Monday, August 25, 2014

I Am the Terror That Flaps in the Night

So, on Saturday, I drove through a gut-wrenching blinding rain complete with accompanying electrical storm. A warning light popped up on my dashboard that I'd never seen before, and I learned, much to my displeasure, that it's a bad one, to wit: something screwy is going on with my alternator. It didn't help that I had just driven through a lightning strike, although I'm thankful that my entire car didn't short out.

As a woman who drives a great deal and relies on her car at an almost ridiculous level, that compounded my anxiety from earlier in the day. So while others were taking part in Stefan's improv show, I was busily thumbing through the owner's manual, drinking Two Rum Punch, and worrying myself so much in general that I could not possibly enjoy the first episode of Doctor Who starring Peter Capaldi.

Also, it's going to monkeywrench the desk schedule, bane of my existence, at work today. This is a repair, however, that WILL NOT wait. I blow this one off and I'm looking at buying a new car, folks...and this one's not entirely paid for. So yeah, I get to wait this out at the Subaru dealership today to the tune of Daddy's Credit Card. (Let's not get into the social engineering that took, and yes, I'm paying him back in a few days, it's just going to take some juggling to get it together. He nearly had a conniption. Trust me, the First Bank of Mom would have paid for this one and not asked for it back, but I'm an adult now/with problems of my own/I'm an adult now/Why can't you leave me alone?...)

Anyway, I felt that this was deserving of a Darkwing Duck reference, as I felt quite disaster-prone plowing through the deluge with freaky red lights going off on the dashboard. It's Monday. Now all I have to do is make it all the way to the dealership. Wish me luck!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Shoot that Poison Arrow

Yesterday was a long one for me. I started out with a rescue transport of an Airedale who's been in my care for quite some time-that was the easy part. I bought some clothes hangers, went to see my friend Amy briefly at her job, and then headed down the road to my father's the cemetery.

Mom is buried in my father's family's plot. When I learned last week that I've won the state library association's mentoring award, I grabbed my cell phone as soon as I hung up with the association president with the first thought, "I have to call Mom and tell her!" Well, that would be impossible without a psychic medium at this point, and it hit me a lot harder than I care to discuss quite yet. Then it turned out that no one in my family can attend, and Stefan can't be there because it will run longer than his allotted lunch hour.

So, I had this long, sobbing conversation with my mother's basket of geraniums at the cemetery before driving back to my house, two hours northeast, to pack for my trip to Smalltownland. As I was headed over, Stefan texted me that Hopkins, who ostensibly was supposed to be unpacking his moving boxes at his new apartment (which was what he'd said earlier in an e-mail to me), had showed up at the improv show in the Big City.

A few quick texts to him later, it began to dawn on me how little I actually matter. It was a hard blow after the week I've had- there have been several other trying moments- and add to that Stefan's gratitude that Hopkins was thoughtful enough to come out to support his act even though I was on my way to buy Dad's groceries...I was stung. I felt betrayed on two fronts. If I must, I will eventually rationalize that the troupe needed Hopkins' ten dollars, but I'm still a bit bruised about it at the moment.

Someone posted a meme about arrows on Facebook a little while ago that resonated with me. The  image that leaped to mind was of May Welland in The Age of Innocence winning the archery contest, which was a sign of her health and appropriateness as a marital prospect, but later proved to be indicative of her character. May, who seemed simple and uncomplicated, proves to be quite cunning and defensive of her home and hearth after her husband strays- her strength was required to draw the bowstring and accurately target that which threatened her peace. She neatly removed the threat and her husband, who never suspected she had it in her, is stunned.

I think sometimes we forget that we have the strength to draw the bow, much less shoot the arrow. It requires so much control...and we must master ourselves, our movement, thoughts, and emotions, in order to shoot true. It's when I become cold and calm that I'm at my most dangerous and decisive, when I reach zero tolerance for fools and cowards. I can feel my finger on the string...all I have to do is pull...and release.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Angel of Music, You Deceived Me

In my teens and twenties, I was a huge Phantomane...I saw Phantom of the Opera twice while I was living in London, with about two-thirds of the original cast. I've also seen it twice in the States, once in New York and again with a touring company in Louisville. A small clip of the overture prefaced our answering machine announcement my senior year of college, and my friend Angie and I once beat time on the ceiling of her now-husband's apartment in time to the overture in order to aggravate my ex-boyfriend who lived in the apartment directly upstairs.

Even then, I realized that my fondness for the show stemmed in some part from my identification with the plot. The Phantom, shunned because he was disfigured, had a brilliant (if twisted) mind and rather singular talent. He made the mistake of falling in love with Christine, who was a pretty good singer, albeit quite vapid and not all that bright. So, there I was, shunned by society for my looks and intelligence, and in love with a boy who a) was totally out of my reach, b) didn't know how I felt and/or want to acknowledge me, and c) would never be capable of returning my feelings. I'm not big on romantic plots- but something about the rejection that drove Erik to madness and desperation resonated with me.

Instinctively, I had always known that ingenue roles always went to the pretty girls with the light, high soprano. The ingenue always gets her man, even if it's not the more interesting one. Phantom is ultimately about Christine making the safe choice and returning to the handsome, 'normal' guy, and an ordinary life...because it doesn't matter how smart or talented Erik was; he's deformed, he doesn't think or function like everybody else, and he's just plain weird, which makes him unacceptable (well, that, and he kills people who make him feel threatened).

If I am honest about what Hopkins said on that ill-fated evening about a month and a half ago, I can best illustrate it by saying that I painted an overly-flattering portrait of him with the brush of long-standing affection. As he construed it, it was false or dishonest (I thought I was the most self-critical person I know) but I have a right to my lens/my 'version'. There's also quite a difference between tortured genius and simple failure; I have a better understanding now of Christine's disillusionment when she discovered the truth about Erik, even if I disliked her as a character.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Empty Nests, Empty Cradles

So school started this week for most of my friends' children. It's at this time of year that I see the photos flash by on social media and think, "What if?", but it's a non-sequitur.

I have polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS. This makes it very difficult to conceive. Also at my weight, pregnancy was an unsafe idea, and well, no husband during my threshold of fecundity, anyway. Closer examination of my blood chemistry and other physiological factors led one gynecologist after another to caution me strongly against trying to bear children.

It was never meant to be.

I feel guilty, having deprived my parents of grandchildren, especially having seen my father interact with his late best friend's grandson and his great-grandniece, both of whom are creeping quickly up on preschool age. I always believed that my thinner, prettier sister would be the one to present them with grandchildren- she's married, too- but she turned out to be a brittle Type I diabetic. The trade-offs are straight out of Steel Magnolias.

A colleague at my last job, upon hearing that things were shaky with my then-fiance', suggested that I go to Central America to adopt a child, as her own daughter had recently done. There have been moments when I considered it, but now I'm forty-five. It's really too late.

At the very least, I thought I might marry someone who had nieces and nephews, because I KNOW I would be a rockin' aunt. No such luck. Most of the men I've dated have been only children. Swell.

One of my friends from high school, a single guy, is pursuing adoption. He inherited a nice estate from his grandparents, which will endow the lucky child he adopts with twelve years of very good private education followed by the college or university of its choice. Marriage is not on the cards for him, either, and he's taken this well in hand. Moreover, he's willing to adopt a school-age child, which is awesome because those children are so frequently overlooked in orphanages in favor of infants.

I'm proud of my friends for their parenting. Their children give every appearance of having turned out well, but this time of year makes me feel awkward, with that slight tinge of failure. Some of us were never meant to be mothers...but that doesn't mean that we never think about what could have been.  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Those Who Dance Must Pay the Piper

My sister isn't socially inept like me, so she pointed out with some deliberation this past weekend that I was most likely wrong to be upset with Hopkins. Not that I hadn't considered it, mind you, but my other friends' reactions informed my own response.

To wit, Little Sister said, "Maybe he thought he was being funny. You know the way that some people are trying to be self-effacing by saying that somebody's exaggerated about them to others," i.e., that he was not calling me a liar, he was saying that I tend to present the rose-colored glasses version of him. In my defense, I asked him. No response, zip, nil, nada, which pitched me into the frame of mind in which I poured out my anguish (and anger) in a blog post.

This brings me back to a couple of things: you can't unsay it, and in a way, it's a karmic debt that came back for repayment; and it's my fault for losing my temper.

It's a long and storied relationship, and one with which I've been trying to make peace for thirty years. I have been so hell-bent on proving to Hopkins that I was and am worthy of his friendship that I forgot one very important thing: I'm worthy of friendship, whether or not I'm worthy of his, particularly. I was and am worthy of love, whether or not he has ever felt I was worthy of his. The pain of feeling inconspicuous and meaningless haunted me for three decades because a careless boy was certain that fleeing to a prestigious university would solve all of his problems, and that the only way to set the stage for it was a nearly hospital-sterile clean break.

In his defense, I believe he'd characterize me as fickle and shallow. It's something I could have solved then, or now, if he'd only actually talk to me about something other than Doctor Who, Sailor Moon, or 'net neutrality. Lack of honesty, communication, and let's face it, mutual social awkwardness, has led to a lot of pain and unhappiness over the years.

Then again, he could've meant what he said, and I'm rationalizing again.


Drama. I hate it.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

I Must Be Here for the Shoes

I'm going to stage a little departure from my usual navel-gazing today to talk about something else near and dear to my heart: clothes. I like them, but I really like them a lot better when I can get them in my size. What generally ends up happening is that I get a catalog or visit the website of a company from which I've ordered clothing to purchase without being able to try anything on. As my mother used to say, I'm "built funny", so standard clothing sizes, even plus sizes, often don't fit me correctly- so then I have to do the Mail Order Return Tango, whereby I send something back and have to wait forever for the money to be refunded. The shipping, which is frequently extortionate, is never refunded, and sometimes there's a penalty of 10-15% of the cost for sending it back- in the end, a plus-size is paying for the "privilege" of not being able to try things on in a store.

What's really saved me in recent months is eShakti. I've regained most of my weight that I lost with my LapBand, since I had to have the saline removed while Mom was sick (I developed a dangerous digestive issue). The thing is, I still have to have clothes, regardless of my weight. I am well above a 24W pant/skirt, which is the highest size carried in most plus-size departments. So what am I supposed to do? I'm a full professor- I can't roll onto campus in my skivvies!

One of my colleagues is on the short and curvy side. That is a deadly combination as far as clothes go, too; she needs petite, but plus petite is harder to find than hen's teeth, and like standard plus, the clothes are often expensive and just barely this side of hideous. She was an eShakti customer, and one fine day, she sent me a link to a dress on their website that was embroidered with cats on the skirt. I looked at it and thought, "Eh, well, they probably don't have my size," until I read the size charts. Not only do they make clothes that will fit me, they actually go beyond my size (I'm a pretty big gal).

If you have a friend or relative who sews, you can get extensive measurements taken and have your clothes completely bespoken (I don't, currently, and am loath to hire a seamstress to do it if I'm not going to buy from her). I do, however, use the customization option to change skirt lengths, add sleeves, and sometimes change necklines. All custom work and alterations are included for a single $7.50 per-garment customization fee. Their return policy is surprisingly liberal given that all of their clothes are made-to-order. Also, those returns end up as overstock, and sold at a discount over the regular retail. I've scored several dresses and a skirt that I love from the overstock section of the website.

Once, I ordered an overstocked dress using my cell phone, and for some reason, it processed as the smaller of the available overstocked sizes. I left a voicemail with their customer service line to follow up an e-mail saying that I needed to cancel the order and why. They called me back promptly the next day to confirm the cancellation and the lady with whom I spoke was very nice. 

If you're leery of buying a custom piece (14 working-day turnaround, custom-made and courier-shipped from the factory in India), check out the overstocks. Buy something at a discount and see if it fits/you like it. If you do, chances are you'll be back for more!

Disclaimer: I'm just a rank-and-file eShakti customer. I have not been solicited to promote them or received any form of compensation for doing so. I just like them and I'd pretty much be naked right now without them.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Spaghetti No

Once upon a time, when I was in college, I arranged to cook dinner for Hopkins, my friend Ann (A.K.A. "Moral Support and Cheerleading Section"), my sister, and Mom- Dad was out of town on a fishing trip to Canada, the weekend having been chosen specifically for that reason.

I rose early Saturday morning to begin cooking. I had chosen the menu based on a mistaken sense of universal popularity and the fact that I knew it was something that I couldn't screw up if I tried. I chose spaghetti with meat sauce...and at our house, spaghetti sauce did not come out of a jar. It was an all-day process involving several cans of unflavored tomato sauce, a small can of tomato paste, herbs, spices, onions, and hamburger. In order for the acid to break down in the tomatoes to a point at which I could eat them and not die, and for the sauce to have time to properly develop its flavor palette, preparation had to begin many hours before dinner.

All day, I stood over the stove, spicing, stirring, clarifying onions and cooking the meat. Mom contributed by running up a batch of Italian bread dough in her bread machine, which we stretched into a loaf and set aside to rest.

Finally, a couple of hours before the Moment of Truth, I turned down the stove, left the sauce in Mom's care, and raced upstairs to bathe and dress. Since I was now an officially Grown-Up College Student, I dressed in the first stare of late Eighties university fashion: big hair, khaki skirt, socks, loafers, an Irish fisherman's sweater (pink, in this case), and crisp white turtleneck, finished off with gigantic Anne Klein lions' head earrings and a heavy gold herringbone necklace.

The doorbell sounded and Ann and I began our descent. Halfway down, my loafers' slick soles betrayed me and what was supposed to be my cool, sophisticated entrance turned into slapstick comedy as I careened down the stairs, hitting the wall at the back of the landing with a resounding thud. Ann steadied me and we made it down the two landing steps without further incident.

I stood there grinning at Hopkins like an idiot for what seemed an eternity and what was, in truth, probably less than three minutes; then I started babbling. When I finally managed to govern myself enough to speak coherently, I explained that we were having the mention of which he turned slightly green. "Oh, God, is something wrong? Are you allergic to tomato sauce?" I asked as my mind flipped into full-panic mode.

"No," he murmured faintly, "it's just that I...I'm working at Pizza Hut."

From the kitchen, I heard my mother snap, "Well, I should hope that THIS is certainly an improvement over anything that is served at Pizza Hut." (Her inflection alone seemed to consign Pizza Hut to a culinary par with a roach motel.) "THIS is homemade. It has taken her ALL DAY, and I daresay my daughter is an excellent cook." End. Of. Discussion.

Dinner was, one might say, a bit strained.

That is why, to this day, although I am an excellent cook and am especially proficient in Italian red sauces, I will not serve pasta to guests.

Friday, August 1, 2014

I am Aldonza

In reflection over the fallout of this situation with Hopkins, what I wanted was for him to care. What I got was contempt. It's not apathy, but it still hurts.

 One of the contributing factors (of a great many) is that I could never quite figure out how to change into something that appealed to Hopkins. I've reached the point in my life where I have accomplished a great deal. I am mostly secure in my identity. I do not need to change to satisfy some abitrary parameter set by someone else. I am me, take it...or leave it.

You know what? That's okay...and this is why: I am difficult to know. I have been insulted, abused, defamed, and generally treated like crap by a lot of people. I insulate myself in a shell into which almost no one is allowed. It is a monumental risk to feel, much less show emotion, and open myself to potential ridicule. I got burned. Moving on.

I read a quotation yesterday that summed it up for me very nicely: "I don't miss him. I miss who I thought he was." I've missed Hopkins, as he was when we were in high school, for two-thirds of my life. The sweet, shy kid I knew evaporated somewhere in the intervening years, and that's the greatest tragedy- or he's trying awfully hard to convince me of it in the most negative ways possible.

I carry that version of him, the one who broke my heart at seventeen, with me always. Maybe he thinks I'm unworthy of him, but who is he to judge? Not wanting something or someone doesn't determine their negative worth, it only defines one in their terms. I don't have to accept those terms- ever- I just have to accept myself.