Category Archives: Women

August ‘Everlasting’

It’s not often that you pick up a book and the first paragraph speaks to your situation in time and space so exactly that it makes you take pause and say, “Wow. Yeah.” That’s what happened this afternoon when I opened ‘Tuck Everlasting’ and read this:

The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone. There is no thunder, no relieving rain. These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after.

Isn’t that amazing? So beautiful and poetic and then it throws that provocative bit in at the end, so completely reeling you in. Somehow I never read this book up until now. And now I find myself with eight-hour shifts of work with very little to do. Which is nice.

That opening paragraph makes me wish I wasn’t in this crowded, urban place. Makes me wish I didn’t have the luxury of escaping into my apartment and turning on the A/C. That’s not the August that Natalie Babbitt is writing about.

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Landscaping is expensive

It’s easy to watch this commercial without even noticing the bushes and shrubs magically being groomed while these attractive, active, young women go about their happy, privileged lives:

I’m not against the thing.  The thing itself looks convenient enough.  It’s just the fact that the commercial goes so far out of its way to just come out and say it: “This lets you trim and shave your pubic hair.”

Instead you have to see those bushes and realize that those are a metaphor forwell, bushes.

You know what does make me skeptical?  This commercial implies that the un-groomed bushes are somehow less nice or less worthy.  Before and after shots, and the after is always preferable.  Always more beautiful.

I say, do whatever you want with your bushes.  Don’t let Schick and it’s silly advertisements influence how you landscape.  There’re just a bunch of men behind them, I’m sure.  Don’t let a bunch of men tell you that you’ve gotta fork out $12 if you, too, want to be attractive and active and happy.

Tell me I don’t have to have sex out there.

A group of boys, who look no older than fourteen, talk on a crowded New York City subway car—loud—about bitches, and fucking, and fucking bitches.  They carry tennis racquets in zipped cases.  I assume they’re teammates.  The loudest and youngest looking one says, “I could’ve fucked two bitches the same night.  I had them both at my place.  But I didn’t, because one of the bitches was on her period.”

I look around, wanting to see if anyone else’s ears have unwittingly become victim to this conversation.  Some people have headphones on.  Some people might not know English.  I make eye contact with one woman, but her neutral expression doesn’t change.  If anything, she seems to communicate, “Are you really upset?  Are you really surprised or offended?”  Yes.  I am!  I’m upset that these boys boast and talk about female peers that way as if it’s okay.  Or, knowing it’s not okay, making it more appealing.  I don’t care if they’re insecure pubescent boys just making things up or repeating overheard things.  I’m upset that I sit with my book open on my lap, not reading it, listening to them instead, saying nothing.  If girls they have sexual feelings for (if not romantic) are called bitches, what would they call me—some 24-year-old girl scolding them?  Surely they wouldn’t politely apologize.  How would that boost their apparent status as big, sex-havin’ men?

Yesterday was one of distasteful sex-related happenings that made me question the world and the people in it.  Everyone’s entitled to say what they want, do and think what they want.  But that freedom can seriously hurt others.  It can make you think, Man.  This is how so many people approach sex, this is how the media makes sex out to be?  I don’t want any part of that. It’s scary.  Who really wants to be the subject of a nonchalant recap between buddies—“Yeah, I fucked her.  It was all right.”   

When I woke up late yesterday morning I had a notification that I’d received a Facebook message just after 8 a.m.  It started, “Hi, how’ve u been?”  But the sender’s name was one I didn’t recognize, so I assumed it was a spam message.  Someone trying to get me to attend an event, or buy a product, or support some cause.  Turned out to be something very different.  The message was from someone I did vaguely know—a security guard of all things.  You know.  Someone whose job is to make you feel more secure.  I’d forgotten that this man and I were connected on Facebook at all.  He guards a building I used to regularly enter and was someone I would say hello to and small talk with occasionally.  I stopped the small talk, though, after we bonded about our mutual interest in making music and he invited me to see the recording studio he uses—inside of his apartment. 

I hadn’t thought about this person or heard from this person, and then, all of a sudden, a message.  It’s pretty crude stuff and the only reason I’m sharing it is to make a point.  Skip it if you don’t want some graphic imagery in your head.

Hi, how’ve u been?  I don’t mean to be forward, but seriously I’ll like you to know that it’ll be a pleasure to munch on your shaven apple pie haven. If you give me a chance I promise I’ll lick and suck every drop of crease all around and inside of it like no one has ever done b4.

Now am guessing u might have a boyfriend and since I wouldn’t want to be that guy that comes between you two, for the fact that I wouldn’t want the same to happen between me and my girl, that is why I have requested for this alone and nothing else.

However if ever you turn the opposite cheek to this once in a lifetime opportunity, I’ll also like you to know that I will hold no grudge against you and I will still cherish the moments of friendship we shared at [omitted]. Take care and bye for now.

[Name omitted.]

P.S.. Let me be that very private guy in your life that turns u into that glowing mature woman every girl wants to be like…

How kind of him to not hold a grudge against me if I turn down his “once in a lifetime” proposal.  How unselfish, too, to consider my boyfriend (and his girlfriend) in this arrangement!  And how opposite of presumptuous of him to suppose how I groom my “apple pie haven” or that I need to be transformed from a girl into a “glowing mature woman.” 

Granted I probably shouldn’t have even allowed myself to be connected online to this semi-stranger.  My mistake.  I can be naive.  It just wouldn’t occur to me that people might take the time to craft such a message. I would never think of this as everyday, normal fare for a man to send a woman at 8 a.m. on a Monday. 

I’ve watched a lot of romantic comedies in my day, which, admittedly, have probably given me some skewed ideas about heterosexual sex and relationships.  But after watching Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks ride off into the sunset, or Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, I’ve never approached a male love interest and said, “Hey, how’ve you been?  Will you meet me on top of the Empire State Building and kiss me long and passionately and marry me and raise my babies?”  Maybe some people do hold those expectations.  And maybe some people develop their own expectations after regularly watching certain porn, listening to certain music, or talking to certain people.  Just like kids playing violent video games makes them more likely to shoot people, right…?  It’s more than possible that a person would predominantly see inappropriate or unhealthy social and sexual behaviors and use those cues in their own life.  Because inappropriate and unhealthy can be relative concepts.

I told a male friend of mine about the Facebook message.  He advised me to use the block function, but to first send the guy a picture of STD-ridden female genitalia.  “Speaking of which,” he said, “there’s a guy I know who’s HIV positive.”  He went on to say that the person, before settling down with a partner, claimed to regularly have unprotected sex without broaching the subject of any risk.  And apparently, if questioned, would outright lie. 

There’s a scene in When Harry Met Sally after Harry and Sally have sex with each other for the first time.  Neither are satisfied with how it went.  They individually call their best friends, Jess and Marie, who pick up their individual phones from the nightstands of the bed they share as a couple.  Jess listens to Harry.  Marie listens to Sally.  When they hang up, after hearing their friends’ most recent dating disappointments, Marie turns to Jess and says, exhaustedly, “Tell me I never have to be out there again.”  Jess looks her in the eye and firmly responds, “You never have to be out there again.” 

Yesterday, after the things I was told and the things I overheard and the things proposed to me, I felt similarly exhausted.  Out there felt like a scary place.  A place that will compromise physical and emotional health.  A place where women are just vaginas and men are cads.  A place where very few ride off into the sunset.

“Once I wanted to be the greatest.”

My mom used to have her own business.  She monogrammed names and logos and anything else you wanted onto shirts, flags, baseball hats.  A big chunk of her business came from bowling leagues.  She’d sit down at her sewing machine with a stack of bowling shirts and spools of thread and stitch all the names: Joe, Roger, Barbara.

I’m writing a one-man play right now.  Sometimes when I’m writing I put on music.  Usually it helps distract my mind so that I just focus instead of thinking too hard.  Though sometimes it just distracts me.

Just now I got distracted because a song I didn’t recognize came on by a singer I did recognize.  Then the music video intrigued me.  It features three and a half minutes of middle aged and older women bowling.  They all take it seriously.  They all look so focused.  And then they all react to their performances, in simple but captivatingly honest ways. 

Probably if I saw that video without Cat Power’s voice behind it, it wouldn’t have struck me as much.  But it became so profound-seeming to me when paired with lyrics like this:

Once I wanted to be the greatest
Two fists of solid rock
With brains that could explain
Any feeling

Once I wanted to be the greatest
No wind or waterfall could stall me
And then came the rush of the flood
Stars of night turned deep to dust

A debate has been going on in the YouTube comments under this video about the meaning of the song and the meaning of the older women bowling. One person writes, “Memories of better days and nights. Each of the women in this video could fill hours and years talking about how good and bad life had been, and for some, still is – okay. Cat Power… She brings me to tears for so much we all dreamed about, and where those dreams end.”

Another user says, “The fact that the bowlers are elderly or not in the greatest of shape doesn’t negate their desire for perfection – a strike. It’s almost graceful and ballerina-like – how they step up and try to the best of their ability to match the perfect form. Watch the attempt, the hoping, and disappointment.”

Of course, then there’s this reaction, from a user named “zestytoaster”:

youre all wrong.

the point of the video is that it’s funny to watch old people bowl

Perhaps you’re right, zestytoaster. Perhaps you’re right.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDsxkQk6DWw

Four weddings and a quote about a funeral

It’s been an epic Labor Day weekend. Wedding Four of the summer was attended, thus concluding the Summer of Four Weddings.

From all this exposure to vows and receptions and DJs, I’ve concluded that I have no idea what kind of wedding I myself would have were I to have one. Unlike Jennifer Lopez in 2001’s The Wedding Planner, I didn’t spend my every waking moment as a child planning how I would get hitched to Matthew McConaughey. (I think it involved a Breyer horse ridden to a chapel and then a tiny woman being carried over the threshold of a doll house.)

In the lead up to Wedding Four, by accident or perhaps by no accident at all, I happened to be reading Dan Savage’s book about gay marriage and the overall institution of marriage, The Commitment. I initially picked it up because I was looking for inspiration to continue with my own book-writing, and I’ve always appreciated the no-nonsense style of Savage’s advice column. The subject matter of Savage’s book, as summed up in the subtitle, was a draw, too: “Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family.”

I didn’t know it for a while, but I’m a romantic. I eschewed serious romantic relationships for a long time, instead getting a sad vicarious fix from romantic comedies like, yeah, The Wedding Planner. I’ve since taken a long, hard look at myself and my fears and exactly what was prompting my plan to turn into a lonely reclusive cat woman and thankfully, I no longer have much use for Matthew McConaughey. (Note: I still plan to be a semi-reclusive cat woman, I’ve just nixed the lonely part.)

Back to Dan Savage. A signature viewpoint of his that he brings up in his column, podcast, and in this book, is that a relationship doesn’t need to necessary last for years and years for it to be deemed a success. Therefore, even if a marriage ends in painful divorce, it shouldn’t automatically be categorized as a failure. Likewise, he says it’s too bad that marriages are only deemed a success when “death do us part.”

Toward the end of one chapter, Savage shares a short excerpt from Ovid’s Metamorphoses about a couple who helps traveling-in-disguise gods Jupiter and Mercury. The couple is hospitable and in return they receive a favor. They redeem it by asking that neither of them outlive the other: “Since we have spent our happy years together, / May one hour take us both away.”

Savage writes, “That’s how I want to go–with Terry, not before him, neither of us outliving the other. Death is a perverse measure of success, as I said, and I don’t believe that someone has to die in order for a relationship to be considered a success. But I live in hope that when our time comes, after many more happy years together, we’re both taken to Maloney’s [Funeral Home] on the same day, at the same hour.”

You know that’s some serious romance because not only did Ovid write about it, but so did Nicholas effin’ Sparks in his book turned movie The Notebook. (Spoiler Alert:) James Garner and Gena Rowlands dead and HOLDING HANDS in a nursing home bed together–that scene alone provided months of vicarious romantic satisfaction.

Hmm. What’s my point. Weddings. Love. Family. If I’ve learned one thing this summer, it’s that I’m pro those things. Maybe not holding one of my own, but I’m at least pro attending weddings. And I’m pro family. They’re good fodder for books. And love! I’m so pro love that I leave you with a compilation of all four of the first dance songs I’ve experienced this summer in chronological wedding order:

A video that mistakes Fred Astaire for Frank Sinatra at one point:

Lyrics that truly encapsulate love: “Cause every time I see your bubbly face, / I get the tingles in a silly place”:

A video tribute to Carrie Underwood that features a country song, but not one of her own:

And finally, a wonderfully bizarre mix of random images paired with movie stills and posters from Titanic and Moulin Rouge:

Please forward.

I’m in the process of moving.  Well, I’m mostly done.  My roommate at my old place recommended movers to me.  They were coming for his stuff on Wednesday morning.  And they said they’d come back right after they finished to pick up my stuff.  Except…they didn’t do that.

They decided to do another job first before coming back for me.  So they left with my roommate’s stuff at 10:30 am.  And I waited around and around.  Heard nothing from anyone.  Finally at 2 pm I called the mover.  No answer.  Then I called my roommate.  Straight to voice mail.  Called the mover again.  No answer.

By this point, I started to imagine that the moving van had tumbled over a bridge.  I started to worry.  I decided to text the movers.  I’d learned that they were from Russia, though, and that they were in the States learning English.  So I wasn’t sure if they’d even be able to understand my text message.  But they did.  And they were fine.  And they showed up finally at 5:30 pm.

Oh, yeah.  So I’m mostly done moving.  But yesterday I swung by the old place to grab some odds and ends.  I threw a whole random load of stuff inside of a green laundry bag–a trashcan, some books, a full unopened can of Chock Full o’ Nuts coffee (dark roast), a green and orange winter vest jacket.  By the time I was done throwing stuff in the bag, it got kind of heavy.  But the kind of heavy where you don’t realize how heavy it is until you’ve been carrying it for a few blocks.

And I had to go straight to work from my apartment.  With this big, unwieldy bag.  And then after work, six hours later, at 2 o’clock in the morning, I had to get this bag across town (five avenues and a few blocks), onto a subway, off of a subway, onto a shuttle bus, off of a shuttle bus, and up half a block.

When I got off the shuttle bus, I was about to cross the street with my big grab bag of stuff, and I had a walk signal, but this guy on a bike didn’t know that.  And he saw another bus approaching the intersection, so he started yelling at me, “Honey, watch out!  Honey, watch out!”  But I just kept walking.  And then he realized the walk signal and it was awkward because we looked at each other and I wanted to say ‘thank you’, but I was already kind of far away. And the moment was gone.

But that was nice of him…  Even though I don’t typically like being called ‘honey’ by strangers at 2 am.

Mmmh.

The one downside to moving is that I used to get a free magazine meant for someone with my same last name. His first name is Ricardo and he lived on the 6th floor, but not anymore, so they saw my last name on the 3rd floor and gave me his mail. I’ll miss Ricardo’s mail.

The Corridor

It’s not glamorous.  It’s not welcoming.  It’s one of New York City’s versions of purgatory, really.  You’re not fully in the city, and you’re also a far cry from wherever you were.  It’s the underground corridor that links Seventh and Eighth Avenues inside of Pennsylvania Station. (Not to be confused with the corridor that links them under Times Square.)

It’s the first place I ever stepped foot in New York when my mom brought me here from our home in Massachusetts for my twelfth birthday.  She looked at a map of Manhattan before we left and figured we’d be able to walk no problem from Penn Station at 34th Street, up to our destination, the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 81st Street.  It is possible.  But it would’ve required fifty-five minutes of our seven-hour day trip.  Instead, a NYPD officer directed us to the A train.  My mom in that moment realized that this city (especially its underground bits) can be incredibly intimidating, and she proceeded to have a nervous breakdown.

Cut to twelve years later, I now live in the city.  And that corridor in Penn Station is, perhaps for nostalgia’s sake, one of my favorite places.  Continue reading