Monday, September 11, 2017

On Becoming Invisible

I finally talked with my sister at some length about the Departure of Hopkins from my life, current revised edition.

My ex used my friendship (and his blatant refusal to understand, because it was so inconvenient for him) with Hopkins as one of the many justifications for his cheating on, and subsequently, leaving me.

The biggest irony, or the most brutal joke in all of it, is that at the end of the day, Hopkins assigned me a value of less-than. It's something that large women get used to early in the game; we're less-than human, less-than acceptable, less-than valid, less-than girlfriends, less-than actual friends...because our size is more-than average. Because society judges on appearance, it matters not what other qualities we may have, they cannot redeem us from the egregious sin of size.

I had always considered myself his friend, but he'd decided at some point that I was basically a slightly animated piece of background scenery. As he informed my aunt, under his breath one fateful day this summer, "She's just someone I hang out with occasionally."

Oh, I get it. I'm not worthy of being his friend. That might qualify me somehow as fully human. Instead, I'm not even good enough to rate friendship. I should have known. When his other (or possibly only, if I'm feeling especially revisionist) close friend from high school died a year and a half ago, he didn't go to the viewing or the funeral. He didn't go sign the book. If that's what he'd do to someone he considers a friend, what the hell could I reasonably expect?

I'm almost fifty years old, and this feeling of abandonment grates. It tears at my soul, but in the end, what can I do? Accept it, reject it; it makes no difference. It hurts. Losing people whom you believed to be friends when they chose others, or in this case, being alone, over your company just sucks. I guess that's why I have so many pets...although I wonder sometimes if it's unfair to inflict myself on them, too.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Wading Back Into the Past

Our thirtieth (!) reunion is on the horizon, and there's been a spate of photographs going up on the social media group that the class president put together to organize it. Two things: they're mostly of one clique, and I'm not in very many of them, regardless of whose photos they are.

I'm not in the prom pictures. I wasn't a superlative. The only photo of the senior float construction crew is one in which I don't appear, although I worked for hours on the damn thing every single day the week of homecoming, just as I had in the three preceding years.  (I won the English award and shared the History award. I won two separate academic scholarships. I had also had a scholarship to attend college the summer before my senior year...but because of my school schedule, I had to give up my spots in Girls' State and Junior Miss. I didn't rate much in the way of yearbook coverage- I was in the previous class' yearbook photos more than I was in my own senior year.)

The thing is, I hated being photographed. I still do. For someone who began her early life as a photographer's studio model (I was the ad for two different portrait studios, including a statewide print campaign for one of them), I can tell you when I began hating it: it was when I started picking up weight. When I became an overweight child, having previously been underweight and slightly ethereal-looking, I was no longer considered pretty.

Pictures now involved "suck in your gut", or "stand in the back so your fat doesn't show"; then there's the famous series of vacation pictures as I was just hitting puberty where my father looked at me with disgust and announced, "If you keep getting fatter, we're going to have to go to Omar the Tentmaker for your clothes!" Yeah, my enthusiasm for being recorded on film died a brutal death.

A couple of years later, my dance school staged "Sleeping Beauty", and I took the part of Carabosse, the evil fairy (mostly because it gave me more solos than anyone else). When my class went to have its group portrait made at the dress rehearsal, the mother of one of the other girls said, "Oh, don't let her in the picture with the pretty girls! She's the fat, ugly witch!" The teacher turned to her and snapped, "Then we won't have a class picture for this group. It's all of them or none of them!" There was a brief standoff. I was in the group picture, and I ended up consoling her daughter, who was crying with shame after that little scene.

I have a few regrets about not allowing my picture to be taken, mostly that I didn't have more with my mother before she passed away. Seeing all these photos from high school in which I'm just simply not there also bring back that cold, hollow feeling that I had back then. In a way, I'm to blame...I came back from my summer school experience at WKU with a big old IDGAF attitude, and in point of fact, told a couple of people to their faces that they were no longer part of my reality, full stop. I'd lost Chris/Hopkins and my friends in the Class of 1986 to graduation. I was lonely, and I was bitter.

I'm going to the reunion. It's three hours long, but I am optimistic that I have enough anxiety meds to get through it. I may just hide in the back of the picture again.























Monday, July 17, 2017

Is That All There Is?

For the last several years, I'd toss off a hasty e-mail or so to Hopkins while I was at camp; I pulled myself up short of doing so this year. Part of my route back to my sister's house in the city passes a now-empty call center facility at which he once worked, many years ago. Twice a day, I reminded myself that I'm only someone with whom he occasionally hangs out. I sent no e-mails this year. 

It's forced me to realize that although I thought that we were friends in high school, I was more of a thing he couldn't readily shed. I didn't matter, I was just there. I was part of the furniture; not worth really knowing, not worth remembering. 

We all lose our innocence about certain things as time passes. You never know what will kill it, or when it will die. When it happens, though, there's this hollow feeling that is physically painful. 

Since the conversation with my aunt, clarifying my insignificance to Hopkins, I have sent the lone e-mail explaining that I had done so. 

He won't miss me. He never has. I knew it would go down this way, but I was determined to try one more time. 

It will never make a difference.

I woke up this morning with all four cats in the bed. Tomorrow there will be cats, and the dogs are coming home this afternoon.

That's as good as it gets. I just need to accept it.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Existing versus Living, Summer Vacation Edition

It just occurred to me that I haven't been on a vacation in eighteen years, not a real one where there wasn't some other event in conjunction with it. Sometimes it's because I stay with my best friend and her husband- which is more of a visit. Sometimes it's because I'm actually traveling for my job...in fact, the most traveling I ever did in a single year was seventeen years ago, when I was interviewing for new jobs around the Southeast and Midwest. There was a visit/vacation many years ago when a friend and I decided to go to Biltmore during our spring break (we were faculty, and believe me, we need spring break as much as students do) and that culminated in our visiting, you guessed it, my best friend and her husband, a little further out in North Carolina.

People who take annual vacations seem to have so much fun, but usually they're folks who have partners and/or families. One of my library buddies has started going on trips by herself; this year's iteration was a road trip of the Laura Ingalls Wilder historical sites. Maybe I should take a similar trip, but I figure I can be just as lonely in one place, where I don't have to pay to board my dogs or sleep in strange hotel rooms. 

We're kind of back to the concept that I don't like being a burden to others, and I always feel that I'm underfoot. I also have this weird thing about 'I should be doing something productive' when I travel; there's supposed to be some sort of 'mission goal' involved. I guess that staves off some of the emptiness.

What it boils down to in the end is that I don't live, I exist. In many ways, that stems from a lifetime of being dismissed as burdensome or boring or unattractive or...(insert depressing adjective here). I wouldn't know joy if it jumped up and bit me on the butt, because I've been estranged from it so completely my entire life. 

Seeing all the photos and cheerful social media posts this time of year just drives the point home. I don't begrudge anyone their happiness or their vacations, mind you. I just wish I deserved a little slice of that, or had a clue to finding it.

Monday, June 26, 2017

I'm Not the One

My aunt was recently resident at the Chez for a couple of weeks during her annual progress through Kentucky, during which my father had asked that I bring the dogs over for a visit. I loaded everyone up and off we went, the day before Father's Day. Since it was a Saturday, I invited Hopkins to come meet the dogs, as he's been hearing about them forever and a day, but hadn't met them in person.

You would've thought that the devil himself was on his heels, because he was at the house roughly ten minutes after I messaged him that we'd arrived. My aunt, trying to make small talk, brought up several subjects, including how we knew each other, how long we'd known each other, and where he went to college (I emitted a cat-like hiss and excused myself from the room).

At some point, when Hopkins got really uncomfortable with the line of questioning, he muttered in a confused undertone, "I'm just somebody who hangs out with her occasionally."

Stick a fork in me. I'm done. Apparently, I don't even qualify as a friend.

Granted, Hopkins is a monumental example of social awkwardness made flesh. Yes, that is absolutely the technical fact...but in the name of all that is holy, my IQ is higher than his. I am not so stupid that I haven't figured it out, or have not known this since I was sixteen. years. old. His need to immediately (and with ungodly haste and emphasis) correct that misconception, as I've written about before, is a pain point for me. It's humiliating; there's no other way to convey it.

I cannot articulate how soul-crushing it is.

A couple of days later, I was back at Dad's on the way through with a rescued Airedale from Mom's hometown in northwestern Kentucky. My aunt doesn't miss much, really; she didn't get to be corporate HR director for a huge banking concern by accident. She'd picked up on my distress and his discomfort, and so she asked me about it.

"Is he a boyfriend, or just a friend?"

I sighed and told her the story. I explained why I have a lasting animosity towards Johns Hopkins University. The nutshell version to which I've distilled it down, because this happens more often than I care to admit, came tumbling out. Dad was standing there, and I watched his facial expressions as my emotions got the better of me. His lips set in a line, and he delivered some fatherly advice, having suddenly realized after thirty-plus years of ignoring this situation that it has had a profound and devastating effect.

"And so," I concluded, "although I have been in love with this idiot since I was sixteen, it is entirely unrequited and I'm a fool." I dissolved into a small puddle of burning shame, then loaded up the rescue dog to head back over to my place. After chewing on it for a week, I sent Hopkins a brief e-mail saying that I'd talked with my aunt, and heaven forfend that anyone should make such an egregious mistake (as to assume that we might possibly be, GOD FORBID, a couple, or that he should SETTLE for someone like me- implied, not explicit, you understand).

Someday, Hopkins will push the last dogged hanger-on away, and he will be utterly alone. I'm glad that he seems to be okay with that. I used to think I'd be that person, but I'm not so sure anymore. The pain is not worth the price of having a warm body who doesn't give a damn about me to drag around when I want to go do things.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

#TheySaid the Most Asinine Body-Shaming Things

I very rarely tweet. Twitter is not my favorite social media, but every once in a while I'll join a Twitter feed if the hashtag matters to me. #TheySaid is about body-shaming and the lifelong impact it has on people.

My all-time favorite, by my father, was "If you gain any more weight, we'll have to go to Omar the Tentmaker for your clothes." I was twelve years old, just hitting puberty, and hit the superfecta of being fat, acne-prone, nearsighted, and wearing braces. I fought back, and for my pains, was stuck with a psychologist whose brilliant deduction was that if I lost weight, through an "organized program" such as Weight Watchers or a children's fat camp, everything would be okay. She's a very respected child psychologist...whom I fired when I was thirteen, of my own volition, because my weight was not the root of my issues; it was my father's alcoholism, which she preferred to ignore in deference to his medical degree.

My mother told me that no boys would ever date me because I was fat. She refused to buy me clothing because "all the bigger clothes are so poorly made, and they cost more- I can buy your (slender) sister more clothes with less money"-there were underprivileged kids in my school who had larger wardrobes than mine. Mom (who, don't get me wrong, I loved dearly and still struggle with this because of it) put me in a high-power girdle at the age of twelve, not long after the Omar the Tentmaker crack by Dad. She viewed it as a waste of money to give me too many clothes, and as an adult, I am a clotheshorse and clothing hoarder...and there's a direct correlation. When she finally edged up into a plus size herself, I did the legwork to dress her in the expensive clothes to which she was accustomed. In that era, doing so required an almost arcane knowledge of where to shop- and although I didn't have much money for it myself, I became an expert sale-troller at the more upmarket places that sold plus clothing. She was embarrassed, ashamed of "letting herself go", and after a particularly exasperating day of dealing with this, she said, "Well, of course you know how to do this! You've always BEEN fat!"

(Yes, Mom; yes, I have. Lucky you, you only got fat when you were older. At least you had a shot at a normal life, unlike me.)

Weight Watchers, led by our local TV preacher, was a nightmare. One week, while on my period, I showed a gain at weigh-in, and he laid into me like I had just sacrificed an infant to Satan in the town square. I was twelve. I was the only teenager there. It was humiliating. I'd hit my limit with him, so I screamed, "I HAVE MY PERIOD! I'M RETAINING WATER! ARE YOU STUPID???"  I have a strong dislike of Weight Watchers to this day, and not coincidentally, this particular preacher, as a result.

A boy from my church once said to me, "I don't know how you can get off the ground in those ballet lessons you take, because you're so fat." He's 6'2"; I'm 5'6"; I executed a perfect grande jete au tournant from a flat stance and broke his nose. When he told his parents how it happened, they made him call the house and apologize (this was the olden days- now, my parents would be sued and criminal assault charges would be filed against me). Nobody who witnessed it ever challenged me about that shit again.

Another particularly fun thing, the summer before my senior year, was being broken up with because I didn't 'put out'- fat girls, according to him, should be desperate enough to call any boy a boyfriend that they'd do ANYTHING to keep him. He'd already found two fatter girls in his Upward Bound program who were both sleeping with him, for that reason; we'd been dating for a solid year, so I took it a bit badly. I slapped him so hard that I dislocated my shoulder.

(So yes, I had anger-management issues, but they were usually fairly justified. I didn't go around beating the crap out of people who didn't deserve it.)

The boy I dated after that one broke up with me at my prom because he wanted to take a thinner girl from his school to their prom. I didn't know that until I was dating one of his friends in college, whose parting shot during our breakup was (after I'd lost 90 pounds on Optifast in three months) "You're a nice girl, but you still need to lose a lot of weight." He was obese himself, which I pointed out, and to which he responded, "Guys can be fat. Girls can't. I didn't make the rules, that's just how it is."

(Ten years later, it dawned on him that he'd been really shitty to me, and I give him props for tracking me down through the alumni directory to apologize. We're still friends.) 

Which brings me to Hopkins. When I was on the run-up to my gastric sleeve, he primly looked at me one night and said, "I think it's 'cheating' to lose weight that way." I surveyed him coolly and said, "Oh, that's right, you haven't always been fat, so you don't get it." That was the last time he ever mentioned it, and by the way, he's around five hundred pounds and a Type II diabetic. But, as Bill, the dude in the preceding paragraphs pointed out, "Guys can be fat." That's different, you know.

At my sister's wedding reception, my father, who was howlingly drunk, turned and gestured to me, "Well, I'll never have to do this again!" His friend, a surgeon and father of four, protested on my behalf. Dad rebutted with, "JUST LOOK AT HER! Nobody's going to marry HER!" Dad's best friend, who was my doctor at the time, also witnessed this, and signed off immediately on my paperwork to have the LapBand. It was probably one of the most mortifying experiences of my adult life.

I was 34...in twenty-two years, nothing had changed since the "Omar the Tentmaker Incident". Nothing.

#TheySaid whatever the hell they wanted to, and it was "the truth" or "for my own good" or "because we love you, honey". I say, "**** that noise." I'm in therapy and that's one of the things that I'll never unravel if I live to be a thousand. Taste your words twice before they leave your lips, because once said, they can never be unsaid...and they're zero-calorie, so you won't gain weight from it.

Friday, June 2, 2017

It Could Have Been a Meet-Cute, Alas

Many years ago, I was on a trip to Charleston, South Carolina, with three friends. We were there for Fourth of July weekend. There's a pier on the battery that has porch swings and ceiling fans...it's one of my favorite places there, and we decided to run down there from our hotel around 11 o'clock one night.

As we were about to cross the street to the park, a young man came out on the balcony of the hotel at the corner, and started singing "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina". About halfway through, he lost the lyrics, so what's a theatre kid supposed to do? Help a brotha out.

I turned toward the hotel and delivered the next line, much to the embarrassment of my friends. So yes, I was standing in the streets of Charleston, singing show tunes with a drunk guy who was five floors above me in a very expensive hotel suite.

Just as we finished the song, his friends retrieved him from the balcony. We waved to each other, and I continued to the park with my friends.

It was just one of those moments. For me it was a tiny little scrap of magic, but it never bore fruit, of course. I always wondered who he was. I'm pretty sure he was somewhat younger than me; I was thirty, and I had the impression that he was in his twenties.

You can't orchestrate those moments. They either happen organically, or they don't. Here I am, still hoping for some spark. Magic is in such short supply these days, isn't it?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Four Years Later

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Thursday, April 20, 2017

Table for One, Please

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Only the Scenery Changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I didn't care anymore.

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

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

Monday, April 17, 2017

Thirty Years, and I Haven't Learned

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Research Says...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 3, 2017

What Am I, Chopped Liver???

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

Not really, but damn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 31, 2017

Oh, Not Again

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

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

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

That's where it goes walleyed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Wait a Damn Second, Dude

I hang out with Hopkins because, frankly, I don't have a lot of friends. To him, I'm a convenient lift to an activity he seems to enjoy (improv) and that's it. This past weekend, I had to take my father's watch for repairs, to the oldest continuously-operating jeweler in the state. As we pulled through the iron gates of the parking lot, I asked Hopkins if he wanted to go in or stay out in the car.

He said he'd stay in the car.

If he'd left it there, I would have been okay, but no...that was not mean enough.

He added, as I was stepping out of the vehicle, "I wouldn't want them to get the wrong idea."

Dear Hopkins: Insofar as this may come as a shock to your system, I have owned, at different times, a total of three engagement rings, two of which I still have. That means (GASP!) that there were at minimum three (THREE!) men who actively wanted to marry me. Had you left it at that, I probably wouldn't be so angry BUT you felt it necessary thereafter on the same evening to inform two complete strangers (a bookstore clerk and a server) that we were NOT a couple. What the HELL, man? SERIOUSLY? I KNOW YOU DON'T WANT ME. Stop being an asshole. No woman within a thousand-yard range who caught ANY of that would even vaguely entertain the idea of going out with you, because it plays badly to the cheap seats.

Yes, this is with whom my ex thought I was cheating on him. GUESS AGAIN, EX: Not only does he NOT want me, he's hell-bent on reminding me that I'm unworthy of his attention. (That's a bit specious for many, MANY reasons on which I don't wish to elaborate.)

With friends like this, who needs enemies?

Monday, March 6, 2017

Just Call Me Diogenes and Hand Me a Lantern

My family doesn't have as many generations as some. They often married late on my mother's side, leading to an interesting conundrum: my grandparents were both born in the Victorian Era. Their parents were getting on a bit in age when they were born. There are fewer generations between me and my ancestor Philip Lightfoot, who fought in the American Revolution, than there are for the majority of people my age.

I'm a walking anachronism. My parents were children of the Great Depression, and my mother, of course, was raised by two Southerners of Victorian vintage. My ideas of honor, family, relationships, et cetera, are informed by older value systems.

It puts me at a disadvantage.

On top of being over-educated and physically unattractive (read:fat...I might as well be bright purple and have three heads), I have unreasonable (apparently) expectations about truthfulness, fidelity, and other little things like that. I'm probably going to be single until I die as a result.

Also, God help me to not ever have another man accuse me of cheating on him as long as I shall live- because I am not, have not, and will not, EVER -and use it as a justification for committing infidelity on his part. I'm not wired that way.

I guess I'm not pretty, young, or thin enough to reasonably expect to be treated with respect or dignity. I've been made to feel like an alien for having this seemingly unreasonable expectation.

What ever happened to dealing with comes next, after the shine is off the apple? People are disposable, or at least I am...or that's how it feels.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Freedom and Other Illusions

Funny, it doesn't feel so hot- but then again, I wasn't the one who did the dirt. I'm not into hurting people. I'm not into lying, stealing, or cheating. 

Every time I've tried to talk to my ex about it, he throws it back at me and tells me it was all my fault. 

I guess so; I put up with his bullshit for that long, so I guess I deserved it...

Wait. No. I didn't. 

So it's a one-year anniversary of not setting foot in the local steakhouse, because we ate there about every couple of weeks. It's the one year anniversary of me going to a movie here in town. In a couple of days, it'll be the one year anniversary of receiving disconnection notices for three utilities at once, due to the thousand dollars I didn't know that I owed, because that's what he was supposed to pay in lieu of rent (it was less than half the total household costs, by the way).

I should have known. He was still so angry at his mother about his childhood that he wasn't there for her when she was dying, until the shit totally hit the fan. It wasn't entirely without reason, but you know, he's not the only person who had a parent who wasn't straight up out of a Leave It to Beaver episode. Some of us still suck it up and do our duty.

A year later I'm still sore. I'm still hollow. 

He got to move on. He got to have his revenge, like some schoolyard bully. I paid for every woman who ever took a dump on him before I came into the picture. I am now the most recent Evil Bitch (by his definition) about whom he will tell sob stories to any woman stupid enough to buy his line. 

Here's the catch: it's not the truth. I knew, long ago, that although some of their motives were questionable, he probably drove every woman who kicked him out to their wit's end. I tried to tough it out and it blew up in my face.

It's hard enough. I'm not young anymore. I never had a decent body, being a 'such a pretty face' fat girl. My IQ is too high, I have too many degrees, I assert my opinions, and I don't like games. I guess I'm through with dating. In retrospect, maybe my parents should have let me join the convent way back when. I'd be just as lonely inside as out.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

There Are Things I Remember, And Things I Forget

Today would have been Margo's 51st birthday. I remember how much snow we had two years ago, when all Hell broke loose...today it is almost seventy degrees Fahrenheit and sunny. I still miss her terribly.

Yesterday was the first anniversary of my transporting a tri-color Walker Coonhound to At Risk Intervention's Waystation in Knoxville. He was a friendly dog. I finally got to meet Cyn, with whom I've corresponded at various intervals throughout my rescue career.

Today is the eighth anniversary of my visit to the animal shelter in Columbia, Kentucky, following one of the largest animal hoarder raids in the history of the state. It was overwhelming. It's also the first anniversary of Molly's rescue ride; sadly, ATRA and Jane Belle Gates, her foster mom, had to let her go due to increasing complications from cancer before she reached a year in rescue.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of betrayal.

When I stopped at the house on the day I was picking up Molly, one of my boyfriend's socks was in the driveway near his SUV. I knew what it meant, but I pushed the nausea down and waited for him to come out to go with me to get Molly, as promised. Instead, he ignored me and continued playing his electric guitar, which could be heard for about a block. I didn't have time to wait for him, so I left to get Molly. She had to be checked in by a certain time at my vet's clinic- I barely made it.

The next day, I returned to his house keys and a Dear Jane letter on the stove. The sock in the driveway meant exactly what I thought it had, but rather than tell me that he was leaving me for the woman I knew he was seeing behind my back, he packed up the last of his things and took off while I was at work.

The following afternoon, the disconnection notices for all of the utilities arrived, to the tune of almost a thousand dollars- he'd been stealing the bills out of the mail for months and concealing them, not paying them to create a nest-egg for his new life. In a panic, I borrowed the money from my father. It became my birthday gift that year when he sent me a note "forgiving the loan". The price of my ex's freedom became a reminder of his unfaithfulness and rejection two months later, as if it didn't already sting enough.

I haven't dated. I've looked, half-heartedly, at dating websites, but I still feel too numb to process the idea of letting myself in for that kind of betrayal again. Chris ("Hopkins") still makes an enormous production to servers of the fact that our restaurant tabs are separate, and it feels more humiliating every successive time it happens...this is the guy my ex thought was in love with me. Funny how one can weave a justification out of nothing.

My ex tried to tell me what hell his life was in the nine months immediately following his departure, to which I put a halt: "Why should I care about this? It's what you chose, isn't it? That hell was preferable to me." (cue crickets)

Trust me, that's a hard one to to bounce back from; it may be my life's work. I don't know if I ever really will.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

My Problems are There, but They Could be Worse

A few things have happened in the last week that are worth noting for varying reasons:

Hopkins did go to the improv show. While I was in the bathroom, Stefan's father asked him if he was blind or just stupid, and further informed him that it was awful that he didn't seem to notice or care that I looked great that night. It kind of rolled right off of him, reinforcing what I kept telling my ex to no avail: I've been down this road so many times before that I know exactly how this ends, with a big fat 'not interested'. I'm that guy at the D&D game who has boobs. This hasn't changed in thirty years and it's never going to change.

A young woman I had quite literally known since her birth died of an overdose. She was working in my father's medical group as a physician's assistant, and my dad was her preceptor physician. She grew up down the street from us, and for many years, her father was our family's veterinarian; I remember her so clearly, as a child and a teen and a young woman. This SHOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED. Today I went home and looked at her lying in the casket and thought, "THIS IS BULLSHIT." You're not going to convince me otherwise. She was ten years my junior and I feel so angry and regretful that her life ended far too soon. The flowers were beautiful, by the way.

Lastly, a friend's husband died after a short but fraught battle with cancer. She is a woman of deep faith and I hope that it will sustain her through the coming difficulties. Their twin sons will graduate from high school this spring, and there is a younger son still at home. I haven't seen her in a hundred years; we reconnected through social media, so I've tried to keep up with her that way. She's one of the most truly decent people I've ever known in my life, so this has a tang of supreme unfairness to it. She had the life to which so many of us should aspire, and now she has lost her husband, who by all accounts was a nice guy. (It turns out that he was veterinarian for another friend's mother's ancient, late Boston Bull Terrier.)

Vet families have had a bad run lately, seems like.

The pastor of my home church has also relayed the information that a couple who have been integral to the congregation (and who are very special to me) are suffering. The husband has entered hospice care. What I'm not sure a great many people remember is that he has an M.Div. from the Presbyterian seminary, but chose not to seek a pulpit after completing it. I talked with him when I was in discernment and it was one of the things that showed me that I wasn't really cut out for the pastorate. While he is very quiet, I am rather strident. Neither is the right fit for ministry. He led the Session when I was called to be examined for my catechism. His wife, who for a long time was our pianist, would quietly pivot my toddler sister and send her back up the side aisle when she ran away from Mom during services.

So we wait, and I'll go home again. At least my class reunion is during Cow Days and maybe I can see some folks there instead of at the funeral home.

Recapping: Valentine's Day was a bust, although someone left a book and some candy in the mailbox at my house with a kind note. That helped. A lot. Really, it did. Hopkins was himself, per usual, and meh. Then the MMWR (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, for non-library folks) rolled out, with some nasty surprises. *sigh* Hiding under the bed's really not an option but it sounds GREAT.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Before the World Ends

My fatalism's a little worse than usual. A week after Valentine's Day last year, I came home to find that my now ex-boyfriend had packed up and moved out, leaving my keys and a Dear Jane letter on the stove. He told me later that it seemed too cruel to leave me before Valentine's Day, although the gesture ended up being vicious in a casually backhanded way.

I haven't dated anyone since.

Christmas was sad. New Year's was a disaster and I was a burden on my friends. Now, the annual reminder that I'm undesirable looms large on the horizon.

I've been campaigning relentlessly to cheer myself up. I have a week's worth of outfits to try to be cheerful for students. I've ordered several very snarky cat-themed Valentine cards from an artist in England. I'll have to do our Valentine's Day book display soon at work. So far I just feel numb.

I've put off asking Hopkins if he wants to go see Damaged Goods because I know he'll refuse since God forbid I should think it was a Date! On Valentine's Weekend! I went to one of their February shows alone a while back because there wasn't anybody to go with, and ended up having pizza with Stefan at Puccini's Smiling Teeth afterward. That was my big Valentine's Day, although admittedly, it was one of the better ones. This was never one of my favorite holidays.

I remember being all psyched up about making my little "mailbox" or bag for school (sometimes the teacher had us do them using white paper sacks and maybe a red heart doily) and putting it up with everybody else's. The good years were the ones when we had to make a valentine for every other person in the class, so that meant we'd all get some- but there were teachers who preferred to let it "shake out naturally", meaning we only had to give valentines to the people we actually liked. That meant that some of us might get one or two, and the popular kids got a lot (often from each other). That's when I realized that there was something "wrong with me" in that context.

I want to be happy for all those "coupled" people out there, but being almost fifty and alone, especially when I was dumped this time last year, just drives home the fact that I will probably die without having had the fireworks or the Thousand Strings or any of that stuff. Publicly, I say that they don't matter to me, but it's self-defense. No one wants to admit that they know they're permanently on the reject pile.

So here I am, trying to chug along, operative term "trying", not "succeeding". I need the 14th to come and go quickly and as painlessly as possible.

Shall I Make My Own Judenstern?

The one thing one cannot escape is one's DNA. At the time of my mother's death, my sister paid to process genetic tests for both of our parents. The results now reside on servers with the National Geographic Society.

A few months later, when the results came back, I brought them up and looked at the migration maps based on my parents' ancestry. My mother's was not a surprise- but my father's held a few little bombs for which we weren't totally prepared.

Mom was a genealogist, and for a long time suspected, based on certain patterns, that some of Dad's ancestors were Jewish. They'd obscured this very carefully and converted to Christianity along the way, becoming Methodist clergy and congregants. Dad hotly denied it, insisting that the family is English, and indeed, our surname was granted as an official name in the 12th Century...to a different family. My sister has since pursued further genetic matching with a lineal society bearing our surname, and learned that we belong to a secondary lineage of that name. In other words, we're not the English ones.

As I studied the maps for my father's ancestral migrations, they snapped into sharp, immediate relief- I was looking at the Diaspora. By cross-referencing the genetic profile and the exact migratory patterns, something became patently clear: my mother was right. My father's paternal family was Jewish. First to Italy, then across to Spain and Portugal, and then to the British Isles, then the Netherlands, and America; the Russian Jews fled to Romania and dispersed through Eastern Europe. We were just ahead of the Inquisition on the one hand, and running from pogroms on the other.

His mother's family is no less interesting. We knew we were part Cherokee, and Irish, and could trace those back, but the surprise there was that my grandmother also had Romany (that's Gypsy, to the non-PC) ancestry. Great. At least there's some precedence for my reading Tarot as a hobby, I guess.

So, to recap: on my Dad's side of the family, we have no small experience with genocide. People have been trying to kill us off for eons.

In the current climate, when racist, fascist, xenophobic ideologies are running rampant in the United States, I'm not comfortable. Visually, I can "pass", but my genes are of record. I'm not completely white. I'm not completely gentile. What I am is quite demoralized and more than a little scared. So when they come for me, what badge will I be forced to wear? The Judenstern (the yellow star of the Holocaust), or a combination for my 'undesirable' ancestry, or something that reflects my "political dissidence"?

It's this knowledge that took me into the streets with a pink cat hat and thousands of other folks. I'm not 'whining'- the people who are kvetching the most about it are whiter and more gentile than me, so they don't have anything to worry about. I can't hide in plain sight anymore, and I really don't know that I would if I could.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

In My Little Corner

I've wondered all my life what it's like for people who are comfortable in their bodies, who don't feel sheer terror at the thought of sharing themselves with others because they might be humiliated or rejected. I wonder about people who enjoy intimacy, instead of panicking anytime they realize that somebody might have an interest in them.

Is there a time when you can comfortably call your body "home"? When you can live in it and not feel like it prevents you from being fully human? Is there a time when your mind won't race back to the slights and belittling in the past...those transactions of relationships when you realized how much they liked you and wanted to be able to find you desirable, but the inability to get to the latter negated the former?

Is there a moment when you aren't friend-zoned? Is there anyone who might want to fall asleep beside you and wake up next to you, and not want to gnaw their arm off to escape the fact that they did? Is there anybody you might actually trust enough to let yourself just...I don't know...be?

Should it bother me that the man I've had a horrific crush on since I was a teenager feels comfortable making sexual innuendos around me, because I'm that friend, you know, the guy at the D&D game who happens to have tits?

It's depressing, too, when the server asks how the check will be split. I can handle it more gracefully by quietly saying, "These will be separate," but having him announce, loudly and without tact, "Those are separate!" as in, "God, NO, I'm not WITH her, do you think I'd lower myself to that? Do I LOOK desperate?" makes me want to crawl under the table and promptly die.

Bottom line, I set myself up for it, I suppose because it's safe- and although I won't be pressed for intimacy, I also won't be offered any because I'm undesirable. I should just quit hanging out with him...but then I wouldn't have anyone with whom to go anywhere. I'm afraid of a real date (but nobody's exactly asking, are they?), and I'm so weary of these fake ones, too- just world-weary of driving home late at night and wondering, over and over, "What's wrong with me? How am I so defective that nobody wants me?"

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Next Branch

I remember watching the old Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies as a child, and thinking that someday, he was going to miss the next branch or vine as he swung through the trees. Somehow, there was always another one to grab, and he never fell.

I missed the branch, but I think it's because I was thrown, instead of making the jump myself. Off-balance, gracelessly, I feel like I hit the tree trunk and plummeted to the ground. I'm in so many pieces that I don't know how to even begin to put myself back together.

Everything is discouraging. The world is colorless, airless, joyless. I've started retreating into myself so far that almost no one can reach me on the bad days. I've perfected folding up and disappearing, the way I used to when I was a teenager, out of sight on my big rock in the front yard, up on the roof where nobody thought to look, or under my bed behind the barricade of old toys and boxes, lying perfectly still so no one would know I was there.

It's reached the point where people exasperatedly have told me that they don't want to hear about it, that I need to "snap out of it" and "move on". It doesn't work that way. I shudder to think what it might be like without the small amount of pharmaceuticals I take...but I really don't want to be any more heavily medicated than I am.

I'm treading water in jello, being hauled under by quicksand. I have nightmares about abandonment and exclusion. I feel worthless.

It doesn't really matter what I write in this blog...my ex only trolled it to reinforce his inner justification for pulling his vanishing act. I'm pretty sure the woman for whom he left me is the kind who appreciated the melodramatic gesture asserting his greater devotion to her.  Honestly, I don't think anyone else actually reads this thing.

If you've ever wondered why people kill themselves, it's because they realize that they're invisible and that they have never mattered. I've tried, but all I have to show for it is a massive litany of failures.