On Ageing, Part 2 – Or, Your Body Hates You

When I was in my late teens and even into my twenties, my body and I were friends. We weren’t best friends, not by any means, because I used to regularly stuff it into things that were too small for it and also pierce parts of it in my friend Leslie’s bedroom using a safety pin that had been soaked in rubbing alcohol for the recommended 10 minutes to ensure minimal risk of infection.

Still, things were pretty good back then between my body and I. I had the usual sort of teenage angst-y problems that were image-related, but I have been blessed with an apathetic attitude regarding most things concerning my physical appearance. This means that I have transitioned nicely from being a grubby 90’s teen into being a grubby adult who can comfortably go to the grocery store wearing sweatpants that I haven’t taken off in over 24 hours while also sporting a sweaty sheen on my face which seems to be permanent and which I am now fairly certain is stress-related.

In the last few years, though, something has happened to this friendly relationship that my body and I have mutually enjoyed. It is…deteriorating. Nothing sudden happened, no big blowout fight, no tears or screaming or threats or other abusive behaviour. It just seems to be starting to dislike me. Slowly. It all started with the consumption of alcohol. Nothing out of the ordinary – just a few glasses of wine, or some scotch, or sometimes a combination of the two. Maybe a few shots when I was trying to pretend that I was still 23 and still really fun. I would go to bed after a night of drinking, and then the next day – ANARCHY. Total and complete revolt by my body and basically all of its normal functions. It wouldn’t let me pee. Eating – no way. Think you’re going to drive this morning? NOPE! You’re still drunk! Basic motor skills – FORGET IT, you’re not brushing your teeth today, and GOOD LUCK trying to have a coffee without your head actually exploding.

What would have been a minor inconvenience just a few short years ago has become an entire days worth of pain. There is no middle ground now between normally functioning human being and disastrously hungover bag of dirt. My body has firmly planted a flag in the no mans land of partying. And that flag is red. And it just says “OLD” on it.

I can live with this disruption, this small fissure in the happy dealings I usually have with my physical self. I don’t drink often, anyways, and now when I do I just make sure I have three days off of work so that I can recover quietly, in the dark, in total humiliation.

I think this is probably the first small act of rebellion that my body is plotting against me. It is showing its silent fury in other, subtler ways, though. These must be signs of what is to come.

Two weeks ago, I had exactly 4 grey hairs. I counted them, and pretended I was fine with their sudden appearance. I made smug comments to myself along the lines of : “grey hairs mean wisdom” and “I am proud of my age” and other things that are total bullshit. Today, RIGHT NOW, I have 14. They are multiplying because they know I am lying and that the sight of them makes me angry and a little sad. I don’t feel like someone who has grey hair. Does this mean I should buy sensible shoes? Should I give up on sexy underwear? Do I now need a light sweater on cool summer evenings?

The wrinkles are coming, too. They don’t seem to be as furious with me as the grey hairs are, but they’re making their presence known in places where there is either florescent lighting or natural lighting, and if you are not aware THAT IS EVERYWHERE. Nothing covers them up, and nothing hides them, and so far I have not been able to conduct my life solely in dim lighting OR at dusk.

I have been writing this post for almost an hour, with my knees up and my iPad balanced on the arm rest beside me. I am ignoring the fact that my knees are aching and my neck is a little sore from keeping my head at an extremely slight angle. I refuse to acknowledge that SITTING DOWN makes me HURT. I know, however, when I do go to get up, I will make a noise of some sort, which will probably sound like “OOOF” and then I will stretch and shuffle away dejectedly, while feeling irritated at the fact that I shuffle.

I want to be ok with getting older – I want this stalemate between my body and I to come to an end. I want us to reach an agreement and sign a contract where we stop fighting and start looking forward to all of the good things that come with getting older (THERE ARE SOME, RIGHT???). I don’t know where that agreement starts, though. I think that I need a wiser older woman, preferably Helen Mirren or maybe Celine Dion, to take me under her wing and teach me how to love all of these parts of myself that are currently under siege by time (and gravity, seriously, how SHITTY is gravity). But, since it is not likely that either of these women read my blog (which is, frankly, shocking), I will end this by saying that I have nothing but respect for the women out there who are also at war, or not on speaking terms with, their bodies. I think we need each other, while we inhabit this murky area that is No Longer Young but almost Preparing To Be Older. We need to guide each other through this weird and unfamiliar territory that is sort of like puberty except in reverse and without awkward sexual encounters with classmates. Maybe we should tell each other how fantastic we look with those spiky, spindly grey hairs sprouting out of the sides of our heads. Or nod silently in solidarity to the other women whose foundation just isn’t hiding their newly discovered mouth wrinkles. Let’s high five the other women in sweatpants with sweaty faces,too. Just so I know there are others out there like me. With permanent stress-sweat.

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On Etiquette – Or, How To Dine Out Without Being an Asshole

In my more thoughtful moments, I have often wondered what my purpose in this life really is. Is my deeper mission, yet undiscovered, to become a helper to humanity? Am I meant to be humbly guiding the misguided or aiding those who are bereft of the life wisdom that I possess?

No.

I am a fucking waitress.

And I don’t have a life’s purpose, other than working and living and paying bills and occasionally having some good times with my family and 4.5 friends. I am fine with this. This is a worthy life that I am living.

But – I DO have some advice for the other people toiling away in life who may happen to find themselves in a restaurant one day. This, if you are unaware, is an establishment where food is served to you. In public. In the view of other people. BY OTHER PEOPLE.

So here is my PSA for anyone who may be unsure of how to behave in these facilities where they are suddenly confronted with really tough social situations like HAVING MANNERS and NOT STEALING SALT SHAKERS.

If you want, you can even print out this handy little list, laminate it, and give it to that friend uncle sister shitty brother in law who you dread having to go out for brunch with every year at the local swanky golf course for your moms birthday. Just slip it in the pocket of their skidoo jacket as you all head out the door, teeth gritted and smiles nailed to your faces.

1. When your server says hello to you, say hello back. You don’t even have to mean it. It can be THE MOST INSINCERE HELLO you have ever said. But you’re going to have to talk to him or her AT LEAST three times during the course of the meal and this tiny (albeit very difficult and draining I know) task can set the tone for the rest of your brief relationship. Plus, people who are not assholes respond when spoken to.

2. Don’t walk into a restaurant on your phone and then wave impatiently at the hostess or server who makes eye contact with you because they are annoyingly DOING THEIR JOB. Unless you are diffusing a bomb threat at your home or are Madonna, you are not that important. And if you are going out for a late lunch while your home is potentially being bombed, guess what? You are an asshole and probably shouldn’t even read any further because you clearly don’t care very much about other people if you don’t even care about your own home and family. And if you are Madonna, carry on doing whatever you want, always. PS I love you.

3. Try out your reading skills before you ask inane questions. If you can’t read, subtly let your server know before the awkward ordering part of the encounter begins. Presumably the people you are dining with will know that you cannot read and will take the initiative and order for you. If they don’t, they are assholes, and I am sorry that you have to eat in a restaurant with them. You should probably find new friends.

4. Know that your server doesn’t want to be your friend. They probably already have some of those, or, like me, know at least 6 or 7 people who they are pretty sure don’t want them to die. So, be secure in the knowledge that you can leave the restaurant without having gained a new acquaintance. Knowing this will allow you to look at the person who is bringing you food and drink and not dismiss them or roll your eyes at them or interrupt them when they speak so that you can ask your three-year old YET AGAIN what he did at preschool that day (the answer is nothing they seriously don’t do anything stop asking them).

5. Give your kids an iPad or a tablet or a phone if they are awful little human beings. We won’t judge you, and your snotty neighbour Cindy isn’t here to make you feel like a shitty parent. Actually, you are now in the Land of Acceptance for Lax Parenting Skills. It is great here! You get to do WHATEVER YOU WANT in order to make your child behave. In return, you will be rewarded with the happy glow on the faces of other patrons who are also fondly watching their kids stare at the blue light of a device, as well as the slow nod of approval from servers who walk by your orderly table and think “these are some solid parents right here”.

6. This should go without saying, but it doesn’t. Another human being has to touch your gum when you put it on a plate. Did your server ask you to fondle their gum? If they did, they are the asshole and you may proceed with placing your gum on the dish-ware of your choosing.

7. I have nothing to say about tipping. There are already 784 blogs and angry posts about customers who don’t tip well. It is a tired topic. What I will say though, is that if you are nice and pleasant and seem happy in the knowledge that if you are healthy enough to be sitting in a restaurant enjoying a meal with some people that you presumably do not hate, then your day is going well in comparison to a lot of peoples’. So be nice, and your server will be nice, and if you don’t want to tip, that’s fine (it is not), but we can all at least amicably agree that we had a nice encounter and I will just swear quietly to myself while still smiling (learned skill) as I say goodbye to you.

8. Your server doesn’t know everything. They know lots of things, but not ALL THE THINGS. Don’t try to trip them up by asking them the origin country of the basil that is used on the plate as garnish and then look disappointed and/or disgusted when they aren’t sure and might have to go ask someone else who will also probably not know and then they will have to conduct a manhunt for the container of basil which turned out to be grown in the huge pot that you walked by on your way in that says BASIL in large painted letters. Being tricky is not impressing your boss or the girl you are hoping to sleep with. It is making you seem like a dork who cares about where his basil comes from and all the person across from you is thinking is “how can I get away from this weird guy who cares so much about basil god I hope someone texts me soon so I can pretend there’s been an emergency and I can leave”.

9. It is the same temperature on the patio as it was in the parking lot.

10. The person serving you is a person. They probably aren’t monetarily wealthy if they’re waiting tables unless they are masochists and get off on occasional mental and emotional abuse from strangers. They have bad days, their feet hurt and their back aches and they looked awesome at home but this fluorescent lighting makes them look washed out and somehow flabby in the face area (HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE) and they have served 3 people in the last two weeks that they went to high school with who uttered some variation of the phrase “oh you’re still a waitress?” while they waved the keys to their BMW in the air for literally no reason. 98% of people are very nice, and I am sure you are one of them (I am not EXCEPT when I eat in restaurants), so pat yourself on the back and go tell your friend Jenni to quit being an asshole and asking for lemon that she is not even going to put in her water.

On Choices. Or, Finally Making the Right One 

Holy shit, it’s been a minute. 

In keeping with my super reliable nature, I got caught up in life things and kind of forgot about my strict and passionate vow to myself to WRITE. EVERY. DAY. Every day, K, no matter what else is going on in your life which will probably be nothing because you lead a shockingly boring existence that is occasionally peppered with exciting new snacks consumed while lying down in sweatpants (see previous post re: love of sweatpants and their extreme positive effect on my life) that have been washed maybe (definitely) never. 

Every day sort of (totally) turned into I WILL DO IT TOMORROW SHUT UP SUBCONSCIOUS WRITER VOICE, and then all of a sudden I got married. 

Well, not completely “all of a sudden”. Moe and I planned it for about a month. Actually, Moe nodded while I changed my mind 39 times. We (Moe) decided to forego a $6000 trip to Jamaica on the somewhat reasonable grounds that we are a) not millionaires and b) WE HATED THE LAST TRIP WE WENT ON AND THIS IS THE SAME ONE BUT WAY MORE EXPENSIVE, K!!! 

So instead, I graciously agreed to something a little more low key and affordable, and we went to city hall and got married in exactly 12 minutes and then had a party at our tiny house which involved a classy dinner and also drinking mezcal straight out of the bottle and finding red vomit in my bathtub the next day and a dear friend informing me that he threw up but don’t worry, it was mostly liquid and definitely on my neighbours’ lawn. 

The weekend was perfect, without any overly wedding-y things, and Moe even wore his ring for about 4 hours before he promptly and sternly informed me that left handed men who work in busy kitchens cannot wear rings, which resulted in our first married fight wherein I informed him that annulments have been sought on lesser grounds and one of the main goals of marriage for me is that everyone knows he is married and that I basically own him now but not in a weird or obsessive sort of way just in a way that eases my own self-esteem and insecurity issues. Relax, I apologized after. I think. 

I hate mentioning being married before when I mention being married now. I feel like it somehow lessens this new part of our life by comparing it with an old part of my life. But I’m going to mention it anyways, because I think that it’s still important. As seen by many bad pieces of wall art and tattoos on Smug Hipsters, life is meant to be like an arrow. Always going forward, no looking back, don’t hang on to the past, etc etc blah blah blah. For the most part, I agree with this, partially because we don’t have much choice. Life does keep moving forward, and it does drag us with it. But our pasts, I think, need to be sort of respected and feared. Sure, you can try to forget about things, or bury them, or just pretend they didn’t happen. But then, when you are least expecting it, your past sneaks up behind you and punches you in the back of the head aggressively and reminds you that Hey, I’m still here! All your mistakes, still watching you, waiting for you to fall back on me again!

So I’ve made a promise to myself this time. I won’t forget about the mistakes I made in my last relationship. But I also won’t let them define this one. I’ve promised myself that I’ll be a better person, which is easy for me these days, because I married the best person I know. 

I have also promised myself that I will not eat cake more than once a week, will no longer Google search the end of movies while Moe and I are halfway through watching them and then whisper what is going to happen in a dramatic manner while after insisting I didn’t think you could hear me!, and will definitely, for SURE, stop throwing Tupperware in the garbage because it is not free nor is it meant to be disposable and there are people in this world like my mother who would be appalled by such behaviour and part of a being a better person is recognizing that you can just put it in your purse at work and wash it when you get home. 

Sensitivity Disclaimer : I am entitled to mock arrow tattoos because I have 2 Chinese characters tattooed on my body which I am pretty certain are not only super outdated but are also some really insensitive form of cultural appropriation and I should definitely look into getting them covered up. 

On Convention. Or, Lost is the New Normal. 

I’ve tried about 13 times to go to University, and once to college. Each of these times, I have found a reason not to finish. I was bored, or broke, or both. I hated the coursework, and the professors annoyed me because they were often stuffy and I felt like they lived in musty old houses with many cats and drank weak tea and had no time for the actual students they were meant to be teaching who were paying for this pointless course on 18th century writers that no one ever actually cared about with the promise to surrender their firstborn child. 

I am still one school year away from completing my University degree, and every once in awhile I get spasms of sheer panic that accompany a dialogue that goes something like this: 

You have to finish school. If you don’t finish school, you will be a waitress forever and you will get varicose veins and seriously it is time to grow up and just finish something and you can do this (no you can’t) look at all of the people out there who finish degrees when they are like 78 years old and go on to be wildly successful for the last 7 months of their lives it’s never too late to go back to school. 

This continues for a few months, and then I forget about it, and go back to the job that I really like and just sort of plod along in life like I suspect most of us are doing, regardless of our job titles or our annual incomes. 

I respect the people who have done things the right way, and I also feel a little envious of them. Having a life that has followed a straight line to an acceptable and normal outcome is something that I applaud. School, more school, job, mortgage, spouse, child, retirement, cottage, death. For many people, this is the trajectory of life, with the occasional surprise or setback thrown in. And I think this is great. It must be, right? Because this is what we are taught, as soon as we can get our heads around the concept of convention. Do what you have to do in order to have a life that is comfortable. But do it quickly, so you can work as many years as possible, in a job that is suitable and stable, so that you can have enough money to buy stuff when you are old. 

While I applaud this convention (cautiously and also sort of sarcastically) I have also spent most of my adult life ignoring it. 

I live in an apartment, I don’t have any kids, I have no interest in a mortgage or a yard or in owning mechanical things that are used to cut grass and blow snow and essentially make me miserable in climate conditions that I prefer not to be outside in. I have a lot of tattoos, I still dress like I am 17, and I often speak my mind when the socially advisable thing to do would be to shut up. My spouse and I work in an industry that is gruelling and leaves little time for family life. We sleep in separate bedrooms by choice, we don’t ever want to have a wedding, and we hate all-inclusive vacations for the very legitimate reason that they feel exactly like what I imagine a real-life Groundhog Day would feel like except with palm trees and shitty booze. 

I spent years being uncomfortable with most of these things. I struggled when I saw that people I went to high school with were living in enormous houses or becoming doctors or enjoying their vacations. I felt like I was doing life wrong because I didn’t want any of the things that everyone else seemed to. Pregnancy and childbirth actually alarm me so much it’s embarrassing – your body does what? And you did this on purpose? And you’re going to do it again? 

The amount of people – sometimes people who are little more than strangers to me – who feel entitled to ask if I own my home or rent it is staggering. These are the same people who are shocked and, inexplicably, saddened to learn that, no, I don’t want kids, I never have, and my ownership of female reproductive organs doesn’t really make me feel like I have to guiltily slink into motherhood with my head down simply because it’s what I am (supposedly) biologically engineered to do. 

As I get older, I am learning to stare these people down and hold my head up a little higher. I don’t know if this is because I am maturing into someone who is proud of who they are for reasons that are not dictated to me by other people or if I am just generally too exhausted to give a fuck what anyone else thinks about my life. Either way, it feels a lot better. There is no conventional life, anyways, I don’t think. I think a lot of people are struggling, even if they took the right path, the one that was properly timed and didn’t have too many detours. 

I see a lot of humanity in my line of work. Some of the happiest people I know are filthy rich, and some are just getting by. Others have families so big it actually makes my head hurt to comprehend what it costs to feed and clothe so many individuals, but they are so blissful and content with their situation that it also makes me smile for them while at the same time feeling immensely relieved that I am not them. I see regular folks who seem sad or angry or discontented, and I see husbands and wives who have been married since probably 1918 and are clearly still in love. I watch young people who are so obviously unprepared for the life that is coming at them and hope that they take their own route to get there, even if it seems messy or wrong or unconventional. 

I still don’t know what I want to be. The long road from divorce to happiness seems, in a lot of ways, like the biggest victory I could ever imagine. Also that I have found someone who seems to want to tolerate me indefinitely is definitely something I didn’t expect to happen twice in one lifetime. In the meantime, I’m happy to wander along my little path, screaming at people who don’t understand me along the way until I have offended so many well-intentioned strangers that eventually no one will ever go out of their way to speak to me ever again, until I reach the place where I am supposed to be, with Moe beside me, rolling his eyes and rubbing his face at the sheer level of frustration I bring to his life. I could have ended up a lot of places (most likely under a bridge talking to myself), but the fact that I am here, right now, in this life, is enough for me. 

And we pay $1400 a month in rent. If you’re wondering. 

On Youth. Or, Dear Young Women. 

I am an Instagram creep. 

I have an account, and about once every month or two, I post a picture of my dog, slap an artsy filter on it, and caption it with a heart emoji. Once I got 24 likes on such a photo and I felt smug and complete and popular, and sorry for the people I follow on Instagram who only had 3 or 14 likes on their photos. 

Mostly I use Instagram to follow celebrities I don’t really care about, news outlets whose posts I almost always skip over, and intellectual yet confusing publications like The New Yorker, the humour of which I almost never understand and always feel vaguely annoyed by and does anyone actually read The New Yorker or does everyone just pretend to because we have all universally agreed at some point that people who read The New Yorker and comprehend those cartoons are vastly more intelligent than the rest of us who find the whole business of satire sort of annoying and confusing. 

I also use Instagram to pass time when I should be doing other things like cleaning or doing laundry or showering. 

This is when I find myself scrolling through the account of someone whose niece is engaged to my second cousins best friend who lives in Washington State and goes to music festivals and I ended up on this account because this person liked a Bruno Mars post from 63 weeks ago that I found while browsing posts from Rolling Stone magazine, which I also follow and which frankly I feel is more in tune with my level of intelligence than the aforementioned publication. 

And what do I find on these accounts that are 37 times and 962 degrees removed from my own Instagram account? 

I find selfies. 

A lot of them. 

And they make me rage inside. 

There are selfies from all age groups and genders, certainly. But the population that rules social media is also the same one that runs the selfie game. 

Young women. 

I have so much to say to these women, much of it inspired by my anger and dismay at the sheer volume of them who have fallen into the trap of self-absorption and vanity that the Selfie Universe has sucked them into. A place where likes and comments from both friends and strangers has become something to seek out and appreciate and covet. A place where, suddenly, people – mostly women – are something to be looked AT again. 

I don’t want to be too tough on these young women, because being a young woman is fucking hard. It’s confusing and scary and sad and exhilarating and becoming anything takes trial and error (basically just error) and guidance and tough love and really awful fashion choices that you and your friends will one day look back on and shudder and then look behind you and see some 21 year old wearing a new version of it and you will say what the actual fuck that look is in style again oh my god how did that happen did we look that ridiculous wearing woven ponchos too?

I also don’t want to tell them anything in person because young people give me anxiety and also make me feel guilty because was I a self-absorbed asshole when I was that age? (yes)

But I do want to tell these young women some things. 

I want to tell them to watch HBO’s Girls, to revel and rejoice in the discomfort and the thrill that Lena Dunham’s pride in her own naked body brings, even though it’s not what we consider perfect and then say FUCK YEAH to the strength and the courage that it takes to be different and more than ok with it, to completely seek it out and embrace it and own it. 

I want to tell them to vote, even if they don’t care about politics because someday, something they love about this country will be at risk, and it will matter to them, even if that seems hard to see right now. 

I want to make them to watch TED talks given by brilliant women. 

I want them to fiercely feel the pride that accompanies a job well done, by a woman who works hard, whether it’s as a nurse or a teacher or a neuroscientist or as a cashier at Walmart, and to know that many of those women struggled to become what and who they are simply because they are women. 

I want them to see and appreciate the strength it takes to be a woman, in whatever form that may take, and to respect and feel awe and humility for those women who have gone before us and who have fought and cried and bled so that all women could have a small shot at equality. I want them to know that we have battled, and are still battling, to learn to love our bodies and protect them from a never-ending population of people who want to control and exploit and destroy them. 

I want them to look at themselves, not just through the lens of the camera on their phone, but to actually wonder at their young beauty and be proud of it, and feel thankful  that they are experiencing life in a time and a place when their physicality, their very being, is something that they, as women, can finally call their own. It no longer belongs to society, not in the way that it used to. I want them to see this for what it is – a gift that has been given to them by their mothers, their grandmothers, their aunts and older sisters and teachers and the women they work with. I want them to know that they can’t refuse this gift, that they should take it and say thank you and promise to keep it and hand it down to their daughters. Becuase this is a precious gift. It is freedom, and it needs to be taken care of so that it can be given over and over again. 

I want to tell them that there are women everywhere, right now, this second, who are exploited and abused and taken advantage of because they are women. I want them to know that we owe it to these women to be strong and powerful and to use our loudest voices to protest this exploitation and abuse, until as many women as possible finally hold this same gift in their hands. 

Is all of this heavy stuff directly related to taking selfies? Maybe not. Maybe selfies are harmless and fun and I have no doubt that some of these half-naked, pouting young women will go on to do great things and make amazing changes in the world. 

Until then, though, I want them to know that they are more than this, that pretty doesn’t matter, not really. Pretty is fickle and fleeting, just like the people who value it over everything else that these young women, who are in charge of carrying the gifts of sexual freedom, equality, and justice and handing them over to generations of young women to come, have to offer.  

I also want them to know that they should stop colouring in their eyebrows. Because hello? We can all see that THOSE ARE NOT YOUR EYEBROWS. 

On Anxiety – Or, It Will be OK, Jay-Z

I want to know if Jay-Z gets anxious about things. Does he lie awake at night wondering if he should have taken the garbage out before bed because leaving it until 7 am the next morning is cutting it close and last time he forgot and missed the garbage truck entirely and then his garage stunk for an entire week due to the excess of trash stuck in there?

Does he worry about his parenting skills? Should he be making his kid eat more vegetables even though ALL she will bloody well eat is cucumbers? Should he have named her after a primary colour?

Do he and Beyoncé have pointless arguments that leave him feeling wrung out and tense for hours after about how much time they spend together, and is it the right amount of time or is it too much and what should they be doing with their time together?

Is there a little voice CONSTANTLY in the corner of his very busy mind telling him “pick up the dog shit before it rains, Jay. Last time you didn’t it got all soggy and smeared into the grass and you were pissed and you can avoid that scenario AND shut me up if you just go pick it up NOW stop thinking about it and just do it seriously all this thinking about it just makes it even worse and now look at you you are immobilized by the thought of picking it up and ALSO by the thought of not picking it up”?

There are two things that are important to note here.

One – I spend an inordainate amount of time thinking about Jay-Z and it is not normal and probably borders on behaviour that can be classified as “unhealthy” or “stalkerish”.

Two – I don’t think anxiety cares who you are, how old you are, what your gender is, or which former Destinys Child member you happen to be married to. I think anxiety is generous in who it befriends, allowing each of us who meet it to become very attached to it until one day it is essentially running our lives like that friend we all had in high school who bossed you around and made you steal brown lip-liner from the drugstore and you did it even though you knew your dad would (figuratively) kick your ass and (literally) confine you to the house until you were 27 and your mom would cry and as a teenager seeing a crying parent is mortifying so you just prayed you never got caught. And, like that friend, you want to tell anxiety to fuck RIGHT off but you can’t. It’s part of you now, and it knows you so well and besides no one else’s parents let you drink in their basement. On school nights.

I don’t know where my anxiety came from, and I’ve never been officially diagnosed with it by a medical professional and also “officially” feels like the wrong word here and should probably be reserved for statements more like “you are officially the chess champion of Delaware” not “you are officially a basket case”, but I can’t think of another word and it sort of makes anxiety sound like a bit of a fun prize or a blue ribbon or something.

Realistically, though, it’s anything but fun. Anxiety makes you live inside of your head, and everything else – like the actual, physical world around you – is secondary. Your thoughts are constant and blurry and impossible to detangle sometimes. It is not a tangible thing, but you come to think of it in terms of a possession that you are required to have with you at all times, as in – “off to the grocery store! Better make sure I have my keys my wallet my coupons that annoying token I need to unlock the carts because some people apparently steal them and now we all have one more tiny thing in our lives that we have to keep track of and my anxiety. Where is my anxiety again I almost forgot it last time – oh there it is under my coat. Phew”.

Sometimes, anxiety is a sneaky asshole and disguises itself as worry (also not constructive) or rage (something I am very prone to especially when behind slow walkers, shitty drivers, or people who have 72 lottery tickets to check when I just want to PAY FOR MY GAS don’t they KNOW they can check their numbers in the paper or ONLINE). But even when it’s hiding behind one of these other lovely afflictions, it can still debilitate you at a moments notice. Suddenly you’re in the middle of the cereal aisle and the choice between Cheerios and no-name wheat-o’s is just too much so you end up back at home with no groceries and the daunting prospect of having to do it all again tomorrow because children apparently need food.

Where is the relief? Is there relief?

I’m sure there is relief to be found in pharmaceutical drugs but my personality is one that is best kept far away from anything addictive and / or in pill form. I regularly remember to be grateful that crack wasn’t big in my hometown because if it had been I would be writing this from under a bridge somewhere.

For now, I quiet my own voice by walking The Beast and writing. I have also rearranged the furniture in our living room so many times that Moe finally, in a very firm, un-Moe like manner, said I had to stop because it never felt like home with everything constantly moving and also he had walked into the coffee table three times because he kept forgetting where it was.

I also try to stay calm by constantly reminding myself that I am not alone. Many, many people deal with anxiety, and many are not lucky enough to be able to talk about it without feeling shame or isolation. More still deal with depression and self-harm, anxiety’s evil, mean-as-fuck sisters. These people are champions, battling something that can’t be seen and sometimes can’t even be described. My issue is mild in comparison, and I am humbled by those that fight against those asshole sisters every day.

I want these people to know that I’m behind them, even though I am literally zero help in any given situation unless it is giving advice on how to nap properly (light but warm blanket, dark room, fan or open window giving a slight breeze and little to  no light).

I also want Jay-Z to know that I, too, frequently worry about picking up dog shit and put it off until the last possible moment. You are not alone, friend.

On Forgiveness – Or, I’m Going to Graceland

And she said losing love 

Is like a window in your heart 

Everybody sees you’re blown apart

Everybody sees the wind blow

Generally speaking, I find that when people begin any sort of written discourse with a quote, they are about to say something pious or obnoxious or preachy and I think – “I am not going to read this because clearly you are not intelligent enough to use your own independent thoughts and obviously I am smarter than you so I will just go watch TV instead”. But here’s the thing – I am no Paul Simon. If anything, I am Art Garfunkel. Shitty hair, a last name no one can spell or pronounce, and always disgruntled and whiny and breaking up legendary folk bands with my bad attitude.

It’s inevitable as we move through life – something happens that alters you, and you try to move on, and you struggle and resurface and maintain and plateau and fall down over and over again, and you defend yourself to anyone and everyone who will listen and make so many excuses for everything that has happened and then suddenly (with what seems like no foreshadowing because foreshadowing only really happens in crappy movies and Young Adult novels) you have a new life. It is a shaky life, and it exists in a weird space that is still tethered to your old one. It has new faces that seem to blend together with old ones, and you are confused a lot of the time, consumed with regret and remorse but that regret and remorse mingle with excitement that you are moving on but then you feel guilty because moving on means you don’t care and you’re cold and mean, right? RIGHT? No one answers this question for you, and so instead of accepting that you deserve to be happy and that moving on is a journey with all kinds of rough paths and annoying roadblocks, you start to get angry and irrational. You play the blame game with yourself now instead of with other people, and you play it so well that you are basically the Lebron James of your own NBA, except less good-looking, wealthy, and with 100% fewer fans. And now, instead of  learning to love your new existence with these new people and new places and new experiences just waiting to be had, you stare at your mistakes down the road behind you and start chasing them down again.

Moving On has become Moving Nowhere. And now you need to figure out the way to redemption. With no map. Or Siri.

Here’s the thing with personal redemption – it’s basically impossible to attain unless you are a) Buddha b) Paul Simon or c) able to forgive yourself. I am none of these things. In fact, I cannot think of anyone other than maybe Beyoncé who I am less like than Buddha. The act of forgiveness requires some intensely commendable character traits, no matter who it is that you’re looking to forgive. Maturity, for one. And willfulness and patience and faith in something, whether it’s in a god or many gods or no gods or just in humanity in general. When it’s yourself that you need to redeem you have to somehow learn to look at yourself and say – ok, we’re good now, I forgive you for your mistakes, and I still like you and maybe one day I’ll really love you again, and let’s stay friends because really, we are all we’ve got in this fuckery that we call life. You have to find a way to go to Graceland.

Maybe it’s not the literal Graceland where Elvis lived and died and made music that continues to irritate people of my age because their mothers insisted on listening to it so loudly in the car that the other kids at school made fun of you for an entire year. Maybe it’s more of a metaphorical place, where we can finally say those words to ourselves without feeling like they’re lies. And where we can be ok with being blown apart, and knowing that everyone does see your wounds and your scars and that they are judging you a little but also acknowledging that they have their own scars and wounds. They have been blown apart, too. This is where you can hold your head up and learn how to be strong and forgiving, no matter how hard those things seem to be to actually hold onto. In this place, where it’s calm and where your head isn’t so noisy and full of disappointed voices, you can start to heal. And start to find some forgiveness from that person you need it from most, who, like it or not, you are going to be stuck with every day for the rest of your life. Scars and all.

It’s tough enough to be a grown-up. I don’t care what anyone says, I would happily go back to being a pre-adult, when my laundry was done and the dog that lived in my house was walked for me, and every penny I made was spent on terrible 90’s clothing and Mikes Hard Lemonade and crappy weed that was definitely not weed it was mostly oregano which is why now as an adult I always feel a little risqué when I cook with it like I’m about to get moderately stoned on my spaghetti sauce.

We make our lives even tougher by the impossible standards that we insist on holding ourselves to. Don’t make mistakes, and if you do, fix them. Don’t hurt other people, and if you do, punish yourself for it endlessly and feel bad forever or at least until you hurt someone else. Then feel bad about that but DON’T FORGET ABOUT THAT TIME BEFORE THAT STILL MATTERS.

My Graceland? I don’t know if I’ve found it. There are a lot of things that I haven’t forgiven myself for. I still hear some voices in my head sometimes, reminding me that I’ve done wrong, and that I’m probably still doing wrong, and that I’m very very likely to do do wrong again. But I can silence them now. And I can see Graceland, hazy in the distance. It’s there, and it gets closer through the simplicity of my life. Most of the roadblocks have been taken down, and the path is smoother and I have Paul (we are on a first name basis in my head, Paul Simon and I) telling me – I’ve a reason to believe, we all will be received in Graceland. Finally, I am listening.

Simon, Paul. Graceland. Paul Simon. Warner Bros. Records, 1986.

Real Life Interlude

There is a great website that exists that is called 6dollartshirts.com. As I’m sure you’ve surmised, it sells t-shirts for six dollars apiece. About once a year or so I order a bunch of them. They reference pop culture things, mostly, like television shows or music. Loosely translated, pop culture means stuff that is POPULAR in our culture.

Last night when Moe got home from work, I was wearing one of my t-shirts and obsessively watching a show on the CW network that, like every show on the CW network, is meant to be watched by teenagers and that I pretend to scoff at but that in reality I am very familiar with because I have actually googled almost every cast member to find out what they look like and who they are dating in real life and whether or not they have any pets or interesting hobbies.

In my peripheral vision, I could see Moe staring at me. This is uncommon. Even though I know that Moe naturally considers me to be fascinating and interesting and stimulating to be in the presence of, we are past the point where we just look at each other for no reason other than to marvel at our good luck at finding one another and blah blah blah.

“WHAT are you looking at?”

“Nothing, I just…”

“Is it my facial hair? I KNOW I have some right now I just haven’t had the 13 minutes it takes to use the cream to remove it, ok? So I think you’re being PRETTY rude by pointing it out like that”.

“I didn’t…what?”

“Shhh. I don’t want to miss this part. God, this show is so juvenile”.

*ten minutes pass*

“Ok, seriously WHAT are you looking at?”

“I don’t get your shirt”.

The shirt in question here is one that says 9 3/4 on it. That is all it says, and it doesn’t need to say any more than that because literally every person over the age of 3 months old KNOWS that the number (fraction? whatever) 9 3/4 is the number of the train station platform where Harry Potter and all of his fellow wizards and muggles board the train to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

“You don’t know what this means? Are you serious? Where do you live, in the forest or something?”

“I…what?”

I will spare you the dialogue involved in my long and very detailed explanation of platform 9 3/4 and the complete and total disinterest on the part of Moe and also the growing heatedness of my tirade on how a grown man has lived his life up to this point without bothering to educate himself on the details of how the MOST FAMOUS WIZARD EVER uses public transportation.

What I will tell you is that when Moe is done talking about something, the subject is firmly closed. There is no going back, no combing over details and wondering about other possible endings and imagining what would have happened if something else had happened and was the right decision made or should we just go over all of this again from the very beginning? He politely yet firmly disengages. He is never, ever rude and always provides a gentle verbal nudge to me to let me know that whatever conversation I am convoluting and distorting and essentially ruining is now over.

“I just thought that 9 3/4 meant that you considered yourself to be not quite a ten”.

The conversation (indignant rage-fuelled rant) that followed is currently under review in my own psyche, so maybe I will be able to untangle it in a few decades and turn it into something approaching coherent writing.

For the record, I consider myself a ten in every rating category that counts (except for interpersonal communication and personal hygiene in those categories I’m probably a 2 and a 7 but I’m working on them just not really the first one at all) and I hope that you consider yourself to be a firm ten as well, which, if you are reading my blog you probably are, provided of course you understand what platform 9 3/4 is and also do not confuse Dumbledore and Gandalf, ever.

On Friendship. Or, Table for One, Please

I work in a restaurant that has very good food and very good wine. Because of this, a large majority of the people that I serve are women. They are all different. Most are very nice and some are awful, some have four carat diamond rings and spouses that work ninety hours a week so that their wives can drink during the day and some wear sweatpants with writing across their bums and some have kids and some don’t and some are in their sixties and some are young and speak almost entirely in hashtags and tweets and make me feel like I am in MY sixties.

As varied as these women are, they all have one thing in common.

They travel in groups.

Sometimes they appear in groups of two, but very often they come in clusters of four or six or nine, or, very occasionally and most appallingly, in groups of fifteen or twenty one.

These women eat food and drink wine and laugh and protest loudly and indignantly that they DO NOT WANT DESSERT and while they are doing all of these things they do something else at the same time.

They talk.

And talk and talk and talk.

They stay long after their one shared appetizer is gone, and well past the consumption of their requisite glass and a half of wine because no they don’t want another one they have to drive and get up in the morning but they are going to stay a little longer anyways and what kind of herbal tea do you have and can you make me a non-fat latte actually never mind I’ll just have more water. No ice this time.

These women are friends. Maybe co-workers, maybe neighbours, maybe relatives, but friends nonetheless. And they intrigue me.

We all know that girl who always rolls her eyes at “typical” female behaviour and shrugs off not being invited to a baby shower/wedding/girls night/bachelorette party/paint social/ by saying “I’ve never really liked other women that much….I prefer to hang out with guys. SO much easier there’s no drama and I love how men are just SO laid back and don’t judge you and you can just like BE YOURSELF with them and yeah I don’t really WANT anymore friends I totally have my mom and this cousin I saw in 1997 so I’m good. Really”.

I am THAT GIRL.

And those excuses? They’re all bullshit.

If female friendship were a body of water, it would be a murky, dark, confusing, and very loud pond. There is so much involved in being a woman who interacts with other women. Nuances and grey areas and jealousies and insecurities and anger and sadness and the constant flow of feelings, both spoken and silent. When it works, when it is at its very best, female friendship is pretty awesome. It lifts you up, and makes you feel included, like you’re a part of a good club that takes care of it’s members and gives you fun perks like free movie admission or hotel discounts.

When it doesn’t work, it’s like Costco. Sensory overload, too much stuff everywhere, and a level of exclusiveness that really feels like elitism.

I have belonged to both of these clubs. I have had Costco friendships, the kind where I take on too much, and try to be someone I am not and can’t figure out why I am there, buying 8 litre containers of peanut butter and large quantities of meat that need to be carved before they are cooked and consumed and I don’t even like meat that much. I’m just there because I feel like I am supposed to be. And it’s making me feel bad about myself. But it’s what women do they make friends and they stick it out and they LOVE each other. So I will do it.

I have also had the privilege of belonging to the good club. Good friends, some gone now because I didn’t see them for what they were at the time (sick of my nonsense) and some still around. Do I always treat them the way I should, as a card-holding co-member of this excellent, rewarding, totally worth-it group? Probably not. I can be an asshole sometimes. But I do recognize something now, something I didn’t in my twenties (always drunk no time for self-awareness) or even in my very early thirties (always drunk and also stuck in self-pity-hole) – that good friends, the real ones, the ones who let you be you and express and even flaunt your unhealthy character traits and understated but possibly concerning narcissism, are sometimes women. The I Like Guys Better Because Women Are Awful Excuse is a separator, a wall that divides us from each other in a growing social climate that already pits women against each other way too often. I’ve come to realize that it’s not other women that are the problem in the never ending issues that I have when it comes to connecting with other human beings. The problem is me – my insecurities, my jealousy, my fear of not belonging. And that’s ok, just like it’s ok, awesome even, that many (MANY) women have countless female friends who all come into my place of work and ask me for things that I frankly don’t understand but will happily (that’s a lie) do anyways because I love my job (that’s not a lie).

I don’t want to travel in large gaggles of women, ever. For one thing, I’m too impatient to sit down for the apparent amount of time it takes to have these meetings, and for another, I don’t know that many women. I DO want to sit down with the few friends I have made and managed to keep, some younger than me, some older, some male and some female, and eat food and have drinks and laugh and shake our heads at our mistakes and those of the people we know. I want to watch over these friendships, because they are precious and I have let other ones die from neglect, but I don’t want to tend to them too much, because I have learned the hard way that if you water a plant a lot it also dies and then you have a soggy plant and I am way too lazy to repot it or replace it so now it’s just rotting in my living room slowly growing mold.

So if you are reading this and you are my friend (very likely since I doubt anyone BUT my friends are reading this), thank you. For seeing me through my self-inflicted tough times, and for letting me whine a lot and talk about myself constantly and for knowing I am annoying and repetitive and a terrible judge of character with a quick temper and no patience and a bad tendency to dislike people on sight, while at the same time knowing I love you and would do anything for you. Unless it involves making actual plans or committing to going somewhere on a certain date at a pre-set time. Then you are on your own.

On Marriage. Or, An Ode to Sweatpants

I am in a relationship with my sweatpants. It is not monogamous, since I have several pairs that I am involved with on a rotating basis. They have been loyal to me, my sweatpants. They have guided me gently through countless naps, walked many miles with my beast of a dog and I, nurtured me through endless hangover days, and have never, once, offended me by requiring  me to wear undergarments with them that squish or invade parts of my anatomy that should never be squished or invaded.

However, dependable as they may be, my sweatpants are not sexy. Not, at least, in the conventaional, don’t wear faded, saggy, stained and eleven year old items of clothing if you want to remain attractive to the person you live with sort of way.

Is sexiness important to a relationship? Or is sexiness too narrow a term to describe what keeps us tethered to someone over the long-term? Does sexiness include the broader scope of attraction, like someone’s sharp mind or kind heart or quick sense of humour?

Of course it does. These are the things that grow our relationship, keep us hanging around despite all of the cover-snatching and snoring and throat clearing and socks on the floor and open containers of orange juice that you go to shake and get literally all over your kitchen ceiling because the lid was, ONCE AGAIN, not screwed on properly. These things calm the anger and mitigate the endless irritation that simply living with another human being inevitably brings. They remind us why we were drawn to this person in the first place, when there is a sea (pond) of other mates available to us at every turn.

And then time goes on. The nerves go away., You don’t have to run the water when you pee in the same house as them anymore, or pretend you aren’t hungry because god what kind of an attractive person eats food in front of someone else, or frantically wash your feet in the bathroom sink at work after an 11 hour shift before you go over there. You pee with the door open. You eat regularly and probably not with a conscious awareness of how much food you are getting on your face, the floor, or your shirt. If your feet have that 11 hour shift smell, you aren’t worrying about it.

But if you were a French woman, you would be. The door to your bathroom would remain closed. Your feet would probably not be smelly, and if they were, no one would ever know, because you would swiftly and elegantly take care of the issue before it even had time to become one.

French women (and this is a bit of a generalization I am not saying all French women are any one thing in particular because I realize all people are varied and unique and vastly different regardless of geography, race, class, ethnicity, gender, and every other possible category so relax everyone) view marriage and relationships differently than we do here in North America. In France, extra-marital affairs are more common – often even expected since the tight-assed view of monogamy that we hold here isn’t the norm there. The way that French society views sex and cheating and seduction and marriage and everything else that encompasses the way that humans in love and lust connect with each other hugely affects how women in relationships behave. Does every French woman have a spouse who cheats? Probably not. But because the expectation is there, women, like in so many social situations, have to be reactionary. So what do they do? Do they go Carrie Underwood on their partners and key their cars and take a Louisville Slugger to both headlights?

No.

They wear lingerie.  They flirt. They use little jealousies to their advantage, seducing their partners over and over again by reminding them of their own attractiveness to others. They remain unavailable sometimes, both emotionally and physically. They fulfill their own needs, under the assumption that an intelligent, well-rounded woman will always be the better bet.

They behave like their spouses’ mistress. Because if he already has one, why would he go looking for another?

Part of me loves this whole French woman philosophy. But another part of me wants to know that there are French women who are insecure and afraid and sometimes have bad breath or prickly legs or shitty temperaments when they see their partners looking casually at a 23 year old woman who seems to be able to pull off this stupid crop-top trend that should have died in the 90’s pretty bloody well. I can’t believe that they all have Bridgette Bardot bangs and Catherine Deneuve eyes and roving husbands who slink around at night looking for and finding illicit sex.

Maybe we need to reach a compromise here in North America. Like, a little less sweatpants and a little more lingerie and I’ll TRY to flirt sometimes but only if YOU try to stop making that stupid noise when you’re concentrating on something and if you DO cheat on me maybe I won’t LITERALLY kill you but I WILL ruin your life somehow make no mistake about that and I’m not emotionally unavailable but I AM exhausted so I’ll maybe play that off like I’m teasing you but in reality I just want to go to bed so don’t get too interested over there.

Based on my own staggeringly legitimate credentials of exactly one failed marriage, I feel like I have the authority to say this – marriage, raltionships, need to be largely about compromise. You do the dishes, I’ll do the laundry. You walk the dog, I’ll clean the toilet. So if I am going to behave like a lofty, liberal French woman with great hair and swinging morals wearing underwear that hurt and chafe me in spots, you are going to avoid getting a pot belly. You will never wear socks with your sandals. You won’t putter when you’re 58, getting in my way and accomplishing nothing. You will stay sexy, too.

And I am keeping my sweatpants.