August 23, 2011 § 4 Comments
The hubs is from California. I am from Texas. He thinks I had a mortifying childhood. I think his sounds like a tragedy penned by Eggers. (No death, just lots of sub-nutritional food, hand-me-downs, and horrors beyond my comprehension.) I’ve vowed to never live in California for a multitude of reasons, namely the people and the weather. And because I don’t feel good about the land mass after watching Discovery earth and taking my one and only post pre-med science class: history of natural disasters. (For an entire semester, I was required to gather twice a week and watch video, review facts, and discuss the ways in which the earth has either almost been destroyed or will be destroyed shortly. It was, for me, like being asked to take a conference call in a morgue. I dry heaved at least twice a class and introduced myself to Xanex.)
The hubs has refused to move to Texas for similar reasons. Only different. To me, California represents a country whereby people are not actually people at all, but golden coastal beings who are not at all panicked that an entire year passed with less than a ten degree deviation in temperature. They choose activities like surfing and abalone diving at the risk of being eaten by sharks (because what is a missing limb when you can experience mastery of the sea, dude?) and love the earth by driving everywhere to eat imported wheat grass and sushi flown in from one of the oceans that doesn’t actually touch their shores. I know that California is vast, and I know that there are parts of California that I’m being cruel to, but I’ve been to a lot of those parts, and there is still a lot of sunshine and tank tops. And strip malls with “bistros” in them. To the hubs, Texas is a mine field of poison-tongued beasties disguised as sweet old ladies, and racists who lure you into their theater of white supremacy by pretending to be liberal and open minded. He doesn’t trust people who feel like it’s okay to be nice to someone you don’t know (what if they’re a rapist?) and he truly, truly believes that we’re all running around with weapons, a hare trigger away from accidentally killing ourselves or someone around us.
I feel the same way about Californians. They’re just trying to get me to step into the sunshine to be warm and caressed by vitamin D in hopes that I’ll forget all about my phobia of looking like a purse when I am older. I will not wear sparkly sandals that go betwixt my toes! I will not wear white capri pants! And I will not adorn myself with a chunky turquoise necklace! Now get your children with gender-confused names and your husband in a penis-compensating H3 away from me so that I can buy a hat and some SPF 75 and enjoy my winter years!
At any rate, the hubs takes particular offense at the cunningly-Texas “Bless Your Heart.” While on the surface it seems genuine and sincere, a statement of mild pity, but also understanding that the world has not done right by you, beneath that shell is a silent bullet. Loosely translated, “Bless You Heart” means something closer to “Oh! You mentally deficient and intellectually grating fuckerface. I’m so sorry that your life is so overwhelming to you, but not nearly as sorry as I am that you decided to share your woes with me. You obviously lack the mental fortitude to do anything for yourself and feel it necessary to blame the universe rather than take a moment to reflect on your pattern of stupidity and incompetence.” Again, loose translation. But close.
For all the defending that I do of my home state– there are democrats there! Austin is nothing like the rest of Texas! There are lakes and trees and jobs!– it only takes one “Bless Your Heart” and the hubs is ready head back East. And I don’t blame him.
For me, dissecting the truth behind this commonplace phrase led me to understand how much of the culture of my childhood was rooted in commentary about others. Gossip and coffee talk are the fiber of many relationships. If you’re not sitting around talking about the emotional implications of Libya’s liberation on the children, or discussing the deeply philosophical questions that challenge your marriage, the next best thing is how fat your neighbor got. One of the most interesting commentaries about my time spent abroad centers around the lack of vicious gossip. People talk, and certainly old ladies do as old ladies will, but the desire to make oneself feel better by highlighting the physical or mental deficiencies of others is not acceptable.
Unfortunately, making fun of people can be really, really funny.
With this in mind, I began to take stock of my own behavior towards others. Invent my own form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Rather than see something and immediately take it to my usual place, I tried (when possible) to take a step back and try to understand people’s appearances and behaviors. If you’d ever like to challenge yourself to test the limits of your humanity, I suggest you try this very thing.
This summer has been the Summer of the Hungry Butt. It seems like everywhere I look, someones shorts are being eaten by their crack. In it’s hasty starvation, the crack has paid no mind to the exposing of cheek, cellulite, or crack sweat. I walk the streets, bombarded by Hungry Butts, trying my best to stop, think, rationalize and accept. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt: she doesn’t realize how hungry her crack is, he doesn’t know that his shirt makes him look like a member of Menudo, that woman loves pirates and I’m glad she’s found a way to express herself, that man keeps his pants that length so that he doesn’t have trouble accessing his shoelaces… and on and on and on.
My pasttime of staring at half naked twenty year olds in whorish makeup and stripper shoes and commenting to Hailey about their futures as “Directors of First Impressions” at hair salons, has been replaced by a creepy 27 year old staring lovingly at these young women remembering how fun it is to be young and slutty and not know that you’re probably going to get taken advantage of in a bathroom.
As you can see, I’m working really hard. I’m trying to change myself. I’m trying to love the people of the world and give people the latitude to express themselves. But here’s the thing: everything comes full circle. I’ve found myself resorting to a very simple phrase to keep myself from making content out of other people’s misfortunes, “good for _____.” (Insert you, them, her, him, etc.) When loosely translated, means “I’m so glad that you were able to put that on and feel good about yourself knowing that every person you run into thinks you have a serious mental illness and is afraid to be alone with you. The fact that you squeezed yourself into those pants and allowed your ample body to pour from the waistband like a mighty rushing river is something that few women could do with such confidence, never mind being able to get a deep breath when your lungs are constricted like that. You have confidence, a style of your own, and an exuberance that many people can only hope for.”
And when you think about it, it’s just a Easterly way of saying what Texans have been saying this whole time.
Bless Your Heart.
August 22, 2011 § 1 Comment
I work with a lot of men. Good men. The kind of men that you want to work with as a woman in your twenties. I work with men who love women, respect them, but also feel like women need to sack up and play the game. A little less emotion and a little more “shut the fuck up, sir.” It’s not an environment for everyone, but having two brothers and lots of uncles, I will always be the girl that wins the game by playing the hand she has. Sometimes it’s wit and sometimes it’s much simpler: tits.
The value of these men is not lost on me. Every day I am given the opportunity to observe how men and women process things differently. We have open conversations about our genderly shortcomings. Sometimes we laugh and other times we look across the table somberly, too embarrassed that we’re bound by our respective genitalia to say anything. On more than one occasion I’ve found myself explaining through tears that I’m actually not worked up, I’m just a woman. I can feel tears prick at the back of my eyes and despite my internal screaming, they will make their way down my face. Derailing the conversation, discrediting me, and making a babbling mess of the men who are subjected to it. Definitely on my list of favorite things. Right there under shitting myself in public.
I, as usual, digress. In this period of my life that I’ve now dubbed the “Positivity, Solutions, and Adjustment Period” or “Fuck My Life. Period.” I’ve gained incredible insight from the men I work with. In times of trouble, women are prone to commiserating. We gather together to talk about how sorry we feel for one another and compare our respective shittiness. When a friend calls about a breakup, it’s rare that she wants a pep talk about next steps. She’s looking for affirmation that she’s not a total hag and a lot of “that’s terrible” “he’s awful” “I’m so sorry” and “I can’t believe that!”s. When men call, they generally just need to be reminded that shit happens and life goes on.
One of the biggest complaints of the gentlemen here at 727 is that women are often angered by solutions. If the wife is complaining about work and they offer a solution, it’s met with disbelief. “Do you not understand how unfair and terrible this is? Do you not know how awful my day was? Don’t you have any sympathy?” They thought what they were offering was better. A solution. A way to make the problem go away. A way to restore harmony to the household. What assholes.
I’ve never been known for my warmth and compassion. Whether it’s the prevalent male influence in my life or my “low frustration threshold” (I was “diagnosed” with that last week. I can’t believe I have a medical problem with stupid people. It almost makes everything seem okay.) I can’t say. What I do know is that I do not care for wallowing. If you call me for an opinion, ask me for my take, or seek my counsel, that is what you will get. I value emotion (believe me) and I think it’s important to go through the steps of getting through something and moving on, but I do not react well to emotional stupidity. Questions like “am I ugly?” should never be asked. You have a mirror. You tell me. Are you?
But recently I’ve found solutions difficult to come by. Not because they do not exist, but because they are challenging and multidimensional. They involve work or perseverance. Sadness takes time. Loneliness takes the making of friends. Boredom takes finding shit to do. (Because my system of drinking and or smoking randomly to overcome boredom is inadvisable. And awkward.) Tactical problems have tactical solutions, easily understood and fairly painless to implement. (Unless your hubs is IMPOSSIBLE.) Emotional problems have emotionally draining solutions. And those are not painless to implement.
Tactically, things are clipping along like gangbusters at the Beaulieu house. We’re a little poorer than we were this time last year so we’re trying to spend a little less. I’ve been in a dark pit of despair, so I have a few new BFFs that come in child proof bottles. One of those BFFs makes me hotter than a skillet in hell so I’ve taken to sleeping without clothes. The hubs refuses to buy a bigger bed because he thinks we’ll get lost or some romantic nonsense, so I figured out that if I sleept at the opposite end of the bed, it creates more wiggle room. I even had to get firm with the hubs when he decided he would sleep at the foot with me. “Get back to your end.” I told him. He replied with some nonsense about love and cuddling. “Get back to your end now. The only reason I’m down here is because you’ve robbed me of my figure and my sleep.” He thought it was an actual fight. I just thought I was being clear…
The real moment of genius came last week when I lost the battle for the foot of the bed. The hubs INSISTED that we sleep at the same end of the bed. I told him that was fine, but he was not to touch me. The surface of his skin is the same temperature as the face of the sun. I know it’s because he is a Yeti, so I don’t blame him, but he has to keep his paws off me at night. I’m practically menopausal as it is. One touch from him and I feel like I need to kill him so that I will never feel that uncomfortable ever, ever again. Well, Casanova wants to cuddle. No. It’s not happening. If I wanted to cuddle with him I would have Zeus knit me a blanket of sunshine and I’d wrap it around my body and drink hot tea. Or run around in a Mylar sweatsuit and polyester. The man is a solar panel. Love may be patient and kind, but there is nothing in there about cuddling. Cuddling is clever and pessimistic.
He wasn’t giving up. A solution needed to be identified. A rule instated.
Rule: If you wish you touch my body while sleeping, there must be an ice pack between your skin and mine.
And so it was that the hubs got up from the bed, marched into the kitchen and retrieved the largest ice pack that we have, got into bed, put it on my back and cuddled right up to it. The big spoon and the little spoon. On ice.
Unfortunately, my 90 year old, sweating alter ego is the least of my current worries. Heat is a tactical problem, easily solved by a fan and an ice pack. Wondering what you’re going to do next with your life is not. That’s a real, life problem. The kind that can’t be solved. Feeling trapped is not cured by opening a gate or taking a walk any more than feeling confused is about drawing a life diagram. Sure, these are tools, but at the end of the day, they’re arbitrary. You need courage and confidence in those moments… the very moments they tend to disappear.
I haven’t been blogging because I haven’t had anything to say. The stories haven’t felt meaningful and the thoughts have seemed too trivial to make into entire posts. Staring at your life (whether you’re in your 20s, 30s, 40s, or 90s) offers perspective, and sometimes perspective takes away the humor. But there’s some hope.
In the fall (September 23rd to be exact), I start Teacher Training for yoga. I’m so excited about what it could help me bring to my own life, but I’m even more excited that we’ve got a whole new bucket of humiliating content coming our way. Maybe it’s just the thing. Maybe it’s the solution.