"SO, YOU MEET SOMEONE and feel something instantly and then you imagine a thousand conversations in your mind and you become enamored with a fantasy and you know it's a fantasy but as you get to know the person really every new thing you learn seems to reaffirm the fantasy and maybe the fantasy isn't just a fantasy and you know it's crazy but wouldn't it be nice if it weren't crazy and your life really could be like a sonnet, like a pop song, like Paris in the '20s, and maybe, just maybe, if you wish upon a wish and hope beyond hope, that person is actually as crazy as you and is having all the same thoughts as you and just hasn't expressed them because they know they're crazy too..." --from "Why 'Love Actually' Matters" The Case for Getting the Shit Kicked Out of You by Love, by Ben Dreyfus, posted on MotherJones.
"Her life was full of incident but not of accomplishment."
That's something E.B. White wrote about his dog, Daisy, in her obituary after she was accidentally run over by a car.
As I sit before my laptop at two a.m. this evening, when studying feels almost more impossible than failing the bar exam (for a third time, mind you), I feel like this could very well be the sort of thing written about me at my death.
Her life was full of incident but not of accomplishment.
She enjoyed many a lover but, alas, never found that special investor willing to purchase the cow,
having gotten the milk for free.
Though there were things she was good at--keeping her ever hopeful pets from escaping;
remembering lines from iconic teen films--
the longer list to be had was what she was not good at,
specifically having never really made use of her Undergraduate or Legal Degrees.
She is survived by several tiny balls of hair she left laying around her home
and her cat, Venkman, who finally succeeded in escaping.
Maybe all of this existentialism is being brought about by the fact that I turn 27 in less than a month.
In October, having been unceremoniously dumped by Crane, having quit my first job and having no other prospective job lined up, and having received the news that I would be taking the bar a second time, I created a small point graph that I dubbed the "Chart of Twenty-Six-itude." It basically plotted all my high, low, and plateau points over the year. I carried it around with me, as if I needed a physical reminder of all the nagging failures loudly chatting consistently in my head, until one day I dropped it and had to retrace my steps to recover it, for fear that someone else would read it and understand how truly pathetic and disappointing this year has been.
When I'm tired of self-loathing, I pull my head out of my ass for a moment and think about the things that *are* right. My chief happiness is being in this city and living so close to my brother. He's my family, in both the literal sense of our being brother and sister, but also by way of our relationship giving me a sense of stability, and belonging, and safety. I'm happy here because he's here. Even still, if you take that away, I still have so much that I am grateful for.
I told a friend recently, "It's not that I haven't actually done anything this year, it's just that it feels sometimes that even though time is moving forward, my life is at a stand still. It's like I'm not progressing. I feel like I've been paused."
And although that's an accurate statement of how I feel right now, I'm almost positive that if I call this part of my life a pause, (I can only hope) it's apt to be a pregnant pause.
Wiktionary describes pregnant pauses as those giving, "the impression that it will be followed by something significant."
& I have to believe that whatever happens from here, whatever is next, will be just that--significant.
When I'm being honest with myself, I can admit that I still think (frequently) of Crane.
If you were here in October/November, you may remember that I wrote some not great things about him. If you can believe it, (and after the scathing things I've written here about perfectly nice people, you readily can) I said even worse things to his face.
If I could do it again, I'd take back all the shitty things I said and my temper tantrums and instead, would just have said, "I'm hurt that you gave away so quickly something I wanted."
At the end of the day, that's what this all boils down to.
I am an airhead. A regular space cadet.
I am constantly day dreaming and when I try to use my brain for anything productive, I often find that somewhere along the way, I've managed to put the horse before the cart.
It's probably because of this fact and a concern about what could happen to an unobservant girl that my dad started sitting me down to people watch and teaching me how to profile at an early age.
I rarely admit as much, but inwardly I've probably come up with twelve things about you within the first 5 minutes of meeting you based on your body language; your shoes; the way your eyes move when you talk. A lot of the time, I'm right.
And there are times, really humbling times, when I'm wrong.
Recently, I was selected to work on a political campaign.
"Smart move; you're doing this to schmooze?" everyone suspected as much.
But in reality, I was there because I believe wholeheartedly in the candidate and what I think she can and will do for our state. All of this hardly matters in terms of where I'm taking this post except that early on in the campaign, I met a girl.
The prospective campaign fellows were asked to help the campaign persuade targeted voters at their homes. At the briefing for this event, a girl showed up. She was blonde and as she tucked her bangs behind her ears, her perfectly manicured nails revealed diamond studs. Real ones.
She was wearing a banana republic trench and a burberry scarf, and her pale blue eyes were framed by thick tortoise shell raybans. I smiled at her when she walked in and she didn't smile back. As we were briefed, she couldn't have looked more bored if she tried. I remember thinking, as I left the briefing that afternoon, that she was some rich girl just there to meet whoever could help her get an internship at the capitol.
I was surprised, then, a few weeks later, when I saw her again at the fellows' orientation. She sat two rows behind me during the lecture. Alone, save another girl who was sitting next to her. The girl had short hair and was wearing a button down and tie tucked neatly under a sweater vest and khakis. She was unmistakably a lesbian and she was enthusiastically chatting up the snobby blonde who seemed locked in a perpetual state of ennui. I wanted to turn to the girl in the tie and say, "don't bother. She's not like you and me." But I refrained.
As we wore further into the orientation, I turned to look at the blonde.
Why? I can't remember. Maybe someone had coughed behind me, maybe someone came into the hall just then. Maybe I was turning around to see her reaction to something being said in the orientation. Whatever it was, when I turned and looked at the blonde, she was holding hands under the desks with the girl in the tie. Their fingers were laced and their clasped hands were resting on the girl with the tie's lap.
The orientation rhetoric was talking about equality, and why the idea mattered to Texas. Equality across economic lines; equality across gender lines; equality for all couples. The two women were nodding their heads in unison and I saw tears swell, if only for a moment, in the blonde's blue eyes. She gave her partner's hand a little squeeze and the girl with the tie smiled. And then, the blonde went back to looking bored.
And that was the moment I was reminded that I don't know shit about other people's lives. There are some things you can't tell about a person by their nails; their shoes; their tortoise shell glasses. Every once in a while, it's nice to have a reminder that everyone is fighting their own battles.
this segment of This American Life featuring David Rakoff.
I heard it once while making a late night drive through Austin on my way to my mother's house. I wasn't paying attention when they announced who was speaking. Without much to go on, I spent months trying to type in bits I remembered into google and hoping that anything would come up. One day, I finally got the magical combination, something like "man with dead arm talks about grating cheese." Since then, I always come back to it when I need a pep talk or even when I just want to hear some beautiful words. I've played it so many times, I can almost recite the entire thing by heart (and sometimes do, while taking long showers).
The part that probably leaves me feeling hungry to hear this again and again, to come back to it is the part where he talks about trying to achieve our greatest selves:
"At dinner with friends recently, the conversation turned to what about yourself was still in need of change? They all seem to feel that they were living half-lives.
One fellow hoped that he could be more like the god Pan, unabashedly lusty and embracing experience with gusto. Another wanted to feel less disengaged at key moments, able to feel more fully committedly human, and less like that old science fiction B movie trope: "What is this wetness on Triton 3000's face plate?" "Why, space robot, you're crying!"
We were going around the table, so the natural progression of things demanded that I eventually get a turn to weigh in as well. Suppose you're out to dinner with a group of triathletes, all discussing their training regimens. And you have no legs.
They can't flat-out ignore you, and they also can't say words to the effect of, well, we all know what your event is. Getting all that marvelous wonderful parking, you lucky thing!
It was uncomfortable, and I suspect more for me than for them. I have no idea. But thanks to my rapidly dividing cells, I no longer have that feeling-- although I remember it very well-- that if I just buckled down to the great work at hand, lived more authentically, stopped procrastinating, cut out sugar, then my best self was just there right around the corner.
Yeah, no. I'm done with all that."
This part speaks to me as a reminder just to live. To remember to live in spite of all the things I'd like to change, or all the things I feel are putting my life on pause.
I want to save you the drama and skip to part where I decided I should go out with someone in my social circle.
Val (a guy: think Val Kilmer. & so named because I've previously mentioned him once on this blog as my valentine 2014) is my brother's friend. He's smart, he's funny, he's comfortably employed, he is nice. And, one night my brother hosted a tacos & board game night and Val came. I'd been thinking about Val long before taco-board game night but not in a serious way.
I'd had a few really good conversations with Val where I found myself thinking, "He'd be a good guy to date." But somehow, this thought didn't translate over to "I should date Val," until taco-board game night. What was stopping me? A thousand tiny things that I should have heeded because months later, those same things that had always kept me from seeing Val as a potential mate became my reality of why Val absolutely would not be a potential mate. Primarily, & it's stupid and vapid but still true, Val's way of wearing hoodies; always a half size too small and with the hood pulled over his head. Always.
Why does this kill me so much? No idea. None. But it does.
So, taco board game night happens. We decide we'll play clue and in a small handful of moves, so small all of us were freaked the fuck out, Val keeps winning. & when he left, I was thinking, "that was sexy. Really sexy. How smart is he?" & my inner reaction was obviously outwardly noticeable because it was followed by my brother's girlfriend prompting me to go out with Val.
& here it was: the first time I'd ever thought that it could be.
"Yeah, you should totally go out with him!" my brother's girlfriend urged.
"But like...do you think Val's funny looking? Like... does he sort of look like an owl to you?"
"What are you talking about?"
"I don't know, never mind."
"He looks like an old guy," my brother interjected from outside, where he was smoking a cigarette.
"He looks like an old guy. The way he moves around; that thing he does with his mouth--like he just took his dentures out."
"Don't listen to him, he's a hater," my brother's girlfriend said.
To be clear, Val is not funny looking. I can't wholeheartedly take back the owl thing, but he's not funny looking. A better way of describing Val is that he's not my type. He's neither tall nor dark; he was hairy in a way that I didn't find sexy (which is weird, because I'm really fond of body hair); the chiseled chin that I find to be the ultimate mark of manly sexiness was absent from his face and instead, he had a soft, short, round chin.
And then there were those goddamn hoodies.
And even though every time Val and I interacted, since that conversation with my brother's girlfriend at taco board game night, I kept a mental list of all the things about Val I didn't like, a stronger force inside of me beat down the terrible person taking tallies and reassured me that dating Val was a great idea.
A couple of days later, our social circle was out on the town & any inner conflict between the terrible person (who knew dating Val was not a great idea) & the idealistic person (who thought, "well maybe,") was completely obliterated by my having drank too much. Our group had stepped away, leaving Val and I alone for a moment. I somehow managed to slur out, "You look stupid in that beanie."
"What? Really? You think so?"
"Yeah, you do. You look like one of the characters from yo-gabba gabba."
To be fair, I had a point. He was wearing a green beanie pulled all the down over his eyebrows and a sweater that had wide, alternating stripes of two different tones of green. "But anyway, despite your stupid outfit, I think I like you."
Val's expression--which was blank--alerted me at once that I'd made a mistake.
There was an embarrassing silence.
"So like...yeah," I mumbled.
There was a long pause.
"Well, we could go out some time," Val said.
It was later that same night & our circle had settled down at a friend's house. My inner terrible person was laughing, knowing I was making and had made a mess. I'd already started turning what I'd done over in my mind when Val pulled me to the side.
"If I seemed hesitant, it's because we're friends and I'm friends with your brother. If this was going to happen, I'd want it to be serious."
"Maybe this is a mistake. Maybe we'd just fuck things up for everyone. I don't know."
"Or maybe we'd be like Monica & Chandler."
& it was that line, cheesy as it may seem, that made me think this would all be okay.
I think I knew for sure that it would never be okay on our second date when Val walked me to my front and drew me to him. Oh God. He's going to try to kiss me. AND he just ate spicy chicken nuggets from a food truck. I started to cringe.
"This. This is going to be weird," Val said.
And no sooner had our lips grazed then I started to pull back. This is all wrong.
That night, I started thinking about creative ways to tell Val that this wasn't going to work but nothing sprang to mind. Eventually, I went to my brother about things. My brother, it should be noted, has a knack for being honest to a cruel fault.
"It's easy; all you have to say is, 'I don't like you, son.'"
"No, I'm not going to do that. Be serious"
"Ok, what about, 'Don't call me anymore,'? Or, 'You should find someone else, because it's not going to happen with me.'"
"What about: 'We should go back to being friends because I think you're gross.'"
"Seriously? Why are you so fucked up?"
"It may seem fucked up. It's harsh, for sure. But anything but being blunt is going to him false hope. You have to be honest with him, son."
Having decidedly found my brother's methods too cruel and still not finding a gentle way of breaking it to Val (who was becoming more serious about the very "us" I was searching for a way out of) I decided to use a friend as a scapegoat. I told Val I couldn't see him anymore because he'd once gone on a date with another mutual friend of ours who still had a thing for him. Conveniently, this was all true and revealed to me just as I was looking for an out.
So I did it. Over text. On Val's birthday.
The next time I saw Val, he wouldn't even look at me (which, considering the manner that I'd decided to end things, isn't all that surprising). Val and another member of our circle were celebrating their birthdays that night and many of our out-of-town friends came up for the occasion. Our group met for lunch that day and even Val's brother, who lives half way across the country, was there. I couldn't help but notice that members of our group were throwing a little shade at me, especially Val and his brother.
I found this really upsetting. Outside of my brother and his girlfriend, Val and I agreed we wouldn't tell our circle that we'd gone on a few dates. But the awkwardness was undeniable; everyone knew. If you need just one reason to never date someone in your social circle, there it is. Your dirty laundry quickly becomes something the rest of the group feels they have a stake in.
I decided I would show up late to Val's birthday party; it would suck to have to endure the entire night of our friends treating me weird, but to not show up at all would be to admit that I'd done something wrong.
At the party, Val pulled me aside and (drunkenly) tried to reconcile. When I told him I was going to be firm in my earlier decision, he cried. Our friends distanced themselves from me more. As I watched Val wipe tears from his eyes, I felt really pissed. "What have you been telling everyone?"
"Just what happened. I am really bummed out by your decision."
"IT'S BEEN TWO WEEKS! 3 DATES! YOU DON'T HAVE THE RIGHT TO FEEL BUMMED OUT!"
"I guess we just weren't on the same page."
I left the party a little later and went home to think. I hated how our friends were treating me. The next day, I made the decision that I'd try things out with Val again. I couldn't stand to be on the outside of our circle. I told myself that I was deliberately picking Val apart because I didn't want to be happy. That if I could hang in there, we would fall in love and then I'd be set; the great guy, the regular group of gorgeous friends meeting for coffee, the witty banter. I imagined my life would be Friends.
Nothing changed, though. If anything, I became more passively-aggressively cruel to Val at every turn, and then coming back and apologizing later. For 2 months, I found excuses not to invite Val to stay over; excuses to not stay at his place; excuses not to become a real couple; excuses not to open mouth kiss or even do more than closed mouth kiss. I berated him about his clothes, his hair, that he was so fucking nice to me. I made it unbearable. But Val stayed true.
Things finally came to a head when Val came on a group trip to New Orleans for my brother's birthday celebration. Val wanted to hold hands in the car; he wanted to walk together down Bourbon Street holding hands; he wanted to share a bed in the hotel room; he wanted to dance together. None of these things were really outlandish when you consider that we'd been going on dates and spending time together for a full 3 months. I pushed back; I avoided him and when I couldn't, I was mean. & it started to take a toll.
"Why are you so pouty, Val?" our friends started to ask.
& he was being pouty. Really pouty. So pouty that our friends, who were on his side a couple of months before, began to turn on him.
I was listening to our friends make fun of Val for being so lame when I realized, I was doing this to him.
There was nothing wrong with Val. He had realistic expectations of what things should have been like between he and I. And, he is a great human. He's the kind of guy who bids on ebay for pins that look like the one you got in the girl scouts when you were four, but lost while at work. He's the kind of guy who always plays your favorite shows and movies on netflix when you come over. He's the kind of guy who introduces you to all of his friends and makes you feel included, and beautiful, and smart. My problem wasn't with his tiny mouth or wrists, or the tuft of hair at the top of his head that always stood up, it wasn't even all of his god forsaken hoodies that fit too snug. My problem was with me; that I didn't want to date him and found a million tiny things about him to validate why that was instead of just being straight with him and myself.
& I was being a heinous bitch; dragging him along while I hoped that in between being cruel and dismissive of him, I would maybe fall in love with him. In the end, dragging Val along and treating him how I did was much more cruel than my brother's suggestion of saying, "I can't date you because I think you're gross."
So Val & I talked.
Actually, my brother--tired of all Val's pouting--talked to him first and broke the ice. Then Val came and found me.
When I told him how I felt, he was cool.
"Sometimes, it doesn't work out," he said, "and that's okay."
Which really just made things worse; all that drama, all the snide remarks, all the cringing between kisses--that, had I just been honest, would never have existed to begin with.
But whatever. That's what happened with Val.
If there's anything worth taking away from this, it's: be true to yourself. Listen to the nagging voices in your head. Don't do anything you have to talk yourself into. Be kind to others, even when you think it would be easier not to be. Don't be selfish.