Category Archives: Looking back

In Your 20s and Confused? Get Over It

I try to stay out of the internet fray. In my 20s I remember getting steamed over all the articles about about the baby boomers. You couldn’t pass a newspaper or magazine without seeing a headline about how many of them there are, their spending habits, who they were marrying, where they were choosing to live. And the TV shows! I let “Thirtysomething” piss me off every single week. (Apologies to my beloved sis who loved that show — love you!) There were way more of them than my Gen X, and it seemed to me they were just this giant vacuum cleaner of materialism sucking up all the resources in their path. The media coverage of it led them to think they were entitled to it. Meanwhile Gen Xers were left with their crumbs and dust and a string of Republican presidents to try to patch together a life. So, yeah, that’s why they call us cynical.

Did me getting pissy about it change anything? No. Did I manage to patch together a life? Yes. And maybe I could have done it faster if I hadn’t wasted so much energy getting my panties in a twist about them. Or maybe that’s just the nature of being a 20-year-old. Your fairly new life panties get twisted about stuff. You are at the start, and while you know the most you’ve known in your whole life, it’s still not actually that much. You have to figure it out as you go. One thing I learned from those years is that I am happier if I don’t get caught up in the media stories about stuff that is only a thing because they are writing about it. Sometimes it’s insightful or entertaining, but mostly it just makes you feel bad.

So I set up a bubble against what I think of as psuedo news stories (as opposed to fake news — that’s a different post). Pseudo news is: yes, it’s true that the boomers are a very large and influential generation; however, that fact alone does not make them news. Of course staying in the bubble was much easier when it was just print and TV. The internet pummels the bubble much more, and it’s inevitable that things slip through. Just retrieving my email on Comcast, I get pelted with clickbait headlines and pictures of people I don’t recognize, “ripping” other people I don’t recognize. But no matter, I’m older and crabbier now, so even when the bubble is breached, my alter ego Blanche takes a drag on her ciggie, downs a shot, and says we don’t give a flip. I get my real news elsewhere.

Except on rare occasions when my pissy 20-year-old is poked.

I read a story about how all the #metoo and attention on sexual abuse has got men in their 20s questioning their own behavior. That’s a good thing. The situation also seems to have men and women in their 20s allegedly confused about the rules of dating. The article earnestly quotes men and women who say they don’t know how to act, and interviews with concerned therapists who say their male clients are so befuddled they are afraid to even go on dates. Wah, wah, wah.

Cue eye roll. This, my friends, is pseudo news.

Just because you have more information about something, especially about sexuality and dating, don’t expect it to make things easier. In fact certain information will make it a lot harder. But that’s what is called “growth,” which often hurts like hell when you are going through it, but can make you a better person.

Twitter alert: Life is just awkward and uncomfortable, if you’re lucky. It can also be much, much worse. If it’s just awkward, count your blessing and move on. And if you happen to be a confident, focused 20-something, you will hit a confused patch at some point. There’s no skipping stages.

So forgive me if I’m rolling my eyes at the 20-somethings who are confused about dating. Since the cavemen were trying to hit cave women over the head as a way of asking them out, or hoping her brother was home instead, or she was more interested in gathering nuts and berries with the hot cave ladies, dating has always been confusing. More so when you’re 25, but it’s no picnic for anyone. If you work at it, you just get better at knowing your worth and what you want. And even when you do, you still sit across from your date and think, does he like me? Should I go home with him? Is spinach in his teeth and his collection of antique dentist equipment a deal breaker?

Wah, wah, you’re confused about dating. Welcome to Human 101. Now you’ve forced my hand, and I have to tell you a Story. One of those Older People Stories you hate, because who gives a flip about older people? Well, you brought it on yourself, so listen up.

When I was in college, my friends and I went to a frat party, and did all of the usual things one does at frat parties — drink, dance, and then sneak past the “Private Do Not Enter” sign in the stairway to raid the refrigerator on the 3rd floor when our drunken snackies set in. What? Like anything in a frat house is private, and BTW we were the ones in danger — it was food that 20-year old boys were pretending was edible. It was slim pickins, believe me, but we represented ourselves well.

Anywho, a very large, drunken frat brother named Quentin started dancing with me. As a nerdy, introverted woman, I had ZERO experience with boys. In high school I had an unrequited crush on a friend, and as a junior I went to the senior prom with THE king nerd of the class, pocket protector and all. He was a nice enough, but two shy nerds do not a make out session produce. Freshman year in college was no better. Another unrequited crush on a friend, and I had been hit on by a super awkward guy in a chem lab class (it mostly involved staring, so I have to take my friends’ word that he was hitting on me). Another friend had professed his like for me while he was drunk and I was trying to get him home safely. Not a super turn on. Oh, also, I had been told plenty of “scared straight to virginity” stories. And I was brought up Catholic. See? You think you have dating problems? Puh-leaze.

So there I am dancing to Micheal Jackson with Quentin; then a slow song came on, and I was enveloped by his gentle, yet giant bear-like arms, and suddenly there was a tongue in my mouth. A sloppy, drunk tongue, if I’m going to critique it 30 years later. Okaaaay. I was not really enjoying it, but here’s the thing. He was black, and I thought if I pulled away, he would think I was a racist. See? This is what I’m saying about awkward, stupid shit in your 20s. So I let it go on for a while, plotting my escape. I think he may have asked me if I wanted to go back to his room. So I took the opportunity to say, “Wait here, I just have to tell my friends.” I know, I know! Why not just say “No, thank you,” and move on? Because you’re 20, and you don’t know what the hell to do because Catechism never covered this, except to tell you never have sex. So all you are left with is to do dumb stuff like try to prove you are not a racist and running away.

So I ran off and found my friend Rosemary, who I unceremoniously grabbed and marched her home with me. And during the 20-minute walk home I was on a drunken, sobbing loop to her: Dance, tongue, big arms, he’s black, I’m not a racist, I just don’t like tongue in the first 5 minutes of a non-date; Dance, tongue…and on and on until we got home.

The next day found me immobilized with the double-whammy of physical and emotional hangovers. I sought out Rosemary to apologize and studiously avoided Quentin (who of course lived in my dorm). But here’s the thing:

Neither of them remembered anything about that night. Rosemary stared at me blankly during my apology and then laughed at me. At one point Quentin saw me, and I saw the same blank face. Had I gone to his dorm room, he would have surely had that face in the morning. Awkward.

The racism guilt lingered until finally my friend Sonia, who is black, told me to knock it off. So I did.

As the Who sings in “Another Tricky Day,” “You irritate me my friend, this is no social crisis … just another tricky day for you.”

I get it, it is confusing. We’ve all been there, and there is no magic way around life’s obstacles. Keep your good friends close, have an escape route, do your best to learn what you can from each awkward encounter. Oh, and stay off the internet. That thing will make you crazy.

Photo credit: Flashbak 

Top 6 Posts of 2017

Well, kids, looks like we made it through year 1 of the Cheeto flea, and that alone is worth celebrating. But even better would be to forget about him altogether. As you run the highlight reel of the past year in your mind, acknowledge the not-so-great stuff, but give priority to the good things — the people, places, and events that gave you a lift. I’m reminding myself as much as you on this one. I think of myself as a positive person, but I’ve been noticing that I can get focused on the one bad thing sitting amongst all the good stuff. So I’m going to try to keep an eye on that in 2018. I’m also feeling like my tank is empty, and, yes, I had a big year (as the posts below will attest), but most of the big things are past, so I also wonder if it’s real or a habit? I will keep an eye on that, too.

But for now, it’s time to look back a bit, take a deep breath, and head out to 2018.

6. The big news of the year was getting the kid launched, and it was official with this post. In the process, there were highs, lows, lots of wine, and a few moments of full-blown panic. But the deed got done with Mission Accomplished.

5. I reread this one, and thought, damn, that’s good! I’ve been feeling less than inspired lately to write. In keeping with my positive theme, I’m going to recall the words of a painter friend many years ago, when I was hit with my first case of writer’s block. I had just finished a bunch of essays and thought, now I’m ready for the next thing. But I wasn’t. The faucet had nary a trickle. He told me not to worry — I was merely filling up again. So, I’m going with that. Don’t know how long the filling will take, so be prepared for reruns if you’re a long time reader and for cool old stuff if you’re new. In any event, this piece reminded me that, yeah, I still have some writing mojo. Happy Anniversary.

4. That this one is in the top 6 makes me laugh. I thought it was just me, but apparently this was something a lot of people could relate to. For the love, Leave the Curtain Rods.

3. Because I have memory issues, er, I mean, I live in the moment like Eckhart Tolle. I’m a super advanced human, I swear. Anywho, I thought this one was about Cheeto flea, but it was more subtle than that. Either way, it never hurts to remember It’s a Marathon not a Sprint.

2. I just reread this one, and it reminded me I have a blog to finish about bystander intervention. Also, it reminded me that Life moved with me to my new apartment and is still sitting in my chair, giving me the look, and motioning me to get her another drink. Happy new year, bee-atch! Dammit!

1. Oh, Celine. I hope where ever you are, you have all the happiness you deserved when you walked among us. Goodbye My Friend.

So there it is, friends. I wish you all you healthy, hopeful new year. We can totally do this. We always do.

Same as It Ever Was, Sorta

I FaceTime with my 87-year-old mom nearly every Friday night. Pretty cool, right? Lately she’s been telling more stories from the past, some she hasn’t told me before. What struck me about some recent stories is how, at the core, they are similar to what people experience today, only back then there were a lot fewer resources to help.

Take job hunting. My mother talked about how hard it was for her to find a job in her early 20s. Sound familiar? It was the early 1950’s, so the economy was fine. Yes, she was a woman, so that was a strike against her. But she wasn’t looking for a career, she was just looking for a job. She was turned down at a little general store in town because she had the same last name as a cousin who’d been fired from the store for doing something bad. My mom wasn’t sure what. There were easily 20 or more cousins in town with the same last name, so that seems somewhat short-sighted, judging a whole family based on one bad apple. The fact that there was a high probability that there was more than one bad apple in that bunch is inconvenient to my story, and therefore irrelevant.

Also, it’s ironic because if they had bothered to get past my mom’s last name, they would have learned she had recently left the convent. What more validation of an honest person can you find? And, no, she wasn’t discharged because of rosary grand larceny or embezzlement of the priests’ sundry fund.

Of course, it was the convent thing that was really messing up her search. At that time there weren’t too many career counselors and coaches to help. Heck, there weren’t even resumes. Just my mom filling out applications and trying to explain where she’d been in the past several years. You’d think that the nun gig would have been a more common thing back then, especially in a town where there was a Catholic church for each of the town’s immigrant groups — St. Stanislaus, St. Anthony, St. Anne — you get the picture. But apparently employers found it just as weird as they probably would today. But today she’d have an army of online and in-person career coaches and websites telling her to emphasize her loyalty, passion, and commitment to her work. And how about “excellent ability to take direction”? She left the convent because she got very sick from the physically demanding chores of hand-washing priest vestments, praying for hours, sleeping very little, and Oliver Twist-like food. The first time she got sick, she returned home to recover and then went back. The second time she got sick, the Mother Superior told her it was a sign she was meant to do something else. She would have stayed if they had let her, so I think you could add “ability to follow through.”

She finally landed a job in the office of a car dealership, but then there were other male shenanigans to contend with. Here’s hoping the starts to change, 60 years later.

The convent thing of course followed her into the dating scene, but the few dates she told me about seemed a lot like the letters I read in a daily relationship column. There was the guy who took her out once, but when she was kind of clueless about the goodnight kiss thing, she never heard from him again. She connected with another guy on the 1950s version of eHarmony — a Catholic pen pal club. That helped make the ex-nun thing less of an issue. They wrote a number of letters back and forth and my mom got excited and thought things were going really well — until he told her he found someone. At least he didn’t ghost her.

So all as a way of saying, sometimes I like to think I  have it harder than others. But, I really don’t. Not only can I learn from those who came before me, I can Google “ex-nun resume tips” and “how to give a kiss.” And that’s pretty cool.

 

Jump Up, Jump Up and Get Down

About 3 years ago I saw a picture of myself, and I could no longer deny that the extra pounds I kept telling myself were only a few had set up permanent residence in my midsection and were expanding faster than a development of McMansions on sold-off farm land. I lost the weight the only way I knew how — slowly and changing one habit at a time. I was able to maintain my weight for quite a while, with the understanding that the McMansions would encroach eventually, even if I kept my eating and exercise routine the same. Thanks a lot, perimenopause; if ever get my hands on you, you are going to pay. Oh, wait, I already am paying. Grrrrr.

Of course, I wasn’t quite able to keep everything the same. It started with a month-long  IT project at work a year and a half ago, working every day and tethered to a small room. I added 5 pounds during that time and was only able to get rid of a few. Then this spring and summer was Kid Launchapoolza with graduation cake and parties and traveling to colleges to pick the One, then more traveling to the One for orientation, and then the trip to see the total eclipse in South Carolina (which was totally amazing.)

As you can imagine there was a lot of eating out and not a lot exercising going on. Then at the end of September I moved. So even if I hadn’t run off my will power like a crabby old man scaring kids out of his yard with a rake, it didn’t have a chance with the pots-are-packed-I’m-too-tired-to-cook-oooh-look-there’s-a-takeout-menu.

So here we are. More farm land has been sold and the McMansions are rising again, so it’s back to the grind.

Step 1) Look the McMansion straight in the window and don’t pretend it’s a tiny house.

Step 2) Lock down the food situation and get back on track. Of course, I decided to do that during the most stressful week at work before a big function. All I could think of was that scene from “Airplane!”: “Looks looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue!” Indeed. I compromised and held the line on my eating, but not the wine. Baby steps. But that event is done, so now staying on track seems like a breeze. The alcohol is under a separate contract.

Step 3) More exercise. In the spring, I confidently told people that when the kid goes off to college, I’m most definitely going to add another day at the gym, another yoga class, I’ll have so much time!

Turns out the problem isn’t so much having time, as it is getting off your McMassion and actually doing it.

In the hunt for the yoga class, I realized I haven’t matured at all since I last wrote about how I’m like Jerry Seinfeld and his girlfriends. So much for my efforts to be a more open-minded, tolerant person. Which kind of negates all that yoga represents, so my apologies to the tradition and it’s more pure-hearted practitioners. I like my one Iyengar class, and I can’t seem to replicate it. There are 5 yoga studios in close proximity to my house, 2 within walking distance, and I can’t find a class to go to. It’s either too early, too late, too easy, too fast, too hot, too many people, too serious, too flippant, too…too.

The better bet is more exercise, and that’s only because I had a small breakthrough earlier this summer when a friend and I pulled out a jump rope and we started jumping. As in, tie one end to a pole and one person swings it while the other jumps. It was perfectly embarrassing. My brain still remembered being a 7-year-old jumping effortlessly and lightly. However, my 52-year-old body was like, “Um, say, what, now?” I was out of breath almost immediately. And after a number of false starts and trying to remember how the heck to do it, I had to lay down in the grass to recover.

It was the best day ever.

I had the little kid response: I’m going to get a jump rope! I’m going to jump every day! I’m going to be in great shape! And then I had the harried middle-aged response: I forgot about it.

That is until I saw a sign in my gym outlining the rules for jumping rope — Stay out of  doorways! Be mindful of those around you! Little kid got excited all over again–jump ropes! The adult in me hesitated. It was one thing to jump outside with a friend, and another to do it in a gym where people are increasing their cardio something or other with grim precision. The universe saw I could use a nudge, and a few days later I was on the train. It was packed and there was one open seat. The reason? The woman standing in front of it was resting a framed picture on it, and the women sitting next to the seat had laid her hoola hoop across it.

I made a beeline for it.

I first nicely asked Picture Woman to move her stuff. She did and also made a sour face and shrugged at Hoola Hoop Woman; as if to say, it’s her fault not mine. So I nicely asked her to move her hoola hoop, which she nicely did. I shot Picture Woman a look –the adult version of sticking my tongue out, and told Hoola Hoop Woman she could rest it on me. It’s not like it was going to fit in her lap. I never chat with people on the train, but how can you not chat with Hoola Hoop Woman? We talked about how fun hoola hoops are (she uses her for exercise), and the next thing I knew, I was telling her about the summer jump roping. She exclaimed it was great exercise and her friend had lost a lot of weight doing it. When she got off the train, hoola hoop in hand, she patted me on the shoulder and said, “You can do it!”

Technically, I haven’t added any exercise, just swapped stationary bike to jump rope. But I’ve started jumping at the gym and I am totally getting a hoola hoop. I just have to get off my McMassion and do it!

 

Leave the Curtain Rods

Well, I did it. I’m moved, and the unpacking is down to a dull roar. My new place is fantastic. You know what else I did? I left the curtain rods, which I’ve done for pretty much every place I’ve moved. And you know what? There are never any curtain rods where I’ve moved to. For the record, my current place gets a pass because it has fancy wood blinds. But why? Why do people take their rods? What exactly do you think you can use them for? This is Boston/New England and most windows are 50 to 100 years old, and no two windows are the same. If you’re lucky, you may get to use one or two of your current rods, but you will still need to buy new ones. Trust me. And if you are moving to one of those fancy, new deluxe apartments in the sky that have been popping up all over Boston, you ain’t need any curtains up that high, sweetheart.

As I was taking down the curtains in my old place, and leaving the rods, thankyouverymuch, I remembered how I bought them for the whole place, and all of the windows were nonstandard. There was an absurdly long front picture window, a wide kitchen window, and the teeniest, tiniest bedroom window that couldn’t even accommodate a window fan. There were more normal double French doors, but I had to position the rod carefully because of the way the doors opened to make sure I didn’t get trapped by the curtain.

And anyway, those badly fitting rods you take with you won’t help you after a long day of moving, as night starts to fall and the clear, uncovered windows mock your false sense of privacy.

Have mercy and leave me something I can put my old curtains on or at least a towel or old blanket for a night or two.

And I don’t care if the rods are cheap. I will swap them later if I care that much (I won’t). If fancy window “treatments” get negotiated and left behind as part of a house sale, you can leave your stinking rods behind in a rental apartment.

Now perhaps some people leave them like I do, and the landlords throw them away, if they feel moved to paint. But I say unto you, landlord: leave the curtain rods on the floor, for the love. Plus, who are we kidding, but most landlords don’t paint (except mine, she’s awesome).

So, how about this crazy idea. If we all left our rods behind, there would be rods when we arrive at the new place. How about that? No? Fine. Then you can go stick your precious rods. I don’t care, I’ve got fancy wood blinds.

Photo credit: Asulka.com

 

Mission Accomplished

Just a quick one this week. Life has been coming at me from all sides, some good, some not so good, so I feel a bit like a little kid tossed in the 3-ft wave surf. I come up gulping for air, only get tossed back under. That’s why I missed last week’s post. If I’m lucky, you didn’t even notice. I’m back and staying more above water than below, so this week this I’m concentrating on the good.

A week and a half ago I dropped the kid off at college. A couple of work colleagues said, “You must be sad,” and I got a pretty big raised eyebrow when I said I was actually really good. My neighbor across the street asked me if I missed my son now that I was all alone. They are a lovely older couple, but our relationship is pretty much regulated to waving when we’re getting in and out of cars, and they once drove the kid to school when my car had a flat. I never told them he was leaving. But I forget they are those kind of neighbors you want because they watch everything going on, including apparently us packing up the kid in a very obvious “going to college” kind of way, and not a “hauled off to jail” kind of way. I was a little less direct and said I missed him a little, but was getting used to it. Which is also true.

A long-time friend got closer to it when he asked me if I was done yet running around the house yelling, “MINE! All mine!”

I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be one of those mopey, weepy empty nesters, but I also thought it would be an interesting idea to have minor surgery on my 30th birthday, so you know, I’m not always right. But I was right about this. The weeks before were definitely up and down for both of us. The day of, as we were leaving the house, I told him I would give him a hug now so I wouldn’t embarrass him at school. He asked me not to cry, and I told him I was going to do my best not to. We got to campus, and after 2 hours of unloading and unpacking, his relief that whatever horrible thing he had worried about hadn’t happened was so great, he was actually happy and comfortable. He sent me and his dad on our way with a hug and an “I love you.”

If he had looked stricken, I would have totally lost it. But there was perfect happiness all around. I got in the car and drove home singing joyfully to my tunes.

See, the thing is, the kid never really liked school. And yet he was an honors student and knew he wanted to go on to higher education. This always mystifies me —  I only did well in school because I loved it. If I had disliked it as much as he did, I really have no idea what would have happened. I was scared of the druggy kids, I wasn’t an athlete, and there wasn’t an internet yet to offer me a career in blogging.

Since he’s been 10, I’ve been telling him college would be different. Harder, yes, but also more fun and fewer educational restrictions. In the past year, I had more than one panic attack, thinking, oh god, what if college isn’t more fun for him? Way to lose parental cred, if I ever had any to begin with. So I softened my pitch to, “Just try it for a year. If you hate it, we can come up with Plan B.” I’m such a back-peddling weenie. But nothing ruins stuff like high expectations, so back-peddle I did.

Seeing him standing by his college desk, mostly unpacked, fussing happily over his computer, was the best thing I could have hoped for. Sending us on our way was icing on the cake. Oh, I know, there is still going to be hard times, and he still may tell me at the end of the year that he hates it and is going to sell electronics on eBay for a living. But for now, he is content for the first time in a long time. And so am I.

And I’m still running around the house yelling, “MINE! All mine!”

 

 

 

Love That Dirty Water

When I first set foot on the algae slimed, goose-poop covered banks of the Charles River in the summer of 1983, it was love at first sight. For the first time in my life I felt truly at home. I never left, and while I still love Boston, I can sometimes take it for granted or forget how much I love it. 
Last week good weather and a decent work load combined to propel me outside at lunch to take a walk along those very same banks. It’s much cleaner now, although most people prefer to enjoy it from a sail boat or a kayak. I walked along the bank, lost in thought, until I realized it was time to head back. When I turned and saw the view, I fell in love all over again. 

Exhibit A


That’s a view of the Longfellow Bridge, better known as the salt and pepper bridge because of the shape of the 4 central towers. The state has been renovating the bridge and they took each “shaker” down to restore it and this was the first time in 3 or 4 years that I have seen all 4 back again. Add the sail boats from Community Boating, and you have the quintessential Boston/Charles River picture.

Here’s a close up of the salt and pepper shakers. 


So there I was, giddy and gushing over my city, on my walk, when I came upon city workers posting these signs.


No matter that I had just seen a dog standing in the water and lapping it up, and a while later saw a man sitting in it, communing with nature. We still love that dirty water. Boston you’re my home.