Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Engagement Season

As Jezebel asks, who let "engagement season" become a thing?

Having worked in retail jewelry primarily over the holidays in high school, I can tell you that it's not a new phenomenon. However, it's turned into a huge marketing tool and ginormous peer pressure. After all, who wants to be that girl who didn't get a ring for Christmas? Who wants to be that guy who didn't put a ring on it?

Wait a hot second here, girls; getting a ring isn't a guarantee. I'm a veteran of the wars- two rings to my credit and no marriages to follow- and until such moment as you're standing in front of an officiant saying, "I do," it's not cast in stone. It's just an outward sign that you're off the dating market, although I'll warn you: some men are not necessarily going to honor your bling as a sign to stay away.

There's just too much pressure. What ever happened to going out and cutting your own swath through life before hanging it up to get married and start a family? Why do we still set so much store by the act of getting married, when the divorce rate exceeds 50% and there's also such a thing as "starter marriages"? I'm not knocking the institution of marriage...in fact, I think it still has valid place in society. It's just that I don't think anyone should be in an all-fired hurry to do it, just to say that they have.

I have classmates and friends who've been married two to five times. It sort of hurts when I'm in a bleak mood and think, "Wait, they've had how many spouses, and here I sit, an old maid?" Then I force myself to remember that my first fiance' wanted me to quit college to have babies and worship at his feet (he eventually found a much younger girl to marry who did, and more power to him) and the second was a chronic cheater (who ironically, after rushing to the altar with a woman he'd known two months, ended up divorcing less than a year later).  The rings I was given didn't mean anything...and I wonder, too, did I look that much more pathetic in the case of my second engagement for wearing that ring for years when it never yielded marriage in the end?

Most of the time I don't worry about it. The Engaged or Smug Marrieds (to borrow from Bridget Jones) can feel sorry for me or gloat or whatever. I'll just buy those shoes and not have to argue with somebody for an hour that I don't need more shoes, or pick out a movie that I want to watch without conceding to one I don't in order to keep the peace. I stopped believing in magic and fairytales and mistletoe a long time ago in favor of being myself.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

No Fat Chicks

Dear Guy with the "No Fat Chicks" Window Decal:

So you have that decal- well, you haven't had a date in how long? (I'm just making a guess here.) Furthermore, you have those big steel testicles attached to your truck.

Really? Overcompensating much? One can only assume that your bait and tackle are lacking, and by the way, women don't like to be called "chicks". Good luck getting a date, or if by some stretch of the imagination you do, good luck keeping that date once she gets a gander at your choice of truck decor.

See, we all pretty much think we're fat, whether we are or not. It's a female insecurity thing. Might want to scrape that off or risk not ever having female companionship again- assuming you've ever had it in the first place.


A Fat Woman Who Thinks You're an Idiot

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Princess Bride

In every generation, a movie comes along that develops a cult following. The Princess Bride was that movie, during my freshman year of college.

The thing that I've always felt made me a little weird is that I didn't identify with Buttercup- I thought she was incredibly shallow, although she made some progress toward being a better person by the end of both the book and the movie. I identified with Westley- because I was all too familiar with the kind of rejection he endured at Buttercup's hands. I liked him as Dread Pirate Roberts, too, because it showed that he was capable of accomplishing far more than anyone who knew him as a child would ever credit him.

I was also painfully embarrassed (and still am) when I first saw the movie because two things that Westley/DPR did cut a little too close to the truth: he pined after someone who refused to see his worth, so he worked hard to become something more acceptable to her. As I sat in the dark with my friends taking this in, I flashed back to the times I quietly followed Hopkins around waiting to be noticed, craving his approval. After his admonition that I move on with my life because he wasn't coming back to Smalltownland, I did as Westley did: I set out to become someone and something that would command Hopkins' respect.

Somewhere along the way, though, both Westley and I missed a certain point- that you shouldn't let your life evolve OR revolve around someone else's opinion of you. I struggle with the idea that I really shouldn't care what people think of me, especially Hopkins. I have this whole life and identity that I've built that didn't involve him because he walked away from me- there are all these other people in my life who have been there, who do think well of me. I eventually earned my father's respect, which I never expected.

There's a restored 1940s movie house near Smalltownland that's showing The Princess Bride this weekend. There are so many elements in the film other than the love story that make it very much worth seeing over and over again; Mandy Patinkin's Inigo Montoya is probably one of my favorite movie characters ever, although I am also a big fan of character actor/playwright Wallace Shawn. It's one of my favorite movies, despite my discomfort with parts of it.

It's been a rough week, and it's not over yet; I don't know whether I'm going to go see it or not. Sometimes you get the slightly cockeyed fairytale ending; sometimes you just get reality. The latter is probably the better bet, since the disappointments are easier to manage and the little victories actually amount to something.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Marching Into Debt

A few years ago, as we were trying to organize the alumni of my high school's band, I came face-to-face with the absolutely jaw-dropping debt into which some of the smaller bands have gone to mount one of these whizzbang Spectacular-Spectacular shows replete with special effects, props, on-field costume changes and a gazillion dollars' worth of guard equipment. I think the most grotesque expenditure I witnessed on-field that year was the use of single-cylinder chimes in a bell-themed show put on by one of the bigger bands. Their guard had a hundred girls in it- so that's a hundred chimes and a hundred stands...I'm a percussionist and I'm telling you, those chimes are NOT cheap. They were out several thousand dollars for that conceit.

There are a couple of reasons I'm not digging this "Theatre of the Football Field" thing: one is that a lot of these bands cannot actually march. They 'jazz run' or drift sort of aimlessly across the field from figure to figure- maybe this is me being stodgy and old-fashioned, but there's a reason it's called marching band. It annoys me so much that I can hardly stand it! The standard gait measurement is eight steps to five yards, commonly called "eight-to-five"; it can be used in asymmetrical drill, I promise, because back in Ye Olden Days of Yore, we were doing it. The other is that the "flash-and-trash" seems to outweigh both drill and musical execution- it's so much mindless eye-candy. I heard one of this year's eventual class-winners at semifinals and they were splattering notes like so many bugs on a windshield- yet their very flashy show put them over- and of the few bands I saw in that class, almost none of them could fix a straight line in a drill.

Here's a hint, directors: they're called "fundamentals". If you have to get up off your butt and mark your rehearsal grid with one-, two-, and four-step intervals to teach them how to relate to each other in the drill, DO IT. Your show is in trouble if you fix the figure in the drill long enough for people to notice that your kids don't know where they're supposed to be standing- if they cannot get where they're supposed to be, you need to re-think your drill-writing or fire the person to whom you jobbed it out.

I know you have to do what's necessary to compete- I remember making fun of bands who still had *gasp* majorettes when I was in high school- but you can't let the core (playing and marching) fall apart just to make something pretty. Also, if you're only going to use this stuff for one season, jeez. Think carefully about how much you can afford. How pretty is it if you're up to your eyeballs in debt for a show that doesn't get you anywhere judging-wise because your core is weak? Style over substance isn't how it's done- you have to have both, and have them consistently, to have a solid program.

My greatest wish is that KMEA would convince its membership that the music comes first, marching second, and the razzle-dazzle showmanship a distant third. I'm tired of seeing recycled shows about Skynet going live, or weather-related themes, or topical stuff- the shows are so expensive that the most popular ones are sold on as a package to other bands once the original bands are through with them...three years later within two performances, I saw two, yes, TWO recycled shows. It's no mistake that a couple of the bands in Kentucky are purchasing DCI shows and uniforms, either. I think that should tell us how far that's gotten out of hand. I bleed band, but it's insane to go into staggering debt for this.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Easier Than Voodoo Dolls!

One of the best times I had in college at Halloween was the year my friend Angie and I hijacked her fiance' Clay's apartment to carve Jack O'Lanterns. She'd found a farm way out in the county where the pumpkins were huge and, even better, cheap. We took a road trip, loaded up the trunk of my car with our big orange booty, then stopped at the liquor store on the way back to Clay's place.

A year or so before, I'd gone through a hideous breakup with Bill, who not only was Clay's freshman roommate in college, but had also just moved into the apartment directly above Clay's. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, because I saw him fairly often as a result- so Angie had decided to shepherd me through this dark anniversary with booze and knives.

My "tragically doomed love soundtrack" of choice at the time was Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, at full volume. Bill was the night attendant at the county morgue, so he slept during the day; we got an early start while we knew he was trying to sleep. We assumed (correctly, as it turned out) that he'd be down presently to complain.

Sure enough, we heard someone on the metal staircase outside and looked up to see Bill stomping down to Clay's apartment. There was a knock on the door, and Angie wisely told me to just stay where I was in the kitchen floor, drunk and furtively stabbing the hell out of my pumpkin, while she answered the door.

"What brings you down here, Bill?" We knew, of course, but that was our diabolical scheme all along.

"Could you please turn down the music? I'm trying to sleep. I have to work tonight."

Angie stepped aside long enough for him to see what I was doing. I looked up, smiled lopsidedly, and slammed a fistful of pumpkin guts into the mixing bowl for effect.

"What's wrong with her?"

I knifed the pumpkin a little too forcefully and heard a quick intake of breath in the doorway. "I'm pretending that it's you," I hissed. (Angie told me later that I looked like Linda Blair in The Exorcist.)

The color drained from his face. "Could you just turn it down a little?" he squeaked. Angie assured him we'd lower the volume. He paused to stare through the window as he retreated. I waved at him- knife in hand- with a huge psychotic grin on my face- the clanging of the stairs as he ran back to his place was sort of, well, satisfying.

So there you have it, ladies: Pumpkins+Knives+Bourbon+Friends. I'd been to school in England to try to get over him, but that's when I finally started to heal...and it is easier than making voodoo dolls.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

But I Was There First

At dinner the other night, my friend Stefan's little brother, who is in college at the moment, used a metaphor that pretty much slammed me into a wall. Not so much for what the analogy was, but for the fact that Hopkins cheerfully seized upon it. While the three men at the table forged on, I sat there turning beet red, then white as a sheet. After letting it ride for about five minutes, I finally rasped, "Enough."

They stared at me. I was clutching the edges of the table so tightly that my hands are still sore more than twenty-four hours later. Fortunately, before I could say anything, the appetizers arrived and attention turned immediately to the food.

Let me be perfectly clear on one point...perhaps not in the context of what they were discussing, but in one regard I am absolutely "first": mine is the first heart he broke.

The most humiliating thing about it was that in that instant, I was reduced to "one of the guys", again. Neutered, sexless, less-than. What can I say, I put myself in the situation and I have to accept the consequences.

That's what I've tried for years to make people understand. Part of me will always love him, but I know I'm not...whatever it takes. I can't magically turn myself into that. It's something I've known since I was fifteen, and that I'll carry with me until I die. It is a truly miserable feeling- I can't even begin to communicate how crushing it is.

This is the Devil's Bargain, and it's all that I will ever have of him.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Wheels on the Bus Still Go 'Round and 'Round

Yesterday I went to the opthalmologist about my glaucoma diagnosis (made by my optometrist), which as it turns out is incorrect- but my eyes were well and truly dilated, as in I looked like an angry cat and couldn't see to drive home.

I ended up bunking in at the Chez, which required getting up a zero-dark-thirty to drive back for work. There was dense fog, and as I batted along the highway out of Smalltownland, I got behind the school buses...at 6:00 a.m. . We abut a county in the Eastern timezone, with which we share a vocational school. While my hometown is in the Central timezone, the school system operates on the schedule of the two systems in the other timezone- ergo, school starts at the buttcrack of dawn.

It was cold this morning, and as I passed ever-Eastward, I saw bundled up schoolchildren waiting at the ends of their respective driveways. Some things have not changed in three decades, since back when I was one of those children waiting for the bus. Ours arrived between 6:15 and 6:30, and you'd better be there before the bus went by or you weren't catching it. Because I didn't have a license until after I graduated  and was not allowed to ride to school with my friends who had their own cars, I was also one of those social pariahs who had to ride the bus all the way through high school. As a band and Academic Team member, I spent my free time on buses as well.

I love my sister, but during my senior year, more than once, she left me standing there in the heat, cold, wet, fog, et cetera, to leap in the car with a male classmate of mine who had the hots for her. He never did get a date with her, because she a) didn't like him past not having to ride the bus, and b) our parents hated his guts and would not have permitted it. The same boy got drunk and rang our doorbell at 3 a.m. the night he and I graduated, spurring Dad to the front door with a loaded pistol. (Maybe it's the fact that God saved him from being Daddy's midnight target practice that inspired him to become a preacher...the world may never know.)

Possibly because I considered it sort of lazy, and was still smarting from the whole concept of buses, I did not ride the campus buses when I was an undergraduate. When the weather was clear or I had plenty of time, I also eschewed the ones from the graduate commuter lot when I was in graduate school. As I passed those children this morning, I hoped that they were warm and that nothing veered into the driveways in that dense, nasty fog.

No, I don't miss the bus. Not at all.

Monday, October 14, 2013

My Heart's Not In It

Halloween has always been the favorite holiday of my family. It was my maternal grandmother's birthday, and my parents chose to be married on her birthday in 1959. My sister was married the day after Halloween, because Halloween proper fell on Friday.

My father and his best friend took up growing their own pumpkins a few years ago, which was catastrophic the first time around; Dad came back crowing about how he'd planted the seeds "good and deep", only to be mocked by my mother, a farm girl born and raised, who told him, "They're a ground-runner- you won't get many if you planted them deep!" She was right, so the following year they planted shallowly, resulting in more pumpkins than we could have possibly wanted, needed, or imagined. That was the year that my father carved 11 Jack O'Lanterns. He and his friend left the unharvested overage in the field for the deer to eat, and donated the 200lb. whopper of the crop to the local hospital where the two of them alternated as Chief of Medical Staff. (Better doctors than farmers, especially Dad, whose previous farming experience extended to growing tomatoes in our back yard. Sadly, his friend died at Christmas a few years ago. Now we buy the pumpkins elsewhere.)

The year that my sister got married, she and some of the bridesmaids took the children in the wedding party trick-or-treating after the rehearsal, which was held in costume. I went home and answered our parents' door (which I've done for the last eighteen years or so, pretty much ever since I moved back to the general area after grad school).

This year, I can't really get into it. Mom is so sick that it's hard to concentrate on anything else. My sister and I purchased three pumpkins each over the weekend; she helped Dad string up the handkerchief ghosts and put out the other decorations. I went to the grocery and bought about $50 worth of candy, which Dad has, as usual, already been eating as of the night I brought it home. It all felt sort of hollow. Mom was not able to receive chemotherapy on Friday because she's become immunosuppressed, and then the "chemo-brain" conversation in the car on the way out of the hospital garage surpassed 'trying' and went straight to 'awful' in ten seconds flat...I quickly drove to my sister's house across town, where we switched drivers. I ended up chauffeuring Jack, the Golden Retriever, to Smalltownland in the back of my sister's Prius. Golden Retrievers are a balm on the soul, even the ones with slightly fishy breath...

Over the weekend, the situation became somewhat fraught. I really don't want to discuss it, but it's been hard. By Sunday, I needed my inhaler- allergens plus stress plus too much exertion equals a huge problem. I called my mother twice after I got back to my house last night and twice today to check up on her. My sister is still at their house, but will leave tonight because she works in the morning. I feel sort of helpless, which I hate.

All year, I usually look forward to Halloween. This year, we're going through the motions. I will dress up and answer my parents' door and coo and gurgle over the costumes and pass out the fifty dollars' worth of candy ("You did get mostly chocolate, right?" asked Dad, who added, "Not the cheap kind. We can afford the good stuff!"). I just don't feel right about it, though. For my next trick, I'm going to go to Big Lots to see if they have any of the lighted Snoopy vampires left. Snoopy has always been a thing in my family, and so is Dracula (long story). Maybe it will cheer someone up, although I don't know if my mom will even notice.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Fear and Loathing of Baltimore

One day, long, long ago in high school, my bully sailed up to me and said (I don't remember how this started, by the way), "I know why Hopkins went to Baltimore for college- it was to get as far away from you as possible!"

I had my back to her, which gave me a second to collect myself so that she couldn't see the homicidal rage in my expression before I turned to face her.

"Had that been the case, he would have gone to Stanford," I deadpanned, silently appending the requisite 'you bitch' in my mind.

She stared blankly for a second, so I added, "It's in California. Johns Hopkins is in Maryland. I take it that geography is not your best subject." I executed a neat marching band pivot and stalked off down the hall.

Of course, she'd just said what everybody (including me, to my eternal anguish) thought, anyway. I shouldn't have responded, but slicing her clean through was as good as it was going to get.

It's not that I have ever faulted his decision, or his ambition; I've always faulted myself for not having better prepared for the obvious. As he said the other night, "Something in-state was not going to happen." No, it wasn't, thank you, Hopkins, but you could have attended a second-tier elite somewhere closer- and if you were going to hurl me on the pyre that was your ego, why the hell couldn't it have been M.I.T.? He's never grasped what it took for me to stand there, smiling, and tell him how fantastic and wonderful it was that he had been accepted to Johns Hopkins while the bile rose and my chest tightened.

The irony that we're both still here is not lost on me. That I still want him to live up to his potential, and the Devil take Baltimore, isn't, either. I just can't risk telling him the truth, and this war between logic and emotion is stressful as well as unpleasant.

Maybe it was Baltimore, but by God, it wasn't Stanford. It was not Stanford.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Now Available in a Handy Chewable Tablet!

That's not something one really expects from one's oral contraceptive. Having lost one of my ovaries last year along with the grapefruit-sized mass sitting on it, my gynecologist and oncologist both agreed that I should keep taking my ultra-low-dose oral contraceptive as a mild hormone replacement therapy so I wouldn't go through "The Change" (duh-duh-DUUUUUUNNN) too soon. I'm only 44, so yeah, I'm on board with that.

I'd been on this particular pill, which was the lowest-estrogen product on the market, for several years; imagine my surprise when I got a notice from our pharmacy benefits company that the pharmaceutical company had discontinued it. They were, instead, going to offer almost exactly the same thing except that it's now, WOWEE, a handy chewable tablet.

Their patent was due to expire in the spring. Anyone conversant with the brilliance of Big Pharma knows why they tweaked it thus: to keep selling it at a high price while the non-chewable version was snapped up by everybody and their pet cat as a generic. There are a many things I'm willing to take as a generic, but something involving precisely-calibrated hormone doses is not one of them. (The thing about generics is that the per-dose active ingredient has to be 'in-range', ergo, it does not have to be exact. That's not really something most women are looking for in a contraceptive, I think, but I digress.) Otherwise, it's exactly the same drug as before, but the chewability makes for a brand-spankin' new patent.

The thing that bugs me the most about it is, well, what if it doesn't dissolve very well? Does that mean I'll be running around with estrogen stuck in my molars all day until it bothers to dissolve? That doesn't sound like a very effective delivery method for a drug that by virtue of its on-label use, needs to be delivered in full at almost exactly the same time on a daily basis. If I were using it for actual contraceptive purposes, I'd be a little upset.

Furthermore, do adults really require chewable tablets? While I realize that the relative age of people engaging in the Horizontal Mambo is dropping precipitously, are they so young that The Pill has to mimic a Flintstone Chewable Multivitamin? These are pills the size of a baby aspirin, folks, not the horse pill size of some broad-spectrum antibiotics I could name.

This morning I hauled myself out of bed and took my first dose of this wonder drug. It's mildly sweet (I'm wondering what they used as the sweetener- if I get a headache later, I'll be pretty sure it's aspartame), crunchy, and no, it did NOT completely dissolve. I swished some water around in my mouth to rinse the rest of the dose down. Most of all, I felt a little stupid. I've been able to swallow pills since I was a small child and taking one version of The Pill or another since I was eighteen- this just felt, well, patronizing.

Next on the horizon, I'm sure: chewable Viagra, although it would be far more patronizing were it a soft chew.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Inconvenient Houseguest

As has been the case a little too frequently in the past, I am once again crashing at my sister's while Mom is hospitalized. Let's just say that the first chemo drug had serious consequences and Mom is yet again a guest of the Big City hospital.

Aside from having had to go buy clothes (I packed for one day, ha, ha, and this is now Day Five) I always feel underfoot. It's a two bedroom, one bath house, so it takes coordination when I'm here. My sister's asleep, so I am washing their whites. I used one of the towels, so I feel obligated to pitch in.

Their Golden Retriever is napping at my feet-he keeps us sane when this stuff goes down. I unwisely bought some black clothes, on which his red-gold fur shows up nicely. I love the dog, and I did help pick him out as a puppy.

The other habit I got into a few years ago was bringing in groceries. Fast food is bad for you, of course, plus it gets tired after a while. One of the previous hospitals had mini-fridges in the room, where I would store my lunch for a couple of days in advance. This one doesn't- so I eat breakfast and wait until I get back to the house to have supper.

So here I sit, waiting for a clean towel, planning My Day at the Hospital with Mom. This is life as I know it for the next while.

Monday, August 26, 2013

There and Back Again

After work today, I'm off to the Big City to take my mother to her orthopedic surgeon. I'll be back home for a couple of days and then return to take her to the oncologist. It's not really surprising that I've put nearly 11,000 miles on the Dogmobile since May. Each trip to the city is about 350 miles there and back, and then there are the interstitial trips when I go to Smalltownland to see my dad and do things around the house for him.

This saga began on June 23rd when Mom fell and broke her leg, and while she was in the hospital, she was diagnosed with cancer as well. As of this writing, I've been pinballing between my house and the city as much as two or three times per week.

On about four separate occasions, I've dragged Hopkins to improvisational comedy shows featuring my friend and sort-of-like-a-godson Stefan. Other than going to see "The Great Gatsby" with Stefan, his roommate, and younger brother during one of my longer stints in the city, that's pretty much been my only recreation for several months. Normally I trail off to see my best friend in North Carolina, but it's five hours away. I can't do that with Mom in this kind of shape. She lost her mother quite suddenly a few years ago, so I know she understands...but I do miss seeing her.

At the end of the week, I'll pack Mom up and bring her home from her rehab stay in the nursing home. We still don't know how we're going to manage, but manage we will. Everything else will have to wait.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Progressive, My Hind Leg

Yesterday heralded one of those milestones no woman of a certain age likes to reach: bifocals, or as they are euphemistically called now, "progressive lenses".  Just exactly what progress are we talking about here? Toward blindness? The grave? One shudders to think.

Glasses are pretty much obscenely expensive to begin with, but progressive lenses require the sacrifice of a kidney. What I've seen so far ranges between about $150 to upwards of $500 just for the lenses, depending on a number of factors. Jeez. It's pricey to lose one's eyesight. It's not as if I didn't know this- I'm a Lion, and we raise money to provide glasses assistance- but good grief.

Not that this was the worst of it: in addition to the changes in my prescription, the optometrist had one other not-so-hot piece of news. I have glaucoma.

Irony: I'm not a diabetic. My mother is diabetic. My sister is diabetic. I. am. not, and yet, *I* have glaucoma.

I am not amused.

One of my greatest fears has always been that of going blind. The eyes that are my best physical feature have not worked exactly right since I was twelve, and now...

I walked out with the prescription for my contact lenses (with a recommendation for stronger reading glasses for evening and work), one for my "progressive lens" glasses, and, well, two prescriptions for special eye drops with a couple of new, different ones for the glaucoma to follow next month after I see the optometrist again.

Crap. Just, crap. Not too happy, but what can I do? Meanwhile back at the ranch, I am plotting for some pretty kick-ass reading glasses because I'm not going down without a fight.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Once Upon a Time in Glasgow

When I was a little girl, I spent a great deal of time at my aunt and uncle's home in a town called Glasgow. I had three male first cousins who were teenagers when I was born, and they ran me up and down the neighborhood in a big black English perambulator (buggy) showing me off to the neighbors. I was adored. I was spoiled...and I loved them all wildly.

Then when I was nine, and the boys were all grown and married, some with children of their own, my uncle died suddenly of a heart attack. To say that the family was damaged is an understatement- we imploded, especially my father. They'd been like brothers and it turned my father's world inside out. He changed. He became dark and angry. It was a bad time, one that didn't change or abate for an entire decade.

I won't elaborate on exactly what happened, but at the end of my sophomore year of high school, I almost went to Glasgow to live with my aunt. The public reason was that they had advanced biology classes that my hometown high school didn't, and that it would be a great academic opportunity (which it would've)...but the real reason was something totally different. In the end, I decided to gut it out and stay with my friends, particularly Hopkins, because I figured we'd never get through our respective personal Hells without one another. In retrospect, the observation still stands.

Again, for many reasons that I don't want to commit to a public forum, my aunt decided toward the end of my senior year that she would move to Phoenix to live with my grandmother. She left a chair with us that was a favorite of my uncle's...and most of the family besides her didn't know that when the chair was moved from his office to the house after his death, that's where I was when nobody could find me. What very few people know is that I often sat in that chair when it was in his office, watching him work. The chair is in the formal sitting room at my parents' house; the chair stayed with me, a physical reminder of the happier days in Glasgow.

When her health failed, my cousins brought my aunt back to the Greater Nashville area, close to where they live. She wasn't happy there. It's cold. It's damp. She didn't have much independence, and her health continued to decline. My other aunt would come to visit from Indianapolis, and we met them a couple of times at a restaurant in Glasgow when she was visiting. The last time, my older aunt was clearly very deeply depressed. She'd always carried a degree of sadness since my uncle died, but this was different.

A few days ago, the cousin with whom she lived returned home at lunchtime and found her dead in her bed.

That morning, I'd been to the animal shelter in Glasgow to pick up an Airedale for rescue. It's about two blocks behind their old house, and for the first time in my life, I felt an eerie disconnection from the place. Later that evening, I found out why when the eldest cousin called to give me the bad news. With her death, a chapter of my life closed, one that was not entirely happy, but one that was not entirely bad, either, and certainly one that held a lot of profound memories for me.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

La Poitrine

I am rather bereft in the feminine wiles department, although I notably have one (or rather, two) weapon(s) at my disposal. All it takes is a good bra and a low collar...strategically folded arms and leaning across a tabletop also help.

For some reason, my *ahem* assets crept into conversation as I was talking about one of the most bizarre things that ever happened to me in a gay nightclub...while I was on the dancefloor, I happened to become separated from my friends.

Next thing I knew, a perfectly strange man had latched on with both hands and was squeezing. "They feel so real!" he exclaimed. "Are they yours?" I'd stopped dead still, and the power of speech failed me for once in my life. Fortunately, my friend David noticed and inserted himself between us: "If you want to keep those hands, you will remove them. NOW."

When I found my voice, I squeaked, "OF COURSE they're mine! Whose else would they be?"

My new-found bosom buddy dropped his hands and asked, "Where did you get them?"

"God? Nature? Look, I'm a biological female! A real girl!" David advanced until he was squarely in front of me, glaring at Mr. Hands.

"Oh," he said, and then it registered. "OH! Oh my God! I'm so sorry! I thought you were a drag queen!"

In a gay club, kids, that's actually a compliment, but I was so taken aback that I had to have a couple of White Russians to work past the whole incident. You see, that's the kind of thing one expects to avoid entirely if one is a straight girl in a gay bar, but trust me to prove otherwise!

Monday, July 22, 2013

This Is How a Heart Breaks

In the midst of everything that's falling apart in my life, I've been in the process of salvaging something that's very important to me: my friendship with Hopkins. Not in e-mail, but face-to-face.
It has its benefits and its pitfalls...every once in a great while, something creeps into the conversation that stings one or the other of us- and this time, it was my turn.

He's currently working in the travel industry, and the subject of Florida came up. Everybody still wants to go to Disney World, Universal Studios, and Busch Gardens, all centered around the Orlando area. Some folks still go to Daytona, and then there's the large contingent who still make the pilgrimage to Panama City. I felt the hair stand up on the back of my neck when it came up, and I wasn't sure why. I had never talked to him about my disastrous Senior Trip, but my stomach began churning and I could hear a little voice hissing, "Context!" in my mind.

As I concluded the story of that nightmarish trip, I said, "I don't remember, did you even go on your senior trip?" The moment the words hit the air and evaporated, I realized before he answered that I knew. I had just made a very concerted effort to forget.

"Yeah, I went; there was a lot of drinking. We went to the beach. There was an amusement park. That was about it," his voice trailed off.

An image flashed through my mind of my friend (and his classmate) Stacy sitting at the kitchen table at our house talking about the trip. I can't remember a word of it. I just remember telling him that I hadn't come to see the bus off, as I had done the three previous years when my friends left for Florida, because Hopkins had already said his good-byes- and then I burst into tears.

After Hopkins lowered the boom on me graduation night, I collected myself enough to make it to my room before losing my shit, but then I took to my bed for the duration of their trip with a wretchedness that would do Blanche DuBois proud. My mother forced me to attend meals and bathe, but I otherwise refused to do anything except listen to depressing music at high volume and try to melodramatically die from a broken heart in the way only devastated teenage girls can.

"We are going out tonight," Stacy snapped, "to hell with him, or Baltimore, that's where he's going to college isn't it? F--- that, and f--- him." He told me when he would be back to pick me up and departed, knowing that he might need dynamite to dislodge me from the house later.

True to his word, he showed up that night and pretty much dragged me out the door to points distant. We went to the next town over and cruised. We hung out in parking lots and talked to our friends. He told all of them his theory of what he thought Hopkins was and why (it was quite unflattering, because he was being righteously indignant on my behalf). The girls consoled me. The boys who knew me best told me I was a nice girl and I'd find somebody better. Somebody, and I don't remember who, told me to go home and start packing for college, because that would be my fresh start.

So it was, but I spent the whole summer in Bowling Green writing dozens of letters that I never sent, much as the pile I composed and never sent to Maryland over the course of the next academic year. While having him back in my life is a source of joy, it's best never to forget the pain, either. The two are inextricably bound together, no matter how much one believes in the green light.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Fresh Frozen Hamster

Once upon a time, one of my college roommates, Juanita, got a pair of what she believed were male dwarf hamsters. Soon, however, they proved that they were a boy-girl pair of hamsters by presenting her with a slew of tiny baby hamsters. She called me and asked if I wanted one; I lived in an apartment where the only warm-blooded pets we could keep were small rodents in contained environments. I already had goldfish, which, while soothing, are not exactly cuddly. I agreed to take a baby dwarf hamster.

Templeton (so sue me, I was a big fan of the animated Charlotte's Web, with Templeton voiced by Paul Lynde) was an ungodly little terror. Although I endured many tiny sharp bites in order to hand-tame the him, he remained mean enough that I couldn't let my friends handle him. He was also an escape artist- I'd come home from class to find that he'd popped out yet another little cap off the tunnel connectors on his Hamster Habitat and gotten loose in the apartment. The police were called twice when this happened because a dwarf hamster, despite its size, screams loudly and sounds like a small child who's being beaten. I had to grab him out of the cage to prove to the police that no children were being tortured; Templeton readily obliged and then bit my hand to cement his ire. Still, it was fun putting him out in his transparent Hamster Ball to run around on the floor, and he was complacent as long as we kept giving him chew sticks, Cheerios, or another little square of hamster bedding to pull apart.

Dwarf hamsters don't have a long lifespan. He was only supposed to live about a year or so, but he surprised me by surviving my second round of grad school and moving with me for my first 'real' (full-time) library job. Then the sad day came when I woke up and he was cold and rigid in the bottom of his Hamster Habitat...and I realized that I had nowhere to bury him and wouldn't for several days, so I did what anyone in my position would do: I put him in a plastic baggie and stuck him in the freezer.

I forgot, however, to warn my sister that he was there when she went looking for ice. Templeton unceremoniously fell out on her foot. For a couple of seconds she stood there, transfixed by the dead, frozen hamster-in-a-baggie resting on her foot. She snatched him up and waved the bag in the air, demanding, "WHY is Templeton in your FREEZER?"

When the time came, I dutifully took him to my then-fiance's family's pet cemetery and buried him among Chuck's many goats, cats, and his childhood dog, Pup, in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. The only other time I got close to putting a deceased pet in the freezer was when I had to argue with my father to secure burial in our family pet cemetery for my first cat, Mr. Cat. Mr. Cat reposed in a boot box in my refrigerator for about ten hours until I cried enough over the phone for Dad to relent and agree to bury him at their house.

Morbid, but true. I just needed to not think about my mom's health for a while...and watch out for frozen Hamstercicles dropping out of my freezer!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light

The line is Dylan Thomas. He wrote it when his father was dying. We want them to fight every step of the way, even when it seems counterproductive or futile...but is this for their benefit, or ours?

My family began another medical odyssey with my mother on June 23rd, when she fell and suffered a spiral fracture of the femur. This isn't technically a broken hip, because that would have been easier- both on her and to repair surgically. The break was below the femoral head, the knob at the top of the bone where it meets the hip. I saw the initial images at the local hospital- it was nasty and fragments were floating around inside her upper thigh; the fracture itself resembled a length of unspooled ribbon where the bone should have been plumb-straight.

One of the more frightening moments, because I'm the one who was with her when she fell, secondary to being unable to initially raise my father via cellphone (it was a Sunday morning and he was fishing), was Dad standing in the driveway bewildered as the EMT on the ambulance crew asked where to take her. This kid was maybe nineteen and he added, "Well, there's no point in taking her to (the hospital where my father has been chief of staff several times). They can't do anything here. There's not a decent doctor in the whole county." My anger flashed white-hot as I gestured to my father and spat, "Allow me to introduce DOCTOR AIREDALEPARENT, who was the first chief of staff there!" He at least had the decency to go white as a sheet as I finished with, "Take her to the hospital. We'll get the images there and make a decision. GO. NOW."

I opened the directory on my iPhone, found the contact information for my father's classmate who is an orthopedic surgeon, and called him. By the time Mom had been x-rayed and given morphine at the hospital, he had hooked us up with a young surgeon with whom he used to work who specializes in hip and femur fractures in the elderly. Off we raced to The Big City.

Three weeks out, there have been...complications...there are other things in play that I'm unprepared to air at this juncture.

There's something else that I'm going to harp about here, and about which if you don't care, you SHOULD: lack of coordination of care. As one of my nurse friends pointed out, the medical establishment now considers it your (the patient's) responsibility to ride herd on everything that's happening in the course of treatment. We have an advantage that most people lack: my father's a doctor, and as a direct result, my sister and I are perfectly willing to verbally castrate anyone who's falling down on the job. We have a Road House mentality: we're nice until it's time to not be nice, and when we reach that point, the medical persona in question will feel it. If we, who recognize what's going wrong, are reticent to speak up until it's reached fever pitch, what happens to those who don't recognize the mistakes, or catch a thread of dangerous, life-threatening laissez-faire?

So here we are. I've had to add a layer to my persistent facade for this situation. I just have to keep pushing forward, always forward, sometimes against the tide, constantly raging against the dying of the light inasmuch as it's my purview. It's not much, but it's all I've got right now.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

White Hats and Tales

The current controversy surrounding Edward Snowden has made me realize that very few people understand hacker culture, much less what hacker collectives like Anonymous are trying to achieve. As someone who long ago did some minor white-hatting (and trust me, I couldn't hack my way out of a wet paper sack at present), I got a grip on it way back when. White hats are usually just trying to see if they can exploit a weakness to gain access to something from which they should be barred- they might leave a signature or a harmless Easter egg behind to announce that they've been there, but that's about it. Sometimes, when they encounter something dangerous, they'll blow the whistle. If it's a hacker collective working toward a higher purpose or a greater good, that may make some folks at the top of the information food chain uncomfortable.

I was attempting to explain hacker logic and ethics to my brother-in-law when I'd had little sleep and was possessed of even less patience. My mother was hospitalized pending major emergency surgery, and the conversation was taking place in the hospital cafeteria before 8:00 a.m. . Finally, in exasperation (and with a hint of disgust), the BiL exclaimed, "It would just be simpler if we went back to older forms of communication, and left off computers." The irony, of course, is that his parents are both retired IBM hardware engineers-

So, out of nowhere, I hear myself softly singing the opening chords of "Thus Spake Zarathustra", i.e., the theme music from 2001: A Space Odyssey. I then went on to re-enact the monolith scene. My nerdcore friends would've gotten the 2001 reference; it was a little lost on my audience that morning in the cafeteria, though, and my sister demanded to know how much (or little, as the case was) sleep I'd had.

Bottom line: if you hide it, someone will find it. Even if your digital footprint is so small as to not be believed, it's still traceable. Doing dirt on a secured system doesn't mean that it's invulnerable. It's when we think ourselves immortal that we are most likely to be felled- even Achilles had that troublesome heel...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Owl Wrangling 101

Once upon a time in the murky past, Dr. Airedaleparent was a wildlife biologist, or as they were then called, a zoologist. I know more about the Indiana brown bat than I should, because he wrote his thesis about them, and have a low opinion of flat worms owing to his dislike of his thesis director (for whom a species indigenous to Kentucky is named). Although I had a strained relationship with my father throughout my childhood and young adulthood, we could communicate about things biological.

Growing up, I had a thing for owls. Because I was 'smart', people gave me a lot of gifts and cards with 'wise owls' on them. I still dig owls, so does that make me a hipster because I thought owls were cool before owls were...you know...cool? Anyway, this morning, we were all reminiscing about my father's brilliant owl-wrangling technique.

At the Chez, there's a large fireplace in the family room. Often, in the winter, we'd keep a roaring fire going in it which was banked at night for reasons of safety. One night, as my mother was getting ready to relight the kindling, she put a paper torch up the chimney to check the flue. She was a little surprised when she saw, well, talons skittering along the iron flue frame. She leaned into the fireplace and was shocked to see a pair of beady eyes staring back. She turned to my father and said, "I think there's an owl in the chimney!"

Dad came over and checked, confirming that yes, indeed, there was a juvenile barn owl sitting on the iron flue frame. He said, "Surely when it gets hot, the owl will fly up the chimney and out."

It didn't. We kept hearing that poor little owl's claws ping on the iron all night as it danced frantically on the hot frame. My sister and I begged our parents to dampen the fire, but the night was cold and the furnace was out. We lost. The owl continued his skittering all night long, and then it stopped. Dad assumed the owl had found a way out, while my sister and I feared that it had died from the heat.

The next morning we arrived downstairs the sight of a pissed off teenage owl glaring back at us from the fireplace.

Dad walked out and returned wearing his official owl-wrangling gear, to wit, Mom's bright yellow dishwashing gloves, and carrying a towel. He instructed me to stand at the patio door and on his signal, open it and get out of the way. Mom gingerly held back the iron mesh fire curtain; Dad pitched the towel over the owl, snatched the whole thing up, and trucked it for the door. I flung wide the door; Dad hurled both towel and owl into the yard.

If we thought the owl was pissed off before, you should've seen it when it disentangled from that towel.

I just remember my father standing there in his blue bathrobe and the Playtex Living Gloves, admiring his handiwork. For a long time, we had a resident owl in the trees behind the house, and I've always wondered if it was our friend from the chimney, silently plotting his revenge for being thrown outside by someone with no fashion sense.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What is "True"? What is "Valid"?

A few weeks ago, I had a discussion with my sister about the lens of memory and its personal nature. This led me to consider who has the right or privilege to determine what is authentic or valid when we're engaging in our own narrative. I pointed out to her that I've tried to be clear as I've composed this blog that it's from my perspective, but there have been times that it's become a matter of debate.

So, who gets to define truth? Who determines what's valid? Who gets to say that their version of events is the most accurate, or in the more emotionally-charged sense, 'correct'?

My perspective will be at variance with hers- when I write, I'm talking about how *I* experienced something. This isn't about consensus, it's about being honest with ourselves about how we experienced certain things. Does anyone have the right to force us to change the story so that it lies more in their comfort zone? In my opinion, no. That robs the author of so many things, and at the very heart of it, it demoralizes and dehumanizes him or her.

Writing is my catharsis. As much as I talk, a lot of it is a defense mechanism because I'm socially awkward and don't know how to really relate to others. I do better when I can collect myself and commit my thoughts in writing. It's my release valve, so does anyone get to tell me that I'm not allowed to do it because it makes them uncomfortable? No. I'm not lying. I'm not airing the dirty linen. I'm pushing things out of my head so that they're not jacking up my blood pressure or causing me to lose sleep.

There is a degree of circumspection, and of course, a lot of what I write from here on out is governed by my employer's newly-minted social media policy. If you've noticed, I've hidden some of my earlier posts that may touch, however vaguely, on matters related to my life in academe- it's an editorial decision based on self-preservation, more than anything.

So here we are. I claim ownership of my ideas, of my past, and of my opinions. I claim the right to write them from my own perspective, but I can't force anyone to process them in any particular way. That's just the nature of intellect...

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Guest Kitty

My sister lost her elderly long-haired ginger tomcat a few months ago. The cat had been with her through thick and thin, including three moves, a home invasion, her getting married and merging households with her husband's silver tabby and Golden Retriever, the death of both the silver tabby and the first Golden Retriever, the acquisition of the second Golden Retriever as a puppy, and the arrival of Guest Kitty, a small, declawed strong tortoise cat who is very, very sweet. The Big Orange Cat was her heart cat. She mourned him horribly. Now Guest Kitty is also terminally ill.

Guest Kitty had a small fatty tumor on the left cheekbone near her eye that I noticed when staying with my sister and brother-in-law a couple of years ago while Mom was in the hospital in the Big City. When they took Guest Kitty for a thyroid checkup, the vet thought it was a harmless fatty lipoma and told them as much. As such, nothing to do about it but kind of let it alone.

I love this little cat. She got out of the house last summer and we had to blanket the neighborhood with fliers to try to get her home. After a couple of weeks, some people just over the rise found her on their porch and phoned. Guest Kitty came home. We were a little frantic until she was safely back at my sister's house.

Guest Kitty has a parlor trick that's really endearing; she will pat you gently on the shin when she wants attention. If that fails, she'll get on the furniture closest to your face and pat you lightly on the cheek. She also sleeps with me when I'm staying there, hence "Guest Kitty". My own tortoise cat is hateful, so I really appreciate how sweet this one is, too.

Yesterday, my sister called as I was on my way to an out-of-town doctor's appointment. After several minutes of her explaining how sick Guest Kitty is, I said I'd drive on over to the Big City (another sixty miles) to see her. Guest Kitty will likely not be with us much longer- she has what the vet believes is a very aggressive cancerous tumor on her lower jaw. It's enormous, invasive, and the poor thing is suffering. They will have to make the decision soon, because she's not going to live through this.

I picked her up a few times and carried her around their house. She's drooling freely because of the tumor, so we'd wipe her mouth and chin with a paper towel every once in a while. When it was time for me to leave, my sister picked her up. I let her head-butt my chin, and just before I stepped back, that little paw moved painfully forward...and...she gently patted me on the nose.

I may never see Guest Kitty in this world again, but she's a good kitty. I'll really miss her.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Fair is Foul and Foul is Fair

The county fair is underway back in Smalltownland.

For my family, this meant a great many things: that my sister would spend time on Kids' Day chasing a piglet covered in Crisco (yes, they had a Greased Pig Contest), someone would tell me after the dog show that our English Pointer was a 'good lookin' dog' (whereupon I'd have to explain that Bozo was none too bright), and I'd be chastised by the cooking contest chairwomen for entering my chocolate cake in the adult homemakers' contest rather than the 4H baking category (and I won or placed second often enough that by high school it was a real bone of contention).

We also lived on a cliff overlooking the county park, where the fair was held. That meant a week of loud noise, weird smells such as the combination of fried onions and horse manure, and a fireworks display that detonated about thirty yards beyond the lip of the cliff at what was basically, for us, eye-level.

There were beauty pageants, of course, and also, of course, I never entered them because I was a fat girl and my father objected on general principle...his mother was the very first Miss Arizona, and he had a low opinion of any competition that required a woman to stand around, look pretty, and not do anything else. Don't get me wrong; Daddy adored my grandmother. He had seen, however, how having been Miss Arizona was pretty much the big highlight of her life, and how badly other aspects of her (she was as sweet as pie and the most loving, giving soul you could ever have met) were frequently overlooked because it was overshadowed and superseded by "she was the very first Miss Arizona."

One year, my sister decided that she would enter the Miss Junior County Fair pageant at the last possible moment. It was largely motivated by the fact that one of her friends, who had entered far earlier, had developed cold feet, and she wanted to be there for moral support. It was a mad last-minute dash where we ended up borrowing a friend's sister's prom dress (the sister was very tiny) and engaging our hairstylist to fix her hair. Needless to say, in that category, the girls were supposed to be very cutesy. My sister, widely regarded as one of the most beautiful girls to ever come from our county, lost to a girl whose front teeth had recently fallen out (the age category was something like 7-10 years old). Neither my sister nor her friend placed; it was my sister's first and last pageant. Our father did not attend, as he had opposed the whole thing.

There was also a dance at the end of the fair. I went a few times in junior high and high school. I remember one year that it got so hot in the pavilion that I left and sat on the playground swings for almost an hour until Mom came to get me. Sometimes I'd wander around looking for friends to ride the rides with me...although I had a higher tolerance for things like the Tilt-a-Whirl and the Scrambler that caused them to barf. Often as not, I didn't have enough money for tickets, so I'd just hide until it was time to leave.

I also had a single fair-related gastronomical weakness: red candy apples. I was permitted one during the week, so I tried to wait until Thursday or Friday to buy it. I didn't want funnel cakes. I didn't care about cotton candy. I wanted that stupid red candy apple- because I knew I could only have one per year; like anything else containing sugar, they were 'bad for (me)" and 'will make (me) fat'. I'd buy it, and if I didn't finish it, I'd wrap it in the provided doily and take it home; the trick was to finish it before the candy coating melted into a molten slick of sticky goop.

I'll be there over the weekend, but I will enjoy the festivities at a distance rather than brave the park. I'm a little long of tooth for the county fair these days, and I can't stand the taste of those apples anymore.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Eminent Fracking Outrage

There is this thing called "eminent domain" that most landowners will only talk about after sprinkling themselves with holy water and praying for ten minutes. It's the right of the government to take your land for projects 'benefiting the greater good' such as widening roads or improving utilities. In the case of my family farm, it's involved selling ever-widening easements across our property to the natural gas utility.

Now, with the onset of fracking (hydraulic fracturing), the industry is at it again. I've written about my farm before; I've also written somewhat angrily about the bartering away of Hopkins' family's ancestral land in support of his father's vanity. Their farm was very nearly as old as mine...and here in the sunny South, that is some serious business, threatening someone's ancestral seat. We view it askance.

Sure as anything, our buddies over at the gas utility want to run a 24 inch pipeline all the way across the state, parallel in my mother's home county to the existing lines. What does that mean? The Gas Men will come waving wads of cash under our noses and quoting their favorite veiled threat, yes, you guessed it: eminent domain. What that means is "Sell it to us (un)willingly or we will take it for pennies on the dollar, with the help and blessing of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the United by God States of America".

Can you tell I'm a little worked up about this? Do I really need to go out to the middle of the family farm armed with a rifle, to scream at these bespoke-suited landsharks, "GIT OFF MAH LAND!"?

I don't know, but I can tell you this: I don't want their 24 inch pipeline across our property, because 24 inches translates into another hundred-yard-wide berth slashing across largely unblemished arable land. I don't know what I'm going to do with that farm when it becomes mine, but I also know that I don't want to keep letting the gas companies carve it up to their benefit, either.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Beware of All Endeavors Requiring New Clothes

It finally hit me that I've spent the last several years buying boring clothes. As a librarian, of course, it's expected that we're not going to dress like we just stepped off a runway, and certainly, as a woman of size, it's harder for me than someone who wears, say, a size 12 to find anything that doesn't look dowdy or matronly. Sleeves, for example, are the bane of my existence- while I like sleeves, I don't like elbow-length sleeves because they aren't flattering to me. Most wrist-length sleeves are  a hair too long. Sleeveless? Oh, now there's a whole new set of challenges- anybody who sews can tell you that patterns, even plus size ones, are typically drafted for a B cup breast. Guess what? I haven't been a B cup since the seventh grade.

The other thing is that while I like patterns, a lot of what I've been seeing the last little while reminds me of a Rorschach test. How is that flattering? It's distracting, I suppose, if that happens to be what you're shooting for, but when you have hyper-intelligent friends, what invariably happens is that they'll spend your time together interpreting the design. "That looks like two rhinosceri sparring." "No, I think it looks like two ducks attempting to rip a junebug in half." "Well, personally, I think it looks like the Crab Nebula." You get the general idea.

Last summer, I went against type and bought a bright yellow gauze skirt. I figured that with the color that far from my face, I could get away with it- sunny yellow makes me look embalmed otherwise- and it's been sort of fun. I'm just wondering if there's anything, I don't know, maybe "peppier" that I could add to the mix that might be more cheerful. I don't want to look twee, but I do need a little pick-me-up of some sort. I might be middle-aged but I'm not dead, either.

I'm also considering some changes to hair and makeup. Professionally, I wear an almost bare makeup palette, and lately I've noticed that I look tired and washed-out. My hair is so long and fine that I have no choice but to pull it back in the stereotypical librarian bun. I feel old. I look old. I have to do something. As much as I'd like to get a makeover at the Bobbi Brown counter, I'm still a loyal MAC girl- but I need something doable, not something that will take three hours every morning. I'm just too impatient to fool with that anymore.

When I was in high school, I was on TV twice with the quick recall team. What we were told was: "Don't wear white or black, and girls, don't wear dark lipstick. This won't photograph well. Blue or pink shows up nicely on-camera." Being that guy at the D&D game who has boobs, and, well, the ONLY girl on camera both times, I wore the button-down Oxford sported by the two boys on my team, and the first time, mine was pink (it was blue for the second taping). When they took the PR still for the local paper, I gave it my best smile, and...it's the best picture ever taken of me. I've lost my copy of it, but I still remember.

That's what I need to get back- a look where I can be happy and not hate what I look like, especially if somebody decides to haul out a camera. I guess I'm sick and tired of looking sick and tired...

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Fat Cooties

Last weekend, I trooped off to the Big City with Hopkins in tow. Now, I'm aggravated that he has passed comment on my driving (remember, I survived his in high school, which was less-than-stellar, trust me), but I'm still glad that he went. I was also mortified to learn, three days out, that during a few minutes when I'd excused myself he paid for my ticket to the improv show...and has yet to utter a single peep about it.

I'd picked up dinner, but I had an ulterior motive: while it stands to reason that I have a higher income/it was not a date/it was technically I who invited him, the bald truth is that my little ego couldn't take the Public Request for the Splitting of the Check. I ran the acute risk of offending him, but I calculated that against my own potential embarrassment. Sorry, Hopkins, I threw you on the fire, sweetie, and I know it... also, his dinner had cost a bit more than my ticket. That's why we'll call it even and not speak of it again.

What happened next in the tiny theater is what haunted my sleep last night. The seating is set up cabaret-style, with chairs surrounding small cocktail tables. They're crammed into a tight space and there was a large reservation scattered around us, although Stefan, my friend in the performing troupe, had made sure that our party was seated house-center. My choices were to crowd Lizzie, or to be a little too close to Hopkins. I figured that I probably had more latitude impinging on his space, but I misjudged it. When I sat down, my chair was too close, and my leg was pressed against his.

I didn't say anything because what played through my mind was, "Oh, crap, if I move, I'll call attention to it." He must've been on the same page. When the gallon or so of water I'd consumed at dinner kicked in, I hopped off to the ladies', and when I returned, Hopkins had quietly shifted his chair about a foot to the right. That felt a little excessive, but I had to admire his discretion. The completely closed body language that followed, though, is what hurt more. To frame it in sarcastic childhood reference, it smacked of Ye Olde Fat Cooties...or worse yet, was it Airedalegirl Cooties?

It's one of those "Suddenly I'm sixteen again, and NOT in a good way" feelings. I felt a sick flush creeping up my neck as I arranged my skirts and tried to do my best impression of a hedgehog, the same as when I have to travel by air and there's some poor schmuck sitting next to me cursing his or her fate for getting stuck next to the land whale.  Trust me, I get it: I take up more than my 'fair share' of space. I don't need to have that pointed out...but I bathe regularly and go to extreme lengths to make sure that I don't add to that old chestnut that 'fat people smell'. I try to compact myself as much as physically possible so that my fatness doesn't rub off on others.

I don't like this body. I've been judged on its lack of merit and found wanting so many times on so many levels throughout my life that it's my personal hell. I'm not comfortable in it, but I accept it. It can't change overnight, and I've always tried to be pragmatic about it...but there's something especially crushing when that subtle rejection comes, and moreover when it's by someone about whose opinion one cares. You can do everything under the sun to try to emotionally prepare for it, but it will never be enough. It hurt thirty years ago and it still hurts. Some personal demons just refuse to die.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Imagery, Writing, and Whatnot

I've been thinking a great deal about my writing, particularly poetry, in the last little while because my poetry professor, who was recently the state's Poet Laureate, is dying. What I remember from her class varies from day to day, but there are some specific points that I managed to retain...I was in the course the semester of my nervous breakdown, so it's a miracle that I remember much of anything.

  • Go for imagery- if you can't evoke it, don't write about it
  • Helen Steiner Rice is a hack
  • Write what you know
  • The New Yorker is one of the best venues for fresh poetry
  • Don't force it

My professor called me to her office after class one time, though, and it was a poem I had written entitled "When I Am Icarus". She'd been worried after she read it. She wanted to know what it was really about because she sensed it was something deeply personal. After I explained what was going on, and also that I was receiving help through the university counseling service, I think she felt a little better about it. I don't remember the whole poem, but I do remember the first line and the subject.

It was about several things...leaving one dangerous situation for another, being so caught up in one's ego that one cannot foresee the ultimate failure, and, well, putting yourself at risk when the stakes are very high. That was the metaphor. The truth was that I'd thrown myself back into dating again on the rebound, and in the end, my attempt to date "above my place" (a fat GDI girl dating a fraternity boy) had resulted in utter devastation. I'd lost the only boy I loved twice by then and I'd become careless. I knew better, but I did it anyway, and the inevitable happened. What was I thinking? Why did I ever believe I could be the exception and not the rule? When the flimsy wax of my logic burned away in the heat and light of reality, I fell to my doom and lay broken on the ground.

I had already voluntarily entered counseling at that point. Writing, then as now, was how I worked through it, although it admittedly still feels like crawling across a field of broken glass.

The feathers are falling out as fast as I can put them back, and we all know we get more vulnerable and less able to heal as we age. Maybe I should go back to poetry, or maybe not. I don't know.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

You Want Me to WHAT?

I was recently at a conference where a nursing educational supplies vendor was displaying her wares in the vendor hall. As we rounded the corner, we saw arm panels with veins for teaching IV placement, pads with reservoirs beneath for teaching subcutaneous injection techniques, faux drugs, and various other supplies.

My father is a general practitioner, so when I was a little girl, I learned all of the proper anatomical terms. I learned that one is supposed to have a professional clinical detachment from taboo and general goosiness that laypeople have about parts of the body. However, it wasn't just the specific anatomical structure lying on the table that got my attention- I really think it was the velvet-flocked fitted display case in which it was kept.

As we perused the vendor's wares, she picked up that particular item and told us, gushingly, how she was very proud to have designed it, explaining that while for women, self-examination for cancerous nodes and lesions is a given and pushed via the media all the time, for men, we have that infamous billboard that kind of sums their situation up quite nicely. She asked if we'd like to take the item out of its box and feel it.

We both immediately declined, since there was a PR photographer as well as a videographer roaming around the exhibits.

If you're still wondering what this object was, it was an accurate and realistic human scrotum model, as the vendor said, "Complete with nodules!" When I told my father about it, I was ready with a placemat to deflect the coffee which he predictably sprayed all over the breakfast nook at their house. As soon as he recovered, I received the Official Dr. Airedaleparent Lecture on Scrotal Examination. It was enlightening as well as mortifying.

I think that wins for "most unusual vendor item I've ever seen at an academic conference," since one does not typically find disembodied scrota floating around at library conferences.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

When Nerds Collide

So I spirited Hopkins off to the Big City for my friend-slash-pseudo kid Stefan's improv show at a bar in a funky little enclave where my sister once lived. As it happened, Stef's dad was in from a larger city farther north for the show, so we had, in total for dinner, including Lizzie, Dustin (Stefan's brother), and another friend who happened along , seven people.

Tom is an interesting person and he's full of dude-wisdom (some of it highly suspect). He was holding forth on the subject of "bagging chicks" while Lizzie and I rolled our eyes so hard everyone within ten miles could probably hear it. The subject of holding doors open for ladies arose, to wit, Tom informed the four other men at the table that it's a surefire way to win brownie points with women. He leaned forward and asked Hopkins, rather conspiratorially, "Do you hold the door for ladies, Hopkins?" There was a pause- I knew something that Tom didn't, i.e., that he'd held the door for me earlier and that he knew better than to NOT hold it for me- to which he replied, "I hold the door if there's anyone in front of me, I guess." I chimed in, in my best Julia Sugarbaker voice (strong indicator that I'm tired, sloshed, or angry), "Of course he holds the door. His mother raised him better than that." I gave him The Eyebrow and he went perfectly still.

Tom chimed in, "Are you sure about that?"

"I am absolutely sure; I know his mother. Hopkins and I grew up together, Tom," I beamed my 1,000 kilowatt Junior Miss smile, another signal to anyone with any common sense that it was time to change subjects.

Somewhere down the line, Tom bought me a second glass of wine. The problem with this is that I have a LapBand- alcohol hits the little stomach pouch and absorbs immediately into my bloodstream as if I've had four times as much as anyone else- and I remarked on this making me a "cheap date". Tom seized upon the moment, fixed his eye on Hopkins, and announced, "You need to take advantage of that, buddy," and winked. I spat the wine back into the glass and turned the color of a tomato. My head snapped around and I caught an ever-so-slight smirk on his face. My eyebrows met my hairline.

I'm not entirely unfamiliar with the Madonna-and-Whore dichotomy. I am the former. Period, end of discussion, and when it comes to Boys With Whom I Grew Up and About Whose Opinion I Care, it is strictly enforced. Hopkins leaned forward and said, "One more and I'm taking your keys," to which I replied, "I don't think so, baby, you'll walk back to Smalltownland first." (Seriously, sugar, it will be FIVE HOURS before we go home, so I think I'll very probably be sober by then. I know the alcohol content for that vintage and it's only about 11%. There's a reason I wasn't drinking vodka.)

The most priceless moment, though, was when Dustin's friend started talking about something he'd seen on TV and read about regarding astronomy. His understanding of it was very elementary and I watched Hopkins as he followed the conversation. When he found a chance to interject, I heard him say, "Well, funny you should say that...it's actually..." and then he explained, in a clear yet not patronizing way, what the young man had been trying to educate himself about. At the conclusion, Hopkins added, "I was studying to be an astronomer and it didn't quite work out." I felt a little stab of unhappiness, because he would've been good at it. It was his dream, and I'd been forced to stand to the side and watch it die.

There was another heart-wrenching moment, too, during which Tom was speaking of his unfortunately-named supervisor at an old job. I'd dated a boy with the same last name, and he was someone Hopkins detested. I asked, as Tom mentioned the name, "Do you remember (X)?" The reaction was immediate and visceral. "YES, I remember him," he spat, with so much hatred that I jumped in my seat. I stared at him, wide-eyed, watching his face flush red and his eyes harden so definitely that it was chilling.

If I never knew before, I know now...but why didst thou not speak for thyself, Hopkins? What a waste, what a gruesome, terrible waste.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Conversations with My Mother

Mom is becoming increasingly strange as time passes, and although some of her "interpretations" of things said in conversation can be quite humorous, she's also become hell-bent on 'truthing', as it were. Some of her 'truths' are quite painful.

Recently, she went after my sister about her weight gain in front of dinner guests. When it failed to get an adequate rise out of anyone, she reiterated it for better effect. Everyone shifted sort of uncomfortably in their seats and continued eating, until my sister's friend decided it was time to come to her defense- which naturally fell on deaf ears. Yes, my sister has gained weight; yes, she is a forty year-old diabetic and she has a job that keeps her from getting adequate exercise and/or the opportunity to eat more appropriately for her condition. There's no real point in harping on it; it is what it is.

Yesterday, Mom got on her high horse about my friends. She has decided that all of my friends are weird, particularly the male ones. As with my sister's weight, she would not let it go, and she was nitpicking about Hopkins in particular. What started this? A simple request that she not be moldering in her nightgown when he arrives to travel with me to the improv show in Louisville on Saturday. "Weird" is probably the most charitable thing she had to say, and after I got pretty sick of it, I said, maybe too archly, "You know, Mom, it stands to reason that my friends are weird...I'm weird. If it were up to you, who would you choose instead? Hmm?"

Making friends has always been hard for me- helllloooo, Asperger's- social awkwardness? Inability to read normal social cues? Oh, yeah, not to mention the plethora of other complications. If it's anybody's business (which it isn't), I also enjoy being weird, and I love my weird friends. That's kinda sorta maybe why we're friends. I have zero clue as to who she'd choose instead. I also find that aside from this hurting my feelings, I am not sure that I care.

Now for my next trick, I am praying that she doesn't say anything too bizarre when Hopkins rolls into the house. He has good manners, which dictate he has to come inside and speak to my parents (to whom he has not spoken in twenty-five years)- plus he's had fair warning. I told him Mom was getting a bit strange these days, I just hope she doesn't choose to direct any ire she's harboring toward me at him because he's a handy new target.

Wish me luck. She of the Big Bird Bathrobe is not the same person she was back in the old days...

Friday, May 17, 2013

An Unbearable Quickness of Seeing

With the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness, I've been dealing with one of the more unusual aspects of my Asperger's: the fact that my brain processes images at a higher rate of speed. Quick-cut edits are hard for me to follow, but the real kicker is that 3D gives me migraines for several days.

My first issue with the fast-action style happened when I went to see the movie adaptation of the video game Mortal Kombat. I had a migraine coming on, but we were visiting my then-fiance's hometown. His best friend wanted to see that movie, so off we went. Less than twenty minutes in, I rushed out to the ladies' room, threw up, and spent the remainder of the evening in the lobby waiting for the others. That had never happened before.

When TRON: Legacy  came out, my best friend, her husband and I decided to see it in 3D. I didn't even consider the possibility that there might be a problem. From that experience, I learned that if I don't have a migraine beforehand, I'll get one from 3D because of the way the brain processes the images. I guess I'm lucky that it didn't result in a seizure of some sort.

Flash forward to now: I am a perennial Star Trek junkie. Although the new reboot is not strictly canon, I kinda like Zachary Quinto, although being a Spock fan, the whole "Spock-and-Uhura relationship thingie" strums on my nerves a bit. I'm going to to see it, but herein lies the rub: while the projection is solid at my local theater, the sound is marginal- I always find myself wishing they'd just crank the crap out of it and let 'er rip, and had a very disappointing experience with Rock of Ages... hello, ROCK of Ages, not "Easy Listening of Ages", but I digress.

In order to get higher-quality sound, I'd have to travel to the city, pay more, and fight larger crowds (yuck)...but the nearest city with good movie sound is only showing it in 3D.


I guess I'm just going to deal with what we jokingly called SuperMono back in the Olden Days. Stereo sound had been introduced while I was in junior high, but our local two-screen (Oooooo, ohhhh, AAAAHHHH) cinema didn't have it. Their theory was, as previously mentioned, crank it up and let 'er rip, the louder the better. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. I saw Windtalkers there, and the initial landing scene was deafening not to mention really, really gruesome; I don't think I've ever seen a disembodied human ear go flying past on the screen with such accuracy and realism before or since.

See y'all at the movies!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Self-fulfilling Prophecies and Other Epic Failures

One of my classmates has dug up a book that encompasses all of our annual homeroom group photos from first through eighth grades. She and I were in the same room starting in second grade, when it was decided to divide us alphabetically- she and I sat together in many classes, because her last name fell just before mine in the list.

Looking back at the pictures, I knew that starting around fifth grade, as we slid headlong into puberty, is when I started being teased about my weight. A girl who had been my friend in kindergarten moved home when her father's job brought them back to the area after a four year absence. For some reason, she had become mean, and especially hostile toward me...at the time I didn't realize, because I was too busy being hurt, that it was because she wanted to make sure that someone else was recognized as fatter to deflect attention away from her own weight issues. My childhood friend had metamorphosed into my teen bully.

There were other factors in play: family crises that were becoming harder and harder to avoid or ignore as they escalated. I can see from the seventh grade photo to the eighth grade the effects of my grandmother's illness and the family strain. From that year to the next, I became what I'd been called for three years: the class fat girl. I had become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Thing is, I wasn't that fat. I was overweight, not obese, but it was enough extra weight in that era that I had difficulty finding popular styles of clothing that fit and/or didn't look totally ridiculous. What most people didn't realize, too, was that unlike my friends whose parents went out and bought them new wardrobes for each school year, my parents made me keep wearing my old clothes in an ill-advised attempt to make me lose weight. I had very few clothes, too, so I had to wear them over and over again. There were kids from "poor" families who had more clothes than I did, because at least they had access to hand-me-downs.

In one particularly choice case, a friend of mine (who probably doesn't remember) came up and asked, because my jeans were riding up above my ankles, if I was expecting a flood anytime soon. She further commented about how out-of-style those jeans were. What she didn't know was that my mother often complained, "I can't buy you new jeans. Not only are they hard to find, the fat sizes cost more! You need to wear those until they wear out, whether they're in style or not!" She even ironed mending patches into the inside thighs on my pants so that they wouldn't wear out as quickly- I got very adept at holding bookbags and folders in my lap in case they might be visible. It was humiliating. I made sure to always take my very-newest, best-fitting jeans on band trips because I knew if I didn't that my bully would be on it like stink on a skunk.

There were a few times that I got even with my mother: she was out of town the night before Hopkins graduated, so I swiped a brand-new, still-tagged linen designer dress out of her closet along with a pair of her heels (at the time, I was wearing the same size clothes and shoes as my mother) and a crushingly expensive handbag. She got home before I did and had a total cow when she saw it; I was rather proud of myself. She was so angry that she gave me the dress- she said 'now everyone has seen it'- but I knew it was because she was embarrassed that her obviously fat daughter had worn the dress first. She also caught me the next night (commencement) as I tried to make off with another brand-new dress from her closet- I ended up wearing my own clothes, which is just as well. I spent four hours climbing up and down off of a porch rail, and another five or so sitting in the Mouse talking. Mom's dress was too tailored for that.

Sometimes I wonder how I let myself get hyperobese, and other times I just don't worry about the mechanics of it. I am going to have WLS again because of the issues with my band, and maybe that will take care of it this time. It's the aching back and feet, more than anything, and the fact that my oncologist was really insistent that I lose weight in case she ever needs to do anything to me again...

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Think Before You Speak

Ghosts are a tricky business.

Last night, after I posted my write up of the Close Encounter of the Hopkins Kind, someone else from a more recent past popped up and reminded me of the dangers of this sort of woolgathering.  

Here's one unflattering tidbit that dropped out of Hopkins' mouth on Saturday...it was primarily self-deprecatory which is why I let it pass and he's still breathing: "I don't get the whole 'nerds getting beaten up at school' thing. Nobody ever tried that with me- but the stereotype is that nerds are either fat or super-skinny. I was a farm kid, so I had some muscles..." his voice trailed off a little wistfully, and because I was annoyed I let it hang in the air for a moment. I was one of the fat nerds, and it went hard for me because a fat female nerd was the very definition of social pariah in the Eighties.

It's difficult to tell if he screens it out where I'm concerned or if he just didn't think before he said it. For all the mutual attraction that was there back in the Dark Ages, you see, I've always harbored a sickening suspicion that it was my weight. That's how it always got sublimated into, "I think of you as a friend," with everybody else, and boys are just like that, nerds or not.

The thing that stung about that last observation is that it was proof (in my wounded little psyche, anyway) that I wasn't wanted by my own kind. I was still unacceptable, and no matter how backward, unattractive, awkward or just plain annoying they were, I wasn't good enough and they 'could do better'. The famous Robert Vertrees moment in college finished me off when, as I've written in a previous blog, I was truly just trying to find a warm male body to go to a formal post-bad-breakup with someone else: "I don't date fat girls." My friends fell upon him and tore him to pieces- and then one of the witnesses went home and described it to his roommate, who immediately offered to take me to that dance. (There is one piece of the story that I omitted from the blog I wrote about that incident: the director of the Honors Program, from whose class we were taking a break when this took place, witnessed the whole bloody mess. He dismissed Robert from class and told me that I could go back to the dorm if I didn't feel like staying. I went to the restroom, collected myself, and stayed. I am nothing if not stoic.) I went to the damn dance; I had a good time, thank you, and never spoke to Robert again, although we'd been friends for three years when he pulled that stunt.

That's the devil's bargain of 'just being friends'. I had a lot of male friends (still do). There were even a couple of them who had some mild romantic interest in me, but who would never act on it on pain of social death- what's worse than 'settling' for a fat girl, after all? Socially, not a lot. You just learn to push your feelings down rather than risk the ridicule or the disappointment. You learn not to reach 'above your place' in the great food chain of dating.

So, you see, there's a lot of baggage and I try not to think of it most of the time. Sometimes I just can't filter it effectively, though.

Monday, May 13, 2013

As If We Never Said Goodbye

In the musical Sunset Boulevard, Norma Desmond is singing about the thrill of making movies, and how familiar it would be even after many years' absence from stardom.

When I started writing this blog to deal with one of the most painful chapters of my past, I prefaced it by saying that I wrote from my own perspective. I was only half of the equation- and my perspective is tainted by an unhappiness that I have carried for almost three decades.

Hopkins not only turned up for my play on Saturday, he stayed for the whole thing, and then spent several hours hanging out with me at the cast party/book launch for a friend's new novel at a vineyard out in the country.

I bought a single smallish glass of wine and found a handy corner in which to hide. As we were discussing what it will take for him to finish his CIT degree at Western Kentucky, he said something about...that place...the one in, you know, Baltimore. I drained the glass and said, as I hastily crossed to the water pitcher in the opposite corner, "I won't even book a flight through Baltimore." When I sat down, he said, quietly, "Don't blame Baltimore. Don't blame Johns Hopkins. The blame lies with me. I did it to myself."

Who am I not to accept his own assessment of the situation? Even if I release that bitterness toward Baltimore and Johns Hopkins University, I will probably always harbor a slight resentment toward the university that I saw as the rival for his affection and author of my greatest misery.

We talked about it for a few more minutes and I added that I'd expected him to go to Caltech, MIT, or Stanford- and he asked why I had gone to Kentucky. "Biggest scholarship offer," I told him. He stared at me while I explained that it was all my parents could afford in the end. "I applied to Goucher," I said, going back for more water. My back was to him, but I heard the sharp intake of breath.

"We thought that Goucher, the guys at Hopkins, that is, that Goucher existed to provide us with girls to date."

"I know."

Those two words finally sliced through that thick skull. I was one of the smart kids, too, and Goucher is not one of the Seven Sisters. That response was, if you know how to read it: "I was mortgaging my entire future to get you back."

"I got in, by the way."

When I finally turned around, I saw understanding, then shock, flooding his features.


I admitted quickly that it had been a supremely bad idea- I'd been afraid of further rejection, you see. Maybe it wouldn't have been. Who can really say? I have to take this as it comes, and accept the terms as they unfold. It has been a long war, and I am weary from the fight...and I don't feel the need to convince anyone he was worth it. He was worth it to me.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

I Will Not Wear Ribbons Down My Back

So, I'm a theatre kid. When I was rushing headlong into my last face-to-face speaking encounter with Hopkins (the time I bumbled into Pizza Hut with my brand-new huge Rock of Gibraltar engagement ring doesn't count, because he dropped his order pad and literally vanished into thin air- I'm surprised he wasn't fired for it), I picked up singing my favorite lament from "Hello, Dolly!": 'Ribbons Down My Back', in which Irene Molloy sings about wearing an elaborate hat to get a gentleman to notice her.

It was the late Eighties. We were adherents to the "Big White Hair Bow" cult then-prevalent at SEC schools, and at that point I had a lot of hair- something that Hopkins had missed, since he was present for my getting it shorn, keeping it waaay short, and aware as to the logic behind it. It was halfway down my back, so I routinely pulled it out of my face and secured it with the aforementioned Big White Bow of two-inch grosgrain ribbon. Unlike most girls, though, I didn't have bangs, so I probably looked like a giant Shih Tzu...

It's silly, but I remember exactly what I was wearing when I fell down the stairs and basically stopped when he caught me (read: I slid into him, he managed to grab me, and he buffered our impact as we slammed into the wall).  It was a bubblegum-pink Irish fisherman's sweater over a white turtleneck (de rigueur), a long khaki skirt, socks, and dark waxed-leather Dexter two-eye camp moccasins with the leather laces twirled into tight corkscrews. I was also wearing the Anne Klein lions' heads earrings that every single stinking girl at the University of Kentucky owned and wore on an almost-daily basis. The fact that I remember it in detail and I'm still embarrassed about it should indicate that it was not a strategy to 'fall into his arms'- I tripped and slid all the way down a flight of stairs because my shoes' soles were slicker than owl poop. Suffering for fashion's sake, eh?

Saturday, I have a costume. I have stage makeup. Nothing is pink. There is no hair bow. The shoes have lug soles. My job is to get out there and be a relentlessly cheerful ship's computer. My grand entrance is on the line, "HI, THERE!"

There are also no stairs, so unless I trip over my own feet, we're good.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Niagara Falls All Over Again

In high school, Hopkins used to do this thing to me and it drove me nuts. It's not like I didn't set myself up for failure, but I was a cockeyed optimist about it. I wanted to believe he wouldn't let me down, kind of on the order of Charlie Brown continuing to try to kick the football which Lucy always yanks out of his way at the last second. To wit, I'd ask him to dances and he'd stand me up.

The thing that I hadn't quite gotten a handle on back then was that with Hopkins, one has to state it without embellishment. One cannot hint or allude. There was none of this, "I think I'll go to the dance after the ballgame on Friday," or "Homecoming is next Friday night," or "There's a dance at the end of this Co-ed Y thing"...it was "Are you going to the dance?" to which he generally responded, "Maybe," or "I might," which I finally realized after several futile attempts translates as "No."

In all fairness, there were a couple of exceptions. I believe in both of those cases, I not only issued a direct invitation, it was backed up by an additional invitation by the hostess of the event. He confirmed and then he did materialize at the correct time and location. This was just good enough to restore hope in order for me to lay the groundwork for the next failure.

I had a momentary lapse of judgment yesterday and issued a direct invitation to him for the final performance of "The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy", having dropped a couple of ridiculously unsubtle hints about it before. I've heard it through the grapevine that he's considering showing up...but radio silence (no response so far) indicates that this could very well turn out like so many other things in the past.

I'm trying really hard to be optimistic, but so help me God, if anyone plays Madonna's "Crazy For You" during rehearsal I will take it as a cosmic sign that he's not coming. More than a quarter-century later, I still associate that specific song with being stood up by Hopkins: that was the last song, at the last dance, the last time I put myself in that position. Between that and Billy Joel's "For the Longest Time", he has his own soundtrack- although there is a recent addition in the form of "Fifty Ways to Say Goodbye", because it includes the line: "She fell out of an airplane/got eaten by a lion/got run over by a crappy purple Scion". He drives the eponymous Scion, by which I half expect to be run over at some point.

Given that the last time we saw each other, I fell down a flight of stairs, I'm not so sure this is an awesome idea...but the fact that he tried to shuffle off this mortal coil a few years back scared the crap out of me and I really, really want to see him again. I can't seem to make him understand that I don't care about things not having turned out the way he planned (beyond how he feels about it, that is- I'm a fan of Burns, ergo his plans didn't just aft gang alay...they went spectacularly awry), as long as he's got a roof over his head, food on the plate, and a job to go to every day. I don't consider it 'embarrassed circumstances'-it's 'just the way things are', and since that currently includes the 'still among the living' option, I'm perfectly fine.

Bottom line, I'm an old pro, and the show must go on- presence or absence notwithstanding. It'd just be nice to see him again.