Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Until I found myself actually weighing the relative merits of my wardrobe this morning, I hadn't thought that I would devote two posts to this evening, but now I realize I've devoted enough psychic space to it that I can lend thoughts to words.

Aidan is a former classmate from high school. But not really. I mean, yes, we went to the same school, but in different years and if I'm being honest, we knew each other, but mostly by, "hey, how ya doin'?" and not by coffee and cigarette breaks together during interval. But then I found her website and we started chatting occasionally by email. Aidan, for all intents and purposes, has a pretty optimum life. She is happily married. She has two children she seems to like. Her first novel comes out next month. She and her husband have purchased and are renovating a Manhattan apartment. She writes for a living. She's pretty. And slim. She goes nice places. Ordinarily this would mean that my deepest desire would be to bludgeon her with mallets of envy, but, to her credit, like the rest of us, she doesn't see her life as perfect yet. Though she might not worry about how she's going to put her kids through school, she does worry that she will totally hose up parenting - you know, like normal people. I look at her life and sigh that I'm an unmarried renter, variously ambivalent about kids, with no idea of what I want to be when I grow up, and with far more than 10 extra pounds lying about. From my patch of unmowed browning grass, her yard looks pretty good.

Which is why I'm doing something completely out of character tonight and it's her fault.

I'm going to an event she's hosting where the entertainment is in the form of a, for lack of a better word, life coach. Aidan is a master networker (or so it seems), and she has invited a group of women to listen to a successful woman entrepreneur talk about how we other women can have better lives. Or so I imagine. Now I can poo-poo all I want, but from what I've learned about Aidan, she's open to new things and, since her life seems way better than mine, perhaps I can fudge my logic for a moment or two and lend credence to the idea that one or two new things could contribute to my having a better life.

So before I go, I'll air my prejudices in the hopes that tomorrow's post holds some surprises. When I gave up on the idea of religion sometime in my teens, and despite a powerful course of brainwashing, I gave up on all groupthink. Man is an individual, I said, and must live or die by his individuality. Let us pass over, for a moment, that this kind of absolutism shares quite a bit with religion and groupthink. I decided that my destiny was my own and no formal course of thought would really change it - any change would be merely superficial and a result of my subordinating logic and reason to a more comfortable invented reality. How's that working out for me? It doesn't help that, for the most part, when I have encountered people who have participated in and benefited from secular improvement regimens, they talk funny. Of the truths I hold self-evident, elocution being a barometer for intelligence is certainly one of them, and a lot of improvement regimens use their own vocabulary which is frequently at odds with basic rules of grammar. This itches me from the start and I can barely hold back my ire at any group which would, just for the sake of commonality use nouns as verbs and such.

But here's the thing: most of these improvement groups aren't doing anything new. Whether AA or NLP, successful groups draw on memes inherent in our culture. They're not breaking new ground, merely translating tenets of philosophy, psychology, theology, and sociology into a regimen more easily accessible to all. So even if they use funny terminology, someone, like me, who actually knows the source material, can figure out what the goal is. Which is both a blessing and a curse. If you know someone, for the simplest example, is using reverse psychology on you, it's far easier to ignore it - you know the trick. Sure, it simultaneously prevents you from Kool Aid moments, but you're also able to tune out the message.

But then there's Aidan. Pretty, happy, not-poor Aidan. If there's a group I can belong to that gets me closer to that? Shit, I'd be a real idiot to not, at least, give it a shot. Now, granted, Aidan isn't a student of this speaker, she just learned about her, found her interesting, and organized an audience for her. But there will be other people there. Other women. As someone who, were a traditional wedding in the offing, seriously consider hiring bridesmaids to make up the glaring deficit, I could stand to meet some more people. Some more women. As I have learned, to my detriment, I won't really be making new men friends from here on in. They'll be the husbands of my friends. Or the friends of my "husband." Thirtysomething women don't really get to make new men friends. And I'm assuming that some of the women I meet tonight, by their life examples, could also teach me a thing or two.

Finally, there's an air of nostalgia about this that appeals to me. I am not the same person I was when I graduated high school. I am both less crazy and also less optimistic. The former clearly a plus; the latter an unspeakable minus. I'd like to get some optimism back and I'm prepared to make some ego sacrifices to do it (devoted partner claims I have nearly insurmountable ego walls). I'll have more to report tomorrow.


  1. Interesting. I hope it works out well. Definitely let us know how it goes. I've got all the same resisting reflexes you do, but I know where you're coming from (literally and figuratively).

    The non-groupthink method always seems like the smarter way to go, but then, having direction does have its selling points... I always thought all this would make sense by now.

    Possibly related - do you find the move has changed your social life? I always think of the burbs as so isolating, but that could be my urban bias.

  2. Stop moaning about trying new things that might be lame. Green and eggs sure _seem_ lame. You know, before tasting them. But then, it is true that most things that seem lame are indeed so in cold hard fact. Will you tell us how it goes?

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  4. I will definitely be writing a post-game. And yes, Clay, I too thought all would be settled by now. Sighs. However, Jon, you too are correct in that once upon a time I would never have ordered sweetbreads - somehow though it feels different.