Thursday, November 30, 2006
Only, this year, he gave me instructions to go online and find out what would be required in order to go. Requirements in the vein of shots and clothing and pills that we'd need to bring to protect ourselves from the bugs, weather and water of South Africa.
Last year, when he talked about Belize, he just told me I couldn't wear heels. And even though the only "dangerous" part of that trip would be the danger of me without heels or makeup for ten whole days, I still wound up stranded with sun poisoning on the porch of our hotel room after gorging on the sun our first day there. I was only able to venture out for trips to a bar, a restaurant, some light shopping, and one day on a ridiculously beautiful island where I slathered myself in sunblock, powered through the horrible sun rash covering my body and snorkeled my way through the most beautiful water I'd ever seen. As far as adventure went, that was pretty much it. The rest of the time we sipped Panty Rippers and watched the water from our beach-front hammock. We read books and had long conversations, we smoked too many cigarettes and got tipsy from coconut rum and pineapple juice. For me, it was the perfect vacation. Relaxing, romantic, not demanding, and not at all scary like I'd imagined it would be.
"But, babe," Billy said last night over dinner, "I can't be stuck in a hotel room for ten days this year. I just can't."
I speared a roasted red potato and nodded, feeling a sense of dread sprinkled with anger take me over. "I know."
"So, listen," he moved around, trying to catch my eyes, as they had not left my plate since the conversation began - it's one of my trademarks for Angry. "Would you look at me?" I rolled my eyes, and then my head, and looked at him out of the corner of my eye, then relented and faced him completely. "I'm saying I want you to go, but I have to make sure you can handle it. Because you're going to get sick. I'm not going to lie to you. It's going to be hot, and there are going to be a lot of bugs, and you're going to have a fever, and you'll have chronic diarrhea. But I need to know that you can suck it up and still go on a safari for four days, or go cage diving. And as long as you can do that, then I can't wait for you to come with me."
Instead of offering anything, I just stared at him. I let silence and the ambient noise of the bar fill up the space where my words should've been. I let time click by while he stared at me, waiting for me to argue with him, to defend my abilities to hang in the wilds of South Africa, to make a case for myself even when I knew there was no merit to it, because that's what I do: I argue just to be contrary, just to win. Instead, I blinked, looked down at my plate, then back at him. "I think we both know the answer to that question."
He started to ask what that answer was, but I cut him off, "No. No, I can't handle it. Which you know. But you sound an awful lot like you're trying to convince me that I don't want to go, that I shouldn't try, so you can go by yourself. If you want to go alone, just tell me."
"Babe," he said, offering his hand on my thigh as comfort, or as proof of his sentiment. His voice was tender, his eyes soft. "That's not it at all. At all. I just want you to know, honestly, what it's going to be like. Because I can't be in a hotel room the whole time I'm there - there's a lot I want to do in South Africa. I skipped South Africa last year, remember? So that we could go to Belize instead, since it would be easier for you. But this year, I really want to go to South Africa. So as long as you're okay with all of that, I want you to come."
"Well, I can't. So..."
I took a deep breath. "So I'm not going. You'll have your trip all to yourself this year."
And I was crushed saying it out loud. But I can't. Physically, I simply cannot handle the heat. I'm terrified of the "intestinal parasites" of which he spoke. I don't want malaria, and I don't want to have diarrhea eight times a day. I just don't. That does not sound like a vacation to me. It sounds miserable. Would I love to see Africa? Of course. But do I want to feel that I'm on the cusp of death and then stick myself in a dusty Jeep and ride around in the jungle for four days? Absolutely not. It has nothing to do with the fear of fitting in in a foreign country or trepidation to travel. It has everything to do with knowing that my body just will not be able to handle it. The heat alone is too much for me, never mind disease-carrying bugs. My idea of a vacation is lazy afternoons spent doing nothing, fruity cocktails, soft white hotel sheets; bars and restaurants and dancing and laughing. Not sickness and work. And I think a part of me was considering going simply because it's his annual trip that he's never let anyone take with him before, the fact that he wanted me to be with him, and the fact that it would be embarrassing to admit to his family "Billy's not taking me with him this year." But I had to forget about all of that and just admit that I wouldn't enjoy it, and I shouldn't go.
But I was still angry. Or hurt, more appropriately. Because he kept saying I can't be stuck in a hotel room for ten days, because it made me feel like he'd hated our trip last year. Like he resented that I held him back or something. Like I'm his albatross. And I loved that trip. It was one of the best memories I've ever made. I fought tears while I chewed through my steak.
"Don't be mad," he said, abandoning his plate altogether to look at me.
"I'm not," I said, almost inaudibly, not looking up.
"But you can't even look at me."
He was right. Because if I looked at him, I'd cry. And I couldn't have that. So I kept my eyes on my dinner plate, pushing around potatoes and veggies and juices and steak, trying to give my eyes something to focus on.
But my rapid blinking and attempts to distract myself were no match for my tears. They were determined to roll down my face, and pooled in the corners of my eyes - the holding pen for my emotions. "Well, there's nothing left to talk about. I'm not going. I wouldn't want to keep you locked up in a hotel room for ten days." Sarcasm rolled out of me, my anger in its verbal form.
He inhaled like he finally understood why I was upset. "Babe," he said softly. "I know what you're thinking. But I had a great time in Belize. That's why we picked that place, remember? There wasn't much to do, it was relaxing. It was your first trip out of the country, and it was perfect the way it was; That's what that vacation was for. We just can't do that in South Africa. There's too much to do."
I nodded slowly, indicating that I understood what he was saying but that I still had no intention of looking at him. I felt bruised and left out, and I just didn't have anything to say. I accepted that my passport pages would just have to go without a stamp from Africa, but just thinking of him gone for two weeks made me hurt already, and I didn't want to compound it by letting him convince me it was the right decision.
"Baby," he continued softly, "what am I supposed to do? I really want to go to South Africa. I've wanted to for a long time. And am I supposed to give that up because you don't want to go?"
I didn't know. My feelings about it were - are - mixed. On one hand, I say no. He shouldn't have to give it up. If it means that much to him, it means that much to me. And I don't want to drag him down and make his trip miserable, because, honestly, I do not want to go. Nor do I want to make him miss out on something that important to him. I want him to do what he wants to do. I don't want to hold him back.
But on the other hand, if the situation were reversed, I'd give it up for him. Because I'd rather spend my time with him somewhere where he's comfortable than make new memories without him in them.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Because you know you need to start Christmas shopping, like, last week, but you haven't, and every time you consider setting foot in a store to start, all you can think about is your mile-long list of family, friends, extended family, coworkers and the like, and you start to panic. And you realize that you have yet to think of even ONE sure-thing to purchase for ONE person, and you get overwhelmed at even the prospect of walking into a store and picking out something that so-and-so may or may not like. Or that's what you did on Sunday anyway, when you and your boyfriend went to Middletown with every intention of starting the Christmas shopping, only to sulk your way through store after store, pouting and slouching and dragging your feet because the energy required to actually pick up your feet and walk was just too great, as you were already burdened by a list full of recipients and not one gift idea, even surrounded by all of that stuff. So you bought yourself $10 clearance aisle BCBG shoes instead, to make yourself feel better. But you didn't feel better. You just felt like you spent ten bucks on a pair of shoes you're pretty certain you won't wear.
So you fuck around online for most of your workday, trying to come up with gift ideas for your coworkers and even for Billy, because what do you get a guy that can top the awesome iPod you gave him last year? Yeah. Exactly: NOTHING. Or, nothing short of something with a price tag of less than a grand. So you look and you look, and you go on Amazon and create a gift idea list, and poke around in their "suggestions" for each person on your list, and you know there's nothing there they'd like. And their suggestions are a little broader than you'd like (they don't even have "car enthusiast" as an option for the recipients? But they do have "birdwatcher" and "Mystery lover?" That's not fair.), but you go ahead and fill out profiles for everybody on your list. And now a HUGE list with nothing (okay, one or two things) on it stares back at you like a catalogue of your failure. And as a nagging reminder that you better get on that shit QUICK because Christmas is coming and you're going to be out of time, giving bath products and sweaters to people before you know it.
But you're doing this today, when you probably should just be sitting in a catatonic state staring at gossip websites and eating Wheat Thins and salsa. Because you're crampy and you're bitchy and you're pretty sure you could cry at any second if given the chance.
Even though you were totally fine when you woke up this morning. You were in a fine mood after a fine night's sleep. But there you were, in the shower, shampooing your hair, feeling pretty neutral about most everything in your life, when you suddenly got mad. At, like, everything. And you're not sure why, but you think it may have something to do with the morning show you were listening to while you were in the shower. The one where the guy called in because he just bought a ring, and he wants to propose to his girlfriend, he's just not sure how he should go about it, so the DJs and the callers all pitched in with suggestions. And it wasn't that you got upset because you're going through that whole "any day now, he's going to propose" delusion that you've suffered from before. Because you know exactly when Billy's going to propose: Thirteen and a half years from now. Or maybe twelve and a half years, depending on how long he wants the engagement to be. But either way, you know you don't need to start wondering and hopefully anticipating until roughly eleven years from now, so that's not what bothered you. It was that they were talking about engagements, which is something you want, naturally. And it's also something you can't have YET (though it WILL come. You've been assured of this.), and therefore, no one should be able to talk about it until it happens to you, too. Because, frankly, you feel it's just mean to be talking about it all willy-nilly on a morning show when there are people out there who really want it and it is just careless to talk about it and rub their faces in the fact that they're not going to be wearing any diamonds on their left hand ring fingers anytime soon.
And for some reason, you went ahead and started thinking about work. And how that "vacation" you're supposed to have the last week of December has addendums you weren't quite aware of. Addendums in the form of "we're all going to come in on two days over our vacation to spruce up the office." WHAT? And you think about it, while you rinse your hair. While you finish showering. While you dry off. While you apply your face lotion. And by the time you've applied body lotion to every square inch of your skin, you're furious. Because those days? The ones they're talking about making you work when you're supposed to be off, in bed, not getting up until roughly 1 in the afternoon, those are the very days that Billy has off of work. They are the two days you were looking especially forward to. Because you'd get to spend some idle weekday with your boyfriend, and you never get to do that.
So, by the time you get into your bedroom to get ready to leave, and see that your sleeping boyfriend is sort of awake, you're incensed. You're fuming over it, and he doesn't quite know what's going on because, twenty minutes ago, when you got up to get in the shower, you kissed him sweetly all over his face, and he sighed, "Baaaabbyyyy," and smiled a tired smile and wrapped you up in his long arms and kept you in bed for another five minutes just because. And now you're this raging bitch, slamming drawers and walking around in a huff and being generally malcontent. So he starts talking to you, and asking you how you slept while he's all comfy there in bed, where he gets to stay for as long as he wants because it's his day off, and you just feel yourself getting irritated. And the last thing you want to do is unload all of the work shit from your brain onto him, first thing in the morning on his day off, but you can't help yourself. It just spills out. Before you know it, your woes have been poured all over the bed, all over him, and he looks at you like you're, well, kind of crazy. "So what? Go in," he says, shrugging. "It's only two days out of a week vacation." And you get more frustrated, because, CLEARLY, he doesn't understand the catastrophic nature of this situation like you do. And you find yourself thinking "Why can't you ever just listen to me instead of advising?" when you know you're only thinking that because he's not telling you what you want to hear. You want to hear "Fuck them! Don't go in! Those are your days with ME! I've been looking forward to those two days all year, too!" Instead he's telling you that you're not the boss, and if the boss says to come in, that you should do it, and he's being all responsible and shit, and you can hardly stand it this early in the morning. "But it's my vacation," you plead. "I should be able to do what I want." And now you're whining. Great. And, hey, what's that? Tears? AWESOME! Because this is totally a good reason to want to cry. Because your boyfriend is being reasonable and you're whining like a spoiled five year old. That's great. Actually, you realize, it's pretty appropriate. Crying just completes your regression to full-blown child. This rocks.
So you go into work all mad at the world. You drive the whole way thinking "I hate everything," and, while you realize this a very healthy way to start your day, you can't help but enjoy the way this self-inflicted anger makes you feel deep. And you play Sirius Coffeehouse because they play slow, sad music, and you marinate in whatever mood you've made for yourself until you get to work.
And only then do you realize it's your coworker's birthday. And suddenly you flash back to yesterday, just before you went to Wal Mart for household items, when you said to yourself, "I have to get her a card when I go." And then you think about your time in Wal Mart, where you spent roughly half an hour in the cheap jewelry section searching for the perfect pair of $3.00 silver earrings. Then you spent ten minutes deciding which kind of coffee to buy since they were out of Starbuck's. Then you spent another fifteen minutes looking for the perfect black/silver combination eye-show pack to wear to the Christmas party, apparently forgetting that you have roughly eighty bajillion black and silver eye shadows at home. And, since they were out of your favorite hairspray, you spent about ten minutes trying to decide whether you should get Pantene or Suave before settling on Suave, only to return to that aisle and put the Suave BACK and get the Pantene instead. And what seemed like fourteen hours after you got to Wal Mart, you checked out and left without the one thing you were determined to get: The birthday card. Nice going, slick.
So you search for an E-Card online as soon as you get to your desk this morning, but the pressure to pick one before she gets in (which could be at any minute) gets to you and you settle on a cute one that will suffice, rather than taking time and finding an appropriate one.
As soon as you've sent the card, you start messing around on your blog, where you decide to read your December archives. And you almost cry. Twice. So you busy yourself with actual WORK tasks just to make the day end already, hoping that you'll be out of your mood by the time you talk to Billy. And when you do finally talk to him, when he calls you in the middle of his day off just to say hi, you use what you consider to be an even-toned and sweet voice, and he says, "Still crabby, huh?" And you try to dance your way around it and say "No, I'm fine. I am. I really am. I'm fine. I'm...Really...I'm fine." But he doesn't believe you. And understandably so because you accidentally snapped at him when he suggested you pick where you guys are going to go for dinner tonight. You apologize, but you hear the shift in his voice that says I'd rather eat my own eyeballs than talk to you for another second, Ms. Bitchy. So you apologize and make your voice as creamy as possible, and he softens too. But right before he gets off the phone, he says, "Babe, you've got to get out of this mood." And you feel instantly guilty for possibly making him dread your arrival at home.
But then you think, "Eh. It's okay. He loves me anyway," and you go back to your beloved internet and do some more "gift searching" which quickly devolves into "Wish List for Myself" making, thereby rendering your last two hours at the computer completely wasted, because even if you've been ooh-ing and aah-ing over shit for two hours, the next time someone asks you what you want for Christmas, you'll pause, look up at the sky deep in contemplation, then say, "I have no idea." Which means you'll not only be giving sweaters and bath products for Christmas, but also receiving them.
And so, now, all you can do is stare at the clock and wait for the end of the day to come, so that you can rush home, take off your pants, tuck yourself into bed and wait for the mood to pass.
Here's hoping the end of the workday comes FAST.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
1) I'm full of strange little idiosyncrasies. Things like:
- I can't sleep on the open end of the pillowcase. Something about all that fabric just dangling there freaks me out.
- I can't drink water out of a bottle if it's been shaken in my presence. I think it makes it taste different or something. It makes it slimy. BUT! If said bottle is shaken when I can't bear witness to it, I'd probably drink right out of that bottle and never know that it had been shaken.
- I hate taking baths, and I hate hot tubs. Because I feel dirtier after taking baths (what's the point of sitting around in your own dirty water?), and also because I think the feel of my butt on that smooth bathtub is gross. And the hot tubs? It's too hot, first of all, and I feel like I'm being boiled for human stew. I think that one stems back to a Far Side comic that had a few pioneers or jungle explorers or something sitting in a huge, obviously boiling, cauldron of water and the cannibals surrounding them are slicing carrots and potatoes into the water.
2) I have a very detailed routine when it comes to eating my favorite food: Lima Beans. Firstly, they cannot touch any of the other items on my plate, which means they usually wind up in a bowl all of their own. The "not touching" doesn't have anything to do with them being contaminated by my other foods, it's just that I like to preserve the taste/butter/salt on the beans. Then, since they're already buttered, I pour a good helping of salt over them. And then I scan the pile of beans for what looks like a good bean, and it eat it. AFTER I peel the skin off. Depending on how the skin removes, whether it slides of easily or tears off, dictates whether I eat the bean or the skin first. This process is repeated for as long as it takes to eat all of the beans. I just can't eat them by the spoonful/forkful. I don't like to eat them whole. So one-by-one it is.
3) I have full-on concerts in my car. The windshield is where my audience sits, looking on in sheer awe. I imagine the whole "Getting Called to the Stage by Surprise" routine in my head before I launch into song. Certain songs call for certain imaginary settings. But, whatever the venue, the principal is the same: Me, singing heartbreakingly wonderful songs, with ease and perfection while people I know look on in amazement.
4) The alternative to the full concert, however, is the "Music Video" situation. In this, I am in the artist's music video, the theme of which has something to do with me driving. Naturally. And I am either the main actress in this video, where the artists sings over me, and I look longingly or desperately or angrily out of the window, depending on the song. Or I am the narrator of the video, in which case I sing...this is hard to admit...into the rearview mirror.
5) In this age of iPods and downloads and Limewire, I'd prefer to not find a CD before it's released or leaked online, and I still prefer to buy my music at the store. Because then I can look forward to the release date, and then I can rush to the store on that date and buy the CD. Then I get the crisp jewel case, and I get to see the album artwork, the lyrics, the look of the disc itself. I just love that. And then, later, I can look around and see the accumulation of my purchases. Which makes me proud, because I love music that much.
6) I'm far too protective of what I consider to be my personal space. Some would even go so far as to say it is unhealthy. I hate when people stand too close to me when speaking (if I can feel/smell their breath, that is too close.) and I will, with no amount of secrecy or shame, back away. This usually causes the close-talker to move in closer, but I'll continue to back away until I am either literally backed into a corner, or until they get the hint. Whichever comes first. I don't like to be touched by people I don't know well. Social kisses and hugs are one thing, but the brushing of someone's thigh against my own when sitting on something like a bench? Unacceptable. I just don't like it. I feel like it's invasive, and I don't appreciate it. I always quote Dirty Dancing in this instance: "This is your dance space, this is my dance space." Indeed.
The only exception to this rule is Billy. My family members are excepted on a case-by-case basis.
7) Additionally, I'm very much like a five year old when it comes to possessions. I live my life in very definite terms of yours and mine. The scissors at my desk? Mine. My desk drawers and the contents thereof? Mine. Candy I've purchased? Mine. I don't mind sharing as long as I'm asked, but I hate walking into a room and seeing someone with something of mine in their hands. A perfect example would be my old job: I have certain pens that I love - because they fit well in my hands, write smoothly, etcetera. And, from time to time, I'd leave the pen in the back or on another desk because I was busy and distracted. Hours later, I'd see someone else using it, and I would see red. Because that person had to know that pen wasn't hers, so why was she using it? Conversely, I think I'm very good at not taking things that clearly belong to someone else. If it is necessary that I use something that does not belong to me, I will ask first, or make mention of it later. I'm pretty sure it goes back to my younger days, when my brother and I would fight so much and so fiercely that we had to be separated. Our rooms were safe zones, and we were not allowed into one another's rooms without permission. And if my mom bought, for instance, ice cream Chase had requested, and I went to eat it, I'd hear the "Uh-uh. That's Chase's ice cream." And he would hear the same thing if something were purchased for me. It was an act instituted to keep the peace, and it has never left me. Some say it's polite, some say it's childish. I say I can't help it.
8) I'm extremely polite. Which, I know, isn't a bad thing. But I'm polite to a fault. Guilt is a big factor, as is worrying what other people think of me. I will buy things I don't even like at a store if the sales girl/guy is nice to me. I feel like it's rude if they've spent time helping me and I leave without making a purchase. I know they're paid to be there, but still. I just hate feeling like I'm wasting people's time. In social situations, if someone offends me, it's very rare that I'll speak up for myself. I'd rather be a doormat than be misconstrued as a bitch. If someone upsets me by doing or saying something that I feel is a personal affront, I'll just marinate in my anger until it passes rather than telling that person that I'm upset. Because I don't want to make waves, and I don't want to fight. I have many people in my life who, possibly inadvertently, have offended me, but I'd never say a word. Going further, when I purchase cigarettes or gas or toilet paper or anything, I always conclude my time with the cashier with a "Thank you very much." Even if they're rude. And not just Thank you, but a sincere Thank you very much or Thank you so much. I say thank you every time the waiter/waitress does anything at my table when I'm dining out. I've thanked each and every person who opens or holds a door for me. I thank each car that lets me out into traffic, and I'm usually the car who lets people out of parking lots and into the road. I stop for pedestrians. I squeeze myself into walls and table to allow people to pass me in aisles and walkways, always giving the stranger the benefit of space. And I get furious with people who don't do the same. It's common courtesy. But, also, I think has something to do with the fact that I can't stomach the thought of the person I didn't thank/let in to traffic/let pass me going through their day thinking, "God. She was so rude."
9) I can't dive. I can jump into a pool, but I cannot dive. Something about my body just will not allow me to curve my body the way you need to curve to dive. I always just end up belly flopping in.
10) I'm scared of very deep water. When I was on my cruise, if I sat and thought of just how much space was below me, how much water there was around me...How far down I'd have to sink before hitting bottom and how there was nothing around me but water for hundreds, thousands, of miles, it really freaked me out. I think it's the helplessness, the hopelessness of it that bothers me. Also, I can't swim in any body of water whose floor I can't see. It's two-fold: One, if I can't see the bottom, it's clearly VERY DEEP, and we now know how I feel about that. Secondly, I need to see what's down there so I don't get stung/pinched/bitten by anything lurking around in the sand or murk. That one goes back to my summers spent at Hilton Head Island with my grandmother who once, while walking through knee-high brownish water, had her big toe pinched by a crab. That crap ripped up the skin on the side of her toe and made me scared enough to never walk in water that didn't reveal its inhabitants.
So that's all I'm obligated to tell you. I'm not tagging anyone because I don't want to put anyone on the spot. But if you read this and want to do it to, go right ahead. It's fun making people think you're crazy!
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
But, like almost everything I say, all of these declarations require addendums.
I don’t have a problem with my boyfriend talking to other girls, as long as I know said other girls. If they’re old friends, I need to have heard about them numerous times. If they’re new friends, I need to be introduced. I have to be familiar with the notion of this girl to whom he’ll be speaking. It helps me digest it better, curbs my natural inclination toward suspicion.
I’m fine with the flirting, with the actions of the “natural flirt” of a boyfriend that it seems I’ve found myself claiming for the last, oh, ten years of my life. But it cannot be overt flirtation. Just subtleties that are almost flirting: Coy smiles and soft voices are flirtations to me. That, I’m okay with. Outright body-leaning-in, obvious flattery and inquiring of phone numbers? Not so much.
Strip clubs? Hey, I’ve been to a strip club or fifty in my life. I don’t mind them one bit. So, no I don’t mind if my boyfriend goes. But I prefer that I’d be there with him. Because it’s one thing to look at boobs with your girlfriend, another thing entirely to look at boobs while your girlfriend is at home. If he takes me with him, I feel like it’s an experience we’re sharing. There’s nothing to hide if you’re okay with me being there, too. But, still, in most circumstances, I’m okay with a guy’s night at a strip club. But not one man alone, and not with the intent to chat up the strippers. And no lap dances. There has to be a line somewhere.
But, you know, in noticing that all of the “liberties” I “grant” require provisos, I’ve noticed something: I’m jealous. I’m jealous and competitive and not that liberal at all. Hmph. And, as with most things in my life, I was the last one to know about this. Or rather, I’ve just now admitted it to myself.
My ex used to check out girls when he was with me. I tried and tried to get him to stop, but he wouldn’t, claiming that he wasn’t doing anything wrong. “It’s not like I’m being unfaithful,” he’d say with a smile meant to distract me from the anger.
Though always weak in the face of that smile of his, I’d persist: “It’s not about fidelity. It’s about winning.” I struggled to demonstrate the complexities of the female brain, while he looked on in confusion. “Look,” I’d say, “if I’m walking through a mall, and some guy who is obviously with his girlfriend – holding her hand or whatever – checks me out, I’ve won. Because I can say, ‘Oh, man. That guy, who is with that girl, just totally checked me out. Poor girl.’ He’s supposed to be with her, into her, but I was able to distract him. I won. And I don’t want some other girl winning, while I’m there, holding your hand, stupidly unaware that other girls are winning all over the place.”
He said he understood and agreed to stop. A week later, when he thought, apparently, that he was a vampire and therefore invisible in mirrors, I caught a reflection of him totally checking out another girl.
“She just won,” I said without even looking at him. “No woman should win but me.”
I considered it my competitive nature, not my jealousy, that was making me miserable in that situation. But looking at it now, I’m sure I was just jealous that some other woman was garnering the attention of the man I called mine.
Thanksgiving Eve is a big night around these parts. Actually, it’s probably big everywhere as a night of reunions with friends who’ve moved away, but whose families still reside in your town. Everyone comes home for Thanksgiving, and they all go out to local bars and catch one another up on their careers, their love lives, their lives in general.
“Did you want to go out Thanksgiving Eve?” I asked Billy as we readied ourselves for work Tuesday morning.
“What do you want to do?” he replied as he squeezed Colgate onto his new toothbrush.
“I don’t really care. It’s not a big deal to me. I didn’t grow up here, so the thrill is kind of lost on me. But I thought maybe you’d like to. I’m happy to go if you want to.”
He began to brush his teeth, but stopped before the brush reached his mouth. “No. Nope, nope, nope. Because I just know I’ll get in trouble if we go out.”
“What do you mean?” I laughed, rubbing lotion into my legs.
“I don’t know how, and I don’t know why, but I know that somehow, I’ll wind up in trouble with you by the end of the night, so we should probably just stay in.”
“What are you talking about?” I demanded, playfully jabbing him in the ribs.
“Because I’m going to know people and have to talk to them, which means I won’t be able to give you my full attention. Which you’ll take as ignoring you. And some of the people I know will be female. And you’ll think I’ve either dated or slept with them, and be angry with me for even looking at them. So no. Let’s rent a movie or something.”
I started to argue, but the sharp sting of truth kept me quiet. He was right. Last year, we went out, and I spent the evening alternately pretending to be interested in the various historical recaps of his youth that he shared with friends, and pretending to not be bothered by the fact that some of the people he introduced me to didn’t bother acknowledging me at all. I spent much of the night studying my cocktail glass and smoking too many cigarettes so that I had something to with my hands. But I seldom meet his friends, and it’s rarer still that I am introduced to them, so I plastered a smile to my face and ran with it. Because he’s my boyfriend and I love him and it doesn’t always have to be about ME.
But I was irritated. I remember getting mad, sitting there, surrounded by too-loud music and no one to talk to. “I came to be with him,” I said to myself, “not to be out alone.” But the more accurate picture is probably that I was just jealous. Because other people had his attention. The attention that I don’t want just for the sake of wanting it, but because it’s his, and he has a way of making you feel like you’re the only person in the world when he’s talking to you. I was aware of the way some of the women looked at him. Because of the way he makes everyone feel special. Because everyone loves him. And I wanted to post a sign on his smooth forehead, over his sincere smile, announcing my possession of him, but I couldn’t. So, instead, I asked probing questions all the way home; questions that stopped just short of “So, did you ever sleep with [insert description of woman here]?”
“I promise you won’t be in trouble,” I said, wiping my hands on the hand towel.
“Oh, you can’t fool me. I know. I’ll be in trouble. Somehow.” He had begun brushing, and his words came out clumsy and garbled.
I sighed and gathered my belongings to leave the bathroom.
“When are you going to trust me?” He asked, his mouth now filling with frothy toothpaste.
He spit. “No you don’t. You think you’re liable to lose me at any second.” He paused, perhaps considering the ridiculousness of the fact that I actually do feel that way. “Just trust me.”
I started to say that old worn out line about it’s not YOU I don’t trust; it’s your friends/other women. But it occurs to me that that’s not saying much. When it comes down to it, you’re still telling him you think he’s not strong enough to overcome the temptation of other women or peer pressure. Which, is basically, saying he’s weak and – Ta-Daa! – you don’t trust him. So I stopped. “I do trust you. I do. I’m just…Jealous.”
“REALLY?” he said, in that sarcastic, Oh my god I never thought of that before! How positively enlightening! way. I slapped him on the butt and went to open the bathroom door.
He grabbed my hand and pulled me back to him, attempting to kiss my just made-up face with his Colgate-rimmed mouth. I backed away, he moved in, back away, move in. We danced like that until I howled with laughter and finally allowed a gentle kiss on my lips.
“You’re such a weirdo,” I said, licking the minty paste from my lips.
But the conversation left me wondering where the murky line between trust and jealousy lies. Can you trust and be jealous at the same time? Are they mutually exclusive? Or do lack of trust and jealousy just mean the same thing?
Because, the way I see it, it’s not that Billy’s ready to run off at the first sign of trouble, or at the first glimpse of a stripper’s boob. It’s just that I see him as the most attractive, charismatic, charming, intelligent, warm, funny, incredible man on the face of the earth. And any woman who sees that is going to do her best to get him from me. In my sick imagination, the sight of him walking into a room is followed immediately by the sound of hundreds of panties falling to the floor.
Of all of the impressions a girl can have of her boyfriend, isn’t that the best kind to have? I mean, does he really want me to see him as a loser who, when he goes out, people go out of their way to NOT talk to?
But the side effect of having this glorified opinion of him is jealousy. I know that he wouldn’t betray me. I do. I don’t believe he’d ever hurt me that way. I know he loves me and only has eyes for me. But I’m still jealous.
“I do like where your head’s at,” he said when I presented him with my quandary. “But why can’t you still think of me that way, and then think, ‘And he’s all mine.’?”
“Because it doesn’t work that way,” I told him.
Or can it?
Because this jealousy? It kills me. I know it can stem from insecurity and lack of faith, but can’t it also be attributed to just having an awesome boyfriend that you don’t want another bitch to even think about putting her paws on? Because that’s where I think mine comes from.
Monday, November 20, 2006
Until I started looking at the blogs that have switched over, and the OCD girl inside of me got all giddy, and she started whispering in my ear that I could go through almost two years of posts and add tags to all of them, and organize all of it. And, oh, that would be so much fun. And she told me I could make columns and lists and things on the side there, and I could move it around however I want...
So me and the OCD girl agreed, and tried to switch. The first time, I stopped because, hey, what if all of my drafts don't go over? So I procrastinated. The second time, I was like, "But what about all my links?" She tapped her finger onto her chin exactly fourteen times (she always does that when she's thinking) and nodded vigorously. "Good point," she said, blinking twenty four times. "Good point. Don't do it." But she started to panic at the thought of losing all of that info. So we stopped. Then I went to do it again, and I realized that I didn't know how to make links open in new windows with the new system. I emailed a friend, and she said it just all transferred over. So I looked at the OCD girl, and she looked at me, and we nodded in unison and I clicked the link to switch me over.
We thought we were on our way to a new and improved Divinities, but, alas, no such luck. My blog is too big to switch right now. And you know what? Now, every time I log into my blog, I get that big message saying "We're ready to switch you!" And every time I see it, I fall for it. And every time I do it, I get the same stupid message. "Whoops. Sorry. Not yet." And now I want it. Badly. This is not fair.
2. I met Chase's girlfriend on Saturday. And, you know what? She's pretty freakin' great. I THINK.
Chase is really into her, and she is really into him. And it's so comforting to see that. I even witnessed little boyfriend/girlfriend things between the two of them. It was so cute. He's a good boyfriend, I think, my little brother. And if he's not? I'll kick his ass.
3. I have a formal Christmas party to attend in December so, on Saturday, my mom, Chase, his girlfriend and I all went to this fancy-pants mall about an hour and a half away from here. Mom and I went on our own and searched high and low for dresses. We went into Neiman-Marcus and Nordstrom, trying to stifle the inevitable vomiting sensation that overtook us each time we flipped over a price tag that read "$790" or "Sale! $955." Ugh. We made jokes about how the other half lives, and kept on moving through the stores.
Unwittingly, we stumbled into the "Couture" section of Nordstrom, where gigantic ball gowns with crystal embellishments hung from velveteen hangers. We knew we were out of our league, but since no one was around, we checked things out. And that's when two sales people, one man and one woman, emerged from the dressing room area. They started to go over the specifics of their department, "Every dress you see here is custom-made, available in any size or color you desire." I sort of grinned and nodded, trying to feign indifference, and trying NOT to let them know I was out of my price range. After they'd asked me what the occasion was and I answered, they started giving suggestions. "This is a lovely cocktail dress," said the short salesman, moving the dress from its hanging position and to the front of his body. "It's quite elegant."
"Yes, well," I said, struggling to keep my composure. The price tag was dangling there, profane in its exposure. $3,450. "That's not really my style," I said regrettably. "Thank you though," and we scampered out of there. "Quick," I whispered to mom, "before they realize we could never afford this stuff!"
4. Eventually, I found my way to someplace more comfortable: The sales rack at Lord & Taylor. I ended up purchasing two dresses. They're both quite lovely, and I bought the two of them because I couldn't decide between them. So I brought them home, definite favorite in mind, and showed them to Billy and asked him to pick. He did not pick my favorite. Which puts me in quite a quandary. Because the one he picked is sexy, the other is classier. And I generally like to go with Classy over Sexy. But I do want to make him proud...So I don't know which one to wear. But I have to go shopping for shoes, so that means I have to pick one and stick with it, unless I want to buy complete outfits - replete with jewels, shoes and bags - for each option and then just make the choice based on how I feel that day. And that just seems dangerous. And costly.
5. I showed the dresses to my friend, and she agreed with Billy. So Sexy Red Dress it is. But I've just spent three hours in a different mall, and I couldn't find any shoes that complimented it. Damn winter shoes. Doesn't anyone buy sexy, strappy little shoes in the winter? I mean, I know it'll be all snowy and horribly cold in a matter of hours, but, c'mon. I need the right shoes.
6. I'm really looking forward to Thanksgiving. I have a shortened work week this week, and if that's not reason to give thanks, I don't know what is.
Friday, November 17, 2006
As the protective older sister, I feel not unlike a mother whose little baby is growing up and leaving the nest. It makes me feel ancient and antique, like I've turned around and suddenly he's a man, and I'm a grandma. Something about Chase bringing a girl HOME for a WEEK makes me want to weep a little bit. He's all grown up, I want to cry, dabbing at the tears in my eyes with the embroidered handkerchief I'm holding in my wrinkly hand. My little boy is a man now. Then I'd straighten my reading glasses and adjust the chain that holds them around my neck, take a deep and ragged breath, and go back to my knitting.
But I don't carry an embroidered handkerchief, and I don't knit; I don't have wrinkly hands, and I don't wear glasses. I'm 26, and he's 20, but something about this makes me feel old. And it makes me want to take this girl into a locked room, point a sweat lamp directly at her head and ask her all sorts of intrusive questions. What are your intentions with my brother? Are you sure you feel strongly for him? Are you leading him on? You better MEAN EVERYTHING YOU SAY TO HIM, AND STICK BY IT NO MATTER WHAT OR I WILL OWN YOU. Understand? I want to employ the tactics my dad threatened me with when I first started dating: Cleaning guns at the kitchen table when she walks in. I want to eye her suspiciously, make her nervous...
But I won't. Obviously. For a number of reasons: One, it's not my place. Two, I'm just not that kind of person. And three, Chase really cares for her. And he must care for her for a reason. If he likes her, she must be pretty incredible.
And then there's the other thing: No matter how shitty my boyfriends in the past were, Chase was always nice. He may be my "little brother" by timeline, but not physically. Physically, he's much bigger than me, and he could very easily play the role of Asshole Big Brother if need be. And he never did. Not because he didn't care, but because I cared about the guy, and that was enough for Chase. So I'm going to try to approach it that way this time.
I haven't always thought of it this way. In fact, I'm sort of notorious for being the mean older sister when it comes to girlfriends. Not because I'm mean just for the sake of being mean, but because in Chase's younger years, I was just a better judge of character than he was. Chase was sweet and unquestionably trusting, where I could sense evil immediately. And one particular girl he brought around was just that. So from the instant I met her and heard her referring to my mom and dad as "Mom" and "Dad," I'd had enough. I was short with her, I couldn't look at her, and I wanted nothing to do with her. I tried to be nice, but I insisted, to Chase and my whole family (who all loved her), that something was wrong. With her. That she wasn't as sweet as she made herself out to be. I didn't like that she was intruding on my territory. That she was trying to wedge herself into my incredible family because she got dealt a shitty one. I thought she was too full of sacchrine, her act was too syrupy to swallow. And you know what? A couple of months later, the truth was revealed. And who was right? ME. That's who. I saw through her artificial affection and her too-sweet demeanor to the slimy opportunist that was circling Chase's feet.
But, because I was "mean" to her, I've developed a slight reputation in my family of being a VERY overprotective big sister. My little brother isn't nervous about bringing girls home to meet my parents, he's nervous about bringing them to meet me. "Promise me you'll be nice," Chase said when he gently broke the news that his girlfriend would be sharing our time together this Thanksgiving.
"I am nice," I maintained. "As long as I think she's good to you."
"She is," he said. I could picture him closing his eyes and nodding, like a frustrated parent tired of explaining things to his child.
"I promise." I heard his exhale of relief through the phone. "BUT!" I amended, "If I sense something off, I'm going to tell you. And then I'll be civil, but I won't be awesome. Okay?"
I'm approaching this like Chase and his girlfriend are 14. They're both in their twenties. Technically, they're my peers. Yet I'm assuming the role of Adult to their assigned role of Child in my mind.
It's so silly. Because I know that Chase is grown. I know he's capable of judging good from bad. And I even know that this girl is really nice, and treats him really well. But I'm constantly on the lookout for people's ulterior motives when it comes to him, as though Chase The Poor College Student has anything worth stealing. It's just that he's such a good man, such a kind, giving and caring person, I'm terrified that people will take advantage of that soft, perfect part of him. I love him so much, I want to protect him. Even if he's perfectly capable of protecting himself. Even if he doesn't want me to. Even if it's silly and ridiculous and antiquated and stupid. I love him. And I'm his big sister. I always will be.
Protecting him, in whatever small way I can, is what I'll be doing for the rest of my life.
Monday, November 13, 2006
I walked into the store hoping to buy at least one new bra. Because a girl like me finds one bra that she falls in love with and doesn’t deviate from that until the bra decides it’s had enough of her and begins to go limp in protest of being worn day in, day out. And it was time for a new one. So I strode in, a very specific idea of what I needed in my mind. My friend had told me about this certain bra that was supposedly wonderful under T-Shirts and pushed up and did everything a bra was supposed to do while being comfortable. I needed it.
So I headed toward the correct section, scanning the wall-mounted hangers for the one I wanted. In my travels to what appeared to be the correct section, I witnessed an employee getting bitched out by a customer. In her hand, the customer held the all-too-familiar “FREE PANTY!” flyer that every American gets roughly 1,845 times a year. She was clearly complaining that the one style of panty that could actually be free was no longer available in the store. “What do you mean, you don’t have any more?” she argued. The sales girl continued her task of folding panties, all but ignoring the customer, and replied, “I mean, we don’t have anymore. Sorry.” I could understand the sales girl’s apathy. So you can’t get your free panty. Big deal lady, get over it. I shook my head at how uptight, how demanding customers could be and arrived at my section.
The racks - which are normally so neat and tidy in every other Schmictoria’s Frecret I’ve been in, and even this one on prior visits - were all in disarray. The push-up bras were mixed in with the regular ones, as were the strapless and convertible versions. There was no rhyme or reason to the size, either, and so I went for the ol’ fail-safe of going into the drawers below the displays to find my size. It’s been my experience that whatever I couldn’t find up top would be down there, an organized oasis of bras, broken down into size, style and levels of padding.
But the drawers were just as bad as the racks above them. After searching for well over twenty minutes, and not once being approached by the normally helpful staff, I had to go and seek out some help of my own.
I pride myself on not being a bothersome customer. I’m the kind of person who buys something I may not like all that much if the sales person is really nice, if they’ve helped me and didn’t make me feel like a bother and made an effort to do their jobs well. On the other hand, I will not buy something, even if I LOVE it, if the sales people ignore me, or if I have to interrupt their personal conversation to get a fitting room or pay for my item. I’ve been in customer service for years, and, well, I’ve been a customer for years, and I know how it’s supposed to go: You, the employee, are nice to the customer. You treat them like you’re glad to see them, you accommodate them, you make the sale. You treat them with respect, you are kind, and you are helpful. Because you are being paid to be there. And you know what? That customer that you hate so much for just walking into the store? She’s paying you to be there. So you act like it. And, in turn, as the customer, you’re nice and courteous. You’re not mean for no reason, you aren’t an asshole; you’re nice and accommodating, too. It’s a very symbiotic relationship when both parties are decent. So I try not to demand too much. If I can find my own size, I will. If I can let myself into a room, I will. But the employees, they’re there to help me.
Which is why I was so surprised to have to track down one of the two girls working the sales floor. One in particular had passed by me no less than four times. And the fact that she would not make eye contact with me made me believe that she was actually ignoring me on purpose. This was not the same girl who was just being bitched at for not having free panties available, this girl was carrying around bras and, I guess, hanging them up in their appropriate spots. Though the racks certainly didn’t support my assumption, so I’m sure she was just carrying them around to look busy.
I tried to catch her eye twice, but failed. So, on what must have been her fifth trip past me, I had to actually say, “Excuse me.” She looked up at me with a mix of apathy, disdain and irritation.
She was dressed in the customary all-black suit that most employees wear, only she had decided to dress it up with a Louis Vuitton scarf, that was bundled loosely around her neck and made her head appear to be floating on a cloud of fake silk. (I say fake because, really, if she’s working at Schmictoria’s Frecret, can she really afford a $400 scarf? Because, hey, we all know that the Prada bag I have in my closet was purchased from a street-side vendor. I mean, c’mon, I’m a secretary.) Her reddish-brown hair was piled high above her overly made-up face, and everything about her screamed “I don’t want to be here, and I’m above you anyway.” The way she looked at me suggested I’d just crawled into the store directly from the nearest garbage can, and that I was clearly not good enough to be in the store, let alone in her presence.
Quite the contrary, I was all done up and was carrying my fancy-pants real purse. I was dressed well, and I was ready to spend money. Which, really, should make no difference. I’ve learned that you can never treat anyone like they’re broke. It's the old Don't judge a book by its cover addage. Her clear superiority complex drove me mad. What happened to treating the customer well?
I hated this woman’s attitude, but I needed something and was willing to overlook it. “Can you tell me where I can find this certain bra in my size?” I asked nicely.
She extended a bony finger and pointed past me. She was pointing at a wall maybe ten paces way and gave a fake smile. “Over there.”
I followed her finger, then turned my head back to her. “Yes, I know. I was just over there. But I can’t find my size. Can you help me?”
Her smile flickered off, then back on. Her voice went from bothered to condescending. “They’re…Right…Over…There,” she said, slowly so that I could understand her.
I’ve never been refused, when asking out-right, for help. Never in my life. “Seriously?” I said, bewildered. “Wow.” I was seriously shocked. “Well then. THANK YOU SOO-OOO MUCH FOR ALL OF YOUR HELP.” My reply's pace mirrored the sloth of her words. My eyes rolled as I spoke more loudly than necessary, hoping that she’d pick up on my sarcasm.
She didn’t. She just nodded like she’d done something helpful and walked away, bras dangling from her little demon arms.
Because I was desperate, I walked back over to that section. Only this time, I was furious. My blood was boiling. My blood pressure was high. I was incensed. I just couldn’t believe it. She’s supposed to help me. And if she’s new, or doesn’t know, she’s supposed to send someone to me who CAN help. But she didn’t.
What I wanted to do was run through the store, my arm extended, wiping panty after panty from their folded positions on the tables and onto the floor. I wanted to yank the racks from the wall. I wanted to throw bras in the air and let them fall wherever they may. I wanted to knock over mannequins and punch through the signs. I wanted to wreck the store and then walk up to her, panting, out of breath and sweaty, push my hair back from my face, take a satisfied deep breath, stand up a little straighter, adjust my purse on my shoulder and smile. “I think you have a few more bras to put back,” I’d say, flicking one of the bras in her hand as I said bras, to make sure she understood what I was talking about. Then I’d smile and point back to the disaster I’d caused and say, “Right…Over…There.” And then I’d walk out, smiling serenely and standing tall, rounding the corner to get lost in the mall crowd.
But I didn’t. I’m not aggressive. I’m passive-aggressive. Instead, I went ahead and looked at every bra, sure to take it down from its rack to check the size, then leave each one on the waist-high counter instead of putting it back. I opened the drawers and checked each one of those, too. And, naturally, I pulled each one from its drawer and left all of those wrong sizes on the counter too. When I was finished, I had found one bra: Right size, wrong color and style. So I went back over to the sales “ladies,” Little Miss Louis Vuitton and the one who was previously defending the store’s lack of panties. They were facing away from me, chatting, as I walked up behind them. As luck would have it, they were chatting about ME!
“So she says, ‘Can you help me,’ and I’m like, ‘Uh, hello. They’re right over there.’ And then she, like, rolled her –”
“Excuse me,” I said sweetly. They both startled and turned around. A guilty look flashed across their faces. “I hate to interrupt your little discussion here, but I can’t find the size in the selection right over there, so I’m going to need,” and I pointed at the saleslady I hadn’t yet spoken to, “you to help me.”
Louis Vuitton walked away, and the other one was clearly miffed that now she was stuck with me, the customer bold enough to actually ask one of them to do something.
“What did you need?” she said, looking over my shoulder. Her voice was detached and obviously uninterested in bothering with me.
“Well, your coworker told me that I could find whatever I needed over there,” I pointed behind me, then looked at her again, a smile on my face, my voice syrupy-sweet. “But I can’t seem to find it there. So I need to know if you can find it for me.”
“If it’s not over there, we don’t have it,” she said, as though she was stating the obvious. As though she couldn’t believe I was dumb enough to not understand that. It was at that point that she turned to walk away.
I don't know why I persisted, but I did. I guess it was sort of my way of not giving in to their obvious desire to just get rid of me.
“You don’t have any in the back?” I said.
She stopped, sighed, and turned to face me. “Yeah, we do.”
Maybe I'm crazy, but I just don't think I should have to ask a direct question like to make her offer to check the back for me. I thought that was part of her job. “Well, do you think you’ll have any other sizes back there?”
“Mmm-hmmm.” She confirmed, but making no effort or offer to move or check.
I took a deep breath. “Well, since you’re the one paid to be here, and I’m the one looking to pay for a bra, you think you could, oh, I don’t know, go back there and check?”
“Sure,” she said. There's just no other way to describe her tone: It was mean.
She asked for my size and said she’d be back. “Oh, first,” I said, talking to her back once again, “I need a fitting room. Would it be too much trouble to let me into one?”
“Follow me,” she said, not even turning around.
So I followed her into the fitting rooms, where she begrudgingly let me into one of the mirrored rooms. And I stepped in, closed the door behind me and tossed the bra on the little seat inside. And I let out a disgusted sigh as I prepared to try on the thing…But then I stopped. Wait a second, I thought. Do I really want either of these women to earn a commission – even a SMALL one – considering how RUDE they were? And the answer was an explicit NO.
So I opened the door and walked out, hoping she was in the back room, rifling through bins of bras and that she’d come out to find me gone. But I know better. She was probably just hiding out around the corner so she could say she checked in the back, but there weren't any for me.
It may sound a little old-fogie of me but if I had to be nice to every person whose path I crossed for the last ten years of my life in the interest of keeping my job, how do these people get away with it? And how do they not think it's wrong? And, damnit, what the hell has happened to customer service?
I may have to write a letter.
Saturday, November 11, 2006
With my dainty little iPod in hand, I stretched and limbered up in preparation for the hour of work ahead of me. Though I have a workout playlist, I thought I'd take my chances with Shuffle. It carried me through my warm up with a little Kanye West, the drifted into too-slow Jonny Lang. I forwarded my way through until I hit the faster songs, the ones that got me moving and made me forget about the time I had left, the miles I still wanted to go.
Looking like an idiot, I silently sang along with each song, my body trying to dance despite the fact that my feet were occupied with the machine. I moved my mouth and pumped my arms and couldn't resist tapping along with the beat on the handles. It got me through my first half hour with no problems, making me forget that I had a whole half hour left.
It was when I had to reset the elliptical at the half hour mark that I noticed it: The battery indicator on my iPod, glowing red. I was running out of time. I was tired, though, and sort of grateful that my music would soon give out, as it felt like my thighs were threatening to give out, too. So I made a deal with myself: I'd keep going as long as the iPod did.
Song after song, I waited for that indicator to flash empty and for the screen to go blank, for the techno music currently playing to come to an abrupt halt. I ached for its end, pushing myself just enough to get through until the certain snap of silence came.
But it didn't. The music kept going. And going. And going.
So did I.
And, after over a full hour on the machine, I was finally able to stop; but because my time was up, not because the iPod gave out. Sweat poured down my face and torso as I slowly removed myself from the contraption, music still pumping away directly into my eardrums.
I would've quit, I would've been happy to. But I needed to keep going, and my trusty little iPod knew that.
Thank God for technology.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
He spoke. "Can we get a coke," he put his long fingers on his own chest, "and a pinot grigiot?" He grabbed my hand.
"Sure. Of course."
The hostess's heels clicked over the stone floor on her way to the bar. I wrapped Billy's hand in my own. "I love that," I said, leaning in to kiss the stubble on his cheek.
"That you knew I'd want a pinot without my asking."
Dating someone for a significant period of time allows you access to little pieces of them that not everyone gets to see. Sure, everyone I know knows that I love wine. But he knows that I love it with my sushi. And he knew, without my announcing it, that I'd like to indulge.
I know how he likes his coffee, I know that he likes the toilet paper over the roll, never under. I know that he likes to leave the window in the car open for a little while after we throw out our cigarettes. I know the face he makes in the mirror when he's assessing his shirt/tie combination. I know all of that.
Yesterday, he received two ties he'd ordered over the internet. He tore into the manila package with the anticipation of an eight year old on Christmas morning. He was giddy as he removed each silk accessory from its individual wrapping, letting the tie fall to its full length in front of me. "Look at this one," he purred, pulling the clear plastic off.
He surveyed their quality, he held them up to his long torso. "Whaddya think?" he asked, tilting his head to the side in mock coyness.
"It's beautiful," I said, laughing at him. "Is this what I'm like with a new pair of shoes?"
"Yes," he replied, setting the tie gingerly on the ottoman in front of us.
He hung up the ties in our closet, unsure of which one he'd wear today before we settled in for our DVR'd viewing of Lost.
Today, he called me on his way to work. After cooing good morning to one another, he asked me how my day was. I gave him my standard response of, "Eh. Fine. Yours?"
"Well, I watched some TV. Then I got ready, and now I'm driving to work. Aaaand, I'm wearing one of my new ties."
"Which one?" I asked, smiling and cradling the phone between my shoulder and my ear.
"Umm...The Ted Baker one. The one with the circles."
"Babe," he said, "how do you know me so well?"
In truth, I had a 50/50 shot to get that right. I could've just guessed and gotten lucky. But I didn't. Because of the way he tied it not once, but twice around his neck last night; a dry run for the tie. The way he surveyed it for pulls and irregularities. The way he considered the color of shirt to wear with it. He placed both new ties on the rack carefully and gingerly, but he fondled the circle tie just a hair more.
The thing is, people talk about the honeymoon phase all the time. The first few months of a relationship that find both parties blissful and enamored of one another. The period of time where they can't be torn from their lover's side, where everything that certain someone does is cute and romantic and wonderful. It's the time when butterflies tumble through your belly, each kiss is delicious and new, each spoken word of affection merely a stepping stone to love. Your stomach does somersaults while you wait for the relationship to take shape, you shave your legs every day, you buy new underwear, you wait for his call. It's hot and dizzying and wonderful...
And it lasts for about three months.
Then suddenly, you're in a relationship. And you're talking about the most mundane things over dinner. You talk about work and you share stories you've shared with one another a million times. You find yourself saying, "Did I tell you this already?" with the tone of voice that implies you know you have. You settle into a routine and you stop shaving your legs because, hey, it's winter and he loves me anyway; and you stop filling up silences with plush and giddy conversation. There is no need for filler in your lives any longer. You eat together, you wake together, you fall asleep together. You remind each other to "remember your phone" and "take your pill" and you start buying toilet paper and Tub'N'Tile cleaner and you can't remember the last time you wore a bustier.
And that honeymoon stage is great. It is. But this, this year-into-it, comfortable-with-each-other phase? It's so much better. Because along with no longer shaving every day, you no longer worry that maybe he doesn't love you like he says he does. You no longer feel like he loves you because you apply your makeup with the hand of an artist. He loves you for the skin and bones beneath it. He loves you when you wake up, your hair standing on end, with bad breath and sleep in your eyes. He loves you in your heels, but he loves you out of them, when he can wrap you in his arms and playfully call you "Shortie."
And you know one another. You aren't shy, and you aren't afraid, and you feel comfortable. And not the kind of comfortable that fosters laziness and neglect; the kind that feels like blankets and chamomile tea and a good book. He's no longer an amphetamine, he's a glass of wine and deep kiss, slow and certain.
And he is. He's my home, my favorite meal, the sweet surprise of the wine that stays on my lips after a drink. He's my safe place, my solace. I know my way around him inch-by-inch, and he's embedded with a road map of me. And I love that we still have roads to learn.
I've never been happier.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
We want romance. We're supposed to look, keep looking, until we find the kind of fairy tale we've seen in a million movies, on a million diamond ring commercials. We're not supposed to settle. We're not supposed to put up with anything but perfection, that a man who loves us will do anything he can to keep us by his side.
We know we're supposed to find a man who will love us like our parents do, unconditionally and without exception. We're supposed to find the man who will adore us like our fathers have, who will dote on us like our mothers. We know we want him to think we're most beautiful first thing in the morning, with messy hair and sleepy eyes. We know we want him to dedicate love songs and leave us love notes. We want him to love us for who we are beneath the breasts and the tiny waist and the curves of a woman.
We want to know he's there for us. We want to know he's someone we can turn to when in trouble. We want to be able to rely on him; for safety, security, protection, comfort.
We know we're supposed to take care of him in return. We know we should make ourselves beautiful for him; wear frilly underthings and lingerie with black stockings and high heels. We know to make him feel special, to be excited to see him. We wash his shirts and tandem with our own, marrying our loads of laundry to show him we care. We get him gifts, tell him he looks handsome, tell him we need him. We know to make him feel needed and wanted, just as much as we need to feel needed ourselves.
We know it takes work. We know we will fight and disagree and not see eye to eye. We know we'll say things we don't mean, and that he will do the same. We know we will cry - with joy and sadness. We know it will love him so much that it hurts. And we know that very love will make us more vulnerable to pain. We know that he'll know how to hurt us like no one else, but the he can make us happier than anyone else could ever dream.
Monday, November 06, 2006
It started when I came in this morning to see my two coworkers taking the garbage out behind my desk. They thought there must've been food in there, and that's where the slight odor was coming from. But, an hour later and the smell was still around. After three blasts of Fabreeze Air Effects, I finally moved the garbage can to see if food had somehow fallen behind the bin itself. And there it was: A mouse, curled up, post mortem, hiding behind my trash can. After yelping and calling out to my boss to "GET IT OUT OF HERE" (because he set the trap and is therefore responsible for removal of the corpse), it's gone...But it seems to be the icing on top of the really shitty cake that is today.
Because I woke up feeling ill-at-ease, due to a dream I must've had somewhere between falling asleep wrapped in the arms of my boyfriend around midnight, and waking up sweaty and panicked at 6:30. The details of the dream escape me, but I know I must've done something very, very wrong in it.
And I have a pimple the size of a small animal growing out of my face. It's one of those that is impossible to cover up without the use of a veil or bandana worn robber-style. It's just too round and robust to compete with any makeup. And, naturally, it's the first and only thing I see when I look in the mirror. I'll go to check my eye makeup, and my eyes will automatically travel down to my chin, where I see the pimple gestating. I think, last time I looked, I saw a horn or a leg forming. I can't be sure which.
So, while tilting my head just so to allow minimum visibility of said blemish, I decided to just get to work. And trying to open my email proved to be too much for my Dell to handle. I'd click the icon, and my computer would think for a minute, then shake its head vigorously from side to side and cross its little wire arms and refuse to open it. Then it decided that I couldn't have Word, either. Or Excel. OR the internet. That was my breaking point. So I shut down.
OVER AN HOUR LATER, I'm finally back up and running. That hour included, but was not limited to: Having to End Task my way out of every program running on my computer, as it would not allow me to manually close them out. Waiting for my computer to end said tasks. The Shut Down dialogue box coming up three times, only to disappear before I could click "OK." Finally clicking the box, only to have the computer go ahead and end a bunch of programs I wasn't even aware of. Going through the arduous process of letting it shut down. Then facing the even more challenging process of getting it started again. Once it was running again, I decided it best to do a virus scan. Which came back clean, but would not let me run any other programs while it was sweeping.
It was in the middle of this process that I found the mouse.
BUT. We did get the new Playboy in the office today - the one with Cindy Margolis "Nude, for the first time ever!" in it. So I guess it's all about the yin and the yang today.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
Now, a mess of nail glue, one cotton ball, one pair of ruined, gluey scissors, one ruined, gluey nail clipper, a set of THREE nail files, two types of paint, a lot of contortionism, some Q-tips and one oh-shit-I-glued-my-fingers-together incident, my toes are now polished a lovely shade of deep, deep maroon and currently drying.
The thing is, it's my Saturday off, and this is all I'm doing. I mean, I always have these big plans for the infrequent Saturday I'm not forced to spend in the office. I think, "I'll go shopping!" Or "I'll clean the house!" Or "I'm going to clean my car!" I always think I'll be getting up and at 'em early and keep going all day, because I'm not in the office. But this is what always ends up happening. I lay in bed, I think about doing other stuff, and then I watch all the reality television my brain can handle with out melting, and I don't get out of bed until about 2.
Which means, I guess, that I can stay here for two more hours.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
I was surprised when he answered because normally, when the phone rings, he looks up from his book or the TV or his dinner, and at the phone invariably placed right next to him with unmasked indifference. He smiles, and says "Phone's ringin'." Mom, Chase or I would scramble to answer before the jingling stopped, usually uttering something playful along the lines of "God forbid you answer it," or "You just know it's not for you," as we hit the talk button. He chuckles to himself, his mustache curling with the corners of his mouth.
But, on this call, he picks up. His deep voice issues a sunny hello.
"Hey Daddy," I say, my is voice tired from the gym, but happy to hear him.
"Well hello there," he replies, his words strong and southern. "What are you doing?"
"Nothing," I tell him. I sit on the bed, holding the phone with one hand, scrunching my wet, fresh-from-the-shower hair with the other.
"You eating dinner?"
"I ate already. I was at the gym. I just ate a sandwich. What are you doing?"
"Well, nothing, really. We just got home."
"Where'd you go?"
"Oh, we had to go up to West Point to get your mom's ID card renewed. Then we went to Perkins for some supper. Then we got home and took Sammy outside." The way he says Sammy's name tells me that the Golden Retriever is somewhere nearby. "So we ran around for a little bit out there, and then we came inside." When Daddy takes Sam outside, he throws old, chewed up tennis balls into the trees surrounding our house so that the reddish-gold Sam can bound through the yard to pick them up. They play every day, until it gets dark or one of them gets tired. It's their little ritual.
"Well that's nice."
"Yeah," he says. I can hear his standard half-smile in his voice. "What about you?"
"Oh, same as always: I went to work. I went to the gym tonight, did some kickboxing, then I came home, showered, ate my Subway from last night, and now I'm talking to you."
I hear the TV in the background instead of him.
"Huh? Yeah. Hold on..." His voice trails off. He's distracted, watching TV. I cradle my little silver cell-phone between my shoulder and my ear, start picking on my nails, and wait for him to return. "Well, Iiii'll be," comes his southern colloquialism of surprise. He sounds more and more like my grandfather, his father, every day. "Clive Cussler has a new book out." He's watching a commercial for it on the TV. "I guess I'll have to remember that. I only have two un-read books in my little library, so I can't start them until I have a new one to read."
"Huh? Daddy, that doesn't even make sense," I joke.
"Well, you know, it's so I have another book there for when I finish one. I like to have a couple lined up. Because, you ever read a book, and you like it and the characters so much, that you're almost sad when it's over?"
I smile. I know exactly. I'm the same way. "Yeah."
"Well, that's how I am. So I need something else to go to next." I make a mental note of the book.
He goes on to tell me about the main character, and how all of the books are set in present day, so the hero's got to be "gettin' up there" in age. He tells me about the story lines, the characters. I sit on the other end of the line, just listening to him. So unusual for him to just want to talk.
He tells me about his meetings at work, his schedule, the pile of mail I have waiting for me there. "I'll come pick it up," I say begrudgingly. The standing joke is that I never take my junk mail. Only the important envelopes: The bills and the correspondence.
"Well, I think I put in a bill in there, but it's hard to tell, because your little basket is so full of mail."
I sigh dramatically. "I'll come pick it all up," I huff with a smile.
His response is a good natured, half-believing "Okay then."
"So, is my mother around?" I ask.
"Maybe. What's it worth to you?"
"Uuuhhh...A visit?" I grin, even though he can't see me. I always feel like a little girl around him.
"Hmm. A visit...And maybe a hug?" he suggests.
"Yeah, I could do that." I laugh.
"Well, that sounds like a good deal to me." His smile is audible.
Much like we don't care for the telephone, and feel sad when we finish good books, my father and I are both not much for affection. My mom jokes that she used to suffocate my dad when they first married, her desire for touch was so great. And my dad? Not so much. Typically German, he's all about less being more in terms of endearment. So his insistence that a hug be included in my deal touched me for some reason.
A few nights ago, I was at a friend's house when her sister stopped by. It was Halloween, and my friend's sister had brought her daughter along, in costume. We exchanged "hello"s and "good to see you"s while the young daughter ran around the house chasing my friend's cat. My father works with my friend's sister, so we talked a little bit about what's going on work-wise.
"Watch this," the sister said to me conspiratorially. She called to her daughter. "You know Mike, at my work?" she said to her daughter. "That's Laurie's dad." I couldn't see her daughter's reaction, but the sister turned to me with a smile on her face. "She just loves your father. Talks his ear off every time I bring her into the office."
The daughter rounded the corner hesitantly, sizing me up. I smiled at her. "You like my dad, huh?" I said sweetly. She kicked at the floor in response; shy. "Yeah, I like him, too."
People love my father. At every turn, I run into people who tell me what a good man he is. He's so tall, and can be so imposing, but he's just so sweet. With his southern drawl, his mane of salt and pepper hair, his ever-present thick gray mustache, and the wrinkles from a million smiles around his big blue eyes, he's every bit the gentleman. And he's all mine.
"Well then, it's a deal," I reply to my father, getting a little teary for some reason. It's odd how appreciating what you have escapes you so easily. I have possibly the two cutest and greatest parents on the earth.
"Well, alright, sweetie. Here's your mom. Love you."
"I love you, too, Daddy."
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
A terrorist knows where your buttons are, and exactly how to push them. He knows your neuroses, and capitalizes on them. If he’s very good at his hideous craft, he will hit you in ten places at once. A sort of one-man divide-and-conquer battle plan. He knows you’re expecting him to call on his way home. So he doesn’t. He’ll say it’s because he forgot, but he knows how you get when you don’t hear from people. You feel like your target has been hit twice in one fell swoop. He refuses to answer you when you’re in a fight, clamming up entirely, possibly even turning his back to you, while you are still in fits of anger over whatever stupid subject has come up between you. He knows you hate this because A) you can’t stand to be ignored, B) you always feel the need to TALK, dammit, and C) it makes you wonder if you’ve 1) pissed him off or 2) suggested something in your last line of questions/assaults/accusations/inquiries that hit a little too close to home for him, so now you’re going to relive that last tirade and wonder which of those things rang true. He’ll say he’s clamming up for you; his silence is his way of sparing you, his way of getting over it slowly. But you feel like this kind of impact is exponentially deeper than just calling you names or yelling.
Because terrorists know that name-calling and yelling are useless tools when in war. They know that well-chosen words can slice like finely-sharpened blades. Names? Yelling? That just makes you angry, makes you want to fight back. So he knows that a lot of silence mixed in with biting chill and a dash of a good vocabulary can sting and wound, and those lacerations are enough to drive you mental. Because if he’s not really “fighting” you, if his attack is sneaky and undefined, how can you fight back? EXACTLY. You can’t.
Even if you are only terrorizing yourself, as the terrorized, what do you? Not much, really. The whole battle may even be all in your head. So you can give up worrying, because you finally realized that worrying about it all the time is just the equivalent of being a kamikaze; You're just killing yourself. You won’t cry and beg and ask what’s wrong, you won’t try to figure out what you can do to make it better. Because that’s only making you miserable, and his victory that much sweeter. You’ve been a passive-aggressive terrorist before. You know what it’s like to be on the throwing end of the grenades. You also know what it’s like to be on the receiving end. And you used to catch those grenades and try to dismantle them. But now? You just duck.
In the privacy of your room, you pour your feelings into page after unpublished-page of Blogger and Vox. In the privacy of your car, you replay the same song over and over again, until you’re numb to the words; until John Mayer's “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” is just beautiful imagery and good writing, not a metaphor for your relationship right now. You buy that CD the night of the fight, you play it until the words are memorized, and you continue to play it until the words no longer bring tears to your eyes. It’s your way of battening down the hatches, mounting your offensive, steeling yourself for battle. You email your good friend from your work computer, where the day is endless in its uncertainty. You complain and make jokes about your OCD and your anxiety and your paranoia. Because the person you’re emailing with, she knows you and she knows your other half and she calms you. She knows you’re just preparing yourself for the fight. Getting it out of you when he’s not around makes you a better warrior. You know it.
And you don’t cry. Not this time. Because it’s futile. Maybe alone, if you have to, but not in his presence. It doesn’t soften him, it doesn’t make him bend to you, it doesn’t make him put down his weapons. And, anyway, as far as you’re concerned, tears are as good in battle as white flags. Who’s surrendering? Not you.
You’ll fight because you’re used to fighting. You have the shell shock to prove it. But you won’t stay mad for long. You realize that, already, shortly after the battle has begun, it becomes about winning and pride and who caved first. It’s no longer a battle over something important; now it has mutated into a battle of will. You may not even remember why the war was waged.
So you do what you must to make yourself stronger. You prepare and sharpen your blade and shine your shield, even though you know you won’t use either of those things. You slam your helmet down lazily on your head, apathy coursing through you. “Let’s get this over with.” It's just not that important to fight, or to win. It's just important that it finishes.
When you see the him, you act like things haven’t changed, like nothing is wrong. You may feel like he’s punishing you by pushing your buttons, making you worry, but you won’t bow to what you’ve perceived is his demand to cower. Nor will you stoop to the level of conniving woman. You do the things you always do, like life is normal: You bring him his coffee in the morning. You buy him dinner, even if he doesn’t eat it. You wash his clothes and hang his shirts and ball his socks. And even when he lies next to you in bed, not speaking, you’ll try to initiate conversation. Not meekly, or unsure, but like nothing is wrong. Is it an admission of defeat? No. Is it an olive branch by way of Downy and Starbucks? No. It’s going about your daily life.
Because we all know that fear is a terrorist’s greatest weapon.
Even if you are your own terrorist sometimes.