Thursday, May 25, 2017

Four Years Later

Four years ago, on Towel Day (May 25th, for non-Douglas Adams fans), I had dinner with the boy on whom I had an entirely fruitless crush in high school and attended an improv show by my friend Stefan's troupe immediately thereafter.

The thing is, Hopkins delivered the smackdown the night that he graduated from high school. He considered it the coup de grace, and assumed that I would accept it as such. He missed a fundamental point about me way back when: don't ever tell me what to do.

Telling me to forget him and get on with my life was a mistake. Obviously I didn't. When I think about this at any length, though, I come back around to the idea that I never moved past it.

I was used to rejection already, by the ripe old age of seventeen. I was used to being told that fat girls were only good for practice and it was the only way anyone would want to have sex with us (and being dumped when I said no). I was used to being ridiculed if anyone found out that I might have some vague inkling of a crush on them. I was used to being treated as a thing, and not a person. I learned to plaster a smile on my face and pretend that I had a relatively normal teenage life, but the truth was that most of my dating experience was a carefully-crafted illusion designed to make it look that way.

I chose someone who matched me for intellect, but who also was as shallow as the next guy about appearances. He would gladly have chased a girl with the brains of a shoe as long as she was conventional-looking and average weight, just like the rest of them. I buried my disappointment and wrapped my heart in barbed wire and ice. I continued going through the motions, hoping I might find someone who liked me enough to overlook my "deficits".

So here I am, almost fifty and alone: unable to crawl out onto a limb and allow myself to feel...unwilling to endure the humiliation of rejection again.

He'd still chase a woman with the brains of a shoe, as long as she wasn't fat like me. I'm 'fine to talk to, but who'd want to sleep with (me)?' is kind of the way this works.

There's a picture floating around out there of us in an audience, conversing as we sit together, and when I see it, I wonder, "Why not me?", and then I think, "Why in the hell do I keep doing this to myself?" Maybe because I learned to accept that the pat on the head is as good as it gets- well, I don't really accept it, but that's what it is.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Table for One, Please

A recently-widowed acquaintance, who is not someone I consider thin-skinned at all, went to a restaurant by herself. The hostess practically rolled her eyes when the lady asked for a table for one, and even asked, "Only one?" as if the business of a solo diner is too insignificant for them to grant the privilege of dining there. The point is, the widow had her bereavement driven home by an inconsiderate person. I think the hostess would have been pretty embarrassed had the widow said to her, "YES, MY HUSBAND DIED A MONTH AGO, AND NOW I AM DINING BY MYSELF."

I've been on my own for a bit over a year now, not by choice, and not because anyone died. My boyfriend walked out on me for another woman he'd been seeing behind my back for almost a year at that point. I haven't returned to many of the restaurants that we used to frequent, unless they were places where I dined before I met him. I haven't been back to the local steakhouse, or the pizza pub. I did attempt the Italian place one town over on two different occasions, but I just can't bring myself to go back.

Dining alone happens for myriad reasons. Like the widow, one's partner has died; or like me, my relationship ended and there's no one with whom I can dine. Some people are just grabbing a bite when others in their immediate circle aren't available. There are those who choose to be by themselves, who like their privacy, and for whom dining with others might be unpleasant or stressful. We still have money to spend on food, and the restaurant experience. I, too, was once the one waiting tables- I get that it won't be a big tab, but I am still going to spend would you rather have my one-top, or no one at your tables?

I have to push myself to go inside a restaurant and sit by myself. Most of the time, I chicken out, go through a fast-food drive-thru, and eat in my car. The upshot is that I'd rather be lonely in my car than stared at in a restaurant (in case you are unaware, fat people invite that attention in any space where there's food involved). It's just one more instance when I wonder if this is it, and my routine will revolve around loneliness for the rest of my life.

If I didn't wake up with a cat lying on my legs in the morning, I'd probably be in even greater despair.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Only the Scenery Changes

The problem with being the big fish in the small pond is that if you decide to jump to a pond with more fish like yourself, you're just one more fish.

My mother told me that when I dragged myself out of bed the day after high school graduation in 1986, AKA the Morning After My World Collapsed. The rather melodramatic hail and farewell speech to which Hopkins had treated me was still rattling around in my head as I lethargically ate my bowl of cereal sometime approaching noon that day. I looked like ten miles of bad road, having cried myself to sleep when I finally gave up and came in the house around five a.m. .

I left for college that summer with vengeance in my heart. I came home with an attitude that manifested almost immediately in band practice, when I told the drum major to go to hell, in front of God and everybody. When she rushed off the podium to confront me, I set my drum on the ground and told her, "None of you people matter. All I have to do is get through the next eight months and then you don't exist anymore."

Band was the most important thing in my life. What I had done would have gotten me suspended from school under the previous director. The new band director shrugged it off, reset the drill, and told me to take a few minutes to collect myself. During the next water break, my friends rushed to talk me out of quitting, something unthinkable and horrifying that had never crossed my mind before.

The funny thing is that I meant it. Hopkins was gone and I didn't give a damn what anybody thought anymore.

(Of course, at that point it was August and he was still in town, but he might as well have been dead and buried, for what he'd said to me on that fateful night.)

For the rest of the school year, I took zero prisoners and gave zero foxes, which was made geometrically more difficult by my sister's sudden challenge to the popularity pecking order as a mere freshman. I subscribed to a scorched earth policy that firebombed anybody who dared step on the trigger.

I didn't care anymore.

Either fortunately or unfortunately, depending on one's perspective, I care too much to be that reckless these days. While Hopkins is nominally in my life again, I am weary of hearing how the parade has passed him by, when he marched right over me without looking back a long time ago.

...and dread the day/when dreaming/ends...

Monday, April 17, 2017

Thirty Years, and I Haven't Learned

This past Saturday was the prom at my high school. What I remember about my three rounds of prom attendance are: when I was a sophomore, I had a pity date, because the guy I'd been seeing since the previous summer decided to dump me a week before- a senior boy from my church stepped up and took me so the dress my folks had bought wouldn't be "wasted";  my junior year, my date, a boy I'd been dating since the preceding summer (there's a pattern here) hit on several of my friends, talked a little trash about me within earshot of some of the guys from the band and got threatened for it, and was only there because my mother refused to let me break the date in January when I was sure I was over the guy; and, last but not least, my senior year the guy I had been dating for almost a year at that point (see that pattern?) broke up with me at the prom breakfast so he would be free and clear to take a different girl to his own prom.

Prom is the last night of Ballyhoo for some of us. College formals don't involve the level of preparation or dress, and then, if you don't get married, you will never attend another occasion quite like it again as long as you live. Best enjoy it while you can.

Thirty years out, I'm the class spinster, having figured out very early on that I'm not good at compromise- that is to say, I have a breaking point about putting up with being lied to and cheated on. The guy I was dating my sophomore year eventually came out of the closet, but I still remember when his butch female friend stood behind him interjecting brutal put-downs as he broke up with me one morning before first bell. The fact that he's gay, and I know it really was not my fault in any way, shape, or form, took some of the sting out of it in hindsight...but holy crap, it hurt at the time.

As we were driving back from the city on Saturday night, I said something to Hopkins about the kids heading to the after-prom party at the bowling alley in the next town over, and then something in the back of my mind just snapped.  I was so shell-shocked that I blew right past his apartment building and had to turn around to take him back. I couldn't even articulate it, but what flashed through my mind was, "Oh, my God, I'm still making the same mistakes thirty years later. I've never learned anything. Men still pull the same crap on me that teenage boys were back then, and I'm still waiting for Hopkins to notice me. WTF?!? I don't have much longer to live my life and I really, really want to get unstuck."

Is "close" the best I'm ever going to do? Why do I have to go through all these also-rans and close-but-no-cigar auditions for real life? Why do I always fall short? I was waxing nostalgic to Hopkins about a handful of very bad dates I'd gone on, and as I concluded, I said, "But that was all such a long time ago, when I still had hope, you know? Back when I believed that those things might actually work. I don't have the luxury of that self-deception anymore."

Someday I'm going to have to get up on that stage and do my soliloquy, if I don't get cast in a play. Even if I have to deliver my lines and run my scenes alone, I have to leave the rehearsal and move on to the performance. Too bad that I have stage fright...

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Research Says...

CNN published an article today on the idea that monogamy is a thing of the past. Okay, well, not everyone finds an "open relationship" appealing. It's especially unappealing when you've been in what you thought was a monogamous relationship and it turns out that you're not even first among equals.

A man can be as fat as a pig, or ugly as a mud fence, or stupid as a rock, or a combination thereof, but GOD FORBID a fat woman of any stripe would consider herself worthy of his attention. I mean, really, a guy has to have STANDARDS!

(By the way, IRL my first name is Hebrew for 'bitter'. It fits, at least at the moment.)

With the current looming potential for WW III to begin any day now, I wonder what it might have been like had anyone ever considered me worthy of love. Alas.

Well, I do have a kind of love: the kind that means there are a couple of cats in my bed most of the time and two Airedales taking shifts sleeping on the bedside rug. It's the kind that manifests as a small Siamese cat pushing its head under my hand at 3 a.m. because she wants her ears scratched. It's the kind that involves a heavy, long-haired black cat vocally berating me because she's bored, from a spot above my head on the bed pillows. It's my male Airedale leaning on me and looking at me as if I am the greatest thing since sliced bread. It's my female Airedale doing the "Airedale dance" when I come home from work.

Maybe all of that makes me too weird to rate human companionship, but they're pretty much my life, and what keeps me bearable during the hours in which I must interact with humans.

Monday, April 3, 2017

What Am I, Chopped Liver???

One of these days, I swear I'm going to lose it and punch Hopkins in the face.

Not really, but damn.

So I hauled him off with me to visit my mother's hometown. This time of year is hard; it's been the harbinger of far too many funerals, and I felt the need to just go. Also, I don't take just anyone up there- even though I give the appearance of being very extroverted and putting everything out there where people can see it, I don't. The things that are truly important to me are very closely held; if I take you to Hardinsburg, there's a reason. If I don't trust you, you'll never see it on my watch.

As we were rolling around in the Barnes and Noble on the way back, he said something offhand about "I'm probably never going to get married." I stared directly at the floor and immediately moved out of his line of sight, muttering under my breath, "By the way, I still have two of my three engagement rings."

I also paid for his meal, in thanks for his going with me, but also...well, let's just say I got it out there quickly that they were on one check and it came to me. I finally broached the subject of the splitting the checks thing, and realized immediately that I'd hurt his I added in a small voice, "It makes me feel...I some kind of troglodyte." That made it worse.

How do I tell him that I started having them split the check because I don't carry cash, and because I didn't think it was fair for him to pick up part of my tab because I out-earn him three-to-one? No good way to do it without making things worse.

I wish I simply had the courage to say, "Look, I've been in love with your silly ass since I was fifteen. I would love to know exactly what I'd have to be to encourage your romantic interest, but that's not fair to either of us. I shouldn't have to be something I'm not, just because you can't find anything about me that's worthy of your attention. I'm tired of settling for the pat on the head. It was old and stale when we were in high school, and it's older and staler now. I like you enough to endure these slights just to hang out with you- but it's soul-crushing. It's not like I don't know that you don't want me. I do. In spades."

Every time I open my mouth to say it, the words die on my tongue, so the humiliation goes on...

Friday, March 31, 2017

Oh, Not Again

Long story very short, Hopkins' grandmother died. He e-mailed me hours before it was publicly announced, and I sat on the information until I was sure that his sister had been informed.

But this is someone who categorically is not interested in me. Really, he makes such a huge production out of it and it's so very demoralizing and annoying. However...

This week is the state library association's academic conference. The other two librarians are attending, so I stayed home to mind the store. Wednesday, as soon as I closed the library, I repaired my makeup, changed clothes, and drove home for the viewing.

That's where it goes walleyed.

You'd think, when you walk into a room and someone's face lights up that much, that it's an indication that they're glad to see you. You'd think, that if they insist upon violating the local funerary custom of seating the close family in the chairs immediately opposite the casket, that it might follow that people will assume you're a couple. (Otherwise, it's not done. Trust me. I've been going to this funeral home all my life and so has he. I was in the 'wife seat' and that's why people asked. He insisted that I sit there.)

There's more to it than that, but I'm too tired and confused to write it.

Due to our staffing issues, I wasn't able to attend the funeral proper, so I e-mailed him late in the afternoon to do a gut-check and find out if he made it through the ordeal okay. Around one a.m., he wrote back thanking me on behalf of the whole family for making a special trip over on Wednesday.

Oh, come on, man: I have crossed oceans of time to find you. It was your near death that prompted me to reveal my presence to you, in spite of your very specific instructions many years ago to the contrary. I had diligently avoided you, news of you, your presence, and everything else because you made it so clear that I didn't matter to you.

But that's down to me. I observed your reactions in that funeral home the other night, and came away with something that hurts more than ever: I can read you. I did...but I've made a flaming fool of myself over you twice in the past, and I won't crawl out on that limb again.

Either put out a hand to catch me, or let me go. I'm used to being a self-rescuing princess.