Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I Am Not an Animal

I'm a little bit of a sentimentalist. I send my friends Valentines, in part because I remember the pain of having not been the recipient of very many in the years that our teachers didn't require students to bring a card for every other student in the class. It was humiliating to collect my doily- and sticker-covered box to hear a very few little cards shuffling around the bottom; I think my all-time low was five. Even in those years, when there were several people in my homeroom to whom I didn't want to give a Valentine for various reasons, I did it anyway because it was the nice thing to do. I guess it was best to start learning about rejection then, because developing the ability to not cry in front of people came in handy later when the rejections were more public and brutal.

The reason it's on my mind today is because a friend's love interest really enjoys manipulating her emotions, slapping a mouse trap shut on them when she seems to feel more than he is willing to permit. He makes plans and blows them off, then accuses her of being ridiculous when she calls him out on it. The universal opinion of people who know her is that he's a jerk and she should leave him, but sometimes things are more complicated than that- I concur that she should, but I understand why she doesn't.

I made the mistake of sending Hopkins a 'friend' Valentine last year. The card had a penguin on it. At the time he was living with his mother and aunt, and when he received it, he made a huge production out of being upset to the point of near-revulsion (this information was relayed to me by his aunt). So yes, a huge overreaction, and when I caught wind of it, it was horrifying. The simplest way to consider it is, "To hell with him, I shouldn't care what he thinks," but I do care; nobody can make you feel worse than someone whose opinion you've permitted to matter. Also, if he is really my friend, you'd think he'd might have reacted more as, "Oh, hey, a penguin," instead of "Dear God, I have just received a card from the most hideously subhuman and loathsome creature on Earth!" (Is it just me, or does that sound like something that The Oatmeal would come up with?)

As I wrote to my friend in the wake of her latest pain, we have to give ourselves permission to feel self-respect, if we're not getting respect from people in whom we are emotionally invested. She and I have disconnections with interpersonal relationships in similar ways, and I'd love to lock this dude in a room with Hopkins and let them have a "Who's the Worse Asshole?" showdown...it might end in a dead heat.

The holidays are going to be hard enough for me this year without dwelling on so much negativity, but watching her tie herself in these knots brings back the awful loneliness I've felt most of my life. We deserve better- anybody does- but there are days that my belief in how realistic that is wanes. I'm not a perfect person, by any means; I just wonder why some people think it's a waste of time for them to treat me like a human being and not an offense to their sensibilities.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Rich Corinthian Leather...Or Not

One of the vast changes I noted when I began working in higher ed was the fact that most students seemed to have cars, and that at least half of the cars on campus (it was a private, albeit non-competitive admissions, college) were much nicer than what I drove. When I started college, we were discouraged from having cars. Some of my friends, however, did manage to bring one, and those were the folks upon whom we all relied for transportation to anywhere beyond campus. The theory behind not allowing freshmen to have cars went something like this: "If they can't get off campus to do things, they'll do things on campus. Also, it will be far more difficult for them to turn the state flagship into a suitcase college every Friday."

Wrong. My mother came and got me at least once a month, and that was a 200 mile round trip from my hometown. I was in the Honors Program, so we generally didn't go forth except to hang out in each others' dorms, play RPGs, hack from a computer lab, or go to the library. Sometimes when we were feeling especially motivated, we might even go to the second-run dollar theater in the student center, or dress rehearsal night for the latest College of Fine Arts offering.

My friend Bill had the Mother of All Land Yachts which took the form of a 1972 Chrysler Cordoba. The car was, in a word, HUGE. The trunk could have held several dead bodies...foreshadowing his job a couple of years out as the night call guy for the county morgue...and one could easily cram about five people in the back seat in the days before seat belt laws. The front seat was a bench, too, so it could hold three or four folks depending on the size of the passengers- I was already a Big Girl and Bill was a Large Dude, so three if we were in the front and somebody small wanted to sit in the middle.

There was a reason that I sat shotgun in The Green Goblin- so nicknamed for its dark hunter green color- mostly related to wardrobe. The fashion at the time among college girls was chino skirts that were tapered down to the shin-length hem, effectively a latter-day hobble skirt. The Goblin was a two-door, and those skirts made it necessary for Bill or one of the other boys in the car to come around and fish me out of the back seat because I couldn't get out (when left to my own devices, I resembled a stranded walrus trying to flop along the ice). After about a dozen rounds of this, the boys decided that it was much simpler to let me ride up front...not to mention that a couple of people pointed out that "the lady" (HA!) should be up front anyway.

Sadly, the Cordoba wheezed its last over the summer before our sophomore year, and Bill returned to campus with a far less-intimidating late-model Pontiac 6000 similar to my mother's. The Pontiac would have been fine, except for one little thing: Bill tended to throw himself into the front seat a little hard, and one night the driver's seat hinge snapped. Since it was too hard for him to sit up to drive it that way, I drove it back to the frat house and we went to the movies in my Chevy Beretta.  Even though the Cordoba was kind of an in-joke within our circle of friends, the Pontiac never quite lived up to its ultra-nerd factor. It was a unique part of the mythology of our undergraduate experience...and every time I see a Cordoba, I think fondly of those days...including the molting sun-damaged upholstery that only a teenager could fully appreciate.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Dress You Up

I'm still running on Madonna fumes. I've mentioned before that eShakti has enabled me to have a wardrobe of styles I've been dying to own for years- and I just ordered the most beautiful dress that has a two-layer skirt with wide chevrons of tulle over a peachy-pink underskirt. It's basically an early-evening dinner dress, for candlelit dinners that I won't be having anytime soon, but the urge to own it was overwhelming. My mother would have appreciated the skill involved in that skirt.

They say that we should dress for the jobs we want...well, most days feel like I'm putting on a costume, rather than getting dressed for work; that has more to do with perception and feeling than it does with how or why I should dress for my job. I came from a position where we were encouraged to dress like first-grade teachers, at which I arrived from a state university, where I was expected to wear business attire. My current job involves fairly casual clothing since anything too formal would scare our students to death- they already feel intimidated enough talking to staff in the offices, and we don't want to add to it.

What I would like is to have somewhere to wear this fantastic wardrobe. The world has become increasingly casual all the way around, and there just aren't as many opportunities that don't cost an arm, leg, and a kidney to experience to which one would wear beautiful clothes. Life runs at the speed of casual dining versus anywhere that might have tablecloths and/or candles- and those moments belong to younger, prettier women than me.

I always say that I don't believe in "magical moments", and yet I keep waiting for them. I try not to want too much. It reminds me of an exchange between Frankenfurter and Magenta in The Rocky Horror Picture Show: 

Magenta: "I ask for nothing!"
Frankenfurter: "And you shall receive it in abundance!"

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Into the Groove

I still can't shake the Madonna earworm from last weekend, so today's piece is "Into the Groove" from Desperately Seeking Susan. In the movie, Madonna's character had a very cool jacket with a pyramid on the back and this pair of rhinestone-studded demi-boots that I would have almost sold my soul to Satan to have.

Back then, when my parents controlled my wardrobe, I was turned out in the most abysmally "safe" assortment of plus-size grandma clothes available. My mother also made sure that I had the most hideously functional Playtex Eighteen Hour bras that no self-respecting teenager would wear voluntarily...and for which I was relentlessly tortured by my bully, because I had to change clothes in the same room with her during band contests. I was the height of all that was uncool in my granny panties and birth-control bra.

During the spring of 1985, Desperately Seeking Susan came out. Over the winter, I'd lost my precious old Fox Terrier, my aunt, and then, to cap it off, my grandmother, shortly followed by being dumped a few days before the prom. It was the Superfecta of all teenage hideousness. As a sophomore stuck with a dress and no date, I was circling the drain- hoping against hope that Hopkins, who was similarly dateless, might clue in and save me. (No such luck, although the prom disaster was resolved by a kindly boy from my church who took pity on me.)

In the midst of all this, a shoe store chain that specialized in inexpensive fashion shoes came out with exclusively-licensed reproductions of Madonna's boots from the movie, and I HAD to have those boots. My birthday was coming up, so that's what I asked for- in fact, they were the only thing I asked for. I wanted those boots, and I thought that by suiciding my Sweet 16 birthday list, I would surely get them.

It didn't happen.

I don't remember what I got for my birthday that year, but it wasn't the boots. Mom told me that she'd tried, but they didn't have the boots in my size. I knew she was lying because on our most recent trip to the city, I'd gone to the store alone and tried the boots on. They did have them, they did fit, and my parents just didn't feel that they were appropriate. That was almost thirty years ago and I still remember it clearly.

As an adult, I think this is why I have far too many clothes, shoes, and accessories. A couple of years later, I trooped off blindly to an SEC university with painfully tacky, cheap handbags, a wardrobe of out-of-style clothing, and my grand total of six pairs of shoes. If I'd thought I was vilified for that in high school, at least I came from an area of conservative blue-collar middle-class people who didn't care overmuch about that kind of thing and thought too much apparel was wasteful; I arrived in Lexington and was mocked into hiding within a couple of days. I vowed then that I would never be ridiculed for my taste in apparel again.

The result is a little over-curated. I have a wardrobe of great clothes, fantastic shoes, and cool bags, but I still remember what it was like to want the things I couldn't have "because they aren't made in your size, honey". Although there are more choices out there, it's not a hundred percent awesome even today, but at least I can buy a lacy bra or a cute jacket if I want it. If they ever re-issue those boots, rest assured that they will be MINE.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Crazy For You

The other night, as we sat waiting for Stefan's improv show to begin, a selection of Eighties movie soundtrack songs played in the background. Ben, one of Stefan's college roommates, rolled in with his two latest vinyl acquisitions, Don McLean's American Pie and Madonna's Madonna. As we looked them over and made suitable sounds of approval, Madonna's "Into the Groove" from "Desperately Seeking Susan" queued up. Hopkins glanced over at the Madonna album I was holding and told us, "Oh, I had that one in high school...I ripped the CD onto my computer a while back."

I felt the anger flash out into my expression before I could control the reaction. Madonna is a sore point with me in the context of Hopkins; every single freaking dance for which he stood me up in high school seemed to have ended with "Crazy for You".  I hissed, "Keep going and they'll take your Straight Card away. Madonna, really? YOU were a big Madonna fan?" Insert hysterical observations about mistaken homophobic reaction to that kind of thing in our high school, hence excusing his concealment of Madonna-mania; I dryly added, "Unless you know the choreography for all of her videos as well, nobody would have made that mistake. Trust me."

If I reach outside Madonna's canon for another ballad, the more perfect choice is Counting Crows' Raining in Baltimore (there's that Johns Hopkins reference, kids), and the line that hits me hardest is this:

There are things I remember; there are things I forget.
I miss you...I guess that I should.
Three thousand five hundred miles away-
What would you change if you could?

My friendship with him only works if I don't register any sentiment or emotion, so I have to find other ways to draw it off. I've become so accustomed to not showing emotion (because it tends to be treated as a punchline if expressed by a fat woman) that this is sadly more normal for me than not. It's one of those deals I've made with the Devil. In order to have him in my life, I have to be careful to stay numb. I got a metaphorical slap in the face the one time I evinced my true feelings for him, and for twenty-eight years, that moment has informed every subsequent humiliation I've felt when I've been dismissed by a man as ridiculous, unsuitable, or unwanted.

I am, as I have always been, that guy at the D&D game who has boobs. As far as he's concerned, that's the only way I'm not threatening or gross, I guess. I've waited all my life to let this go, and to move on, but I've resigned myself that it will never happen. This is all there is, and this is as good as it will ever get.