Monday, November 13, 2017

Take my hand, take my whole life too

Ten years ago today I had a date lined up for tonight.

One decade, one wedding, two children, two moves, and too many funerals and memorial services ago, I had not yet met Nick.

So half a score ago, I got up alone and dressed for work in an outfit that was cute enough for a date, but still serious enough to have gone to work in.

Because, see, one evening in summer I'd changed into a sundress for a first date, and the guy said, "Did you go to work in THAT?"

Along these lines, I'd begun wearing my glasses on dates. Then a date asked if I'd worn them to deliberately look less attractive. Come to think of it, he was also the one who wanted to know what was wrong with me, being that I was apparently this pretty, funny, and smart.

What was not obviously wrong with me that I was still single?

What I'm saying is, I didn't get up that morning with the thought that I'd meet a man I might marry anytime soon or really ever.

In fact, I did go home to change after work, but mainly because it was one of those weird warmy-coldy DC November days, and my outfit was either too hot or too cold and I can't remember which.

And I did wear my glasses. Both of these things I remember, because changing meant I had to hurry, and because I was hurrying I was sweating. And because it was cold my glasses fogged up as soon as I walked into the bar at the Tabard and said hello to Nick.

He teased me about the glasses then and there. He didn't mention the sweating until we knew each other way better.

You've likely already read about this day at least once or maybe nine times. (Why isn't there a nince, like thrice? Have I written about this nince? I can't remember. But here's the first time and the second time.)

I was 38 and had been internet dating for about two and a half years at that point. I would say that I had no hope left, but that's not exactly true. I couldn't keep going on dates if I had no hope.

So I suppose it's more accurate to say that I had no positive expectations.

He could be someone who was funny on email and dry in person. Someone who didn't actually laugh at anything I said that I knew for damn sure was funny to me. Someone who grilled me on my resume, making the date more of a job interview. Someone who made sure I knew how important he was. Someone who was rude to the server.

There were many reasons, I had learned, that I might loathe whoever he turned out to be. I'm being melodramatic. I might not outright loathe him--that rarely happened--but the overwhelming odds were that I would never want to kiss him and that would be that.

I was tired of going on dates and wishing that instead, I were home doing laundry and watching Grey's Anatomy. I was tired of looking but afraid of not doing so.

I wanted to throat punch people who told me I was trying too hard, that they met their spouse when they weren't looking.

Mainly, I was so tired of balancing on that sharp and painful line between hopefulness and utter despair.

You give up hope and you're done for in this life. Or anyway, I would be. 

So I had to maintain a modicum of it, while still having no expectations. I didn't get excited for dates anymore, but I couldn't give in to dread, because then where would I be?

I should just sum this up by saying I was tired.

I was tired and five minutes late and it was warmy-coldy and I was rushing and sweating.

Nick was five minutes early and calmly sipping a beer by the time I hurried in and scanned the room.

He stood up and held out his big warm hand to introduce himself. I put my small cold hand in his. He smiled. He teased me about my glasses, but didn't compliment or denigrate them.

He didn't talk about his work or ask me about mine. We talked about travel, and books, and weird situations we'd gotten ourselves into and out of. He was warm and kind. He was funny, and he laughed at things I said that I knew for damn sure were funny.

Ten weeks later, when he asked me to marry him, we didn't actually know each other all that well. But he was absolutely certain, and I was confident enough to ride on his utter certainty.

This is who we are in life.

If we stop at a convenience store he chooses a beverage and doesn't give it a second thought. I stand in front of the frige and think, "Would I rather have lemonade? But tea has caffeine, and I'm kind of tired. But then I might have to pee. I should probably have water. But..."

And he's all, "Just pick a drink and let's go!"

Of course marriage is way bigger than picking a drink for the road. I wouldn't ever suggest that ten weeks is an amount of time that tells you everything you need to know about a person.

We all know that it could've gone very badly. I won't pretend that there haven't been some hard periods of time, and we all know I joke about stabbing my husband and that he never finds funny.

But as a human, he is good people. He's generous and smart and thougthtful. He is polite to everyone, and he makes sure our children are as well. He's kind. He laughs and he makes me laugh. He's a very decent, loving person and a terrific husband and father.

I didn't know any of these things when I headed into my last first date.

But I'm thankful every day that I did.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Mean girls, Kindergarten edition

Who's that girl?
This is something I haven't thought about for decades.

When I was in 2nd grade, I was part of a group of four friends.

The leader of our group was a Canadian girl named Kim, although I don't remember why. And every day she decided which of the four of us would be ignored.

It was typically the girl whose bus arrived last. I guess Kim's bus never arrived last.

At some point, it was my turn. They all ignored me every day, for a month. My three little girlfriends in my second grade class refused to speak to me for an entire month.

I cried every day.

We were in a tiny foreign community in newly-independent Bangladesh. Everyone knew each other. My mom spoke to her mom, who invited me over to play, in order to fix it. Kim refused to speak to me the entire time. I was stuck and it was brutal.

I don't remember the moment they started talking to me again, but at some point Kim decided they would, and they did.

Now I think, why the hell did Kim have that power over us? And I participated. Why did I participate?

I don't know. But she did. And I did.

So, yesterday, India's teacher Ms. M told me about an incident involving my daughter.

Incidentally, her teacher Ms. M is terrific. We had her last year, and she switched to teaching Kindergarten, and I'm so glad India's with her again. I feel like she really knows and gets my daughter.

So Ms. M gave me the details as she understood them and asked if I could get India to talk to me about what happened.

Apparently, during recess, India went in to use the bathroom. It's hard for the little kids to lock the stall doors, so often they don't. This was the case.

India was sitting on the toilet, and her stall door was open. Three girls from her class stood and watched her while she was using the toilet, even though she told them to leave her alone.

One of the teachers walked into the bathroom while this was going on, and put a stop to it.

India is very close to that teacher, and cried and cried to her. India was hugely upset. Afterwards, she  refused to talk about it.

My girl is bold and strong, and when she falls down, she typically gets up, brushes it off, and says she's fine.

But this isn't falling down. This is other kids being deliberately unkind. Staring and refusing to leave when you're not in the position to make them go away. When you're vulnerable.

One of them is a friend of hers, but the other two were names India has never mentioned.

Now, Ms. M explained that this is part of a larger climate of subtle bullying going on in her classroom. There are girls being mean to each other in sneaky ways. She said India isn't a target, and that the mean behavior isn't consistently directed at one person.

I asked if India is ever one of the mean girls, and Ms. M said she doesn't instigate but sometimes she will tag along at the tail end of the group.

I think about myself in 2nd grade. I think about Kim.

So, Ms. M has started assigning seats, deliberately separating girls who are tight. She's assigned them places in line, because they were clustering. The school counselor is going to come in and talk about kindness.

Ms. M said that kids don't hesitate to tell her if someone hits them. That's bad behavior; it's obvious. But she said that what's going on now is not necessarily obvious or clear-cut, and she thinks kids don't know whether they should tell or not.

She doesn't know if India would have said anything if the other teacher hadn't walked in.

She said she thinks it's due to the large number of girls with strong personalities in class this year. She's working to shift this mean girls dynamic that's begun.

I broached the topic while snuggling in bed with my little girl. She buried her head under the pillow and said, "Ms. M already told you about it. I don't want to talk about it."

I knew that my daughter would get her feelings hurt by her friends and classmates. That's inevitable. I knew that at some point there would be mean girls.

I guess I didn't think it would start in Kindergarten.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Reunion dinner outfit! Need help choosing!

I know that it doesn't actually matter what I wear to my reunion.

In fact, it rarely matters what I wear ever. I'm actually rather vain, although it's not always evident. Sometimes I leave the house for hours looking like I was dressed in the dark by a mean-spirited chimpanzee.

You should see what I wore to volunteer at school yesterday, which was culottes, because it very warm out, and then my new Sanita clogs which currently feel better with socks on. So.

My son was all, "Uh, do you like those pants?" He did not. I told them they'd look better without the black socks.

You wouldn't know it by some of the things I am willing to be seen in in public, but I love clothes. And shoes. And boots. It's no secret I have a boot problem.

So. With all that said, which outfit do you like for my reunion dinner? It's at a bar/restaurant on Franklin Street. The weather is going to be maybe 50s-ish. Or 75. Or down to 32. Because who actually knows anymore.

The suggested dress for dinner is something along the lines of jeans and a cute top. So I pulled out a couple sweaters I like and was thinking of black pants in lieu of blue jeans. I don't know. I really really don't know.

I  haven't yet put on an outfit that feels perfect. Maybe because I loathe the cold and none of these are sundresses. I don't know. Can I say that again? They all feel so dark and not cheerful and I don't knooooooow.

Option 1. Reddish sweater, black pleather pants, high wedges. Downside: they're actually jeggings and my sweater isn't that long. But I do kind of love them.
 Option 2. Same, except black jeans, and you can see the wedges. Jeans are comfy. Huge bonus is that I'm about 5'7" in these booties. Ha!
Option 3. Black jeans, black sweater, cowgirl boots. I could wear blue jeans instead of black. Can't decide how I feel about black jeans with the boots.
Option 4. Dress with cowgirl boots. Bonus: these boots kick ass. Also, I could wear a cool necklace. Downside, it may be cold cold cold. And my legs are kind of screamingly pale.
What I think it comes down to is: pants or dress; if pants, then pleather/jeans; all black or not; high wedges or cowgirl boots.

Or something completely different?

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Ha ha ha, hee hee hee I'm a laughing gnome and you can't catch me

I don't know if you've ever written an internet dating profile.

It's hard to describe yourself in a way that is sincere but not painfully so, and breezy but not contrived. Although maybe now they require less text. Does Tinder require any text?

Anyway, back in aught-five, when I had a flip phone and sody pop cost a nickle, I remember that it took me a long time to even put up a profile, because there were so many steps that required careful thought.

You had to pick a username (one that was not boring and not stupid). I chose Lemon Gloria, because I didn't have a better idea. If you're doing internet dating and have a blog that chronicles your dates, it is in fact plain stupid to use your blog name.

You also had to have a tagline (seriously?), and then write a couple paragraphs about yourself. It needed to be long enough to say something, but not too long because who wants to read paragraphs and paragraphs?

Anyway, I wrote it, and then I read a piece about phrases not to use. One was something about being equally comfortable in jeans or a black cocktail dress. Another was, "I love to laugh." I had to go and immediately delete that line from my profile.

Apparently, saying you love to laugh is stupid and trite, because everyone loves to laugh.

Now, I don't actually believe that everyone loves to laugh. Or maybe they love to, but don't actually do so very often. There are people who will remark that something is funny, but not actually laugh. (I am pretty sure this was on a Seinfeld episode.) There are other people who will smile politely and then you're just left amusing yourself.

When this happens I like to mutter "anal sphincter" and then move along.

Try this. You may be the only one laughing, but it works.

Although none of this happens to me that often anymore because: 1. I am not going on first dates with random people; 2. I'm not actually going on ANY dates with random people; 3. Nick thinks I'm funny. Usually.; and 4. My kids and my mom think I'm hilarious.

Oh! and 5! Maybe even most importantly! I don't work in an office anymore. So I don't have all those regular encounters with people outside my house.

Also: this is why I suck at outlines and figuring out the final points before you start the first ones and making all the things parallel.

So I'm just going to say it: I love to laugh. I do. And! I don't laugh all that often anymore.

Not in a mouth wide open, laugh till you're crying kind of way.

So, anyway, I recently heard a program on NPR on laughter yoga.

Laughter is good for us, both mentally and physically. It makes us feel good, and it actually helps with our health and well being.

And get this: your body does not differentiate between real and fake laughter.

That's the part I found the most interesting. In these laughter yoga classes, they have people fake laugh until hopefully they real laugh.

Since then, here's what I've been doing. I walk around the house fake laughing. I do this when nobody is around because frankly, it's weird.

Go ahead and try it. Ha ha ha ha ha! It feels weird, right?

But your body has no idea. So now I do this. And any opportunity I have to giggle--like if my kids say something emi-funny, I laugh. And then they laugh. And we laugh harder, till we're really laughing.

I'm on a mission.

So a couple weeks ago, I decided to solicit actual, make-you-laugh suggestions from friends. I saved the post so I could always refer back.

And because I love you, and want you to not have to walk around feeling weird about fake laughing, I'm sharing some, most of which I have not yet watched, because we are currently immersed in Stranger Things (which if you are not watching it, why not?).

Some funny suggestions:

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
My Drunk Kitchen
Eastbound and Down on HBO
Youtube video Can't Hug Every Cat (see above)
Tim Conway skits, especially the dentist one
The Office
Modern Family
Arrested Development (until the last season...which was definitely not as good)
Parks + Rec
Love Sick
The Good Place, Catastrophe, Atypical

Maybe you've seen some of these already. Maybe you have other suggestions. I'm all ears.

Also, I had to retitle because I totally forgot that I was going to use this lyric from David Bowie's weird little ditty "The Laughing Gnome." When I first listened to it in 7th grade I thought it was just kooky, but now I imagine this was during the period where he subsisted entirely on cocaine and milk. Seriously. He said that.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

And signs that might be omens say I'm going, I'm going I'm gone to Carolina in my mind

Have you gone to a high school or college reunion? Were you nervous?

I'm going to go ahead and say that this post is possibly me at my most vulnerable.

This past weekend, I overheard my friend Leigh saying that I am good at vulnerability. I don't know if this is the case, because it scares me to open myself up to criticism. But I do open myself up. The act of writing all of this down, recognizing the feelings, and releasing them into the universe somehow  lightens me.

So I do it.

Almost every other person I've ever met who went to Chapel Hill loved it, and waxes nostalgic. They go back for football games, root for the Tarheels, and post pictures of the Old Well. Their college years were among the best of their lives.

This is how I feel about high school.You've seen my Delhi high school reunions and my myriad of love letters to those friends.

I almost never talk about college.

In July, a friend sent me details about a Kappa Kappa Gamma reunion. I was a Kappa. Do you know this? Perhaps not. It doesn't really come up in conversation.

After we graduated from college, my boyfriend and I went back to visit once that fall. I can't remember why. Maybe a party at his fraternity house? I went once again looking at grad schools, and once after a dear friend's wedding in Raleigh.

That's it, in 26 years.

I don't talk about my college years because I don't think about them. In fact, I barely remember them. They're kind of a dark spot of time for me, with sparks of memories.

We moved to the US from India the summer before I started college. In September, my dad attempted suicide, though my mom didn't tell me until October.

This was back when we didn't talk about it, so I swore my roommate Lesley to secrecy, and I told her. I had to tell someone. I was already in crisis, so Dad didn't trigger it, but it wasn't, to say the least, helpful.

But this was also back when we all insisted we were fine. My parents had no idea why my brother was so angry. No explanation for why I cried so much.

I literally--and when I say literally, I do mean actually physically--spent hours a day sitting on the floor of my dorm room crying and eating chocolate covered peanuts. I gained 40 pounds that year, much of it by Christmas.

Lesley got really sick first semester and missed weeks of class. Years later she told me the only reason she came back was because she was so worried about me.

I knew I cried a lot, but I didn't understand that I was depressed. And nobody in my family recognized that I was depressed. Now I suppose this was because all the focus was on my dad. Who was, of course, fine.

If someone had handed me Prozac and told me to take one every day, I am absolutely certain those years would've been dramatically better.

But then, if you asked me, I'd say I was fine. This was how my family operated. We were always fine.

I did my best to blend. I kept gaining weight, so I kept having to buy new clothes. I bought Laura Ashley and bucks and rugby shirts. I cultivated a Southern accent that I later worked to get rid of. For years after, when I drank, the drawl would come out. I still slide into it very easily.

I would've gone home and never returned, but my parents were living in Virginia, so their house wasn't home. Because I spent so much time crying and not going to class, my grades were appalling. So I couldn't transfer anywhere comparable.

Anyway, I wouldn't have had the wherewithal to transfer. Most days, getting through the day was as much as I could manage.

This is not to say I didn't ever go out, and didn't have fun; I did. It's also not to say that I didn't make friends, because Lesley was one of my best friends, and one of my closest friends to this day, Ann, lived down the hall freshman year. We all laughed a lot together. Now I wonder if it was that verge of hysteria laughter. I genuinely don't know.

Anyway, I did have fun, and did have friends. I just spent a lot more time crying and pretending than actually being joyful.

Joining a sorority sophomore year, though, was terrific. Most of the friends I've made since college weren't in sororities, and raise an eyebrow when I say I was. And I say, "But it wasn't like you're thinking!" The Kappa House had the highest sorority GPA on campus. It was full of really smart, interesting women. Lots of campus leaders.

I chose Kappa after becoming friends with a couple amazing women freshman year. Fortunately, though I had a terrible GPA, and wasn't a campus leader, Kappa chose me as well.

Once I was on the sorority side of rush, I was astounded I'd made it.

My college experience improved dramatically once I joined. I wasn't quite so lost. I had a group that I belonged to, some wonderful friends, and a place to go that I felt comfortable. I went to mixers and events. I spent a lot of time at the house, and with my sorority sisters.

The summer after sophomore year, I lived with a high school friend's family in Rome. Her dad got us summer jobs at the embassy. In Italy, I finally felt like myself again. I worked it out to spend half of my junior year in Rome as well. I lost all the weight I'd gained. I loved Rome, loved my life there.

I returned to Carolina with just one year to get through, and lucked into living with dear friends in the sorority house. The first week of class I met a very cute, very southern guy who actually, shockingly,  wanted to be my boyfriend. Goal achieved.

By senior year, with the countdown to leave, I finally felt like I actually fit in. I remember, at graduation, being sad to leave.

This brings me to the Kappa reunion.

I got the information, and I was intrigued. What a great idea! How fun to see friends I haven't seen in decades! I should go!

I had some deep and very meaningful friendships, but lost touch with all my sorority sisters within a year of graduating.

But in the past several years, I've reconnected with a number of these friends over Facebook, and gotten to spend time with a few. My friend Eileen, creator of Super Sikh, among other things, came to visit when I was pregnant with Jordan. Being together after all those years fed my soul.

In fact, all of these reconnections have been wonderful. But a lot of those in-person reconnection friends aren't able to make the reunion.

So time passed, and I clicked on the invitation over and over. And every time I thought about it, I got anxious.

Two months went by. The organizers sent out a couple emails. I said I was going to go, but I didn't put money down. The deadline was approaching. One of the friends I saw in January said she and another friend had gotten a room and invited me to share.

Nick was all, "You should go. Just buy your ticket. Go."

I finally bought the ticket one night right before bedtime. I got in bed and he said, "Did you buy it?"

I said, "Yes. But I don't know if I can go."


"It makes me so nervous."

I didn't exactly know why. I had to think about it. Eventually I whispered, "Because...What if nobody actually liked me?"

I honest to god said this. Here I am, a grown woman, a mother, far, far from college years. And what popped out of my mouth, when I reached down into my feelings, was: what if nobody actually liked me?

I hate how lost and scared and trying-too-hard I was in college. I think about freshman year, and how inferior I felt to people who knew each other from high school, but didn't know where India was and weren't interested.

I didn't know about culture shock and being a third-culture kid. I just knew that I didn't want to be there and couldn't go home.

I'm embarrassed that in those years I just wanted to be skinny and pretty enough and have a boyfriend, and eventually a husband because that meant I was good enough. I didn't know that I was smart or could do great things, because nobody told me so.

I think about who I was, and how I really really didn't want to be that person, but didn't know how not to be.

I don't have a lot of memories from college, but I also avoid them because they're painful.

What it comes down to is this: I hated myself back then. So why would anyone else like me?

Sometimes Nick does the stereotypical male thing and tells me how to fix my problem, which makes me regret saying anything and also want to stab him. But other times he listens and he makes me feel heard and considered. Which is what he did in this case.

He said, "I've learned that people who go to reunions go because they want to see other people. They want to reconnect. Do you fear you'll be excluded?"

I said no, absolutely not. These were kind woman. Funny, smart, interesting, and extraordinary in such a variety of ways.

No, I don't have a fear of being excluded. I just...felt insecure.

And he said, "That's OK."

He talked about how, at both his high school and college reunions, he talked to people he hadn't really known before. About how nice it was to see everyone.

I realized that part of this is fear of returning to a place where I felt small and inferior. Where I felt very much on the outside, and thought everyone but me was on the inside.

I still feel like this in life sometimes, just not at much, and I recognize when it is happening.

I'm the same person, of course, but also so very different. And I haven't revisited those years.

As I've worked through it and named it, I'm still nervous, but mostly very excited. The list of attendees is amazing. 

Now it's only two weeks away.

I may solicit your opinions on outfits.

And there you have it.