Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Busy Bees

Devoted partner is having a bit of a work meltdown. After several months of buildup, his project has officially commenced. This neatly coincides with the Passover/Easter holidays, friends visiting from out of town, and spring cleaning.

So, naturally, I helped out by arranging for us to pick up a bed in Manhattan on Saturday kindly donated by Ariane.

Originally uploaded by reallyct
We needed a bed, she needed to not have to worry about this one. It was perfect, really. So, yet another item was roped down to the top of the trusty Subaru and transported back to our manse (after Chinese for lunch, natch). Upon reassembling the bed, devoted partner took off for the office and did not return until long past nightfall, though happily as he was able to get much work done in an empty office. I decided to use the motivating forces swirling around our new acquisition to go to the store and buy those items necessary to dress the bed. As you see, the (what I've christened) Amy Guest Bed is now fully operational. It is also housing two cherished childhood stuffed animals which, before this, were in a closet. You may all commence making your reservations.

Sunday, I was far kinder. Devoted partner left the house early for the office while I did the parts of spring cleaning he hates: deciding what on the floor is garbage and what is not, and finding a home for the nots. This was before Kim arrived for our cake decorating date. We'd been planning this for ages and I had prepped by making several cake layers Saturday night, and outfitting the house with a dizzying assortment of gel food colors.

Much butter lost life in the creation of these two cakes:


Originally uploaded by reallyct

And her, much better

Originally uploaded by reallyct

Would you believe she'd never done it before???

I was really quite impressed as someone who finds coloring within the lines challenging. I mean, look at her leaves!!!

And now comes the Overpass part. Devoted partner cleaned like a champion while I was at my parents' last night, leaving me to, well, feed people. The food has been bought, the necessary wine is chilling; all that remains is for me to get off the damn computer and go cook something!

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Secret Langugae of Deeply Disturbed People

I've been called out by a number of friend-readers on my decidedly un-Yelena-like mushiness towards Ye Olde Partner of Devotion in some of these postings. Sadly, I remain undeterred. A caveat is that I tend not to publicize our knock-down, drag-out, hair-pulling, bed-wetting fights because, well, one must have some standards (I also do not wax, at length, about the crazy, trapeze-inclusive, agar agar, shot-in-3D, monkey sex because I do not wish for you to become consumed with jealousy), but some of our shtick I think, biasedly so, is universally awesome and that it would be cruel not to share.

Take for example a curious trend in our online messaging. Aside from Devoted Partner's inability to use an away message for times when he does not wish communication (like during meetings, WebX presentations, and conference calls), we spend some quality time messaging back and forth a couple times a day. If you have ever received and instant or text message from me, you will notice that I have failed to grasp the simplicity of the medium and generally insist on typing in full sentences using capitalization and punctuation. This allows the person with whom I am communicating to feel completely justified in calling me out when I err and mistype.

Devoted partner and I started getting into Cute Overload speak, mostly in response to the puppy pictures we send each other. Example: Him - Sends cute puppy pic; Me - Types 'I has a wants.' But then it just got out of hand. Example: I has make peas for dinner noms. Now I can go several exchanges without using proper verb endings.

But after deciding that we would strive for significant reduction in fatness, we changed our messaging habits. Devoted partner, I think, started it by sending me a comic that included the important message: 'chickenchickenchicken.' Now we were sending one another messages through the cryptographic wonder that is chicken. Example: 'chickenchickenmustdolaundrychickenchicken.'

Are you still with me?

This led to merely removing spaces from many communiques. Example (from today, prompting this post): 'dustbunnystairs' ... 'cornersofbunnyhiding' ... 'livingroomrugofsadcrumbs.' Somehow this makes whatever has been written somehow funnier.

Now I'm not sure what to make of all this. If you've spent any time with us, you know we're not a couple that easily transitions to pet names and googoogaga talk, but this typing style clearly smacks of the same problem. I do know that I find what we type much funnier this way and iwillkillyouwithsharppointysticks seem somehow less serious. My only concern is that I think I now use 'noms' in everyday parlance, and that can't bode well for the preservation of the English language.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Being Entitled

Yeah, this one crops up a lot, most likely because I catch myself feeling entitled to things, hating myself for these thoughts, and taking it out on people who are less self-aware in their entitlement. Yesterday, this manifested itself in my doing something I NEVER do: commenting in a very public forum on an article. I know myself. I know that I have the potential to be exactly the kind of nutzoid who becomes obsessed with being an internet know-it-all and trolls sites on whose subject matter I can claim vague expertise and becoming a general menace. I know this about myself and I steer clear.

But this article got to me. I know it's so incredibly insignificant. Perhaps it only pissed me off because The Boy works in the industry and would promptly fire anyone who acted this way, or perhaps it's that now, seeing exactly what exemplary service is and how relatively painless it is to achieve, anything short really really bugs me.

I guess, as a very very very brief resident of a kitchen, and in an apprenticeship role, I don't quite understand the griping of servers. Who make at least double what the people who actually made the food make. And who are the first to sue when a restaurant tries to tip out the back of the house. Yes, in the end, the restaurants are to blame (if we're handing out blame) because everyone should make a livable wage.

But this is besides the point. What really irks me is that entitlement seems built into our culture in a way that seems greater than at other times (I'm not going to say than at any other time, but I think it inside - take that, Cicero). On the news this morning I was treated to a crazyperson soundbite from the NJTransit hearings, some woman bawling that she did not agree with the fare hike. Wow, what a shocker! Just like you didn't agree with the increased price of gas, the increased price of milk or orange juice or tomatoes, the increased price of a movie ticket. We get it. Left to their own devices, people would rather not spend money. But, much like my extreme peevitude at Cablevision and the fairness of ABC raising its prices, I don't quite understand what is achieved by bitching about the rising cost of life.

There is an undercurrent of, "I'm entitled to only pay a buck for the subway in perpetuity." Now I don't like when they raise the subway fare, but I know what my choices are: pay or walk. Now I know I am a have, and the people complaining are have-nots (albeit, frequently have-nots with iPods; cost of iPod: $250; cost of fare increase $.25; if not iPod, then 1000 subway trips, also known as about 2 years of commuting). But if fifty cents a day, or frankly a dollar or two dollars, is going to so severely affect your ability to feed, house, and clothe yourself, doesn't it stand to reason that something much much worse is happening, and that perhaps you should direct your energies towards something more important than transit fare hikes? If you can't live on your wage, you should be working tirelessly to raise it. Whether that means lobbying for a minimum wage hike - which we desperately need - or coming up with some other idea (tax rebate for commuter costs, for example), I think that it's futile to think that prices will remain stagnant.

I listen to people I know, some of whom I agree with, and others of whom I don't, debate current public policy without addressing the core cultural obstacle to change: us. The ideal of the American Dream, however 50s and pollyanna-ish, has become something that gets handed to us, not something we have to do anything to achieve. And if that makes me sound more conservative than you're used to, it isn't, really. The minimum wage worker who busts his ass and still can't get ahead? I want to help him. Help him so that his kids might not need to work a minimum wage job. But the person who doesn't take the minimum wage job because it's not enough money for all that work. He can go pluck himself.

Whether or not I support public health care (which I think I do, just not this iteration), I HATED the rhetoric that health care was a right, an entitlement. It just isn't. Elevating something to the level of inalienable is a dangerous thing to do and it breeds complacency. It would be nice if everyone had decent health coverage, but it isn't a right. It isn't something that simply by being born one is entitled to. Something can be important, be the right call, be necessary, without having to be a gimme putt. I would say a better argument is that, having worked hard to make the nation great, we have EARNED a public health care system that can take care of all our citizens - that's how I would have spun it (let's, for the moment, leave aside the particulars as they are fodder for endless argument and think, instead, of the IDEA of public health care, not this particular implementation).

And, while I'm completely all over the place with this, it's what was the final nail in the coffin of my American Idol addiction. Choosing, and it's still a choice, to be a single mother at 18 does not, in any way, shape, or form, mean you deserve to be on television and get a record contract. You made a shitty choice. You deserve to live with the consequences, and no one owes you anything simply because the shitty choice you made is hard.

But I'm happy your kid will get to go see a doctor from time to time.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Where You Can Shove Your Namaste

Day four of hour-long morning workouts saw yoga on the schedule. Now I have said my fair share of anti-yoga things, mostly motivated by the two tragically uncomfortable sessions I participated in during college, but day 4 was yoga day so yoga I would do. After all, I did an hour of plyometrics and was fairly certain nothing could be more crippling than that.


So, while I don't know if I ever called yoga practitioners pussies, I may have thought it, and I would like to humbly take that back. I am the pussy. Now we may have started out on the wrong foot when I discovered that the yoga workout is 90 minutes long, not 60, prompting me to do some calculations about train time and shower time and teeth brushing time, but I am trying to be really game about moving my fat ass in productive ways, so I signed on. The nice man on the screen said some nice stuff about clearing my mind and focusing on the now and then proceeded to ask me to contort my body in ways it had a) never been contorted in before and b) frankly was unable to contort in. How was I supposed to clear my mind while agonizing over the fact that I cannot wrap my right arm underneath my lunged right leg to then hold onto my left hand which was crossed behind my back. I can't even get close. It was that move that did me in. After only thirty minutes I collapsed on my yoga mat and had a good cry.

Yes, I cried during yoga this morning.

A nice, self-pitying cry. Because I am about as flexible as my 95-year-old grandmother. Because I ate bread yesterday and the scale jumped alarmingly (yes, I know, weighing one's self every day is counter-productive, but very difficult to not do). Because I tried to do something and couldn't.

After blowing my nose and breathing normally for a moment, I sobered up. This morning was a bit of a failure. But next week on yoga day, I will attempt to start where I stopped today and see if I can't do at least the next 30 minutes of the workout. Because you know how I loathe defeat. 30 minutes of failyoga is better than 0 minutes of failyoga. Eating grapes today instead of bread is a positive thing as well (and they are good grapes that I will be replenishing after work chez Whole Foods). A lifetime of sloth might, just might, take a little time to fix. And while the other workouts were challenging, they involved things my body was accustomed to doing, which is why I could do them, albeit with a lot of grunting and bitch noises thrown in (you know EXACTLY the noises I mean). Ever since kiddie gymnastics class fail as a five year old, the Yelena has studiously avoided the kind of movement yoga encourages.

So I will work on it.

(seethes slightly more quietly)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Making the World Flat, One Helper at a Time

I made a calculated decision this week. I decided it was worth doubling my daily exercise so that I could, on occasion, have butter. Previously I was living in a low-impact, low-butter world; now I am living in a high-impact, occasional-pat-of-butter world. This world is better. But as anyone who has ever gone from not an athlete to simulation of athleticism can tell you, things hurt. A lot. Everywhere. This presents some problems for the woman whose shoe closet contains two things: Chucks and stilettos. So, I must admit that the time has come for flats.

I used to own three pairs of excellent stacked Prada loafers (thank you ebay), two of which actually fit well. These were terrific work shoes because they went just as well with a skirt as with pants, were super comfortable even at 3.5 inches, and could be worn all day long while walking places. They were so excellent that for about five years, I wore them nearly every day. As a result, they wore out rather more quickly than I would have liked and now I no longer have them. Sadly, my subsequent hunts for replacements have not turned up much - the stacked loafer doesn't seem to be in vogue right now. But flats are. They're everywhere. Some of them are ridiculous, but some of them aren't bad.

So I send you, my internet and fashion savvy readers, on a quest for flats. Here are your parameters: flats must be under $100 - I do not like them enough to spend more and I'm hoping to buy more than one pair; flats should be plainer rather than ornate, but I could be swayed by an excellent color; I wear a size 11. I'm going to be searching too, but sometimes you people come up with better ideas than I could on my own. If you happen across a pair of suitable stacked loafers while you're at it, I shall bake you a cake!

P.S. Even those these make sense in theory, I'm just not feeling it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Morbid Nostalgia: Two Vignettes

Inspired by high school reunion planning.

Once upon a time there was a boy. A sweet, funny, smart, kind boy with the faults common to teenage boys who are sweet, funny, smart, and kind. His family life wasn't the greatest, the sad tale of a divorce gone very bad and a mother who wasn't quite able to hold up her end of the responsibility bargain in the aftermath. Luckily for the boy he found a mother figure who was more than willing and more than able to bestow upon him the attention that seemed somehow compromised when it came from his father's next wife, however earnest she was. Perhaps the mother figure could be a tad overbearing, but that was a small price to pay for the solid maternal attention.

There was a girl who liked the boy. Liked in a teenage kind of way. The boy and the girl were friendly and then friends. And then. In a teenage kind of way fumblings happened. But also conversation of a teenage sort. Embarrassment. Shyness. Refumbling.

The mother figure did not approve. She may have liked the girl, but she thought the boy could do better. And she wasn't afraid to say so. Someone prettier, perhaps, more deferential, less independent. It always seemed to the girl afterward that the mother figure thought she, the girl, was hitting above her pay grade when it came to associating with the boy.

The boy and the girl were only ever going to be a teenage thing. The mother figure had the potential to be more. So the boy stopped liking the girl. No more conversations. No more fumblings. Nothing, really.

The girl's friends did an excellent job of mocking the boy, mocking the mother figure, cutting ties. Maybe they thought the boy was hitting above his pay grade; maybe they were just being kind.

It was just a teenage thing.

There was a girl who liked a boy. The boy was very very unavailable. But he didn't always act that way. Sometimes he seemed more available; sometimes he seemed very available. Obviously this was not fair to the girl, nor was it fair to the girlfriend, but these are teenagers after all. The girl knew, somewhere deep down, that the boy wanted the girlfriend but wasn't above wanting the girl's attention and sometimes more than that. But she really really really liked the boy.

The girl confided her sadness, her hopes, her mistakes to her friend, the other girl. The other girl tried to be a good friend and not point out the obvious, that the boy had and continued to make a choice and it wasn't the girl. But the other girl didn't have a long history of successful female friendships and didn't always know what to say. She tried to listen, at least for as long as she could simulate interest, and she turned a mostly blind eye when mistakes were made. After all, it was what the girl really really wanted.

One night, though, the boy made a move on the other girl. In front of the girl who liked him so much. It was a clumsy grab at a popular part of the other girl, and the other girl didn't know what to do. She had no interest in the boy, but she was also painfully embarrassed at the situation. Should she loudly call the boy out for untowardly grabbing at her? Should she do nothing? She tried, as best she could in the cramped quarters groups of teenagers can be fond of, to wiggle away. But the damage had been done. The girl knew the boy had tried something with her friend and the other girl, by action or inaction, had done the wrong thing.

Later, the other girl would wonder if she could have acted differently. If female competition was at fault, or if she was intentionally allowing the girl, her friend, to see what a fickle shit the boy was. The other girl couldn't honestly say she handled the situation in the best possible way, but she hoped, fervently hoped, she hadn't acted maliciously towards the girl, her friend.

But it wasn't ever going to be the same after that. The girl was very angry at the other girl. Perhaps she was very angry at the boy, but she liked him so so much that it was probably easier to be angry at the other girl. The anger lay dormant and on the surface things went on as usual. But something was different. When the other girl started a bad relationship on the sly, she didn't tell the girl, her friend. Even though the other girl probably could have used a friend during that time. But the trust had been broken. Later, the girl started a relationship with a new boy that the other girl really really liked. Whether it was payback or an unfortunate coincidence is something no one but the girl knew. And she wasn't talking. Later still, the girl was not nice to the new boy and then there was a new new boy. But by that time the girl and the other girl didn't really talk anymore. At all.

A classmate of mine recently wrote a book about the films of John Hughes. I always thought the movies were cute, but I could never really relate. The characters had a teenage experience so far more polarizing than mine. My angst was different and, in fact, bracketed my high school years but stayed mostly out of them. But as a reunion comes up, I think of the people I grew up with, which friendships persevered and which feel by the wayside, through atrophy or by intent. I remarked to one classmate as we sloshed through the rain to the subway station that there wasn't a single person from our class whom I didn't wish well. My pollyanna-ish feelings about high school make me really really want everyone to be happy. For me, time heals most grudges. And I'm in no way a saint, I'm just lazy. At the end of the day, holding a grudge for decades is just too much work.

I know the boys and girls of these stories probably won't read them. But I remember. I remember how important it all seemed at the time and how utterly unimportant it is now. It was high school. These boys and girls are married, starting families, being grown-ups. But I remember. And sometimes, sometimes when I allow myself to roam freely through the less rose-colored halls of history, it makes me sad.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Irrational Fears

Driving home last night after dinner alone, I was overcome with a fear so acute that I got a little emotional in the car. Let me back up a moment to say that I am not the biggest fan of poorly lit night driving. As anyone who has ever been bored to tears by me or devoted partner recounting the minutiae of our 10-week post-collegiate European trip will know, we drove from Prague to Essaouira in Morocco non-stop over the course of three days, meaning I have had a bit of night driving under my belt. But as anyone who has ever driven at night knows, there is a vast difference between night driving on a massive interstate/international highway, and driving through the barely lit nooks and crannies of a suburban neighborhood (see also driving through Manhattan at night which is pie).

While others may fear hitting deer on the Meritt Parkway or moose in Maine, my biggest fear is hitting someone's dog.

I can't really even put into words how absolutely devastated I would be. Last night as I wound my way through the side streets that would take me from the parkway to my garage, I played the interaction through: the absolute horror that would strike at the moment of impact, the feverish hope that the dog was merely wounded or stunned, and the absolutely gut-wrenching walk to the owner's house, begging the void that there are no children, and having to tear-stainedly admit to hitting their dog. (Even though I recognize that dogs should not be out at night roaming the streets, I would still feel entirely at fault.)

And I wonder if telling the distraught owner how much I adore dogs, how in my old age I even like and play with the small ugly ones, how I want nothing more than to be surrounded by drooly happy puppies, and that my worst nightmare is to run one over, would make any difference. I suspect not.

This would account for why, if you find yourself driving behind me at night, on the quiet streets, you would be tempted to tailgate or honk, seeing as you might want to proceed at a speed greater than the 17mph I am inching along at; I don't know if 17mph is slow enough to merely bruise the puppies of Fairfield and Westchester counties, but I hope so. I apologize for my slowness in advance.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Stuck on Planet Freud

I think I have discovered why I am so frequently at odds with others and it boils down to a basic misunderstanding of human motivation. I would like to know that the greatest possible number of people whom I encounter would like to have sex with me. I attempt to comport myself in ways (obviously the days when I don't shower or brush my hair are failures) that make the people around me think, "yes, that's the kind of person I'd have some sex with." I assumed you were doing the same.

This is why I am so flummoxed by picks-nose-in-public, puts-smelly-feet-on-seat, doesn't-say-bless-you-when-someone-sneezes, and doesn't-hold-doors-open among others. I had assumed that, like me, other people wanted to be seen as sexually desirable and would know that sexually desirable people don't pick their noses publicly.

But this makes me even more confused since pretty much every advertisement since time began was about making yourself more attractive in some way so that people would be desirous of sex with you. Have we stopped wanting to have sex? I can't imagine that is true. Mostly because I feel that advertising agencies would have cottoned on and developed different ways to encourage our spending. They're smart that way.

In fact even when I'm being dismissive of someone, it is generally dismissive with an undertone of, "you really ought not to think of relations with me as there is a zero percent chance that sort of thing will come to pass," which I guess presupposes that the person being dismissed was already on the sex-with-me train.

But I don't sense that level of involvement from other people when they act out towards me. For example: the 50-year-old suit who bodily pushes in front of me to get in or out of the train doesn't seem to be doing so to remind me that I don't have a chance of having sex with him; it doesn't seem that well thought out. He's pushing in front of me because it doesn't occur to him that it would be far more polite to let me go first - in fact, if he were smart, he would let me go first and say something like, "after you," so that I would reflect on him later as someone with whom sex would not be horrific.

Yet I do note that a number of these people, both men and women, are married, which presumes that, at some point, they wanted to be sexually attractive to someone. I find it acutely sad that, once paired up, this no longer mattered; at the same time it makes me wonder why they would spend so much on handbags and sunglasses.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thursday Nopropos

The miracle of power has distracted me from most things. It was simply Promethean in its significance. I could see while I peed. Truly amazing stuff. It just makes me wonder how people in olden times even survived.

I don't, as a rule, hand out money to people on the subway, pretty much regardless of their pitch. However, I'll admit that the school kids selling candy DURING SCHOOL HOURS kinda pisses me off. The level of math they will use to make change from a five strikes me as less apt to help them advance in life than the math they would use if they were in school. Which makes me want to make my donation predicated on their ability to demonstrate that it's ok that they're cutting school to sell candy. Like, if they could tell me the chemical symbol for salt; or tell me the formula for the area of a circle; or who the 3rd US president was. And I think I chose easy ones (originally I was going to ask for the quadratic equation before realizing that I never remember it either and that it most likely isn't even taught in NY public schools).

I am seriously considering a mildly radical hair change (is that an oxymoron?). I need to solicit more opinions . Now I realize this girl is blond and skinny, has unbelievably huge eyes, and is probably Danish - so we're not sharing a lot of background similarities, but I've been wanting long, face-softening bangs for quite some time and I'm at a point in my life where my philosophy is firmly in the, "hey, it's not like the hair won't grow back," position. Devoted partner, with the caveat that under no circumstances should the brown hair be blondified, voiced no initial objections. Also her hair looks super awesome when she puts it up (yes, I also realize that this girl's job is to be beautiful and that someone spent quite a bit of time on her hair).

I bought Ad Hoc at Home after seeing pretty much every food blogger I read cook something from it and rave. I finished paging through it yesterday while sitting outside my house (where there was light) and I think I might be firmly committed to making everything in the book. It all looked good and it all looked devoted partner-approved. I'm even going to make the stuff I think I won't like because I should try more things (I'm looking at you poached salmon). I can be like all the other bloggers and obsessively document it because...

Devoted partner took first prize in the anniversary pool by procuring from me the drool-worthy camera I had been talking about for months; in fact, he did one better, he procured the newer, just released model of the drool-worthy camera. The Canon Rebel T2i should arrive today or tomorrow (backordered as it was due to its supernewness). This is super exciting! Devoted partner is really rather nice to me. I should poison his food less.

And finally, also courtesy of devoted partner, this.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I Love A Parade

No, that's not quite right. I hate parades. And unlike many of the things I hate for no good reason, this hate is easily traceable to a series of childhood traumas. I grew up in Manhattan in the 80s on the parade route. Parades in New York went across 86th Street and down 5th Avenue. I lived on 86th street. So approximately 10 times a year there would be many many many people on my doorstep and lots of sis boom bah. The parades, for the most part, all ran together in my mind, with two obvious exceptions. The loud ones. The scary ones. The not-good-for-children ones.

I speak, obviously, of the St. Patrick's Day parade and the Puerto Rican Day parade. And as much gets said about the Puerto Rican Day parade and its ills, as one who was there, year after year, it was the less bad of the two for one very important reason: climate. The Puerto Rican Day parade is in June, a month of sunshine and happiness and a desire for cookouts. Which can happily take place in Central Park. Many parade revelers would assemble in the park and in the parade viewing streets near the park so that they could revel in a sunshiny manner. St. Patrick's Day is in March. Today in fact (fancy that). People do not traditionally barbecue in March. Which is sad because the barbecued food could absorb a tremendous amount of the free-flowing alcohol.

So on years when the school holiday did not coincide with the parade, I walked home from school dodging green vomit in my earlier years, and friendly hands in my later ones. Something I was reminded of this morning on the train which was packed with the soon-to-be-handsy.

Now, the appearance of some comely lads, both fine and brave, in their dress blues mitigated my painful flashbacks some, and this picture sent by devoted partner helped some more, but I don't have a lot of fond parade memories (sorry to my dad who took me a number of times to see the Thanksgiving Day Parade, the only major parade that didn't come by our block).

But as part of my attempt at zen introspection, I tried to examine what it was about parades that set me off. I am a well-known avoider of crowds. I don't like them. They are highly inefficient. And they make me slightly (very) violent-like.

But that's not quite right either. I simply loved the souks in Morocco, and they were stuffed to the gills with people, many of whom were aggressively trying to sell me carpets. Similarly, my biggest regret of our trip to Egypt was not getting quality time in the Khan-el-Khalili market in Cairo, another place full up with people. And, truth be told, the ordered chaos of subway travel has always been my preferred method of transport, both here and abroad. I am deeply suspicious of metropolitan areas that don't have subways.

Yet the flip side of this is that when we look to travel in this hemisphere, I seek out the least traveled places; the we're-the-only-ones-here places. So now I think I might be a racist: American crowds (when not on subways) are ill-mannered, drunk, grabassy, loud talkers who inspire violence in me, whereas foreign crowds are ok because it's part of their culture? Crap, I don't want that to be me. That's very jingoistic (oh, forgive these poor people their crowds, they know not what they do). Still, I can't deny that foreign crowds irk me less than domestic ones.

So, I'll attempt to rationalize this ickiness away: I only encounter foreign crowds when on vacation, a period of time characterized by relaxitude and smiliness. Is that helping? Ok, how about this: Americans (again, excepting, for the most part riders of the NY subway) aren't really good at crowds. We're a country that kept expanding so that we would be less crowded. Aside from events or trips to Cancun, we don't congregate overmuch (see also MegaChurches, but those are self-selecting crowds). We're unaccustomed to sheer human volume and, as such, don't know the rules of engagement. It's why our crowds are ineffectually shove-y whereas the shoviness in a place like Mumbai (so I hear) is purposeful and generally without malice. We are a nation that shoves maliciously (I know I do). My experiences with foreign crowds have generally demonstrated a well-rehearsed algorithm of movement. A frenetic ballet, it you will. Anyone who has ever spent 60 seconds at the St. Patrick's Day Parade knows that the drunk jumble is anything but balletic.

Am I off the hook yet?

I know there's a stereotype of the American Abroad, but a lot of times it's not inaccurate. We do have a tendency to talk loudly and, probably given the paltry number of vacation days we get, we become exasperated quickly if the requisite amount of ease and relaxation we anticipated on our holiday isn't forthcoming. And yet, let's be fair, I'm not signing up for a trip to Oktoberfest or the World Cup anytime soon, so foreign country people, you're not in the clear either.

So, I'm going to feel bad about myself for a little bit while I try to make these rationalizations hold water. If you have anything that could help, please don't hesitate to contribute; as The Big Chill taught me: rationalizations are better than sex.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Reporting Live From Ice Station Zebra

With the supply of tea light candles and non-spoiled Jello Sugar-Free Pudding running low, we thought we'd take to the dark quiet streets to assess how local residents are coping with LightsOut2010.

Q: Many are saying that this is the worst storm damage to hit the greater Metropolitan area in 30 years. How are you weathering (chuckle) this storm?

A: Brains....brains....brains....

Q: I see. What are your thoughts on the response time from Connecticut Power and Light?

A: Must have brains....or internet updates....but mostly brains....short supply of brains....CP&L trucks no come to street....difficult to get brains....

Q: What about the new experience of having your home powered by exposed electrical cables as opposed to the underground ones you used to have back in your old apartment?

A: Con Ed brains, er trucks, everywhere....CP&L brains nowhere....Con Ed good....underground wires good....brains good....

Q: How have you spent these past few powerless days and do you find that you don't really miss the trappings of modern life?

A: Mother-in-law....so much mother-in-law....not allowed to eat brains of mother-in-law....need....warm....embrace....TV....

Q: And your neighbors, how are they handling the current power outages?

A: Locked in house....baseball bats....protect brains....neighbors on NY side of border....flaunt lights....TV....refrigeration....retribution swift must be....

Q: Now you're talking like zombie Yoda, tell us a little bit more about the day-to-day changes you're making?

A: House cold....Skinny Cow Ice Cream Sandwiches melted....toilet seat very cold....high likelihood of burning house down with candles....must set out in search of brains....

Well, there you have it. I think we can conclude that there is no earthly reason why in a country as sophisticated as ours there could ever be a good excuse, save the utter demolition of power stations, why 60+ hours would pass between lights out and lights on. As you can see, the total uselessness of the local utility company has turned some previously normal people into cable-deprived zombies. This reporter can smell the revolution in the air, though that could be the rotting brainless corpses strewn along the avenues, and urges those residents for whom power has been restored to remain in their houses, sensitive to the deprivation of others, and perhaps avoid using your outdoor floodlights throughout the night until this crisis is over.

Reporting live from Greenwich, let's send it back to the studio.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Assorted Technical Difficulties

There is, I don't know quite how to say this, a tree in my yard. Yes, I know what you're thinking, I live in the wilds, there should be, conceivably, many trees in my yard. But this tree is different. This tree is decidedly...


Now I'm no treeophile, but I'm pretty sure these things are supposed to go up/down not side/side. As god was continuing to vent his weather anger on account of our war/gays/health care reform/MTV he inadvertently deposited one of his up/down trees in our yard in a side/side manner. I found this quite funny (after doing the math necessary to realize that my car was protected by our bedroom and that our television was protected by our attic). Because nature is generally amusing, and side/side trees are particularly so. Also, devoted partner and I were about to leave the manse for our anniversary evening in Manhattan (please start your teasing now).

And I would have thought nothing of it, save for wondering if this is our landlady's problem or ours, had we not returned yesterday to discover that trees, apparently, are subject to group mentality. For another tree decided to align itself in a side/side manner; this time blocking our driveway.

As devoted partner went to alert our neighbor, whose tree it was, I went to park the car. Sort of. You see, devoted partner's garage door opener wouldn't work. So I got out of the car to open the door using the keypad. Which also didn't work. Funny that. I let myself into the house by the front door to discover a certain lack of light, not super surprising considering we had been absent a day, but even the ambient light from things like hard drives, oven clocks, and cable boxes was mysteriously absent.

Oh, yes, because we had no electricity. Because the trees were now unionized and many of them were now choosing to be side/side trees as opposed to up/down trees. Now I have experienced a lack of electricity before, dare I say I'm an old pro. People like air conditioning in the summer and sometimes they like to have more air conditioning than the folks at Con Edison can provide and then there is no power. Generally for about 2 hours. Sometimes 4. We light candles and play gin. But something about this lack of electricity was odd. Our neighbor told us at 2:00pm on Sunday that he had been (and by extension our neighborhood) without electricity since 8:00pm the previous day. My math skills kicked into high gear and I can now tell you with a strong measure of assurance, that is a full 18 hours without electricity.

That just seems barbaric.

We took refuge in the house of the mother-in-law (or rather, I took refuge while devoted partner "bravely" fled the scene to go to his office). When we returned at 11:00pm, there was still an obvious lack of electricity (hour 27). We set iPod alarms and such (though we needn't have bothered come to think of it as I was awakened by both the iPod alarm and the regular one, prompting me to think the crisis was over when really it's just that we have one of those alarm clocks that has emergency battery power). I dreamed that electricity had been restored. But, that was merely a dream. As I left the house (hour 37) I wondered how long we would be without sweet sweet power. Our neighbor had said he thought power would be restored sometime today (Monday), but 1010WINS ominously warned that some areas affected by downed lines might not have power until Thursday.

Well I cannot live at my mother-in-law's until Thursday, despite her willing hospitality. I couldn't live at my parents' house until Thursday.

So the reason there is no picture of the awesome tree in our yard is that, while my digital camera has it's own power source, the computer does not, preventing me from the download upload. Believe me when I tell you the downed tree is pretty spectacular, though it will become less spectacular in summer when I want to traipse around the yard naked and the neighbors, from whom we were once shielded by a tree, decide they do not want to see my naked traipsing. And devoted partner assures me the law is on their side.

I shall therefore predict that this summer many of these updates will be made from the Greenwich pokey.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Adventure of a Lifetime

From the album: Antonio and Carolina - New York 2007
Madonna Tap, Massachusetts, March, 1997.
First Lobster, Maine, August, 1998.
Pedro so sad at South of the Border, South Carolina, March 1999.
69 Days, 21000km, June-August, 1999.
Corsica, Take Two, May, 2000.
French Thanksgiving, Dijon, November, 2000.
Treasure Cay, May, 2001.
Treasure Cay, Again, March, 2003.
Corsica, Take Three, September, 2005.
Wedding at the Orangerie, Dijon, June, 2006.
Treasure Cay, Again Again, New Year's, 2007.
Poutine with Foie Gras, Montreal, March, 2007.
Stingray Alley, Grand Cayman, July, 2007.
Treasure Cay, Again Again Again, New Year's, 2008.
Wedding in a Bucky Ball, Lisbon, 2008.
Civil Baptism (Je suis le guide moral!), Provence and Dijon, June 2008.
Egypt, March, 2009.
Bonaire, November, 2009.

There isn't a day I'd trade, or a memory I would expunge. Before thirteen more years pass, we will add to this list (South America already looms on the horizon) in new and exciting ways. And while this is merely a glimpse at the photogenic moments, you make the ordinary moments extraordinary. You make my life better. You make me giggle when my mouth is full. You let me warm my graveyard feet on your legs. You put up with my singing the German Shepherd Puppies song over and over again. I has a big happy when I am with you.

Happy Anniversary. I hope you know I'm your devoted partner too.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


I am on a mission to divest myself of Cablevision. I am officially fed up. At the end of the day, I don't care what needs to be done, if I pay for cable (and DVR and HDTV) I expect that I will receive what I pay for. The first strike against Cablevision was the HGTV/FoodTV mess at the start of the year. It's not like had they chosen to permanently cease broadcasting those channels they would have charged me less; I would have continued to pay the same rate for diminished service. Then there was the Olympics. I did not successfully record a single uninterrupted broadcast. The box kept resetting and when it did, it took on average 8 minutes to reboot. Not acceptable. Finally, there was the ABC thing. Yes, the channel was reinstated less than 20 minutes into the Academy Awards, but again, it shouldn't have come to that in the first place. Cablevision is a cable company. It's only duty is to provide me with cable. Anything less and I don't quite understand from whence their bills.

These three biggies also brought to the fore all the little annoyances: no BBC America (I LOVE Top Gear), IFC as a premium channel, a truly useless user interface, the inability to search for television programs over more than one day at a time, the inability to choose not to record one episode of a recorded series without simultaneously canceling ALL instances of said series. In short, this company sucks balls.

We were already on the road to a cable-free existence when we acquired the Roku. But between Amazon on demand and Netflix, there were still some series we weren't able to purchase a la carte (Top Gear among them). Enter the $49 AV Composite cable purchased at the lovely Apple Store on Greenwich Avenue (btw, if you haven't shopped at an Apple Store recently, I highly recommend it; you don't have to wait on a checkout line because your salesperson can check you out with some gizmo tied around her neck; additionally, you can have your receipt emailed to you. It's pretty amazing that other retailers aren't following suit). Attach cable to TV and to iPod and to wall (to charge iPod) and now you may watch iTunes things on your TV. Genius! Then, devoted partner bought a laptop which means, theoretically, we can buy the cable that hooks his computer to the tv and watch Hulu things (though I have not yet familiarized myself with how the Hulu works, I hear good things).

Pretty much everything was in place save one: getting network television without cable. This is something we are apparently able to do by means of an antenna (how retro!); the problem is, the one I bought from Radio Shack, enhanced or amplified or whatever, didn't even really change the color of our snow, so it's back to the drawing board on that one. I'm guessing I should have listened to my brother when he said I shouldn't ever buy anything at Radio Shack (despite my fond memories of 20 dollar walkmens that you could drop on the floor if they stopped working and 50% of the time they would start working again).

If you are successfully getting network TV without cable, please let me know how you're doing this, especially if you are not in Manhattan as I suspect signal strengths are different based on population density. I am ready to vote with my (our) wallet.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Shopping Like the Wealthy Do

Greenwich Avenue. We have been acquainted for many a year. I used to greatly fear you on account of your Spence/Chapin exclusionary demographic. For years when devoted partner and I would walk down you, it wasn't so much that I was your only vaguely ethnic rambler, it was that I was your only brunette, and certainly your only size 12. But we have both changed, Greenwich Avenue.

A slightly more diverse crop of the top 2% earners have made its way to your shores, as well as a slightly less exclusive array of shops: I'm surprised you don't sport a Diesel store yet, but come on, Victoria's Secret is very downmarket...

But now I have an approved zip code. You are my Main Street. I have even purchased a $9 headband at your yoga store (funny aside: as we're getting ready for bed Saturday night, sharing a bathroom for among the first times since childhood, The Boy looks at my Lulu Lemon headband and remarks that he has the same one, albeit not in purple, for his runs - teehee, my brother and I have the same headbands). When you see me coming, you do not consult your JDL-approved handbook entitled, "Dealing With Others: A Manual." Instead, you kind of treat me like I belong. Like my ill-gotten gains are just as good as anyone else's. And I must admit...

I like shopping on you.

Your stores, they are not crowded (though perhaps on Sunday, I wouldn't know, devoted partner and I spend all our Sundays lounging in bed, eating freshly baked Viennoiserie and having super-passionate lovemaking sessions that last hours) with either people or merchandise (ok, so perhaps your definition of lounging/Viennoiserie/lovemaking doesn't include Home Depot, Nintendo, and organic baked empanadas - your loss). Your salespeople are available without inspiring claustrophobia. Over the past few months, and more relevantly, over the past two weeks, I have entered your stores on a number of occasions and found myself almost enjoying the shopping experience. And I'm a person who thinks the internet is the best thing ever because it permits me to passively shop. In my underwear. At 4:00am.

Now I'm sure as I make my way down your Walk of Conspicuous Consumption, I will not always be thusly enamoured, but of all the surprises this move has held, your accessibility, nay, your inviting-ness, has surely been among the greatest.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Don't Worry, I Can Still Be Unpleasant

There was some concern after yesterday's post that I was going to go all Buddhist on you all and think everything was sunshine and rainbow puppies. Calm yourselves. I can be a bitch without being angry. Never more so then when watching, what this year felt interminably long, the Academy Awards.

Now there are many sites better than this one where you can go to dish about the (yawn) outfits people wore (they were really really boring this year, I felt I was at the Fire and Ice ball, just a sea of red, white, and black), but I would like to tackle a far less kind issue: age. I have a number of theories as to why Hollywood seems to do to its talent what the poor choice of grails did to the blonde nazi in Last Crusade, but it is never more apparent than during closeups on a night when the stars have, presumably gone all out. And lest you think I'm just being mean because I myself am not a Hollywood star...eh, I got nothing. Maybe I am being mean for no good reason. But still, maybe I can spin this as a warning to others about the dangers of not taking care of your skin (while you obsessively take care of your biceps - maybe they could make vials of moisturizer that weighed 15 pounds).

Example #1 - Kathy Ireland. Real age: almost 47. Neck age: crypt keeper. Remember super cute Kathy Ireland? With her gorgeous eyes and BROWN hair? Remember how she was in shape but not in a scary way (like the difference in shape between Brenda and Kelly in original 90210 and the Steve Madden heads-to-big-for-bodies girls in new 90210?). Remember this? Diagnosis: too much bronzer, too much frosted hair, too much working out, not enough sensible menu choices, abject failure in the moisturizing of neck.

Example #2 - Kate Winslet. Real age: 34. Age I thought she was: >40. Now Kate Winslet gets a lot of crap for, I don't know, being too fat but photographing thinner, being too thin but claiming to be fatter...I don't care. I do care that it looks as though she has a centimeter worth of pancake makeup on. Could her skin really be that bad? And if so, is she not wealthy enough to fix that? Also, and this is a common complaint of mine: platinum hair + pale skin + pale makeup = ugh. Bright red lipstick would have changed this a little, though my primary complaint is when actresses match their hair to their skin. See examples A (also only 34), B (age 43 terrifyingly tight unemotional years), and C (age 25, but already coloring herself like a woman twice her age). Now, I'm not a huge fan of Cameron Diaz's style, but all blondes should look to her for advice on how to be blond.

Example #3 - Miley Cyrus. Real age: 17. Osteoporosis age: older than this. Now, unlike many others, I don't have a visceral reaction to the young Miss Cyrus. I don't even really know who she is because I don't have children. I do know, however, that she has linebacker shoulders and an underfed upper ribcage which hunching just accentuates. Additionally, I am guessing she has really really nice young 17-year old skin. Which I cannot see. Because she is orange. Her face and body do not match. Also, as slender as she is on top, her dress STILL doesn't fit, making her look like those much older women who try to squeeze themselves into the dresses they wore at 17.

So while I occasionally snipe at your crow's feet, collective Hollywood ladies, I really have concern in my heart. You are all, I presume, way better looking than this, and I do not understand why you go to so much trouble and effort to look older than you are.

But lest I appear sexist, though it is a sad truth that age on men is deemed more flattering than age on women, let me draw your attention to this neck. I'll admit, it was far more terrifying on last week's episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, but Sean Penn is sporting Clint Eastwood's neck, and he should be concerned about that, what with the 30 YEAR AGE DIFFERENCE.

And it is also important, though frequently mentioned, to acknowledge the women who are clearly not 25, but also clearly wearing age very very well: Meryl Streep (age 60), Sigourney Weaver (age 60), Helen Mirren (age 64). And two of those women are blondes, a group not generally on the receiving end of kind aging.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Now Here It Is, Your Moment of Zen

UPDATE: This might just be the answer. Thanks Tony! (Why did I never think to call you Tony before? You'll hate that!)

So, I've been angry recently. Really really
really really
really really really

At everything and nothing, at myself and other people, indiscriminately and pointedly. If you were to ask me to choose one word to describe myself, it would be angry.

This weekend The Boy and I went away to see our DC-area relatives. There was nothing particularly special about the trip except that it was a break in the routine. A chance to drive one of the least interesting parts of the I-95 corridor, and in between talking to one another, this gave me a chance to reflect. I didn't come up with a list of answers, but I may have given myself the challenge to structure my life so that I am less angry.

Because a lot of what I'm angry about (or that I identify myself being angry about) is stuff that I can change. The stuff I can't change? I might temporarily borrow from 12-step programs and just decide to be serene about it.


Catherine Deneuve.

Step 1: When I am angry at you, if I think the anger can be ameliorated, I'm going to tell you. Not angrily. Just normally. Because you probably don't know I'm angry. And you'd probably like to have the opportunity to either tell me to shove it or to modify things. For situations I think are unfixable. I don't think I'm going to tell you. Much like I don't like when relationships end and you hear stories of the parties giving parting shots, "yeah, well I slept with your sister," I don't think there's any point in giving vent to anger within a relationship that isn't going anywhere anyway.

Step 2: I am going to give myself more to do in an effort to permit myself less time to brood (angrily). That table project from months ago? I'm starting it. I'm not commencing with any new knitting projects until the mostly finished ones strewn around the living room are finished. I'm signing us up to volunteer at Adopt-A-Dog like we discussed doing over a month ago. And maybe dance lessons. And maybe I'll find an organization I'd like to devote some time to.

Step 3: I am going to attempt to give less vent to my macro frustrations. Just because I have a Hobbesian view of humanity doesn't make it interesting conversation. Especially when many of my friends are a little more hopeful.

Step 4: I am going to be like Happy Gilmore and find a happy place. I will go to this happy place when other people's behavior bothers me. This place will be more beneficial than the stabby place I go to now. I tried it this morning. It was ok.

This does not signify a sea change in my snarkiness, as snark has a place and can be used for entertainment purposes. It works less well as a guiding life principle.

I don't want to be so angry and since it is less likely that all the things/people/situations that I am angry about/at/near will suddenly change, I'm going to have to change how I am.

But let me know if I become less funny (if you thought I was funny to begin with).

Friday, March 5, 2010

Road Trip

For the first time in our lives, The Boy and I will be taking a little trip together. Based on how I adore mein bruder, I have long held out hope that once he's settled into a relationship, the four of us will rent beach villas and hang out together (even as I know that his minimum luxury quotient is way higher than mine; I need a roof and water and preferably no major vermin), so I am sure that this < 36 hour trip to the Baltimore/Washington area will be an excellent test case.

Our mother's family is easily located within an hour of one another between Baltimore and the Virginia side of DC and yet we never seem to make it down there. Some of this can be blamed on The Boy's demanding job; some of it on my avowal to never again ride in the backseat of a vehicle manned by my father; and some of it on the difficulty of families to get together when everyone's a grownup.

As such, a hastily assembled birthday gathering for my grandmother's 95th birthday two weekends ago, was pointedly missed by the two of us, for which I personally have felt much shamefacedness. The Boy and I decided to go visit at the first opportunity which, when you have his job, is whatever two days you can beg off, with about a week's notice (fortunately my busy social calendar is anything but).

So tomorrow morning I will pick him up around 10 and we shall happily drive one of America's least interesting roads to Baltimore. Where perils lurk around every corner. I think we might get to see everyone including our two cousins, which will be nice as I cannot remember the last time I saw them (thank you Facebook for allowing me to think I keep in touch with people).

And off we shall go on our first brother/sister road trip (since our trip to Foxwoods in autumn had other people on it even if we two shared a car). I foresee our first massive iPod disagreement somewhere around Trenton.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Rebuilding in the Off Season

I'm going to be optimistic for a moment and say that cold and flu season is over for the 09-10 winter. To help make the 10-11 season a healthy one, permit me to suggest that you use this time to work on your skills. Namely, cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough. Thank god we don't live in a time of cholera epidemic or we'd all be dead, given the number of people who hack away in crowded areas without covering up. Now, I know my mom was a stickler for proper manners, but she cannot possibly have been the only one.

Similarly, have you (and obviously I speak to my fellow commuters) noticed that I am the only person who says, "bless you" when someone sneezes? I don't understand why you, person who is sitting next to person who sneezed, doesn't. While we're at it, have you further noticed that I am the only person who says hello to the conductor? He said hello to you, not saying hello back is, well, rude. Even if he is socially beneath you, throw him the greeting crumbs from your table.

I don't want to project a false reality: I am certainly rude to people. But I am rude to people specific, not people general. Chances are if I was rude to you, I had a reason. I guess I should say that when rude I am intentionally rude. To be rude as just habit speaks to a far more sinister condition, and one I suspect has consequences far beyond my daily indignation.

And before I start sounding like Mother Theresa over here, in addition to not being a 24/7 polite person, I also don't much care about other people. Not that I wish them harm or have no concern for their well-being, but on a day to day basis, if I don't know you, I don't care about you. So blessing your sneezing isn't borne from some hippie-ass loving everyone nonsense. I just think that it takes more effort to ignore your sneeze than to acknowledge it.

I mean isn't it habit to say bless you when someone sneezes? To let the old lady have the seat? To wait your turn in line? These seem like societal baselines and to act otherwise takes effort. Because ALL of our mothers taught us these things. Willfully disregarding them is a willful act.

And yet you do it. Every day. Day after day. And I don't know where you learned it.

So take these, the gentler weather months, to consider how we came to be at this impasse, and see if you can't make a mental off-season trade so that when we get to this point next year, your team can be in contention for the playoffs.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Down 9 - Sort Of

I decided to fold in the first two days of March since February doesn't have enough days (and also because in the first two days of March the two pounds that should have melted away throughout February decided to come off). So February wasn't a huge success.

Which confounds me I must say. Yes there were three days in February that were gluttonous, but I hardly think that three days should wipe out a month's progress. So yeah, I cheated and took two of March's days. So sue me. End result is I am nine pounds thinner than I was at the beginning of 2010.

And I wasn't going to talk about that today until my train ride. A woman sat down next to me this morning and the first thing I noticed about her were her very cool, driving-inspired, navy leather gloves. I made a note to tell her, once she got settled, how cool I thought her gloves were. Then I looked at her. Jesus, she had an awesome haircut. A very modern, sideswept pageboy in a delightful shade of real blonde. Now I was going to tell her two things I thought were fantastic. Then she took off her plain black wool coat and the interior seams were edged in bright orange. Ok, three things. Then I saw her handbag: a camel-colored bowling-style bag with red and navy accents. This woman was knocking it out of the park on so many levels. And I told her so.

But it got me thinking. My wardrobe is a) tiny, b) solidly colored, and c) comprised almost entirely of stuff off the Gap/Banana Republic/Old Navy sales racks. Excepting footwear, I cannot think of a single cool wardrobe item I own...Yep, I thought about it again and the answer remains the same. Now I'll put my unmentionables collection up against anyone save Dita von Teese and win, but my clothing: jeans, t-shirts, a couple of button-downs from Uniqlo, some H&M stuff, and a couple of BCBG dresses I bought off ebay.

Why is this?

Well, my first answer is that clothing has never been something I've been willing to spend a lot of money on. My second answer is that I'm not a big fan of shopping. I don't like searching for things (it's why I love to shop online) so you won't find me going through the racks at Marshall's or Filene's looking for a good deal.

But why?

Certainly I feel good when I look good, and I frequently covet pieces I see on others. Well the real answer is a combination of the first two as they relate to: I never wanted to buy nice clothing for the body I had. I imagine a scenario where I find a cool jacket, or dress, or something, and buy it in my current size - let's say I spend more than $500 but less than $1000. I don't want to be this size so ultimately, one hopes, I'll be smaller. And out $500-$1000. Which sucks. Buying my wardrobe for a year at H&M for $500 total seemed to make more sense. I could always dress it up with shoes.

I don't feel that as a work in progress I can spend money on clothing. Dare I say I don't think I deserve it? The prevailing wisdom is that you should reward yourself for weight loss: little things for little milestones and something big when you get to your goal. Well, I've known for a couple of years what that goal reward would be: and Herve Leger dress. Except when I remember what those dresses cost and then become gunshy. Even in my fantasy. Sure, I can buy an $8 nail polish for losing 5 pounds, but I can't even imagine shelling out a grand for a dress. Even a reward dress. Even a reward dress for shedding a whole bunch of weight that would enable me to look like a not-Orca in said dress.

This is just not a mentality I have. Clothing is, generally, functional and black. Not fun, not the latest style, not from Intermix (I don't even know if Intermix counts as a place I should shop, that's how clueless I am). But seeing this woman this morning, a woman probably five or so years younger than I, looking so put together and so, well, cool, made me stop and consider putting a greater priority on how I look (I am, by the way, in my Gap jeans, Uniqlo shirt, and H&M blazer right now, my hair is washed but unstyled and I don't have makeup on).

I'm not going to go out and buy a wardrobe for FatMe because I can't justify the expenditure nor rewarding myself for having poor impulse control around butter, but I am debating an experiment wherein I "do" myself up every morning for a week to see just how long it takes. So many other women seem to find the time, shouldn't I at least give it a shot? I'm also seriously considering giving away a lot of my paltry wardrobe because many of the items I have are merely functional and have no style whatsoever. Also, I noticed that I haven't worn a lot of them in quite some time (and not just because I can wear jeans to the office). And finally, I'm going back to online clothing window shopping. Not for right now, but to start thinking about the kinds of things I might like to wear when my body is at a different, thinner place.

In the meantime, if you see me wearing something you would rather see in the trash heap, please let me know.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Even Now, Surprises

The weekend was full of new things, even as it was filled with familiar things. Least notably, we checked out the much larger Whole Foods in Westport and I have decided that the Whole Foodses that have the health and beauty sections annoy me. Even if it doesn't, in truth, take space away from food products, it implies a space exchange and I like organic food far more than I like organic toothpaste.

It started on Friday when devoted partner mysteriously appeared home with a Whole Food bag. Devoted partner does not shop unattended at the Whole Foods. Items were unloaded and little was said about the foray. Saturday afternoon, however, a strange noise emanated from the kitchen. It was the sound of someone messing up my stuff. It was the sound of devoted partner industriously and ambitiously preparing the Saturday evening meal. I want to make sure we all understand the import of this:

devoted partner made his own naan!

And since he is devotedly defatifying as well, said naan was made with whole wheat flour and no ghee. While using new and exciting things like yeast (and wheat flour) he also set about preparing a vindaloo (gotta hand it to him, he's a go big or go home kinda guy and I like it). Many many hours of hard work later, and dinner appeared. Delicious dinner. Dinner I did not have to lift a finger for (except to roll out the naan which I thought was the least I could do). Which made it even deliciouser. Now devoted partner, much like me I must say, just thought his dinner was ok. He didn't like that it didn't taste like restaurant Indian to which I replied that nothing ever tastes like it does in the restaurant. He made some key substitutions to make the meal healthier which also would, of necessity, make it taste less like the restaurant stuff. But damn, if it wasn't tasty. The whole wheat naan, in particular, was the stuff overeating is made of, but we were fairly responsible. And now we can have the leftovers tonight!

But that was not the only excitement of the weekend. Sunday saw two super exciting things. Our first coyote sighting. In our backyard. Just hanging about. Possibly looking for squirrels to eat. Coyotes look like mangy wolfdogs and I inquired as to whether or not devoted partner thought our new pet pest might like raw chicken...

And as we drove back from Whole Foods the super long way so that I could be enthralled by suburban culture, something miraculous fell from the sky. Devoted partner called it corn snow, I called it awesome. It was like mini-hail and it looked like exploded packing peanuts. We pulled into a parking lot and frolicked in the packing peanut snow. It got stuck in hair and clothing and all too soon it melted. As passerby wondered why we were out in the crazy weather acting like idiots, we both smiled in the knowledge that people who like to dance around in corn snow, who get seriously stoked about the presence of rabid wildlife in their living areas, and who try new things just for the fun of it, do find one another in the universe.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Fear and (Self-) Loathing

I've got to hand it to Aidan, she got me thinking. A lot. About fears and the things worse than fears. Like being afraid. I think being afraid is a lot worse than individual fears. Being afraid implies something I can't quite define, but I know I don't like. Being afraid seems an indicator of future behavior. I don't like those kinds of limitations.

But let me step back for a moment. I think I used to be a lot more afraid. I also feel pretty certain that I didn't seem like an afraid person, mostly because I knew even as a child that I didn't want to be perceived as afraid. So I expended a lot of energy to seem unafraid. Also there was pride. There has always been pride. Possibly sociopathic pride.

I am reminded of two incidents, and sorry to those of you who have heard either one. When I was 16, I went with zionist summer camp to Israel for six weeks (let it be known that Israel, unlike, say, France or Australia, is a two-weeks top trip - there just ain't that much of interest), several days of which were spent roughing it (I must stop to mention that when you are on a trip with the 16-year olds of the nation's Temple Beth Shaloms, roughing it is a kind of laughable description of what you do - kind of like when you go on safari on CBS's dime: you're certainly outdoors a lot, but it isn't a rough kind of outdoors; which is not to say it isn't fun) in the desert. By this I mean we walked around during the day and then slept outside at night. For all I know, our guides could have had us walking in circles. Our particular guide was straight out of central casting for "former-IDF-tough-as-nails-misogynist-with-survivalist-instincts" also "speaks in halting English." I disliked him immediately as caricatures rarely capture my interest. So we're walking around with Zvi, or Yoni, or whoever, and he's trying to harden us up, talking about survival and the desert and oh god who knows, when he picks up a live snail, peels its shell off, and pops it in his mouth. He turns to the charming male youth from the Cherry Hill JCC and utters the cinematographic line, "which of you is man to eat snail?" It turned out the answer was no one. He asked again, "which of you is man to eat snail?" To the boys. From Cherry Hill. With the retainers. My 16-year old misguided feminism stepped in at that point. "Me. I am man to eat snail." And eat it I did. Or swallow is more like it. Because pride was way more important at that moment than the fear of eating a live snail.

Fast-forward five or so years. Devoted partner and I are driving to Maine by way of Vermont and New Hampshire for a little summer getaway. We have a full-sized canoe tied to the roof of the hand-me-down 1988 Mercedes (this should have been a warning sign of trips to come, now that I think of it - we're still this kind of crazy). Devoted partner stops at a swimming hole he remembers from summers' past, the kind with a rope swing so you can fling yourself into the water. I was petrified of this. I don't have a fear of heights; it's the fear of not clearing the jagged and/or shallow parts of things that stops me in my tracks. I climbed the tree to get to the rope and froze. And climbed down. Sheepishly. I did not take the leap off the rope swing.

And I have regretted that nearly every day since.

How could I have been defeated by a stupid rope swing? How could I have thought that though every other jumper made it safely to the water, I would be the one to misjudge the exit and bash my head open on something? But I did. And it pissed me off to no end. When I think about it now I'm super pissed off.

So something changed. I'm not going to say it changed immediately after the rope swing failure, though the next day I did take a twenty or so foot jump off a cliff into Emerald Pool, scared as shit the entire time. I was more afraid of being the kind of person who was afraid of things than I was of the things I was afraid of. Scuba diving, in principle, scared the crap out of me, but I jumped into that water those first few times with my teeth gritted and my brow furrowed in defiance. Just try to scare me, scary things. It's not gonna happen. When the French made me eat snails, and the Portuguese clams, I might have complained a bit, but I ate them. Because I was too proud to do otherwise.

And I discovered that the person I thought I was didn't fully exist. She was an invention cobbled together from fear and preconception. And she wasn't as much fun as the person I actually am. I don't know how much it matters that the change was borne of not wanting to be seen a certain way, and who's to say that the current incarnation of me isn't just as fabricated as the old one, I only know that being not afraid of sweetbreads and sharks has made me less afraid of other things. I don't have to grit my teeth and will myself to courage as much. And I like that immensely.

I'll be the first to admit that the mantra of, "what's the worst that can happen?" does have massive backfire potential, but you generally know the instances in which the backfire is likely. So you eat something that you don't like - the worst that can happen is that it comes back up. A very temporary inconvenience. For me, living in fear of unknowns and prejudged knowns was a far harder pill to swallow.