Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lesson: Be More Specific

Lately I've been making more of an effort to date, and I've been moderately successful - in that I've had a few dates, not in that I've met anyone I want a relationship with. But that's okay, because the point of dating is to meet a bunch of people and figure out what you really want along the way, so that you can weed out the bad ones and when the right person comes along you can recognize him (or her, depending).

I haven't had any truly bad dates - until tonight. I had high hopes for this guy. He has a PhD, teaches at a local college, and was articulate and funny in our email exchanges. I really thought we'd hit it off when we met tonight. I knew I was going to be disappointed when the conversation only sputtered along, and I found myself having to do all the question asking for the first hour or so. I only drank one beer, planning to extract myself quickly, but when he ordered a second, I felt compelled to stay until he finished it. 

Throughout the awkward hour and thirty minutes of my life I spent with this guy, I kept telling myself to be open-minded, that sometimes it takes a little while for people to come out of their shells. I really tried to keep this in mind, right up until the following exchange. To set the scene for you, he has a 4-year-old daughter who loves everything pink and Disney princesses.

Him: "She's always saying, 'I'm a princess, Daddy!' And I tell her, 'You can't be a princess, because you're American, and America doesn't have royalty.'"
Me: ".... Really? She's only four, right?"
Him: "Yeah, and then she tells me I'm not being very nice to her."
Me: "Huh... You know, some Native American cultures had institutions similar to what we call 'royalty.' So really, you're not quite right about that." 
Him: "Well, I meant 'Americans' as in 'United States of Americans.'"
Me: "Perhaps you should say 'Anglo-Americans' next time. Maybe that will persuade her."

And that was the end of that. Because I may want kids one day, and I'd like them to have a father who will indulge their sweet little children's fantasies, not stomp all over them based on technicalities.

Also, I'd like someone who can hold a conversation. But sometimes that's less of a dealbreaker for me these days.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Vacation Countdown, Courtesy of The Go-Gos

Phase One of this year's One Big Thing is on the horizon: my beach vacation in Mexico (check out some preview pics here). It's so close that I'm giddy with excitement. I have visions of sitting in the hotel's open-air spa while I get a pedicure and sip a margarita. It's gonna be wonderful.

I heard The Go-Gos's "Vacation" on the radio the other day, and it's become my vacation anthem. I can't wait!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Gettin' My Read On

A while back I asked for reading suggestions for my upcoming vacation. I got a few comments, and a couple more suggestions via Twitter and email. For those of you looking for some reading recommendations, here's a list of what I got:

So what am I taking with me?

Well, I decided to check out the Thursday Next series before leaving town to see whether I'd like it. I devoured the first two books in the series, so I'm definitely bringing the third installment, The Well of Lost Plots. So far the books have been fun and funny - perfect beach reading, I think.

I think I'd already mentioned that I planned to take The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot with me, since the author is speaking at a conference I'm attending in May, and I really want to read it before then. Several people have told me how good it is; I'm just hoping that it's not too "heavy" for vacation reading.

Lastly, I'm going out on a limb and choosing something that no one recommended: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. I've had a soft spot for magical realism ever since my senior year of high school, when I took AP Spanish Literature and fell in love with the writing of Gabriel García Márquez. This book follows a girl who can taste the emotions of the people who prepare her food. Based on this NPR review, it sounds like an interesting combination of magical realism and a Ruth Reichl book, which would be right up my alley.

So there you have it - my three selections. I'm going to tuck the other recommendations away for later, and I'll be sure to report back on how appropriate each of these was for beach reading!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Faking It

Generally speaking, I'm not a very good liar. I don't fool much of anyone, not even when I'm lying to myself. I'd like to think that I once pulled one over on someone, somewhere, but the likelihood of that is pretty laughable. It's for this exact reason that I've never bought into the idea of "faking it 'til you make it." If you know I'm not fooling you, and I know I'm not fooling you, then it all just feels silly and embarrassing. I'd be much closer to my comfort zone if I just acknowledged what was really going on and we both moved forward from there. This is true in all areas of my life - in the workplace, in my everyday interactions, and in my closest relationships.

Unfortunately, that technique isn't working for me anymore - at least not in one particular situation. There is a guy who enters and leaves my life at his whim, and for many convoluted and sad reasons, I let him continue to do this. Every time he shows up I know how it will end, and every time he disappears he leaves a trail of emotional upheaval that leaves me barely functioning for days. The wondering whether I would ever hear from him again was agony, and so about five months ago I decided to be proactive: after not having heard from him for several months, I sent him an email asking him to please never contact me again. I told him that I needed to know that he was gone for good so that I could move on with my life. This move didn't come from a place of strength; in fact, it was my last-ditch attempt to regain a little control over my emotional life. Anyone could read between the lines and easily see that I was sad and deeply hurt by him.

Those feelings faded over the last five months, but apparently they never went away entirely because when he popped back up a couple nights ago, all the while acknowledging that I asked him to stay away but saying that he just couldn't help himself that night, I got sucked right back in. I was exactly where I had been months ago - grateful to have his attention, missing the times when we used to talk more, and making decisions I knew I would regret later. I had more self-awareness this time around - for the first time, I recognized the emotionally fucked up cycle as it was happening - but I still couldn't stop it. It came as no surprise to me when I woke up this morning and felt completely devastated - again.

I spent most of the first half of the day barely holding it together. I had things to do - appointments, breakfast with a friend, errands that needed to be run - and if I dwelt on how I was feeling for more than a few moments, I quickly started to unravel. It wasn't until that afternoon that I got a chance to talk through everything with someone, and based on that person's reaction, I realized that I actually should have been quite angry at him. It had never really occurred to me that anger was the appropriate emotional response; self-loathing and embarrassment came much more naturally to me. Once I realized that yes, I actually should be angry with him but I just couldn't quite get there yet, I decided to do the one thing I hadn't tried: I decided to fake the anger I knew I should be feeling.

I went home and sent him another email. The essence of it wasn't much different from the one I sent five months before - I asked him to never contact me again because it wasn't good for me - but the way I said it was quite different. I told him in no uncertain terms to stay away. Whereas before I had ignored the repeated selfishness of his behavior, now I called him out for disregarding my wishes when he knew what it would do to me. I didn't sound sad or emotionally devastated this time. I sounded angry.

The truth is that I'm not really angry. I understand why I should be angry, and if this happened to a friend of mine I would certainly be angry at him for her, but right now I feel more emotionally raw and vulnerable than anything else. But that's how I've felt for the last year, and it clearly hasn't worked for me. So instead, I'm going to pretend to be angry. When I discuss this with my friends, I will talk about it as if I'm angry. When I think about it, I will force myself to remember all the reasons I should be angry. I don't want to become embittered or dwell on it for the rest of my life, nor do I want to disregard the underlying issues that turned me into a human doormat, but right now, to get through these immediate circumstances, I'm going to fake some anger. I will pretend to be the person I need to be in the hope that eventually I become her.  

I fully expect that I'm going to feel ridiculous. I'm not going to believe the words I'm saying and I won't really be feeling the emotions that I know I should. I don't know whether I'll ever come around to actually feeling angry, but for now I'm going to do the one thing I swore I never would: I'm going to fake it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Meet Miss March

There has been a major event in my household in the last week. Juliette - yes, the gorgeous gray kitty I share my home with - was named Pet of the Month at her veterinarian's office. This may or may not be a function of how much money I spent there last month (kitty ultrasounds are not cheap!). Regardless, my gorgeous girl was honored. The only thing I'm missing is a bumper sticker that says "My pet was Pet of the Month at Abraham Veterinary Clinic." 

This sort of occasion cannot go unmarked in my family. If I were my mother, I would have served Juliette her dinner on a red plate that reads "You are special today." And if Juliette was able to read, I would do just that. But she can't read (yet), so I let her eat off her regular plate. However, I did get her a little something to commemorate the date.

Yes, that's a little (okay, big) pink crown that reads, "Miss March." Juliette did not want to wear this. I don't understand why, because it was pink (girly) and sparkly (doubly girly), so she should have loved it. Apparently she doesn't like crowns. Anyway, that was the best photo I could get.

Juliette is my little buddy. She's 13 1/2, and I've had her for 7 years. I got her from an ex who had 6 cats (a warning sign in and of itself). Juliette was the smallest of the bunch and was bullied by the other cats. She lived on top of a kitchen cabinet and was afraid of everything. She would meow nonstop until I climbed up on a stool to pet her, then cowered in a corner when I reached for her. She clearly wanted affection but was afraid to receive it. I finally brought her home with me and she instantly became a completely different cat. Once she didn't have anyone else to fear, she explored and played freely. She demanded (and gave) a lot of love. I have a hard time imagining my life without her.

Now that she's a senior cat, Juliette has started to have a few more health problems. Her doctor, Dr. Anna Chan at Abraham Veterinary Clinic, is absolutely wonderful. She has followed Juliette's case closely and clearly cares about the both of us. If you live in Austin and are looking for a veterinarian, I couldn't possibly recommend Dr. Chan any more highly. She's kept Juliette healthy and happy over the last few years, which is really all I can ask for.

Juliette doesn't quite understand the honor she received this month, but I do. She's always been my special girl, and I'm glad someone else noticed what a loving, affectionate, beautiful kitty she is. I'm lucky to have her in my life - every day would be a little less special without her.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Good Life

Being a bit of a cynic who sometimes loses perspective, at times I need to remind myself about the things I really like about my life. Here's what I like most today:

1. I have a job and a boss that allow me to take an afternoon off to drive to Dallas to see one of my favorite singer-songwriters, Josh Ritter, live last night, and then take the following morning off to drive home.

2. I have good friends who will go to this concert with me, make fun of the hipsters who all wear the same fitted plaid shirts and unkempt beards, and then talk me down from turning around and punching the old ladies who are sitting behind us and talking loudly THE WHOLE DAMN TIME.

3. Aforementioned good friends who will also let me stay the night at their house so that I don't have to drive the 3 1/2 hours home at midnight.

Are these little things? Yes. Are these also the things that make life worth living some days (weeks/months/years)? Absolutely.