Monday, March 31, 2008

Why love and loss are both four-letter words

It wasn't just James that I lost when we broke up almost a year ago. There are entire pieces of my life that no longer exist. Yoga. Everyone I knew through him. His friends, his roommates, their girlfriends. I never saw any of them again.

I talked to his sister online the other day, for the first time in a long time. I asked how the kids were, her parents. And finally, the question we both knew was in no way an afterthought, "How's your brother?"

Good, she guessed. Trying to settle back into real life after his three month trip backpacking through southeast Asia. They were coming to Boston with the kids to visit him the next day.

And I thought back to the first time he met his niece, when she was five months old. I was there when we walked in the door and his brother-in-law thrust a chubby, squirming bundle at him, saying, "Here, take your niece." I was there as he held her at arms length, and I saw them inspect each other with the same family eyes, quizzical and suspicious, each trying to figure the other one out from opposite ends of that precarious embrace. This until someone said, "Don't hold her like that, Jimmy, hold her like a baby," and he quickly passed her off to me, saying, "Here, take it." I was there a couple years later when he met his nephew for the first time, at about the same age. I watched as he held his new nephew confidently, like a baby, not wanting to pass him off, even when he started crying. I watched him push his niece on the swings and toss her frighteningly high in the air as she squealed, delighted, and begged for more. And I was there for nearly every visit after that, fourth of Julys and Thanksgivings and everything inbetween. I watched them grow. And though I'm not related by blood, I loved those kids. I still love those kids, though I haven't seen them in well over a year. They must be gigantic now. Like tiny, tottering, benevolent giants. The sweetest, happiest damn kids.

Entire pieces of my life, gone in an instant. And it gets easier, I guess, (does it get easier?) but it never stops feeling like a loss.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Why Sprint really stands for (S)crewing (P)eople (R)egularly (In) the (T)ushie

Apparently uploading that video of myself from my cell phone a couple weeks ago cost me a cool $17.97 in "Casual Data Usage" this month.

What. The. FUCK????????

I knew there would be a price to Internet notoriety, I just didn't know it would be charged by the kilobyte.

As an impoverished grad student to a giant, faceless, billion-dollar corporation, I just want to say thanks, Sprint. You've totally made my billing cycle. And you can totally kiss my impoverished grad student tushie.

Why we're off to a rocky start

Conversation with my new roommate:

There are two of them because they're for electricity and gas.

It's higher because you don't use exactly the same amount of electricity every month.

Seriously, have you never paid a bill before?

There's another oil bill because they delivered more oil.

Have you noticed the house is warm, and we have hot water? It's nice, isn't it? It's not free.

No, I don't know when they'll cash the check.

Please don't make me do this every month.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Why cupcakes are forever

Since I still have nothing to write about, why don't you head on over to my friend Talia's blog, the talking cupcake? Though once again I am somehow the last one to the party. (Blogging since July 2007 and I'm just now finding out about it?!?!)

Besides the fact that she has been my partner in crime in more than one adventure over the past fourteen (!?!?!?) years that we've known each other, Talia kicks ass because she's equals parts Martha Stewart and Stephen Hawking (minus the jail time, wheelchair): spreading her love of quantum physics (dumbed down to a 10th grade level) to inner city teenagers during the day, and cooking up all kinds of crafts and confections in her off-time. Her blog has it all: owl pellets, politics, pottery painting, and pink!

Check it out, and tell her hello for me!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Why sometimes school makes sense

I was reading one of those boring scholarly articles for class the other day ("The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality" by Hayden White, if you're interested), when suddenly the dim blur of words in front of me sharpened into a stark contrast of black against white, and suddenly, yes, suddenly it all started to make sense. Because, you see, even though White was actually talking about Les Grandes Chroniques of medieval French literature, he could just as well have been talking, I decided, about blogging. Well! Finally, something I could relate to! Here, take a look for yourselves:

This value attached to narrativity in the representation of real events arises out of a desire to have real events display the coherence, integrity, fullness, and closure of an image of life that is and can only be imaginary. The notion that sequences of real events possess the formal attributes of the stories we tell about imaginary events could only have its origin in wishes, day-dreams, and reveries. Does the world really present itself to perception in the form of well-made stories, with central subjects, proper beginnings, middles, and ends, and a coherence that permits us to see "the end" in every beginning? Or does it present itself more in the forms that the annals and chronicles suggest, either as mere sequence without beginning or end or as sequences of beginnings that only terminate and never conclude? And does the world, even the social world, ever really come to us as already narrativized, already "speaking itself" from beyond the horizon of our capacity to make scientific sense of it?

What do you think? When we blog, or write, or tell stories about our own life, is it out of a desire to conform to some imaginary ideal that can never be more than a fantasy? Is reality ever as tidy as the stories we create about it? Does that make our stories, then, less "true?" And, what I'm particularly interested in knowing from you other bloggers: How has blogging changed your perspective of your own reality?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Why you don't need enemies, with friends like this

It was about a year later, and the mystery of What Alan Said lived on. I didn't think too much about it. I was twenty years old and the world was my oyster. I went to class maybe two hours a day, did approximately twenty minutes of homework, watched my soap, and took long afternoon naps. I ate in the dining hall and someone cleaned the bathroom for us. Yes, it was good, though not particularly exciting, to be an undergraduate. On the weekends, in an effort to quash the boredom, I drove down to College Park to see my friends, as was my habit.

I met Mike in the fall at a party at Alan's house. Mike shared a room and the other half of a bunk bed with Justin, who I had known since elementary school. We had gone to 4-H camp together, played clarinet together in the school band; you could say we went way back. Mike and I hit it off right away, and soon I found myself driving down almost every weekend to see him.

One night several weeks later we were at a party at his friend's house. As soon as we walked in, some girl ran up to him and squealed, ignoring me and gushing and cooing over how good his new haircut looked, and dragging him off by the arm to see what she had done with her bedroom. I felt myself become prune-faced, and went to talk to Alan, who was the only other person I knew there. "So, you're seeing Mike, huh?" he said.

"Yup," I said.

"I hear he's a big perv," he said.

"Wait, what? What's that supposed to mean?"

"I don't know, just that he's apparently a big perv, I guess."

"But, what do you mean? Where'd you hear that?"

"I don't know, someone told me."

"But who? Who told you that???"

"I don't know, I don't remember."

"But...what do you mean? You can't just say something like that and then say you can't remember!!"

"Hey, look, just forget I said anything."

"But! No! I can't just forget!...Tell me!"

"No, look, I'm sorry I said anything. I'm sure he's a nice guy. Just forget it."

But I didn't forget it. How could I? From then on I was always on the lookout for signs of potential perviness. If only Alan had given me some kind of clue of what to look for...But as far as I could tell he seemed pretty normal to me. Although when we were together, he did really seem to want me to touch his penis. Was that perverted? I wasn't sure. Although even in my state of near-complete sexual inexperience, I was still fairly certain that that was more of a normal guy thing than a perverted guy thing. And so I tried to forget about it. Soon after that, however, I found myself losing interest in him. For completely unrelated reasons, I was sure. Although, really, when I tried to figure out what those reasons were, I came up empty every time. I couldn't explain why, but I just didn't enjoy being around him anymore. In fact, when I was around him now I felt a little...creeped out. The one thing I knew was I had to get rid of this guy, and fast. But how?

Since I was already planning on going to Alan's Halloween party, and Mike was also going with his friends, it seemed that I would have to go with him. I didn't have a choice. He was really excited about his Halloween costume, but he refused to tell me anything about it, wanting to keep it a secret until the big night. "Just as long as it doesn't involve one of those gross rubber masks," I told Talia. "I hate those things. There's something so creepy about people who wear them. It freaks me out." He came with his friends to pick Talia and I up at her house. The doorbell rang, and I peered through the peephole and groaned. "Wow...Look at you..." I murmured half-heartedly as I opened the door. It was worse than I had imagined. Not only was he wearing a gross rubber mad scientist mask, but there was a second gross rubber head growing out of the first one. And he was wearing gross rubber gloves. Lovely.

At the party I drank too much punch, and was inoordinately relieved when he said he was leaving to go to his other party. He invited me to come along, but I declined, saying I'd rather stay and hang out with my friends. He told me the address of the other party, which I promptly forgot, and encouraged me to stop by later, if I wanted. I sent him off with a kiss, and then tracked down the dork I'd had my eye on earlier, wearing suspenders, glasses held together with white tape, and a beanie. After several increasingly drunken games of ping-pong, the dork and I somehow ended up making out on the floor underneath the ping-pong table, where we spent the rest of the night after passing out cold. I was...kind of a jerk. Ok, granted. But in my mind Mike and I were already history. I just had to figure out how to let him know.

Back at school I bemoaned the difficulty of the situation, and of my life in general, all Woe is me! to my friend Alan over an im conversation. I couldn't just stop calling Mike, I explained, as things had gone on too long for that. But I didn't want to drive all the way down there just to break up with him, either. Should I tell him on the phone? God, how awkward. The problem was, I explained, I didn't really want to break up with him at all. I just wanted it to be over.

You could just tell Justin, Alan said. Have him break up with Mike for you.

Yeah, that's a brilliant idea Al, I said. Say, 'Hey Justin, I don't want to date your roommate anymore. Could you let him know?'

I'll do it for you, he said. I'll send Justin an e-mail.

Yeah, that's exactly what I want you to do, Alan, I typed, in what I assumed was a sarcastic manner. Can you imagine?

But I didn't have to imagine. Several days later I received an e-mail from Justin himself, saying, I just got an e-mail from Alan saying you want to break up with Mike. I feel really uncomfortable about this, and I don't think I should be in the middle of this situation. If you don't want to see Mike anymore I think you need to tell him yourself. And you should really do it in person.

Oh, lord. No, this wasn't happening. I didn't just get this e-mail from Justin...Justin, whose mom was my 4-H leader, and whose brother was my first slow dance...and now he thought that I asked Alan to ask him to break up with Mike for me! I wanted to die. No, I wanted to die, but first I wanted to kill Alan.

In any case, that humiliation did give me the impetus to finally break up with Mike. And I did it over the phone. And for a while things were good, or at least until I met another Mike at another party in College Park. But that's a story for another day.

But to review this tangled web in which I, the boys I have dated, and my friend Alan all became intertwined:

1) Make out with boy, go on amazing date with boy, Alan may or may not say something unflattering to boy about me, boy never calls again.

2) Meet boy, date boy, Alan calls boy a perv, get creeped out by boy, Alan takes it upon himself to break up with boy for me through boy's roommate (also known as break-up by proxy, also known as two people too many).

So, my friend Alan: bumbling well-wisher or evil genius? Will the world ever know for sure?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Why you should never trust a man with a ukelele

If I haven't mentioned this already, I went to a very small liberal arts college. A very small, very rural liberal arts college. So it may come as no surprise that I chose to spend many of my weekends with my friends at the much larger and all-around more fun College Park campus of the University of Maryland. When Halloween weekend came around, there was no doubt as to where I'd be.

I showed up at Talia and her roommates' apartment a couple hours before the party. "I don't have a costume," I announced. "But that's ok, right?"

"Well," Talia said, we're all dressing up. And probably everyone who comes will be dressed up too. But you don't have to wear a costume, I guess."

"What? I didn't know everyone was going to be dressed up!" I wailed. "I don't have anything to wear!!!"

After a quick scrounge through Talia's bedroom, this is what I ended up wearing over my jeans and t-shirt: a striped Mexican blanket draped over one shoulder, a pink gel eye mask, and moon boots. For whatever reason, I was a hit. In a logic-defying turn of events, I suddenly found myself the receipient of more male attention than I had ever received in my entire life. Combined. All around me were sexy nurses, sexy cops, sexy teachers, and quivering piles of carefully glittered cleavage as far as the eye could see. And yet, guys flocked around me, in my blanket and moon boots, asking me, imploring me to tell them, Who are you???

"I'm Guadalupe," I would say.

"Who's that?" they asked, puzzled.

"Hey, Tal!" I said. "He doesn't know who Guadalupe is!" And we would both laugh and laugh. We thought this was really funny, but I'm thinking now it was probably more annoying. But that's me: Confidently straddling that fine line between funny and annoying since 1999.

Even so, I eventually attracted the attention of one guy in particular, wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a straw sombrero and carrying a ukelele. He was a friend of my friend Alan, and his name was Don Hall. Now, normally I don't use full names on this website, but in this case it's sort of hard not to. He was one of those both name guys, you know? He wasn't just Don, he was Don Hall! Exclamation point! In fact, that was his entire voicemail message, "Don Hall!" Beep. Hopefully his name is common enough that he won't google himself and find this, although if he does maybe he could finally provide some answers to a nine-year mystery. Hey, Don Hall, what gives?

But I digress. After chatting and consuming four eight ten way too many Jell-o shots, I soon found myself in the unique and totally unaccustomed position of being a willing participant in a full-on makeout session on the inflatable couch, in full view of everyone. And not caring! I felt liberated! I felt invincible! I felt...mmmm...kissingkjdfgolkdfjg...

After two ten twelve a whole lot of kisses goodnight, we exchanged numbers and e-mail addresses and parted ways, with promises to meet again. Well, you guys have read enough of my bitterly disappointed blog entries to be able to figure out how this story ends, right?

But no! Just kidding! I was young, and life hadn't yet reared it's hard, ugly, and fanged head. I was nineteen, naive, and still squishably soft and pure of heart. And so he did call, and I ended up driving down there again the very next weekend to see him. We were going with some of his friends to watch another friend play at an open mike night at a coffee house. I was nervous, though. I mean, we barely knew each other, and I would already be meeting his friends? Plus, how would we get along when not fueled by alcohol? How would he act? What should I do?

I shouldn't have worried. His friends were lovely, and he was delightful. He was beyond delightful. He was affectionate all night, opening doors for me, holding my hand in the car, putting his arm around me in the coffee shop. In front of his friends, even! And the way he kept looking at me gave me the shivers. I was in heaven. We planned to see each other again, the next weekend probably.

Back at school we communicated through e-mail and im conversations. As the next weekend approached and he still hadn't mentioned getting together, I finally asked him point-blank over instant messenger. He said that he had a lot of work to do, and he wouldn't be able to hang out. I said ok and tried not to think too much of it. But the next weekend was Thanksgiving weekend, and he was back home in Connecticut. By the weekend after that, I hadn't heard from him in weeks. And he hadn't responded to any of my e-mails.

I was baffled. What happened? What could I possibly have done? The only thing I could think of was perhaps my friend Alan had said something to him. It was the only explanation I could come up with, but what could he have possibly said???

I had no way of knowing it at the time, of course, but this was but the first in a series of increasingly baffling hot-then-cold rejections. Better get used to it, sister. For my first time, I'd say I handled it pretty well. Because I had no frame of reference for such an event, I treated it as a freakish anomaly rather than what it actually was- a depressingly common reality. I decided not to worry about it too much, and I moved on.

Until one night a couple months later, when I found myself back at a party in Talia's apartment. I happened to be standing near the door when he walked in. Him. Don Hall! I don't know what reaction I expected from him; maybe a hi and how are you? I even thought for a minute that maybe we would end up making out again, which just shows you how naive I was. Instead, his reaction was one that I had never seen before, but that I was certain to see again: frantic, darting eyes, embarassed half-grin; total deer-in-the-headlights. He made a half-hearted attempt at a hello, and then ran. He ran! He lost himself in the crowd and left soon after.

My curiosity, subdued until then, flamed anew. What?! What had I done?! Or perhaps, in my mind, the better question was...What did Alan say to him???

So, what did Alan say? The world may never know...

In any case, stay tuned for part two of the saga, What Alan Said: In Which I Make Out Under a Ping Pong Table and Am Horribly Embarassed Due to a Different, Completely Unrelated Reason, Being Actually Kind of Proud of the Ping Pong Thing

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Why filler is funner (than nothing at all)

To file under "Texts Sent to Me by My Sister, Who When Encouraged to Send More to 'Flesh Out' This Entry Clammed Up Immediately, Thanks Sis:"

Embrace ur inner librarian

My ass is bleeding. u should do thick bangs, kinda fringey.

I just saw your glamour twin

Yesterday Bobby told me i look like i have a nipple on the side of my face.

I have to poo im scared

I hope when we get old we have hobbies or gossip to talk about. Let's never let it get to gird

A lesson for us all, really. Please, people, no matter whatever is or isn't going on in your personal life, just remember that, as my sister so adeptly points out, there is never any reason to talk about your GIRD. If pressed, nipple-shaped pimples and ass blood can serve as valid topics of conversation, but for heavens sake, save the GIRD for your doctor's office. I mean, ew.

(I'm re-thinking hitting publish on this entry. I mean, I'll post it anyway, but at least know that I have my serious doubts about it. I'll write something better later, promise).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Why my life is a series of cautionary tales

In the aftermath of my food poisoning adventure, my very dear friend Erin has generously volunteered to step in and relieve me of my bloggerly duties for a day, an offer which I gratefully accepted. By way of introduction, I have to start by saying how proud I am that Erin is my oldest friend (but that face cream is really working for her!) But seriously, we go all the way back to the third grade, which when I do the math means we've been friends for twenty years. Holy crap. Her mom was my Girl Scout leader, her dad was my softball coach, and her sister once rode next to me in the back seat of her mom's station wagon for over two hours with her hand on my thigh the entire way. True story. Erin and I have been on more than one adventure together, and the long and short of it is if you give us a compass and a map and tell us to go one mile southwest, we will without fail end up three miles northeast. But it turns out that we get the last laugh, because now we live in the age of Google maps and navigation systems, and pfffffft, who needs you, orienteering course? But I digress.

Erin joins us today from the City of Brotherly Love, also known in certain circles as the City of Brotherly I Just Like You as a Friend. Without further ado, here she is, in her own words:

Rachel, my dearest darling. I wanted to let you know about a recent event in my dating life that could serve to amuse you and your devoted readers.

The basic story is this: while enjoying the local nightlife with my gal pals and definitely not looking for love, I met someone very charming, and tall. This meeting was, like, five months ago, and we had some brief chat and then over the last five months, have had other warm-but-innocent encounters at this particular bar, which we all agree is a great place to be on Friday nights. Of course the information obtained at these meetings was a bit hazy, but I made sure (as I noted how much I was beginning to look forward to them) to find out if there was a girlfriend in the picture. And was told there was not.

But then I got busy and missed a few Fridays. In February, though, I showed up there once before I got hold of my ladies, and enjoyed a friendly reception by mano y hermano. So this past end-of-workweek…I ventured there alone to see what magic I could conjure out of the dusky night. Please keep in mind, dear sensitive readers of Rachel’s public thought, that I am an entirely incorrigible hedonist, who is subject to particular torments of fantasy, and it was my intention to inflict these very torments upon the object of my desire. Still, this going alone concept is a bold move, even for me. I was disappointed upon arriving to find that the man of the hour was not present, but maybe a bit relieved as well.

Until...he was there. Oh my. And happy to see me and eager to converse and pleasant enough not to notice how often I licked my lips, after biting them to avoid uttering the extremely unladylike words in my mind. Alas, I succeeded too well. The conversation was sparkling and the beer was swiftly replenished and the lights came on all too soon. I thought, oh, I’ll get him outside and smooch it up! …or bum a cigarette and walk back to my car, offer a ride, and get a hug instead. Go home to bed and wonder so intensely if I should have done SOMETHING that I finally do. In the form of a “missed connection” missive posted the next day on my favorite free classified repository.

It read (generalized for anonymity):

Fridays at the Bar... - w4m - 28

…are what I look forward to all week. Because it's reliably good music, great service and fine beers aflowin'. And because you might show up and smile and choose to sit next to me and tell me about SciFi shows, your take on atheism, and how to craft a witty pun. So I get in my car and head there alone, because this time I might tell you that all I'm really thinking about is being pressed up against you in some even more dim and cozy place, or I might be too shy...again.

When I asked you "do you know what time it is?" I was so close to confessing that it was time I told you how sexy you are, but you pulled out your phone and shattered the subtext.

Well, close your eyes, give me your hand, darlin' do you feel my heart beating? Do you understand? Do you feel the same? Am I only dreaming? Is this burning...just that bummed cigarette in my lungs? I wish there were more Fridays at the Bar like last night.

How could I write something so precious and vulnerable and awfully cheesy? A Bangles reference? I must have been drugged! But at least it’s anonymous and I’m sure he’d never read this…

Response (received within 4 hours of posting!):


I'm guessing this is you, Erin (that how you spell it?). As flattered as I am with your message, and quite surprised, really, it's rather unfortunate that I have to tell you that I am already in a relationship with a very nice girl. It's a very young one (relationship, not girl), but a good far. I hope I didn't lead you on in any way. I just thought we had good conversations--I'll still be looking forward to them. I feel, however, that my girlfriend will be checking up on me every half-hour while I'm out on Friday nights, she is the one that located this "missed connection" (she reads them regularly)...yeah, that phone call was not a pleasant one. "Bar Cafe", "SciFi", "Friday" and "cigarettes" sort of gave it away. So, don't be weird or anything when we're both in the B.C.--I hope we can laugh this one off...and I hope you're not gonna be pissed off at me. Till next time, my friend.


My re-response (swathed in silent, hilarious mortification, insert *wince* for every punctuation mark):

Hey Guy,

Hee hee, no worries. And that was fast! I always wondered if anyone made the connections via CL. Sounds as if the lucky lady knows she's got a good thing, and can't really fault me for wondering. Anyways, I am looking forward to laughing about this. And glad I got to take a relatively easy road to rejection of advances so that “casual friends” can be a more comfortable possibility. Things that would make a reasonable girlfriend happy (if she needs to know):
- he wouldn't let me give him a ride home
- he didn't lead me on in any way
- he did check his phone regularly
- he stuck to entirely dorky subjects that most chicks wouldn't be into
- I am positive he had no idea what I was thinking, or he would have set me straight

And I am happy to have had a lively conversation, and hope there will be more platonic fun to come, because I certainly don't intend to avoid my favorite nightspot. Cheers!


So, after collecting the trampled remains of my dignity from that taproom floor, contemplating whether a cringe could kill, and remembering that the people who do love me would be thrilled to hear every twist of this saga (they have come to expect this sort of awkward series of events and my wry discomfiture in the aftermath) I modified my public posting.

The revised CL ad:

Fridays at the Bar... - w4m - 28

are what I look forward to all week. Because it's reliably good music, great service and fine beers aflowin'. Hooray for weekends!

In the end, I got what I really wanted – an adventure – and avoided what I didn’t need – exposure to the STD’s that CL-trolling ladyfriend is likely riddled with. Not that I’m bitter.

Thanks for sharing that, Erin. You know, men may come and go, but an intimate relationship with your friendly neighborhood bar doesn't happen every day. Hold on to that bar, Erin. Sounds like you've got a good thing going there.

So what about you, readers? Have you ever done something truly cringe-worthy in the name of love/like/lust? Do share. Everyone knows embarassing stories are never quite so mortifying after they're shared with good friends/strangers on the internet. And a big bowl of ice cream. So let's grab a spoon and dig in!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Why I need to go back to bed before anything else can happen to me

The past 36 hours or so have been a bit rough over here at Diary of Why headquarters. I was all prepared to tell you the story of My Day at the Dentist in which in order to fill two cavities, no less than three novacaine shots were necessary to numb me completely, resulting in the temporary and mildly disturbing paralysis of my right eye. Unable to close it or blink, I had to physically "blink" it with my fingers periodically in order to keep it from drying out and rendering me blind. Having a healthy fear of needles, I usually deal with this at the dentist by squinching my eyes closed tight before the needle ever makes its appearance, because I don't wish to have nightmares of giant needles coming at my face for the next six months. For shot number two I obediently once again closed my eyes, only I forgot that I couldn't close my right eye, and so I had a bit of a freak-out moment where I had a full view of that needle, a drop of novacaine glistening on the tip, coming straight for my opened mouth. At the last second I screamed and turned my head to the side, shrieking, "I can't close my eye! I can see the needle! I can't close my eye!" At which point the kindly dental assistant covered my eye for me and then taped a piece of gauze over it.

So I thought today's blog post was going to be about that, because it seemed that that in itself was already trauma enough for one day, except I had no way of knowing what would happen after my roommate's birthday dinner last night at the restaurant formerly known as My Favorite Restaurant, and now currently known as The Restaurant that Gave Me Food Poisoning. At first I thought the fault was mine for mixing cocktails and wine as I had, but it quickly became clear that although said beverages did color my vomit a spectacular shade of purple (almost beautiful, in its way), there were obviously larger forces at play. I'll spare you the grotesque details, but believe me when I say, man, there were some grotesque details. Like, the stuff I could tell you right now might just blow your mind, but I won't, because then you might never come here again. You're welcome.

I suppose the worst of it seems to be over, though I am still feeling like shit on a plate. I can't even tell you how long it's taken me just to write this much, because just sitting up is a herculean effort at the moment. Two minutes of writing requires a two hour lie-down in bed to recover, so if this post reads a little more disjointedly than usual today that's why.

Anyway, I'd like to take you back about 36 hours, back when the worst I had to deal with was some mouth soreness and a non-functioning eyelid. Ahh, how young and innocent I was back then. I took a little cameraphone footage of myself in the bathroom of the dentist's office, and I guess I'll show it to you, but please be kind. VoilĂ , c'est moi, in all my droopy-eyed, fat-tongued and puffy-lipped glory.

I like how I'm all, Woe is me, I can't blink my right eye! when as I am saying that I am clearly blinking my right eye. This was towards the tail end of the medication's effectiveness, but you'll just have to believe me when I say that prior to the video, I truly couldn't move my eyelid, and it was really freaky. Also, "Here I am in the bathroom of the dentist's ow-ffice." Why, hello Maryland accent! Clearly almost five years of living in Boston have done nothing for me. I swear, I don't really talk like that. In fact, I think I'll blame any drawl on the novacaine. Yes, that's it, the novacaine. Vowels are hard when you can't open your mouth!

Cheers, all, and I hope your weekends were better than mine.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Why I need a dating vacation

As I walked to River Gods to meet a date from the internet last night, I was filled with an increasing sense of unease. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but I blamed it on first-date jitters. The closer I got the more anxious I felt. This was always the tricky part; when you're on your way to meet a blind date you have to be on your toes, because you don't know if you're obliviously walking right past the person you're going to meet. I looked ahead of me, and then I looked behind me for someone who might fit my date's description. I looked across the street to my right, and that's when I saw him. No, not my date, but him, the thorn in my side and the pain in my back. The light was dim, but from across the street I could see him as clear as day, his bald spot shining like a beacon. He was with two girls, and they were walking in exactly the same direction, and at exactly the same speed as me. No. No no no no no. This can't be happening. They must be going to the same bar I am, I thought. The same very small, very intimate bar where it would be impossible to hide. He couldn't see me on a blind date, I couldn't bear it. What would I do? Well first of all, I would slow down. I fumbled my cell phone out of my purse, pretended to check it. I took my glove off, put it back on. Should I call my date, tell him to meet me somewhere else? No, I didn't have his number. Ok, here's what I would do, I decided. I would let The Bald Spot and his friends go in first, then I would wait outside for my date. If he was cute we would go in and I would try desperately to pretend as if we weren't just meeting for the first time, and if he wasn't cute I would suggest going somewhere else. Yes, I thought, that is a good plan. Across the street he was still there, still walking, just ahead of me now. That must be where he's going, I thought. There's nothing else on this street except houses. And just at that moment he and his friends disappeared inside one of the houses, and the street was suddenly empty. And with that my evening became about 80% less interesting.

Let me preface the date itself by saying, I'm not normally one to criticize people for the photos they choose to post of themselves on their online dating profiles. Of course you want to post a picture of yourself where you look good. I understand tricks of light and shadow and the fact that in real life no one ever looks as you imagined they would based on their picture. But to post a picture of yourself from ten years and at least fifty pounds ago does seem a little bit unfair, and that's all I'm going to say about that.

We met at River Gods as planned but ended up changing venues anyway, as what is small and intimate on a weeknight quickly becomes chaos on a Friday evening. So we walked back to Central Square, and hoo boy, was that ever a long walk. It quickly became clear that this was going to be one of those painful evenings where you would rather be anywhere else; having cavities filled, for instance, or getting a bikini wax. One of those evenings where you look despondently at the full pint of beer in front of you and think, Now how fast can I humanly drink this and get out of here? We just didn't have anything to say to each other, it seemed. Thankfully, finally, the tables turned when we began speaking in French. Because, oh, he's French, or sort of. But before you start giving him the benefit of the doubt, his English is also perfect, and he spent the last ten years living in London, so we can't exactly blame the lack of spark on a language barrier. But for whatever reason, when we started speaking French he opened up and started talking almost animatedly, and, perhaps more importantly, in full sentences. We talked about France, and movies, and music, and I did finally finish that beer. We even stayed for a second.

All the same, and I know I've said this before, but I think I might be done with dating for good. Or at least for the moment. For a few weeks? Let's just say I'm done with dating for the immediate future or at least until I get asked out on another date. Dating, I've found, and particularly online dating, is starting to feel a lot like going on a job interview. And lately it's been a lot like interviewing for a job that I don't particularly want. In other words, dating is a lot like work. And I think it's time for a vacation.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Why I love my new dentist

I sat back in the chair at my new dentist's office and sighed, prepared for the worst. The last time I had gone to the dentist was before I became a student, back when I still had dental insurance. As I waited for the dentist, it quickly became apparent that something wasn't right. The chair, something was wrong with the chair. Was it...was it...massaging me? Indeed it was; rollers moved back and forth between my shoulders in a soothing motion. The technician came in and picked up the remote to the flat-screen t.v. "Any particular channel you'd like to watch?" she said. "Oh no, this is fine," I said, and settled in to watch stand-up on Comedy Central as my teeth were X-rayed, then scraped and polished.

It would have been a nearly perfect dental experience if not for the final diagnosis: two cavities, one old filling that needs to be replaced, and one freak tooth that for no apparent reason at all has lost its desire to live and is well on its way to a root canal. Did I mention I have no dental insurance? And all the advances in dental chair technology in the world can't really change that.

Still, though, at three bucks a pop, I figure I only need 499 more free tooth brushes and maybe we'll come out even. (The good kind. Oral-B!)

In short, I hate my traitor teeth, but I love my new dentist. Now don't forget to floss, guys. For the love of pulpy, non-calcified root mass, please, don't forget to floss.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Why I love presents

You can probably imagine how excited I was to receive this package in the mail the other day, from the most lovely Canadian bloggers I know.

See that contrast between light and shadow? That's called chiaroscuro. That's probably the only thing I remember from my freshman Intro. to Art History class. Well, that and contrapposto. I'm so glad I was finally able to showcase my knowledge of those words, ten years later. Thanks for the education Mom and Dad. It's really come in handy!

But as excited as I was about my special delivery, there was someone else who was even more excited, if that's possible.

Noodle sez, I can haz Wine Gums?

Pleez? I be very good.

Noodle will work for Wine Gums.

Pffft. Is too easy. Give Noodle more.

Noodle sez, Dooce dog got nothing on Noodle.

More! More! Give Noodle more sweet sweet Wine Gums!
Noodle sez, please to deposit ad revenue from Maynards people directly into slot in Noodle's back. Thx.

Uh-oh...I'z feeling a bit woozy. Must be fumes from all the Wine Gums going to Noodle's head. Also all the Wine Gums I'z ate when you wuzn't looking. Sucka!

Oh nos! Hold Noodle's ears back, I think I'z gonna be sick!

I thought he was being a bit overdramatic, so I told him to read the information on the back of the bag.

I may be dachshund, but I'z an ejucated dachshund.

Ne contient pas de vin? What the floof does that mean? Noodle don't speak no stinkin' French. Noodle took German in high school, the language of his illustrious ancestors.

Oh, sorry Noodle. Wrong one. Here.

What? No wine? No wine in Wine Gums??? Next thing Noodle knows you'z be telling him there's no gin in Gin Gerbread cookies. And beer nuts? Tell Noodle 'bout beer nuts!!!!

Noodle sez, tis travesty what is the false advertising that is allowed to pass in the world today. You all be hearing from Noodle's lawyers.

Now go get Noodle a bowl of rum raisin ice cream. I'z need to chill.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Why you can't spell Boggle without blog

I went on a date last night. We played Boggle.

Unfortunately I'm not at liberty to say more because I'm pretty sure he's reading my blog. I think I really need to work on my online anonymity. Gah.

But for the record-

1. protective shelter: The lee of the rock gave us some protection against the storm.
2. the side or part that is sheltered or turned away from the wind: We erected our huts under the lee of the mountain.

1. a brimless and close-fitting hat for women, in any of several shapes.
2. a velvet hat with a narrow, sometimes turned-up brim, a full crown, and usually a plume, worn by men and women esp. in 16th-century France.

Good game, though.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Why being single is great

I don't know who this girl is or where she came from, but I do know I want her to make more videos. A lot more videos.

Thanks again to Tom for passing this along.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Why every day should be Women's Day

Happy Women's Day!!!!

While in the U.S. Woman's Day is more commonly known as a monthly magazine for the conscientious housewife that is currently cluttering up my parents' house with twenty years of recipes, helpful household hints, and saccharine anecdotes (along with several decades more back issues of Family Circle, but don't even get me started on that), in other countries March 8 is a day to celebrate the economic, social, and political achievements of women. I had never heard of the holiday here, but when I was living in France I remember that one day, seemingly like any other day, as soon as I walked out the door in the morning I was smiled at warmly by armies of flower-bearing women in the streets, as they pressed daffodils into my hands, les jonquils. "Merci," I said. "Mais, pourquoi?" "Parce que c'est le jour de la femme!" they exclaimed happily. Damn, what a great idea, I remember thinking. Leave it to the French...

Mais non! Apparently it is not only the French who celebrate this often overlooked international holiday, as I learned when I signed on to my okcupid account this morning and received this missive from a user named sexinrome, writing from 4,328 miles away:

HAPPY WOMEN'S DAY !!I bet 10 hot kisses you didn't expect wishes from Rome today !HAVE I WON ??Franco

Well-played, Franco. Well-played.

Happy Women's Day, everyone. And men, make sure you tell the woman in your life how much you appreciate her. Maybe buy her some flowers, too. Tulips are always nice. Or so I've heard.

In the meantime maybe I'll tell my mother that I love her, and also she has two more weeks until National Cleaning Week. In observance of this most sacred of holidays she should really get rid of all outdated periodicals, because Mom, this magazine? It expired in 1986. And that is So. Gross.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Why writing fiction is harder than it looks

I was going through some old notebooks the other day when I came across this story fragment. I was living in France when I wrote it, and it kind of all came to me at once as I was laying in bed, not sleeping one night. This is my attempt at a short story. I hope you like it.

The Story of My Life

I was born in the circus at the age of three. Some people think they live with a bunch of clowns, but I really do. Sunshine, Moonbeam, Jim Bean, Billie Jean, Knockwurst, Slug and Ringo; these were my earliest friends, teachers, and confidantes. It was the clowns who raised me, taught me right from wrong, and how to twist a balloon into a giraffe. When I was bad I took a water-filled flower to the eye. Sometimes as a joke they would fill it with lemon juice instead. They saved the pie in the face for when I was really bad, like the time I forgot to feed the lion and then let him out during the clowns' act as a joke. I was wearing whipped cream all over my face after that one.

Some people may think that there are happy clowns and sad clowns. The truth is, at the end of the day they're all sad clowns. After a full day of degrading themselves for people who only want to see a man swallow fire or put his head in a lion's mouth, then they have to come back and endure the constant taunting of the other circus folk. "Hey clowns, why don't you get some pants that fit!" the tightrope walker jeers, prancing by in his tights. "Hey Bozo, what's that on your nose? I can pop that for you!" the trapeze artist sneers. This is especially painful, since to a clown using the name Bozo as a slur is like taking the Lord's name in vain. It's sacrilege. I try to tell them to stand up for themselves, to fight back, but they never do. They just drip big, greasy, makeup-stained tears into their Jack & Cokes. In the ladder of the circus, the clowns are on the bottom rung.

My mother is the 300-pound lady and my father is a midget. Since I was left by the stork on a rainy night in Chattanooga, I don't look like either of them. My job is to ride the elephant. I stand on its back in sequins and spangles, looking just the right amount of scared. Too scared and the audience loses respect for you; too confident and they lose interest. Around and around old Millie plods, while I shake things up by first standing on two feet, then on one. For the finale, I turn around and ride standing backwards. Ringmaster Mike wants me to work on some new material for the routine, he thinks it's getting "stale." I told him to bring it up with my union, the United Federation of Elephant Walkers. Our motto is "We will not be trampled." Unfortunately last year someone was trampled after a failed attempt at an intricate sit-and-stand move. It was at that point that we decided it would be best to keep the routines simple, and that's what I do.

When you live in the circus it's important to be flexible. Flexible about meals, sleeping quarters, and enough to put your leg behind your head. I used to practice all the time, for hours a day, standing on one leg with the other pointed gracefully up towards the sky. I did this so much that one day I couldn't get it back down! It seemed permanently stuck in its new position, and nothing I did seemed to help. I had to walk around on one leg for a while after that. My parents made the best of it and put me in the corner as a hat stand. I thought I should go to the doctor, but they said, just give it some time, and it'll come down by itself when it's good and ready. And boy, it did just that.

Eddie Shitshoes called himself a salesman. What he did was muck out the elephant's trailer and sell the dung to garden stores and nurseries, who in turn sold it to rich people for $12 a bag. I never will understand what people want with bags full of elephant shit. Sometimes I imagine Goliath-sized gardens, tomatoes big enough to kill a man, corn with kernels as big as your ear. Eddie found that his product sold better when he marketed it under the name Zippity Doo Doo than under some of the other names he had experimented with: Fantasti-Crap and I Can't Believe It's Elephant Dung!

Eddie had been trying for quite a while to stick his pitchfork in my haystack, and given my current predicament, I wasn't at all surprised when he showed up to take advantage of the situation. I heard the trailer door open. "Hello Eddie," I said without turning around. You always knew when Eddie Shitshoes entered a room. Seeing for himself the compromising position I was in, Eddie grinned with pleasure. Just as Eddie was getting a little too friendly for my taste, my leg decided to come down. And did it ever. It snapped closed like it was spring-loaded, taking poor Eddie down with it. He suffered a concussion and a rather awkward sprain. He was so scared, I don't think his pole will ever stand up under the Big Top again.

And that's where it ends. I have no idea how to finish this story, so here's where you come in, my faithful (and beautiful!) readers. Write the next sentence of the story in the comments. It could be anything. No, really, anything! Bring back one of the old characters. Create a new character! Write, "This is the worst thing you've ever written and I can't believe you're degrading yourself this way, and also, I don't get it." I don't care! No, really, I can take it. Just write something about anything and we'll call it a day. Deal?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Why every good story deserves a postscript

I may have compared it to a movie, but if it were a movie, it would have ended there. It should have ended there, but this being real life, the results were decidedly less tidy. Loose ends all over the place.

After our movie-perfect evening, which should have been the end of the story but wasn't, we exchanged e-mail addresses and phone numbers. He went back to Camp Lejeune, and I went back to whatever it was I did before he came along. Classes, jazz band rehearsals, long afternoon naps, and now, extended sessions of mooning and moping about. I didn't have long to pine; soon it was Thanksgiving, and he came back home to see his family. We planned to meet. At the last minute he told me that there was a slight change of plans; he was bringing a friend home with him, who would have to come with us on our date, and did I happen to have a cute, single friend who would like to join us as well? My heart sank. I didn't want to share him or the precious limited moments we would have together, but I decided to make the best of it. I knew the only person I would want by my side on such an occasion was Talia, who would be in Detroit for the holiday. After much pleading and wringing of hands, I extracted a promise from her that if she could convince her parents to leave early enough in the morning, they could probably drive all day and be back in time for her to go out with us on Saturday night. She did make it, but the night turned out to be an unmitigated disaster, nevertheless. Colin's friend was a dimunitive, foul-mouthed Marine with a Napoleon complex, an obnoxious personality, and a grating Boston accent to match. (Even after having lived here for almost five years now, I have still never found its equal). Colin thought the guy was hilarious. Talia...well, let's just say that after being shut up in a car with her parents for the last twelve hours, she was already a wee bit on the grumpy side. Unfortunately, her temper did not soon improve. Shortly after meeting her "date," she pulled me into a bathroom and hissed "You owe me" through tightly clenched teeth. (I am happy to say that over the next few years I was able to join her on several blind dates of her own making, and, in my opinion at least, more than make it up to her). The little else I remember involves Talia and I clinging to each other in the back seat of Colin's little red Neon, as he flew down back roads and took screeching curves that left us sure that each one would be our last, and trying to refrain from appearing too middle-aged in our outbursts of concern - "Don't you think you're going a little fast?" and "Oh, please, be careful!" But he just laughed and turned the radio louder.

With this date clearly a bust, I still held out hope for Christmas. He would be back, and this time with no Muppet-Marine clinging to his pants leg. I knew it would be better with just the two of us. I was sure we could re-create that magic, once it was just him and me and the stars...And so we decided to go down to D.C. for the evening. We didn't have any specific plans; just Georgetown, and dinner, and whatever struck our fancy. We decided to meet at the Metro station. After waiting outside in the cold for fifteen minutes with no sign of him, though, the glow started to fade. I wondered just how long it was appropriate to wait for someone before you could be sure you were being stood up. As every minute ticked slowly by I got colder, and more anxious. It was 1999, and I didn't have a cell phone. Neither did he. What if something terrible had happened to him? I dug in my purse for the correct amount of change and called his parents' house from a payphone. "Oh, he's not here," his mother said. "He left not too long ago to go to D.C." Not too long ago? How not too long ago? He finally showed up a full half hour after we had arranged to meet, with no apology, and no excuse. When I pointed out his tardiness: "Oh, yeah, I got caught up doing some stuff." Then, "Sorry," he added, as an unconvincing afterthought. I wasn't happy. I wanted a heartier apology, but I decided to let it go, as I was determined to enjoy the night. Unfortunately, though, the rest of the night didn't go much better. Despite our natural and unforced intimacy months earlier, we were suddenly and surprisingly awkward with each other. After dinner, with no definite plans, we hemmed and hawed about what to do next, where to go. "I don't know, what do you want to do?" "I don't know, what do you want to do?" We decided to walk around, but it was cold, and not really knowing the area, we ended up walking in half-hearted circles. We finally gave up and headed home, parting with a disappointing goodnight kiss in which I clung for an instant too long. In the car on my way home, I beat myself up over it, for appearing clingy and desperate for affection, replaying the moment over and over in my mind. Over the next few days, all of our (my) attempts at another date fell through. I gave up after he told me that he couldn't see me because he was "cleaning his guns."

He shipped off to Japan soon after that. We kept in touch at first, rather more enthusiastically on my part than on his, it must be said. I agonized over the perfect wording of e-mails, hoping to strike the perfect balance between light-hearted and tender, to find that elusive area between cool nonchalance and warm allure. He would send back two- or three-line responses that almost always said pretty much the same thing. "Just got back from a mission. It was awesome. Have to go sleep now." Not surprisingly, our correspondance soon tapered off, from infrequent to not at all. I heard from Julia who heard from his sister that he was dating an Australian supermodel. I remember thinking that if it was true, I wouldn't have been surprised. I moved on, but I still thought about him sometimes. More about our one amazing night together than anything that came after, I must admit. I thought about his smile, his shoulders, and how for one night he made me feel like the most beautiful and intriguing woman alive. But mostly I thought about how it didn't seem finished, somehow. Every good story deserves an ending, I thought. Or at least a P.S.

Several years later, I had graduated from school and spent a year in France teaching English. Having just returned to the U.S. a few weeks earlier, I went back to school for the graduation of several of my friends, most of whom were a year younger than me. I came up the night before their graduation ceremony to hang out, drink, and visit my old stomping grounds one last time. I slept on the couch in Julia's on-campus apartment. The next morning, as there was only one bathroom and four girls who lived there, I decided to let them have the shower first. They were the ones graduating, after all. By the time everyone else got ready, though, it was time to go, and so I went to the graduation ceremony in the gym looking like I had just come from working out. Greasy hair, shiny face, no makeup. Plus, the outfit. I wish I didn't have pictures to remind me of this, but even without them the image would still be burned in my mind. A beige shirt that so exactly matched my skin color that once when I was wearing it, someone told me, "Oh, phew! For a minute there I thought you were naked!" Lest you mistake naked for sexy, I'll just tell you - it wasn't sexy. It was drab. Drab beige shirt, beige sweater, and long, black skirt. Was I going for the Puritan look? All I know is that at some point in time, long, ankle-length skirts were in, although whether they still were at this particular juncture is subject to debate. It was in this state that I sent my younger friends off to face their destiny, to go, grow up, and change the world. (I was nothing if not an inspiring frightening role model).

Before the ceremony started, I crossed the lobby to head to the restroom, and that was when I saw him. Him. Standing head and shoulders above the crowds of people milling about, he was unmistakable. Hair a little longer now, just as broad-shouldered, just as handsome. I could have just as easily kept walking, and he never would have noticed me. I could have smiled to myself a secret smile, kept going, and never said a word. But we all know avoiding confrontations isn't my style. So I stopped. I planted myself directly underneath him, angling my face up at his as he ignored me and continued to scan the crowd over my head. But, ever persistent, I stared him down, finally forcing him to look back at me. "Hey," I said. "Hey?" he said questioningly, his eyes blank, confused, frantically searching for recognition, for a way to place me. No, I thought. No no no no no. This was the worst thing that could possibly have happened. Oh my god, he doesn't remember me. Finally, though, after an agonizing few seconds, something clicked. "Oh," he said, "Rachel, right?"

"Yeah," I said. "Colin?" As if I didn't know. "How've you been?" The wedding ring was the first thing I saw.

"Oh, good. I Just got back from Iraq, actually."

"Oh, wow. How was that?"

"Crazy. Totally...crazy. are you?"

"Good. I just got back from France."

Just then someone walked up and stood beside him. The someone he had been scanning the room for. The other half of the wedding ring. I don't remember exactly what she looked like, but she was no Australian supermodel, let's put it that way. Average height. Roundish. Nothing special.

"This is a friend of Caroline's," was how he introduced me. Ah...a friend of Caroline's. Right. Though his sister had once been my friend Julia's roommate, we weren't friendly, and I don't think we had ever spoken two words to each other. A friend of Caroline's. It seemed like my cue to exit.
"Well it was nice seeing you," I said. "I was just on my way to the bathroom. Bye!"

And suddenly, just like that, the story had an ending. All of the loose ends that had been blowing about now pulled together in an infuriatingly tidy little bow. And it was funny...after having wished so long for closure, I realized the irony of it is that once it happens, it can't be undone. Closure is closure, the end. And with that finality, the story becomes a little less interesting. So maybe instead of The End, next time I'll just finish with The...

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Why dogs love me

Corrupting the canines of America, one lap dog at a time. First the pot, and now this. If word gets out, I may never dog-sit in this town again. We'll just make it our little secret, okay?

Wait, what's that you're saying? A faceless blur? Meh, (*shrugs shoulders*). Camera phones. The quality is so shoddy these days. Ah well.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Why I have to be on my best behavior

Three years ago today my roommate and I moved into our apartment. There was a blizzard that day, and first I had to shovel a path from the door of my building to my car, and then I had to shovel out my car. I was exhausted before I had even lifted the first box. I was just moving from across the river, but my roommate had come here from D.C. Her parents had driven all the way up from Georgia to help her, and I remember that upon meeting her (very southern) father, he told me, rather seriously, "If she don't mind you, you just spank her." As my then-boyfriend and his then-roommate, who had helped me move in, snickered and imagined for a second what that might look like, my roommate, rather than dying from embarassment, as I might have done, simply replied brightly, "He says that to all my new roommates!"

During the last three years I've quit my job, gone back to school, sold my car, and gone through a particularly heart-wrenching break-up, and all this time, my roommate has been there; a cheerful, easy-going, unchanging constant.

All of which is to say, of course, that this morning at 7 a.m., three years to the day after we moved in together, my roommate packed up her U-Haul, and headed out into the wild blue yonder. She's going back to D.C. for a few months to see old friends and bask in the comparative warmth that is winter in the mid-Atlantic region. Then she'll be moving to Chile with her fiancé, where they will be married next fall. She's really excited about it.

I think I might miss her.

I don't think I'll be too lonely, though. The psychic friend is due to arrive with her boxes any minute now. And even if she's not as cheerful or as easy-going as my old roommate, she may keep things interesting around here, at least.

Yes, change is definitely in the air, whirling and swirling and covering every surface in a cold wet, blanket.


What's that?

Oh, right. It's just snow.

I guess some things never change.