little inappropriate. But in the letter-writing heyday of my youth (seriously, I was a wild kid), which I remember oh-so-fondly, most of my pen-pals were guys. I may or may not have had crushes on some of them. That’s part of what made it fun. Now, I’m not sure if it’s fun or just…
Whiny. Seriously. I am so fucking whiny. I sit down to write and by the third or fourth sentence I am whining. Who wants to receive a whiny letter? I used to be funny. I used to do things like squash mosquitos right onto the page and then draw circles around the dead mosquitos and say stuff about them. Give them names. Sounds kind of gross now that I think about it, which may be why so many of those crushes were one-sided. Now, all I have are played-out stereotypical mommy-woes to talk about. And how interesting it is, being older like this. Isn’t it? Isn’t it fascinating how much sadder life is now? Isn’t it remarkable how easy it is to lose years and dreams and sensitivity, to fold life up into smaller and smaller versions of itself, until you’ve created something so dense and numbing that you can’t help but be sucked into the dark, inescapable void?
I turn to the internet to find out who I am. Who am I, as far as everyone else is concerned? Who am I, according to the authority that is a Google search? That is really what matters, right? I mean, for all intents and purposes? My day-to-day reality is nothing anyone will ever really know about anyway, so a page on a screen might as well be me. If I search my name on Facebook now, I myself do not exist, although there are several others of me. They seem pretty good. One even lives in my town. We look about the same age; we’re both average-looking white ladies. So somebody could very well think she’s me. And maybe that’s for the best. She seems like a fine upstanding citizen. I trust her to keep us afloat. I amass a tiny quotient of followers, and immediately I am pouring my heart out all over their news-feeds. Obscenely over-sharing. Promptly deleting. Wanting to be caught falling, and then forgiven. But this other one, she mostly just posts pretty pictures of food.
On the Playground
May 2, 2012 § 1 Comment
I do not like the playground. There, I said it. The playground is one of my personal hells. And it’s actually a nice playground, the one close to us. It has wood chips for the youngest children to eat (excellent source of fiber), an empty wading pool for everyone to complain about not getting to use on hot days (brings people together), and see-saws for everyone to call teeter-totters except some people who know that they are called see-saws (sparks gentle, light-hearted debate that invariably leads to deeply satisfying exchanges about our regional idiosyncracies and cherished colloquialisms). The main play structure is made of sturdy plastic and metal, with multiple slides and stairs and ladders, and even an inexplicably Australian-themed educational corner and a place to play tic-tac-toe. The problem is not that it is not an ideal playground. The problem is that even an ideal playground is inherently flawed. It is designed to be really fun for children, but phenomenally boring for adults. I MEAN IT IS SO FUCKING BORING!
I’ve noticed that a lot of parents, myself included, have developed certain coping mechanisms, “playground personas” if you will, to deal with the overwhelming mental anguish that accompanies a trip with our children to the playground. Here are a few that I’ve encountered:
1. The Overly Excited: This parent acts as if being with his/her child at the playground is the BEST. THING. EVER. Ohmygosh it is so fun! The Overly Excited mom is pushing her kid on the swing from the FRONT, so that she can make silly noises and faces at the kid with every push. The kid is already FLYING THROUGH THE AIR. But this parent needs to insert themselves into their child’s experience in any way she can or she risks dissolving into a puddle of unidentified goo in the soul-destroying wasteland that is The Playground. I’ve been there. I know that, sometimes, pretending you are going to eat your kid’s feet every 2.5 seconds is more for you than for her.
There is also the Overly Excited dad who says, “WHEE!” while his kid is going down the slide, even though he himself is standing on solid ground. I think he feels a little disappointed that his kid is not showing more enthusiasm about being at The Playground. His “Whee!” is a plea. Come on, kid, please, I need you to be a little more forthcoming with the joy-sounds or I seriously do not know what I’m living for anymore. This is also the parent who claps when his kid gets to the bottom of the slide. “GREAT JOB!” he shouts. “HIGH FIVE!” he demands. If going to The Playground is going to be this excruciating, I’ve gotta believe that you’re building skills here. So I am going to completely ignore my knowledge of physics and pretend that my kid landing at the bottom of the slide was an uphill fucking battle.
2. The Wannabe Cool-Kid: This is going to bother someone, but I have found that this is usually a dad who only has his kids on the weekends. I have also seen a female nanny play this role. This is the adult who is chasing kids all over the playground in the throes of some elaborate game that he himself has created that includes pirates, dragons, monsters, and/or the stipulation that the ground beneath the play structure is comprised of hot lava. This person thinks that he is doing some great service to the children of The Playground, and that without his boundless energy and willingness to make a complete ass of himself, the kids would just be sitting around miserable and totally bored. He’s got one thing right: The Playground is The Most Boring Place on Earth. But what he doesn’t realize is that it’s only boring FOR ADULTS. Kids seem to find it pretty cool, and can usually figure out how to make their own fun. The Wannabe Cool-Kid does not understand that his perspective is that of an adult, because he still FEELS like a kid. Just one that is giant and covered in body hair. He actually thinks that this ability to operate at the level of a child makes him “good with kids”.
The Wannabe Cool-Kid always offends me more than any of the other types. Mostly because I really don’t think kids should be told by an adult about the ground being hot lava. That idea is supposed to spontaneously spread from child to child, from (actual) Cool-Kid to Less-Cool-Kid (who will in turn become a Cool-Kid when he/she passes cool information on to another Less-Cool-Kid). This is one of laws of childhood. It is the same natural cycle that perpetuates hand-clapping games and erroneous explanations of how intercourse is done. DON’T MESS WITH PERFECTION.
3. The Phone-y: These parents are REALLY FUCKING GRATEFUL for their phones. I mean, they can hardly believe that we are still calling them “phones”, what with all the amazing shit they can do, like make it possible to spend time at The Playground without erupting into homicidal rage. They like their phones so much, sooo soooo much, omg omg omg. You can tell because they have often bedazzled them and bought them fancy cases just to show the depth of their devotion. The Phone-y are VERY aware that The Playground sucks hard, but they barely have to look at The Playground, save for the occasional glance upward to assure that no one has made off with their child. They have a beautiful world at their fingertips. E-mail, Facebook, Words with Friends, and something I’ve heard of but never seen with my own eyes called Angry Birds. I would love to do these things at The Playground, myself; if only I had a Smart Phone, I would be totally Phone-y. But alas, I have a dumb phone and I suck at texting with it and don’t have that many people I text with anyway. But if it’s any consolation (to myself, or to you if you have a dumb phone too), I do notice this: these parents are never smiling. They are escaping the hell of The Playground only to occupy a tepid purgatory where everyone on Facebook’s lives are cooler than theirs and their Words with Friends racks have all vowels.
4. The Busybody: This person wants to know how old your kid is and they want to know exactly. If you give them a rough estimate, like, “I know she’s at least 2…” they ask you what her exact date of birth was, and then they will proceed to actually do the fucking math FOR YOU. As if you are incapable of doing it yourself. Because clearly if you COULD do math, you’d most certainly use that skill to know at any moment off the top of your head the exact age of your child. What could be more pertinent? “I’ve just calculated your daughter to be 2 and 7 months! So almost 3!” Wow! Thank you so much, lady! Not only do I now know exactly how old my daughter is, information that should help me navigate encounters exactly like this one with people exactly like you (at least for the next month or so), but I also know now that 2 and 7 months is almost 3! That is some really tricky math! I am so glad you were here to do it for me. Let’s be best friends forever!
Then they tell you exactly how old their kid is, and the exact birth date too, you know, to help your burgeoning sense of numbers and their relationship to other numbers, and you have to say something really inane so that you seem normal. Like, “Wow, neat.” Now that that’s out of the way, they want to know if your daughter’s gotten her 2-year molars yet. For fuck’s sake! “She has a bunch of teeth,” I say. “I really don’t know much about them.” Now this person is recommending pediatric dentists to you. PLEASE SHUT UP. Leave me alone. Seriously. Can you not tell that I am barely hanging on here?
5. The Done… Just… Done: These are the parents with that lost, forlorn, bleary-eyed look, the ones who can’t seem to find a good way to stand, or sit, because they have arms that seem suddenly unwieldy and pockets that are just a little too high and small to casually and comfortably put their hands in. (Though this will not stop them from trying.) The Done parent tries to smile, but there is so much pain and it’s not very well veiled underneath. All of her energy goes into determining the exact moment at which it is no longer too soon to leave. She whispers to her kid, “Hey, I think we’re gonna go soon,” and if the kid’s response is a horrified, “WHAT!!! NO!!!” she knows that it is not time yet. It is possible that only 45 seconds have passed since their arrival– she loses all sense of time’s pace at The Playground. But she will continue to ask until the response is a milder form of protest, and then negotiations begin. The kid wants to go on the swing before leaving, but this would be unbearable. Quietly, praying that no one will hear, the Done parent says, “Can’t you just go down the slide 4 more times instead?” voice cracking slightly with a mixture of false enthusiasm and utter loss of will to live.
I am Done with The Playground. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be back. Oh, no. Spring is just warming up around here, and you’ve gotta find a way to fill a day when you’re with a 2 and 7 month old. I’ll be back, you can find me there. I’ll be the one awkwardly shifting my weight from one foot to the other in the absolute lamest attempt ever to simulate the sensation of going somewhere.
My Wanting Mind: Le Creuset
September 25, 2011 § 3 Comments
Le Creuset 7.25 qt. Round French Oven in Caribbean
Lodge 7.5 qt. Dutch Oven in Caribbean Blue
These pots are very similar. But one costs $200 more than the other. Can you guess which one I want?
I’ll give you a hint. I hate myself for it.
The thing is, people who own Lodge pots will tell you that they are exactly the same as Le Creuset, just without the fancy name. Because they need to justify their choice.
At the same time, people who own Le Creuset pots will tell you that nothing compares to the real thing, and that you get what you pay for. Because they also need to justify their choice.
But do you want to know what it comes down to for me? Really, honestly, why I want the more expensive one? It’s not because I think it cooks better. It’s not because I care that my pot be made in France and not in China. It’s not because I think it will last longer or have a better resale value or fit in better with the high-end dream kitchen I someday plan on having.
No. I want the more expensive one because it is a prettier color.
(And yes, I have seen both these colors in person. The pictures above can be trusted.)
I mean, look at the perfect blueish greenish color of the Le Creuset. They were right to call it Caribbean. I’ve seen the Caribbean, I should know.
Lodge, I do not know what you were thinking with the color of yours. It hurts my eyes to look at it. If I had to cook food in it I would throw up.
And I cannot BELIEVE you had the gall to call it Caribbean Blue. There is nothing even remotely Caribbean about that color.
How does this happen? Who is picking out these colors? Do these companies hire color-picker-outers who charge based on how good their taste is? So, like, Le Creuset can afford a better color-picker-outer, and consequently all their colors are amazing? And Lodge can only afford a shitty color-picker-outer who can only pick out shitty colors?
Or, maybe the color-picker-outers at both companies are equally good, it’s just that they’re each deliberately choosing colors that they think will appeal to their company’s customer base. Maybe the folks at Lodge know full well that their colors are butt ugly, but they think that YOU have bad taste and will like them. You know, because you’re poor and stuff.
Or, could it be the paint industry, hiking up the prices on the colors that are more pleasing to the eye, and offering colors that no one wants to look at at bargain basement prices? Colors that have been scientifically proven to induce vomit are practically free.
Or, does Le Creuset have a patent on “enamel-covered cast iron cookware in dope colors” and Lodge has to make its colors terrible just to avoid being sued?
I WANT ANSWERS PEOPLE AND I AM NOT ENTIRELY KIDDING.
The whole thing just pisses me off miserably. I don’t have $269 to spend on a pot, and now Lodge has ruined my chances of being happy with a cheaper knock-off. (A cheaper knock-off that, I might add, is still expensive enough to me that I would need to be at least 85% in love with it to actually get it. I’m not spending $69 to walk into my kitchen every day and throw up. Sure, over time the cost would spread out, and after about a year of paying $0.18 per vomit, you could consider it paid off, but still. I hate throwing up.)
BUT THE REALLY FUCKING FRUSTRATING PART IS THIS: even if I were to save up the money or ask for the Le Creuset as a gift, I’d still have to feel like a total tool knowing that I am essentially paying, or asking someone else to pay, $200 for a color. I can’t do that in good conscience. Not while there are starving children in Africa. Some of whom are colorblind.
Clearly I am fucked. There are just way too many obstacles standing between me and no longer having to halve my chili recipe because I’m afraid it’s going to overflow my 4 qt. Le Creuset pot. (What? Did I really forget to mention that earlier? Because I could have sworn… Well FINE, I’ll tell you about it now: it’s cherry red and it’s BEAUTIFUL and it was a gift and I really don’t think that the fact that I already have a Le Creuset pot should in any way affect the way you feel about the rest of this post. I am still very, very downtrodden and personally insulted by the Lodge brand’s abysmal color choices, and I deserve to be happy and have everything or at least most of the things I want because I hardly ever want things and I have always been a remarkably good girl and there are people out there who own entire SETS of Le Creuset cookware and they take baths in Le Creuset bathtubs and take shits in Le Creuset toilets and I don’t need all that to be happy. I’m really very simple and down-to-earth, you know. And I just happen to really love when the color of the actual Caribbean appears on a pot of about 7 qt. capacity. Is that really so wrong?)
If you think I’m bad, fine, but you know who’s WAY WORSE? The people who buy Le Creuset pots, but they buy them in this color:
Words Not to Live By #1: “Do the thing that scares you.”
August 23, 2011 § 3 Comments
There are some things I’ve heard in my life, mostly as a child, that I’ve really taken to heart. Actual phrases that I’ve built my life around. And sometimes, when I find myself suffering from the unsatisfactoriness of my life as I see it, I realize that really, it’s these words that are to blame, and the people who perpetuate them, and I get very mad at everyone I’ve ever known.
Do the thing that scares you? Step out of your comfort zone? I guess that for some people, this advice gives them the needed encouragement to go from comfortable and bored/boring to comfortable and occasionally thrilled. Great for them. But this advice is crazy dangerous in the hands of people who are already anxious and obsessive and masochistic.
This advice gave me the ridiculous hope that if I just kept hurling myself into situations that terrified me, eventually I would become brave. That by ignoring feelings like fear and dread and panic, I could conquer them.
I wish that instead I had been told, “Find something that doesn’t scare you, and do that. Find a place where you feel safe, and just get nice and cozy because life can be sweet and some day you will die.”
I have run myself through the mill in the name of personal growth. I have denied myself the opportunity to even learn what it is that might come naturally to me, because I have been so busy deliberately pursuing things that do not.
Looking at my resume, every single job I have ever had is a job that would be tons of fun for a “people person”. But I AM NOT A PEOPLE PERSON. I do not understand most people, I don’t know how to interpret the things they say, I am terrible at reading their minds and I resent having to try. I am pathetically, relentlessly, eager to please. Yet I am not sure how to be warm. I am not sure how to be there for someone, what exactly to say, or whether to be quiet, or whether I’m being too quiet. I don’t know how to further or deepen a friendship, (and the few close friends that I have, I am so thankful to, because they’ve been willing to take the lead on that and if not for them I would truly be up a creek). I am also excruciatingly indirect. My desire to avoid interpersonal conflict leads me to tell everyone what I think they want to hear, then scramble myself up trying to make it true.
I have always wanted so hard to be the other way. I want to have an ease with people, to be comfortable in my own skin and totally accustomed to the whole range of human interactions that come up in life, the laying down of expectations, the negotiation of fees, the command of a classroom, the simple, natural flow of chatter between shopper and cashier. I have tried the “fake it till you make it” approach. But I’m 30 now and I’m beginning to think that if it was going to work it would have started to kick in by now.
And I know it’s not easy for anyone else. I know that everyone struggles with what they want from themselves. I guess I’m just saying that maybe shy people should do shy people things, and not have to feel guilty about it. There are some awesomely outgoing people out there– let THEM be the teachers, and the managers, and the bubbly, lovely leaders. There’s no reason for people like me to get mixed up in that shit.
And the thing is, now I am left with no experience doing anything that I actually am comfortable doing. There is so much out there that I’ve never even considered.
Pushing aside all judgments and wishful thinking…
I think maybe I could be happy being an editor or a proofreader. Or a librarian. I think I might like to deliver the mail. I also like math. Something where I put numbers into little boxes and no one expects me to have charisma while I’m doing it.
Something where I get up and check my e-mail in the morning and I don’t have to be biting the inside of my mouth because I’m afraid that someone has quit the thing I have tried to make so fun for them, or someone doesn’t like the way I do things because they can tell that I am only playing at being a people person and actually I am a freak. An e-mail where I have been discovered and they want their money back. Wherein they explain that they know that I say bad words and live in squalor and occasionally think about sex, and they think I have no business ever associating with kids.
Do they still need people to live in little cabins and watch for forest fires? What about someone to test crossword puzzles to make sure they work? Is there still work to be had in bean counting? And would I need to get a Masters? Please advise.
Everybody Loves Portland
August 9, 2011 § 3 Comments
Have you talked to people who live in Portland? They tend to say things like:
“I love Portland.”
“I never want to live anywhere else.”
“I feel like I belong here.”
“You should totally move to Portland!!!”
I live in Portland. I’ve been here for 5 years. And I have said all of these things and more. In fact, I have said these things so much that I don’t even know what I’m talking about anymore. It’s just this bullshit that comes out of my mouth when someone presses a button. It’s a mindless chant on repeat in my brain to help me cope with the miserable winters, constant guilt, and frustrating interpersonal encounters that inevitably arise because the people here are ridiculous.
Talking about how much I love Portland has become a way for me to establish permanence, and with that comes security. I cling to the idea because in truth I am afraid of the chaos that really goes on in my mind, the dramatic fluctuations of mood and opinion, my unnerving susceptibility to suggestion from every imaginable source. There is a “me” that can be counted on to reappear each morning when I wake up. And that “me” loves Portland and always will.
I have been afraid to question this. I remember feeling similarly when, in past relationships, I would refuse to allow uncertainty to crystallize into actual words in my head. I was afraid to entertain the thought that something might not be right, lest the inkling of doubt break the spell. Would my love for Portland dissipate from questioning alone, never to be reconstituted, fragile little cloud that it was? And if it did, where oh where would that leave me?
I don’t know.
But the damage is done now, I’ve thought it AND written it, and am publishing it on my blog, so we’ll just have to wait and see if I can keep living here or not. I’ll have to revise those statements I have become so used to spouting at the slightest provocation.
“I love Portland.”
“The way I feel about Portland at any given time depends on a lot of factors, most of which have nothing to do with Portland itself.”
“I never want to live anywhere else.”
“I choose to live here right now, but who knows what the future holds? I’m CRAZY!!!!”
“I feel like I belong here.”
“Sometimes I feel a very sweet sense of belonging because I know a lot of people in Portland and have found some true friends here. Other times, I feel out of place because I let my daughter watch TV and I haven’t ridden my bike in 3 years and I suck at gardening and we eat too much pizza, and it seems like everyone else here is skinnier and outdoorsier and inexplicably richer despite seeming to hardly work at all. It’s weird.”
And rather than say:
“You should totally move to Portland!!!”
“You should totally move to Portland!!! But, like, only if you really want to. You’re still going to be the fucked up person that you’ve always been, with all your stupid problems, you’ll just be in Portland instead of where you are now. And you’ll be able to hang out with us. But not, like, every day, okay? We’ll get sick of you.”
Today at Dance Class
July 1, 2011 § 4 Comments
L stood scowling into the mirror, arms crossed in front of her, mad as a little girl could be. The room was a mess of noise and movement behind her, as parents awkwardly danced to terrible music and implored their toddlers to wiggle along so that they could look a little less stupid. But L would not be distracted from her brooding. A few parents laughed at how serious she looked.
“What’s wrong with you today?” the teacher asked her. “This isn’t the L that I know!”
I fought the urge to give some excuse, like “She didn’t get much sleep last night,” or “She forgot to take her meds”. I could say something like, “She’s just not herself today!” hoping everyone would revert to the image of her that they had constructed from the previous 2 classes, and throw today away as a fluke. Those other times, she was “The Real L”. Today doesn’t count. Just move along people, nothing to see here. You may continue hopping around like kangaroos. As you were.
But who is this “Real L”? She’s not even 2 years old and she’s already pigeonholed. It’s a good pigeonhole, it’s flattering and has all the amenities that a modern-day pigeon could want, but nevertheless, it’s a pigeonhole. Is that what a pigeonhole is? A hole for a pigeon to live in? Or is it the butthole of a pigeon? Either way, pigeons are the worst. They are idiots and they have no souls. They don’t even carry things for us anymore.
Anyway, “The Real L” is supposedly this super-extroverted, enthusiastic, life-loving little bundle of cute. She’s got “charisma”, commanding attention everywhere she goes. She’s “popular”, like, people know who she is when we go to the playground. She’s not particularly obedient, but that just adds to her charm– “She’s got a mind of her own, that’s for sure!”. I keep waiting for someone to call her “spirited” (mostly so that I can get offended and passive-aggressively lash out at them on-line, and then immediately get some books out from the library like “Disciplining Your Spirited Child”).
Disobedience aside, this vision of “The Real L” has sweet implications for me as her mom. Her friendliness has made me popular by association, since we are a mommy-daughter couple, and people assume that, to have a kid who’s that secure and outgoing, I must be doing something right. She has enough enthusiasm and zest for life for the both of us, so I can hang back a little (as is my nature) and it’s okay– for the first time ever, my way of being can make sense. So it’s really tempting to cling to “The Real L”, to smile when she’s like that and frown when she’s not, to tell her that she’s like that and that she’s not being herself if she’s not, to describe her to others like that and continue to do so for the rest of her life no matter how she changes.
I honestly have no idea what set her off this morning in dance class. One minute she was smiling and stomping her feet and shaking what supposedly I gave her (although it’s a lot cuter than mine) and the next thing I knew she was scowling into the mirror with her arms crossed. Maybe another kid looked at her wrong. Maybe she realized the music was shit. Maybe she suddenly felt the crushing weight of everyone expecting her to do what she “always” does [based on two (2!) previous times], and decided to take a good long look at herself in the mirror and figure some shit out.
“This isn’t the L that I know!”
Well, then it must be the L that you don’t know. Because you know what? She’s not just one flavor. She is actually 32 flavors. AND THEN SOME. How many? I don’t know. I lost count after 32. And then I got confused because there was Vanilla, and French Vanilla. Do these count as different flavors? And what about Vanilla Bean? She’s a lot of flavors, okay? Not just one. Damn, now I want some ice cream.
June 24, 2011 § 1 Comment
Before we start, a brief history of my eyebrows… They were always there, but I never paid them much attention until high school, when suddenly, out of nowhere, people started urging me to “do something about them”. Apparently these people, friends supposedly, wanted me to voluntarily rip individual hairs out of my own skin. Over and over until the shape of my eyebrow conformed to some diagram they saw in Seventeen. And then do the other one so it matched.
How very absurd.
I should clarify here that by “people” I mean “other girls”. Boys did not give a crap about my eyebrows, or if they did they never told me because they were too busy MAKING OUT WITH ME.
But these other girls would tell me that my eyebrows bothered them so much, they wanted to pull out tweezers and pluck them for me. They couldn’t concentrate on anything I was saying because all they saw were the stray hairs, begging to be plucked, and they would start tweezing me with their eyes.
Why were these girls so obsessed with MY eyebrows? At the time, I just figured they must be insane and tried not to ever be alone with them.
Flash forward to now: I’m thirty… And I pluck my eyebrows on a regular basis. It’s one of many things I do now that would appall the high school me. I use all kinds of styling appliances and goos on my hair. I wear make-up. I carry a purse and occasionally wear shoes that are not Converse sneakers. I weigh myself. I bleach my ‘stache. I have spent time on tanning beds.
But of all these things, it’s the eyebrow-plucking that really makes me feel guilty, like I have sold out on my old ideals and absorbed the mentality of those silly girls I knew in high school. Because now, not only do I do what they wanted me to do, but I see what they saw. I look at old pictures of myself and I feel the urge to pluck creep up in me and take hold. My eyebrows look fundamentally wrong, and I know exactly what I would do to fix them, but alas, I will never have the chance. It’s hard for me to see anything else.
Tweezing my eyebrows is now one of the great pleasures of my life. It satisfies my longing for control in a way that few things can. And those girls in high school were right: it hurts, but kind of in a good way.
So I do it a lot. In the eyebrow world, once you establish a shape, you have to fight to maintain it, or your perfectly manicured garden of follicles will be rapidly surrounded by the ugliest of weeds, and you’ll end up looking even worse than before. I find that for me, if I go too long without plucking, my face acquires a somewhat maniacal quality that I can’t put my finger on until I realize that it’s just my eyebrows getting a little excited. I whip out my tweezers and before you know it I am back to being someone you would not hesitate to sit next to on the bus.
ANYWAY… As fascinating as all of this is, it happens to be just the prequel to the following EVEN MORE FASCINATING story about my eyebrows!
I recently got *complimented* on my eyebrows. (High-school-me would have been very ashamed of how proud it made me!) The woman (a stranger) said that she could never get hers looking right, and that mine looked absolutely perfect.
I responded, “I pluck a lot. I’m obsessed with them.”
And she said, “I would be too!”
When you are a person who cares about words, you get into situations like this on a regular basis: someone misuses or misunderstands a word, and you have to decide to either correct their mistake or let it go. Because 1) I didn’t know this woman, and 2) she had just said the nicest thing that anyone has ever said about my eyebrows and it made my heart soar in a way that embarrasses me but is kind of important to the story so I included it, and 3) because I did not want to come across like a pretentious wannabe linguist who jumps at the chance to argue about semantics because she is, at her core, above all else, a petty, sad creature, I decided to let it go. And now I have to live every day with the knowledge that some woman out there thinks that I am in love with my own eyebrows.
And maybe in the moment, she thought, Oh, yeah, I would feel the same way if I had her eyebrows… but later on, in her home, just before turning out the lamp on her bedside table and snuggling down into her utterly unremarkable bed, what if she stopped and thought, Wow, what a vain bitch, in love with her own eyebrows like that! Dang!
This damage cannot be undone.
But maybe, just maybe, I can try to prevent others from perpetuating the misuse (and consequent misunderstanding) of the word obsessed.
(And, thus we come to the real point of this post, which is, of course, petty and sad, but what did you really expect from me?)
Obsessed is not the same as in love with.
Obsession involves thinking about something a lot. Maybe too much. Sometimes people think about a person a lot when they are in love with them, but sometimes they think about a person a lot when they are planning to murder them.
People who are obsessed with their weight are constantly worrying about it. Probably hating it most of the time.
People like stuff, and sometimes they LOVE stuff, and sometimes they want to communicate that the way they feel about it is so strong that plain old LOVE isn’t enough. So you get things like, “OMG I am obsessed with kettle corn!” You can like kettle corn. Hey, I LOVE the stuff. But really? Obsessed? You’re spending time thinking about it, like, a lot, and can’t seem to get yourself to stop? Jesus Christ, it’s corn and sugar. Get the fuck over it.
P.S. I also don’t care how much you like kettle corn, do not call yourself a “kettle corn whore.” But that’s a topic for a whole nother post…
Never Say of the Day #1
June 21, 2011 § Leave a comment
Never say, “A good time was had by all.”
No matter how wonderful you felt at the school carnival, office picnic, neighborhood BBQ, or bingo night, I guarantee you that someone there was hating it.
Try instead, “It was okay. Some attendees enjoyed themselves while others were secretly burning up inside, consumed by their various jealousies, fears, and insatiable longings. Still others are just so emotionally numb at this point in their lives, it is questionable whether they will ever have a good time again, anywhere, doing anything. We did our best to plan a nice event. (Although a few people on the committee could have tried harder.) It went as well as could be expected. We’ll probably do it again next year, and it will probably be very similar.”