I am Bonnie

A long time ago I used to work in the Forest Products office at Oregon State University. I worked with my best friend Debbie, a boss who was so stupid sometimes I wondered if it was possible for someone to be that dumb, and a sociopath named Bonnie. Bonnie was…I can’t even begin to describe her in a single word except to say she was a sociopath. She could and did make life hell for a lot of people. She was also very annoying. She was possibly the most negative person I have ever met. If it was sunny, she complained that it was too hot and should be rainy. If it was rainy, she complained it was raining. If we had work to do, she complained that she had work to do and that she was the only one who could possibly do it. If we didn’t have work to do, then she complained because she was bored. She didn’t like her chair. She would get another chair and wouldn’t like it and go back to the original and then complain about it. She had gossip to share on every single person who walked in our door and even those who didn’t. It was a guarantee that as soon as you left the room she was dishing something about you and turning anything you did into something to complain about and to use to make you look bad. The only consolation with her was that she was an equal-opportunity sociopath so if she didn’t have her sights set on you, she was going after someone else and there were a lot of other people for her to choose from.

Most of the time I worked with Bonnie was pure hell. Six months after I started working in the lab, I was wondering if I was crazy. Between the boss who couldn’t figure out how to explain the most basic assignments to this constantly complaining crazy woman who had something nasty to say about every human who walked into the office, I seriously thought I was losing my mind. Luckily, I made friends with Debbie and discovered that no, I wasn’t nuts, the office was. She helped me stick it out (until I got pregnant and realized I didn’t want the loony factory anywhere near my growing fetus, but that’s another story).

Sometimes working with Bonnie could be fun. It wasn’t fun because of anything Bonnie did to make it fun, but because Debbie and I could see what she was doing and it would make us roll our eyes and laugh silently from behind our hands on our lunch break. Bonnie fancied herself the sexiest woman in the office and made a great show of throwing herself at every male who walked through the door. This got to be quite amusing, especially when the male was a 20 something grad student from India or Pakistan who had no idea that what she was doing was supposed to turn him on. Many of the older, white, male professors got off on her attention, which could be kind of gross (especially the one who was married to a disabled wife with MS), but Debbie and I could still find things about this situation that made us laugh.

The lab would periodically hold grad thesis presentations whereby the student would make their presentation to faculty and other students, followed by a small reception with doughnuts and other refreshments. Prior to these events, an announcement was to be made by our office notifying everyone on our floor that the presentation and reception would be taking place. Bonnie LOVED doing this and would literally race to the microphone to make sure she got to be the one to make the announcement. She would snarl something or other to us about how “The goddamned printer isn’t working again! The piece of shit must be out of ink or something.” Then she would turn to the microphone, sexily flip her hair behind her shoulders, lean in and grasp the microphone and breathily intone, “At four o’clock this afternoon, which is in just fifteen minutes (breath, breath, breath), there will be a presentation by Rakesh Akbahr, on the role of stress-strain on the physical transformations that occur (breath) during the cure of thermosetting adhesive-to-wood bonds (breath, breath, breath). After that (breath) there will be a reception in the Buchanon room, where refreshments will be served.” She’d then flop back down in her rolling desk chair and screech at us again, “Goddamned rain. It was supposed to be sunny today.

Debbie and I could laugh and laugh at these displays (out of the office, of course).

Bonnie told us she was an expert on everything. She said she had a degree in forestry, as well as a degree in nursing, and in English, and several others I no longer remember. No matter what came up that required some knowledge by someone in the office, she was in competition to be the top person in that knowledge and she usually had a degree to go along with it. Debbie and I would wonder to ourselves why she wasn’t putting these degrees to good use somewhere considering how underappreciated and underpaid she was sharing an office with us. It is because of Bonnie’s expertise that I even bring her up in this post today. I earned a Juris Doctorate degree in 2003. Then last year, I completed a Master’s in Teaching so that I could transition out of being a lawyer and become a teacher instead.

Last week, I had a conversation with someone, the content of which really isn’t that important. In the course of the conversation, the person I was speaking to was telling me another person had complained about something and that they had to complain because they were a teacher and as a teacher, they were required to complain. This puzzled me because I knew that the thing about which this person was supposedly required to complain was not required of teachers, so I said to the person I was speaking to, “I am a teacher, and that is not actually true.” He looked at me rather consternatedly (now there’s a word) as if to say, “Huh? I thought you were a lawyer?” because in another conversation on another day, he had asked me what kind of work I did and at the time he asked, I told him I was a lawyer, so my saying that I was a teacher on this new occasion was probably a bit odd to him.

I was like Bonnie and her multitude of unrelated degrees. I don’t have a multitude of unrelated degrees, I only have a couple of them. There is my undergraduate degree in English, then there is the lawyer degree, then there is the teacher degree. So I have several degrees and they are mostly unrelated. This got me to thinking about Bonnie and my time in the Forest Products lab so many years ago — twenty years ago actually, is when I started. I’ve stayed friends with Debbie. She came to the birth of my baby and probably knows me better than any other friend.

A lot has happened since then. I wonder now, with my handful of unrelated degrees, if maybe Bonnie really did have a forestry degree and an English degree and a nursing degree, and maybe perhaps something happened that she didn’t need to work in those fields at all. I don’t know. I can’t remember her last name so I can’t look her up (even if I wanted to, which, true told, I really don’t).

If I did look her up, I would find her and tell her I’m sorry for doubting her many educational accomplishments and let her know that I too now have many educational accomplishments. We could get a coffee and reminisce and I could tell her how funny I thought it was when she made the sexy forest products announcements and she could tell me how much she hates the weather and the coffee in the coffee shop we meet in and the chairs in the coffee shop and make googly eyes at the male patrons and…

On second thought, maybe not.

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Our Illusion of Connectivity

Three years ago I wrote a blog post about the illusion of connectivity. It said:

“I go to Facebook. I go to email. I check all the addresses. I go back to Facebook. I check my blog. I go back to Facebook. In all, I find not what I am looking for. It is not satisfying. I see posts I share. I read here and there. On email I get Truthout, read through the articles. Find one that is really interesting. Read to the bottom. Post on Facebook. Go back to email. Go to Facebook. Read Salon, click on the link to “Continue Reading.” Go back to email. Nothing. Something from Powell’s. Something from Bug of the Day. Go back to Facebook. Share a picture of some cute animal or funny thing from George Takei, but overall, no connection. Not really.

To keep reading, please click here.

How to Be Dumb Like Me

Here’s how to be dumb like me:  Get invited to a Halloween party via text from a friend. Pencil the party in your brain’s calendar, but don’t put it in any other type of calendar. Keep it there for weeks. Get an idea for a costume. Buy a mask and body suit to go with your blue wig to be a blue-haired cat. Place suit in closet and mask on top of the refrigerator. Ask someone to go to the party with you. Get that person to get a costume. Plan for that Sunday to go to the party. Saturday the night before, hang out with your children and go to the grocery store late. While at the grocery store, stare stupidly at your phone when a text comes in asking why you’re not at the party. Go back through old texts from friend. Find text sent several weeks ago inviting you to the party on the Saturday before Halloween, which it is. Slap head. On the Sunday when you planned to be at a party, go bowling instead. Leave costume on top of refrigerator and in the closet.

Delusions

I had a friend who I thought was one of my bestest friends in the whole wide world. I have a couple of other bestests who fit into this category, but there are some topics that are simply not discussed with them. One is not interested in hearing about my lack of love travails. The other really could care less about anything about spiritual growth or any of that.

Yet I could discuss anything this friend who I thought was one of my bestest. Even when we hadn’t seen one another in weeks or months or years, which could happen because we didn’t live close, we could pick right up and begin again. A couple of years ago, we made a decision to try and visit one another more because we were both lonely for a bestest friend we could see more often.

Then last year she decided not to be friends with me. Stupid facebook. It posts everything you do on all your friends’ pages and all they say back and on and on. All of it was about politics. I am drifting too much left for her (or many friends, actually), and I knew she didn’t like that. She didn’t like what my other friends said so she cut me off, then sent me a message telling me as much, then that was it. I never heard from her again. Phone calls unreturned. No more emails. I knew it was final when the birthday passed without so much as a whisper because she’s always sent a card at the very least.

It’s been a life lesson that I’ve chosen to replicate my family dynamic (I am a cliche’ of the highest order). I get it now. I’ve spent three years of work with a woman who is like an old medicine woman in her capacity to heal old wounds, plus a good year and a half checking in with her now and then. Years with counselors before never even got me in the same healing ballpark that this woman did. She is amazing. In any case, I understand it was my dynamic to choose people to love who didn’t love me back quite as much or at all. I make different choices in how I pick people now, but it’s slow going sometimes.

I never considered this friend whom I have known for nearly 20 years to fall into that category, yet I have gradually realized that she did. I look back and see the signs. They were there. They were sometimes right in my face, but no, I didn’t see it. How blind we can be sometimes when we don’t want to see something. She meant more to me than I did to her. It’s as simple as that, and as painful.

I’m thinking of this now and writing about it because I miss her. I haven’t spoken to her in almost a year and I miss her sometimes so much it hurts. I want her to be my bestest again, even if she never really was because I can be such a deluded fool sometimes.

Ah well. Sunny days will come again? Maybe…

We Have No More Passion

This is what modern life is:  All relationships are via some electronic device, or they do not exist at all. Meeting face to face is a rare occurrence except in the workplace, and if you work alone, woe be to you. If you want to find out what is happening in a friend’s life, you have to use some version of social media to discover it, because it will not be found out through real conversation. Even the phone has gone by the wayside and telephone conversations are rare. Everyone is too busy to connect with real humans that have any meaning to them unless those humans happen to live in the same house, and even then, it won’t be the sort of connection time and reflection bring, but the rushed and desperate connection of going to and fro. If there is a misunderstanding via electronic device which lacks the nuance of face to face connection, it is quite possible the relationship will end, regardless of how long you have known one another because with electronic misunderstandings comes the possibility of projection of whatever the person who misunderstands chooses to perceive, whether or not there is any basis in reality. Even when you do meet your friends in person, this is no guarantee you will actually connect with them. The devices are there too, intercepting. Faces don’t turn toward one another, but toward little screens, lighting the visage with cold, blue light.

These are the lives we have created for ourselves. In exchange for products that can do everything for us and do do everything for us, we have given up human connection, human passion. Maybe it isn’t such a travesty that we seem on the trajectory to self-destruction.

Mulling

Losing a friend, or realizing that you are not to a friend what she is to you, feels as lousy as a breakup. It is essentially the same thing. You walk around dazed for a while thinking of all the times you thought things were one way when they obviously were not. You think of ways to make things different, then you realize there is not a damn thing you can do about any of it. At least that is how it is for me. It has taken me decades for me to understand that I have, for as long as I can remember, chosen friends and boyfriends who are not nearly as devoted to me as I am to them. I have maybe 2 friendships where this isn’t the case, but they are certainly the exception. And this person, this one I thought was a bestie. Shows what I know.

I don’t know how to be different.

Undergoing Modification

I made Christmas presents this year. This is not unusual for me; I’ve made them for the last 8 or 9 years at least. There are many reasons for this. First and foremost is that I want to get off the consumer merry-go-round that are western holidays. I also want to raise my children to understand the meaning behind the holidays, that it is about the connection with friends and loved ones rather than rampant shopping and spending. I want them to realize there is much more satisfaction in giving a gift that you spent time creating, putting in that time, and then having it come together, than there is wandering fluorescent aisles searching for something made in China along with a million other somethings made there. Finally, it does help to save somewhat, although the materials for everything I have ever made have not been cheap.

Over the years we have made many gifts. A couple of years ago we made candles. This was a great project to share with Milla. She loved improving her candle-making skills. We spent time together over several days crafting a variety of candles out of beeswax. It was a lot of work. Other years we have made candy and baked goods. We have made soap, and bottled bath oils. That was fun. Once the presents are made, I love wrapping them up in tissue and ribbon, presenting them beautifully.

This year I decided I would make scarves. Milla and I went together to the fabric store and chose some lovely crushed velvet in a variety of colors. For some, we chose some embellishments for the ends of the scarves to jazz them up. Milla really enjoyed this part of it. She likes decorating things. The two of us worked hard on the scarves. Milla helped a lot, and also made choices about which scarves should have decorations on them. Some of them had such beautiful fabric that any froufrou would have taken away from the scarves themselves. Milla loved having the sewing machine running all the time. She also made some incredibly beautiful little satin tie bags. I was impressed with her abilities. She has been taking sewing in school and I had no idea how much she had learned.

Then we gave the gifts. The anti-climax. The grave disappointment.

Gradually over the last several years, I have felt increasingly disenchanted with the reception our gifts have received. One friend in particular seems almost offended that we give her a handmade gift. In return one year she gave me an item she had obviously received for free at some sort of employer function. Amazingly, almost none of the recipients thank us. This year only one showed any real gratitude and commented on how difficult it must have been to make her scarf.

I haven’t been making these gifts hoping for gushing gratitude and admiration. In fact, such platitudes would make me very uncomfortable. But it is so disappointing when the receivers are offended or completely indifferent, especially when, like these scarves, I honestly chose to make a gift I thought they would enjoy. After so many years of the reactions we have gotten, I tried to make gifts that I really thought they would like. I chose colors I knew each person loved. I chose styles that matched them. After their reactions, it makes me wonder why I should even bother. (I can write all of this without impunity or concern that these people will see this as digging for compliments because none of my friends read my blog.)

I have been embarking on a transformation of sorts over the last few years. One thing I have come to understand about myself is that I have consistently chosen non-reciprocal relationships, not only love relationships, but friendships too. In the past I have chosen people who don’t want me as much as I want them. This was the dynamic in my family and I repeated it. I’m such a cliche’ and I get it. Interestingly, as I have realized this about myself, I have made different choices, and I’m managing to develop some friendships that are not like this. But it is hard. Finding new friends is not easy. To alleviate this, I’m actively seeking out activities where I might meet other people. I read once that our peak opportunities for making friends are in school and when our children are little. I’m past school. Isabel is still little so I suppose there is still that possibility once she goes to school.

In any case, I want something to be different. It is hugely disappointing to spend hours making a gift for someone only to have it received with absolute indifference. Maybe I need to make friends who also make their gifts, and for the same reason. Really I want something different in more than just this, and I’m getting there. Sometimes I wish it would happen just a little sooner, that’s all.