Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Flashback

As I was walking the dog this morning in clothes that were too skimpy for fifty-five degrees and misting, I had a flashback.

I caught a whiff of mimeograph paper. That sweet smell of purple inked tests dancing with the graphite and warm wood shavings of freshly sharpened pencils and the smell of fear that only a third grader can emit. Students stare studiously at the page before them. I write a big number three in the plum box to the right of a question and contemplate again whether I’ve come to the correct answer. Handing in the test with ample time to spare, I’d sit with my head down until the teacher exclaimed, “Pencils down!”

Life was so much simpler then.

That which is left unspoken

Sometimes I really want to tell you about the crazy people I meet. The ones that really drive me nuts. You would eat up the stories. Laugh, cry, it would be better than Cats.

But I can’t.

The first problem is that I’m afraid they will find the story and it will hurt their feelings. As angry as people make me, or as crazy as I think some people are, I can’t purposely hurt anyone that way.

The second is that I’m afraid it will give me bad karma.

So, once again, I sit here holding my tongue.

Computer retirement home

Two weeks before Christmas, I was standing in Brother K’s kitchen with Sparkles for that 36 hours in Boston. We learned that my uncle wanted to get a computer for our Meme.

We thought the idea of our grandmother finally getting online was a brilliant idea. A couple years ago, we gave her an HP printer that calls home three times a day and gets her email. I started to occasionally send her posts from my blog. She loved it. So I’d send her crazier and crazier posts until I finally gave up and just had my blog automatically email her whenever I posted.

I know what you are all thinking. There is no way that you would send your grandmother some of the stuff that I write. Well, what I learned was that Meme has 50 years of experience on me. So even though she is sometimes surprised by my stories, she appreciates my candor, and we have the best conversations when I call weekly. I may live 3000 miles away, but I feel closer to Meme than I ever have.

I was so excited that she thought she might want a computer. So we quizzed our Grizzly Uncle on what the specs are. Turns out, she has been using Grizzly’s girlfriend’s laptop a lot lately. To play hangman.

Um…

So, she wants a laptop. To play hangman. We all kind of sighed in disappointment. But then talked about teaching her to use email. And video ichat. And how nice it will be to include her in the crazy family emails we send.

But a laptop? Well, we had all agreed we needed to get her a mac. There was no debate. But a 13″ MacBook wasn’t going to have a big enough screen when we lowered the resolution. And we couldn’t justify buying a new 15″ or 17″ MacBookPro.

Then I came up with the crazy, sleep-deprived idea. What if we gave her my laptop? It is a three-year-old, 15″ MacBookPro. And I’d been thinking of getting a new one lately. Since I do a lot of programming and use Aperture often, I need speed and lots of harddrive space. My laptop had already run out of space, and was feeling a bit slow during compile time. It was getting time to put her to pasture.

So I dumped the contents of the hard drive onto Brother K’s Drobo just in case my Time Capsule hadn’t backed up everything. He reformatted the drive. I mailed him the original box and cables when I arrived back in Cali. He wrapped it up to look like new.

Who better to get my old laptop than Meme? She will love it and care for it and appreciate that I used it to write all of those crazy blog posts she has read over the last three years. And hopefully she won’t care that I scratch the hell out of the ‘d’ ‘n’ ‘s’ and ‘m’ keys. I don’t know what it is that I do exactly, but The President has my old 12″ PowerBook and turns out, it has the same keys scratched up. I’m trying to keep my fingernails shorter now.

So my old machine has been sent out to a computer retirement home in Maine. May it live a good long life!

I’m already enjoying receiving email from Meme—although she still occasionally sends me notes in the post.

Girls in Trucks

I hid this weekend, as much as I am capable of doing. After running my errands on Friday, I settled—yes, settled—into a weekend of reading. Yes, there were a number of parties I was supposed to attend, and I managed to go to two, but I really needed a weekend to myself. So Perl and I laid out a blanket in the backyard and I began my adventures reading Katie Crouch’s “Girls in Trucks” while Perl stalked unsuspecting squirrels.

I’m not sure how I heard about the book. I assumed it was mentioned on NPR, but I can’t seem to find a…no, I thought I knew where, but I can’t seem to find the reference. Well, when I saw it in the bookstore Friday, I used some of my store credit to get it. And it was worth every sold book.

It is about relationships. The sexual relationships between women and men, and the societal relationships between southern women. Katie introduced me to Sarah Walters as a child in Cotillion class and follows her until she is 35 and still single.

I won’t tell you how the story goes, you should read it for yourself, but I will tell you how familiar the storyline seemed to me. It wasn’t my exact life, but I could relate to Sarah’s trials and tribulations of dating. The flings. The love of her life that she just can’t release, no matter how bad he is for her. Trying to settle. It is all there.

But it is the settling part that is most interesting to me. The other day, a friend sent me a link to an article in The Atlantic by Lori Gottlieb titled “Marry Him!” and it is subtitled, “The case for settling for Mr. Good Enough.” My friend has been anticipating my reaction, and I think it is because he believes that I will start ranting and raving about how this woman is a lunatic for writing this article.

I can’t.

Because she is right.

And I started to believe her with this paragraph.

To the outside world, of course, we still call ourselves feminists and insist—vehemently, even—that we’re independent and self-sufficient and don’t believe in any of that damsel-in-distress stuff, but in reality, we aren’t fish who can do without a bicycle, we’re women who want a traditional family. And despite growing up in an era when the centuries-old mantra to get married young was finally (and, it seemed, refreshingly) replaced by encouragement to postpone that milestone in pursuit of high ideals (education! career! but also true love!), every woman I know—no matter how successful and ambitious, how financially and emotionally secure—feels panic, occasionally coupled with desperation, if she hits 30 and finds herself unmarried.

She goes on to say that yes, there are exceptions but if you are the exception at 30, then by the time you are 35, you will understand.

I understand.

As much as I love my life, as much as any number of people are jealous of all the crazy things I do, I would give it up in a moment for kids and a husband. For someone to help me make the day to day decisions and endure the monotony, and for kids who would make that monotony all worth while.

I’d do anything that is, but settle.

She continues on to recommend settling when you are younger. Before you have kids. Before you lose your looks. Before the pool of eligible bachelors dwindles to just kindling. If having a family is important to you, then knock it out of the way before it is too late.

And I can’t disagree. She makes some fabulous points. One of which is that she and her friend went to a sperm bank to have their children. So now, they are single moms. At least if they had settled, even if they had gotten divorced, then they could ship the kid to Dad’s once in a while and have a night off. Not so when you decide to do it all on your own.

So why won’t I settle if I agree with her view? Because it is too late for me. I’m past the settling years. I’ve resigned myself to knowing that I probably will never have children of my own. I might get to share parenting of someone else’s children, and I will always adore my kids from school, but I probably won’t ever pass down my own genes. My brother, Sparkles, has admitted that this has been his plan all along to keep me single and childless so that I will spoil his children as if they are my own and pay for their college education.

I’m also working against a stereotype. As I read once in Maureen Dezell’s Irish America: Coming Into Clover, being the oldest female in an Irish family, we are known to be headstrong and independent. And this often leaves us unmarried. I’m difficult, and I know it. And I need someone who can deal with that. As much as many guys would like to try, very few have succeeded. Some think that I’m broken and they need to fix me, which just pisses me off. Others let me get away with shit because they can’t tell me no. I can’t tell you exactly what I need, but I know it when I see it. There have been a couple guys that I’ve truly loved. These are the guys that make me soft. Expose my feelings. And it isn’t because they treat me like a girl instead of one of the guys. It is because there is something about them that makes me want to expose my vulnerabilities. That is rare.

And I know you all think I’m too picky, but I’m really not. I don’t let my brain make the decision when it comes to love. One of the last guys that I fell for is nothing like what my brain thinks I should find. But my heart says yes. That is why it is so hard to explain who I’m looking for—my brain doesn’t know.

One last quote from the article. Who can argue with this?

But then my married friends say things like, “Oh, you’re so lucky, you don’t have to negotiate with your husband about the cost of piano lessons” or “You’re so lucky, you don’t have anyone putting the kid in front of the TV and you can raise your son the way you want.” I’ll even hear things like, “You’re so lucky, you don’t have to have sex with someone you don’t want to.”

The lists go on, and each time, I say, “OK, if you’re so unhappy, and if I’m so lucky, leave your husband! In fact, send him over here!”

Not one person has taken me up on this offer.

oPtion$

Dear Fake Steve,

I finally get it.

I know how much you think I hate your book, but now I don't. I'm on a flight to Dallas (I hate Texas, although I have no justification for it), sitting in first class, sipping my second rum and coke after the warm towel and dinner, and I finally get the humor.

I've tried to explain to you that I didn't like it because I'm too close to it. I see these people in every day life. I get caught up on some of the "facts" being wrong. And I forget that this is fiction. It is written from the view point of what the valley and the people look like from the perspective of a stranger. And I forget that I'm a stranger in this world myself.

I'm a girl from Maine who dressed up, put on makeup, did her hair, and is sitting in first class pretending that she belongs. Giggling appropriately when the steward flirts with me, trying unsuccessfully to keep up with the drinkers, making small talk with the businessman beside me about his Sony Reader. I told him I like to read my books old school. He doesn't find me charming and entertaining. I get better results in coach.

The point is I made the mistake that many engineers in the valley make. I think that I'm part of it. Just like republican farmers who think they too will be rich some day, I think that just because I see some of these people at lunch, or run into them in the lobby that I am magically part of their world. I'm not. I'm as much of a poser in the valley as I am on this flight. I may have been Cinderella while living in CT, but I'm nobody here.

I see the humor now. I see how ridiculous their lives seem. I see how you make them larger than life, bringing them close to the borders of reality just long enough to suck me back into the absurd. I'm not meant to like the characters. I'm not supposed to be able to relate to them at all. I'm just supposed to laugh at how over-the-top you depict them.

I'm laughing now reading it. Probably the only smile in first class. It just took getting away from the valley to be able to see the forest for the trees.

I hope you accept my apology for my previous harsh criticism.

Sincerely,
K

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