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Archive for August, 2011

Dear Asshole Who Remarked About My Crappy Passport Photo

August 31, 2011 6 comments

“Wow, that was really a different look for you.”

Really, dude? That’s tactful. I marvel at your astute observations and stellar looking skills. Such compliments warm the cockles of my Grinch-like heart. You must have such an easy time with the ladies, if you regularly point out such things. You’re probably that douchebag who suggests his wife or girlfriend hit the treadmill, because she put on a couple of pounds. Or, failing that, your mother still makes your lunches, careful to cut the crusts off your bread. (See? Anyone can make ridiculous generalizations.)

To answer your almost-question, yes, I did look different when I had that picture taken nearly TEN years ago. For one, I was about fifteen pounds heavier. For another thing, I HAD BANGS.Those were, undoubtedly, dark days style-wise. I always may have had  fondness for slightly gold lipgloss. What of it?

I would guess that you, too, looked different ten years back. Maybe you didn’t act like such a jerk. Maybe you smiled when someone smiled at you and asked how you are, like I made the mistake of doing. And maybe, just maybe, you still had all your hair. The difference is that yours is gone permanently. Mine, however, will always grow back. Bummer, eh?

I am very much aware of the ridiculousness of my passport photo. For one thing, the photographer caught me off guard. I am not smiling. I look very serious. This is not a good look for me, but thank you for pointing that out. It is CHARMING. I feel so much better about life, now, knowing that nearly ten years ago, my bangs were man-kyrptonite. Never mind the flawless skin or the questionably applied eyeliner. Clearly, I’ve committed fashion and appearance crimes against humanity. Scoffing at me proves that.

“Wow, that was really a different look for you.”

You know what’d be a different look for you? Removing your head from your sphincter.

Sincerely, The Woman You Insulted

Adventures Afoot: Canada

August 30, 2011 8 comments

It was almost the trip that wasn’t. My initial flight was canceled. My subsequent flight was delayed. I landed in Quebec somewhat zombie-like and delirious. But from then on, it was the trip of Awesomeness. I went to visit my dear friend Liz, who is a talented artist/graphic designer and kickass person.

Since this was my first trip to Canada, I feel as if I should dispel some rumors. Ready? Okay.

  1. Moose do not run rampant down Canadian streets. Shocking, I know.
  2. Mounties are not hanging out on every street corner. None of the cops resembled the guy from Northern Exposure. ETA: I meant Due South. Forgive me. I still have massage-brain. *wink*
  3. No one laughed at my pathetic and broken French. Although, all I could think of was the episode of Friends where Phoebe tries to teach Joey French. *giggle*

In all seriousness, though, I had such a wonderful time in Quebec. Everyone was so wonderful and welcoming. Liz’s family was fantastic. And I may have threatened to adopt all of her pets. SO CUTE. *ahem* Okay, Elmyra moment over. For now.

I finally had Tim Horton‘s coffee. I (honest-to-Java) had Maple Syrup from a glass bottle in the shape of a Maple Leaf. Liz SWEARS they don’t always use that kind, but I am disinclined to believe her, eh? There was sight-seeing and lots of laughing. I had bubble tea, which is amazing. Some guy tried to kill us with his bicycle, but it’s all good.

It was an excellent trip, and I’m very glad to have been able to spent time with my friend — and her lovely family. More stories to follow in the coming days. For now, I need more coffee….

I Want to Know Who Your Heroines Are

August 24, 2011 6 comments

 “Everyone thought I was bold and fearless and even arrogant, but inside I was always quaking.”  — Katharine Hepburn

The first time I saw Katharine Hepburn, and knew who she was, was when I saw an interview with her on tv. I don’t remember how old I was, but I remember how amazing she was. She was witty. She was remarkably self-possessed. She had such confidence and grace. It was uncanny. I was impressed.

Of course, I made sure to watch all of her movies. It wasn’t out of the ordinary for me. I was raised on a steady diet of Abbott and Costello, Casablanca, National Velvet, and anything with singing and dancing. To this day, I cannot see a lamppost without swinging around it like Gene Kelly. At least I don’t have a horribly high fever while doing it.

Anyway, Hepburn left an impression. I admired her greatly. I still do. Because she did exactly what she wanted with her life, despite the difficulties inherent to her time. Plus, she unabashedly wore pants and mouthed off to Barbara Walters, who annoys me. Asking her what kind of a TREE she is? Really? *rolls eyes* So, it’s a win-win.

Hepburn, of course, had a fairly tumultuous personal life. It wasn’t quite to the level of the divine Ms. Taylor, but it wasn’t without difficulty. For one thing, Spencer Tracey (the love of her life) was married and Catholic, which ruled out divorce. He was also, by most accounts, a bit of a drunk. Not exactly the kind of person you hope your daughter will love, but love is a strange, unpredictable, and completely unruly creature. She stayed with him until the end of his life and did not attend his funeral out of respect for his wife and children.

Think about that. The man she loved and cared for had just died, but she had enough strength of will and respect for her dead lover to abstain from his funeral. I can’t imagine standing in her shoes and making that choice. Now, you can argue that the whole arrangement was silly, that she was basically living with a married man, but facts are the sun-blanched bones of things. They are not the whole, living picture.

I know a decent amount about Katharine Hepburn. Audrey, too. And even Elizabeth Taylor. I adore Ava Gardner and would’ve loved to have sat down with these women for a drink. These actresses weren’t just actresses. They were icons. They had style and grace. No one, to my knowledge, has a wardrobe malfunction or blacked out in a trashcan.

Cut to today. What passes for celebrity? Paris Hilton, whose acting talents are those of a shiny, wooden dummy? Or Kim Kardashian, who does what, exactly? Look pretty? Let’s not forget Lindsay Lohan, who once upon a time was amusing (I loved Mean Girls and The Parent Trap).

It’s a shame, really, that the media is saturated with people like that – people who might be nice, or whatever, but who seem to lack a certain level of substance. I grew up with the best of both worlds, really. I watched old musicals and movies. I was completely obsessed with My Fair Lady, although as a kid, I couldn’t quite figure out why Rex Harrison talk-sang.

Thankfully, I read a lot, too. I knew every librarian by name, and she (almost always a she) knew me by name, too. These days, I look at the news and realize that I still want to be a Hepburn, either Katharine or Audrey. Just throw in a little of Dorothy Parker and Mae West while you’re at it.

What famous women influenced you as a child? Who does now? (Sorry that this is girl-centric, today.)

“I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.” — Audrey Hepburn

“I think the main reason my marriages failed is that I always loved too well but never wisely.” — Ava Gardner

“The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they’re going to have some pretty annoying virtues.”
— Elizabeth Taylor

“I generally avoid temptation unless I can’t resist it.”
— Mae West

“Now I know the things I know, and I do the things I do; and if you do not like me so, to hell, my love, with you!”
— Dorothy Parker

Ordinary Things

August 22, 2011 1 comment

I remember the phone call and how ordinary it seemed.

At the time, I didn’t see it. Couldn’t see. I was blissfully unaware. As such things happen, I failed to pay attention to the signals and signs. Never mind the signifier. Derrida would be ashamed.

But since you can’t define anything without its opposite, I consider you. You, with your sea-colored eyes and all-too-dense apathy. That is the opposite of love, really: disinterest. Hate at least has a breath of passion to it.

Love? The word feels like a ghost, a haunted thing. A small puff of light captured in the dark by people who want to believe. Does that make me cynical? Perhaps. It is not what I believe, but it is what I have seen. Not all wisdom is garnered from books. In fact, one is an echo of the other. Who creates the originating sound? Sometimes, it is impossible to tell.

But back to that phone call. What I remember most, what rings the loudest, are the things that were absent. The heavy silences that I mistook for pauses. If this were a work by Chekhov, they would’ve been glinting like failing moonlight on old, shattered glass. Refracted a thousand times, left to signify what? Nothing.

With hindsight, sharp as a Toledo-smithed sword, I parse through the mess, the aftermath. The missing nickname. The slow answers. The words that dripped with lies sweetened by desire – we see what we want to see. To paraphrase Nin, we see things as we are. This side-effect of humanity is our greatest asset and most crippling weakness. Don’t ask me to explain that. Some things must be felt to be believed.

If I were braver, I’d write every word down. Every truth, half-truth, and masquerading lie. I would get a pen and go through it all, bright with textually analysis. What does the tone say? What does the silence convey? And how does the imagery reaffirm the central theme?

The central theme? I suppose, in a fashion, it’s goodbye. A simple thing. An honest thing. Some might say the most difficult word in any language. It isn’t I love you. It’s goodbye. I don’t love you anymore (did you ever? Could you ever?) goodbye. Maybe Marber was right. Maybe that’s the only way to leave someone, surprised and stunned, with and without warning. I don’t know. I’ve never been very good at it myself.

Time has passed. It always does. I’ve been reassured by your absence. Funny thing, that. Like a whisper behind a lyric in a song, sometimes the strangest things conjure the memory of you. When the melody is over, the rest is silence. An absence that weighs heavily, like the thick night air in summer. A heat wave that cloys to the skin, as if trying to sink through it.

I remember the phone call and how ordinary it seemed. But it wasn’t ordinary, was it?

The Mashed Potato Kid: Dealing with Someone Who Doesn’t Get it

August 21, 2011 2 comments

 

What do you DO with someone who just doesn’t get it? Someone who seems like he/she is constantly playing a word association game of opposites, while clearly looking for a winner. You say, “The sky is blue,” and that person says, “No, it’s not. It’s red. The sky is red. Crimson actually.” Any argument or reasoning to the contrary is then met with a barrage of nonsensical defenses, conclusions, and ramblings. It’s like illogical Tourette’s. You say, “No, that’s not it. I simply mean the sky is blue in appearance. Here’s why…”

The person, in response, yells something completely perplexing. Such as, “Parakeet! There’s no reason for mushrooms to wander. It is an issue of privilege, not method. You simply cannot mistake a salmon for anything other than a monkey. I mean, REALLY. How could you possibly misconstrue the facts to claim otherwise. I know these things. And the sky is most definitely the color of rage. MY RAGE. Which I have learned to control over the years, because I am a ninja.”

Granted, the paragraph above is highly fictionalized. But like all good fiction, the heart of it is true. There are people out there like that, who would not know a rational, logical discussion if it snuck up them and said BOO!

Whenever I run into someone like this, I remember this kid I knew in high school. I won’t divulge his real name, but my friends and I once dubbed him The Mashed Potato kid. I cannot remember why, but during lunch, he once explained that something felt just like mashed potatoes in a plastic bag. It sounded completely bizarre then, too – as if we’d become involved in a spy novel, and someone was supposed to respond with, “The fat man walks alone.” Or “Damn the Man! Save the Empire!” Either way.

The Mashed Potato Kid always seemed to get behind of us in the lunch line. He was out there, but we were always polite to him. You couldn’t really have a normal conversation with him. There was one occasion where, I kid you not, he tried to convince us all that he was a Ninja – AND that he could slow his pulse down at will. He attempted to demonstrate this and failed. Talk about performance anxiety…

There were other instances where the unavoidable conversations trailed off into a Jungle of WTF and OMG. Like a Black Eyed Peas song, these conversations were  horrific, a travesty, and pervasive. (Time of My Life, btw, was the last straw.) The MPK seemed to be everywhere, spouting things that just did not make sense. My friends and I did the only thing we could at the time: avoid him whenever possible and be polite to him whenever forced to converse.

Because if you disagreed with him, he became insistent. And honestly, he was a little bit on the scary side. He looked like the kind of person who would keep something scary in his basement, like a clown. Or an alligator. The Ninja Insistence really didn’t scream, “Stable!” or “Harmless!” So, we were calm and polite, always speaking in the tone you’d use to soothe an injured animal. It worked, for the most part, since we only had to deal with him a year or two.

You can’t argue logically with someone who isn’t logical. And you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken crap. But what do you do, as an adult, with someone who behaves like that? Like the MPK, this kind of person is everywhere and rabid with opinions, opinions based on Wonderland logic. And crazy.

My usual method is a several step process.

  1. Attempt to explain whatever’s been misunderstood. Act rational and reasonable. This step usual FAILS.
  2. Be polite, but try and steer the conversation gently away from the nonsense. This step usually fails, too.
  3. Get annoyed and point out every flaw in that person’s argument. Use words so large that the GRE would be proud, if inanimate tests had emotions. This is a fail, because it’s petty and accomplishes NOTHING.
  4. Feel bad for behaving poorly. Vow to ignore this person as best as possible in the future.
  5. Bang my head against the nearest object, like the character on Sesame Street who cannot remember the rest of the song lyrics.

Intellectually, I know that trying to engage in a conversation with a person like the MPK is fruitless. It’s like adding napalm to a bonfire. BAD THINGS HAPPEN. And not the kind that Jace Everett talks about. But I feel like I’m running out of tactics. I’m running out of magic tricks. I’m also running out of semi-clever metaphors.

Tell me some of your coping skills. I KNOW I’m not the only person to encounter this type of person. Teach me your wisdom.

Dortastic Me: The Art of Stealthy Ninja Compliments

August 20, 2011 8 comments

 

The other day, I wrote a quick “you’re awesome. I love your work” message to a stranger. I do that, from time to time, because it’s not only a nice thing – it’s an honest thing. Life can be chaotic, and it’s important to take a moment to send something altruistic and complimentary out into the world.

Wow, that sounds really Hallmark meets New Age. Artists need to hear that someone likes their work. Any artist. It can be the difference between a bad day and a good, because – let’s face it, we’re an intensely tough-fragile bunch. There’s not a single artist (singer, dancer, actor, writer, photographer etc) who hasn’t, at some point, thought: good grief, what am I doing? I suck at this.

Actually, you don’t have to be an artist to have had that thought. It happens to parents, teachers, psychiatrist – basically, everyone. But let’s move on.

So, I sent off a quick message, which is no big deal (until this morning, I didn’t realize how much of a habit the Spontaneous Message of Awesomeness is). However, I might’ve used the word “dorktastic” in reference to myself. In retrospect, it’s kind of silly, and it’s probably not a word that most people grownups use.

But I am a hopeless dork. I’ve come to terms with that. I currently possession the hardback, comic book version of The Last Unicorn, which is right next to my copy of The Princess Bride, which I haven’t read since college.

On my DVR, you’ll find Torchwood: Miracle Day. Yesterday, I quoted from White Fang. I’m currently drinking coffee from a large, red True Blood mug. You will have to pry that mug out of my cold, dead hands. It’s the perfect size, which is to say…giant.

I am, despite all appearances to the contrary, a big dork. Also, a geek – but not the kind that eats glass or live chickens. I read for fun. I quote from Shakespeare. I have been known to discuss Edward Said, Foucault, and Sartre for FUN. My idea of the perfect Sunday is one spend in bed, eating Chinese takeout, drinking coffee, and watching repeats of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yes, I liked the movie. Yes, I am aware that most people did not. But come on, Luke Perry? Lines like, “What are you DOING here? This a naked place” and the fact that I once memorized an entire scene of dialogue just because I could?

Yeah, I’m a dork. I’m ok with that. I figure it makes me well-rounded.

I try very hard not to be shy; it will surprise people to find that I am shy by nature. I push past that, and do silly things – like sing in public, give compliments to strangers, and recite poetry in various accents (Jamaican, Irish, English, and occasionally, Southern).

This often yields several notable “I carried a watermelon” moments. No, I won’t be recounting those, unless you send tequila. But I’d rather say something silly, or sound like a dork, than stay silent and wonder.

Because you never know what something, some random email or message, may mean to someone. Over the years, I’ve been on the receiving end of a few of those. Creeptastic ones aside, they make me grin like a cracked out, caffeinated FOOL. They’re awesome. Because they’re altruistic. That person didn’t have to take the time to be nice. It’s an extra special bonus, because it’s a compliment without pretense.

I never give empty compliments or praise. It’s just unexpected, sincere blurbs. That might make me a dork. That might make me seem a little silly. But it also makes me honest. It’s part of who I am, and I’m good with that.

When is the last time you gave someone (a stranger or acquaintance) an unexpected compliment?

Categories: Random Musings

I’ll Have Coffee with My Coffee: Gilmore Girls, Dating, Marriage, and Quirky Charm*

August 19, 2011 2 comments

 

If there’s one thing I know, it’s how to make a good pop culture reference, while sipping on a cup of coffee.  Usually, the mug is about the size a small fish bowl, and I might even burst into song.  But only if you’re special.  Or if I’ve had a fifth cup of coffee.  You see, I make coffee that could scald sins off of your soul, or at the very least cause some kind of internal bleeding.  If the spoon doesn’t stand up, or run yelping off into the distance, I’ve done something wrong.  (Word to the Wise: Never offer me decaf.  I don’t care if it’s three in the morning and I’m strung out on pixie stix, coffee cake, and chocolate.  Giving me decaf is like handing an alcoholic a Zima: it’s kind of insulting.)

What was my point again?  I mean, aside from rambling on with lightning speed, razor-sharp wit, and conveying a charming, impish kind of charisma?  (That would be evident in person, I swear.)  They tell you that you can’t learn much from watching tv.  But I simply don’t agree.  From Buffy all the way down to I Love Lucy, you can learn something.  Albeit, in the latter case, it might be how to not to make wine, but still.  Knowledge is knowledge.  Or so the devil tells me.

One of my favorite shows is Gilmore Girls.  And Lorelai Gilmore is, without question, one of my television heroes.  Self-sufficient to an astounding degree, she left home at the age of sixteen (okay, I didn’t do that), had a kid (okay, I skipped that part, too), and became a successful woman (I’m working on it).  Like a caffeine-powered, Jimmy Choo wearing Super Woman, this character possesses a level of quirky charm that could—if she really existed—resurrect Jesus and possibly block out the sun.  Okay, I kid.

One thing that I always liked about Lorelai is that she had standards when it came to men.  Sure, her dating record was as marred as anyone else’s, but she didn’t date just to date.  Recently, I’ve been thinking about all the women I know, and I’m wondering what happened.  Instead of focusing on dreams and careers, it’s about finding a boyfriend—any guy will do!  Hey, you there!  You’ll do!  No, not you.  You in the blue shirt—and getting married.

Somewhere, the Ghost of Sadie Hawkins is doing a waltz.  In her wedding dress, I assume.  What else would she be buried in?

Now, before you start calling me a Marriage Hating Moron, take a breath. The institution of marriage, while largely flawed, is a good thing.  What I don’t get is why so many people I know seem to be settling.  As in “If I don’t have a boyfriend, something must be wrong with me—oh, you there!  In the cowboy hat!  You’ll do!”  Granted, the moment you walk out of the womb, some of your relatives will be plotting your nuptials.  By then, it’s too late.  You can’t very well crawl back in.  (And trust me when I say, nothing is more humiliating that a female relative telling you to go hang out at the nearby army base to find a husband.  Because you’re in  your late twenties, unmarried, and therefore some kind of a societal leper.  Note to those concerned: men are not fish.  If I wanted to catch something, it’d be a trout.)

So, enter onto the scene the fictional Lorelai Gilmore.  Her dating disasters rival my own, except she has a slightly better wardrobe.  Granted, I’ve never left anyone at the altar or proposed to someone.  But still.  Work with me here.  Aside from the coffee-guzzling, pop tart eating, flawless skin, and keen fashion sense, that is something I admired about the character: she didn’t settle.

When I look around at all the people I know—friends, acquaintances, family members—I consider that maybe I’m the Dodo bird.  And then I realize that so many people are in bad relationships.  Or they’re in relationships just to say, “Hey, Look!  I’m not alone.” I’ve seen marriages built on that precarious foundation, and it worries me. Add kids to that kind of volatile mixture, and it’s the Relationship Hindenburg.

Because, strangely, there’s something wrong with being single, somehow.  And instead of worrying about ourselves, and our future, we’re wondering what kind of flowers to have at our beach wedding — to the guy we met last week.  All things must lead to marriage, after all.

There’s nothing wrong with dating.  It can be fun, when it isn’t a total disaster (I really should share some of those stories.  They’ll make you weep caffeinated tears, I swear).  There is, in my opinion, something wrong with waking up one day and realizing you have a boyfriend that you don’t even like.  Or who your friends find incredibly boring, because he is duller than a silver spoon buried in dirt for twenty years.  And yes, mea culpa, because I’m referencing women, and maybe I sound a little sexist.  But most of my friends are women, and the guys are either married or single.  Maybe it’s the social stigma—bachelors vs. old maids.  I don’t know.

So, yeah.  I want it all.  The Jimmy Choos, the writing career, and the guy who can make me laugh, until I nearly snort coffee.  I don’t care if he’s divorced, or has kids, or has a tattoo on his ass.  My standards aren’t etched in stone, either.  I’m flexible.  (That’s what she said!)  But I do have standards.  I won’t do what I’m “supposed” to do.  I honestly prefer to be a little quirky.  Not Courtney Love quirky—but Lorelai Gilmore quirky.

If I like a guy, I’ll date him.  If not, hand over the coffee and go.  Life shouldn’t only be about the Pursuit of a Husband.  Or the Pursuit of a Boyfriend.  Whichever.  My point is that if you don’t know who you are, no one else will either.  Unless you figure out what you want, instead of what other people are telling you to want—you can’t really find certainty with someone else.  Or in someone else.  You can fake it for a while.  (There’s a joke in there, somewhere, I just know it.)

So, this was a little personal.  And a little ranty.  But I love to rant.  And I’ve had two cups of coffee already.  I’m going for a third as soon as my heart decides to settle, instead of trying to break out of its rib prison.  Granted, I have my Bridget Jones days.  When weddings roll around, or I run into an old friend, I rather loathe the inevitable “Oh, I’m single.”  (Or the “are you dating anyone special?”  “No, but I’m dating a lot of unspecial people.  Thanks for asking.”)  It’s not because I dislike being single (sometimes, I do; I’m complicated like that).  No, I don’t like that crestfallen look people tend to shoot me.

Truthfully, I like my freedom.  It means that if I see a hot guy (yes, I’m mature), with perfect hair, at Starbucks—I can talk to him.  And by Java, I love to flirt.  I think it should be an Olympic sport.  (It could work.  Really.)  As long as no one’s bunny gets boiled in the process, all is right with the world.

But hey, that’s just me, and I’m a little more caffeinated than most.  Some might say that impairs my judgment.  I like to think it keeps things interesting.

*This is a repost from 2009, from an old blog.