Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Why if I wrote a song it would be called "String Me Along Maybe"

This one goes out to all the married folk and long-term couples out there, who may be curious about what dating is like these days. Maybe you've heard stories from your single friends, and maybe you think, Oh come on, how hard can it be for two people to get together? You meet, you go out, and you either like each other or you don't. What's so complicated about that? Well, the answer to your rhetorical question, my friends, can be found in the following text messages, which for the sake of obfuscation are presented in multiple choice format.

Here is your context: Boy meets girl. Boy asks girl for her phone number. Girl says meh, why not? Now, knowing me (girl) as you do, which of the following do you think was the actual text message he (boy) then sent?

a) Hey Rachel, it was nice to meet you the other night. Would you like to get a drink after work sometime this week? How's Thursday?
b) Hey, I hope your week is going well. I'm busy tomorrow and gone this weekend, but do you want to get together some night next week?
c) Do you have a good recipe for gazpacho?

And then, a full two weeks later, what was his next move?

a) I really enjoyed talking to you when we went out, and I'd love to see you again. Are you free for dinner on Friday?
b) Hey Rachel, I'm really sorry for flaking last week. I leave for Brazil on Thursday but I would love to get together when I'm back.
c) What do you think of labradoodles?  

Just guess. Just guess. Remember to base your answer not on someone who attracts stable, normally functioning males, but on someone who attracts, well, the kinds of guys that I attract. Relatedly, what is wrong with people? 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why I'm not giving up on yoga

In an effort to counteract the numbing inertia of my current nothing-much-happening state of affairs, I've embarked upon the Yoga Every Day project. It didn't have a name until right now, and it could perhaps be more accurately called the Yoga Almost Every Day project, but whatever you want to call it, it is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It started with a $10 for 10 days introductory deal and my desire to wring every last cent out of that bargain, like the good little penny pincher I am. But the more I think about it, the more it seems like a good idea to keep it going, even after the 10 days are up (and it becomes much, much more expensive, but let's not think about that quite yet). In my last post I was lamenting my lack of a Project, and while it not be as exciting as other projects past, Yoga Every Day could most certainly be a Project, with mind-body benefits to boot. 

The problem being, or one problem being, that I am a woman of very little patience. And after taking seven, count them, seven hot yoga classes, I was hoping to have at least a little something to show for it. A blissfully quiet mind. A serene yoga glow. Iron biceps and buns of steel. More energy. Even a certain indefinable something-or-other. Just one of the above would be great! The good news is the initial, crippling soreness has gone away. The bad news is the only real physical or mental difference I am seeing has been difficulty sleeping, and perhaps relatedly, increased fatigue. (I know, right? Thanks a lot, exercise.) Also, since I haven't been getting home until 8 p.m., my dinners now consist of whatever I can heat up in two and a half minutes or less, nutritional value be damned (see above, re: woman of very little patience, and also, extreme hunger). Not to mention that this latest venture is cutting into my valuable sitting-at-home time. I can't even watch Jeopardy anymore. (First person to say "DVR" gets clonked on the head with my enormous, non-flat screen television and rabbit ears antennae.) Now that I'm writing it down, this is all sounding...less than ideal. I think we have all determined that I would be perfectly happy being a couch-ridden lump. But I think I'll keep going with the Yoga Every Day, for now. At least until I can do a successful headstand, without using the wall. Or crow pose. Jumping back from crow pose. Or gulp...handstand. (I will never be able to do a handstand.) I would settle for a friggin' wheel. (Stupid toothpick arms/non-bendy back.) I just want to see progress of some kind. It will come, I know. And I can't wait to tell you about it.      

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Why you can call me Sartre, and I can call you Al

For the last ten years, I have at any given moment been pursuing one or more of the following: a degree, a job, an apartment, a date. And not just simply pursuing, but chasing with single-minded determination. When I was on the chase, it didn't seem to wholly matter if I was unhappy with my life, because there was always hope for the next big thing: When I finish this degree, then my real life will start. When I get the apartment of my dreams, I will plant a window herb garden and wear vintage aprons and bake things, because that is the kind of person I want to be. When I get a new job I will at last feel personally and professionally fulfilled. And when I find someone to love me, none of the rest will matter, because secretly and although I will never admit it (whoops), that is the most important thing of all. 

So not only was there always hope for a better future, but each of these things in and of itself is a project with great powers of distraction. Grad school is all-possessing and all-consuming and leaves very little time to focus on much of anything else. Job hunting is a project that will eat up as much time as you allow it, with apartment hunting not far behind it. And dating, both online and off? Lord knows that's a project with powers of distraction. So what happens when suddenly, for the first time in your adult life, the projects and distractions grind to a halt and you're just simply...existing? When there is no next big thing, and nothing to work for or look forward to, when all there is is a long unspooling forever full of right now? And what happens when all of that happens and you still have no herb garden, and you are still professionally unfulfilled, and you are still wearing a groove right smack in the center of your couch because there is still no one to share it with? But, really, your apartment is fine, your job pays you money, and you are, for a multitude of reasons, so done with dating. Technically, everything is fine. Technically, you have no reason to complain. And technically, every perceived issue that you have falls readily under the umbrella of (though you loathe and despise the term) First World Problems. Relatedly, have you ever noticed how people love to tell you how many people are worse off than you? And though it may be true, that's really not ever the issue, is it? And anyway, if we're not supposed to compare our lives to those of people we perceive as better off than us, thus making ourselves miserable in the process, why are we supposed to feel chagrined by our relative comfort in comparison to the less fortunate? Can I ask you just one more rhetorical question? (Kidding.)

In short: I am projectless. I am bored. I have no reason to complain, and yet I do. What are you up to? How do you keep yourself from going crazy with the overwhelming existentialness of it all?   


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Why Proust has his madeleine, and I have this

Because I am in the midst of a mega-funk of rather epic proportions, and because there is nothing at all to say, anymore, I bring you memories of a lost time, gleaned from the depths of my (very) irregularly kept journals--my version of A la recherche du temps perdu.

September 9, 2010

I'm lately given to pangs of nostalgia for my French days. Nothing new in theory, though the power, the intensity of the of the memories is. Watching some travel show or another (not even that long ago and already I can't remember which one) hyping some trendy new bar or restaurant in Paris, and then suddenly, there it was--rue Jean Pierre Timbaud; Hervé's street. Not a particularly long or well-known street, but there it was on the screen, and I was almost overcome. How many times I walked up and down that street, sometimes hand in hand, sometimes alone. The code to his front door that I've forgotten, or perhaps not--maybe it's still lying dormant somewhere in my memory. And suddenly it becomes important to remember it; there's the urge to send him an e-mail out of the blue, asking him that but nothing else, though I couldn't tell you why. Walking up all those stairs; how many flights was it, again? Quatrième étage or cinquième? The 5th or 6th floor in English, and I couldn't tell you which, only that it seemed an impossible feat, every time. And every time I would complain, but he never got upset, only put an arm around me and half-joking offered to carry me, and though I never tested him on it, I think maybe he would have. Entering into his small but not particularly cozy apartment; making pasta for dinner. Olives, wine, bread. Cherries for dessert. To bed, and the noise carrying from the courtyard that I never got used to. Ear plugs to counter it, and Hervé's snoring. Never sleeping well, but there were stories in the dark. 

My arrival in France when I didn't know anything or anyone--not too different from the end, really, but with more sense of possibility, that anything could happen. Waiting at the bus station, sitting on my suitcases. Remember the jacket I was wearing, and the scarf. It was cloudy and cold after the mid-Atlantic heat of Indian summer. Nervous, but only a bit. What if no one came to pick me up? No need to have worried. Marie... Marie-what? Marie-something, and now I can't remember. Marie-something, a whirl-wind of excitement and welcome. Her apartment in Meaux, the windows, the light. Walking along the canal there. Or was that later, in Chelles? Again, I can't remember.

And then Fred and Patrice, whose names and faces I could never forget. A whiff of nostalgia like no other. The house, the relief at having a home. Patrice's immediate acceptance of me. Meeting him at the train station bar, not so much discussing French literature as nervously name-dropping titles and authors to the best of my ability. "Ah, Balzac, yes... La fille aux yeux d'or, and... Le père Goriot, yes?" Meeting Fred back at the house, Patrice saying, "So when do you want to move in?" Fred revealing to me later that after I left, he chastised Patrice; "I thought we were going to talk about it and then decide. Why did you tell her she could move in?" And Patrice's response, which I will always cherish: "No, it's ok--she reads Balzac!" 

The cigarette smoke, the smell, the mess, but never happier than when we were all three together, teasing, joking, laughing, feeling like I was in the right place. Then the slow decline--Patrice no longer working, leaving the house less and less, in his bathrobe all day, playing computer solitaire. Fred traveling constantly, leaving for days and weeks at a time, returning for a couple days, always late at night, packing up and leaving again. Patrice and I alone, sharing the living room but not talking, Fred the glue that no longer held us all together. Patrice no longer paying rent, the drawn out eviction process, the slow dissolution of my little French family that I loved, but that never let me get too close. A sea change.

A change of apartment and then misery, abject misery. Then, finally, acceptance and the knowledge that it was all only temporary. The simultaneous threat and escape hatch of my return to the U.S. and my parents' house. Quel cauchemar.

The people that I met and lost along the way. Marie-something. Thinking I had found a new friend. Spending vacation with her at her mother's house in the south and then never hearing from her again. Racking my brain for what I could possibly have unknowingly done or said. Never finding a good answer, only that maybe she recognized in me what she wanted to hide in herself. Was that it? 

All the friends I never made, but this time at least my foreign otherness provided me with an excuse. But Hervé was open and good-humored and unhesitatingly accepted me, refusing to see that there was any difference between him and me and them. Through him, his friends, who also accepted me, though they never got too close. Perhaps it was the temporary nature of it all; though we never talked about it, perhaps it was understood that that's what I was there to do--ultimately, to leave. Only Hervé chose not to see this, and so, I'm afraid, got hurt in the end. His second date declaration that he never wanted to get married, and then, months later, his hesitant second-to-last-night half-suggestion, half-question: "And if we got married, you could have health insurance...?" And stay, forever? was what remained unsaid. It sounded a totally unserious and hypothetical proposition, and so that is how I took it, also knowing I could never marry him. We both cried when I left, but my tears were for it all: France, Fred, fresh baguettes, and Hervé, of course, while his tears were only for me. Or maybe they were for the Canal St. Martin and weekend markets and walking hand in hand; for toothbrushes bought and then discarded.

I have left France three times (more, really, but three times I have left a life behind there), and I have never left without tears. It always feels like something is being ripped away from my unwilling fingers, something I have lost and may never get back. Or something I want desperately but never had to begin with. A dream. A wish. Hope. Something nameless but life-changing; something to catch and hold onto and to never let go. Leaving, I always had the sense that whatever it was, it was slipping through my fingers, and the plane over the Atlantic carrying me further and further away. Back to where I started, to the same life. To the change that never changes anything.