Friday, December 31, 2010

Why I hope this decade will be better than the last

Another new year is upon us, it seems. Can you feel my enthusiasm? I plan to celebrate by never leaving the house and going to bed at 11:30. So, basically like any other day. God, I hate the holidays.

This time of year is all about self-reflection, which is where I tend to get into trouble, as I probably spend way too much time self-reflecting as it is. But in the interest of learning from past mistakes, I thought it would be useful to reflect upon things that happened in 2010 that I do not wish to repeat in 2011. Which, as it turns out, is most of them. But I particularly do not wish to repeat:  



definitely not this 

oh god, and this 

this too

and I could definitely do with less of this 

Well that was a fun walk down memory lane, wasn't it?

In the interest of not being a total downer (too late!), let's end things on a more positive note, shall we? And so, here are the Things I am Looking Forward to in 2011:

finishing school (again)

getting a job

and this:
I leave in one week, and will be meeting my fabulous travel-partner-in-crime, Jamie, for one extra-long weekend of west coast fun. I have already scoured the archives of my favorite San Francisco-based (and formerly San Francisco-based) bloggers, taking careful note of their suggestions. But now I pass it to you guys--have you ever lived in or visited San Francisco? Is there anything I absolutely must do or see (or eat) while I'm there? Anything I should avoid? My only goals so far are to 1) eat great food, 2) walk a lot and see some stuff, and 3) maybe taste some wine. Anything beyond that would just be icing on the cake.

Cheers, all. Happy etc.  

Monday, December 20, 2010

Why I'm not a superfreak

Oh, why, hello! Are you still there? If so, why? It's true I've been a tad neglectful lately, leaving you for days on end with tales of nose-biting and empty fluff as filler. I've been waiting out the semester as it wheezed its last, dying gasp. And it's true what they say, you know, about how the semester ends: not with a bang but a whimper. And now, finally, the pages of my day planner are marvelously, refreshingly white and clean, much like the newly fallen snow outside, and I find I have nothing in particular to do, and nowhere pressing to go. I've always been slow to catch on to transitions, however, and so I find myself wandering around my house in a muddled haze, sure that there must be something I am forgetting to do. And then, finally, I remembered--blog! Yes, I have a blog! So what shall I blog about today, self? The exciting adventures of how I went to get an oil change and absolutely nothing of consequence happened? No, perhaps not, then. How about the time I sold back my textbooks to a guy in a tent (which should have been my first clue), and then later stupidly realized that I could have traded them in on Amazon for, oh, roughly 150% more American dollars than tent huckster ended up giving me? No, not scintillating enough for you? Man, you people are tough. Alright, how about this: later, I plan to make muffins. Muffins, people!


But wait--they're cranberry. Cranberry muffins. No, still not good enough for you? I give up.

Ok, look, here is what I was about to subject myself to for your amusement, people. So, you remember this video, right? I figured if Ally McBeal could be a superfreak, in all her spastic, skinny glory, then there was no reason why I couldn't either, right? This is how much I love all of you, because I was planning to post a video of myself dancing, on the Internet, for all to see. And I had every intention of actually doing it, too. Until, you know. I viewed the evidence. Which shall be destroyed, obviously. Here were some initial thoughts:
  1. This song is really hard to dance to, guys. Surprisingly hard.
  2. I hate my stupid hair.
  3. Oh my god, that...right there...I have no words.
  4. How did Calista Flockhart make this look so easy? It is not easy, people. It is not.
And some closing words of wisdom to my future self: Never do that again. And fix your hair. Gah.

And so, sadly, I do not have a video to post for you today. Against my better judgment I haven't entirely given up on it altogether, though. In the immortal words of Ally McBeal, "I'm practicing." But I'm still not convinced it can be done. I tell you what, though, maybe a little moral support would help. A little solidarity, you know? I'm throwing out the challenge right now; if just one of you guys makes your own Superfreak dance video and links to it here, I promise I will post one of me doing something (I hesitate to call it dancing), no matter how ridiculous it looks. Pinky promise. 

Lights, dow dow dow...da dow...da dow. Get ready to get your groove on, people (da dow...da dow...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Why the girl's a superfreak

Old re-runs of Ally McBeal have been on heavy rotation in my Netflix queue, lately. Can I help it if I love everything about that show? A show where people spontaneously break into song and dance, long before Glee came along and made televised musical numbers socially acceptable. Plus, oh, the sweeping views of Boston, and every time the red line train sweeps over the Charles River in the opening scenes, my heart goes aflutter with nostalgia. Ally's downtown office building that is not unlike my old downtown office building, except for, you know, the corner office views and unisex bathroom antics. Plus, it's hard to ignore the obvious: the maladroit and perpetually lovelorn thirty-something stumbling through life, searching for happiness. 

And then every once in a while, there's a moment of ultimate recognition, of seeing yourself from the outside, and it's not always a pleasant sight. It's times like these when I'm reminded again of why it is that skinny people should never, ever dance:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Why I'm as graceful as a giraffe on rollerskates

Internet, have you ever experienced a moment of such complete maladroitness that moments later you are still not exactly sure what in the hell just happened? In life's routine and mindless motions--walking, eating, giving someone a hug--there will inevitably come a moment when suddenly, unexpectedly, things break down. Though walking is generally an uneventful process, in the millions of steps that you take in a lifetime it is nearly guaranteed that at some point you will trip and fall. Feeding yourself seems a similarly mundane task, but if the stars are out of line you may once in a rare instance surprise yourself with the sharp tines of a fork in your face instead of its intended target. And sometimes, if the circumstances are just right, you may be absolutely astonished to find that in the process of giving an acquaintance a hug, you have inadvertently ended up with their nose in your mouth. 

If you are lucky, there will be no one around to bear witness to your ineptitude, and you can laugh it off and continue on your way. If you are unlucky, however, there will be a crowd of people from whose perspective it appears that you have just kissed your friend's wife. (Your friend's wife!) But actually, you will soon realize that it is even worse than that, because as your face accidentally, horrifically collides with hers, it appears that you had been in the process of saying something (of utmost importance, no doubt), and so your mouth is, unfortunately, open. The next thing you know your teeth are colliding with her adorable, helpless nose, incisors first. Your eyes go wide and you retreat with gasped apologies and an unstoppable, hysterical giggle burbling up from inside, ready to erupt. She is nicer than nice and totally nonchalant, brushing it off with a dismissive wave of the hand. "Oh, I'm used to it," she shrugs. "My husband is always messing with my nose." And then she kindly shows you to the door and wishes you a good night. And not a moment too soon, because once outside you find yourself on the sidewalk, staggering and doubled over in helpless, horrified laughter, thinking, I bit her nose! I bit D's wife's nose!, hoping that no one chooses that precise moment to look out the window.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why it's too little, too late

When I said in the comments section of this post, "The guy is an unemployed pot smoker; persistence isn't really his 'thing,'" I may have spoken too soon. As it turns out, once the words "it's over" come into play, persistence is very much his thing. Texts, e-mails, some answered, some not. That delicate balance, walking that fine line between ignoring him altogether and not wanting to piss him off too much, since he does know where I live, after all. Funny, though, that a guy unheard from for four days when he thought we were together would become so very communicative once none of it matters anymore. In his texts and his e-mails you can see a clear progression of the stages of grief, starting with denial ("I still have an extra ticket to that concert if you want, no pressure"), and moving through anger ("This is bullshit, you were interested in me the last time I saw you"), bargaining ("I'm done being pushy; I'm chill now, I swear!"), and sadness ("I'm not saying I go around yelling your name like I'm in Rocky or anything, but sometimes it hits me. And I'm like, oh, Rachel's gone...that sucks. There's times like the other night, friends and I were sitting around the dock drinking wine. It was a nice night with the moon out, people were speaking French, and I just wondered why you weren't there.") He seemed to be having trouble with the final stage of acceptance, and so I decided to help him out a bit. He didn't seem to be getting it, after all. All this nostalgic bullshit. And so I told him basically everything I laid out in this post:

a) the list-making, money-counting, tally-keeping
b) the mother fucking pad thai
c) not my type
d) unemployed
e) not even that nice to me
f) accused me (me!) of not being nice to him

And then came the e-mail to end all e-mails. It was the fucking War and Peace of e-mails. Like that Friends episode, you know, where Ross is all, "Eighteen pages, front and back!" For once I am not the Rachel in this situation, is what I'm saying. He out-Racheled me. 

The tone of the e-mail wandered schizophrenically, bouncing from remorse to accusations, denial to contrition, from "I'm not going to ask for a second chance" to "but I would take it if you offered." 

He fucked up, is what he was trying to say to me, but I wasn't listening, he said.

And he wasn't nice to me? I didn't think he was nice when he did x, y, and z? In fact, he almost sent flowers to me at work one time, is how nice of a guy he is. He thought about it, anyway. 

And, apparently I am the one who can't get over the mother fucking pad thai. (ME!) Because he is certainly not the one who brought it up over and over (and over) again.

With that said, he didn't think it had to be this hard. He thought it could be easy, if we tried. It was nice before, and it could be nice again.

And then he hit me with this: "You just get this way about you sometimes, you look so innocent and precious. Tender and soft. It's so fucking beautiful, and I just wanted to see it again."

Sometimes people can say exactly the right thing, but it doesn't make a bit of difference. Sometimes the timing is off. And sometimes it's just too late.         

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Why turkey is overrated, anyway

I've been doing some thinking lately. Sometimes, in every girl's life there comes a moment when she must ask herself, how did I get here?  No, really. How did I get here? 

...And she may ask do I work this? And she may ask herself...where is that large automobile? Sing it with me now, people, Letting the days go by, water flowing underground, once in a lifetime... Ahem. But I digress. 

The point is, if you find yourself asking the same kinds of questions, then here is a brief litmus test I have created to evaluate the Relative Fuckedupedness of Your Life. (What? It is so a word. It's German.)  It is comprised of only three questions, and they are:

A) Do you find yourself regularly communicating with people you can't see, and may never have actually met? Check. (Hello, my lovelies.)

B) Are you thirty years old and single, with a, let's just say, less than illustrious dating history? Check.

C) Do you spend major holidays alone? And check and mate.

So, if at some point today, as you spend time with your family and loved ones, sharing lovingly prepared food, warm memories, and maybe a glass of something festive, perhaps with a crackling fire in the background...and if during this time you think you might see something outside in the bushes, perhaps a shadowy figure peering longingly through the front window, well, don't worry. I'm sure it's nothing.

Oh, don't worry about me. I'll just be here, counting my blessings. If by blessings you mean tears. And if by tears you mean back-to-back episodes of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Which I do. Mean. By which I mean, happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Now sing it with me, Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was...    
UPDATE: In lieu of dripping hot tears into my remote control, as tempting as that sounds, I have decided to spend the day serving food to those less fortunate. Which is truly a terrible expression, isn't it? "Those less fortunate." Less fortunate than what? As I think we have determined, fate hasn't exactly smiled on me, either, in many ways, and so I will just say that I will be spending the day with my people. So, ha! Take that, Talking Heads!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Why sorry is as sorry does

Or, In Which I Over Analyze Text Messages and Get Rid of the Guy for Good

Four whole days after my meltdown, I was beginning to conclude that I would never hear from him again. That ultimately, he knew what was up, knew there was no coming back from it, and that he would just fade off into obscurity. I was perfectly content with this. The more days that went by without a word, the more sure I was that we were both on the same page. And then on Thursday, I got a text. 

Did ur phone break?

Did my phone break? The last time I saw him he took my money and I left his house in tears. Not only did he not apologize, he didn't even check to see that I made it home okay. Not a word for four whole days, and now his opening move was passive aggression. Awesome.

Did yours? I replied.

Haha, no, he said. What are you doing today?

Oh my god, he just didn't get it, did he? For some reason he thought things were still hunky dory, and we could just go on like normal. I quickly disabused him of this notion.

Look, I'm pretty much over this whole thing, I replied. You're not what I'm looking for. And I'm not what you're looking for either. I hope you find it.

Silence. Then,

Boo, he replied.

That was it. Boo. Boo? So much for resolution, so much for closure. That was it, it looked like, that was all I would get. A little boy pouting. I thought that was the end of it, and then about a half an hour later, he sent another text.

Do you want to hang out tonight?

Do I want to--what? Really? No, actually. I don't. And that's exactly what I told him.

Then, finally, he sent this:

Well, hey. I was sorry about being an asshole the other night. I wasn't myself. Cheers, Rachel.

Hmm. Interesting that it took me saying I never wanted to see him again to elicit something even resembling an apology from him. And what was that, anyway; "I was sorry?" Is he not anymore? What's wrong with a simple "I'm sorry," present tense? And why did it take so long for him to say it? I was also curious as to who he thought he was being, if not himself, but I was long past the point of arguing minutiae. Any response on my part, I knew, would only encourage him. It seemed as good a stopping place as any, and so that's where I left it. It's done.

And so now we return to our regularly scheduled programming, in which I continue to not have to cook for anyone, clean for anyone, or defend my Netflix viewing choices to anyone but myself. I have to say, it feels pretty good. And for the moment, at least, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Why I'm alone again (naturally)

So it only took, what, a week for this most recent dating venture to crash and burn? A new record, to be sure, but then again, this is the guy that invited me to meet his mother after date one (I politely declined), and was talking exclusivity by dates two and three (and four and five and oh my GOD please give it a rest). So I suppose it is only fitting that the ending was equally precipitous. You see, while all this time I thought the biggest hurdle to get over was that I wasn't attracted to him physically, it turns out that, appearances aside, once I got past the physical I didn't necessarily like what was inside. Huh. Didn't see that one coming, did you, Internet? To be honest, I didn't either. 

This whole experience has been akin to trying to shove a square peg in a round hole, and of convincing myself that, no, it's not such a big deal, we'll just shave a little off this side here, and nip off a corner there, and look! Only after all that it turns out that it's not a square peg after all, it's a hexagon, and then it's an octagon, and more and more sides and weird angles appearing all the time. Eventually you just have to throw up your hands and say, I give up. It's not worth it to me. Though he may tell me I have beautiful eyes and perfect lips, the rest, oh my god, the rest isn't worth it at all. 

After spending the day together yesterday, ten hours' worth, the night ended with me throwing a handful of cash at him, tears in my eyes, while he just laughed. Oh so amused, was he. Back when he admitted to being a former drug dealer, he modified it by saying he was "actually more of an accountant." And oh, if I had known then how apt that label would be. You see, the guy keeps track of everything. Dinners paid, bar tabs picked up, compliments given and services rendered. Everything goes down on a mental checklist, which he would then remind me of on a near-constant basis. At first it was, "but I shaved for you." Then it was, "but I paid for x, y, and z." "Yes, and I paid for dinner last time," I reminded him. "I tried to pay the time before that too, but you said no." "Yes, but I have still paid for more," he said. And what is there to do but throw up my hands? Oh please let me go back in time and pay for more, sweetie, I'm so sorry. "You realize I don't have a lot of money, babe. You do realize that, don't you?" The pity ploy. And this from the guy who sits on his couch watching sports all day. The guy who says, why get a job when I can live perfectly well on the $200 a week I make betting online? For doing nothing! And so proud he is, of that, of doing nothing. And I'm supposed to say what? Oh honey, I'm so proud of you? No. I say, "I don't have a lot of money either. We're both sort of in the same boat, here." Only we're not. We're both in the ocean, sure, only one of us is paddling like hell for the shore, and the other is drifting along eating bon bons and waiting for the Coast Guard to arrive. They're both valid options, I suppose, and I'm not saying one way is necessarily better than the other. But don't try to convince me that you're somehow more stranded than I am when there's a paddle right in your goddamn boat. Use it.

And then there was the pad thai incident. Oh my god, the goddamned pad thai. That he left, in my fridge. And that I, just home from work the next day, and hungry, and the hour late, made the mistake of eating. Not without a little bit of reservation. After all, he had made such a big deal about taking home the leftovers. But I did text him about it, and his response was along the lines that sure, I could eat it if I provided a replacement for it by the next time he came over. In my ravenous state, I concluded that that seemed a reasonable request, and helped myself. And I didn't even eat all of it! I left some of it for him! But when he came over the day after that, and I hadn't yet managed to provide a suitable replacement for the portion that I did eat, oh, did shit hit the fan. And the best part, and oh, this is priceless, was when he said, "You know sweetie, even if you had eaten my pad thai, that would have been ok." To which I replied, "Oh, actually, now that you mention it..." And oh how quickly his tune did change. At first I thought he must be joking around, because seriously? You're making a big deal about this? No, I mean, seriously? But after the n-teenth time that he brought it up, I had about had it. OH MY GOD, I AM SORRY FOR EATING YOUR PAD THAI! I WISH I NEVER HAD! MEA CULPA! CAN WE STOP TALKING ABOUT IT NOW PLEASE? 

Last night was sort of the last straw. It was late, we were hungry, and we had failed to plan ahead. A quick driving tour of his small, sleepy town revealed that no restaurants were open, and so we found ourselves aimlessly wandering the aisles of a local grocery store. You know when you're so hungry, and yet have no idea what in the world you want to eat? It was sort of like that. No, that would take too long to make, it's late, I still have homework I need to do, etc. Finally I said, ok, how about spaghetti? We can make spaghetti. He said fine. Back at his house we bickered about whose job it was to actually make said spaghetti. He thought I should make it because I'm the one who wanted spaghetti. I thought he should make it because it was his kitchen and I didn't know where anything was. I told him we could both make it, and I would help him. Grumbling ensued. After a whole lot more complaining and a mostly silent meal, he pointed out that he had now cooked me both oatmeal AND spaghetti (ignoring the fact that I had actually been a pretty equal participant in both) while I hadn't yet cooked anything for him. And not only that, but did I remember that he had also paid for x, y, and z? I mean, not that he minded doing any of that, of course, but maybe I could try being a bit nicer to him. Given that at the precise moment of this conversation I was nuzzled up against him with my legs in his lap, my nose in his neck, and his earlobe in my mouth, I asked him what exactly he thought being "nicer" entailed. "Well not eating my pad thai, for starters!" he said, or rather exploded.

Oh. No.

"You know what?" I said, breaking free from our embrace. "Here, why don't I give you ten dollars for your fucking pad thai. Hey, why don't I give you fifty dollars to pay you back for everything else, too. It's worth it if it means I never have to hear about it again." I reached for my wallet, and he didn't stop me. In it were the remains of my commission check from work, for the measly few apartments I rented over the summer. Twenties. Damn. "Here, how about sixty dollars?" I said. I took out three twenties and threw them at him. He picked them up and placed them calmly on the table next to him, grinning all the while. 

"Are you sure you don't want to just pay forty?" he said, pleased as punch. "Here, you want twenty back?"

"I don't know!" I yelled. "You're the one who has it all figured out, apparently. You seem to know exactly how much I owe you; you probably have it all written down somewhere. So I don't know, you tell me!" 

"Well it's probably more than that," he said with a smirk. 

"I'm going now," I said, and headed for the door. "Oh, and look, there's a quarter on the floor, here. You should probably pick it up, since you're so desperate for money."

"You could probably use it more than me, now," he said, still smiling, so amused. Probably thinking I was "ballsy." Probably thinking how he would tell this story to our grandchildren, someday. "So do you still like me?" he asked, before I walked out the door. It seems funny, now, that he said this, but for some reason he seemed to think this was a fight like any other. That I would come back, again, like I always had before.

"I'm working on it," I told him through tightly gritted teeth, because I hadn't processed it yet, and in the heat of the moment hadn't yet come to any conclusions. I even gave him a tight-lipped kiss before I left. But once I got outside, and once I got home, and he didn't text, and he didn't e-mail, and he didn't call to apologize, and once I realized how inordinately relieved I was to be able to go to sleep by myself, in my very own bed that was only mine, well, then I knew. I'm better on my own.

Oh, and also? He was a complete and utter dick about wearing a condom.

The end. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Why you can call me Delilah

In the battle of deep versus shallow, I do believe we have a winner, folks. This may come as a surprise given the tone of my last post, but at some point over the last week or so he managed to win me over. Internet, he totally won. Which kind of makes us both winners, I think. But let me back up a little.

After my first meeting with him when I realized that the physical reality didn't match up with my mile-high expectations, I told him that if he wanted to see me again, I thought it would be best if we kept it on a friends-only basis. And actually, even that was sort of a throwaway line. I didn't necessarily want or expect to see him again. He was surprised. No, don't be surprised! I thought, cringing. I hated being thrust into the bad guy role. Why couldn't he just be cool? Hazard of the game, I told him through e-mail, the shrug almost audible. C'est la vie. But then I started second-guessing myself. Remembering how much we had in common, how much he made me laugh. Looking at his (admittedly non-representative) pictures. That smile. Those eyes. Were they still there, somewhere? What if I could find them? All it would take was a glimpse, I knew, and I would be done for. I e-mailed him again, told him that I didn't necessarily feel a physical connection with him when we met, but that I couldn't really see him under the glasses, behind the beard. I took a leap, knowing it was a total bitch move to ask someone I had met once to change himself for me, but I told him if he ever felt like ditching the glasses and the beard for a night, I'd really like to see that. It went over like a lead balloon. He pretty much told me to go fuck myself. No, actually, that's exactly what he told me.

"I think I like this guy," my sister said on the phone.

"What? You just finished saying you didn't like him, then I tell you he told me to go fuck myself and suddenly you like him?"

"I think he's growing on me," she mused. 

Longer and longer e-mails ensued, full of explanations, frustrations, and accusations of shallow douche baggery, and counter accusations of false pretenses and circular logic. I'll tell you this--the boy is lucky that he writes pretty. We decided to meet again, one more time, to see. "But I'm not going to fucking do a damn thing to my face," he warned me. For a girl he met once? So that she could re-inspect him and probably reject him all over again? I couldn't say I wasn't sympathetic to his reasoning. We met again last night, outside a coffee shop. And there he was, still only 5'10", with the same beard, same baseball cap, too-long hair, and baggy clothes. But he wasn't wearing his glasses. And suddenly, everything changed. I saw his eyes, those twinkling, mischievous eyes from the pictures, I saw him. And what was that, lurking behind the corners of his shaggy mustache? That slow, secret half-smile. I saw it, I saw it all. 

Within half an hour, I had somehow convinced him that he should adopt kittens. It made sense, after all; he's home all day, and he needs a pet. Plus, it would probably be a lot easier to convince me to come over to his house if there were kittens there, I told him. Ok, he said. But why two? Well, sometimes they're two for one, I said. And two kittens is twice the fun. Ok, he said. Done. And who knew it would be easier to convince the guy to adopt kittens than to shave off his beard? Although that didn't prove to be much more difficult. Apparently, all I had to do was kiss him. That and a brief mention of too much mustache getting in the way was all it took. He sent a picture to my phone today. At first I thought it was a kitten, but upon closer inspection it turned out to be a large, fluffy pile of disembodied beard. The subject read, Hey there, Delilah

"I think he likes me," I texted my sister.

"Well, who wouldn't?" she replied. Hmmm...

"Sometimes I can't tell if you're making fun of me," I told her.

"Am not. Am happy. Hopeful."

Yeah. Me too.          

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Why beauty is only skin deep, and I am shallow

It's hard to explain how I let myself fall so fast for some guy from the Internet I had never even met before, just on the basis of a few e-mails. But when I say that we had so much in common, and his spelling and grammar were impeccable, it was more than that, of course. How to explain? Ok, so, you know how if you were to go on Facebook and just start clicking on pictures of couples, you would find a freakishly high number of people who are dating or married to people who look just like them? No, think about it. It's not a 100% thing, of course, there are plenty of exceptions, but I can't help but notice time and again that people end up with other people who look just like them. My cousin and her husband are both petite, blond-haired and blue-eyed. In middle school my band teacher and his wife looked so much alike that we all used to joke that they could have been brother and sister. Whatever else it may be, and for whatever the reasons, it's a vague recognition of yourself in someone else, even if it's unconscious; it's a small bit of something familiar and safe.

In the absence of anything physical to build upon with this guy, all I had were his words, and even from the first e-mail there was an immediate sense of comfort and ease. There was that hint of recognition of yourself in someone else. With only his words to go by, Internet--I fell for a guy who writes exactly like me.

Take this exchange that happened after I realized I had made a critical and embarrassing error in my depiction of the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid:

Oh my god, I just realized I said "Robert Newman" before. It was going to keep me up all night worrying about it unless I got it off my chest. I feel a little better now. 

For the record, I'm not the kind of guy who's going to judge somebody for not saying exactly the right thing. If I know what you mean, it's all good. I'm personally a little dyslexic. I still remember the time I was in the library and spent way too long looking for The Wrath of Grapes. So I googled Robert Newman. And now I totally think you watch Guiding Light. Which is awesome.

For the record, I'm a General Hospital girl. Also for the record, while a Robert Redford/Paul Newman hybrid would be all kinds of awesome, I'm for Paul Newman, all the way.

[Then, after a conversation on the French poet, Rimbaud, in which he mentioned the poetry inherent in the language:]

So after I wrote you, Robert Newman called me. He tried to explain that describing a poet's words as having a certain poetry was just dumb. He thought I probably meant to say they were especially lyrical or something.

I told him to fuck off.

I said, "Fuck off, Robert Newman. Go worry about your niece who's carrying your father-in-law's love child and leave me alone." He then looked stunned for his close up as dramatic music ended the scene.

I mean, how do you not fall for a guy who would write something like that? Then there was this, after I asked him what his favorite Halloween costume as a kid had been:

My favorite costumes probably date back to elementary school. Teen Wolf, Ewok, Alf. But Alf was horrible to trick or treat in. I went with a friend of mine and I couldn't grab anything with my hands. People would ask to take pictures of me because I was so awesome, but I couldn't grab my own candy out of their bowls. My friend had to do it. Thinking back I can still smell the plastic of the Alf mask, looking through the little holes, watching him grab me a box of raisins (RAISINS!) and put it in my trick-or-treat bag. I was actually really mad that out of a basket of candy bars he got me raisins.

I learned a lot about life that Halloween. People wanting to take your picture isn't worth missing out on a candy bar.

But I got back at him. I convinced him that the best dessert at the school cafeteria was something called 'barf on a stick'. And so one day he had money for ice cream and went up to the cafeteria lady and asked her for barf, on a stick. It was FUCKING. EPIC.

Now, I don't usually laugh out loud at e-mails, but... Sigh. I click back to his pictures on his Myspace profile, and I see a happy guy with twinkling eyes and a big, infectious smile, or sometimes a mysterious grin, only the corners of his mouth turning up, like he's holding onto a secret, and it's the best kind. He was younger then, sure, but one of the pictures only dates back a couple years. That was him a couple years ago; I can deal with that. But I don't know where that guy is anymore. I looked, but I didn't see him. I looked for his eyes but they were hidden behind thick glasses, too long hair, a baseball hat. His smile was covered by a scraggly, unkempt beard, and the rest of him hidden behind baggy clothes and extra weight. Is he still there, under all that? How do I find him? 

I can't tell him this and I can't ask him to change, and I know I have absolutely no say in the matter, but it really is such a damn shame.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Why the universe is definitely mocking me

In case anyone out there has ever considered online dating as an alternative to a lifetime of pain and loneliness, I would like to share this story with you.

The last week I've been mooning about, all giddy over some guy I was in ever-deepening e-mail correspondence with. This guy was weirdly like me, in so many ways. At first it was just that we liked the same things: This American Life, The Daily Show, movies starring a young Paul Newman. Then it was that we had both lived in Cambridge (though at different times). We both had scoliosis! And his spelling and grammar were impeccable. He sent me the link to his old Myspace profile (which should have been my first clue that something was amiss), and lo and behold, he was cute! Really cute! Maybe a little too short; ok, definitely a little too short, but the guy DVRd Jeopardy. He played Boggle. He was clever, funny, and writing a book. I was willing to make an exception. We exchanged epic e-mails that grew longer by the day. I was a level of giddy I hadn't felt about anyone since my hot Italian internet pen-pal, Jules, in high school. It was weird, because even though I hadn't met him, I sort of felt myself...falling for him. I was too old for this silliness, I knew, but for once, I felt alive. I let myself fall. 

Now we just had to meet in person. When I brought it up, he seemed hesitant. The fact that I am tall, thin, a student at Mythaca College, and probably talking to half a dozen different guys on a dating website brought to mind certain stereotypes that he just wasn't interested in, he said. He also said some of his Myspace pictures may have been fairly old, and he might not be as "pretty" anymore. He said he probably needed a haircut, preferred glasses to contacts, and had a beard and a bit of a gut. I, however, determined to disprove his image of me as a stereotypical "Mythaca College douchette," told him that none of that mattered. "Maybe I don't look exactly like my pictures either," I told him. "For instance, my hair is short now. You'll see."

When a guy from the internet tries to warn you about his appearance, Internet, heed his words. I did not. And so it was that I met up with someone I had hoped would be my soul mate, and instead found someone who bore almost no resemblance at all that the person I thought I knew. I quickly realized that the thin, smiling guy I fell for in the photos hadn't existed as such for at least ten years. But still, I am no shallow Mythaca College douchette. I decided to give him a chance. We sat down, and I asked him how long he had been in Mythaca, where he had lived before that, and what he had done there. At this last question, he immediately turned shy and mumbly, smiling down at his napkin and avoiding eye contact. Then he looked up and said something about a house painting business his friend had there, "and some other stuff, too." "Oh," I said, matter-of-factly. "Were you a drug dealer?" He turned mumbly again and blushed down at his napkin, which was all the answer I needed. "I can't believe you immediately jumped right to that," he said. "How did you know?" But it wasn't really such a mental leap--the guy looked exactly like a drug dealer. He said he was long done with that; he spends his days alone now, working on his book. When I inquired politely about his current means of income, his initial vague discourse on "investments" and "the stock market" turned out to mean "betting on sports." Apparently he never loses. And in full disclosure, he did pay for everything all night--movie, pizza, drinks-- all except for his cigarettes, which I bought for him because the store wouldn't accept cards or break his $50.

So, friends, when a guy from the Internet warns you that he might not be as "pretty" as his photos, heed his words, lest you be stuck with a short, unkempt gambler and former drug dealer who thinks that you just might be his soul mate.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Why it was news to me, too

Well, let's move on from that last post, shall we? As it turns out, according to the e-mail I just received, I have some very happy news to share with you. The e-mail reads:

Hi Rachel,

 Claire gave me the happy news that you and your partner were celebrating marriage yesterday. I'm delighted to hear it. I never met her, but it was clear that you had fallen in love.

 I wish you both a wonderful life together!

Some Woman I Don't Know

So, there's that. I dunno, you ever feel like the universe is trying to fuck with you? Or is the universe trying to tell me that I should become a lesbian? So, so many questions.

For now I remain ever faithfully yours, Internet,
Rachel, straight and single  

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why I never was Homecoming Queen

A couple Fridays ago I met Jimmy James and his roommate Al out at a bar. I never have a particularly good time when I go out with them, but it generally beats sitting at home alone on the slit-your-wrists scale of entertainment value. That Friday night, however, though it started out fine, quickly devolved into an abrupt retreat and a bout of the kind of heart-rending sobbing and emotional self-flagellation I used to reserve for the bathroom of every middle school dance I ever attended. And, actually, for much the same reasons. Back then it was because boys didn't like me and I never got asked to slow dance, and thus necessarily would die old and gawky and alone. And oh, how little things change. This time it was because I felt lost and alone and no one would talk to me, or even look me in the eye, or acknowledge my existence. Jimmy James and Al were friendly but half-drunk and distracted by friends and assorted acquaintances that they had also invited out, and my attempts at engaging newcomers in conversation were quickly shot down. One guy, Jimmy James' coworker, politely responded to my introductory questions and then firmly and deliberately stated, "I am going to order a drink now," and buried his nose in the (not overly long) beer menu for the next twenty minutes. And no, he was not socially awkward, and he had no trouble later striking up a much more enthusiastic conversation with the fresh-faced and bubbly young brunette who joined our group. That was the most social interaction I had that night, as everyone else present seemed similarly determined not to engage with me. I sat on my bar stool alone trying to quell the rising panic of feeling not just ignored, but worse--invisible. I felt a brief surge of relief as someone I recognized walked in the door. I had met him out with these guys before on several occasions and knew him to be fun and friendly. Lately I had even been in contact with him at the high school where I tutor and he teaches, observed his class, even, and occasionally chatted with him in the hallway. He didn't immediately acknowledge me, but greeted his friends and launched right into a story, which I thought only fair, and so I waited. After about half an hour, however, and after he had looked directly through me about five different times and I had never been able to catch his eye even long enough to say hi, I realized that it wasn't that he didn't know I was there, it was that he didn't care. No one did. And so I left without a word to anyone (who would I tell?) and slipped out the door and into the cool night air. And so I arrived back at home a mere hour after I had left, though how could all of that have taken place in one hour when it all felt somehow so monumental and life-changing? (Forgive me the dramatics, but one cannot make an allusion to middle school angst without a bit of theater.) Usually I am very good about rationalizing a situation like this and turning it to my advantage: Oh, I wouldn't want to be friends with those people, anyway. They're not my kind of people. (And no, I am not at all interested in your sweet grapes when these sour ones suit me just fine, thankyouverymuch.) But that night was different. I couldn't rationalize it away. Because suddenly it was becoming very clear to me that, contrary to what I had once suspected in middle school, boys not liking me was not actually the very worst thing that would ever happen to me. Not boys, no. People. People don't like me. A realization at once preposterous in scope and yet horrifyingly clear. And for once I am not being overly dramatic. Just hear me out.

I ran through the events of the evening, in condensed and emotionally distanced form, on the phone with my friend Pete. Not out of any plea for pity, but because he asked me how my weekend was. It is, however, a well known fact that of all people, Pete is the last to offer blind encouragement and moral support, and so it came as no surprise that he would respond with a pseudo-naive, "But why, Rachel? Why do you think people don't want to talk to you?" A simple I don't know wouldn't satisfy his need to hear me say it out loud, but just as determined as he, still I stuck to it like a scratched record, I don't know I don't know I don't know. The words themselves mere signs, their meaning twisted, because though I said I don't know what I was trying to say was leave me alone leave me alone leave me alone. Leave me with my pretenses, leave me my dignity, let us both pretend together that I am something other than what I am, please, leave me just this. But as Pete's help button is perpetually stuck on the 'tough love' setting, he was not willing to leave it at that, and instead offered encouragement in the form of inspirational tales of people who have managed to transform their entire personality, or even their bone structure, so you see (head pat), all is not lost. "Now really, Rachel...why do you think people don't want to talk to you?" Internet, if you haven't figured it out by now, I don't respond particularly well to the tough love approach, and so with this final inquest I dissolved into a mass of tears for the second time in twenty-four hours, and out came all my demons. "Because I'm ugly and boring and people don't like me," I sobbed. "Why? Why do you want me to say that? It's all I think about all the time so why would you make me say it out loud?" In his defense, with this he became genuinely contrite. He didn't mean to hurt me, and I knew that. He was merely holding up the mirror.

This story is an onion. Let me peel back the layers.

Last week I was talking with one of my former language department colleagues and now my professor in the grad program, a woman not unlike Julia Child in voice and in stature. Imposing, grandmotherly, stylish, always laughing, and impossible not to like. She's always been a supporter of mine; I had my phone interview with her when I applied for my teaching job, and she was just as supportive when she found out that I would be entering the grad program in teaching. "I think you're doing the right thing," she told me. Though in my case it would be more of a formality, she said, since she already knew that I could teach. Just something I would have to get through to get my certification. Today she asked how it was going, if I was enjoying the program or if I still saw it as something I had to "get through." I tried to be as diplomatic as possible in my response. Well, I told her, I never expected to particularly enjoy it. I knew it would be a lot of work, and it is, and so yes, my ultimate goal is to get through it and get certified. Well, yes, she said, a furrow appearing on her brow, but at the same time, we do only have this one life, and so we might as well try to enjoy the experiences we have, didn't I agree? I said yes, I supposed so, but my confusion grew palpable about me. Then, in a very caring but straight forward manner she told me that she was concerned about me, that she didn't know if I was aware, but I could often come across as quite "prickly" in class. Alarm bells started ringing. Flashbacks to another conversation with a different colleague-turned-professor this summer. Different words, but the same message. His manner in telling me had seemed more forced, less caring, grated on me, and so I had dismissed it as a fundamental clash of personalities. He gave me a grade in the course that I wasn't completely happy with, and I deemed it unfair, decided that he was holding me to different standards than the other students in the class (three of us, in total) because of my background; that he just didn't like me. I was bored in class, sure. He said he had the feeling that I didn't want to be there, which was true, though I didn't tell him that. I didn't say that my love-hate relationship with French literature had run its course years ago and I was none too pleased to find myself back in its sticky, ink-smeared grasp, however temporarily. I sucked it up and I went to class and I did my work, and who was he to accuse me of not being enthusiastic enough? I participated no more or no less than the two other students in the class, and with no more or less energy or insight. I tried to blend in. His accusations, though under the guise of caring, felt like an attack on me personally, on my character, and so rather than explain, I kept my responses monosyllabic in an attempt to stave off the tears, but they still came. Yes. No. It's just...nothing. May I go now? I cried in front of him and he saw it and I detested my own weakness, my vanity, my failure to accept criticism. I retreated to my safety zone, I took in his words, rattled them around the empty corners of my mind, and finding no way to assimilate them, no safe place to put them, threw them out again, and thought no more about it. Until now.

She continued. "I try not to take it personally," she said, "I'm sure it's not something you save up just for my class." No, of course not, I assured her. "I know, I'm sure you don't, but it can make me feel quite uncomfortable." I really don't think I act any differently than any of the other students in the class, I told her, my discomfort and my confusion growing, but before I could even finish my sentence, "Oh yes, you do," she assured me. "But at the same time you can also be quite friendly and smiling. It's like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thing, really." And then, the nail in the coffin, "And I don't think it's just something you do in the program, either, I think it's in general." Warning bells. Tears pricking, but I allowed them no outlet. A million thoughts, the entirety of my life, its failures. "And I like you," she continued in her burbly British accent, "I really do. I genuinely like you. It's just something I've been thinking about lately, and I wanted to let you know how you come across to people. Alright, then?" "Well, it's just..." I said, throat tight, every word threatening to unleash the flood, "it's just...I'm not sure how to change when I don't really know what it is that I'm doing." An unspoken plea. "Yes, well, I see..." she mused, thinking. "Well in that case," she decided brightly, "I guess just try to smile a bit more!" She beamed. I barked out a short laugh beyond my control, and then took hold of myself and offered her a weak and apologetic grin. "Yes, yes," I murmured, "of course. Thank you."

A million thoughts, a million memories, emotions. My mother, telling me that boys didn't ask me to dance because they were intimidated by me. She said it was because I was tall. But it wasn't. A twisted sort of vindication, because I was right, all along. People don't like me, and not because I'm tall, and not because I don't smile; it's not because of something I do, but because of something I am. Something that repulses, it oozes out like a slow poison. All my life I have called myself ugly and awkward because I lacked a better word for it. I've blamed it on the physical to protect myself from the worse thought--that it was something else, something even less changeable. That it was me.

The truth is, if you met me, you probably wouldn't like me. This is my reality. This is what I have to accept. And before you get started, I do not believe in self-fulfilling prophecies. You know why? Because once I believed that I would be happy.

I've sat on this post for a week now, daring myself, flirting with the possibility of it, the push of a button. This is me, calling my own bluff. But honestly, don't worry about me, I'll be fine. All I have to do is smile a bit more, after all. Maybe it's just that easy.  

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Why I would rather go out with a talking dog than either of these guys

Hey future readers. Though it may be Thursday for you, it's still last Saturday for me, as I am writing this post in advance in anticipation of my trip to New York City. See, now that's planning. I may not have packed so much as a solitary sock yet, but dammit, my blog will be ready to go! 

Last week I promised you more e-mails from the bottom of the online dating barrel, and Internet, I found you some doozies.

First up we have a 33 year-old male from Miami, FL. It wasn't his e-mail that caught my eye so much as his self-description on his profile page, which reads: 

Im a cruise ship photo manager but in the past I've been a soldier, graphic designer, TV commercial director, prisoner, taxi driver, teacher and want to add a few more before I go including a husband and father.

Here on I would like to find someone significant to continue to shape my time and life on this earth. PS Im willing to relocate if need be.

One of these things is not like the other (soldier), one of these things just isn't the same (graphic designer), one of these things is not like the other (tv commercial director), thank you for playing our ga-- Wait, prisoner? Seriously? Thought you'd just slip that one in there? And you'd like to "add a few more" to your list? Like what? Con man? Meth addict? Date rapist? The world is your oyster, man.

Next we have a 39 year-old man from Woburn, MA (Wooburn!) who writes: 

I like work out at the gym. I like to hangout watch TV at night. What I wont is a girl that likes going away at spearmint on the weekends or going long rides or walks. Would like meet women that likes joke. Likes scary movies and a woman likes have fun. Women that can open up to me, like me for who I am. I’m very normal guy wants same as all other guys.  

Now, I almost feel bad for posting this one, because clearly the guy is not a native English speaker, right? I mean, the poor man probably moved here from India, or Ecuador, or the Philippines or somewhere for more opportunities and a better life, wouldn't you think? Except that this (poor?) man goes out of his way to state in his profile that he was born and raised in Medford, MA. Now, I really hate to make fun of the borderline illiterate, but...well, no, apparently I don't really have a problem with it. Because, seriously? SERIOUSLY?! "Likes going away at spearmint on the weekends?" Dude, I don't even know what that means. "Would like meet woman likes going long rides or walks." This is what I imagine my dog would talk like, if my dog could talk. And if I had a dog. In fact, I'm not altogether convinced that this wasn't written by a really smart (and particularly dexterous) talking dog. Like the one in the Bush's baked beans commercials. For some reason I find this more believable than the idea that the above was written by an actual adult human being.

Well, that's it for this week's episode of Most Ridiculously Unsuitable Guys (aka MR. UG). But don't worry, there's more where those came from. (There's always more.) We'll see you next time, and remember--making fun of people isn't wrong if they never find out.

(I'm going to hell, aren't I?) 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Why country mouse is going to the city

It's actually Saturday evening right now. (I know, but go with me for a minute.) It's actually Saturday right now, but by the time you read this I will be in the city, working with school children in Harlem on an extended working field trip. But thanks to the wonders of the internet, I posted these pictures in advance to amuse you during my absence. (You're welcome!) I will be back on Friday, but don't expect any wild stories about my time in the Big Apple, as I will have to be in bed by about 10 p.m. every night in order to be up at the crack of dawn every morning. The life of a teacher (in training), it is not glamorous. So while I am breathing in New York's rank subway air and trying to avoid being hit by yellow cabs, errant bike messengers, and collapsing scaffolding structures, please enjoy these pictures from a simpler time and place.

First, my favorite four-legged friend. I call her Jane Doe. She likes to stand in front of my bedroom window and look at me, like this:

Her little one seems to be less concerned with me, and more with the all-you-can-eat garden buffet growing in my front yard.

A fall day in Mythaca:

Friday, October 8, 2010

Why the only joy in my life is my dish soap

Things are no more exciting around here, nor has the latest foray into online dating improved much. Every once in a while I get an e-mail that provokes a chuckle, but I tell you, nothing compares to the messages I would get when I was living in France. I was going through my draft folder today and found some gems that I had been holding on to. I don't know why I haven't posted these already, because these are gold, people. I think I'll just post them a couple at a time for now, because the grammar and punctuation mistakes and overblown sense of optimism can be a bit much to take in large quantities.

So without further ado, here we have our first e-mail from George, in Cairo: 

Subject: I'm interested

Hello my belove cute, How are you? hope you are fine and in perfect condition of health.My name is George ,i am a footballer, base in cairo.I am loving,romantic,fun and kind,i come online to serch for a mature lady that understand what true-love and marriage is all about. And I like your profile and will like to establishe a serious relationship with you because after going through your profile i pick interest in you out of billions of people in this world but i hope you will not turn me down by my request.

Expect to hear from you.....


Oh, George. You had me at hello...and then lost me again immediately thereafter. Hopefully you got a response from one of your billion other prospects.

Next up we have Andrea. (Seriously? Andrea? Even for a European that seems like a weird name for a guy.) Well, let's see what he has to say:

Hi dear,
I checked out your profile, guess what i discover.
A resplendent woman with bewitching face
With eyes like yours you must bring down the men one by one to your feet ... you are so sensual that I could help you! I wish more than anything get in touch with you ... do not leave me without reply!

well, what to say. You have a very miser profile, but in the same time these few words (and your first photo) have been able to intrigue me.

I have been very impressed by your vitality.
You seem to have a GREAT amount of joy inside yourself, and it seems to be hard for you to try to stop it.
And i have to admit i am very, very, very envious of you. Really.
You eat EVERYTHING and you remain thin and lithe as a gazelle. I am on the opposite side of the spectrum: for me it's enogh to pass IN FRONT OF a bakery and i suddenly am 200 gr. heavier.. :-D
(I wonder what i have to smile, thinking about it.. )

I really don't know. You are "new in town", so maybe you'd prefere to meet people closer to you. And maybe a little younger.
So i would like to know a little more about you.

Hope to meet you again, and forgive my rotten english.


Wow, Andrea, you're right. I do have joy. It's like, I have so much joy that all I can do every day is try to stop the joy, and you know? It is hard. You're the only person who really understands me, Andrea.

But seriously though, I think we may have encountered a bit of a language barrier, here. See, Andrea, you chose the word "joy" when I think what you meant to say was "bitter hate seething out of every pore." It's an easy mistake to make. Maybe next time use a dictionary. 

Bitterly yours,

More of these to come. In the meantime, check out some of the crazier missives certain gentlemen (and I use that term loosely) have sent me in the past here and here.   

Monday, October 4, 2010

Why some posts are deep and philosophical and this is not one of them

For my friend Alan's wedding last weekend my dress choices were either the dress I wore to my class reunion in 2008 or the dress I wore to my friend Mike's wedding in 2004. I decided to go with the LBD from 2004 and hope nobody remembered it.

Here I am wearing the dress in 2004 with my friend Gavin:  

And here I am in 2004 with the future groom-to-be, Al, completely unaware that six-and-a-half years later my dress and I would reunite at his wedding. Had I known, I might have said something like, "Geez, can't you afford a new dress?" Well, self, the answer to that is no, and also it's still a perfectly nice dress and it's Betsey Johnson and you've only worn it once so shut up.

And here I am again during the same wedding weekend in 2004, for no other reason than it makes me laugh, and because I am 24, fresh-faced, slack-jawed, and blissfully unaware that one day I will actually be 30:  

And here I am wearing the dress last weekend:

This is the only picture I have of me in the dress. It looks...pretty much the same as it did in 2004. (With added awkward arm angle--Hold wine, but be casual! Don't drop sweater! Elbows in! Now you're perfect!) I did accessorize a bit differently this time. And I debuted the gold shoes! They were everything I had hoped they would be. I was going to wear the gold necklace I picked up at the same time, but then I went back to the same antique and vintage store and found an even better gold necklace: 
It's a little owl. Also, this is what happens when you have a pre-event freak out and decide that you must! get your hair cut that very second! Because you can't be seen like this! And you ask the stylist not to cut your bangs too short or your hair too short and she swears she won't, then snip snip and suddenly you're feeling like a pre-pubescent medieval prince or maybe his whipping boy. Your hair's awkward phase captured in photographic evidence for all time. Sigh.

This is the night before the wedding and I love this picture for the range of emotions it captures, and how everyone sort of has their own agenda. Also, hi butt!

There was an even buttier picture that I didn't post, if you can believe it. Two whole cheeks and my torso, all facing the camera at the same time. "How is that even possible?" someone asked, looking at the camera after. "I do yoga," I said proudly.

One last picture. Here I am sharing something profound. I'm pretty sure we were talking about Mrs. R.D. Vandertrampp verbs. For real. 
Rester! That's the one I missed! How could I miss rester?! 

All in all, I drove more hours than I slept last weekend, and it was totally and completely worth it. It was a beautiful wedding and I saw lots of my best high school friends and some people I hadn't seen in years. Best of luck and much love to Alan and Vanessa. Mazel tov! 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Why with Power(Point) comes responsibility

How to guarantee that an entire room full of people will want to kill you in 60 minutes or less:

Create an hour-long PowerPoint presentation where every single blessed action is punctuated by a sound effect. Heading? Ding. Bullet point? Ding. New slide? Shutter click. So that your soporific voice is accompanied by the sounds of click, ding. Ding, ding, ding. Ding.  Ding!       DING!!!       For sixty goddamn minutes.

Look, screw you, man. How do you not understand that this is not ok? How is this not annoying the living hell out of you? After all, you are also in this room. You are also, as far as I can tell, not deaf. Although you are, apparently, blind to cringing, eye rolling, and all manner of dramatic displays of frustration.

Oh, and also? When you use the video projector, move your goddamn hand out of the way. Do not point, do not tap, and do not gesture near the camera so that a three-foot high, bloated, disembodied hand flits insistently and seizure-inducingly across the projection screen. 

And you are a teacher? With twenty years of experience, really? For shame, sir, for shame. Because when you are speaking at a five-hour conference, on a Saturday--a conference that many attendees were forced to attend against their will, I should add, and which required them to get out of bed at 6:30 a.m., on a Saturday--and for which the only refreshment offered was a measly piece of too-sweet coffee cake, and you are the last session of the day and thus the only thing standing between me and my lunch (not provided)--well sir, you are lucky you got out of there with your life.

What was the session about, you may ask? I DON'T EVEN KNOW. 

So that was my Saturday. How was yours?


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Why revenge is squeak

Lately I've been hearing the pitter-patter of little feet. Mostly late at night when I'm trying to sleep, or when I wake up from having been asleep, and suddenly I'm the kind of awake where I know I won't be falling back asleep again any time soon. Suddenly my eyes fly open, wide and sightless in the dark, my body stiff, listening. What is that? And then it comes again--a low whooshing and then a scribble-scrabbling as the sound dopplers away in the ceiling directly over my head. Sometimes it comes from the wall behind me. Though I know it's silly, I can't stop my heart from racing, and I spend the next two hours trying and failing to get back to sleep. It happens just often enough to lull me into complacency--maybe it's done now, I'll think--and then ten minutes later, or twenty, there it is again. Whoooooooosh, clickclickclickclick, and I involuntarily cringe, and wrap myself tighter in the covers. 

But I know what this is. This is karmic retribution. Once upon a time in a former life I was a tormentor of mice, and now they are here to exact their revenge. I would almost be able to appreciate the irony of the situation, if I wasn't so cranky from the lack of sleep. 

So what's up, mice? Why you gotta be so nocturnal? Come on, mice, I've changed, really. I'm not the same person I was. So how's about I promise that I will no longer practice amateur brain surgery on you or your brethren, and you limit your scurrying business to the daylight hours, eh? Your kind is known for being fair and reasonable, so I'm sure we can all work out a mutually acceptable agreement, here. Don't make me get out my rubber gloves and my syringe.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Why it's not so much 'ha ha' funny...

So, what the frig am I doing in this picture? Well, according to your guesses I am either a) threading a needle, b) dissecting a worm, c) finding a cure for hangnails, d) drilling a hole in a mouse to make into a lovely pendant, or e) involved in a massive conspiracy theory involving world domination and talking horses. I am sorry to say that it isn't e), though I am almost equally sorry to say that Kono was nearly spot on with his mouse-drilling theory. I am indeed about to drill a hole in a mouse in this picture, which perhaps explains my look of slump-shouldered despair (and the mouse probably isn't too happy about it either).   

You can click on the picture to make it bigger. Go ahead, I'll wait.

It's a part of my life that most of the time I manage to forget about completely. But the other day one of my well-meaning but under-informed professors here asked me, "So how's being in grad school?", like you would to a toddler after her big first day in pre-K. "Well," I responded, "this isn't my first time in grad school. This is actually my third grad program, so..." So lay off my case and quit chirping at me, is what I managed to refrain from saying, and not a moment too soon. (Only sort of relatedly, my parents still routinely ask me how "college" is going. The next time they do I'm going to tell them that "college" is something that parents pay for, and if that's the case they can feel free to step up.)

But wait, did I say this is my third grad program? *Counts on fingers* What? That's right, I've been holding out on you. You may remember that I received my Master's degree in French literature in Boston. What you don't know is that three years prior to that, the reason I moved to Boston in the first place was to enroll in a different grad program there. A much, much different program. You see, once upon a time in a land far, far away, I somehow got it into my head that the answer to the question of "What do I want to do with my life?" was something I vaguely defined as "research." I had glamorous fantasies of wearing a white lab coat, scribbling data onto clipboards, and making important "discoveries." For which I would become famous, naturally. Now, the important question here is not why I would base my future career goals on such a tenuous understanding of the word "research." After all, I was young, and as such, stupid. The real question is why in the world a top-ranked research institution would accept as a student someone whose post-high school scientific knowledge was limited to two weeks of a freshman biology class that I signed up for as a senior and then immediately dropped because it was "too hard." I suppose the lesson here is never to underestimate the power of a compelling essay. That and the fact that I had once put some pigeons in some boxes was apparently enough to put me over the edge, and I was in.

I quickly realized that I was in way, way over my head.

In the picture in question, I am about to perform brain surgery on a mouse. Not a dead mouse, no. That would be too easy. In this picture, I am about to drill into a live mouse's brain while trying very hard not to kill it. (No pressure). Not only am I about to drill into a mouse's brain, but I am attempting to drill into one very specific and very small part of the brain. One millimeter to the right or the left and the whole thing is pretty much ruined. Again, no pressure. Oh, and you only have a few minutes until the anesthesia begins to wear off, so better hop to it. (Nooooo pressure.) Now, I realize most of you have probably had the good fortune of never having to look at a mouse brain, but let me assure you, it is small. Think of a mouse head. Now think smaller. In color and consistency, its brain is not unlike a wad of chewed gum. (Wrigley's, not Bazooka Joe.) But smaller, like a doll-sized wad of used up chewing gum. Now imagine that you are trying to locate one very specific point in that doll-sized wad of chewing gum. Now breathe. When it is all over you will need to perform tiny mouse stitches on the tiny mouse head. (Quick, quick, before it wakes up!) When your shaking hands fail to be able to even thread the needle, your (male) lab adviser will look at you in disbelief and say, "Have you never sewed anything before?" 

And that was just the mice.

Then, on a day I will never forget, my adviser informed me that his class of undergrads would be dissecting rat brains. He brought me a cage full of rats, a bucket of dry ice, and a rusty pair of Fiskars. "So I'll need you to get their brains," he told me. (And you think your job is bad.) If you ever wonder how you might react in a seemingly impossible situation, I will say that you will probably do what needs to be done. That you really can get used to almost anything. I am neither proud nor overly ashamed to admit that I did what needed to be done. I did my job. And years later, now that my bread and butter are books and not blood and gore, I can look back from a safely removed distance and and think how strange it all is, that life I once had. I don't want to get involved in any controversy on so controversial an issue; that is not the point of this story. It is something I once did and no longer do. Now I am a vegetarian about 80% of the time and am neither for nor against animal research. Rather, I am both for and against it and I know there are always two sides to every story. Again, that is not the point. Once I was young and led a completely different life. Like lots of people, I guess. I did my job.

Until one day when I went into my adviser's office with a quick question, and as I was leaving he stopped me with, "Oh, and one more thing..." I looked up. "How do you think things are going?" he asked, and I knew it wasn't an innocent question. "I just don't feel any passion from you," he said. "The spark just isn't there." Are you breaking up with me?! I wanted to ask. It was true, I lived every day in silent misery, something I had thought I could hide. 'Just one more year' was my daily affirmation and just-barely-coping device. One more year and I can get my Master's and get out. Don't let me have been miserable for an entire year for nothing. Just let me get my Master's. But when I brought this up, no dice. "I don't think that would be a good use of anyone's time," my adviser heartlessly said. He said anyone's, but he meant his. He said time, but he meant money. It didn't take a mouse brain surgeon to read between the lines.

I walked into the lab that morning like any other morning, but when I left that afternoon it was for the last time. I wondered how I was going to explain this to my parents. Though I had carried out every last gruesome, disgusting order, I was kicked out of my grad program for lack of enthusiasm. It could only happen to me. I went home and cried my eyes out. There I was, in a big city with no friends, no job, three months left on my lease, and absolutely no reason to continue living there.

Within a couple weeks I had found a job, met a guy, and ended up staying for four more years. Said guy had recently spent a couple years living in Mythaca, a town I had never heard of before, but after hearing his stories I soon felt like I knew it well. And while I spent countless hours musing over what our future would hold, never once during our time together did I imagine that one day I would find myself thirty years old, alone, and living in Mythaca without him. Isn't life funny?