Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I Had This Really Great Idea Today...

Since:
  • I didn't like dating even when I was young and it was supposed to be fun; and
  • I have a very full and busy life and no room to really add anything; and
  • I've been separated from my husband for 5.5 years and haven't gotten around to getting divorced; and
  • I'm thinking seriously about moving out of town in six months; and
  • I'm really not all that interested in starting a relationship; and
  • I think planned dating is artificial and doomed to fail; and
  • I think online dating is creepy,
I decided to join an online dating service.

Since I...you know...don't want to date, I definitely didn't bring my marketing A-game to profile creation. In fact, I broke the cardinal rules of online dating by posting realistic pictures and telling the truth about my weight.

Have no fear, though. I got exactly what I deserved. On the first night, I received four messages. One of them had a strange emoticon in the subject line and nothing but "got curves??" in the body of the message. (How does one respond to that, even if one were so inclined?) Another said only "Sooooooooooo pretty!!" in the subject line and HAD no text in the body of the message. (How does one respond to that, even if one were so inclined?)

To top it off, it's apparently considered bad form not to respond when someone sends you a message, even if you're "not interested".

It's been approximately six hours, and I'm ready to bail, but I have learned some very interesting things:

  • Although the average American man is 5'9.4", nearly all men on dating sites are 6' or taller;
  • A surprising number of men have photographs of themselves with horses;
  • The world would be a better place if the phrase "and take it from there" were stricken from the English language;
  • Many, many innocent men have accidentally stumbled into the clutches of women who want to do unseemly things with them, and thus through no fault of their own had their messaging privileges restricted;
  • Most men consider having coffee or a meal with someone with whom they lack chemistry a "waste of time" for both parties;
  • Most men aren't even aware of what it says about them when they announce in a public forum that they think human interactions are only worthwhile if they're likely to lead to sex;
  • A large percentage of men say they're different from other men for the same reasons; and
  • Spelling is not a priority.
Any doubts I might have had about bypassing the whole dating scene and carrying on with my life as-is have been laid to rest, but I'm wondering whether I should hang around just for the sake of my art. There could be a whole new blog in this. Or, you know, a new career as a stand-up comedienne.

Friday, October 23, 2009

College Student or Middle-Aged Mom - What's the Difference?

College sophomore Charley Cooper put out an ad for a personal assistant and got national news coverage. There's even a popular poll running: Spoiled Rich Kid or More Power to Him? But it's the wrong question.

When I heard Cooper's explanation--he's in school full-time, working a part-time job in his field, and has a family member who is seriously ill--my first thought was that it reminded me a lot of my life a couple of years ago. When I was trying to work 90+ hours a week and parent and help out other family members and getting very little sleep, several people said the same thing to me: "get some help". And it was good advice.

See, most of us get into a blind cycle of believing that we have to do everything ourselves. Even when I had money enough to hire help, I felt like I had to do my own cleaning. I felt guilty when I didn't do my own cooking. I kept on trying to find time to pay my bills manually instead of just setting them up to be paid through my bank and moving on. And those were bad choices. Or, rather, they weren't choices at all...they were just ways of staying stuck in the rut I was in for no reason.

I say "no reason" because there was nothing about vacuuming my living room or making sure the bill payments went out on time or doing my laundry that required my personal attention. It was a poor use of my time to focus on those things when there were so many other things in play that DID require my attention. My daughter, for instance. And the major project I was buried in at work.

And finally, only because I hit the point of literally not being able to do it all, I realized what professionals have been telling us for decades: giving the important things in life the attention they deserve sometimes means delegating the things you don't really have to do yourself. Any good professional organizer will tell you this. Any executive who doesn't delegate will soon find himself completely ineffective. Focus on what matters--isn't that really a simple concept?

When I finally did decide to call in some help (and never, really, as much as I should have), that decision was greeted with universal relief among my friends and family. "Spoiled" never crossed anyone's lips. Why? Because I was a middle-aged woman? Because I hadn't grown up wealthy? Does that change what constitutes a sensible decision?

Because Charley Cooper made a sensible decision--and one that many of us don't learn to make until we're near the breaking point. At 19, he said, "school, career, family...the rest I'll dump if I can". I suspect that he'll go far in life, having gotten past that hurdle a couple of decades earlier than most of us.

Is he a spoiled rich kid? Maybe...but I don't think this decision proves it. More power to him? Maybe...but I don't know how he lives his life, so I can't really say. Neither is appropriate in response to this decision...it's just a life management choice that, were he older, he would almost certainly have been encouraged to make. The one thing I know for sure is that it wouldn't have been national news. MSNBC surely didn't show up when I contracted out my paperwork and started having food delivered.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I Have a Confession to Make

I think I'm from Mars.

Of course, I've recognized this before in the abstract. Every time someone starts talking about the differences between men and women, the "men" descriptions sound a lot more like me. But this week it hit home in the concrete when my dear friend Barb's husband had an emergency appendectomy. And Barb, she was a little put out because her husband drove himself to the hospital with a ruptured appendix and notified her once he was on the gurney and headed into surgery.

And you know, I sympathized. I really did. I understood why she was upset, and how stressful it was not to be able to see him before he went into surgery and all that. I felt her pain.

But I had a secret.

See, in her husband's shoes, I would have done exactly the same thing. It just MAKES SENSE. I can totally see, since I was introduced to the situation from her perspective, that it was a little insensitive. But I also know beyond a doubt that in his circumstances, that would never have crossed my mind. After all, just getting in the car and going was the fastest, most efficient way to get the problem taken care of.

In fact, I'm not just speculating. Several years ago when my blood pressure skyrocketed, I drove myself to a clinic fifteen miles away and then called a friend from there and asked him to pick up my daughter at school. The second time my blood pressure got dangerously high, I discovered it at work, when I walked into the bathroom saw that all of the blood vessels in my eyes were broken. I returned to my office, Googled for the nearest walk-in clinic, casually told my boss that I was going to lunch and walked to the doctor's office. It was only after the doctor said I couldn't leave the office until my blood pressure was down that I called work to let them know I wasn't coming back, and only after they decided to ship me over to the hospital that I called my family.

I wasn't trying to play hero or exclude anyone, and I didn't think I was being reckless. I just couldn't see a reason to cause a fuss, and I took the most expedient route to do what needed to be done. In retrospect, of course, I can see that there were risks. At the time, I was very focused on the quickest, most hassle-free way to take action. If I told my boss what was going on, conversations would have ensued: Did I think I'd be back? Did I need someone to go with me? Would I call when I knew what was going on? My head felt like it was going to blow open and I knew I only had a few minutes before I vomited again and I didn't want to have a discussion. I wanted to get to the doctor.

Until I saw the situation from the other side this week, it never crossed my mind that other people might have feelings about my choices. Perhaps more importantly, it never crossed my mind that anyone else might have a right to have feelings about how I took care of myself. Managing crisis mode is a very narrow state of mind.

And now I get it. I really do. But I'm pretty sure that when the next emergency situation arises, I'll react exactly as I always have.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

She Will Do as I Do

I wrote this some time ago, and have been undecided about whether to share it, or where. Today, I learned that October is domestic violence awareness month, and decided that the time was ripe to get my piece of the word out, in hopes that it will help someone to break a cycle that is passed down from generation to generation. It's not what you're used to here, but I think it's important.

The most significant moment of my life occurred in the fall of 1994. It wasn’t my marriage, the birth of my precious daughter, the day I was sworn in to the practice of law or when I held my first book in my hands and ran my finger across my name on the cover. No, the most significant moment of my life took place in an apartment-building driveway in a run-down town, well after dark on a week night.

A man I loved lifted a rock—a very large rock—and said, “Shut up, get in your car and drive away and don’t look back or I’m going to bash your head in.” The original statement, of course, contained a few colorful adjectives. I believed him. I got in my car and drove away without looking back, and as I did, I sighed.

That was it, that sigh. A man I loved and trusted had threatened to kill me with a rock, and I’d believed him, and it made me SIGH. It didn’t shock me, appall me, or even really frighten me. If I’d put that sigh into words, I think they would have been “here we go again.”

I’d grown up with violence, of course. And like every child who grows up with violence I’d sworn I’d never tolerate it and meant it from the bottom of my heart. I’d grown up to fight violence, training and volunteering in domestic violence shelters and sexual assault programs for several years. And then, when violence came back into my life, I greeted it much in the same way I would have greeted a flat tire on my way to work.

In my mind, of course, I knew all the things I’d been telling victims for years. But in my gut, in my physiology, deep in my psyche, this kind of thing was just part of life. I knew how serious it was, but I couldn’t feel it. And because I didn’t experience it as anything life-altering, it didn’t alter my life a bit. I left when I was told, to avoid getting my head bashed in with a rock, and then I returned the next day.

I didn’t recognize the significance of that sigh then, of course. It was years before I looked back and realized that my reaction was the result of a kind of programming that can only be erased by long, hard work and extreme awareness. I’d thought that in mentally rejecting violence, in my training and volunteer work and the way I saw violence in the lives of other women, I’d moved past that programming, but I hadn’t. It was only lying in wait. In fact, that programming has never entirely been erased; I’m not sure whether it ever can be. The difference is that I know now that my emotional and instinctive reactions can’t be trusted in that arena, that I have to have a concrete bottom line and stick to it as if it were a law, because my gut won’t tell me to do what needs to be done.

The other difference is that I have a child now, and because of that one moment—because I sighed when I should have screamed, and briefly retreated when I should have run—I know that what she experiences in her day-to-day life as a child will be what she perceives as normal, no matter how much lip service I pay to it being wrong, no matter how clearly she recognizes that herself. And it’s not just about violence; our children become familiar with, and comfortable with, the type of relationships we model, our financial stability or lack thereof, and every other aspect of the lives we live from day to day and thereby present as normal.

A thousand studies have told us as much, have told us that girls who grow up with violence enter into abusive relationships and boys who grow up with violence become abusers, and we think, all of us, “Not my kid.” It’s not just denial: children object, they see the problem, sometimes they’re more clear-headed about it than their parents, and it seems impossible to imagine that they’d ever tolerate that same pattern in their lives.

I was that child: the one who threatened to call the police, who advocated bolting the doors, who had a hundred suggestions for when and where and how to get away. And when the chips were down, more than a decade later, I sighed. And I stayed.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Say It Ain't So, Guys...

In a two different recent discussion threads, men have insisted that all men talk about with their male friends is "beer, sports and chicks you wanna bang". I'm sure there's some of that, but I was emphatically assured that it was pretty much all there was--which doesn't seem to fit the men in my life. Do I know a better class of men, or is there a secret-society thing going on, where you all become different people when the doors are closed? Please, fill us in...without fear. The poll is anonymous!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Retail Therapy for People Who Aren't Into Stuff

I've never understood the term "retail therapy". Spending money unnecessarily makes me anxious. I don't enjoy shopping. And I'm not much into stuff--especially not stuff like clothing and shoes and handbags that my friends seem to consider the stuff of "retail therapy".

I am, however, having an unusually rough week. I usually work close to a flat 40-hour week, and I'm on my third week of running closer to 55. Not the end of the world, but I'm stretched a little thinner than usual, especially since my daughter has been home sick from school for a solid week and has been very needy and malcontent. I fell asleep accidentally in the middle of the afternoon today, and then went into the evening with hours of work still to do.

In the midst of all this, I ran to WalMart to pick up some NyQuil and Motrin, and while I was there I picked up a few other things:

A John Grisham novel that sounds like it's pretty much the same story as The Firm, which was my least favorite of his books. To top this one off, I'm 75% sure that my mother has this book sitting in her living room, part of the last stack of books my book-club-loving aunt dropped off.

A Whatchamacallit candy bar. It should be noted that I rarely eat candy and haven't eaten a Whatchamacallit since I was 12 years old (for those of you who haven't been following along, I'm 43 now). It's king size.

A Hootie & the Blowfish greatest hits CD (which I'm almost sure should have been a single...really. Didn't they just have one song?) But it was only $5, so I pushed Janeane Garofalo out of my head and tossed it in the cart.

All 26 episodes of Ally McBeal. I was surprised to learn that there were only 26 episodes. That sounds like a single season, and it's hard to believe that the series had jumped the shark to the point of the dancing baby within a single season. I don't really know for sure because I...well...couldn't be bothered to watch the show regularly when it was on television.

Kind of makes me wish I gave a crap about shoes or home decor, or something I'd still have some use for when I'm feeling better.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Now, Ma'am--We Both Know You Have Insurance...

A discussion thread about getting out of speeding tickets triggered this very old story. I didn't have a speeding ticket story to share because I don't really speed. Ask anyone who rides with me or follows/leads me anywhere--it's a constant source of annoyance. I did have a funny story (or at least, I think it's funny) about blowing a stop sign, but it was too long to throw into a forum thread...so here we are.

One evening, I had a crippling migraine. (Note that I say "crippling" not for dramatic effect, but because migraines come in varying degrees, and usually those of us who suffer them regularly go on about some semblance of our lives. Every once in a while, though, a migraine comes on that's the biggest thing in your world for as long as it lasts. This was one of those.)

I didn't have any medication, but my mother (who lived about a mile away) had the same prescription, so I decided to drive over to her house and get some.

Mistake # 1: Why didn't I ask her to bring it to me?

Once at her house, I decided that I'd better not take the medication until I got home, because it made me a little woozy and I was already more than a little woozy (see Mistake # 1). So I put a few pills in a ziploc baggie.

Mistake # 2: Why didn't I bring my own bottle, or something a little less drug-dealerish to carry it in?

Eager to get home and take the medication, I got back in the car, tossed the plastic baggie full of little blue pills on the passenger seat and took off.

Mistake # 3: This one speaks for itself, right?

In front of my house at the time, there was a stop sign. You'd stop, then turn left and pull over to park about 20 feet from the corner. In theory, anyway.

As I pulled to the curb to park, I noticed a police car with lights flashing behind me. A young blond cop--a rookie straight out of central casting--approached my window.

"Do you know why I pulled you over?" he asked (This, apparently, is mandatory in every state and local police agency in the United States and perhaps beyond.)

I shook my head, shrugged one shoulder and said, "Honestly, I didn't even know you were. I live here."

Mistake # 4: Did I really want to tell the nice officer that I was driving around SO OUT OF IT that I didn't even notice the flashing lights behind me? While I had a plastic baggie of unmarked drugs in arm's reach? Really?

He said, "You ran that stop sign back there."

I looked at the stop sign. I said, "Did I really? I'm sorry. I have a migraine."

(See Mistake # 4)

"Oh, that's okay," he said cheerfully.

Then I expressed surprise, pointing out that the stop sign was right in front of my house and it certainly wasn't like I didn't know it was there.

(See Mistake # 4)

"Yeah," he said, still good-naturedly. "You didn't even roll it. I probably wouldn't have stopped you for that. You just ran right through it."

I should note that, in addition to the baggie of drugs on my passenger seat, I had enough junk in my car to start my own second-hand store (or garbage dump). Just that afternoon, I'd returned from an interstate car trip with all three kids. So when the officer said, "I'm just going to run your license and check your insurance, and if that all checks out I'll let you go since you're home already," I was in a new bind.

I hadn't the SLIGHTEST idea where my insurance card was.

I know. I know. Odds are that the kids didn't get into the glove compartment and remove it from a neat plastic sleeve or anything like that. I have to admit to a bit of pre-existing disorganization.

"Oh, man," I said. "I have no idea where my insurance card is." I looked helplessly around the cyclone-struck car and said, "I just drove back from Indiana with three kids."

"But you do have it?" he asked.

"Oh, yes," I assured him. And I did. I really did. But WHERE was anybody's guess.

He was kind of negotiating against himself at that point. He said, "Well, let me just run your license. What's your driving record like?"

FINALLY, one I could answer! My driving record was PERFECT.

While he went off to run my license, I dug frantically through the backseat in search of my insurance card. Lucky he wasn't the suspicious type--isn't this how cops get shot on routine traffic stops?

When he came back, he told me my license checked out and I said, "Look! I found my insurance card!" He barely glanced at it. "See?" he said triumphantly, "I knew you had it!"

He went on his way after saying that he hoped I felt better soon. I, at least, had sense enough to wait until he had turned away to grab the bag of drugs.