Gads

Ninth grade. I was not popular. In fact, I was the opposite of popular. I was the butt of many school jokes. Popular kids plugged their noses when I walked by. They “sprayed” themselves with their finger if I accidentally touched them. I know I didn’t stink, but that didn’t matter. Mostly I walked through the halls of junior high invisibly, and I cultivated this. I went out of my way to avoid detection. I had enough of a temper that if pushed I would strike back, quick and mean, then retreat and hide. Mostly though, I just tried to avoid being noticed. I read books constantly, pretended I was riding my horse through the halls, and tried to operate under their radar. Sometimes though, I failed utterly and completely, in spite of my best efforts.

We all had to take Sex Ed in ninth grade. Good god, what the fuck were the administrators thinking? They so underestimate teenagers. I had a crush on Mike Darby. Mike was lanky and horse-faced, with tousley brown hair, but I thought he was adorable. Mike was popular. He was on the football team. Everyone knew who he was. He did not know who I was. I would fantasize that he would say hello to me. That was how silly and naive I was. I did not even consider hand-holding or kissing. At age thirteen, such conjectures were well without my realm of possibility. No. Saying hello was about as brave as I could get.

Because of my crush, I wrote “I like MD” on my palm. Why did I do that? Did some little part of me hope he would notice and fall instantly in love with me at the sight of his initials inscribed on my hand? Was I a fool? Come to think of it, I doubt I thought much of anything. I probably sat there in my teenage, hormone-addled state, reading something from the library. I read a lot in the library. In fact, I took pride in the fact that I had read every book in the junior high library by the end of eighth grade. I also won the library’s “Ghastly Riddle Contest” at Halloween. It was a sort of treasure hunt through haunted books whereby clues were given in the form of quotes. You went to the quote and it would lead you to another clue. It required some knowledge of the books involved to locate the original quotes. A weekly clue would be handed out to help you when you were stumped. I won a nice set of horse books, which I still have, actually. I think they knew that I would win since I spent every free moment in the library.

Anyway, I digress. Back to my lusting after Mike Darby by hoping he would say hello. I had taken the liberty of professing my love via ball point pen. I sat hiding in the far row of Sex Ed class. I do not recall the name of the teacher, but I remember what he looked like. He was one of the coaches. He was tall and stocky, with blonde hair shorn closely like in the military. Unlike some teachers, he was actually pretty kind to me. The head cheerleading coach acted like I was a virus she might catch if I asked her something about the pre-algebra that she taught. But Mr. Sex Ed was pleasant enough.

There I sat in Mr. Sex Ed’s class. It was a sunny afternoon and I remember sitting and staring lazily into the sunbeams. I had done the reading. Mr. Sex Ed was dozing up front. Most of the class was chatting and passing notes back and forth. Suddenly Kelly Dee, who sat behind me, leaned forward in her chair and peered over at me.

An aside about Kelly Dee. When my parents chose to move our family to “the country” because that is where I thought I wanted to live in order to have a horse, I was in the sixth grade. The little school in our town had one grade per class and each class had about twelve students. Kelly Dee was in my class. She immediately befriended me and nearly as immediately dumped me when she discovered that I did not smoke, drink, or swear, and that I rode horses and read books. She had perfectly feathered blonde hair. I did not have perfectly feathered blonde hair. Mine curled in all the wrong places and my mom cut it for me. How humiliating.

Kelly Dee wore San Franciscos and Sticky Fingers and had several colors of Nike swish shoes. I had one pair of Sticky Fingers, no San Franciscos, and no Nike swish shoes. I wore Keds and Keds were not popular. Kelly Dee knew that one was supposed to carry a large comb in one’s back pocket. Until meeting her, I was not privy to such inside information. Essentially, Kelly Dee had all the makings of a cool person while I had zero. By the end of ninth grade when this incident took place, we were in junior high and I did not exist. Kelly Dee was a cheerleader. She still had perfectly feathered hair. Mine still curled in the wrong places. I think I may have finally acquired a pair of Nike swish shoes and a comb, but they were clearly not noticed in the library where I spent all of my time.

I was not happy to have Kelly Dee peering over my shoulder. Kelly Dee did not involve herself with me except to make my life miserable. She had completely mastered the pretend to be friendly and suck me in while simultaneously concocting some nasty evil plot approach. She would say something that seemed kind. Weaving back and forth, back and forth, hypnotizing me, I would respond to the false kindness, believing for a moment that she might actually be friendly, whereupon she would suddenly expose her true nature, losing the lovely exterior, spitting in my eyes and becoming the cobra she truly was. Once she put gum in my hair without my notice. Usually she would say something really ugly and make her friends laugh. “Do you use butter grease to style your hair?” she would sneer. Her friends would erupt in laughter. Ha ha. Real funny. You’re so clever, why don’t you hit the comedy circuit?

Back in Sex Ed, she wanted to know, “Who is MD?” Uh oh. Uh oh. Uh oh. Fuck.

“Nobody you know.” My heart was pounding. Why couldn’t she just go away? Why did she have to torture me? Was I really such an obvious target? Apparently so because she did not go away. “So who is it?”

“No one you know. Someone from another school.” God, please don’t let her know. Mike Darby was in that class. If he found out. Oh crap.

“What’s his name? MD. MD. Is it Mike Darby?” What the….? How in the hell had she nailed that on the first try? Maybe she saw my hand and worked it out before saying anything.

“No. No, it’s not Mike Darby. It is not. No.” I stammered, obviously flustered. I must have seemed like a giant bullseye for her pointy cobra fangs.

“It’s Mike Darby isn’t it.” It wasn’t even a question. “You like Mike Darby. Wow.” She turned and told her friend, another Kelly who must not have been so evil because I do not remember her last name. “She likes Mike Darby. Can you believe it?” Kelly could not believe it. In fact, she was so shocked that she had to share it with the girl next to her.

Then Kelly Dee did the unthinkable. She called out to Mike Darby, “Hey Mike. Lara likes you.” Oh my dear God, please kill me now. I should be punished for having written those damn initials on my hand. Actually, I was being punished for having written those damn initials on my hand. Mike Darby turned and looked over in our direction. He may have been looking at me. I don’t know. I was staring at my desk and begging the gods to reach down and suck me from my chair. Anything, anything but this.

“Is this bad news true?” he asked. All the kids who had been paying attention laughed.

My pain was complete. Not only had I been fully humiliated by darling Kelly Dee, Mike Darby saw my liking him as bad news and he wasn’t afraid to say so. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I suffered through the remainder of the class, wishing I could disappear. Having ensured she had gotten a good and deep bite right into the side of my head, Kelly Dee was no longer interested in torturing me. She moved on to discussions of cheerleading routines and hairdos. My face burned and the room swam. I pretended to read my Sex Ed book. At least I could say the bad news was no longer true. I no longer liked Mike Darby and could not wait for class to end so I could go and wash my hand.

Once the bell rang, I shuffled through my belongings to take as long as possible to leave class and ensure I did not have to rise and move with the other students. After every one of them was gone I sat for a few more seconds. Alone in the room, I took a deep breath. It seemed like it had been long enough for the lot of them to clear out of the hallway.

I must have lacked some serious capacity to foretell possibilities because it had not been long enough for Mike Darby to clear out of the hallway. He was the only one left, digging through his locker that was just across the hall from the Sex Ed classroom. Mine was down past his, requiring that I pass him, completely humiliated. Thankfully, he did not look up as I shuffled quickly by. Perhaps part of his dismay at my liking him had been for show. Certainly his reaction had been. At least he left me alone. I went to my locker, deposited my books, and took the long way around to P.E. class because the direct route would have taken me past his locker again, and there was no way I was going there.

Junior high is certainly a breeding ground for mean people. Volumes have been written on the subject. Millions have been made in movies about the outcasts being tortured. Pleasure is taken in the geek who grows up and shows up to the high school reunion in a helicopter. I think we all assume that as adults this crap goes away. Unfortunately, that’s wishful thinking. Even if you grow into a swan and develop inner strength and confidence, there are those people who never move past being mean to you.

Lucky for me we moved away from that school after ninth grade, so Kelly and her friends were only able to harass me during those three years of junior high. I heard that she got pregnant her senior year in high school. A few years after graduation, I saw her at a discount store. She was extremely heavy and was dragging around four ruffian-looking children. A friend of mine who had finished school with her said they all had different fathers (not that this is a bad thing). I remembered her bragging in eighth grade about drinking and having sex. Maybe whatever made her so damn mean was also what made her gain a lot of weight and have lots of kids by the time she was 23. She’d clearly hit her prime in junior high. She was still mean though. At the store, she came up to me and sneered, “You think you’re really hot now, don’t you, Lara?”

I remember looking at her, not knowing who she was because she looked so wretched and different. When it was obvious I hadn’t a clue about her identity, she said, “I’m Kelly, Kelly Dee,” like I was retarded or something. Funny. I realize now what she said sounded like Forrest, Forrest Gump. I said hello and turned to continue walking with my mom.

This happened decades ago, but it still follows me around. There is a man I’m interested in. In a recent conversation, after he said something about himself that impressed me to no end, I let my interest be known (at least I think I did). I then began to babble. When I get nervous, I babble, and nothing makes me more nervous than liking someone and thinking I let him know. For hours after being around him, I felt horribly humiliated and embarrassed. What the hell was I thinking? Why did I say that? Why didn’t I just shut up!?!? I berated myself. Random pieces of the conversation kept coming back to me and I wanted to go hide under a rock. I still kinda do…

Today I told my best friend Debbie about this man I like, this conversation, what I said, and how I felt. I told her how utterly and completely stupid I feel every time I think about it, wishing and hoping I had just kept it all to myself, worrying about what he must think of me. She couldn’t believe this was my reaction. I always have this reaction when I am interested in someone and let them know, I told her. She couldn’t understand it. It led me back to remembering Mike Darby and Kelly Dee in Sex Ed class in ninth grade. Oh, the pure, devilish humiliation. It must be the origin stories for the feelings I have experienced for as long as I can remember when liking someone. I know there was a brief period during my sophomoric twenties when it wasn’t like this, but I’m pretty sure that in my twenties I was much cuter than I am now and boys were usually chasing me rather than the other way around. Since I have gotten older and less nubile, I don’t have hoards of men interested in me. Not just no hoards, I have none at all, so it’s usually me lusting in secret hoping to hell I don’t give myself away. I have no fear of public speaking. I can speak in front of crowds of people. Yet let me give it away to a man I might be interested and I’m 13 again, dying inside and praying he didn’t notice.

Gads.

If Wishes Were Horses

I have heard the expression If wishes were horses. I don’t know where I heard this. I am resisting googling this before I write so my writing is not colored by whatever I find on the internets. I keep thinking that if wishes were horses, there would not be enough room on the planet to sustain all of them. And also that wishing and wishing and wishing does not make something true. Desire, desire, desire leads to wishing, wishing, wishing. If every wish were a horse this would be a very strange planet. And what about the horses themselves? Perhaps they are wishing too. What then?

For me, if wishes were horses, there would be a herd indeed.

I did do an internets search and found out that it comes from an old proverb. Horses can be interchanged with birds and fishes. This proverb is recorded in English from quite an early date. A version of the expression appeared in the published works of William Camden in the 17th century. The first known citation of the proverb in the form we now know it is in James Carmichaell’s Collection of Proverbs in Scots:

If wishes were horses, beggers wald ryde.

The date of Carmichaell’s work is unclear, but it does appear to have been published in his lifetime and he died in 1628. Whether it was Carmichaell or Camden who first recorded the proverb is currently not known.

I wonder if this means that beggars didn’t get to ride horses in those days. This should not surprise me. Owning a horse is an expensive proposition. Capitalism would have ensured that those at the bottom of the food chain did not own a horse, which requires food and shoeing and a place to live. No, beggars would not have ridden.

Okay, stream of consciousness, too early because I can’t sleep post is over. Suffice to say, for me, if wishes were horses, I wald haft love.

Feeling Love Means Feeling Everything

And with one push
it falls
Falling
Falling
F
A
L
L
I
N
G
Then broken.

Shards of glass where there used to be a heart.

Can you imagine someone feeling so happy with you that they cannot be with you because feeling happy by necessity thereby demands they feel other feelings as well? And they don’t want to feel happiness because they might feel pain? How narrow a conception of life. How much love isn’t felt in this world because of the fear of pain. This is to me, tragedy.

Doubt

Doubt is like a leak in the wall. It gets in and under and around. At first, you’re not even sure it’s there. But then you realize a dampness has spread like a cancer into all the tissues. If you’re not careful, the foundation will be shot and it will all have to be replaced. Three weeks from enthusiasm to doubt. I suppose it’s better to get to doubt sooner rather than later, before having invested much.

I have decided to give up trying to stay in bed and sleep when I awaken too early. I will sit and stare at the wall rather than lying and staring at the backs of my eyelids.

That’s so Gross, Mom

This is how conversations go in our house:

My oldest daughter was singing “Can’t go to bed ’til you’re legally wed, you can’t you’re Sandra DEE!” I said, “You can’t even go to bed after your legally wed. Just don’t go to bed at all. Or wait. You can go to bed after you’ve been wed for ten years.”

“That’s so gross, Mom.”

Then I amended and told her seriously, “Aw well, someday you’ll go to bed. Just don’t do it too soon, and don’t do it with too many people, and use protection.”

“That’s so gross, Mom.”

Then I said, “If you’re with a guy and he says he wants to have sex and you don’t want to have sex, and he says not having sex will cause his penis to shrivel up and fall off, or his testicles will explode, don’t believe it.”

“Wow, Mom. No one would say that. That’s so gross.”

“No. It’s true. It’s been said. But don’t believe it because it’s a lie.” I said this with assurance, just in case she was thinking of believing some lie about a shriveled up man part.

“It sounds fake. I would never believe anything as stupid as that.”

Good thing, daughter of mine.

Good Adult Crush Ideas

I read an article that said adult crushes can be more difficult than adolescent crushes because you can’t give your best friend a note to hand to the guy in 4th period and my immediate thought was, “Why not?” Maybe you can’t do it in 4th period, but you could get your best friend to hand the guy a note somewhere else, like perhaps the water cooler at work if the guy you have a crush on is at work, or perhaps on the playground if the guy you have a crush on is another parent. Maybe you could pass a note via car windshield wipers. Just leave a note that says, I ❤ U. Maybe he’ll have a crush too and wonder if it was you that left it (or he could think he has a weird stalker, but just pretend that isn’t a possibility). You’ll just know it was him when you get the note back with a “2” written after the U. Plus there is no reason you couldn’t get your friend to leave the note. This might help prevent any stalker suspicion as well, especially if you have lots of good friends who could do this for you. And you could also do all those crush things you did as an adolescent like “accidentally” waiting for a drink at the water fountain. This works especially well at work with the water cooler. You just saunter over casually with your cup and get some water when he does. If he’s liking you and he’s sauntering over to the water cooler too, then you’ll both end up drinking a lot of water and this could result in a lot of bathroom trips at the same time and maybe, just maybe, you might bump each other on the way. Squeee!!! Isn’t the thought just too much?!?!?

This has real potential. I have to disagree with the author of that article. She didn’t have enough imagination about this. She probably doesn’t really have any crush as an adult. She’s probably married already and doesn’t need a crush. Her editor told her to write an article on adult crushes and she couldn’t think of anything to say except boring things like passing notes in 4th period. That editor should give me the assignment. I could come up with some really great adult crush ideas that aren’t difficult at all. I just know it.

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.

The Land of the Frogs

Once upon a time there was a lovely maiden who lived….

I am not a maiden.

What?

I am not a maiden. A maiden is a virginal unmarried girl, and while I have no desire to share the more intimate features of my life with you, I can say without equivocation that although I am not married, I am most definitely not a maiden.

Oh. Okay. Well then, once upon a time, there was a lovely damsel who lived…

Again with the virgins! What is up with you? I’m not a damsel either. A damsel is the same thing as a maiden. For pity’s sake! Can’t you get it right? I’m not terribly unhappy that you are calling me lovely. That’s actually quite nice. But the maidens and the damsels and all that. It doesn’t really detract from the story to know I’ve been living my life and have met a few fellows on the way, now does it?

Oh I suppose not. May I continue with my story now?

Okay. Sure. Go ahead. Thanks.

Once upon a time, there was a lovely broad who lived…

What?!?!?!? Broad? Are you joking?

Yes, actually I am. I just wanted to see if you were listening.

I am listening! Do you think I would have stopped you twice already if I was not paying attention? What would give you such an idea? Sheesh!

I don’t know. I’ll continue. Once upon a time there was a lovely lady who lived in a land where the males were frogs. These frogs weren’t the sort you could kiss and they would turn into princes either, they were actual frogs.

Okay. You have to be kidding. Why would I want to live with a bunch of frogs if none of them could turn into princes? What is that all about? I mean, a girl has some taste, you know.

Well the moral was going to be about falling in love for all the right reasons, like integrity, honesty, personality, etcetera, regardless of what the fellow looked like.

That’s all fine and good, but what is supposed to get me in the door? If the guy is froggy, how am I supposed to be attracted to him to discover all these magnificent inner qualities? What about biology? There has to be some reason we developed beauty to ensure the procreation of the species.

This may be true. However, could you allow that if all the men looked like frogs than that is what the women would know and they would find certain of the frogs attractive?

Hmmm. That’s an interesting proposition. Why don’t you continue with your story and I’ll think on it a bit.

That would be good, thanks. Most kind of you. I would like to get past the second or third line, if that is possible.

Sarcastic?

A bit. I continue. So the lady lived in a land where the men appeared as frogs. She had met a few of them and had relationships. But none of the relationships ever seemed to work out. As a younger woman, the most common reason for the failure of her relationships was that the frogs were mostly interested in jumping in the sack. I’m not talking about sex here, but an actual game where the frogs jumped around in sacks.

Okay. That’s dumb.

You’re interrupting.

But it’s stupid. The frogs wanted to jump in the sack and this was an actual game the frogs played? Come on! At least make the thing somewhat plausible. You’ve already got all these guys looking like frogs, which requires we suspend some belief as it is. Now you want us to buy into your pathetic attempt at a pun?

Fine. So the real reason most of her relatonships failed was the frogs wanted to have sex with her because she was gorgeous. There. Does that make you feel better?

Well at least it is more realistic, at least the part about the frogs wanting to have sex.

Is it, now? At least it shows you were right about the whole maiden/damsel thing.

Of course I was. Wait. Are you making me sound like some kind of sex maniac or something because I had sex with frogs who didn’t want anything more than a piece of ass?

That wasn’t my intention.

Well it came off that way.

May I continue?

Yes, certainly.

So as I said, by NO FAULT of the lady, most of the wretched frogs she met in her twenties were only after a roll in the hay and were not interested in a serious relationship based on honesty and communication.

There’s another reason I couldn’t have been a maiden/damsel.

You’re interrupting again. But what are you talking about?

You implied in that last bit that I’m no longer in my twenties. This would mean I’m in my thirties, or yikes! even my forties, God forbid. I would not think a maiden/damsel would be in her thirties or forties.

You’re probably right. The maiden/damsel would be sixteen. There. Are you happy now? Can we please continue? Okay, good. By the time our heroine had passed her twenties, she had been in a few longer-term relationships, but as was previously implied, the frogs involved were not particularly interested in much more than getting laid and watching sports on television. Oh, she’d gone out with a frog in a band and he didn’t watch much television between their acts of wanton lust, but instead spent his time playing gigs with the band and fending off groupies.

You know about him? Yeah, he was hot. Frogs in bands are trouble, let me just tell you that. Okay. Stop rolling your eyes. Go on.

Time rolled on and as she entered her thirties, the relationship failure rate seemed to increase, but for different reasons. The frogs she was meeting had figured out that ladies wanted frogs who were interested in more than sex, so they had learned to play the game of the interested pursuer. They could have long conversations. They could discuss politics and rhetoric, and were quite able to expound on the necessities and drawbacks of the women’s movement. They knew how to give excellent massages, and were quite adept at assuring women that they were interested in something far more meaningful than simple sex could ever provide.

Man, isn’t that the truth.

Come again?

That’s the truth. I’m telling you, I run through the list of guys I’ve been with in the last few years and all of them are fairly remarkable when it comes to talking the talk. They rope you in, slowly and carefully. It’s like they can wait for the big payoff. They don’t jump in, slam, bam, thank you ma’am. They build to a crescendo, that crescendo being them getting laid if they can pull it off.

I know it’s the truth. I’m telling the story, remember?

Oh right. Sorry again.

Thank you. As I was saying, our heroine kept meeting frogs who seemed to be interested in a real relationship based on mutual trust, communication, and all that. Unfortunately, each time things became serious, the frogs would hop off into the ponds and hide under their lily pads, never to be heard from again. This always caught the lady by surprise. One day the frog would be discussing a shared future of dreams and aspirations, the next day he would be gone.

The first few times this happened, the lady was extremely distressed. What in the world is going on here? Where did he go? What happened? She would discuss the disappearances ad nausem with her friends. None of them could figure it out. It just seemed to make no sense. Why would the frogs act like they wanted a long-term relationship then disappear as soon as it seemed likely? Over time, the lady came to expect the disappearances. She was slower to show interest, waiting to see if the frog would hop away at the first sign of real intimacy. She stopped having sex with the frogs unless sex was all she wanted. She…

Oh good. I didn’t want it to sound like I was always so serious. Okay, okay! Put down your eyebrows. I’m listening.

Right. Carrying on then. Our heroine began paying attention and recognized the signs sooner. The runaway frogs were consistent in their reasons for relationships failing. Most of them were unwilling to acknowledge their own shortcomings, but could gloss this over in such a way that at first it appeared they were quite introspective and self-deprecating. They could discuss in great depth their concerns for a previous lover’s issues concerning self-esteem or family dysfunction. They were able to articulate in some detail the meaning behind an ex-girlfriend’s struggles with her weight or body image.

Unfortunately, when the same magnifying glass was turned towards them, the frogs were unable or unwilling to see or discuss their own need for growth. If our heroine observed that perhaps they might deflect any questions on their own development with humor or pointed out during a disagreement that the frog had an amazing ability to find fault with others without acknowledging any responsibility of his own, the frog ran off and jumped in a pond without so much as a backward glance.

She began to realize that the frogs also had a way of projecting their own fears onto her. If they were terrified of expressing anger, for instance, they would claim she was too angry as they peeked out from beneath their lily pads. “Why did you cuss at that driver? How dare you glare at the rude clerk? What is the matter with you, lady? You must have an anger problem!” If they were terrified of expressing affection, they would claim she was too willing to affect in public. “Why would you kiss me here?” the frog would ask. “Are you trying to make people think you want me to be a prince?” Such statements dumbfounded the lady. What in the world were these frogs thinking?

My, that is distressing.

What is distressing?

These frogs you are talking about. They are all so, I don’t know, pitiful somehow. And you haven’t mentioned all the work I’ve done on myself to become a better and stronger person. Don’t you think our readers would like to hear about that?

I’m sure they would, but I thought such things were implicit. Would it make you happier if I mentioned that after each failed attempt you would do a self-analysis to figure out what you learned and how to do things differently next time?

Yes, that would be good. And mention I spent some time with a therapist. Let them know I’m not trying to make this all the frogs’ fault. That would not be the honest thing to do.

Okay. Our heroine went to a therapist and ascertained she was not suffering from any major mental illness. There. Does that make you feel better?

Not exactly, but go on. I want to hear what happens.

Finally, after one particularly heart-wrenching breakup, our heroine decided that it was perhaps best to swear off frogs for a while. Maybe I could take up dressmaking, she thought. Or drums. That’s it. I’ll take up drums. She began banging on the drums at all hours of the day and night. This did not please her neighbors, so she took up rock collecting and underwater floral arranging instead. These were peaceful activities and kept her mind somewhat occupied. However, with time, our heroine grew increasingly bored. Her extra room was filled with rocks of all sorts and her fingers had become rather wrinkly from all the underwater floral arranging she had done.

Excuse me.

Now what? I was on a roll.

Can I ask you something? How come you keep calling me “our heroine.” How come you don’t give me a name?

Because I was trying to keep everyone from developing a preconceived notion of who you are.

I’m me. Why would anyone preconceive about that?

Well the readers don’t know you yet. To them you are just our heroine. Give them a name and they will associate you with every Cinderella or Jennifer they know.

I just thought I should have a name, that’s all.

Being nominally anonymous allows the readers to apply your lessons to all women. Wouldn’t you like that? Plus heroines have a particular aura to them, wouldn’t you agree? There is an implicit beauty in their being a heroine.

That’s a nice thought. I wouldn’t mind being beautiful.

You are beautiful dear, on the inside and the out.

You are so kind.

Thank you. May I continue?

Please do.

One night the lady and a friend went out to view art. They found a place where painters and sculpters and various artists of all sorts had gathered together and were displaying various pieces of their work. As she meandered from one piece of art to another, she noticed a particularly hunky frog following her. She pointed him out to her friend. Do you see him? she asked? Doesn’t it look like he’s following me? Her friend allowed that it did indeed appear as if he were following her. To test her hypothesis, our heroine veered off to view a particularly large, phallic sculpture. She stared at it with consternation. What in the world, she wondered, would inspire someone to carve a giant penis? Wishful thinking?

“It’s hopeful, isn’t it?” a voice next to her asked. She glanced over and noticed the hunky following frog. He had marvelous, bulgy blue eyes and hair that begged for fingers to comb through its soft tendrils. She was amazed a frog could have such fantastic hair. He also had several very attractive red spots on his shoulders.

Yes, she answered, I suppose it has a bit of hope about it. Real dreaming. Sometimes you have to wonder. She noticed that his hands were large, his fingernails trimmed and clean, his skin a warm green.

“Hopeful and silly. I wonder why this kind of thing is still given credence, like it has something unique to say. Like we haven’t all seen such ambitious desperate attempts in the past, even at some high school art show. If I make a sculpture of a giant penis, I will be daring.” He looked directly at her as he spoke, his attention completely engaged. It was hypnotizing.

Yes, pushing the boundaries.

“Unique like everyone else making giant penises.”

Exactly.

Their banter went on for some time. Our heroine discovered that her friend had met an acquaintance and the two were chatting amiably. Following frog continued to follow her, all the while making witty observations about different pieces of art. He took…

So what, is this where she meets someone and falls in love? Because it looks like that is where your heading, and since I’m not in love and haven’t fallen in love, I’m kind of confused. I mean, I know who you are talking about, but it didn’t go anywhere you know.

Are you planning to allow me to finish the story? I know what happens. You know what happens. But no one else does.

Okay, fine. If you want to go through the whole thing, go ahead. Tell them how he came over to my house. Tell them how we had a grand time goofing off but did nothing more than kiss for a while. Then tell them how he didn’t call for several days and didn’t pursue me any further. Then perhaps you can explain why he is any different than any of the others and why we should be spending this much time on him.

Well he was different from the others. When you decided to let him know you were genuinely interested, he responded, didn’t he? And when you finally starting hanging out, the two of you didn’t have any long drawn out conversations about your relationship. You didn’t discuss your future with him. You also had sex with him pretty quickly. And that sex, oooh boy! Twice, sometimes three times a day. It was truly remarkable, his capacity and stamina. Do you forget that you had some difficulty walking normally on certain occasions?

Oh, I know. I remember. Yes, that part was different. But the end result wasn’t. He didn’t fall madly in love with me. I probably could have fallen in love with him, but he wouldn’t have given me a chance to do that. He wanted to have fun. He wanted to have sex. I knew this going in. To expect any more or want any more would have been foolish. And there were his problems with self confidence, and his periodic silent treatments. I guess I just don’t understand why he’s getting more detail than the others.

Because, dear, he is interesting. He is quite funny and absolutely brilliant.

Well, artists often are. And he’s definitely an artist. He’s actually making a living at it, and you can’t say that of many artists.

And he didn’t run and hide under his lily pad. He was fun. I just thought perhaps people would like to hear about your watching movies together, laughing like fiends, going on bizarre roadtrips, and boinking like rabbits. All the other frogs were so, I don’t know, serious. They were much too boring.

I know, I know. Unfortunately, I’m still too cynical about the whole thing. He still opted to go his own way and leave me to mine. And although we didn’t have the little “talk,” I know he was terrified to death of our relationship turning into anything more serious. If you want to know the truth, frankly I’m sick of frogs.

Yes, I know. Perhaps it would be better to tell a different story, the one where you travel the world and have many adventures.

I would like that.

Okay, that is what we’ll do. For now, we’ll leave off frogs. I can see your point. They are a bit pathetic, aren’t they? We’ll focus on your traveling adventures. Maybe you can meet some other species besides frogs, some species that might actually turn into a prince.

I won’t hold my breath.

Me either.

So our heroine traveled the world and met many fascinating people and adventures and lived happily ever after. The End.

That was great.

You liked it?

I did. Thanks a bunch. You painted me in a positive light, I think.

I hope so. I aim to please. Good luck to you.

Thanks, you too.

(This is a piece of fiction.  Any resemblance to any human or frog, living or not, is perhaps likely considering the author’s brain is composed of actual experiences.  However, this is a completely fictional story.  This story is not intended to be seen as a replica of the author’s life.)

If It’s Not Okay, It’s Not the End

I have determined again what I already knew, that I am a hopeless romantic. Not romantic in the sense of rebellion against the industrial revolution and age of enlightenment, but romantic as in loving happy endings, but that isn’t exactly right either. It isn’t the happy ending I love so much as the happy possibility. Maybe romantic isn’t the best word; perhaps idealist. Yes, I’m an idealist (but I already knew that. I take those Myers Briggs personality tests and always end up the idealist (you are 1% of the population–lucky me!)). In any case, yesterday I saw Silver Linings Playbook and loved it. Just loved it. I left the theater feeling all warm and fuzzy. Then when gushing about it to a friend I realized it was similar to Crazy, Stupid Love, another film I absolutely adore, and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and Sliding Doors. I LOVE these movies. Love them. I can watch them over and over and over. I’m lying here thinking about them this morning because I was unable to sleep past 6:30 even if I didn’t fall asleep until nearly 1 a.m. because my daughter was wiggling because of the extremely late nap she took after a belated Thanksgiving dinner with Daddy and his family that ended with the nap beginning at 6. I thought she was down for the night, it was that late when she finally went down. I’m going to pay for this lack of sleep. Give me a few hours and I’ll be nodding off in my soup.

Alas, I digress. I’m lying here this morning in my sleepless state thinking about these movies and I realized yet again that yes, I’m a romantic/idealist. There is no getting around it. I like possibilities. These films are all like one another, and they are not typical romantic comedies. They are bittersweet. They are dark. . .then light. I leave them feeling like it’s possible the couples will last beyond the first blush of new love, that perhaps they will not be hating one another in four or five years, that perhaps because they see who their partner is and not who they want them to be, their loves might last. Yes, I’m an idealist. It will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.

I do not always adore or believe romantic comedies. Some of them make me absolutely cringe. They can be so formulaic or so far from believable, I squirm. I hate the ones where the couples fight the whole time because they are completely different people and will not accept one another’s flaws, but they have incredible sexual tension and therefore end up together at the end because Hey! they can get it on. Incredible sexual tension is just that, incredible sexual tension. It is meaningless in the scheme of things. What happens when they no longer want to screw one another blind? Then they just hate each other. Boring. What was that film with Jennifer Aniston and the hot Irish guy who is a bounty hunter? Oh, right. Bounty Hunter. I didn’t buy it for a second.  They’ll be miserable in 8 months.

Worse are the movies where the man is a shit to women his whole life but this woman saves him. Suddenly he becomes mature and honest after being shitty. He discovers that she is so golden and perfect, he must give up his evil ways, and of course, she takes him back, or he gets her, or whatever. It’s a miracle! Yuck. Or one of the couple has trouble with commitment, but the other gets them and so they certainly must end up together. All is well. Commitment issues — poof! Gone! No Strings Attached or Definitely Maybe. I don’t buy it.

Yet in spite of these bad ones I don’t believe, there are some I do, some that make me want to believe in the happy possibility. Most romantic comedies I like well enough. It’s a go-to genre I can watch if I have a couple of hours to spare, but a lot of them I forget as soon as the credits roll. Yet there are a handful I truly love. I think Silver Linings Playbook might be one of them. I can tell a film is a real favorite if I enjoy watching it multiple times. I won’t know if this is a keeper until I have seen it again and still want to see it again. I’m hopeful about this possibility, that since I want to see it again now, I’ll want to see it again after seeing it again. I can add it to the list of movies I really love. I remain the hopeless idealist, wanting the happy ending.

This is Life and How it Goes Sometimes (hopefully without a bad soundtrack)

I wish when movie makers make movies and they want their movies to seem “fresh” and “modern” that they wouldn’t use music that will be dated in under a decade, especially when the movie really isn’t that bad, but the music makes the whole thing distracting. A couple examples of this? Top Gun. Oh gawd, that music is rotten and dated. Roxanne, same thing. Reality Bites. Yep, you got it. Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad. A theme in these three actually is bad saxxy jazz. Not good saxxy jazz, but baaaad jazz. It’s so distracting. All of these films have okay music mixed in, usually classics that stand the test of time. But those transitional melodies that aren’t really any songs anyone listens to, that were probably made just for the movie, long horn solos to show us this is a place to feel something? The worst.

And now for the non sequitur from my musings about lame movie music. This has been an interesting week. Guess all those astrological prognostications about funny business in the sky maybe apply to me. When faced yesterday with the realization that certain people in my life were capable of Machiavellian treachery, my initial response was disbelief. I finally decided late in the evening that continuing to chant “I don’t believe it,” was not going to remedy the situation, nor was “why me?” In an effort to root out all personal hypocrisy, I asked myself when I have been less than honest, what I have done that might make another shudder in disbelief. I do not want to make anyone feel the way I felt upon this discovery. The goal, going forward, is to behave as honorably as possible in all circumstances because all I can only control is my behavior and my reactions. So now I pick up the pieces and move ahead, knowing what I know and knowing who I’m dealing with. It certainly makes life interesting.

During all this, somewhat in a dither, I called my counselor. She pointed out that when people are operating from fear, they do some mighty unpleasant things. Fear and greed, maybe? In any case, she asked if I was feeling afraid and I had to admit that yes, I am. Part of me is fine, moving forward, setting up shop. The other part of me is scared shitless. How do we root this out of ourselves? Maybe it isn’t possible. Maybe it’s just enough to go ahead anyway in spite of being afraid? I don’t know the answer. I’ll go read my Pema Chodren book on such things and see if she has any advice. I don’t like the unpleasantness of it all, though. Not a bit. But this is life and how it goes sometimes.

Princess Slaying Dragons

I had a dream and it opened my eyes. So funny how this happens sometimes, during sleep or its edges our brains open and admit ideas we cannot consider during the day when the mind is wearing a suit, playing the daytime role and maintaining its vigilance. Yes, it keeps us operating, but in its watchfulness it keeps up walls that can block out the useful too.

In the dream, drifting there in the foggy place before I was awake, I saw her wearing a ninja scarf and holding out a sword, ready to battle with me. I stood and looked at her, then turned and walked away. She stood there holding out the sword as if in protection, but I had no business with her, and her sword would not protect her. I took up the hands of my children and we walked a path up the side of the mountain.

She says she is certain that with a tiara and cape she could conquer the world. She says that she is fierce, a ninja of the good and awesome. She sees herself as a brave warrior, protecting victims and innocents, and that she is doing so from strength. Yet I understand that all this external valor really masks of an almost pathological, fundamental sense of insecurity, which may be so buried she isn’t even aware it is there. Deep down, in the places she may not even visit, she does not believe that she is worthy. As long as she maintains the facade, as long as no one else can see this truth, perhaps she too can forget what she really feels, deep in these hidden crevices of her soul.

Recently, I communicated directly with her and she did not like this at all.  She believed that I was delusional and therefore cut off any communication, believing that she did so from power, from strength. I am superior and you are not worthy of my time, the action said. I am better than you.

The truth though, was that I made her uneasy because I had already been somewhere she has not yet been willing to go. At a level she cannot comprehend with her mind, she knew this. Yet the hidden place deep within her understood. It knew that I was facing this fear, was staring it down, was climbing the mountain and learning to ignore the battles that do not matter, and this knowledge terrifies her in that fundamental, unconscious place. She does not understand that I was not challenging her at all, and would turn away from unnecessary battles with her because real power comes from the realization of inner strength, not from the slaying of a perceived adversary. What she truly needs to understand is that I am not her foe, and that her only true enemy is herself, that a cape and tiara will not give her the power to conquer the world, but that really loving herself will give her the strength to realize she doesn’t even have to fight.

I wish her well on this journey.

Four Years

Four years ago I wrote a post on this blog on Valentine’s Day, and I was happy, at least happyish (if you’re interested, view it here).  I was sitting at the desk in my own house, the one I remodeled by myself into a cozy home for myself, my darling girl, and my animals.  Three of those animals lay beside me on the floor as I wrote. Milla played in the next room, and I wrote my strange post about the history of Valentine’s Day, examining it from an angle I think few have.

In any case, here I am four years later, and I barely recognize that person. Three days after that Valentine’s Day in 2008 I met the man who would become Isabel’s father.  During the months that followed I lost all of my animals.  A year later I was living in New York and barely pregnant.  A year after that I was back in Oregon, changed, somewhat obliterated. Since then it has been a rebuilding of the self, but as if with sand, one grain at a time. I barely even registered Valentine’s Day this year. Oh yeah, I thought the night before. Go to the store and buy the girls something small, and so I did. No rumination. No examination.  Nothing, really, except that I did remember the post four years ago and went back and read it, surprised at myself. I’d forgotten that I made Valentine’s Day presents with Milla, not only that year, but at all.

So much of the time then I was working to force myself to live in the moment. So much of the time now I am, but I feel like most of me is missing. I learned some hard lessons, with the result that I will never choose wrong again–I know that unequivocally. But I have to wonder at what price? Is there something to being in the cave and not knowing? Does not knowing really kill you? I can’t answer that. I must not forget that I was painfully, achingly, desperately lonely a lot of the time then, in a way I’m simply not now. Is it because I’ve stopped being lonely, or simply accepted that aloneness is a function of the human condition? Really accepted it? I don’t know.

I feel like a person who saw a river and jumped in to swim across to climb the mountain on the other side, but had no idea the dangers inherent in the enterprise. I thought I was prepared. I did what I thought would make the journey safe and doable. Yet during the crossing I was sucked into an undertow, and I nearly drowned. I bashed my head and body on rocks. I lost all the possessions I had tried to take with me. Finally, the river spit me out and cast me unconscious on the opposite shore, lying on the beach naked with grains of sand in my hair and my eyes, my body bloodied and scraped; beaten, but not broken. Gradually I dragged myself to my knees and crawled further inland. I waited, then stood. I walked ahead. I killed animals and ate them, making clothing from their hides, something I never would have done on the other side of the river. I kept going. I did not look back until a long time later, and when I did, I was up the side of the mountain, and there in the valley below was the river, appearing so serene, winding off toward the horizon. I was there, I think, and now I am here.

I know this metaphor is cliche’, but it fits. I feel like I’m still climbing the mountain, but I don’t even know what it was I’m trying to get to, except the pinnacle, and I wonder whether any of it was worth it. If I ever had to cross a river again, the journey would be very different. I wouldn’t even start at the same bank. I would take different tools. I might even choose a different river. I learned, but now I don’t know why.

I’ve spoken to my counselor about this, whether it is better to just stay in the cave. She reminds me that staying in the cave would result in making the same ill-fated choices, and of the reasons why making different choices will be better. Perhaps she is right. But sometimes I miss feeling the contentment I felt that Valentine’s Day, even if it was often countered with hideous, pitiable lows. Maybe there isn’t any better, there just is. That was how it was. This is how it is. Each has positives and negatives. In any case, I can’t change what has gone before so I might as well settle into how things are, which means that instead of a quippy, interesting post like the one I wrote 4 years ago, I write this.

High School

A couple of days ago I listened to a story on This American Life about prom.  It got me thinking about mine because the people interviewed kept remarking just how important prom was.  One person even went so far as to say it was second in importance to a wedding.  Seriously?  I don’t know that I agree with that.  Prom is certainly a ubiquitous high school event, but it wasn’t anything at all life-changing for me, and it wasn’t because I was an anarchist or anything.  I just didn’t really care.  I thought it was a dumb dance.  I was not one of those people who spent all of high school looking forward to attending.  I did finally obtain a boyfriend by senior year so I actually had a prom date.  If I hadn’t gotten the boyfriend, I probably would not have gone.  I was much more concerned with acquiring a boyfriend than attending prom, and much more surprised and shocked that this happened than I ever would have been at getting a prom date.

For me, the story of how I got my first boyfriend was practically out of a high school movie.   Every February, our school hosted a Valentine’s Day school dance.  For some reason, one of the most attractive, most popular boys in school asked me to dance.  A lot.  We danced together all evening.  This was a surprise to me.  He was Mr. High School All-American boy.  Extremely popular, he had attended the schools in my town his entire life.  This meant something in our little town; it meant you knew everyone and everyone knew you.  This could be a bad thing, but for a lot of people, it accorded them with additional status.  Eric had this status in spades, plus he was captain of the football team and President of the Senior class.  Seriously.  He also had blonde hair and blue eyes, lovely chiseled features, and an athletic build.

I, on the other hand, was not Miss High School All-American girl.  I had the blonde hair and blue eyes, but my hair was short, and for the dance in question, I had tried beforehand to trim my bangs.  After cutting, I realized they were crooked, so I cut them again and made them crooked the other direction.  By the time I was done, they were about two inches long and still crooked.  I was also skinny as a rail, with no breasts to speak of.  Certainly not curvy.  I imagine I was prettyish, but definitely not a beauty and never one of the girls the boys talked about or wanted.  I spent most of my time buried in books, riding my horse, or acting weird because my friends thought it was funny and I liked making them laugh.  My parents lived like they never had money, no matter how much they had, so my clothes were not name brands, which I cared about in those days.  (One nice thing about growing up was giving up that ridiculous delusion.)

In spite of my average appearance and lack of social standing, here we were at this Valentine’s Day dance and Eric was dancing with me.  My friends couldn’t believe it.  “He must like you!” said Marie.  “He keeps dancing with you!”  I didn’t quite believe he liked me.  Deanna kept giggling every time he came near.  “Stop it,” I would hiss to her in a whisper before heading to the dance floor.  Kari just smiled her poker-face smile.

Over the weekend after the dance, my friends and I spent many hours on the phone deconstructing the dance and its portent.  Did Eric like me, or was he just being nice?  I could not believe that he did.  They could not believe that he did not.  On Monday, I was embarrassed and terrified at the prospect of seeing Eric. We had a class together the last period of the day.  I spent most of that day a nervous wreck, wondering what would happen in that class.  I was terrified.

Later that afternoon, we were all in Mr. Fisk’s class listening to him drone on about who-knows-what.  Mr. Fisk’s stories were fascinating as sophomores and stupid by the time we were seniors.  I don’t remember now how it transpired, but somewhere along the line in the class a note was transferred to Eric.  I think it was supposed to be from me to Marie or Marie to me, or something like that, but it was about how much I liked him.  He sent me a note and we agreed to both ask to go to the bathroom at the same time.  A few minutes later, Eric got up, asked to use the bathroom, and left.  Heart pounding, 30 seconds later, I asked to go to the bathroom as well.  Mr. Fisk was none the wiser and let me follow Eric. He probably didn’t even notice we were out at the same time. We were the good kids, the ones who always turned in our homework and would never leave to go fraternize and cause trouble, so bathroom passes were easy to come by.

Eric was waiting by the bathroom.  He was wearing his Levi’s 501 jeans, a pink polo shirt, and white sneakers.  I thought he looked amazing.  He said hi and then kissed me.  Exhilarating.

We were going out after that.  We never had a conversation where he asked me to be his girlfriend or anything, I just was.  I adored him.  Completely smitten, I would do anything he wanted to do or go anywhere he wanted to, just to be with him.  Compared to stories of teenage activities I hear about these days, our actions were so tame.  I would never have considered having sex with him, not in a million years.  Honestly, we never made it past second base, but to both of us, this was a lot.

How is it that I managed to get the most popular boy in school for my boyfriend senior year?  I mean really?  I think about this time and I have to wonder.  I know part of it is that this most popular boy in school was unique in some respects.  So often the popular kids are so idealized that we have a vision of how they must be, but to become truly popular and liked by everyone (which Eric certainly was), that person must possess some characteristic of some sort that makes people like them.  Eric was truly likeable.  Plus he’d been in the same town schools since kindergarten.  Plus he was handsome.   Really.  Blonde.  Blue-eyed.  Captain of the football team.  President of the class.  I mean, come on, was this for real?

It was.  That is what is so remarkable to me.  I look back now and for the first time truly marvel at it.  I mean, come on!  Do you think he could have been more of a cliché?  And it’s even more amazing that I, with my background and thought processes, could have had him as my first real boyfriend.  That alone is a feat in and of itself.

One night, we were making out in the backseat of his housemate’s ginormous 70’s automobile.  The thing was a boat on wheels.  I was supposed to be spending the night at Marie’s house, and a group of us had all gone and done something that evening.  Eric and I parked the boat outside her house and started kissing in the backseat.  It was cold out and the windows fogged up.  At some point, I realized there was a round light moving along the back window.  We both sat up quickly and pulled on our shirts (each other’s, as it turned out).  Then we heard a tap on the window.

Humiliated, Eric opened the car door and got out.  The officer took him aside and scolded him.  He then stuck his head in the car and asked me my name and where I was supposed to be. Terrified and humiliated as well, I told him.  He said I should go into my friend’s house and go to bed.  It was probably only 11:30, but I was scared and obeyed without question.

I spent the next week completely terrified that the stop would show up in the local paper.  A weekly, the local paper did not have much to report on, and therefore contained a section listing every petty grievance to which the police force responded.  I was certain our names would be listed with our transgression for all–especially and including my parents–to see.  Thankfully, this never transpired.

Because I now had a boyfriend, prom seemed like it might actually be fun. My friends were all going and I looked forward to hanging out with them.  My mom is an excellent seamstress, and after looking and finding no dresses that I liked, she offered to make a prom dress for me.  I picked out a pink satin and some pink tulle.  She made a long dress with a fitted bodice, with a pink ribbon around the center and tulle around the collar, which sat off the shoulder on my collar bones.  I liked it fine.  Looking at it now, I think it’s kind of boring, but I enjoyed getting dressed up.  Eric looked amazing in his tuxedo, and he arrived in the boat to pick me up, a pink corsage in hand to match the boutonniere on his lapel.

The best memory I have of prom is that my best friend Marie won as prom queen.  She had a huge crush on a good friend of Eric’s named Gary.  Gary had a girlfriend, but for prom king and queen, there would be a dance.  When it was announced that Marie was queen and Gary was king, I was thrilled to death for her.  She was able to dance with the boy she liked for an entire slow song.  I could tell watching her dance, her head against his shoulder, that she was in heaven.

After prom, we went to a party at some friends of Eric’s and sat in a hot tub before he took me home.  Most of them were drinking alcohol and this scared me.  I didn’t find that part of the night much fun.  I can’t remember when I got home, but I don’t think it was very late.

One other huge aspect of my relationship with Eric was that shortly prior to our starting to date, he had become “born again.”  Over the course of our courtship, he became more and more heavily involved in the church.  In an effort to please him, I went along.  I had been friends for some time with another girl who was extremely involved in her church.  I started going with her, mainly because I had a crush on David W. and David W. was in youth group.  David W. would flirt with me at youth group and I enjoyed this.  Also, my friend’s parents would take us for pie after church.  Having grown up in a family that went out to eat maybe once every two years, this was an immense treat.

Interestingly, while I was attending church and trying to be a good Christian, I was discovering a lot of hypocrisies that bothered me immensely.  One morning, the pastor described faithful Muslims praying to Mecca.  He spent a good deal of time describing the scene, to the point I could practically feel the warmth of the sun on my back and the rug under my knees.  Then he dropped a bomb saying, “Isn’t it a shame that all these millions of faithful Muslims are going to hell?  I could not tolerate or believe this.  This sermon was a turning point for me.  I had serious doubts about Christianity and organized religion in general anyway, and that statement made me start looking for inconsistencies, which were not difficult to come by.

However, I kept my doubts to myself.  Eric would drag me to youth group on Wednesday and church twice a day on Sunday and I would go with him because usually after we would make out in the back of his truck and I liked doing that.  I went along with the church thing, even so far as memorizing the entire book of Romans because he did so as well, and I believed that he wanted me to.  I would pray with him, and discuss the Bible with him.  Mainly I just wanted to be with him and this offered me the greatest opportunity.

Our small town, like many, had started offering an all-night graduation party to the entire senior class.  The point was to keep teens from drinking and getting hurt or killed as a result.  I was not a drinker and looked forward to graduation and the graduation party.  My grandparents had flown in from Kansas for the event and I was excited by the prospect of all of it.

The day before graduation, Eric took me out in the afternoon to eat at a nice restaurant.  When we arrived back at my house, at the top of my parent’s driveway, he got out and gave me a hug.  Then he said, “It’s been really fun hanging out with you, but we are going to have to stop. I’m going to college in the fall, and I am afraid our relationship is interfering with my relationship with Jesus.”  There were more words, but I don’t remember them.

I was incredulous.  I had not seen this coming, not even close.  Heartbroken and numb, I stumbled into the house and into my bedroom.  I spent the rest of the afternoon lying on my bed in a pool of misery.  We were to attend a Baccalaureate dinner that night.  I dressed in the new outfit my mom had bought for me, a knit yellow sweater and white cotton skirt.  I don’t remember much of the Baccalaureate dinner except there were some speeches.  Eric was there, but he ignored me.  I stared at my plate all evening.  My parents and grandparents could tell something was wrong, but didn’t say anything.

Later, after we arrived home, I went again to my bedroom and lay on my bed, trying not to cry.  My family wanted me to come in the living room and visit, but I just couldn’t do it.  Finally, my grandma came in to talk.  I confessed what had happened.  “Oh, honey,” she said, rubbing my back.  “It seems so hard now, but you’re so young. It is for the best.”

I still remember her voice and the way she stroked my hair and back.  I also remember that graduation and the party were a drag.  My friends kept trying to get me to liven up, but I just couldn’t do it.  Forever after, when I think of graduation, the memory is colored by the fact that the day before the ceremony my first love dumped me for Jesus.

It was the best decision of course.  Eric became a successful missionary in Africa. He is still there, working on a Bible translation of some sort, I think.  I saw him at our reunion and it wasn’t weird at all.  Time heals all wounds and we had grown up. I was such a baby at 17.  I am immensely grateful Eric didn’t do something stupid like ask me to marry him.  I would have said yes in a heartbeat and it would have been the wrong decision. We would have been divorced by the time we were 20.  I’m so different from that person, I can barely remember how I thought or acted.  Most of what I remember about myself at that time makes me cringe in embarrassment.  I certainly could never have been a Christian.  The seeds of doubt in organized religion had been planted, probably before I knew the ground was tilled.

In any case, this was my prom and the story around it.  Nothing spectacular, just an old memory. It’s funny, as I’ve been writing this, how much I actually do remember.  Life is interesting and so much is forgotten.  I’m glad I remember this.

Blue Valentine

I started watching Blue Valentine at the theater, but Isabel would not stay asleep and so I had to leave, but I wasn’t disappointed to be walking out.  The thing was depressing and I could not get into it.  I wanted to see what happened though, so a few weeks later I began watching again on video at the point I had left off, but stopped because I simply could not get into it.  Finally tonight I decided to finish it so I could get rid of the video.  I’m glad that I did.

Blue Valentine certainly captures the beginning and the end of a bad relationship.  It brings back memories.  Funny, they caught  the things in the beginning that would go wrong later.  Not all of the relationships in my life that have ended started in such a way that the ending could have been predicted, but the ones that have certainly seemed obvious in hindsight.  The performances in Blue Valentine, especially that of Michelle Williams, captured that feeling of the beginning of a relationship you know is bad for you.  You could tell that deep down she knew it wasn’t the best choice, yet she kept on anyway, living in magical thinking while simultaneously knowing she was headed for disaster.  In my case, in the relationship that most closely mirrors that in the film, I knew.  I knew and kept on anyway, compelled by some force within myself to try and make it work.  At times I felt like I was living two lives, one experiencing and one watching mute and helpless as the train headed straight for the ravine with no tracks.

The woman in Blue Valentine seemed to know too.  There were moments of pause before she smiled and responded to Mr. Disaster.  She had that same silence about her that I did in the beginning.  The scene at the dinner table near the end of the film, where she has brought him home to meet her family was a kind of personal deja vu.  The man I introduced to my family wasn’t a high school dropout whose mother had run off with another man at age ten, but the way that he spoke to them and their responses left little doubt that they were just as shocked and wondering What the hell is she doing with this guy?  What the hell, indeed.

There are some movies that are so bleak and without hope, I have no desire to watch them.  However, there are often movies that hurt to experience, and I still think they are worth my time and energy.  I am most certainly not one of those who only goes to see Pollyanna. I didn’t love Blue Valentine–I just could not get drawn in.  Yet it is a good film and I’m glad I saw it.  Even though one may know intellectually that everything experienced is also experienced by others, it does help to be reminded. For me, Blue Valentine was like that.  I’m not the first person on this planet who knew going into a bad relationship that I was making a huge mistake, but I kept on anyway.  One thing I know for sure–and I have reiterated it for myself having watched this film–I will never, ever compromise myself like that again.

Softening the Edges of My Rage

Have you ever wished for someone’s demise?  Have you ever hated with such intensity that if the object of your derision were to meet with an untimely accident you would have to hope there would be for you an alibi, because such an accident would draw suspicion upon you?  I have been there twice.  It is not a comforting place to be.

The first was the sociopathic girlfriend of my ex.  She wanted to destroy me and in her attempts, I would imagine my revenge to help me cope.  There were moments where I would fantasize her death, giving myself the satisfaction of picturing a silvery knife so sharp, its blade razor thin slipping along the surface of her neck, aligning with skin and veins, blood seeping and pooling around her nape.  At other moments I divined her foot, uselessly pressing a brake line that had been cut, her car careening helplessly over a guardrail and smashing into a tree.

Eventually I learned to circle the wagons against this woman and she turned her attentions elsewhere, but not before making my life a living hell.  After a time the revenge fantasies ceased and life continued not quite as before; I carried a little cloud about me for a while.  I needed redemption.  I’m not sure it ever came, but I did move to a new place where I could remove her from my head. She took up too much space there for a time.

In recent months I move in and out of hatred again.  This one certainly takes more space than is deserved or warranted.  For every moment it is in my head, I leave no space for love or creativity.  It doesn’t come often, but when it does, it fills me with the intensity of a raging conflagration, burning and spitting and roiling.  No wonder hell is described as fire; hating someone is a sort of hell and it blisters and scalds.  I know enough pop psychology to know that such intense hatred only harms the one who is feeling it.  On an intellectual level I understand its ramifications, and so I bend my body into yogi poses, pound my feet in Nike sneakers, force my mind away from conversations that can have no solution, breathe down into the soles of my feet.  It works–most of the time.  But then it doesn’t and with it I must contend again.

Into this hatred happened a very young, very naive and stupid girl.  She was like some desperate and obsequious puppy, hoping to be liked, having no idea what the hell she had stumbled into.  I wanted to kick her.  I had no desire to befriend this naive creature trying so hard to be nice.  I wanted to fold her in half, destroy her hopefulness, rub her face in the anguish and rage she could not know or understand.  She tripped along, coy and carefree, like a puppy with her tongue lolling, tail wagging between her legs, hoping I would be friendly. Because she came from the one I so despised, I hated who she was and what she represented before she ever said a word.  I wanted her to back away, to get out, to leave what she had found.  She was not welcome.  She had no business.  I wanted her to go and to take her syrup with her.  After I aimed several poison darts in her direction, she started to get the idea.  For a moment I felt sorry for her and tried to warn her against where she was headed, but she wanted none of that, and nipped at me.  For this nip, I bit.  Hard.

I have been advised to write, to rend this vitriol from my veins.  Write she says.  Write.  It doesn’t matter what you say, just write.  If you can place this things that are in your head in a place outside of you then you will come to a place where they no longer matter.  Write.  Remove them from you.  Link them to someplace else.  And so I do.  I have for today for this moment softened the edges of the rage.

Stuck

Have you ever found yourself heading in a direction that you don’t want to go, into a thicket so dangerous and dense–danger ahead!–but to one side there are brambles, to another side is a bear, off to an angle is a sheer cliff, so you scramble and try to move back, but end up pushed forward, thorns stabbing you in the side, the bear’s teeth at your heels, stuck, unable to go anywhere except deeper into the dense thicket you do not want to enter?  This is how things are right now.  I’m cut and bleeding, but have no idea how to get to some stable ground.

Venom (fiction)

The one asked the other if she could say what drew her to him in the first place.  Her answers were heartfelt, loving.

He sneered and said he did not believe her, that she was lying.

Later the other asked again if she could say what drew her to him in the first place.  She could not.  All she could remember was the ugly sneer.  It made her want violence.  She imagined her fist connecting with flesh, skin rupturing skin, bones causing breaks in the tissue, blood angling for the surface.  She imagined saliva aimed with sharp precision.  She imagined sarcasm.  All she felt was ire.  She said that the heartfelt answers were gone, that they had been true, but were no longer.

Only bile remained.

When Conversations are Too Much Work

Have you ever had the experience where simply communicating with someone is so much work that you end up not speaking much of the time just because you don’t want to deal with the effort of it?  You find yourself silent a lot of the time or only speaking about nonsense that means not much in the scheme of things.  Then when you spend time with another person who isn’t so difficult to communicate with, it takes time to remember what it was like to have a conversation of any consequence, so you’re silent for a while.  But then once you get started you talk and talk and talk, as if you opened a dam letting the water move into the empty basin below.  Weird, these conversations that are too much effort.

Where is the Damn Sun?

Would I feel any differently this morning if it were sunny and nice instead of rainy and crappy?  Oregon was rainy and shitty the entire time we were there until the last day.  It had been sunny until the day before we arrived.  Now it is sunny again since we have left.  It was pouring in NY the day we left and the days up until we left.  It is pouring now.  Am I going to get any summer anywhere?

It is difficult for me to discern whether the weather has an impact on my mood when the weather rarely changes from shit.  We have had a handful of sunny days since January, and I remember feeling optimistic on those days.  Hawaii was a boring place to live, but it was so sunny and nice most of the time.  I rarely felt down like I do here most of the time.  But of course, hormones could be playing a part as well, and the constant wondering what each day will bring in my relationship.  I used to bounce back pretty easily after an argument with the boyfriend, but not really anymore.  Now I just wonder when the next one will come.  I can just hear all the preachers out there who will comment and tell me just to leave him, but I would like to ask them how they would like to be single and pregnant in a city with no friends.  It is so easy to armchair quarterback, especially someone else’s relationship.  And then of course there is this weather, this abominable, interminable, shitty-ass weather.  I wish to fuck it would get sunny already.

January 8, 2009 Driving to New York

Day three of the trip.  I have not been able to post much of anything because, as I explained in my mini-iPhone post this morning, we have not had internets in our motel rooms, in spite of promises by Expedia to the contrary.

My last long piece was written before we reached Susanville, California at about 4 in the afternoon.  Heading into Susanville tested my driving mettle.  Leaving the mountains we headed down a 6.5% downgrade curving into the town.  The final curve is 20 mph 180 degree turn at a ridiculously steep downgrade.

The road leaving California and heading into Nevada is mostly flat, long and low across the desert.  We decided we would stop for the night in Elko, Nevada, nearly across the state.

When I was twelve, my dad worked in Alaska for part of the year.  He and my mom decided to have her drive up in a truck with a camper on the back, taking my brother and step-brother.  For years after the trip my mom would tell the story of the drive on the narrow freeway, trucks passing and causing the camper and truck to rock back and forth, back and forth.  She was terrified, but my brother was little and my step-brother had only a learner’s permit–the job was hers.

I fully and completely sympathize.  I had been driving comfortably on the long, flat straight highway.  For the most part the road was smooth.  Bridges were a different story.  There were seams at the beginning and end of each bridge, some dipping a good four inches below the surface of the road.  Driving along at 60 mph, I hit a dip and the truck began to rock side to side, back and forth, the up wheels completely off the road.  Boyfriend had experienced a similar rocking on I-5 in Oregon, but not nearly to the extent of this.

Fear of that magnitude is a physical experience.  As the truck rocked side to side, I felt my body blanch, sweat pouring from every gland.  My heart raced.  I thought I was going to wet myself.  Seconds later as I managed to straighten the truck and slow significantly.  My heart was pounding.  My only thought was that I wanted to get to Milla.  Minutes later, I began to weep.  Weird, this fear response.  I continued for my portion of the drive, then Boyfriend took over.  He kept braking, terrified of a repeat.  He had experienced the same terror as I did.  When we finally arrived in Elko after midnight, all we wanted was a bath and sleep.

This morning we headed across Nevada towards Salt Lake.  Our intention was to get to Boulder in one day.  The roads were clear, the sky was bright with sun, and we were optimistic.

The desert there is quite lovely.  There are snow-capped mountains in the near distance.  Sagebrush dots the landscape contrasting beautifully with spots of snow.  Its expansiveness filled us both with awe.  Ours is such a beautiful planet.

I fell asleep two hours outside Elko.  A half an hour later, I woke and sat up sleepily.  As I stared catatonically into the distance (I have had only 4-6 hours of sleep each night in the last week.  My insomnia has returned with a vengeance.), I felt the truck jerk and bump, then it began its furious side to side weaving.  Boyfriend attempted to drive over the anti-sleep ruts on the shoulder.  This did not work and the truck veered madly toward the edge of the road, tilting and rocking.  That fear hit me again.  Boyfriend managed to straighten it out and slowed to nearly 35 mph.  He had not been going faster than 55, but the combination of a monster tractor-trailer and massive dips after a bridge created the turbulence.  I could smell the sweat on him after, fear palpable between the two of us.

A short time later we made our driver switch.  Driving into and through Salt Lake, I was a wreck.  There were tons of tractor-trailers.  They buzzed by proving just how piddly our truck and trailer were to them.  The roads were terrible.  There were repair seams everywhere crossing all lanes.  Construction projects forced cars into narrow, cement-sided passageways.  I spent the entire trip taking deep breaths, constantly wiping my sweaty palms on my jeans.  As we headed into the mountains east of the city, I was not sure I would be able to manage.  I was so afraid and I could not talk myself out of it.
I am not normally a very fearful person.  I will often push through situations when fear seems to want to take over.  But too many nights without enough sleep, a lot of pretty crappy road food, and the stress of driving the monster weaving truck had me completely out of sorts.  I felt on the verge of tears at every turn.  Finally as we headed towards a sharp 45 mph curve on a 6.5% downgrade slope, I lost it and started bawling.

Boyfriend had called my dad who has driven trucks across the country before.  My dad described the physics of what was happening to us.  He said that rather than braking or stopping acceleration, when the truck began to rock we should actually accelerate.  Once the truck straightened, we could then brake.  He said the worst thing to do was brake.  This made sense and we wondered that we hadn’t figured it out ourselves, but our automatic response was to try to slow down not speed up.

As we headed towards the severe downgrade curve, Boyfriend told me to brake.  So afraid of rocking back and forth, I had stopped wanting to brake altogether, taking the advice to avoid it to the extreme.  It’s okay to brake, we aren’t rocking, he told me calmly.  I managed to slow from 50 to 35 and we made it through the curves without incident.

We continued on through Park City, Utah.  I had managed to accelerate through a few minor rockings and discovered that it did indeed work.  Then we saw a sign indicating that Cheyenne was 427 miles from our location.  I quickly calculated in my head and realized we would not reach Boulder and Milla at a reasonable hour.  Boyfriend was on the phone with a friend and at that moment, after describing how slowly we were going to avoid tipping and rocking, said We aren’t in any hurry.

I realized he was right.  Why were we breaking our necks to get to Boulder tonight?  I wanted to spend time with Milla.  We had forgotten to change the clocks so our calculations put us in Boulder even later.  When Boyfriend got off the phone, I told him I wanted to stop somewhere right inside Wyoming, get a good meal, a solid night’s rest, and relax.  He said, I think that is the best idea we have had in a while. What a man.

Our trip from that point on was much more relaxed. I drove to Edmonton, Wyoming.  We stopped at the corporate addiction palace to get some caffeine and to log onto the internets to make motel reservations in Rock Springs, Wyoming.  When we left, Boyfriend took the wheel.  We are almost there.  I am looking forward to some time to relax an enjoy ourselves.  It is 5:45.  We’ll be there in under a half an hour.  Boyfriend has been driving like a pro.  Now that we have figured out a way around the horrible careening truck swings, and since we know we’ll have a night to relax, we’re both much happier.

January 7, 2009 Driving to New York

We just entered California on the second day of our great moving adventure.  We are both happy to be on the road and headed to our new home.  I have lived in a lot of places, moved around the country on several occasions, but this time feels surreal and exciting at the same time.  It is the first time I have decided to permanently settle somewhere besides Oregon, with no intention of returning, and the first time I have done so with another person.  We are both thrilled and a little scared.

The last few days have been exhausting.  We picked up our rental truck on Monday morning, drove to my friend Kathleen’s house to pick up my boxes that were stored there, drove to my friend Mark’s house to get the last of my boxes, then drove home to pack the truck with the piano.  Our timing was perfect; we drove up just as the piano movers did.

A word about piano movers–they are brilliant at their job.  They loaded up a baby grand and got her on the truck in under a half an hour.  I was mightily impressed.  We had a set of stairs at our Oregon house.  They led from the yard down to the street.  The piano movers backed up their truck and placed a bridge across.  They then just wheeled the piano across the bridge, backed their truck up to ours, set the bridge into our truck, and rolled the piano onto our truck.  Viola, piano loaded!

After the piano movers left, we loaded some gross furniture on the truck to take to the dump.  That was an experience.  We went to an environmental dump where they parcel everything out into different piles depending on what it is.  There was a giant wood pile, a giant couch dismantling station with piles of upholstery, foam, and wood, and a giant plastic pile.  The plastic was tossed onto a conveyor belt where it was dumped into a compactor that turned it into hideous, plastic lumps.  I am constantly refusing to buy certain items for Milla because they are landfill disasters.  I took a photo of the landfill disaster and sent it to her to see where all the ugly plastic goes when it breaks or someone doesn’t want it anymore.  Too bad we can’t put the dump next to Walmart or Target so people can see where the shit goes six months after they buy it.

After the dump at nearly 4 in the afternoon, we headed home to load up.  Boyfriend wanted to leave early Tuesday morning.  I thought he was being overly optimistic, but hey, who am I to rain on his parade?  Unfortunately, Boyfriend’s belongings were not quite packed yet.  We started packing boxes and loading the truck at the same time.  A friend came to help, but things were slow.  Another friend of Boyfriend called and offered to help.  It was dark but things were moving.  Boyfriend’s mom came and helped to pack the kitchen (thank goodness–she was a lifesaver).  Her fiance’ packed Boyfriend’s bike (thank goodness again).

One of our best helpers was Robert, an old, alcoholic singer with grey hair.  Long in the face and long in tooth, he is simply awesome.  He took charge and ordered Boyfriend and helpers diplomatically.  When rope needed cutting, he pulled out his trusty “Old Timer” pocketknife.  Such an old character, so cool, and he adores Boyfriend.  He was indispensable.

It became apparent after the mattresses went into the truck that all the stuff would not fit.  We packed the truck completely, but realized at about 10 p.m. we were going to have to get a trailer.  The rental places were closed at that hour so we amended our plan to leave until later on Tuesday.  Finally, at about midnight, we were ready to stop work and get food.  It had begun raining about 11, so we were grateful everything was in out of the weather and that we could finally eat.  After eggs at an all night Denny’s we headed home to get a tiny bit of sleep.  We had packed the bed so we curled up on an old twin mattress on the floor.

Our dog was confused by all the changes. She had spent the day wandering around watching all her stuff leave the house, her black, triangle-shaped head cocked to one side.  She lay on her bed next to us, blinking sleepily.  I can only imagine her doggy thoughts.  Probably not much more than some vague notion that life was not right, and hopeful her people wouldn’t leave.  Before dawn the next morning Boyfriend moved to his roommate’s futon because he kept falling off the twin mattress, so the dog came and curled up next to me.  It wasn’t until the alarm went off that I realized it was the dog I was snuggling and not my warm man.  She was a worthy substitute.

The next morning I immediately called the Uhaul up the street.  They had trailers we could look at.   As we drove the truck to get the trailer, it became patently obvious that the truck had not been packed evenly.  It listed precariously to the right, all the weight dragging it over.  A baby grand piano, 300 pound armoire, and thousands of records were all on one side, mattresses were on the other.  Damn it if we weren’t going to have to repack half the truck.

Boyfriend immediately jumped on the phone and called everyone he could think of who might help us.  An hour later we had three friends to help, the rain had stopped, and we began to furiously unload to beat the weather and lost time.  We managed to reload and load the trailer in only a couple of hours.  We both feel much better about the reload; the armoire and records are now on the opposite side of the truck from the piano.  We also repacked a bit more securely.  It must have worked; so far at every check, nothing has shifted and fallen.

We were finally able to leave the house at about 6 p.m. Tuesday night.  We had to stop and give a friend the key to Boyfriend’s car because he is selling it for us.  We also had to stop and buy a lock for the trailer.  It was rainy and late, and traffic was terrible because of the hour, but we were both so excited to be on our way, we didn’t care.

Boyfriend climbed a steep learning curve last night on how to drive a big truck with a trailer.  I have driven many trucks and trailers because I have hauled horses all my adult life.  I am used to the stopping distance and turning radius required.  I have learning how important it is not to overcorrect, how a little move of the steering wheel results in a big move with a heavy vehicle.  Boyfriend figured it out last night driving in the dark and rain.  Needless to say, his shoulders were a bit tense.

Today, however, is a different story.  He is driving like a pro.  At one point he went to pass a slow car in the right lane.  The truck began rocking side to side.  He held the wheel and the rocking gradually ceased.  Later, he was making strong man arms as he climbed the mountains at 45 mph.

Our iPhones have been a fantastic road trip addition.  Once we were finally on the road, we figured we would make it to Grants Pass, Oregon for the night.  I jumped on the internets and booked a room on Expedia for $40 a night.  Not bad for a twin bed, clean room, and warm bath!  Tanya the dog approved of the room, and she protected us this morning from an 80-year-old Navy veteran.  Good dog, Tanya!

Luckily for us but not so for the planet, it has been sunny and warm today.  It was too warm for hats and scarves, that’s for sure.  Anyone who thinks climate change is a myth is deluded.  We spent the last two hours driving over the Siskiyou Pass.  At 4600 feet there was barely any snow on the tops of the mountains off in the distance.  Everywhere else it looks like late August.  I can’t quite express my dismay and fear at the sight.  Things really are changing; arguing over it is a tragic waste of time.

Right now we are driving through Shasta national forest.  It is breathtakingly lovely.  Here there actually is snow on the ground, but the road is completely clear and dry and the sun is shining.  We could not ask for better conditions for driving the first week of January.  Our original plan was to head south through Albuquerque, but forecasts and friends assure us we can go through Denver without any problems.  We will decide here in few hours because we have to decide by Reno whether to continue to Elko or head south.  Right now it is looking like it will be Boulder.  We’ll get to stay with friends and see Milla besides.  Sounds good to me.

I Should Have Been Born a Thoroughbred

I am one of those nervous nelly types who reacts physically to mental upsets.  I get a sore throat and diarrhea if my boyfriend and I have an argument.  Once I even threw up.  The consequence is that I have many activities to help with mental harmony.  I have a special grounding meditation.  I like massage and acupuncture.  Exercise helps.  So does listening to the right music.  Writing is a near cure-all for mental imbalance (isn’t that a nice way to describe being somewhat high strung?).

The thing that is rather a paradox is that when I’m all in mental order, I am one of the most laid back, relaxed people I know.  I remind myself of a Thoroughbred horse.  When they are happy, they are some of the mellowist, brightest, most easygoing creatures on earth.  But get them in a dither and watch out.  Actually, I am feeling great kinship right at the moment with these, my favorite breed of the horse world.  I have had a few Thoroughbreds who got diarrhea when they were upset.  Maybe I’m not so weird after all.  Or maybe I should just have been born a horse.

Mail Order Bride

I went from nothing to do to too much to do in the space of a day.  It’s weird how life can go like that.  I’ve been working at this costume shop for a little extra cash before I leave this island.  It’s so boring most of the time, I can hardly stand it.  Yesterday there were a lot of customers, but most of the time, it’s sitting around staring at the piles of stuff in there.  The shop is crazy stuffed with costumes and junk. Some of them are so beautiful and elegant, but others are so crappy, I can’t imagine anyone will ever touch them.  A few days ago, just to ease the boredom, I started combing wigs. The place is filled with wigs, hundreds of them. They are fun to comb.  I like the transition from crack whore tangles to silky smoothness.

Finding costumes for people can be fun, especially people who are willing to get into it and find something interesting to wear.  Some of them though, can be so yuck. Today, for instance, this toady little man came in with his wife.  She was Thai, her body childlike and tiny.  He was short, heavyset, in his early 20’s, with tatoos on his arms.  He wanted her to have a “sexy” costume for work on Halloween. I did not ask what “work” was, but gathered from things they said that it was in the sex industry.

Nothing the woman tried on satisfied the man. Most of our smallest costumes were too large for her and the children’s costumes weren’t sexy enough (um, yeah).  So she’s putting things on and taking them off and anything that looks good, he says no.  He kept talking on his mobile phone, acting self-important to be doing so.  She’s looking through things, finding stuff she likes, taking it to him, only to have him shake his head no, vetoing costumes as either too big or not “sexy” enough.  At one point, the other girl who works in the shop and I were chatting about Whole Foods Market.  We laughed because I called it Whole Paycheck.  I said, That store is so expensive.  It’s a total ripoff. Toady Man, upon hearing this, walks over by a rack of clothes and, honest to god, pulls out a wad of cash and starts counting it right there in the store!  He peeled back fifties and hundreds, counting the wad several times to ensure we saw how much money he had.  What a fucking idiot.

I giggled to the other employee and rolled my eyes. After a bit, he went outside to talk again on the phone while his wife shopped.  We finally convinced her to try on a cute and very short Egyptian, Cleopatra style dress.  It was kind of plain, with a gold cord that wraps around and around.  We accessorized her with a snake hair ornament, arm bands, strappy sandals, and a fantastic brass neck piece.  She looked pretty amazing, considering every other item she had attempted to wear made her look like a child trying to dress as a hooker.  She even seemed excited at the possibility, a happy glint in her eye apparent for the first time since she had walked in the door nearly an hour previous.

Dressed and smiling, pleased at last to have found a costume that seemed to show enough skin for her husband while looking cool at the same time, she walked out for the verdict.  We heard voices, his raised, hers contrite.  Minutes later she came back into the store and told us he did not like it. She apologized as she removed the jewelry and costume and put back on her clothes.  No problem, we told her.

After they left in their giant black Escalade, I could not stop thinking of that horrible man with his wad of money, obscene car, and mail-order Thai wife whom he sought to dress in as slutty an outfit as possible.  Everything about him made me cringe.  He was desperate to show just how important he was, how much more money he had than us pitiful costume store employees who complained about the cost of Whole Foods.  His wife seemed unhappy, trying desperately the entire time we were in the place to please him, but he would have none of it.  Yuck.  He was reprehensible.

Thinking on it later, I realized that she is likely in a quite precarious position.  Married as she is, if something happens and she is no longer married to him, she would probably have to return to her native country.  I realize I am speculating, but it is easy enough to imagine this being less than desireable for her, a means for him to control everything she does.  Marriages like this one are legalized sex slavery.  If she doesn’t want to return home, this man has control over her, it’s as simple as that. Anyway, I don’t know the whole story.  I could only take away my observations, and what I saw was pitiful. I hope this woman achieves in her life all she desires.  I hope for her sake if her story is as I imagine it, she is able to find a way to live her life in spite of her husband and find happiness.  I wish her well.

Smitten

I’m completely smitten.  Okay, here’s an aside.  How is it that a person who reads as many books as I do, who loves words and word origins, who loves language actually, can have gone through life and not known that smitten is a past participle of smite?  How is this?  I am completely pitiful.  I should have known this.  I knew its use as an adjective, as in struck with a hard blow, grievously afflicted, and very much in love.  I knew these definitions.  I did not put together that the very much in love use was metaphoric for being struck.  Cupid’s arrow and all that.  I make these discoveries that there are so many things I do not know.  Sometimes they seem so obvious, I wonder how it is I came this far in life and did not know them.  It’s like driving down the same road every day your entire life and suddenly noticing a gas station that has been there for years.  Duh.

Missing is So Unkind

What possible biological basis can there have been for us to evolve a mechanism that allows us to feel like a limb has been removed when we miss another human being?  Is it truly only the mating sequence? Why couldn’t our biology be content to know another mate will someday take the place of the first?  Or is it that in ancient times if our mate died or was lost to us, we couldn’t easily find another?  Is that it? Maybe it is something else.  Whatever it is, I just don’t get it.

Perhaps it is some other mechanism that has simply gotten stuck in the missing another human category.  Maybe we’re supposed to feel serious missing when we lose an actual limb because losing an actual limb could pose a serious detriment to our ability to hunt and gather.  It would impact our ability to find a mate. Perhaps the two are juxtaposed in some manner in certain brains.

I know I am not the only one like this.  I watched this film last night called My Blueberry Nights.  One character, rather than live without the person who left him, drives himself into a tree.  This after drinking himself into oblivion every night for months.  Yep, his limb missing mechanism was severely out of whack. And the woman who left him realized after he was dead that she missed him like a missing limb as well.  So her missing limb mechanism was juxtaposed onto her missing partner as well.  Maybe I’m onto something here.

I am going to see the person who I miss in a little over a week.  Ironically, I am feeling his absence more acutely as his visit draws closer.  It is like knowing he will be here, that he is somehow within reach, makes the desire more visceral.  I have to fight myself NOT to send him text messages telling him how much I miss him and all the things I want to do with him when he gets here.  I have to force myself to be here and now, focus on my legs, focus on my arms, recognize they are actually in place and I do not require a prosthesis.  I can do this.  When I do this it is easier.  See brain?  Limbs intact.  Man will arrive shortly so stop thinking about him so much.

Then he calls and I’m listening to Woody Herman sing about being in love and clouds having silver linings and his own melancholy without his dear, the piano tinkling perfectly in the background, and I feel that old familiar pull in my belly.  Gads, missing is so unkind.

You Know It

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. — William Congreve

I have told more than one person that I work at resolving situations before I get truly angry, because once I get there, once I get truly angry as opposed to being simply irritated, bothered, or annoyed, then I lose any semblance of giving a shit and whoever is in the way better get out of it or they will be sorry. I don’t think having such a capacity for rage is unhealthy, but I do think it’s a problem if I get that angry if I do something I will regret because I’m too mad to care. I have to be responsible about that level of anger. A friend of mine suggested expressing some of this rage in a healthy manner by going out in a field and yelling or something. But when I’m actually feeling that mad, the only healthy thing I can do is to stay very far away from anyone and try not to break anything valuable. It is probably also a good idea to stay away from the computer where I can compose an email or a blog post and send it before calming down and regretting it later. Going out in a field or the forest and screaming and yelling isn’t really getting mad, it’s acting like it. It isn’t actually feeling it, because it takes some situation to trigger feeling it. Anger isn’t just sitting in there inside me like a time bomb waiting to explode. There has to be a reason to get that angry, usually coupled with my being hungry, tired, or both. Then fucking forget it.

Why am I writing about this and thinking about it? There is a situation that occurred that when I think about it, I come close to that mad. It’s like it is just sitting there, waiting for expression. I keep hoping I can resolve it without getting pushed over that cliff into being so mad I lose all sense of reason and do or say something that makes the whole thing worse. Or at least completely irrevocable. I suppose I believe though that sometimes when I get that angry it’s because I’ve left something undone or unsaid too long, and it takes getting that angry to put it out there. In some cases this makes things worse, but sometimes it makes things better. It was like this at my old workplace. I put up and shut up and put up and shut up and finally my brain said enough and I got mad enough not to give a shit, put it all out there, and was finally able to leave, utterly and completely.

But is that what I really want in this situation? I don’t know. I don’t know. Part of why it has gone this far is that I don’t want a complete and utter break. I don’t want an irretrievable situation. Yet it seems like every attempt I make at resolution goes nowhere, then more stuff is added, and now here I am, realizing that now, yes, I’m mad. It’s been festering. I’ve been stewing on pieces of it for a while, then because there was no resolution and new stuff kept being added, here I am, fighting off a really solid anger bender. Yikes. If I don’t resolve the mad without going over the edge, I will end up over that cliff and I am psychically incapable of logical thought when that animal part of my brain takes over. Is this what is necessary to achieve resolution? Is this the only answer since the other things I have tried don’t work? I can’t believe there are no other options, but I’ve been utterly unsuccessful at utilizing them.

The same friend, who is a very good adviser I might add, told me that writing isn’t going to work. I’m not going to resolve this by sitting here at the computer. I agree. This sort of self-analyzation is not the answer. But there is something to the “poison pen.” I am capable of being very destructive with what I write if I so choose. Yet I don’t really want to. I want peaceful resolution. I want things to work out. I don’t want utter chaos, although because he’s been in this position, my adviser seems to think utter chaos is the only way out of this mess. I hope this is not true. I hope resolution can be achieved without that level of rage.

So knowing self analyzing writing isn’t going to solve anything, I sit here and self analyze write. Good job. This is a good use of my time. I would rather go to sleep. First I could not go to sleep last night and stayed up way too late, then I woke too early this morning. I wrote a few emails, read a few blogs, checked out Old American Century, then crawled back into bed. Only the thing I am mad about keeps hovering in the fringes, keeping me awake. It is clearly time for a resolution.

The electrician is here. I have had multiple problems with home inspectors. They seem continually to find things wrong that experts say are not problems at all. My first two home sales fell through because the “inspectors,” with their whole six hours of training and their passage of a 200 question test, said the foundation was faulty. An inspection by a licensed structural engineer (6 years of college, multiple continuing education courses) showed that the house was structurally sound. Unfortunately the buyers were unable to overcome the “inspectors'” opinions and both sales fell through. In this latest sale, the “inspector” seemed more savvy, but there were a couple of things he came up with that have me rolling my eyes. First of all, he said rats could come up the drain in the basement. Small problem with that theory: the drain is filled. Simply poking a screwdriver into it four inches would have revealed this to the inspector. So now I have to pay a licensed contractor to come and fill a hole four more inches with cement. I could do this. It would not be hard. But no, the sales contract won’t allow this. I have to pay someone else a hundred and something per hour to do it for me. What a fucking waste of money.

And now, the electrician is here. A little over a year ago, I hired another electrician to rewire the house and put in a new electrical panel. The work was inspected by the county and approved. Unfortunately, Mr. Inspector thought the work was “sloppy and had deficiencies.” Okay. Apparently things have changed since the other electrician had the work approved a little over a year ago. I described what needed to be done to the new electrician. He walked into the room where the “deficiencies” exist. He looked kind of confused and said What is wrong? This is perfectly legal. I don’t get it. I could cover those two junction boxes, but why do you need an electrician to do that? Why indeed. He looked at the county approval sticker and pointed out the work was done just over a year ago. He exclaimed in disbelief again that the work was improper.

I know what it is. It’s that “inspectors” are a big, fat joke. They provide buyers with an opportunity for remorse, giving them a chance to get out of a sale when they have second thoughts. They let buyers think they are doing due diligence. They keep contractors in business because any work done as a result of an “inspection” has to be done by licensed contractors. All around, it’s a big scam. It’s annoying and can be costly when they tell you something is wrong when it isn’t. It’s a travesty when they miss something truly dangerous. I’m obviously opinionated about this issue, but I have never encountered such a racket. I have no problem fixing things that really need to be repaired. I have no problem with trying to make sure a place is fit for living before its being sold, but the methods employed are pathetic. I have no doubt there are very good, experienced inspectors. I had one when I bought my house and, having nothing to compare him to, thought nothing further of the profession until now. Since I have had these experiences, I have heard story after story after story from buyers and sellers alike of the bad sort of inspectors. When I looked up the requirements to be an inspector in Oregon, I can understand why. As far as I am concerned, these “requirements” are woefully inadequate and allow anyone with a half a brain cell to hang up a shingle and call themselves an inspector. Good times.

Well, now that I got that little rant off my chest, I’m going to go eat breakfast. I’ll try not to kill anything on the way to the kitchen.

Please Advise this Would-Be Diplomat

So I think maybe I get why Congress can’t pull its head out of its ass about the Iraq war and do something different that moves us towards stabilization in the region and ultimately allows our soldiers to come home. The reason I’m able to understand this is that I’m kind of like Congress right now in this war between my chihuahua and the man I’ve been dating.  Destabilization between my chihuahua and the man has increased rapidly since our three hour car trip on Sunday when the man kept bugging the chihuahua and finally the chihuahua bit him on the thumb. He has been telling anyone who will listen about the bite, pointing out the scab that has formed, and I’m sure making it sound like it was a completely unwarranted attack on the part of the chihuahua, but it wasn’t and he knows it. In the meantime the chihuahua has become an even worse parasite on his mama, following me into the bathroom and wherever I go just in case there might be a man lurking somewhere around a corner.

Things have devolved now to the point where if the man looks at my dog, my dog makes a very angry alligator face and growls at him, then hides under the bed, then the man attempts to chase the dog out from under the bed to get him to make the face, the face is made, and it all continues. It is very bad. I am occasionally able to step in and separate them, and in that regard I’m more effective than Congress, but I am only one person you know, so it is easier for me to step between a rather large hunky man and a tiny chihuahua, but I’m not sure how to broker peace in the region. I’m really not. I work the diplomatic angle with ITMHMBBINS. Hey, can you please chill on the chihuahua? Then the man gives me the innocent face, I didn’t do anything. He’s just growling at me. Then he makes a face at the chihuahua, the chihuahua growls and makes his own face, and we’re back in battle.

I’m really at a loss. I’m fully cognizant of the fact that this situation has occurred because the man thinks it is fun to do things to the chihuahua like spin him around on slippery floors and slide him down slides. I get that. It can be kind of fun. But I know when to stop because chihuahua has had enough and the man has no clue when enough is enough and pushes chihuahua to the breaking point.

Did I mention this is not his first bite? As far as war wounds go, you wouldn’t think it, but the score now is chihuahua three, the man zero. The man was bitten on the nose one night after a particularly long and bloodless fight. Shots were fired on both sides. Both had retreated. It was dark. We were all battening down the hatches for a good night’s sleep when the man went in for one last growly face at the chihuahua. The chihuahua bit him on the nose. No blood was drawn, but in one swift nip, war was declared. Not many days later, chihuahua bit the man for real, on the hand this time. Acting first as intermediary and secondly as infirmary, I bandaged the man’s hand with a bucking horse bandaid and admonished him to leave the chihuahua alone.

He did not heed my advice. The war has escalated. The two are able to function only with me between them. Sometimes if it is dark, the chihuahua will curl next to the man, blissfully unaware he is sleeping near the enemy. The man allows this knowing it is likely I will bonk him on the head if he interferes with the chihuahua during sleep. It’s just not soldierly honorable, you know? But I’m at the end of my diplomatic abilities. I simply do not know what to do. I know there are those who would tell me to tell the man to take a hike for torturing my chihuahua. I know there are others who would tell me to put chihuahua in the basement when the man is around. But the first group does not realize how amazing the man is with other animals and the second group does not realize that separating the chihuahua from my body amounts to a surgical procedure and to lock him up when I am home would honestly amount to canine murder because he would have a stroke. So I’m really stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Anyway, that’s where I’m at. If anyone has any ideas how to broker peace in the region, even some contributions for a treaty or something, I’d be really thankful. Such offerings would be most welcome. Then maybe if I’m successful I can hand off the plans to Congress to work on the Iraq war.

Just Gotta Love It

It is unbelievable the content of questions on ABC’s debate between Obama and Clinton. It was an hour into the debate before the moderator asked any questions of substance on issues that affect anyone. Until that point, the content was pure nonsense, sound-bite, reality television, tabloid fodder ridiculousness. Of course the entire thing was lampooned on Jon Stewart, as it should have been. After seeing the Jon Stewart piece I found and watched the actual debate, but had to turn it off after ten minutes because it was too painful to view. Utterly remarkable.

As it is, those of us with brains will lament this state of affairs through emails and the sending of this video to others who share our views. Obama sent out a bulletin on myspace complaining. I’m sure liberal bloggers everywhere are writing all about it. Editorialists will provide their opinions. And you know what? Nothing will change. None of it. We’ve gotten so overloaded with information and crap and constant noise in the background and tabloid television and reality everything and commercials in the grocery stores and never silence anywhere that this too will pass. Tomorrow something equally shameful will occur, we’ll all cry a river, and in the noise and constancy it will continue. It’s depressing. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone is an expert. Everyone is talking. No one is listening. The only thing that is changing is that it is all getting a bit worse every day. I know this is a bit of a pessimistic response to the reality of today’s world, at least in these United States, but it’s an honest response. I think anything else would be foolishness.

In my personal life, I continue to live and learn or live and not learn. It is what it is I guess. I don’t know. Lately I’ve been thinking maybe I should just chuck this brain and its efforts at enlightenment and go live on a beach somewhere with my daughter and my dogs and ignore the rest of the planet. It is very easy to want to bury my head in the sand. I know, I know. I’ve heard it before. You’re intelligent and educated. Use that to help change things. But I don’t think I can do anything outside the scope of my little world. Hell, I can’t change things inside the scope of my little world, why would I ever have the audacity to think I can do more than what I already do?

Yeah, I’m pessimistic tonight. I am what I am. I have this negative streak that runs through me. I can’t escape it. C’est la vie.

Physical Therapy

The Elbow, Lying on the Couch: When I was young, I fell and was broken. It was a hard fall. Out of a tree. The ligaments surrounding my cartilage were torn. I hurt for months. I was swollen. I couldn’t breathe properly.

Physical Therapist: How do you feel about that?

Elbow: It hurts, you know? I mean, I still feel the ache of that painful day.

Physical Therapist: What do you think you can do to move past this? What is done is done.

Elbow: I just don’t know. Maybe I’m going to have to work on moving past that time, stretch a little.

Physical Therapist: I can prescribe something if you like.

Elbow: I’d like to try and work through this without medication, but if the pain becomes too intense, I may have to take you up on that offer.

Physical Therapist: I’m always here.

Elbow: I know. These sessions help me to maintain my sanity.

American Idol had some kids talking about the statistics on poverty. The thing is, they’re preaching to the choir. Those of us watching this can’t do anything global about the problem and those who can aren’t going to watch this and do anything about it.

On another note, I’ve decided I’m going to start my own corporation to operate in competition with Monsanto. I’m going to hire a bunch of scientists and get them to patent dogs and cats. Then when people try to breed them, I’m going to sue their asses off. Of course this will be after I’ve harassed them and terrified them, taking photos of them out walking the puppies and cuddling the kittens. How dare these people interfere with my right to own life? I’ll also go after anyone who buys the puppies or kittens unaltered. If they think they are going to let those animals breed without my getting paid for it, they have another thing coming.

I don’t think I know how to be loved, at least in the sense of a significant other relationship kind of love. I have gone through every relationship I’ve had as an adult and concluded that the only man who ever truly loved me was my husband, and it was if that relationship was doomed before it began, at least from the point where we got married. The poor man was completely emasculated by his mother, and the day we moved into his parents’ house was the day we kissed that relationship goodbye, even though it limped on for another four years.

Anyway, I thought about this and I have no idea what it feels like. I only know what not being loved feels like. I know what my partner loving someone else feels like. I know what my partner having no clue about love for anyone feels like. But I can barely remember what it feels like for someone to love me. I wonder if a person reaches a point where she wouldn’t recognize it if it fell in her lap. I am so used to unrequited love. I am so used to beginnings that never go anywhere. I have zero clue how to go beyond that.

How do you learn if you never get the opportunity to try?  How do you keep believing you are lovable if no one ever loves you?  The last time it happened for me was fourteen years ago.  That is such a long time.  Actually sitting here and contemplating this I just can’t believe the length of it.  That is a significant chunk of time.  God, all this advice.  Don’t base your happiness on a man.  Live your own life.  Build yourself.  It’s great to do that, but how do you learn the lessons a deep relationship teaches if you never get into that place where someone else really loves you?

I wonder if most people are truly unloved.  I know there are a lot of people married out there, or in long term relationships.  Does that mean they have been loved or are loved?  How is it they get there?  I’m absolutely, utterly and completely baffled by this.

It is a quarter to midnight.  I started to go to sleep but woke up.  That is the worst time to wake up, when you’re still in the beginning stages of sleep.  I find it nearly impossible to go back to sleep in any reasonable fashion if I’m awakened within the early stages of sleep.  I’m tired, but can’t sleep.  I’m too tired really to read.  There is nothing I want to watch on television.  I hate television really.  Maybe I’ll find some Youtube or something to watch.  This sucks.  I have to get up early too.  Ah well.  I’m used to insomnia, just not at the beginning of the night.  I hope this means when I do finally fall asleep that I won’t wake up at 3, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Letter Again to Love Guru

Well, I received a letter last week from a well-meaning young fellow.  I have to say I am impressed with his fortitude in contacting me.  He is obviously an intelligent person who knows when to ask for help.  Here is his request:

HI love guru i dont know ur reputation but having studied ur letters it made me relaxed and confident enuf to share my problem with u. The problem is that due to bipolar sickness and other problems i feel that i may am lagging behind than my other fellows in mental growth at this time i am doing my masters in digital communications but believe me in social activites and day to day living i spend my most of life in room and have gained very less experiences well thats another problem. My love problem is that i dont feel to marry or engage coz i dont feel mature enuf but ma parents insisted me and after rejecting a few proposals i accpeted one. But that was due to pressure. Now its 4 months since i engaged to a girl. That girl is sincere to me as i am the only man in her life but u know i dont like her much. i dont think about her that much. i respect her she is quite descent and mature girl but i wanted a lil funky girl so that she brighten ma life. ne way now tell me wat to do she is not a type of ma beauty choice. i m very worried these days. tell me wat should i do please.  Ali

To begin, Ali, I would suggest a bit of grammar school.  This would help you immensely in your ability to communicate.  Perhaps improvements in your communications will improve your social skills.  However, because you are a man, a bit of leeway will be accorded to you.  We women know how easy it is for men to revert to their caveman ways, and grammar is not something that appeals to cavemen.  Cavemen prefer banging things with lumps of rock and grunting. This is certainly not conducive to correct articulation.  I understand this.  However, practice your grammar.  Considering your mental problems, you need all the help you can get.

Regarding your love question…Ali, shame on you!  You have a perfectly lovely woman who is willing to put up with you, keep you in your private quarters, and feed you.  What more is it that you want?  She isn’t “beautiful” enough?  If you do not think she is pretty enough, I would suggest the problem is not with her, but with your eyes.  The solution is simple.  Go and find a stick and poke your eyes with it.  Once you are blind, you will not notice what your woman looks like.  An alternative is some wood glue.  Simply rub some glue along your lids.  This will cause them to stick shut, thereby increasing the strength of your other senses.  You will notice the lovely perfume your woman wears, the sounds of the music she plays, the tastes of the food she has made for you, and the feel of the softness of her skin.  Who needs sight when these other senses are so visceral?  Your woman loves you and wishes to keep you near to her.  Simply return to your quarters and all will be forgiven.  Kiss her feet, pour perfume all over your body, and shave.  Then beg for her forgiveness.  She will be so happy to see you, she may even feed you more than once a day.

Unfortunately, if your girl drove you out to the side of the road somewhere, she is over you and nothing you can do will change her mind.  I realize you are suffering from mental delusions in the form of bipolar disorder, but you need to get yourself under control!  How?  It’s simple.  You need to have a beer and watch some football.  You said you do not think of her much as it is.  I am sure the walk alone started you on the way to forgetting about her, but your mental disorder likely interfered.  I assure you the beer and game will complete the exodus of this person from your mind.  You will wonder why you needed to write to me in the first place.

Good luck, Ali.  True love really can be yours if you follow my simple advice.

More Love Guru Love Letters

Here are some more letters to help ladies find their way to true love. Based on the sheer number of letters I’ve received, I am absolutely certain that many of you have similar questions and will find comfort in these answers I have provided.

Dear Love Guru,
My boyfriend says he doesn’t like the music I chose for him. He says I have zero taste and wouldn’t know a good song if it hit me in the head. I told him this hurts my feelings. He said so what? What should I do? Sincerely, Sally

Dear Sally,
I hate to tell you, darling, but your man is a mean clod and deserves to be put out on his head. Telling you that you have zero taste in music is not only not true, it’s just plain cruel. What does he know, anyway? He’s a man. Except in rare instances, men wouldn’t know musical taste if landed in their lap. Personally, I would take him out to the suburbs or the country and leave him there to figure his own way back to town, but if you love him like it seems you do, you are just going to have to change him. How? Well that’s simple. He’s going to have to spend some serious time in private quarters, the music is going to have to go a bit louder, the perfume is going to have to be sprayed a bit longer, and I hate to say this, but I think it is time to withhold some meals from this man. He really needs to learn that your love is what his life is all about and if he’s going to be critical of your choice in music, he should be thankful for every other wonderful aspect of your beautiful character. I would suggest starting out by feeding him only once a day in the late afternoon. He’ll be so grateful for the food, he won’t even notice the music. While he’s eating, turn the song up just a hair, while he’s still in the throes of tummy ecstacy. After about a week, go ahead and add another snack in the morning and when you do, bring the volume up on the music again right after he is through eating. Over the next several weeks, you can add in more meals, and also increase the size of the meals. Each time you do this, turn the musical volume up just a piece. He will begin to associate food with the song choice you made. If at any time he has something critical to say to you about your song choice, reduce the amount of food he receives for the next few days but do not lower the volume on your song. He’ll figure it out and you’ll be on your way to true love’s bliss in no time at all.

Dear Love Guru,
I hate to ask you this because you were probably intentional in leaving it out of your instructions, but what am I supposed to do with my fingernails? I have the hardest time keeping them tidy and I’m just afraid they detract from my entire sexy look. Do you have any advice? Thank you in advance, Nel
ly

Oh Nelly, Nelly,
What a fantastic question and you are so right that I should have addressed this earlier! What was I thinking? I just wasn’t, that’s all there is to it. I’m so sorry for leaving you out in the cold like this. Here’s the thing, dear. You are going to have to start using falsies. Men love a woman with long nails. They just do. Short nails remind them of their own unkempt manly hands and you know what happens when a man sees something that reminds him of himself…he begins to see you as a man. And we wouldn’t want that, now would we? So find a nice nail salon and have them apply the tips for you. If you can’t afford a salon, go ahead and apply them yourself, but be sure you use a strong adhesive so they don’t fall off. I wouldn’t use the stuff that comes with the nail kit, but go buy some serious glue from the hardware store. You can simply use a bit of sandpaper on them to even out the lumps the glue leaves. After you apply your nail tips, be sure to paint them fire engine red. Fire engine red fires up a man’s imagination like nothing else. He’ll be so hot after seeing those nails, you might not even need his private quarters for a week! Toenails actually need attention too, but they do not need to be very long. Just be sure to have them cleaned up with a lovely pedicure. Be sure to get rid of any unsightly skin or fungus. I’m going to let you in on a little secret: SOS pads. SOS pads are amazing for scrubbing nastiness off your toes and heels. If you get a little burned, put on some lotion. Your feet will be utterly amazing. Throw on some high heeled sandals and he’ll be so gaga for your gorgeous feet, he won’t be able to sleep with loving you.

Dear Love Guru,
My mother, church, God, and the Bible taught me that sex outside of marriage is a sin. Shame on you for advocating sinful bedding like this! Shame on you also for telling women to show skin! Don’t you know that God wants our bodies covered? He does not like us to show others our private parts! Even in the sanctity of the marriage bed, he would be shocked if I allowed my Husband to see my breasts during relations. Shame, shame, shame! I may be coming up on 48 years old, but God will find me a Husband when he sees fit, on His own time. And if I never find a Husband, the Lord Jesus will be happy to comply. Signed, Ruth

Dear Ruth,
I do not know how in the world you came to the conclusion that God would not want you to use your body for sex since He gave you a hoo hoo and breasts, and I’ll bet your lovely form is way sexier than even you can imagine. Plus, there is no reason you can’t follow my other advice for getting love, even without having sex early and often, you just need to modify things a little. I think maybe Jesus is a bit busy healing babies and going to church and all that to be working on being your husband, so it would be best if you found yourself a nice human man to love. It may take a bit more time for you than it will for the average girl, but you’ve got spunk and I know you’ll find true love with a man in no time just like Jesus intended.

Well how do I do that, Love Guru? I can just hear you asking me that right now, so I’m going to tell you. First of all, nothing says that a good Christian lady can’t have her hair attractively styled. In fact I have seen more Christian ladies with the hair style I advocate than I see at the mall. And having a built in support system could be quite useful for you all. You could get together and color one another’s hair! It could be so fun. After Church you could have pie and do hair. God also doesn’t mind if you wear makeup. He made men so that they aren’t bright enough to know you are a girl without makeup, so He must have intended you to use some. Makeup parties can be fun too, kind of like those candle party things you Christian girls go to, only putting makeup on instead of lighting up a bunch of wax. And if you’re feeling especially creative, you could combine one of your candle parties with a makeup and hair removal party, and use the candle wax on your bikini line, armpits, and legs. It could be so much fun! Sitting here I’m thinking perhaps I should go into the Christian lady party planning business. I think I would be good at it.

You also mentioned some concern at having to show your skin. Again, I have to wonder why the good Lord would make skin if He meant for us to cover it all the time, but I also recognize that He did give us the ability to create some fantastic clothing choices, so I suppose He intended us to be creative in this department. It is too bad that he didn’t make men with a bit more imagination so us girls wouldn’t have to make things like nipples and labia so obvious, but it is what it is. I am here to tell you that you can still follow my steps while allowing for a man’s inability to figure out a breast is a breast and not just a lump. Basically you just have to go with ill-fitting clothing all over your whole body. Wear a very tight blouse. It can have a high neck and long sleeves. Just make sure that the silhouette of your breasts is clearly visible. Since your man will not be able to see your areola, you will need to wear your shirts tight enough he can see the shape of them through the shirt. Since it sounds like short skirts would offend your religious sensibilities, simply wear your pants tight enough to see your labia. Dressing to find a man without showing skin really is not as difficult as it seems, now is it?

As you can see, there are many of my steps to love that you can follow even if you are unwilling to have sex early and often. And don’t underestimate private quarters to assist you in developing a good Christian relationship. Suppose you meet a man you really like, but he doesn’t share your devotion? You can use your private quarters to help him along. This is especially effective if you have a very cold basement or root cellar for your man’s private quarters space. Basically, make sure your man’s private quarters are good and cold. Put him in there and leave him for several days. Every few days sit with him and read to him from your Bible. After reading to him about the comfort of the Lord, give him a little something to help him warm up just a bit. Over time, he will begin to associate the comfort of the Lord with the warmth you have provided. You also have the added bonus of his associating this comfort with your love. In no time at all, he’ll love you and the Lord more than anything in the world. Religious hymns can also make an effective musical choice in a case like yours. He’ll associate the lovely hymn with his love for the both of you. What could be better than that?

Dear Love Guru,
I bought some sexy clothes like you suggested. What should I do with my old ones? I really don’t think it would be right to donate them since another woman might end up buying them and keep herself from finding love. I simply could not live with myself knowing I contributed to another woman’s unhappiness. Thanks, Dotty

Dearest Dotty,
You are truly a generous spirit and your kindness will be rewarded with true love. What to do with those clothes? That’s easy, use them to fill in the cracks of your man’s private quarters so he stays warm. There’s nothing like the softness of a nice cotton polo shirt to snuggle up against. And if he’s being naughty, you can use them to poke in his mouth until he’s quiet. Alternatively, you can give them to my previous letter writer or any other Christian ladies who need to encourage their men to be a bit more devotional.

For the original Love Guru post, go here.  For the first batch of Love Guru Love Letters, go here.

Love Guru Love Letters

I received many questions after posting my recipe for love. Clearly finding love can be a touchy problem, and one about which many would like to find some answers. I regret that because of the incredible number of inquiries I received, I simply cannot answer most of them personally. However I have compiled some of the more common issues here, and will post more tomorrow. Hopefully these will help those who have not quite yet navigated love’s rough waters.

Dear Love Guru,
I read your instructions on how to get a man and I’m thinking it’s gonna work. However I am confused about one thing and that’s hair. I have a perm. I have been trying to grow it out so the ends are kinda curly and the middle is straight. Do you think I should just cut it all off and start short? Thanks, Candy.

Dear Candy,
Great question. Let me just get straight to it. If No and Hell No went for a boat ride and No fell out, who would be left? Hell No. I cannot stress enough the importance of hair length when it comes to men. They simply do not understand short hair on a woman, that’s all there is to it. I’m sorry men can be so obtuse, but that’s just how it is. If a man sees you with short hair, he’s going to think you are another man, and we don’t want that, now do we? Yours is a simple solution and it’s called straightening. Go to the salon and have your hair straightened. Better yet, go to the store and buy your own kit and do it yourself. If you are a black lady, simply follow the instructions on the kit. If you are a white lady, go for a few minutes less, that way your hair won’t fall out. You’ll be on your way to love in no time! Fabulous name, by the way. With a name like Candy, you’ll have men wanting to eat right out of your hand!

Dear Love Guru,
I have a question that’s of a rather personal nature. Actually, it has to do with pubic hair. You did not mention pubic hair in your instructions, and I’m quite curious whether or not it should be trimmed. Some of my girlfriends say it should be shaved all the way off. Others say it should be left au naturel. Personally, I prefer a simple trim. What’s a girl to do? Sincerely, Harley

Dear Harley,
Another simply magnificent question! The answer to that question is easy, and you’re going to like it because you’re already there, Hon. Trim it. I know there are some men who like things completely naked down there, but there is just something wrong with that. Think about it. Little girls have no hair down there. Shaving all the hair off makes your privates look like those of a little girl. Do you really think it is a good idea for your man to be thinking of some little girl when he’s with you? I don’t think so! Not only that, unless you plan to get waxed (oh my God, ouch!), then you’re going to have to keep up working on getting that hair gone all the time. If you miss a day, can you imagine the itchiness? The thought brings tears to my eyes. And if you cut yourself…I just won’t even go there. So shave your bikini line and trim the rest. As for going au naturel, I do realize there are those hirsute ladies who are into that and we all hope they can find a man who is as well, but I say good luck, Sister. It just is not going to happen. Remember how I told you that men are not very bright when it comes to the ladies? Do you honestly think he’s going to know what is under all that hair if you leave it on there? Hair is meant to be long on the head and that is it. Go for the nice trim. And don’t forget to shave your armpits as well. You’ll be glad you did.

Dear Love Guru,
I have a real problem. I took your advice and found the man I thought was of my dreams. I wore the clothes you suggested, attractively styled my hair, wore perfect makeup, and let my panties hang out. It worked! I snagged my highschool sweetheart, John Fangboner, in just under a month. I was able to create a great private quarters for him in my basement. I built it all by myself and play Michael McDonald for him 24 hours a day. He’s there now in fact. Only here’s my problem. While I was at my job as a toenail fungus specialist at Lulu’s Nails in Brooklyn, I met the most wonderful man! He’s come in several times for Lulu’s special fungus treatment and I’m pretty sure he likes me. I mean, he does wear a wedding band, but I think it’s so women don’t hit on him all the time because he is really handsome. And his fungus isn’t that bad. I’m wondering how I should handle this situation considering John is in my basement as I write this! Please help. Confused in Love, Mary Lou Pantzaroff

My Dearest Confused,
Get up this second, go down to Walgreen’s, buy yourself some reading glasses, and put them on right now! You will be seeing clearly in about three minutes, my dear. This is quite a common problem, I’m afraid. You would not believe the sheer volume of letters I’ve gotten on just this issue. I particularly chose yours because it includes a second, more subtle issue I would also like to address. First of all, girls simply change their minds. That is all there is to it. It happens. In the same way that men are known to run around, bang things, and throw balls, us girls are known for being fickle creatures. Don’t sweat it. Here’s what you need to do. Take Johnny out for a drive and leave him on a country road. Don’t go too far from town. If you live in the city, and it sounds like you do, the suburbs will work just as well. Kiss him on his cheek, give him enough money for bus fare home, and leave. Why? Because the walk and ride back to his place will clear his head. He will be slightly confused after the warmth of his private quarters, the loving music, and your sexual prowess. Walking will remind him of sports and beer. He’ll start to focus on those things and head back to his place. By the time he arrives, he will have forgotten all about you. Normally this would be catastrophic, which is why we keep our men in their private quarters, but since you want out, this is the perfect solution.

Now you mentioned another issue I would also like to discuss, and that is the new man you are interested in. Can I just say now, Congratulations! Sounds to me like he’s as interested in you as you are in him. That ring? That’s his way of practicing his marriage to you! He’s getting ready and he does not want other girls to think he’s available. So go for it! You’ve already nabbed one man, you are obviously quite successful in the man-nabbing department. This one should not be terribly difficult to snag as well, especially since it seems he’s already interested. He wouldn’t be coming into your salon all the time if he wasn’t. And just think, he’s sharing an intimate bodily problem he’s dealing with, so he already trusts you. Girlfriend, you are so on your way to love, I’m getting all shivery and excited just thinking about it. Good luck and let me know how the wedding goes!

Everyone, this girl’s predicament is a common one. They see a man wearing a wedding band and think he’s taken. Remember that little phrase that says assuming makes an ass out of you and me? Well assuming a man is married simply because he’s wearing a wedding band is a load of horse pucky and definitely gets a lot of donkeys wandering around. Men know wedding bands keep women away, so when they decide you are the girl for them, they might just start wearing one so they can be sure to snag you! Unless your guy shows you his wedding certificate and the wife, he is likely fair game. Just be sure to wear your hair attractively styled, beautiful makeup, and ill-fitting clothes with a nice peek of your panties. He’ll be yours in no time. And don’t forget those private quarters! They are a key ingredient in the recipe of love.

For the original Love Guru post, go here.  For more Love Guru Love Letters, go here.

Love Guru

There are clear steps to getting the man of your dreams. I am here today to provide you some insight into those steps. Finding true love is not difficult. With a little perseverance, you too can achieve true love and happiness. To get started, I suggest pulling together some supplies. These supplies include a computer with internet access, duct tape, a cage, a hammer, some music and candles, clothing, makeup, scissors, and shoes. If you have a basement, this can be helpful too. It works best if the basement is in your own house, but your neighbor’s basement works well too if they are amenable.

First things first, men like women who look good and sexy. This means if you are normally the type to wear something dowdy like waist high jeans and a polo shirt tucked in, along with some sports socks and sneakers, you are going to seriously have to rethink your wardrobe choices. Unfortunately, men are not able to see past clothes that look like another guy is wearing them, so unless you would like to catch a gay man, I suggest taking this strong piece of advice: tight and ill-fitting.

What does this mean exactly? It means that you want to go with clothes a size, or perhaps two, too small. I know, I know, I’ve read those articles in womens’ mags claiming we should wear clothes that fit and if we are plus-sized girls, it’s even more important. Whatever. I’m here to tell you from a man’s perspective, that is gobbledy-gook. The thing you have to remember is that boys are not very imaginative creatures. They can’t imagine what they can’t see. Why is it, do you think, that they need a nudey magazine to do business with themselves? Huh? It’s because they cannot for the life of them figure out that a breast under a shirt is a breast. They just think it’s a lump. So you have to provide them with a reminder. It’s pretty simple really. Wear shirts that are a bit too tight, preferably low cut if you have the chest to accommodate, making certain if there are buttons that they don’t quite line up to close. This way men can see through to your bra if you have one and to your skin if you don’t.

A side note on undergarments here. If you can go without, do. Especially bras. Men like nipples, and like I said before, men can’t imagine what they can’t see. A little areola goes a long way to tittilating a man’s heart. Same goes for underwear. The best look if you must indulge in panties is to wear the thong style with the back showing out the top of your pants or skirt. Now, if you do as I say and choose pants or a skirt a size or so too small, it will be easy for the panties to show out the top.

Back to clothes. Since we just mentioned pants, let me just say that the tighter, the better. You may have heard the term camel toe. This is when pants are tight enough to show the outline of your labia. You may have heard that camel toe is unattractive. Pshaw! I’m here again to tell you that is simply not true. Men want to be able to see what is underneath! Since our puritanical laws and bad weather do not allow us to go naked all the time, it is necessary to wear pants sometimes. Help those unimaginitive men along and wear your pants tight enough that the man can see both your underwear and the outlines of your labia. You will be the better for it, I assure you.

A better bet, if you can get away with it, is a short skirt. I’m sure you have all heard that after a certain age or weight, women shouldn’t wear short skirts, but things have changed. Men have changed. Ever hear that older women are more experienced or bbw? These terms imply that no matter what your age or size, you can and should flaunt your stuff. Skirts small enough to provide the view of a bit of hiney are all that. Wear them short, show off your panties, and you’ll be on your way to love in no time, honey.

Let’s recap. Tight and ill-fitting clothes are best. No undergarments if possible, but if you must, be sure they show. Now, on to hair.

You may not know this, but men do like hair that is attractively styled. To them, hair that is natural and hanging is just, well, hair. They want a cut and they want to be able to notice a cut. At the same time, they want length. How to achieve these seemingly disparate goals? It’s simple, really. Cut your hair on top to a shorter length. Blow it dry using lots of styling aids so that it fluffs up around your face, framing the lovely you. Leave the sides and back longer. This way, men can see the length of your hair, and can also see that you took the time to style it as well. The color you choose doesn’t matter, so if there is a color other than the one you were born with that appeals to you, go for it. Color can also be a way to get a man excited. Men know that women who show their hair has been colored because of a bit of root growth are the best in bed. It’s just obvious that being adventurous with hair color is akin to being adventurous in bed. Hair stylists will try and convince you to come in and get those roots done sooner rather than later. Again, pshaw! That’s just them trying to make some money. Better yet, save money on the stylist and do your own coloring at home. You can save money further by letting those roots grow just a wee bit longer to show your man your adventurous side. Saving money and getting some lovin’, what could be better than that?

Makeup. Men like makeup. They like lots of it. Of course, it must be expertly applied, but it should be evident. Why? Kind of like wearing clothes men wear, a naked face to a man is just like, well, another man. Like I said before, if you don’t want a gay man, wear a lot of makeup to accentuate your features. Begin with a flat pallette. This means a solid foundation to cover up any, ahem, imperfections so to speak. Take the foundation and apply it all over your face, behind your ears, and down your neck. Blend it into the skin of your chest. Powder all. Then take a colored eye shadow and apply it from your eyelashes to your eyebrow. Men need to be able to SEE your eyes; colored eye shadow is the way to help them. Avoid neutrals. Men will just think you have dark circles around your eyes. Apply a thick coat of mascara. Once it dries, apply again. Oh, and don’t forget the eyeliner. Ever see Amy Winehouse’s eyes? She goes for a dramatic look and see what she has acheived! Amy is an example for us all. After making your eyes stand out, apply blusher to your cheeks. You want to look fresh and excited, kind of like you just had sex, so make those cheeks rosy. Same with the lips. Apply lipliner first, around the edges of your lips to make them appear larger, then fill in. It works best if the lipstick shade is different from the liner shade. This way men can see where your lips begin. Now your makeup pallette is complete! Squirt a bit of perfume behind your ears, on your neck, on your arms, in your armpits, on your tummy and down there, preferably a strong rose scent. Men like a woman who smells fresh and perfume shows you took the time to care.

You are now dressed for love success! Men will come crawling to your feet, begging you to take them home if you dress right, wear enough makeup, and style your hair. It’s easy, really. Men simply cannot resist a woman who takes care of herself. Choosing clothes that show your body, styling your hair so it is long and shows you styled it, wearing makeup to accentuate your features, all these things go a long way to achieving true love’s bliss.

Well, you say, after I’ve gone to these lengths, how do I keep a man once he’s interested? That one’s easy and I think you know the answer: sex. Men love sex. If you want to keep that special guy, have sex with him. The sooner the better. Seriously. It is not true that men are not interested in women who put out early. Men want to know you care about their needs too and the way to do that is to get busy between the sheets.

There are those who will tell you that it really doesn’t matter whether you have sex at your place or his, or even in the car. However, having sex at your house provides a distinct advantage to sex at his place or elsewhere. First of all, you can control the lighting concept, the music, and generally direct the entire mood. Secondly, after your man has sex he is likely to fall asleep. It is best if he falls asleep at your place so he can get used to being with you, sharing your rhythms and sleep patterns. Finally, should your man prove to be one of the more, how shall we say it, difficult types, having him at your house can make it easier to move him into his own private quarters in the basement of your house or the neighbor’s until he is more sure of your love.

A little sidenote tip here. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, some men need a bit more coaxing than others. They have fears of commitment or are afraid of the depth of emotion they feel for you. It is your job to show them that you understand and to help them come to terms with their inner selves. This can be done in a variety of ways, including drugs, alcohol, food, and television. But the best method I’ve encountered is what I call the “private quarters” method. The private quarters method basically creates a space for your man to be alone when he is not with you. It is best to place these quarters in a basement, simply because your man likes to return to his caveman roots, and the dark and depth of a basement reminds him of his basest instincts and his ancestry in caves. Worry not if you don’t have a basement. I know there are many girls who like trailers, flats, and ranch homes where a basement can be nearly impossible to come by. Sometimes girls with trailers have a root cellar. If this is the case, by all means employ it. However an extra room with the windows covered will suffice. This is one place where duct tape can come in quite handy. Simply cover the entire window surface with duct tape to keep out all light. Make sure the door locks in case the special place you make for your man’s private quarters isn’t sufficient to provide him enough privacy. Girl neighbors can share basements, but it is important not to keep two or more men together at once because this can confuse them. They may not know which of you they belong to if a bunch of girls are coming down all the time, and you don’t want your man to fall for someone else. Only use the basement of a neighbor you trust implicitly not to steal your man’s heart from you. This can be quite distressing.

It is very important to create private quarters for your man. If you aren’t the handy type, I suggest doing some web searches on using simple tools because good solid private quarters is one of the best methods to keep a man. Simply put, this is just a small place for you to put your man and lock him in for a bit. Now, now, don’t get all excited. This is not a bad thing. In fact your man will thank you for it after he’s spent some time with himself. Some need to stay longer than others, but all of them will be your slave for life if you keep them in private quarters for any length of time. It is best if you know how to weld and can build your man’s private quarters out of metal, but welding really is messy business so good solid two by fours work as well. Be sure to use enough nails and screws so the private quarters don’t fall apart. It helps if you can bolt the private quarters to the floor using a chain or some other bolting method. Make sure the space is not large enough for your man to stand because standing makes him restless. Give him just enough room to sit with his legs comfortably bent in front of him and enough room above his head so he doesn’t bonk himself while sitting there. Men can be quite clumsy so if the top of the space isn’t high enough, he will hurt his head, and this is not good. Good private quarters are an invaluable tool in the dating woman’s toolkit. Use private quarters wisely and you cannot go wrong. Later, once you are safely ensconsed in your man’s heart, you may only need to handcuff him in one place occasionally to remind him of his private quarters. But many men see their private quarters as a safe haven away from the pressures of everyday living and quite enjoy taking time there at the end of a stressful day.

The final piece to the puzzle in keeping a man is music. Wise music choices are invaluable in ensuring your man doesn’t stray. I’m here to tell you a secret method I’ve developed for keeping a man using private quarters and music. First of all, make the right decision when it comes to which song to play. None of that hard rock music stuff that gets men all flustery and thinking they need to run around and throw balls or something. Bad idea if you’re aiming for a romantic tone. Better to go for the soft rock favorites like Michael McDonald’s Yah Mo Be There. This song is just about as perfect as you can get for the secret method I’m about to show you. Another fantastic choice is When I Fall in Love by Celine Dion and Clive Davis. You will be playing one song only, so a good music choice is essential. After making your song selection, you either need to get a player that will allow the song to play on repeat indefinitely, or you need to use your computer. Since the song will be playing in the basement, root cellar, or room where your man’s private quarters are located, the computer may prove to be impractical unless you can run speakers or use a laptop. The sound has to be quite loud, so do not use the laptop itself as a sound system, but attach speakers to it. Basically, the secret method is to play the song in your man’s private quarters over and over and over as loudly as possible without disturbing the neighbors. He will then come to associate the sound with his love for you. Later, when you wish to put him in a loving mood, turn on that song, and Presto! He’ll be so hot for you, you won’t believe it. The reason this works so well is that the song operates almost like hypnotism. Your man enters such a blissful state under the power of the music, it is almost as if he’s under a love spell. It helps if you can burn some scented candles in his private space as well, lavender or rose scents work best; men simply cannot resist either of these. Again, when your man comes up for some lovin’ you can burn a candle using your special smell while playing your special song, creating a mood that simply cannot be beat. Music and candles go a long way to making your man a happy, loving creature.

Let’s have a final recap here. Ill-fitting clothes are best. Wearing none is preferable, but if you must wear undergarments, make sure they show. Wear hair that is obviously styled, yet still long, by cutting the top shorter and leaving the sides and backs long. Use hair color to spark a man’s adventurous spirit. Wear enough makeup men can see your lovely features. Have sex early and often. Create a private quarters space to keep your man until he is yours forever. Finally, use a good solid love song played loudly and constantly. Music, as well as scented candles, imprint you on your man’s brain. Mark my words, girls. True love can be yours. Toss out those thick books on relationships and save your money for clothes, makeup, and private quarters supplies. Follow these simple rules for love, and you will be on your way to bliss until death do you part.

For Love Guru Love Letters, go here.  For more Love Guru Love Letters, go here.

Development of the Opossum Approach

Caveat:  I originally posted this with the actual names intact.  Turns out enough people find these posts that a person who knew one of the players contacted me, so I have changed the names to make them anonymous.  All other facets of the story are my memories and true to the best of my recollection.

I have been thinking a lot today about mean people and the opossum approach and all that and I have concluded that a large bit of preparation for being mean is cultivated during junior high. I certainly got a great deal of practice being victimized by mean people in junior high. I was a target ripe for the pickings. And I most definitely mastered the opossum approach. I could walk through the halls invisibly and when necessary, play dead. I’m not here. Do not notice me. Avoid paying any attention at all costs. Sometimes though, I failed utterly and completely at avoiding notice, in spite of my best efforts.

I remember an incident that took place on one particularly memorable afternoon. It occurred in Sex Ed class, which on some level makes the whole thing much more vivid. I had a crush on Mike Jones. Mike was lanky and horse-faced, with tousley brown hair, but I thought he was adorable. Mike was popular. He was on the football team. Everyone knew who he was. He did not know who I was. I would fantasize that he would say hello to me. That was how silly and naive I was. I did not even consider hand-holding or kissing. At age twelve, such conjectures were well without my realm of possibility. No. Saying hello was about as brave as I could get. Because of my crush, I wrote “I like MJ” on my palm. Why did I do that? Did some little part of me hope he would notice and fall instantly in love with me at the sight of his initials inscribed on my hand? Was I a fool? Come to think of it, I doubt I thought much of anything. I probably sat there in my preteen, hormone-addled state, reading something in the library. I read a lot in the library. In fact, I took pride in the fact that I had read every book in the junior high library by the end of eighth grade. I also won the library’s “Ghastly Riddle Contest” at Halloween. It was a sort of treasure hunt through haunted books whereby clues were given in the form of quotes. You went to the quote and it would lead you to another clue. It required some knowledge of the books involved to locate the original quotes. A weekly clue would be handed out to help you when you were stumped. I won a nice set of horse books. I think they knew that I would win since I doubt anyone else tried.  Few people would have been geeky enough to play at a contest like that and I was too clueless to know it was geeky.

Anyway, I digress. Back to my lusting after Mike Jones by hoping he would say hello. I had taken the liberty of professing my love via ball point pen. I sat, hiding, in the far row of Sex Ed class. I do not recall the name of the teacher, but I remember what he looked like. He was one of the coaches. He was tall and stocky, with blonde hair cut in a bowl style. Unlike some teachers, he was actually pretty kind to me. The head cheerleading coach, for instance, acted like I was a virus she might catch if I asked her something about the pre-algebra that she taught. But Mr. Sex Ed was pleasant enough.

There I sat in Mr. Sex Ed’s class. It was a sunny afternoon and I remember sitting and staring lazily into the sunbeams. I had done the reading. Mr. Sex Ed was dozing up front. Most of the class was chatting and passing notes back and forth. Suddenly, Kelly Smith, who sat behind me, leaned forward in her chair and asked me a question.

An aside about Kelly Smith. When my parents chose to move our family to “the country” because that is where I thought I wanted to live in order to have a horse, I was in the sixth grade. The little school in our town had one grade per class and each class had about twelve students. Kelly Smith was in my class. She immediately befriended me and nearly as immediately dumped me when she discovered that I did not smoke, drink, or swear, and that I rode horses and read books. She had perfectly feathered blonde hair. I did not have perfectly feathered blonde hair. Mine curled in all the wrong places and my mom cut it for me. How humiliating. Kelly Smith wore San Franciscos and Sticky Fingers and had several colors of Nike swish shoes. I had one pair of Sticky Fingers, no San Franciscos, and no Nike swish shoes. I wore Keds and Keds were not popular. Kelly Smith knew that one was supposed to carry a large comb in one’s back pocket. Until meeting her, I was not privy to such inside information. In short, Kelly Smith had all the makings of a cool person while I had zero. By the end of seventh grade, when this incident took place, we were in junior high and I was a persona non grata. Kelly Smith was a cheerleader. She still had perfectly feathered hair. Mine still curled in the wrong places. I think I may have finally acquired a pair of Nike swish shoes and a comb, but they were clearly out of place in the library.

I was not happy to have Kelly Smith peering over my shoulder. Kelly Smith did not involve herself with me except to make my life miserable. She had completely mastered the pretend to be friendly and suck me in while simultaneously concocting some nasty evil plot approach. She would say something that seemed kind. Weaving back and forth, back and forth, hypnotizing me, I would respond to the false kindness, believing for a moment that she might actually be friendly, whereupon she would suddenly expose her true nature, losing the lovely exterior, spitting in my eyes and becoming the cobra she truly was. Once she put gum in my hair without my notice. Usually she would say something really ugly and make her friends laugh. “Do you use butter grease to style your hair?” she would sneer. Her friends would erupt in laughter. Ha ha. Real funny. You’re so clever, why don’t you hit the comedy circuit?

Back in Sex Ed, she wanted to know, “Who is MJ?” Uh oh. Uh oh. Uh oh. Fuck.

“Nobody you know.” My heart was pounding. Why couldn’t she just go away? Why did she have to torture me? Was I really such an obvious target? Apparently so because she did not go away. “So who is it?”

“No one you know. Someone from another school.” God, please don’t let her know. Mike Jones was in that class. If he found out. Oh crap.

“What’s his name? Is it Mike Jones?” What the….? How in the hell had she nailed that on the first try? Maybe she saw my hand and worked it out before saying anything.

“No. No, it’s not Mike Jones. It is not. No.” I stammered, obviously flustered. I must have seemed like a giant bullseye for her pointy cobra fangs.

“It’s Mike Jones, isn’t it.” It wasn’t even a question. “You like Mike Jones. Wow.” She turned and told her friend, another Kelly who must not have been so evil because I do not remember her last name. “She likes Mike Jones. Can you believe it?” Kelly could not believe it. In fact, she was so shocked that she had to share it with the girl next to her.

Then Kelly Smith did the unthinkable. She called out to Mike Jones, “Hey Mike. Lara likes you.” Oh dear God. Please kill me now. I should be punished for having written those damn initials on my hand. Actually, I was being punished for having written them on my hand. Mike turned and looked over in our direction. He may have been looking at me. I don’t know. I was staring at my desk and begging the gods to reach down and suck me from my chair. Anything, anything but this.

“Is this bad news true?” he asked. All the kids who had been paying attention laughed.

My pain was complete. Not only had I been fully humiliated by darling Kelly Smith, Mike Jones saw my liking him as bad news and he wasn’t afraid to say so. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I suffered through the remainder of the class, wishing I could disappear. Having ensured she had gotten a good and deep bite right into the side of my head, Kelly Smith was no longer interested in torturing me. She moved on to discussions of cheerleading routines and hairdos. My face burned and the room swam. I pretended to read my Sex Ed book. At least I could say the bad news was no longer true. I no longer liked Mike Jones and could not wait for class to end so I could go and wash my hand.

Once the bell rang, I shuffled through my belongings to take as long as possible to leave class and ensure I did not have to rise and move with the other students. After every one was gone I sat for a few more seconds. Alone in the room, I took a deep breath. It seemed like it had been long enough for the lot of them to clear out of the hallway.

You know, I must have lacked some serious capacity to foretell possibilities because it had not been long enough for Mike Jones to clear out of the hallway. He was the only one left, digging through his locker that was nearly across the hall from the Sex Ed classroom. Mine was down past his, requiring that I pass him, completely humiliated. Thankfully, he did not look up as I shuffled quickly by. Perhaps part of his dismay at my liking him had been for show. Certainly his reaction had been. At least he left me alone. I went to my locker, deposited my books, and took the long way around to P.E. class because the direct route would have taken me past his locker again, and there was no way I was going there.

Yes, junior high is definitely a breeding ground for mean people. Volumes have been written on the subject. Millions have been made in movies about the outcasts being tortured. Pleasure is taken in the geek who grows up and shows up to the high school reunion in a heliocopter. I think we all assume that as adults this crap goes away. Unfortunately, that’s wishful thinking. Even when you grow into a swan and develop inner strength and confidence, there are those people who never move past being mean to you.

Luckily for me, we had moved away from that school after ninth grade, so Kelly and her friends were only able to harass me for three years. I heard that she got pregnant her senior year in high school. A few years after graduation, I saw her at a discount store. She was extremely heavy and was dragging around four ruffian-looking children. A friend of mine who had finished school with her said they all had different fathers. I remembered her bragging in eighth grade about drinking and having sex. Maybe whatever made her so damn mean was also what made her gain weight and have lots of kids by different dads by the time she was 25. She’d clearly hit her prime in junior high. She was still mean though. At the store, she came up to me and sneered, “You think you’re really hot now, don’t you, Lara?”

I remember looking at her, not knowing who she was because she looked so wretched and different. When it was obvious I hadn’t a clue about her identity, she said, “I’m Kelly, Kelly Smith,” like I was retarded or something. Funny. I realize now she sounded something like Forrest, Forrest Gump. I said hello and turned to continue walking with my mom. Thankfully, when it came to girls from junior high, I didn’t have to pretend I was dead any more.

All the Wittle Animals and Adam

My friend wrote this.  I thought it was such a funny story, I had to post it.

Once upon a time, God got an itch to create himself some little planet.  Yeah.  And on the planet he put all the wittle animals, some shrubbery, and Adam.  Oh, and then he turned on the light.  And then he rested.  Yeah.  And Adam was lonely so he ripped out a rib and created a woman.  Yeah.  And then God made sure that Adam and Eve were stupid and wouldn’t question anything.  Yeah.  So then, there was a snake, a talking snake, that persuaded Eve to eat an apple.  Yeah.  And then, well, then everything went to hell (woman’s fault, you know).  And then, God wrote the bible and told everyone that this was the Bible and that it was the word of God and that you had to obey it all.  Yeah, even the parts where you stone your own children to death if they profess non belief.  — CW, 2008

My choosing to publish this story represents a perfect microcosm of a little problem I have been dealing with lately.  As cliche’ as it sounds, on some level my blog is my own personal therapy session.  I come here and spout and think and muse and make shit up no one cares about.  Part of the deal for me is that I have to be brutally honest.  But also, no censoring.  And lately, I have wanted to censor.  I have been worrying way too much about who might read this and their reaction.  As a result, I have not been the happiest little camper lately.  Part of it, I’m sure, is that I’ve not been sleeping well.  Not sleeping makes me turn into a rather cranky little monster, if you know what I mean.  Lack of sleep will do that to a person.

But another part of my angst has been wanting to write stuff and then not doing it because of my perceived expectation of a reaction or concern over what others will think of me.  I even went so far as to delete the post I wrote on toxic work places because I was worried someone at the old workplace would read it.  I also worried about what I wrote yesterday about wanting a boyfriend, all concerned the man I’m going on a date with might read it, realize I’m bananas, and run screaming for the hills.  I worried a parent in Milla’s class might discover what a foul-mouthed hooligan I can be.  Then there were a few days where all I wanted to write was a bunch of negativity because I was mired in a sleep-deprived, hormonally-induced, mini depressional psychosis and I didn’t want people to think I’m that much of a mental health disaster.  For over a week now I have not written much at all because of concern over someone reading what I had to say.

Then last night I was reading and taking a nice bath to relax before bed in the hope I would fall asleep when I realized what I have been doing.  I realized I was censoring myself and I had to ask, what in the world is going on here?  I am not writing for the audience, I am writing for me, regardless how stupid, opinionated, depressed, or ridiculous I may be.  I want to have an audience, that’s why I put it out there.  But I can’t write with the audience in mind.  So I had this little epiphany and resolved to go back to being my usual blabber-mouthed, opinionated, cussing sometimes self, regardless if I was having a good day and regardless what anyone else might think or say.

Then this morning I received the story my friend wrote and wanted to post it because I think it is hilarious.  I cut and pasted it and put it into my wordpress window, then when it came time to tag it and categorize it, I started to worry about offending someone or the neo-nazi religious types that might read it and send me hate mail and I got a little flutter and almost didn’t put anything in the tags and only a couple of categories to ensure no one would read it.  Then the lightbulb went on and I realized I was doing it again, censoring, worrying about the reaction, and I knew then that I had to post it and add all the tags and categories I would have if I knew no one was reading it.  I had to put it out there, regardless of the reaction.  Because ironically enough, I honestly don’t care whether someone likes it or not.   I’m just too tired right now to deal with the possible reaction.  And that is the crux of it, I suppose.  I have been feeling so lousy from lack of sleep that I do not have my usual strength and resolve to put up with someone else not liking what I have to say.  I’ve regressed back to the person in my teens and early twenties who had zero confidence in her writing or her self.  I suppose it is normal to make these regressions when I’m overly tired, but it doesn’t mean I have to stay there.

So I’ve put on the story and I put back the toxic workplace post and I’m leaving the relationship post and if there is anyone reading it who doesn’t like it, well, I guess that’s too bad.  Go read something else.  I’m not trying to change your mind.  I’m not trying to make other people hate my ex boss.  I’m not trying to troll the blogs hoping some Prince Charming will read my relationship posts and come sweep me off my feet.  I’m writing because I have to and it keeps me sane.  It is part of my spirituality.  I know that’s a useless psychobabble reason, but it’s true, and that’s all there is to it.

Death and Loving

Ah, Valentine’s Day, Valentine’s Day.  This is the first year I can ever remember when I haven’t either wanted a romantic Valentine’s Day or the not wanting it isn’t sour grapes.  There have been a few of those years, ones where I pretended to myself that I didn’t care but deep down it hurt that there wasn’t someone special to remember the day for me or I had someone who was careless about such things.  Right now, I am honestly happy just being who I am and love having my little girl as my Valentine.  As a result, this is a really nice Valentine’s Day, at least thus far.

Milla is so sweet.  Last night the two of us took heart cookie cutters and cut beeswax hearts for her classmates.  We then wrapped them in tissue paper and tied them off with yarn. As is often the case in these sorts of projects, I had the assembly line going.  There have been moments in the past where I go off half-cocked trying to be Martha Stewart mom and decided to make 28 Valentines from scratch.  16 Valentines in and 4 hours later I’m ready to slice my wrists with the scissors and poke the glue sticks in my eyes.  One year we hand-cut hearts from construction painting paper, then watercolored hearts on each one, then I helped Milla sign her name to each one.  It was fun for the first 8 or so, then Milla was getting mad because she was sick of signing her name and I was getting mad because there was paint on the ceiling and walls and we were both ready to kill each other so I’ve learned my lesson.  I’m not the Martha Stewart of mothers.  Now I know when it comes to large crafty projects making multiples of anything, go for the assembly line approach.  These kids won’t know the difference and ninety-percent of them will likely end up in the trash anyway.

So last night Milla and I lined up the wax and started cutting the hearts.  Then we piled them up in twos.  Then we cut the yarn for the tissue paper.  Then we cut the tissue paper into squares.  Then we wrapped them and she tied.  At one point she tried tying bows but that deteriorated after about 3 sets because it was a huge pain in the ass.  The yarn kept getting caught on her fingernails and she’d pull the whole lump out of my hand and we both got irritated so we quit that.  We managed to complete the entire project in under an hour, so that was all good.  Of course, we got to school this morning and it turns out her teacher doesn’t do a Valentine’s Day exchange, but with my luck if we’d skipped it there would have been an exchange and I would again look like the mother that couldn’t.  I’m good at that.

Valentine’s Day is kind of a weird holiday.  In some regards it seems almost like Mother’s Day; designed entirely by the greeting card industry to make people spend money.  But it has a really cool history and dark side that appeals to me.  There are all these legends about who St. Valentine may have been, but in all of them, he’s rescuing someone and doing all these good deeds and as a result, he gets killed off.  I suppose that’s the nature of Sainthood, but I find it somewhat ironic that his life is held up as the namesake for a holiday about romantic love.  Isn’t the murder of St. Valentine for all his good and loving deeds kind of a perfect analogy on some level for the way we lose ourselves in romantic love?  It’s all good if both sides are party to the celebration, but more often than not I think it all ends in despair.  And even when both sides are happy about things and ultimately stay together, the romantic part inevitably ends.  And most sane people I know are glad that it does.  It’s almost like death in some ways to be in that place where you’re so in love you can’t eat or sleep or think or do a damn thing and you might as well be dead.  It’s a good thing that part ends or we’d never get anywhere.

Another interesting consideration in the history of St. Valentine is when it’s celebrated.  Some say the mid-February date is to commemorate St. Valentine’s death.  However others argue it was an active choice on the part of the Christian church to obliterate a pagan festival called Lupercalia.  It was one of those native festivals where people prepared their homes for spring and celebrated fertility through a festival to the Roman God of Agriculture.  Well, we certainly couldn’t have people worshipping any Agriculture gods, now could we?  That would be idolatry.  So the Christians murdered off the local religion with a nice little holiday of their own.  How special!  I do find it quite fascinating that in all the history surrounding Valentine’s Day there is quite a lot of death.  And loneliness too.  As I understand it, St. Valentine spent his last days in prison before being put to death.  There he was trapped in his lonely heart and then he was killed.  Wow.

On that special note, I think I’ll sign off.  Someone I know told me he likes my blogs because I just go on my rant without making a point.  Yep.  That’s me.  Pointless.  Ha!  Well, I have a point today, and that’s to enjoy the beautiful girl I made while in the throes of romantic love that ended with a sputter.  Her father and I may have our differences, but if I could go back and choose whether or not to toss that condom across the room (Yes, mom.  That’s what happened.  It didn’t break like I told you.), I would do it again in a heartbeat because the love I have for her is better than any romantic love I’ve ever experienced.  I suppose that’s the point, though, isn’t it?  To fall in romantic love so you breed, have children, and ensure the continuation of the species.  Who cares if the species grows up, falls in love, and ends up killed over it.  As long as the breeding took place and the children were born first, it’s all good, right?  Kind of senseless and weird, but it must work or we wouldn’t have a population explosion.

Why do men marry?

What makes a man marry?  I saw this headline today on Yahoo.  I’m sure they have they trot out the same boring answers, yada yada yada.  Well, I’m here to tell them that the answer is easy.  It’s a little date-rape drug women use on men called Beer.  I was made aware of this oft-abused substance via a public service email a few days ago (Thank you, Carin, for bringing this to my attention!).  It really brought to light for me the extensive insidiousness of this substance and its entrenched toehold in American society.  People complain about the tobacco companies, but what we really should worry about is the proliferation of beer.  How many unwanted hookups have occurred because of this toxic substance?  How many, dare I say it, marriages?  It is truly frightening indeed.

Vanishing Meter REALLY Works!

Oh my gosh!  The Vanishing Meter is so damn accurate.  I completely forgot about the thing.  Then last night, I was lying in bed contemplating my latest disappearing man, remembered my red meter, and poof!  A lightbulb lit in my head.  Remember the Vanishing Meter!  This was a case where the meter was kind of pink at first, and not all the way to the top.  But after I met the man and spent time with him, it was as red as the meter could go.  After spending time with him, I did not believe the meter would work.  But now he has disappeared. That meter is dead on, I swear.  I’m going to have to figure out a way to market this thing and make some money.  I’ll get a patent even though I didn’t invent it.  I discovered it, and that’s all that matters.  Kind of like a pharmaceutical company going into India and patenting a medicinal flower the natives have used for centuries.  Doesn’t matter if I didn’t invent it if I discovered it, right?  Wow.  I’m excited.  Maybe this is my ticket to the big time.  And I won’t even have to share the money with a man because any man I would want to share with will have disappeared.  I know.  I know.  There is that cliche’ about money not buying happiness, but there is also that response that it sure makes the misery bearable.  I’ll bear it–on a yacht in the Mediterranean!  Thank you, Vanishing Meter.  At least I’ve found the silver lining.

Oh, I just thought of something even better–a marketing idea to go with the Vanishing Meter!  I could sell the Vanishing Meter™ and with it, I could sell special rags for drool AND for the disappearers to use after they crap their pants at the thought of someone having a red Vanishing Meter™!  Wow!  I’m onto something even bigger than before!  These rags, they could be like those little plastic things that close bread–a simple, little idea that made millions.  They will be of a special absorbency and cost very little.   What a concept!  I could even market on late night television…order the Vanishing Meter™ now, get two absorbency towels for $3.99!

I’m going to go plan my Mediterranean vacation now.

Musings

And the one, having failed to express anything for thinking the other not interested, causes the other to think the same and therefore to leave.

Hold your cards close.  Show your hand.  Show one card.  Show two.  There seems to be no only answer.  But how much fails to start for the lack in deciding which is the proper course of action?  How many have stumbled because all of us concern ourselves with wondering what the other is thinking rather than simply asking?  It is because even the simple asking can be a showing of our own cards, thus compromising our position. I hate the gamesmanship of it, yet it is there, and it is required when there is more than one and there is no way around it.

Vanishing Meter

I have a bastard meter in my brain. Well, it is not necessarily fair to call it a “bastard” meter. Perhaps it should be called a Pitiful Loser meter. Or a Guaranteed to Disappear meter. Whatever it is called, it is in my brain and it really works. It is this little meter that turns red based on how attracted I am to a man. The redder the meter, the more attracted I am. If it isn’t very red, I’m not very attracted. If the meter is red, it is a guarantee that the man is going to disappear or be emotionally unavailable.

Seriously. This thing works. The more attracted I am, the redder the meter, the more likely the man is to disappear. And get this. I can start out not much attracted to the man and the meter will have very little red to it. Then I can spend more time with the guy and get more attracted based on his personality. The meter gets redder. The man disappears. It’s amazing.

This is a remarkable capacity on my part. Over the last couple of years, I have become gradually aware of the Vanishing Meter. After a man would disappear or stand me up or after a relationship would end, I would do the usual self-analysis to figure out if there was something I could do differently. I ascertained that one common denominator was that the men either disappeared or were emotionally unavailable. I began also to detect this redness in my brain at the time of attraction. Over time, I put the two together and presto! There you have it! The Vanishing meter.

I started to test its accuracy. I set up an online dating profile. I went out and looked around. I sent hellos to men and rated them on how attracted I was to them. If I was very attracted, the meter would be quite red and they would not respond to my inquiry. If I was not that attracted, they would be all over me like ants on sugar. It was remarkable. I did not even have to SPEAK to them, just simply be attracted to what they look like, and they would not respond to me. In some cases, I would start communicating with the ones I was not that attracted to and grow more attracted, the meter would increase in redness, and presto again! They would disappear. Amazing. Simply amazing.

I applied the same scientific approach to men who contacted me first. If I was attracted, the meter would be bright red, the man would disappear or I would discover he was emotionally unavailable. I have become quite astute as asking the questions that pinpoint whether a man is emotionally unavailable. I would go on a date with a man I was attracted to. I would ask the questions and presto! The meter would turn red.

I should market the thing. Maybe I could make a million dollars. I mean I know it means that those of us who can use the meter will be forced to spend our lives with men to whom we are not attracted, and that we will have to work very hard at not liking them because attraction based on personality turns the meter red as well, but at least we’ll be able to ensure a man will stick around. Well, maybe we will not be able to ensure he’ll stick around, but we’ll be able to ascertain when the guy is going to leave or hide his emotions. That could be a good thing. Of course, considering this, I would rather be alone. I don’t want to have a man I’m not attracted to, either in his looks or personality, just to have a man. I suppose I’m destined to life as an old maid. Perhaps I should find some solitary profession for which I don’t need a man. Something like writing. Yeah, that’s it. Maybe I am onto something here…

The Path

Once upon a time there was a lovely little path that ran north and south along a cliff.  The cliff dropped to the edge of the ocean.  The path was covered with ashy, pea-sized pebbles.  The sky above the path connected the ocean to a grassland that grew between the path and the horizon.  The grassland swayed back and forth in the gusts and breezes that blew in off the sea, rhythmic and habitual, keeping time as it had for centuries.  The cliff’s edge scalloped in and out, rising up to one hundred feet above the waves.  The cliff walls were sheer and precarious, plunging deftly into the foam.

The space between the path and the cliff was close; too close for some.  Periodically, a rock wall appeared in this margin, moss bathing the stones in its ancient, curly tendrils.  The cliff below the places where the rock wall stood was particularly steep and rocky, cascading directly into the water below, with no sandy shoreline dividing the face and the water.

In places, hardy trees fought the wind and coarse soil to make a home for themselves along the path.  During winter, the trees were cold and skeletal.  In spring, blossoms burst forth with luster and strength, giving birth to lush foliage that lasted well into fall.

The path ran for miles.  It began randomly off the coast amongst several run-down cottages that overlooked the shoreline.  It concluded at the berth of a hill overlooking a quaint, little town.  Every year different townspeople took it upon themselves to care for the path.  Men would lug bags of gravel to fill the thin places.  Children would plant lupines and sweet peas.

Citizens of the town used the path for various purposes.  Some ran.  Others strolled.  One old woman walked down the path and back every Saturday, no matter the season, no matter the weather.  Couples sauntered hand in hand, sharing the sunset, bundling together against the breeze.

One such couple walked daily along the path, if the weather suited them.  Depending on their schedule, they would walk for a short half hour or spend the day walking to the path’s end and back.  Some days, the fellow held the woman close, her head laid gently on his shoulder, their stroll languid, contemplative.  Others, she would bounce ahead, while he followed more sedately behind.

Regular path walkers knew the couple.  The woman had walked the path since she was a small child.  She had developed a routine whereby she walked its entire length once a week on Sunday if the weather was cooperating.  The man was not much of an exerciser, but he loved to walk the path as well, and gradually adapted to her habit.  When she jogged, he would walk along behind, waiting until she returned, the two walking back together while she cooled off.  Or sometimes he would ride his bicycle, the handlebars unsteady on the gravel, as she ran beside him, her ponytail bouncing to the rhythm of her steps.

One elderly woman, Mrs.  Mettle, often followed them while they walked together, hand in hand.  She eavesdropped on their conversations, wishing her life was more like theirs.  She was not certain of their names, but she had taken to calling them Martin and Beth in her mind.  She felt the names suited them.  She knew the two were not married, but thought perhaps they were planning to do so soon.  Martin worked as a schoolteacher in town, teaching math.  Beth wrote children’s books and sold vegetables and flowers from her expansive garden.  Mrs.  Mettle also knew that Martin owned a rambling, delightful bungalow with an enormous front porch that overlooked the cliffs to the sea.  She longed to follow them into that bungalow and learn more about the life she was sure the two must lead.

Ah, if she could.  As is often the case, Mrs.  Mettle would soon discover that things were not as sanguine as the surface would have the world believe.  Although the two appeared connate, if Mrs. Mettle had spoken to one of the pair, each story would be quite different from the other’s, much more so than either of the two could contemplate.

Both of them had remained unattached for quite a long time before their inadvertent meeting in a bookstore one rainy morning.  Martin had a family who adored him, decent friends, and a good job that, although it did not pay a lot of money, allowed him enough for a comfortable living.  But he had been terribly lonely for a long time.  He had longed to share his life with another.  He dated women and had a few girlfriends, but nothing ever panned out.

Then he met Beth.  She was a wild, fearless, energetic woman who rearranged his every aspect.  Her life was so different from his; she had four dogs and three cats, her work was sporadic, and she often had a million things going at once, which overwhelmed his sure and steady single-mindedness.  But overall, she liked things mostly tidy like he did, she enjoyed art and theater, she cared about the environment, she loved to travel and relished studying other cultures, she had principles and lived her life accordingly.  And she was so beautiful.  Devastatingly so.  His heart ached each time he imagined her pristine complexion, the golden hair she wore casually pulled back from her face, her luminous eyes, whose color matched the ocean below his house.  He felt certain that he was truly in love.  Beth completely captivated him; she was perfect and everything he had ever dreamed of.

Martin knew he had never loved a woman as he loved Beth, and not long into their courtship, he realized he would ask her to marry him.  Even though they had only been going out for a few short months, he had no doubts that she was exactly what he wanted, and he began to plan how to convince her to accept a proposal so early in their relationship.

Beth was not as immediately enamored of Martin when she first met him.  She had a busy life and liked the way things were.  Although she was not in the market for a boyfriend, she welcomed the diversion.  She thought that even though his hair was thinning, he was attractive enough.  He wasn’t conventionally pretty, but she enjoyed the way his eyes crinkled at the edges like he always had a laugh waiting, and his calm and easy smile made her feel secure.  There was an allure in his manner that made her unusually active mind sedate.  He was frankly earnest, and this made her laugh.

Still, she spent their first few dates debating with herself whether she really wanted to go out with him.  He was much too interested in science fiction and sports cars to suit her tastes.  He insisted they watch all of the credits in the movies they watched, which drove her to distraction; she hadn’t the patience for it.  And even though he had worked at his job for a number of years, he complained incessantly about the place when the subject came up, but would take no steps to change things.  She wondered whether he was a pessimist in disguise.

Over time, though, these things seemed to matter little.  He was so attentive, she could not help but react positively.  He brought her bundles of flowers on a regular basis.  He took her to dinner at fine restaurants and refused to even consider allowing her to pay.  Beth had girlfriends who would have found this offensive, but Beth did not.  She actually thought it was quite sweet.  Martin wasn’t pushy or aggressive; he simply wanted to offer her a nice time.  And she liked that, rather a lot.  In time, she was certain she would grow to love this man.

Gradually, Beth stopped questioning her interest in Martin and allowed that she was utterly in love with him.  She accepted the characteristics of his that were different from her, to the point that she found them deeply endearing.  She noticed acutely his absences.  When they spent even one night apart, she found that she could not focus on anything.  When they were together, she felt complete, content.  It did not matter if they were on a date at a fancy restaurant or digging plants in the garden.  In any case, she wanted him there with her.

But Martin had begun to notice what he perceived as Beth’s flaws.  She was irritated by small things and this drove him nuts.  For instance, Beth would swear and complain during nearly every walk about the roots that poked into the path and tripped her when she was not paying close attention.  Why couldn’t she just pay closer attention?  The roots weren’t going anywhere and it ruined their walks to have her bitching about it all the time.

And she was shy.  He would take her to functions at his school and she would stand off to the side, avoiding conversations with anyone she did not know.  Why was this?  She said she felt uncomfortable talking to people with whom she was not acquainted.  But Martin knew them, so why couldn’t she just step up and start talking?  And if she would talk to them, she would become acquainted, thus eliminating the concern over not being so.  Why did she have to make such a production out of it?

Reality was sinking in:  his lover was human and this humanity scared him.  He did not want to feel the distress of heartbreak.  He did not want her to either.  But sometimes he could not stand how she was.  He was also concerned that their being together would eliminate who he had been without her, a perplexing problem for which he saw no solution.  He could not bear turning into one of those meager, simpering men who crouched at the call of their spouses, rushing off to do their “chores” with their tails between their legs.  Castrates, thought Martin.

He was terrified of arguments.  They did not have many, but each time one occurred, he was certain it represented the state of the relationship’s future.  The subjects of these arguments were most often trivial, and usually occurred when both were overly tired, not feeling well, or both.  Yet he was unable to shake the feeling that argument was their destiny.

With time, he began to ignore all of the things about Beth that had seemed so marvelous, and looked longingly into his past at the days he spent alone, wondering how those days had gotten away, forgetting how lonely he had been.  He blamed her for the time he was not spending by himself, for the choices he had made in letting things go too fast.  Oh, he blamed himself too, but he really felt that she was the problem because she was no longer what he had dreamed.  He began to wonder and worry again and again how to eliminate their courtship without the wretchedness that was guaranteed to ensue.

Of course, Martin could not tell Beth these things that bothered him.  To do so would solve nothing.  He did not want to hurt her feelings.  He hated conflict and speaking to her about such matters would bring considerable conflict.  And most of the time, he really felt he loved her.  He would take one look at her immaculate cheekbones, her delicate, slender neck, her impossibly long legs, and swoon.  Could he give this up?  Never.

One morning, Martin decided to take the day off to spend with Beth.  They went to breakfast at a lovely café.  They went back to Martin’s bungalow and made love in the late morning.  Afterwards, they walked hand in hand through town, to the bookstore, and ate lunch at the local delicatessen.  That night, they attended a play together, laughing over its silliness as they curled together in bed, nestled in one another’s arms.

Beth yawned in contentment as she snuggled deeper into Martin’s shoulder, falling drowsily into sleep.  She felt so safe with this man she adored.  Martin lay with his arms around Beth, wondering when their next struggle would develop.  He forced these thoughts from his mind.  He would not think of them.  He would not.  He held Beth close and fell determinedly to sleep.

The next morning, as Beth kissed Martin goodbye on his way to work, she asked if he would like to take a walk down the path on his lunch break.  Martin liked the idea.  He enjoyed getting away from the school during the day, and the path always worked to clear his head.  He readily agreed and Beth offered to pack a picnic lunch.

Later that morning, Beth held Martin’s arm as they strolled away from the town.  No other walkers were out.  It was early spring and winter still held sway over the temperature.  The air was cool and still, a mist hanging over the edge of the ocean, hovering lightly on the tranquil grassland.  They settled onto one of the rock walls overlooking the ocean and spread out their lunch.

Neither spoke as they finished their sandwiches and potato salad.  Beth brushed bread crumbs from Martin’s chin.  He flinched.  She patted his hand and asked if he was okay.  He smiled, but did not answer.  She turned and began to pack the cloth, utensils, and plastic cups back into the basket.  They stood and began to walk down the path.  Beth traveled slightly ahead of Martin, as was often the case where the path narrowed.  As she headed towards town, Beth stumbled over a root in the path.  She stopped and bent to rub her foot, complaining bitterly at the root’s existence, at the fact of its being exposed.

Thoughts flooded Martin’s mind, overwhelming him.  Beth was so exquisite.  In some respects, they got along marvelously.  But she was also frustratingly picky, had an obnoxiously quick temper, and he would never understand her sense of humor.  And most of all, he was losing himself.  He had no idea where his fundamental self had gone.  Who was Martin?  Who was this man who would spend his life with a woman who complained about roots?  He no longer knew.  If he broke up with her, he would break her heart.  If he stayed with her, he would smother.  He would disappear.  Martin would cease to exist.

Martin reached out.  He saw his hands, disembodied from his arms.  He saw his thumbs.  He saw each of his fingers.  He saw the two hands like the plaster hand impressions taken as a child, hanging in memorial on his mother’s kitchen wall.  Together his hands pushed Beth in the back, shoving her hard from the path into the water below.  He did not look at her.  He did not look over the edge.  He did not look down.  He kept his eyes up and walked back to town.