Category Archives: Mid-Life

How did I get to be this age?

17 Easy Steps to Fitting an Antique Buffet into a Prius

Exactly 4 years ago, (minus a day) I posted this blog. I’m helping the earth by reusing, recycling, and reposting. This has absolutely nothing to do with being busy with stuff. None. I was looking up post hits since I started my blog, and this one was pretty high up on the list. Even better I have an update. Not only have the recipients formally adopted the buffet, they have also adopted a little boy. Congrats!

Step 1: In your twenties, gain possession of one large, antique buffet for free from a friend who is cleaning out a family home and already has one.

Step 2: Be thankful for such friends.

Step 3: Allow the buffet to make up for feeling insecure about your working class roots, where no matter how many family houses you clean out, you will never find a piece of furniture like this.

Step 4: Be absurdly proud how it fits perfectly in your large apartment that actually feels like a home, and not a starter apartment with milk crates and hand-me-down particle board furniture. Revel in the pantry, a built-in china cabinet, dental molding (which you will have to learn about because you have never seen such carved beauty), pocket doors and a fireplace (Ok, neither the fireplace, nor one of the doors worked, but still – it was a FIREPLACE and POCKET doors!)

Step 5: Be blissfully ignorant of how the pride in step 4 only highlights your insecurities.

Step 6: Get priced out of said apartment and cool neighborhood and buy a condo in a less expensive, working class town. Be whiny and curse the fates that have brought you back to the type of place you thought you’d escaped. Cling to the buffet even harder, even though the condo does not have a formal dining room. Tell yourself it will be great for extra storage.

Step 7: Do not hug the movers who manage to wedge into the condo what you now realize is a monolithic piece of furniture.

Step 8: Find yourself 12 years later post-divorced, post-condo, and moving into a four-room apartment, but still in possession of the buffet. Be clear with yourself why you still have it and understand your attachment to it. Don’t let that stop you from putting it in storage and playing out a twisted Scarlett O’Hara kind of fantasy that one day, as the universe is your witness, you will never live in a formal dining room-less place again!

Step 9: Be sure to have other, more likable traits and make the kind of friends who don’t hold Step 8 against you.

Step 10: Get a grip and realize paying storage fees for over a year is stupid. Gather tolerant friends to see if anyone has space to hold the buffet for you or use it until your plan for formal dining room domination is complete.

Step 11: Get another grip and realize all your urban friends have small urban spaces. Widen the search to out-of-state friends with more space.

Step 12: Find a home in southern Maine. Have a Prius-owning good friend who will help you, even though you are way past the age when friends should ask friends for moving help.

Step 13: Have the Prius-owning friend also be the type who will measure to see if it will fit in the back. All of it: 5 feet, 6-inches long x 37 inches tall x 21.5 inches deep.

Step 14: Pick up the moving van you will drive to Maine in case the buffet doesn’t fit in the Prius. As you climb into a van that smells heavily like sweaty workmen who smoke, be more fervent in your prayers that the buffet will fit into the Prius.

Step 15: Spend 15 minutes, pushing, cajoling, and sliding the buffet in the back. Spend another 5 to 10 minutes adjusting the front seats to somewhere between buffet-sticking-out-the-back-an-inch to can’t-feel-your-legs-because-knees-are-in-your-chin. Settle on abnormally bent legs and pit stops as needed to reintroduce circulation.

Step 16: Deliver the buffet to Maine friends, who quickly find it won’t fit in their basement either. Discover it fits perfectly between their open floor plan dining room and living room. Smile and enjoy when their daughter begins using the buffet immediately to have her toy frog practice his skate board moves.

Step 17: 4 years later, move into an apartment with a dining room and realize that you really don’t need the buffet anymore. Let the stewards know they can keep it.

And a big thank you to my friends: Tim (furniture donor), Brad (for trying to help me find a home closer to home), Becky and Susan (Prius owners), and Gloria, Mary, and their daughter — current stewards adopters of the honking, big buffet, and as of last month, adopters of a sweet little boy. May they all have a long life.

Photo:  A perfect fit in the Prius: the buffet arrives safely in Maine. The driver and passenger were off to the side coaxing the circulation back into their legs.

It’s a Cute Hamster Week

Hi all, I was away this weekend visiting Sonia, my fellow U2 fan and friend extraordinaire. We had an awesome time and wondered why we had waited so long? The visit had started with us trying to see the band again. Then we realized we didn’t have to wait for Bono to croon to us for $300 a pop to see each other. Love you, Bono, but we’ll maybe catch you next time around. So instead we talked non-stop and had a lot of fun. It was a great antidote to a couple of stressful weeks, so while I’m feeling much more balanced, I had no time to polish any of the blog drafts I have. The 5-hour train ride was filled with great hopes of writing several blogs and finishing a book.

I fell asleep for the most the ride. Ah, well. Some times you just have to sleep.

Which brings us to: all I got is the cute hamsters. These are not ours, but they made me laugh.

This one just looks like Einstein and the way his hair is sticking out, he also looks harried. with a side of frantic. That’s pretty much what I’ve been feeling.

einstein hamster

This is is just about hanging in there. Have a good week!

Cute Hamster Animal Desktop Wallpaper

X-Files, Fin

I finally finished watching the new season of X-Files. I’ve written a couple of blogs about the X-Files because I am madly devoted to the show. The first was about how Scully and Mulder have the best lips on TV.  Then I grounded Christopher Carter for Season 10,  and most recently, with season 11, I wrote this blog saying that Chris Carter is the bad boyfriend I can’t quit..I had only seen about half of the episodes at the time, and I realized Chris Carter was messing with my head again, like with season 10. And let’s not mention several of the movies that should never have gotten the green light. But in season 11, he first confused me by not continuing the disastrous Season 10, but instead tossed in a few emotionally satisfying episodes. So like when you take back a bad boyfriend because he promises to change, I was hopeful, but cautious.

And this time out, I am happy to report that Chris got it right. I believe I’m supposed to give you a “spoiler alert” at this point, but good god, people! It started in January and took me months to watch 10 episodes, so if you haven’t finished it yet, you need to go to show-watching rehab. Be gone!

He combined the familiar X-Files mysteries with Scully and Mulder reflecting on their middle-age. Alien-infused, slightly paranoid commentary on the government and the standard X-Files weird bloody gore unfold side-by-side with the physical limitations of middle age and their regret of choices made and not made. While doing their thorough investigative Scully and Mulder thing in the presence of  2 younger, impatient FBI agents, Scully delivers some funny lines about presbyopia — that thing we middle-aged people do, moving around our heads and squinting into our glasses to see small print. She’s teasing Mulder who is fumbling for his reading glasses to look at his phone’s Google search on the name of the person who was recently murdered. She also mentions loudly toward the young agents that gout is another sign of aging, and Scully and Mulder have a private moment making fun of them.

I loved them in this moment — I love making fun of the young ones without their knowledge.

But the episodes are also about regretting choices made or not made. Wondering if you could have done better, and forgiving yourself if you decide you couldn’t have. I am about their ages on the show, and I think that’s why it resonated so much.

I was curious about what others thought, and I was surprised to read a synopsis of the season that was the exact opposite of my take. I quote Zack Handlen from the AV Club website:

“…and it’s bad. Not the worst the show has ever been, and better than the mess that ended season 10 [Sandy comment: I totally agree!], but still: bad. As in not good, as in not worth it, as in kind of brutally depressing to watch everyone go through the motions for this nonsense.”

Ah, gotta stop you there, young one. From your picture I found online, I ain’t see no gray hair or hair coloring that seems a tad out of sync with your skin’s elasticity. So, I’m going to guess you are in your 30s. Look, I get it. I was “brutally depressed” watching On Golden Pond as a teenager. It freaked me out. Old people shaking and doddering around and yelling and being deaf. I wanted none of it, and wanted no reminder of getting old. It was a horrible movie to me; yet, people have told me it’s one of their favorites. It took me years to realize I was just too young, and it took several more years to think I should watch it again. Of course, now that I’m older, my biggest obstacle is remembering to add it to my Netflix list, which I just did, so there’s hope. And I think that just proves I’m old enough to appreciate it now.

Where was I? Oh, yes, young one, Zack, I get it. When you are younger, it is kind of brutally depressing to watch your heroes age. I know you want the endless conspiracy tangles, the far out weirdness found exclusively in small towns in the middle of nowhere, the witty repartee of their age-old argument of science versus belief. All that was there, darling; it just took a backseat to very real character development. These characters are now in their 40s and 50s, and they been around the block of life, with each other, with the FBI, with their careers, and with themselves. At this stage of their lives, they need closure on their son’s fate and what they did or didn’t do about it more than the continued shenanigans of the Cigarette Smoking Man conspiracy. But in true X-Files fashion, the two are inextricably linked.

At your age, watching Scully and Mulder talk softly in a church must seem like a lot of nonsense. But here’s what I saw: an amazing scene where Scully, who previously found an enormous amount of solace in the church and her religious beliefs, questions everything. Reviewing her life, she feels more like a failure, that she has no miracles left to ask for, that she has let down herself and those around her, and she has utterly failed to protect her son from Cigarette Smoking man and his minions.

Boy, do I get that. OK, maybe not the Cigarette Smoking Man minions after my son thing, but everything else, yes. And the best part for me? Mulder, the agnostic, shows up next to her in the church, lighting a candle because it’s meaningful for her (and her own candle wouldn’t light). He wishes he had never gotten her mixed up in the X-files, but tells her, “I am standing right here, and I am listening.” They have been workaholic coworkers, lovers, estranged, reunited, and have reached a place of being lifelong friends. His speech is that rare kind of moment, of truly knowing a person and accepting them. They have history, a lot of it is difficult, but they are both still alive and present to each other.

Zack, I gotta tell you, if this ever happens to you, get down on your knees and be thankful because this is what life is all about. All the great stuff about previous seasons? You can always bring your best to your work; and the alien evidence will always be moved to the next government facility and be out of reach. But this personal connection they have to each other? That’s rare and good baby, and is the thing even Cigarette Smoking Man can’t take away from them.

So do me a favor, Zack. Review this episode again at whatever X-files anniversary is being held about 15 years from now or whenever you are 45. Then we’ll talk about what is going on in this season. Of course, they may be On Golden Pond age by then, and if they do a show, we’ll alienate a whole group of new people. But I maybe able to help them get through it. I just have to watch the movie again and not freak out.

Also, I hope Chris Carter is done. You did good, Chris. We know that our beloved characters will be OK going forward; and praise the universe Cigarette Smoking Man was shot dead (we hope). What else do you need? Not a darn thing. Let’s do what the French do at the end of their films, because it’s cultured and classy. Fin.

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Another year, another Boston Marathon. I first published this last year as part of my goal to fight Cheeto flea by getting more involved in racial justice. My progress has been slower than I would prefer, but like the marathoners, I try to stay focused on putting one foot in front of the other. I am reading a book called “Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era.” The author, Ashley Farmer, is a professor at my alma mater, Boston University, and I learned about her and her book from an email from the school — sometimes those annoying emails are actually useful! It is a bit more academic than I’m used to, but that’s OK. She talks about how Black women were working right alongside Black men to gain racial equality, reframing it and adding a female perspective. And she talks about women activists who make the case that it’s not just the big names like Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth that we need to think about, but also all of the mothers and grandmothers who held the family together, often by cleaning white women’s houses, and who “found ways to financially and emotionally support [their] family in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and discrimination.”

So in addition to remembering Marilyn Bevans, the first Black woman to run in the Boston Marathon, I am also remembering her mother and grandmother and all the women standing behind her as she crossed that finish line. 

As a side note, I decided to Google “first Black women to run the Boston Marathon” this year again to see if we had made any progress on the topic in the past year. Guess what came up first? This blog post, followed by the same references from last year. If that doesn’t show that we all have something to contribute, I don’t know what does. Step by step, people. Step by step.

Today is Patriot’s Day in Boston, aka Boston Marathon Day. There will be an estimated 30,000 runners who have either a qualifying time, are part of a team running for charity, or are simply a handful of rogue folks who find registering and qualifying a bother, and good for them.

At 122 years, the Boston Marathon is the oldest, and is 26 miles and 385 yards, which reminds me of the Mass Ave Bridge’s measurement in Smoots — 364.4 and one ear to be exact. For some reason we Bostonians like our precision, even if it means adding yards or an ear. Oliver Smoot, by the way, was a 1962 graduate of MIT who stood 5 feet, 7 inches. You can well imagine how he was used as a measuring stick and that there was most likely alcohol involved. Perhaps the 385 additional yards in the marathon came about in a similar way. We can only hope.

Last year they retired the number of the first woman to officially register and run, Kathrine Switzer. In 1967 she registered with only her initials — there was this pesky thing where women weren’t officially allowed to run until 1972, so they gave her a number assuming she was a man. I guess that’s some progress. Mary Ann Evans had to take an entire man’s name of George Eliot to get published. Kathrine was inspired by the 1966 rogue run of Roberta Gibbs, who apparently jumped out of the bushes near the start and ran and finished the race. Wanting to run 26 miles is crazy and hard enough, without having to concoct a surprise way of joining in. A year later, Kathrine may have made more than 26,000 steps for herself, but also she made a giant leap for women athletes everywhere — at least the white ones. Marathon official Jack Sempe tried to take her bib, yelling, “Get the hell out of my race, and give me those numbers.” Her boyfriend, who was running with her, body checked Jack out of the way, but not before the whole thing was photographed and went the 1967 version of viral. There’s a well-done piece about the story in the Boston Herald.

Cool story, right? It made me wonder about other firsts, like the first African-American man and woman to run the Boston race. And that’s where that little ole thing called racism creeps in. Granted, Kathrine’s story was splashed all over the news because of the retired number thing. And there was that 1967 viral photo by a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer, no less.

However, it should not have taken as many Google searches as it did for me to get to those other firsts. I mean isn’t that what Black History Month is all about? Digging up historical stuff that we’ve been covering up/not caring about for, like, ever?

I found two sources, and the second one, the National Black Marathoners Association history project gets credit for actually including a — — woman. Both sources say Aaron Morris was the first Black male runner in the Boston Marathon in 1919, 47 years before a white woman. The first and only reference I can find of the first Black woman to run in Boston is Marilyn Bevans in 1977; and she placed 2nd. That’s pretty amazing right? Where are the stories about her? Granted once I knew her name, more came up in the search, including that she is considered the first lady of marathon running. But doesn’t that warrant her coming up in the more general searches of first women/first Black woman to run the Boston Marathon?

Maybe in running circles this is common knowledge, but let’s face it, most of us think marathon running is crazy, unless it’s a big event in your city and you get the day off. Or you do it to celebrate a milestone birthday. I personally try not to be friends with people like that, but one tries to be open and flexible to others’ obvious lack of judgment.

So today, I salute you, Marilyn Bevans and Aaron Morris. I like you, too, Kathrine and Roberta, but you’ve been saluted enough. You all remind me that marathons take time, effort, and preparation. That sometimes people don’t want me to accomplish a goal, so I have to jump out of the bushes or avoid getting my bib grabbed. That sometimes remarkable accomplishments go unnoticed because of skin color or gender or both. That many times I need to remember that and be curious beyond the story of a white woman’s amazing accomplishment.

Happy running.

 

 

 

It was a Slow Day

We’ve had 3 nor’eatahs here in Boston in the last several weeks, and we’re all kind of over it. Yes, we are tough and can take it. And yes, the time of the old, tough, reticient, New Englander is past. New Englanders 2.0 are tough, and we are also crabby, loud, and proud of it. So yeah, 3 storms in March are going to produce a lot of bellyaching — deal with it.

At least that’s how I was feeling. December’s sub-zero wind chills had sucker-punched me right out of the winter gate, and I never really recovered. So, to drag me through January and February, toss in a couple of 60-degree days just to be an asshat, and then lob at me 3 storms with snow, well, that is just poor manners. And while I know better than to sit up like an expectant puppy waiting for spring to come in March, 3 storms? Seriously? With a 4th and 5th on the way? What is this a freakin’ a Catholic family?

So that was the mind set I rolled into yoga class with on Sunday. But I’ve been at it for awhile, so I worked to stay in my body, stay in the moment, and do the poses as best as I could. But one by one the class, which is usually pretty good at pushing ourselves and going along when Patrice gives us the next harder move to try, started to poop out. The young man who usually can power through just about anything collapsed into child’s pose after three-legged dog pose. Another woman struggled with a relative easy pose, and when Patrice asked if her shoulder was bothering her, she just said it was the overall effort that was getting to her. And that’s when the class underwent a subtle shift as we all exhaled with relief at it being named. She added, “It’s a slow day.” Nods and silent agreement.

And being the rock star teacher that she is, Patrice shifted the class, just like that. We’d been doing upside down poses, so instead we sat and held quieter poses longer, just sitting with our slow day. Savasana, when you lay down at the end, came with blankets on our bodies and sandbags on our foreheads (sounds weird, feels great) and lasted longer than usual.

And that was it. It wasn’t a day to fight nature, winter, yoga, myself, or anything else. It was a slow day that got better by just. Being. Slow.

Photo credit: Marije Paternotte yoga.

 

 

 

 

It’s Your Life, Don’t You Forget

I’ve been thinking lately, which frankly, tends to get me in trouble. From more than one area of my life, I keep hearing from and about people who are having to push against family or societal pressure to succeed or define their life success in the very narrow way of school, career, marriage, house, kids. There may be stuff to achieve after this, I’m not sure. Or maybe once you get all that stuff, society leaves you alone to your mid-life crisis. The whole thing leaves me scratching my head. Although does it? That’s where the thinking comes in.

If you are an English major or other humanities major or an artist/creative of any kind, your career path will most likely be rather interesting, not terribly lucrative, and it will follow the beat of its own drummer. Mine certainly has, and it’s only been in the last 5 years that I have landed in a comfortable spot, where I actually get paid decent money to write things that matter most of the time and have a personal life too. I fell into the trap of sitting back and thinking, how do all these people get caught up in that narrow definition of success?

And then the bad movie special effects kick in, the calendar pages flip back, and the ominous narrator intones, “It was the 1980s — the height of the Ronald Reagan years and Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street declared that ‘greed is good’ … ”

My honor student status in high school made it seem like I was just as good at math and science as I was at English. But that says more about the quality of the school than my academic achievement. I do remember an emphasis on the practical, which translated to studying science in college. And that’s when I was exposed as a science and math fraud. My ass got consistently and sequentially kicked in Bio 101, 102, Chem 101, 102, and Calc 101, 102. This honor student was suddenly looking at C’s and Ds and a GPA that hovered around 2.5.

Sure, I got an A in my writing class, but that had been fun and easy. Somewhere along the way, I had picked up the idea that fun and easy was wrong. I thought life should involve suffering and be a hardscrabble scramble in order to “count.” This may be a stab in the dark, but I wonder if being raised Catholic and seeing Jesus hanging on the cross every week, which I was made to understand I was responsible for, had anything thing to do with that?

Nahhhh.

The idea that something being easy is not always the right way to go only makes sense if you’re trying to train for a marathon by running one fast mile and stopping. That’s too easy, and you ain’t gonna cross that finish line before dark.

So there I was at the end of freshman year, with a GPA on life support, but still invested in the idea of life being practical and hard. So I did what any dumb, sensible person would do and took up accounting. This turned out to be just as bad as the science classes and I was suffering, so I knew I must be on the right track. I did enjoy the guy I sat next to who loved accounting and was making methodical plans to work for what was then the Big 8 — although I think they are down to 4 now. I could have listened to his confident plans all day long, but I should have been paying more attention to the connection of his accounting joy and his success in the subject. Instead, I wrote poetry in class while the professor droned on about first in, last out, or last in, last out. I got another D.

As a super ironic aside, a number of years later I was the sole administrative person for a tiny nonprofit and got put in charge of the books with monthly help from an accountant. It took me a year of her visits to truly understand what happened to the numbers when I put them in the accounting software columns and they popped out on the balance sheet. I always came out of those day-long sessions with a huge headache. Once when I was really discouraged, she told me I understood the process better than most of the college accounting graduates they hired. That is a rather frightening thought, but I’m guessing these were not my joyful Big 8 guy, but people who were trying to be practical and pursue the narrow definition of success.  I wish them the best and no headaches.

At the end of sophomore year, with my GPA still in the toilet, I had no practical place left to go. I threw up my hands and gave in and became an English major. I suppose if I had gone to a small school with advisors who gave a flip, I would have clued in sooner, but what fun would that be? There’s something to be said for failing rather spectacularly to teach you something. And once I switched, for the first time school wasn’t a grim struggle, it was actually pleasant and even fun sometimes. Who knew?

And then I also learned the more valuable lesson not to care what people thought, because I knew I had tried and was confident that this was the only thing I was good at. Oh to be sure, I endured a fair amount of sneering. “English major! What are you going to do with that? Teach?” Which is actually also snubbing teachers, BTW. Journalism was also not my thing, so I concentrated on my own writing and fell into nonprofit administration as a source of income. Then I had to endure the “Oh, you’re a writer? What have you published?”

Did I always feel confident? Of course not, when you get that 5th, 10th, or 80th publication rejection, you kind of think, what the hell am I doing? But now I’m starting to understand that I had a couple of key advantages, which seemed like disadvantages at the time. One, early on in life, I learned I did not have strong enough skills in any area that would have put me on the society-endorsed path. Also I’m allergic to gray corporate cubes. So I had no other option than to figure out how to succeed with the writing skills I had. Two, I come from a working class background, which I tried to run from in college and after. It came with high expectations in the moment — do your chores, do well in school (or don’t bother me with teacher notes that you’re screwing up). And it also came with low expectations for a future life. And that turned out to be an extraordinary gift, that I am only now fully appreciating.

Benign neglect combined with being kid number 4 (which one are you?) allowed me to find my own path and define success in my own way. I do recall my father pressing some rather random career choices on my siblings, so here is a formal thank you to them for wearing him out first. By the time he got to me, benign neglect has set in.

Life isn’t easy, no matter what path you choose — even those who pick the society- and family-sanctioned path will struggle at some point, so you might as well put your effort towards the skills that are fun, easy, and worth your while.

To paraphrase a Catholic call at the end of the Mass, go in peace to love and serve the skills you have. It’s much better than a headache.

Photo credit: Still from the Talk Talk video, “It’s My Life.”

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