April 16, 2013 § 9 Comments
Yesterday around three o’clock I heard two cannons go off. It was Marathon Monday and the finish line is just a few blocks from our apartment, so it made perfect sense to me that someone would be firing off celebratory cannons. (I recognize that in the aftermath of the last 24 hours you could be wondering what special breed of idiot I am to think that, but in my defense, it’s a historic city and for some reasons I always associate cannons with something exciting happening.)
But then things got weird. Through the open windows that welcome the sounds of the south-side of the city, came sounds like thundering cattle. Within ten minutes I could detect a concerning number of ambulances and sirens. My cannon theory was coming unraveled. Then the hubs texted, “Caroline. Turn on the news.”
Definitely not celebratory cannons.
I’m not here to wax poetic or compare tragedies, but I will say this: the last time that someone said those exact words to me I was a senior in high school. My dad walked into my bedroom early on a September morning, pulled the covers back from my head, and said, “Caroline. Turn on the news.”
There were no celebratory cannons that day either.
In 2001 I lived so far away from New York that my mourning was little more than shock-induced patriotism. To this day I do not think any of us can fathom what truly took place on those city streets except those who were there. Then it was 3500 miles away. Yesterday it was three blocks. The tragedies incomparable, but the understanding that one brings to the other is invaluable.
Twelve years later and I’m almost thirty. I’m five months pregnant with a small boy. Another small boy, an eight year old, is killed three blocks from my house while cheering on his dad at the Boston Marathon. My small boy is snug as a bug in a uterus, bouncing up and down on my bladder like it’s a trampoline. Another small boy was waving a sign and bouncing up and down to get a glimpse of the finish over the taller crowd. My small boy is just learning how to live. Another small boy is dead.
The hubs texts again. This time it’s an expected stage of disbelief and grief. “Who the fuck sets off a bomb at the marathon?” I don’t have an answer. Then it’s his first paternal declaration, “Our small boy is never going to a public event. Ever.” Again, I don’t have an answer.
But I do have an answer. Our small boy will go. Because fear of tragedy will only breed in him a fear of life.
I don’t know how to raise a small boy into a grown man. I haven’t been given my parental membership card and I’m fairly certain that whomever is responsible for issuing them realizes I probably don’t deserve one. But I know that our small boy has to be given a chance to see the world as good, even if we’re standing in the wings, sick with worry. When he asks to climb higher, I know we need to respond with an emphatic “yes!” and try not to follow it up with a million caveats.
“Climb higher, small boy, and tell us what you see.”
And one day, a day I know will come sooner than it should, something terrible will happen. A single moment of bad will create a thick cloud of uncertainty and our small boy will look to us to tell him what it means. And while we may not be card-carrying parents, I know we have a responsibility to give him an answer. And though we’ll remember other small boys, like the one who died cheering on his dad at the marathon, we’ll also remember the grown men who rushed forward to right all the wrong, to clear the cloud of uncertainty.
“It’s a reminder that bad things happen. And then good things kick their asses.”
April 8, 2013 § 1 Comment
You may chalk this up to the crazy rantings of a pregnant lady, but I advise you to take heart. Deep inside this whale-like form is a struggling housewife, desperate for answers.
Why does my vacuum suck so bad? I mean that both figuratively a literally. Why am I forced to go over and over every surface innumerable times only to watch the same string of fur or crumb stay exactly where I– or Stuart– left it? Why do I diligently buy those hard-to-find S bags on Amazon.com month after month when I know that they are doing nothing but trapping invisible particles from an invisible place in my apartment, not the real particles from the rug or hard wood floors?
I’ve done a lot of soul searching on this topic. I’ve applied my analytical and strategic brain to the task, devising a system for rating the vacuum difficulty of an apartment and I’ve rated ours as a two. Out of ten. There are no plush rugs hiding unknown specimens between their fibers, no crevices in which small items can cling to avoid the suction that has come to claim them. Only shiny hardwoods and the occasional close cropped rug. Essentially what it would otherwise take to vacuum this apartment would be a swift wind in a focused direction.
Admittedly we have a cat. That’s why I gave the apartment a two on the difficulty scale instead of a one. He does have fur, but as my husband pointed out, it really shouldn’t rival that of some of our more masculine friends. I personally have the hair of a cancer-ridden fairy and the husband doesn’t ever disrobe so I’m fairly certain any shedding he does is confined to his garments. But, yes, we do have Stuart and he does shed fur. Which is actually why we have a vacuum, rather than a Swifter.
Before you start down your twenty questions to prove this girl is stupid path, let me review some of the things I’ve checked about my vacuum: all the filters are clean and intact, there does not appear to be anything clogging the hoses (though that’s only because I have to stick my hand into the vacuum with alarming frequency to dislodge NORMAL VACUUM SPECIMENS and send them along their merry way), and I change the bag very regularly (even though the little light on the vacuum has never told me to). Additionally, I’ve never tried to vacuum an animal directly, pick up large pieces of cloth or clothing, mix cement in the hose, or do anything crazier than vacuum my living room. And yet. And yet. And yet.
What hurts the most is how much I believed in you. I wanted a Dyson. I’ve wanted a Dyson since that snively British man showed me the light and made me feel like a total asshole for not thinking of ball technology myself. But instead I bought an Electrolux. I bought it because it was supposed to be reliable. It was the vacuum my parents and grandparents used. I remember when they bought one from a door-to-door salesman. I believed in my Electrolux because I wanted to believe in America. I wanted to feel the loving arms of tradition wrap around my skepticism and show those snooty Brits that I don’t need a ball or it’s fucking technology! I have a piece of vacuuming history in my house.
And you proved to me that I should have clung to that man and his ball as if they were the last great hope for cleanliness. Because now here I am sweating like a coal laborer after attempting to vacuum a sum total of 400 square feet and finally giving up. My vacuum, the vacuum I saved for, invested in, and hoped would be my friend for many years, is a piece of shit. And I’m angry about it.
I took some time while going back and forth and back and forth and back and forth and back and forth over the same spot on the rug to think about all the things I’d rather do than have to keep vacuuming with my Electrolux Harmony vacuum cleaner. I’ve compiled a short list for you:
• Be a prisoner of war
• Give birth to my baby through my nose
• Clean my apartment with tweezers
• Take a group of special education children to a water park
• Show up at a tent revival dressed like a whore
• Get a prison tattoo
• Model for Sports Illustrated
• Buy a better fucking vacuum
I suppose at this point there’s nothing I can do. I made my choice and that’s what life is, right? Making the best decision you can based on the information you have and then living to regret the fact that you didn’t just buy the most expensive one to begin with. But now I’m staring down the barrel of parenthood and I don’t have a choice. I have to live with my crap-tastic suckless vacuum cleaner. At least I know I wont accidentally vacuum up a pacifier. Or a kid.
I hope you’ll take this to heart. I hope you’ll take the next Harmony prototype into a room and vacuum with it before you put it on the market. You’re welcome to borrow Stuart if you want to add some kitty fur to the test cell. (I’d take him out before you start actually vacuuming, though, he doesn’t react well to machinery.)
I wish you all the best. Even though I got the worst vacuum ever.
March 19, 2013 § 4 Comments
As I laid upon the cold tile floor of the bathroom at the Michael’s craft store in Everett, Massachusetts, I made the decision to die there. It wasn’t a dramatic decision. I didn’t recount the moments of my life that meant the most to me, or the people I wished I could reach out to one last time; I simply gave up. Sprawled upon my $99 Michael Kors puffy coat from Marshall’s, my past season Cole Haan bag contracting ebola in the corner, I resigned myself to a much quieter and lonelier death than the one I had imagined for myself.
I always thought my death would be something tragic and unbearably sad. While I don’t wish to be cut down in my youth, many movies portraying grieving young husbands has led me to imagine Corey– the strong, silent lead character– cast into an ocean of unbearable grief, vowing to never love anyone ever again after losing the bright and promising light that was his young, beautiful wife. (Though we all know he’d end up turning to one of my best friends [likely H] in his time of grief and they would end up together. Each would act as shocked as the other. “It just happened.” they’d say. And we would all judge them, though eventually it would blow over when someone remembered my benevolent and forgiving spirit. “She would have wanted you both to be happy.” someone would say. And I would be dead, and unable to say, “Fuck no I don’t.”)
But there on the bathroom floor of the Michael’s in Everett, Massachusetts, I realized there would be no tragic accident, just a slow leaving of life from my body as I laid there and wholeheartedly wishing that I’d never left my house. It’s hard to imagine these dire episodes of my first twelve weeks of pregnancy, but without warning I would lose the will to live. One moment I’d be tearing stickers off the wall and imagining crafts and the next I’d be cuddling with discount ceramic and hoping for a swift end. The child was trying to kill me. And all I could think was whether I should go ahead and kill it first.
When the hubs and I first found out I was knocked up there was a three or four day window before I started wanting to die. During that time we did the cute things a lot of first time knocked up people do. We squealed a little and said a lot of “can you believe this?” and “OMG we totally fucked up.” We made all the appointments and kept the secret as best we could. And we contemplated a name for the growing human being. Not a final name, but the name we would call it while it was a genderless cell mass. We spent days going back and forth. I wanted to call it “puppet” while the Mr. wanted to call it “pip”– short for pipsqueak. We never did agree on what we would call it and for a little while we each referenced it in different ways.
And then the little fucker started to try to kill me. From the inside. Weeks stretched on where the only thing I thought about was ending my existence. My usually vegetarian and greens-filled diet turned beige. I was nourishing our embryo with the Welfare Diet. A steady stream of white carbohydrates and cheese. I showed up to on-site client meetings with sea sickness bands and a big gulp of ginger ale and spent most days texting the hubs to let him know where I wanted my funeral held. I even picked out a play list.
Eventually the name conversation became moot. The unborn Beaulieu was dubbed “the dragon” with little to no fanfare. It was apropos and far less shocking than calling it “the little fucker.” A close second. As the days and weeks wore on, the dragon continued to wage war. Morning sickness is for pansies. The dragon brought on life sickness. Every hour of every day I wanted to crawl back into bed and leave the cruel confines of the earth. I read books with a bucket next to my bed, though in a sick twist of fate I never once threw up. There wasn’t a single, physical sign on my blackness and suffering.
I finally told the doctor of both my unbearable sickness and my ill will towards my unborn child. He handled it really well considering the sobbing and womb-extraction hand gestures I was employing. He assured me that it would get better and not to worry about the dragon. To the best of his medical knowledge it could not, at this stage, physically feel my hatred. I had plenty of time to infuse love and adoration and end up with a baby who felt welcome. He prescribed some medication to help with the nausea and then– to the shock and horror of the hubs– put an ultrasound in my lady parts and confirmed that the dragon was right there, doing evil twirls and having a gangbusters time. (The hubs was pretty much sunk at that point. He was so in awe of the little fish swimming around in there he forgot all about my pain and suffering. He was a DAD. I was not so easily sold. I think I need better proportions before I feel motherly.)
Shortly after our doctors visit, my sickness not alleviated in the least, I lost my will to live yet again. This time it was at the Shaw’s grocery store. After two and half hours of walking through the aisles unable to form cohesive meals in my mind or cart, I realized I was going to have to live there. I lacked the will to make it to the check out line and the thought of trying to get home was too much. I rolled my cart into a corner near a bench, parked it, sat down, and began to weep. It was over. I hadn’t felt such desperation and loneliness since the Mr. left me in Paris without a cell phone and didn’t show up for lunch. I knew I was going to die at that cafe by the Eiffel Tower. The French would never accept me as one of their own. My frame was too thick and my body too fleshy. I wept then too.
After some time the hubs called. He was really worried that I’d been at the grocery store for three hours and had stopped responding to text messages. I explained that I’d lost my will to live and was trying to find a way to get home. Having been through it before, he wished me luck and told me to call him if I needed him to come and retrieve me. I told him I didn’t. I just needed time.
I didn’t die on the floor of the bathroom at the Michael’s or on that bench at Shaw’s. I didn’t die on any of the unsavory surfaces I sprawled upon in those first twelve weeks. It’s as shocking to me as anyone. I did, however, learn that I am not of pioneer stock and do not wish to be. I do not like to be afflicted and will therefore need to pick any future children out of a catalog.
Low and behold, on the day of the 13th week I rose like Jesus. Forgetting my cruel crucifixion, my life resumed almost as if nothing had happened. I kept waiting to be stricken in the Target or the Panera but it never happened. The dragon had moved on.
It was busy making me fat.
October 12, 2012 § 1 Comment
It’s election season again which means a few things. First, it means that I have to avoid going onto Facebook after having so much as a deep inhalation of wine for fear I’ll defriend 63% of the people I know. It also means that I get to buy all sorts of awesome Presidential swag which is up there with sitting on a bench at a mall after drinking too much wine and “observing” the passersby. If you know anything about me, you know that I will do pretty much anything for awesome swag. I work with start ups because I love the pace and the innovation, but mostly I do it because they always have cool shit to give me. I recently acquired the sweetest zip up hoodie from a current client and I’ve treated it much like a puppy might treat its most beloved stuffed friend. I should have washed this thing long ago, but the thought of having it out of my site is too much to bear. I simply can’t do it. I’d rather repel human contact than wash it. And I have.
So you better believe I purchased a whole Obama (oh, right, like you didn’t see that one coming) swag bag, including the SINGLE MOST OBNOXIOUSLY AWESOME T SHIRT EVER: Texans for Obama. Nothing chaps the ass of a conservative more than seeing an outright anomaly like that. It’s like seeing a woman CEO. They see it, but they just don’t get it. Why is that woman not fetching water on her head?
Election season also marks a period of time in which the hubs and I have absolutely no idea what’s happening if it didn’t happen on MSNBC or NPR. I didn’t even know Andy Williams died. That’s a true story. My favorite Christmas crooner died and I was too busy watching Lawrence O’Donnell lose his mind over his distaste for Good Ole Mitt to notice. It’s a sickness. I serendipitously learned that with my satellite radio I can tune into MSNBC and listen until I get home and can join the hubs. But, in case you’re thinking, “wait. that’s so wrong; so one sided” you should know that we do occasionally switch over to Fox news to make sure we disagree. So far, there hasn’t been an issue.
But politics aside (I don’t want to lose both of my blog followers), election season reminds me that the spirit of lively debate is a big fucking lie. I file it under collaboration and compromise. Total bullshit. Compromise is just two people losing. As for collaboration, let me just say this: blarg. Collaboration is founded on the premise that two minds are better than one. A premise that I agree with, but that’s called ideation. Collaboration is usually one person, generally with my personality type, trying not to be overbearing while coaxing the equivalent of nothing out the six other people who either don’t care, are too afraid to speak, or just want to argue with me. To make things worse, it’s the person like me’s job to say things like, “awesome” “great thought” “tell me more” when what I want to say is, “are you fucking kidding me with this drivel? Turn on your goddamned brain and give me something that’s going to further mankind.” And believe me, if “we” come up with something good, it’s a win for the team. If I come up with something bad, I will be standing all alone. It’s happened a few times.
Just like all girls are not pretty, all ideas are not good ideas. There are some really stupid ideas. Lighting yourself on fire, for example, is a stupid idea. Chelsea Clinton is not pretty. These are not things that we sit around and dispute. These are things that we accept. The spirit of debate assumes that there can be two answers to every problem (not true) and that there are no indisputable facts (not true either). I refer to the Chelsea Clinton example above. (Though I will say, since I know Bill reads the blog regularly, she’s done a damn good job with what she has. The entire country mourned the election of her as our first daughter back in ’92, but a hair straightener and some microdermabraison has done incredible things for her appearance. And her spirit.)
But getting back to the spirit of debate. I hate finding people who like lively debate. There is almost nothing worse than someone who loves to “engage in a lively debate.” I don’t want to engage in that. I want to engage in a conversation in which you agree emphatically with everything I say, cannot stop nodding your head in agreement, and finish almost all of my sentences before we squeal and say, “OMG! I TOTALLY AGREE!” And you know why that is? Not because I have any problem with being wrong, but because most people don’t know how to debate. They think the point is to change my mind. If you want to change my mind, you best get in line behind my mother and her 28 years of ineffectual attempts. Debate is about civil disagreement and presenting compelling evidence to support an idea or action. It’s not about disagreement. You don’t win because you felt good. If that were true I’d have had a lot more second dates in my life. I date that back. I’d have a lot more first dates. I’d have a lot more of a lot of things.
This is by no means a commentary on the debates of the last few weeks. I don’t want to touch that with a 26 foot pole, but rather the tension that is created between friends and strangers during election season. Everyone gets all feisty and competitive. You’d think making a comment about Ryan’s ears was treason, punishable by death. HE’S NOT YOUR BROTHER. HE’S A POLITICIAN. And the man has hugemongous ears. You could shelter a Haitian family under there.
We can disagree about business strategy, what to wear to an interview, how to train a puppy, or who to elect for president, but it’s not a personal affront, it’s a difference of opinion. When we pass hatred and vilification off as disagreement or debate, we’ve missed the point. And the opportunity. My mother hates that I have the mouth of a sailor. And she’s presented her case. And while I understand her position and agree with her feelings in so far as they relate to her, they case isn’t compelling enough to me personally. And last I checked, my mom doesn’t hate me. She doesn’t take away my right to augment any given point with use of the word fuck. She just cringes. And lives her life.
So maybe think about this during election season: you have a choice. Using choice to limit the choices of others is a tough proposition. So no matter your politics, think about what things matter and what things make you cringe. Because, truthfully, cringing isn’t the end of the world. Cringing has brought great change to this country and this world.
June 28, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I’m busy. I’m the kind of busy that doesn’t go to the grocery store or feed her husband. I’m the kind of busy that wishes her car could transcribe speech and print it out of the CD deck. What I’m getting at here is that I’m the kind of busy that has no business taking time out of the day to blog. But this is an Extreme Circumstance.
To give you some background, I’d like to review a few things, namely that I’m from Texas. For those of you who haven’t had the distinct pleasure of visiting that country, let me give you a quick overview. It’s big. The people are obsessed with it. It gets really hot in the summertime and sometimes it also gets hot in the winter time. There’s no such thing as snow, no such thing as seasons, really. And while that leaves a lot of people scratching their heads about why anyone would spend any more time than absolutely necessary there, the truth is that Texas is a hell of a place. Friendliest people on the plant, diverse culture– and by that I mean not a single black person, but lots of lots of Mexicans– and delicious food. Considering its size, I find it absurd when people say they hate Texas. It’s like people who say they hate seafood. Really? You tried everything under the ocean and not of it was for you? Fine. I don’t like beverages.
I genuinely love being Texan. I plan to send my children to Texas in the summers to spend time with their grandparents on the farm. They’ll attend summer camp for a few weeks and then go stay with “Gemmie” and “Farmer” (my grandparent names I’ve given them) and learn all about… I’m not sure. But it will be something good. At the very least it will give them a sense of space. Something they won’t find back home since their parents have stacked them three high in a bedroom that’s actually more of an office.
But I live in Massachusetts. I actually live in Boston. I would never say I live in Massachusetts because for the most part I think it’s a stinker of a state, but the Boston part is pretty dandy. I’ll probably never live in Texas again; truthfully it’s unlikely I’ll ever leave the right side of the country, but it’s not because of the heat or the culture. It’s certainly not because of the food. It’s because I hate bugs. More pointedly, I’m phobic of bugs. I will never go on Fear Factor. If my life (or, to be honest, anyone else’s) depended on me sitting in a small room with a roach or grasshopper I’d have blood on my hands. The technical parameters of “bugness” are a little blurred, but I include anything that doesn’t have a face I can relate to in some way. Slugs. Snails. Roaches. Beetles. Crickets. Centipedes. Flies. Spiders.
I will hang out with a rat and all his rat friends til the cows come home, but find a daddy longleg and I’ll move to the nearest hotel. Texas has bugs EVERYWHERE. Let me say that again. Texas has bugs EVERYWHERE. Clean people have roaches that sometimes live in their trashcans and pop up to say hello. Sometimes roaches like to burrow in the dark moist toe of a shoe, something you won’t discover until the shoe is on your foot. Anyone familiar with June bugs? I have apocalyptic dreams about trying to ring someone’s doorbell but instead being pelted to death by the errant flight patterns of these beetles. I dreaded trick or treating. It combined two of my very least favorite things: being scared and going near people’s doorways. The moths swarming the porch lights, the June bugs… AHHH!
But here in the civilized city of Boston, bugs don’t come around. It’s too cold for roaches (I hear), which is strange because I have it on good authority that the only thing surviving the end of times is bunch of roaches huddled in a Twinkie box. (Which I’m also afraid of.) And truthfully I don’t know where all the other bugs are, but I haven’t seen them so I assume they don’t exist. I’ve gotten so used to this bug-free life that I find it hard to go visit my mom sometimes. I find it hard to go visit anyone, really.
The way it plays out is generally some variation on the following: a bug is sited by myself or someone else in my proximity. After I am made aware I either take action to have said bug killed AND FLUSHED or panic and leave. That may include leaving semi-permanently. Like the time I checked into a hotel after losing a roach under my bed while living in Manhattan. No fucking way was I going to stick around for his late night reappearance. In the brief moments I allowed myself to slip into contemplation I imagined him crawling the length of my body, meeting up with his lover somewhere around my navel, and laying eggs that would later hatch. One day I’d look down to see millions of roaches streaming from my waist. I just dry heaved. Okay, it wasn’t completely dry. I need to move on.
You remember Stuart, right? The only other inhabitant of 12 Comm. As a pet, I’m not certain how Stuart fares, but as a soft accessory, he is perfect. He never wakes us up in the morning by crying or begging for food. He respects everyone’s right to sleep when and where they want to. All he asks in return is that we do the same. And we do.
So imagine my surprise when I am awoken in the wee hours of the morning by a frantically meowing Stuart. He is pacing in circles. On my face. And pushing his paws in my eyelids as if to say, “open them or ye shall feel them be opened.” I have no idea how long this went on, but when I finally woke, it was because I heard a loud noise. Stuart had begun pulling the GIANT picture frame above our bed away from the wall. As it slammed against the concrete wall it created quite the sound. As well as giving the distinct impression it was going to come off the wall and onto our sleeping faces.
BAM. MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWW. BAM BAM BAM. MEOW MEOW MEOW. BAM! BAM!
That’s when it came into focus. That’s when I realized that Stuart was my Lassie. He was trying to get me out of the burning house before the rafter trapped me. There was something crawling on the wall. I sat up so fast I knocked Stuart off the bed. He managed to get back up and continue stretching towards the bug, trying to get it with his cloudpuff of a paw. He may as well have been waving an invisible feather. I flicked on the light and started shaking the hubs. I’d checked my phone and knew he was up late, but it didn’t matter.
Sidenote: It’s in moments like these I actively relinquish all claims to feminism.I don’t care if I’m the lesser sex. I don’t care if I don’t get paid equal wages. WAKE UP AND GET THIS MOTHER FUCKING BUG OFF THE WALL NOW.
In his stupor, the hubs seemed to believe this was an observation exercise. He looked up, acknowledged the bug, and rolled back over.
Cue husband lift arm to get a tissue. (Admittedly, I flinched. I know he’d never hit me, but the moment was intense. And he was tired.)
I almost died. Clutching Stuart to my breast I insisted that the hubs remove the picture and find the bug.
Cue the “are you fucking serious” glance.
Cue my “move the fucking picture frame or face a lifetime of sadness and turmoil” face.
As the picture was removed, the bug flashed across the wall. The hub’s lightning reflex caught it. (For some reason I immediately imagined him opening his fingers to check, only to have the bug leap from his fingers and up his nose and into his brain. Where it would occupy and multiply. And he would die.)
And then he threw it in the trash.
ARE YOU SERIOUS?! YOU HAVE TO FLUSH IT. EVERYONE KNOWS YOU HAVE TO FLUSH IT! IT WILL COME BACK! YOU’RE GOING TO DIE! GET IT OUT OF THE TRASH CAN! ITS DEAD BODY MAY STILL BE ABLE TO REPRODUCE! WHAT IF THE FAMILY COMES FOR THE BODY?
I was a broken shell. In my weakness I Googled the bug. That was it. I was never going to sleep again. As I read through the list of attributes and environments I slowly lost my mind.
Can live in pillows. I immediately threw the majority of our bedding to the floor and tucked my legs under me. (This is when the phantom crawling started. I could feel them everywhere.)
Then I started seeing them.
Like cereal. The bile began to creep up. My favorite food. I’d brought this plague upon my house through reckless passion. My addiction to slightly sweet carbohydrates had made my home uninhabitable. What about the box in the kitchen? Had he been there? Had my cereal been compromised?
By that point I had turned the hubs into a sleeping human raft. I perched on his back, still clutching Stuart. As he slept I imagined all the dark corners, all the pillows, all the “forgotten crevices.” I considered getting up, but in my mind they’d already covered the floor. So I started looking at real estate listings on Craiglist.
Stuart and I floated there on the sea of uncertainty. Like Jack and Rose we clung to our only salvation. A sliver of board (man) that kept us from being consumed by urban centipedes.
And we waited for morning.
May 16, 2012 § 1 Comment
It’s not unusual, if I’m not busy scanning obituaries on funeral home websites from my home town, for me to spend copious amounts of time on the MSPCA website perusing the animals available for adoption. I’m not going to adopt any of them, and I never spend any time looking at birds or reptiles or rabbits, but there’s just something about all those hopeless faces coupled with the worst writing of all time that I can’t resist. I love it.
It’s also fun to judge the townspeople based solely on the names of the animals. Sometimes you’ll get six or seven black and white “tuxedo” cats named Oreo or a handful of Mittens or Socks because, you guessed it, their paws are white! (I did see a cat named “Oreos”– plural– the other day I the judgement came on so fast and so strong I scared myself a little.) There are animals named by Captain Obvious and his litter of observant children, those are the Fluffys, and also those named by folks who eventually had to give up their dogs “due to the economy” and their children who are doubtless named Amber and Dwayne Jr. Dogs named Spike and Killer. Kitties name Tiffani… or Skittles. (Shiver.)
Seeing all those animals left to the “system,” I can’t help but ponder the irony between the fate that likely awaits them and the cheerful manner in which some volunteer copywriter describes their unique personalities. “Such a lovebug!” “The king of our hearts!” “Cuddles for miles!” It’s especially tough to reconcile when you’re looking at photo of a pit bull with crazy eyes and dried foam in the creases of his muzzle. Cuddles for miles? Really?
So the other evening I got to thinking about it; thinking about the humor (after you get over the fuckedupedness) of writing a caption that could determine whether or not society deems you suitable for continued existence, but also how much more awesome the whole site would be if the descriptions were honest.
It started with Stuart.
Stuart is our cat. Stuart George Edward Wayne Beaulieu was brought into our family in September of 2008 after we spent $10,000 trying to save our other kitty Milo. Milo died. Stuart arrived. As a small kitty, Stuart’s ears were too big for his head and I couldn’t love him. I enjoyed the kittenness and his soft kitty fur, but the thought of having an ugly cat gave me such anxiety that I would lay awake at night acknowledging how hard it must have been for my parents to love my little brother. He had a HUGE head.
As Stuart grew into a man kitty, he grew into his ears. (And slightly pointy face. I didn’t mention that before, but it was a source of stress as well.) He exhibited just enough random talent that we were proud of him and other cat parents knew he was no lay kitty. Most importantly, though, he maintained his softness. It’s like a magic power. He’s soft enough that I’ll probably make a scarf or muff out of him In The End.
Of course, like all cat parents, we think Stuart is an excellent cat. He’s well behaved, doesn’t jump on eating surfaces, meows little, and all his annoying habits are quirky enough that they can be packaged as genius so to avoid any family humiliation. He sleeps on the bed, eats an organic, fish-based diet, doesn’t shit outside the box, and shows a disdain for cheap toys that makes his mama very proud.
As I was reading the Ridiculous Captions accompanying my evening entertainment, I realized Stuart’s caption would get him killed. As a matter of fact, I realized that most animals captions would get them killed. Because the truth is that most children’s captions, if truthful, would not inspire you to pick up the phone. “Just at that adorable age when they constantly smell like Mexican migrant workers back from a long day. Shows average intelligence and mediocre aptitude for sports. Doesn’t eat anything that isn’t white and refuses to drink water. Completely adorable and loving. But not in an obvious way.”
Stuart’s caption would read something like this:
I’m Stuart and I’m super soft, which is a really good thing because I’m also an intellectual elitist and emotional hoarder. I’m curious about people and life, but would prefer not to be touched without my explicit consent. I’d love to cuddle up to the far corner of the couch so that you may admire me before giving me a holistic, organic cat treat that smells exactly like a dumpster at the aquarium. I’m completely potty trained. I can’t wait to join a home with no children or other animals, furniture reflecting a mid-century Danish aesthetic, and two parents who work full time. Do you want to make me a part of your family?
Stuart would be given a sleepytime cocktail. An eternal sleepytime cocktail.
So instead, someone would write about how precious he is, how playful (lie), and personable (half truth), and desirous of joining your home (if you’re wealthy). Some Average American Family or Single Girl would come and meet him, mistake his disgust for shyness and take him home to some hovel with an over stuffed couch. Truthfully, Stuart would rather be dead.
But then I realized that what really bothers me about the Kitty Kaptions (and puppy ones too) is not the out and out lies or even the terrible writing in the first person, but that Kitty Kaptions aren’t relegated to kitties. Kitty Kaptions are just like People Captions: well crafted stories that we think will appeal to others, make others like us– even those who are all wrong for us to begin with. We believe that cuddly and agreeable is better than a little persnickety.
And that’s just not true. At least not in the household.
March 29, 2012 § 8 Comments
Last year was the worst year of my life. It’s no more than a statement of fact. I don’t need people feeling bad for me, and I definitely don’t need people comparing my worst year of life to that of, say, one of the lost boys of the Sudan. Last year was a bad year relative to my other years. I get that.
But it doesn’t mean it didn’t take me down a peg. Friends were dropping like flies, my job was in a never ending rough patch (we know how that turned out…), and I couldn’t seem to find my mojo. It was really lost. Actually, I think I ate it. Along with everything else that wasn’t nailed to the floor. I excel at eating and drinking my way through personal trial. And so it is that this year, the not worst year of my life, I am getting things started with an extra twenty pounds of me. Unfortunately, there is no prize for having more of yourself. Unless you consider self loathing a prize.
Unlike my previous weight loss effort (Super Slim Down 2009), where I whittled myself down to an almost unrecognizable hottie, I don’t have the motivation. I’ve already run a half marathon. I already got my yoga certification. I already got skinny and hot and realized that it’s a lot of work. So. much. work.
I’m lamenting to my mother on the phone about my current physical appearance, telling her about how I know there’s a problem, but I don’t have the energy to solve it. Since my mother believes everything can be traced back to severe depression, she was quick to point out that it sounded like I was depressed. After assuring her that my medication was all order, she immediately found a new solution. After two months of searching for the perfect birthday present, she was going to buy me a subscription to Weight Watchers Online.
Now, before you freak out about my mother being an asshole– which I usually wouldn’t argue with you about– you should know that she does have insight into my darkest corners and she knows that I don’t like being a fat kid. As much as I don’t want to lose this weight, I want to be a fat kid even less. She was being a straight up problem solver. Plus my mother and I have spoken open and honestly about each other’s flaws for many, many years.
I won’t go into the details of Weight Watchers, as I’m sure many of you are familiar with the system: track points, lose weight. And, if you’re so inclined, go to meetings. (This is key to building a support system, or so I’ve heard.) Nowadays tracking points is–theoretically– a cinch. I’m sure you’ve heard Jennifer Hudson singing about it. There’s an iPhone app to help you with points, both how many certain foods are and how many you have left for the day. There is also an online community of people who say sickeningly inspiring things to one another. It’s like cheerleading camp, except not. Because cheerleaders just do a few cartwheels when they need to drop a few.
I was going to start yesterday, but after adding up most of my day I realized I was over my allocation by 100% and that didn’t seem fair. So I started today. And let me tell you something, those assholes running this Ponsi scheme have not pulled the wool over this girl’s eyes. I know EXACTLY what is going on here.
First of all, kiss your benders goodbye. This program is designed to ensure you never get to binge drink again. Forget vodka sodas. Forget everything you ever learned about getting potted for the lowest number of calories. They’ve rigged the system. If I sacrificed all my food for a whole day I would be allowed seven drinks. Now, I don’t want to scare anyone, but come on. What about Sunday Funday? Nope. I might as well take up Christianity. My Sundays are now open.
Now the points are based on a top secret algorithm that takes into account fat to carb to protein and fiber ratios. But you want to know what the super secret is? You’re never eating another carbohydrate again. At least not a good one. I spend 1.5 hours at the Whole Foods today calculating the points in every form of carb I walked by. Nope. Nope. Nope. I spent 20 minutes on pasta alone. WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO PUT UNDER MY TOMATO SAUCE? A PLATE? Apparently.
And in case you weren’t feeling sorry enough for me, they’ve rigged the cheese too. The only cheese that is low enough in points and high enough in quantity is Babybel Minis LIGHT. Like chewy pucks of spackle. And forget eating them on something like a baguette. Perhaps you’d like to count out some Wheat Thins? Maybe a Triscuit or two?
I get it. I know that it’s a clever way to help people understand portion control and the importance of moderation, but I don’t want to know the importance of moderation. I want to know the power of a high metabolism.
In an effort to jump into this with enthusiasm and optimism, I decided to go online to the “community” part of the website and see what it was all about. It’s basically a mini Facebook with a little Match.com sprinkled in. You can ask to be someone’s friend based on similar interests or join a group of people who share a common interest. Unfortunately it appears that I do not share any common interests with the people of Weight Watchers Online. I spent the majority of my evening responding to questions about why it was so hard to find Weight Watchers friendly options at major chain restaurants. I went there looking to see if anyone knew how many points were an eight course tasting with wine pairings.
I’m still a person, though, and it hurts that no one has requested to be my friend. Where is the welcome wagon? It’s not like I’m expecting a muffin basket, we all know these nazis don’t allow for anything that good, but maybe a few fluff friends so I didn’t feel so all alone?
As day one comes to an end, I’m paralyzed. I accidentally ate some leftover mousse cake from an office birthday party. It didn’t completely derail me, but I also wonder if I should forgo dinner so that I have extra points for my alcoholism tomorrow. You can eat lots of vegetables for no points, but don’t get near a sauce or condiment or you’re going straight to points hell. I haven’t even looked at mayo yet because I know it’s going to break my heart. Is there no compassion left in this cruel world?
One day down. 15 pounds to go.
March 26, 2012 § 5 Comments
Here is what I know about applying for jobs: it ranks right up there with my freshman year of high school. I know that everyone likes to talk about how they were the most awkward or most unattractive and I’m not here to debate that. You were probably uglier than me. Whether or not you felt uglier is debatable. Whether you managed to accentuate your lack of grace and beauty with glitter and hair clips the way I did is not. I inadvertently did everything in my power to paint a huge glittery sign that says, “I am so uncomfortable in my own skin that am borrowing clothes from my best friend who is 6 inches shorter and 50 pounds lighter and pretending I’m her.” Who is buying it?
Hear that silence? MY POINT EXACTLY.
Do you remember those butterfly clips? Not clips with butterflies on them, but clips that actually were butterflies. Their wings, ironically, had teeth that held your hair in place. I’m fairly certain you could buy a jug of them at Claire’s for a quarter. Those butterfly clips were “my look.” I could style my hair to look like 100 permutations of a plastic monarch colony. Some nights I’d go to bed only to find that a stray butterfly had nestled it’s way deep into the frizz and imbedded itself into my skull upon impact with my pillow.
A personal favorite, and go-to style for a casual everyday look, were the upper-middle class, white girl cornrows. These involved framing my face with rows of twisted strands held in place by one butterfly. Somedays I’d go monotone, others I’d have a rainbow of plastic insects in my hair. It was worse than when a friend comes back from Jamaica with those little braids. (I don’t know what happens to people in Jamaica that makes them think it’s okay to do that, but it’s not. No matter how many times you get accosted on the beach, you need to remember that you are going to look stupid and your friends aren’t going to want to go to dinner in public to hear about your trip.)
The key difference between my years of butterflies and job hunting is that everyday when I got home from school, I didn’t have to wait for someone to call and tell me how stupid I looked. I went years thinking I was the hottest shit around. I actually believed people when they told me I could be a professional stylist. I eagerly shared my secrets for where to score the best clips. And no one ever told me later that they were just being nice.
Job hunting, on the other hand, is brutal. You can look forward to waking up to a few emails about how nice it was to read your resume, but how, bottom line, you’re just not good enough. Occasionally you’ll get the, “oh my god! I LOVED your resume and would love to just be friends.” WHAT? NO! This is not a dating site, it’s a job hunting site. I don’t want to be your friend! I want for you to get me a job! I AM GOING TO END UP LIVING IN THE PINE STREET INN! SOMEONE IS GOING TO EAT MY CAT!
Then there is the reality of meeting a potential employer, likely someone you will report to, and realizing they are retarded. As you sit there imagining how much money they make, it occurs to you that not only will you not be getting the job, but someone else with a half of a brain will be. Probably someone related to the person you’re attempting to communicate with. That’s always nice.
I can almost imagine the annual job-hunting year book signing. Unlike my freshman year, when people wrote nice things like, “UR hair is AWESOME! Stay cool.” and “2Cool 2B 4gotten”, my job hunting year book would have things like, “UR not awesome enough for us!” and “2Bad UR not an MBA.”
But the worst? The ones that really sting? Those are the ones you love. The ones you’re sure you’d be a super fit for that don’t feel the same way. Then you really are back in high school again. You’re sitting across the table from some super cool guy who you are SURE would think you were the cat’s meow if he’d just hang out. If he’d only take a second to realize that you’re a little shy and that’s why you come off so… strong. But he won’t. And you go home and don’t say anything, but eventually your dad comes into your room and for no reason at all tells you that he thinks you’re the most beautiful girl in the world. And while it doesn’t make it better, it makes it bearable. And you actually believe him when he says someday everyone will see how beautiful you are. He says that even though you look like the ring master at a My Little Pony Circus.
But when you’re all grown up, it’s highly unlikely that dad’s going to burst through the door and tell you how you’re gonna kill the competition. You have to look yourself in the mirror, remember that those butterfly years didn’t hold you back, and hopefully neither will these. You have to open your computer and keep sending emails, keep asking people to give you a chance. One cool football player after another.
And hope that one of them really will give you a chance.
March 19, 2012 § 4 Comments
A lot of years ago, maybe seven or eight, I bought a card with a sheep on it. The caption above the sheep read, “and to add to my misery, no one here thinks I’m funny.” It’s the kind of card you send to a good friend when they’ve left you. When you find yourself standing amidst a group of strangers who don’t understand you. Or worse, they misunderstand you. They don’t laugh at your jokes. They don’t even pity laugh. They just look at you.
I didn’t buy the card for anyone in particular. I just bought it to have. I have a rather large collection of cards that I’ve bought over the years. I pick up cards to keep, to read, to have, and to send. I think cards are one of the top ten loveliest things on the planet. Truly. The sheep card, however, has never made it into the rotation. Year after year I see it as I flip through my card drawer and never once have I thought it was the right card to send to anyone. I think that’s because the card wasn’t meant for anyone. It was meant for me.
There have been lots of times when people haven’t thought I was very funny. Many of those times were made worse by the fact that I really did think I was funny. Sometimes I’m not trying to be funny. People sometimes laugh at me for no good reason. The hubs laughs at the way I grocery shop, or the way I like to walk home from work. He thinks it’s peculiar that I sit in the bathtub for long periods of time or create “adventures.” Clients laugh at the way I dress, or the stories I tell. People even laugh at the way my house is decorated. Those things are meaningless.
But when you are trying to be funny and you realize that the entire room is staring at you like a mad person, those are the times it’s painful. You can’t go anywhere or do anything. You just have to sit there while all those eyes look expectantly upon you, wondering if you’re going to redeem yourself or wallow in humiliation. I choose the latter. Wallow. I keep my eyes downcast and I wallow. It’s the only way to regain composure.
The root of the pain is pretty simple: you misjudged your audience. They don’t get you.
Last week, I gave up my job. I didn’t really quit my job, nor did I get fired. I just gave it up. I felt like I was holding onto it so tightly and I couldn’t bear to imagine what my life would be without it. It didn’t define me, but it had been so much a part of my life and my success for the last four years that to imagine my existence without it was impossible. I didn’t even know I was going to give it up. I actually had no idea. But something started happening, something I was ignoring. People didn’t think I was funny anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, there were moments when people though I was funny. How could you not? But those moments were fewer and more far between. I started hearing words like “negative” bandied about in reference to me and my personality.
For a long time I thought that being serious– taking things more seriously– was what you were supposed to do as you grew up. Your career is a competition. There are others out there who will beat you to your dream and you better be ready to crush them with your intellect, smash them with your clever ways. If you didn’t look smart, you looked stupid. If you weren’t at the front, you were at the back.
Believe it or not, there was a time when I was known for being easy going. I’ve never been one to roll over when it came to something I believed in, but my methods were cheerful, my disposition that of someone who wants to learn from others and embrace new ideas. I don’t know what happened to that girl, but my guess is that she died a painful death a few years back. I killed her. Probably in the bathtub.
There’s no doubt that my natural inclination is that of a defensive player. Give me something to protect and I will do so fiercely. I was always shit at shooting baskets, but keeping some other beastly chick from doing it was never a problem. But the truth is that I longed, always, to be an offensive player. And I’ve worked really hard to be an offensive player. It doesn’t mean I can’t be aggressive, but it does mean I need to remember that I’m on a team and that what’s best for me isn’t always best for everyone else. I don’t want to continue with this sports metaphor because it’s making me uncomfortable, but you understand what I’m saying, right? Sometimes you realize you’ve become a fierce asshole when you meant to be a rockstar collaborator.
Now, do not misunderstand me. My job did not make me a fierce asshole, I made me a fierce asshole. My job gave me every opportunity in the world, but my priorities got fucked up and I started focusing more on the me and less on the we. I took the weight of success–collective success– onto my own shoulders and frankly became a touch Machiavellian. It’s no wonder people didn’t think I was funny. I was foaming at the mouth.
And so it happened. I was gripping my job so tightly that I had no choice. I needed to let go. I needed to let the one thing I couldn’t control float away. In a funny way, I needed to throw myself into an unknown place– one of fear and doubt– to really understand who I was and what I wanted. Nothing will do that quite like become unexpectedly unemployed.
And now I’m going to rebuild it. I’m going to take the incredible people, places, lessons, and triumphs of the last four years and I’m going to apply them to finding a new future. I’m going to find a place where people do think I’m funny and I’m going to keep it that way. I think.
Here’s to optimism.
January 10, 2012 § 4 Comments
I have as many complaints about my childhood as the next hardened upper-middle-class child with a house keeper, but there’s one thing I can never relate to: kids whose parents never supported them. I was recently watching an episode of the Parenthood and the heart wrenching drama of that particular episode centered on Zeke’s mother never encouraging him, supporting him, or even telling him that she loved him. I sat there like a stone cold bitch. My parents were borderline retarded with their belief in three of the most useless, talentless children on the face of the planet.
No matter what it was I wanted to do, one or both of my parents was there to tell me how good I’d be at it (the best, uncontested) or take me to get whatever gear would be required to excel. Better than that was their unwavering commitment to my ability to do anything. I never once heard them say, “are you sure? Because you thought you were going to be into ____________ and then we bought $4600 worth of gear and you quit because _______________.” (Generally, and this applies to my brothers as well, it was weather or intensity related, or some combination of the intensity in the weather.) To this day, though my lifestyle and choices deviate slightly from those my parents might have made for me, they’re still eager to encourage me. This is a luxury, and I acknowledge that, but it’s also created a bizarre psychosis.
The simplest way to explain it is that I get excited about being able to excel at anything and in turn want to do very strange things. Interestingly enough, none of these things would be lucrative in the least. For example, some of the things I think I would be so good at and would love to try: being a hair dresser, teaching 4th grade, hiking, running a restaurant, managing any number of things, acting, skiing, telling other people what they should do for a living, psychologist, doctor, New Yorker Cartoon captionist, gang member, personal trainer, police officer, barista, and the list goes on and on. My most recent obsession, which has been the object of my desire for quite sometime, is going to prison. I really, really, really think I would enjoy and excel at being in prison.
I’ve always been fascinated by prison. I was desperate for Martha to write a tell all book about her time in prison. Just as she brought the joy of crocheting to the depraved ladies of her cell block, I’m certain I could make friends and protect my purity with a unique combination of humor and subtle psychotherapy. During my recent live threatening illness, I had plenty of time to watch my very favorite prison show Lock Up and it’s juicy and favorable cousin Lock Up RAW. One hour of delight profiling various maximum security prisons or jails around the country and the stand-up ladies and gentlemen who call them home. Occasionally you’ll get an over-crowded or under-funded facility. I try to DVD those for multiple viewing.
After watching a marathon of Lock Up, realized that excelling in prison is about more than telling fucked up bitches whose runnin’ the fuckin’ show once you arrive, it’s about having family who supports you even though you’re in prison.
Imagine my glee.
Not only would I as an individual be so good at being in prison, my family would be a clutch asset. Speaking as a strategist and brand expert, the opportunity to implement my Prisoner of the Era strategy and develop my prisoner brand would be an opportunity beyond anything I’ll ever have at work.
If I were going to put together a Power Point presentation, it would go a little something like this… (First, let’s assume I’m in the Big House for 25 to life for second degree murder. The conviction is mysterious enough to paint me as a bad ass and an unpredictable mother fucker. You want thug life? I killed someone in the moment because I felt like it. It’s also important that my conviction have nothing to do with small children. Bitches get cut for messing with kids.)
Caroline in Prison: Identifying Opportunity and Capitalizing on Brand Equity
Prison is a bitch. (Always have an opening slide that makes people think your presentation isn’t going to be as boring as it actually is.)
Two Audiences: Prison Staff (including guards, wardens, etc.) and Scary Fuckin’ Bitches
First, it’s important to establish a relationship with prison staff. Position yourself as dog with a bark but no bite. Establish understood respect through actions, but maintain public displays of disrespect in order to show the Scary Fuckin’ Bitches how Bad Ass you are. Through the year, invent conspiracies and acts of violence that never happened to establish camaraderie with the SFBs about what liars and pigs the staff is. Kiss staff ass when no one is listening or watching. Learn kids names, without giving them the sense that you’re going to murder their families when you leave.
Assets: Supportive Family = No Lesbianism to Gain Control
Ensure that the family puts money on your books every single week. Not only will it keep you in the company of Doritos and Diet Coke and independent from the prison slop, Honey Buns are currency. When some chick with a buzz cut starts trying to explore your contours, you leverage your commissary rations. You want a tit? I’ll give you a bag of Combos and two cans of pop. Kiss? How about some Blow Pops and Peeps? Next time Amber tries to swipe your girly bits in the shower, beat her over the head with a can of Chicken of the Sea. Equal parts weapon and consolation prize.
Do not take up religion. Religion has yet to prove a pathway to parole. If you want to get out early, you need to be visible. Religion is not visible enough. And if it is, you’re doing something to make people think you’re crazy. Crazy people don’t get out on parole. They get transferred to a state hospital. There’s no such thing as parole there. Just a bunch of crazy people playing ping pong with their own feces. Poo Pong, if you will.
There are many other factors at play here. I’m really good with hair. Really good. And I can make something out of pretty much nothing. (I cannot stress to you enough how innovative I am. I’m like McGuyvor. Seriously. It’s a talent.) I’ll admit that I need to brush up on my knowledge of textured hair (for my black friends in the slammer) because I don’t want someone to shank me because I’m not an equal opportunity stylist. I could make curlers out of toilet paper and crimps out of paper. Those Scary Fuckin’ Bitches would be lining up at rec time to get an appointment with me. And hell no I don’t take Honey Buns. I can buy my own Honey Buns. You want my skills? You pay me in protection. SHAZAM. Genius.
I’m getting excited just thinking about it.
The key to my prison success, besides my ability to create my very own capitalistic community fueled by the commissary, will be my time management. Keeping my figure will be a priority. Vanity is an obvious factor, but so is being nimble. It’s also part of the plan. People can’t help but respect people who respect themselves. One thing Scary Fuckin’ Bitches are not good at? Keeping themselves. You never meet a scary gangster chick who happens to have an incredible haircut and impeccable style. Eye brows are always too thin, mid sections always too thick, and ponytails slicked back so tight they’ve inadvertently invented a non invasive face lift.
The rest of my time will be spent doing things to better myself and the prison. I’ll become one of those advocates for on-campus gardens. I’ll start a work program to feed the community through the prisons. Plus I’ll eat the shit out of the produce while I’m gardening so I don’t have to choke down the food. I hear they don’t care if you’re a vegetarian. Or a human for that matter.
The bottom line is that I need someone to take me to jail. I’ve tried to get arrested for something silly, a misunderstanding or easily rectified lapse, but I haven’t been successful. I don’t want to do anything that will give me an actual record because then I couldn’t be a 4th grade school teacher, which I would be good at too.
OMG. I bet I’d be a phenomenal prison guard. That would get me into prison.