Sunday, September 30, 2007

Can you change your type?

A recent date asked me this question. We were talking about relationships, type, how you get drawn to the same personalities in different packages over and over.

This began because we were talking about people who are really, really driven. And I said in my experience with really successful men, all of them are driven either by anger or fear. Predominantly anger.

He didn't necessarily agree. What, he wanted to know, was I talking about?

I used, as an example, the Dementor, who I'd recently seen. And when we were together, I told him that he was the most anger-driven person I know. He said, "What else is going to get you up at 5 am and keep you working till 11 pm?"

And so this date asked, "Do you think you can change your type?"

My answer was, "I don't know, but I hope so."

I've given it some genuine and intense thought, and vacillate between no, you can't, you absolutely can't, and sure, as you learn and grow, of course you can.

I'd like to think that the answer is yes. That as I figure myself out more, and understand the reasons behind the choices I make, I can make better ones. My dad, my brother, and the Dementor are probably the angriest men I've ever been close to. My brother has no idea the extent of his anger. I'm certain he doesn't admit the depth and breadth of it even to himself.

Yeah, I know. Shocking to choose men like your father and your brother. How banal to be such a cliche.

And so I think, now that I understand why I've chosen some of these people, I can choose different ones. The answer is yes.

But I'm afraid the answer is no. The ones who get me really intensely, who pull me in and make me care - they're invariably the difficult upbringing, angry ones. It's not that they're angry for no reason, and in some ways - winning in sports, winning in their careers, for example - the anger is really useful. But it's so malignant.

Now that I know what to look for, I spot it more quickly. And now I get the "why" of some of the guy who grab my interest. Some of them are really good at keeping it buried, and so I might already like them before I figure it out. Which is why, when I like someone, I begin to look for it.

Incredibly smart, intense, angry men? There are a lot of them. And they're often so compelling.

Which would mean the answer is no.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Self amusement through the 80s

Now I'm on a huge 80s music nostalgia trip.

I'm not sure if some of these were popular here or not, and I am not prone to making lists. But I somehow felt like sitting down and listing songs from the Delhi disco period of my life. I actually own some of these. Others I came across and remembered that I used to love while winding down the 80s road on iTunes.

This isn't comprehensive, in any particular order, or anything. And some of it might even pain you.

Forever Young - Alphaville
Time After Time - Cyndi Lauper
Rio - Duran Duran
Hungry Like the Wolf - Duran Duran
Last Night a DJ Saved My Life - Attraction
All Night Long - Lionel Richie
Goodbye Girl - Squeeze
Ain't Nothin' Goin' on but the Rent - Gwen Guthrie
Venus - Bananarama
Tainted Love - Soft Cell
Here Comes the Rain Again - Eurythmics
Total Eclipse of the Heart - Bonnie Tyler
Broken Wings - Mister Mister
True - Spandau Ballet
The Power of Love - Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go - Wham!
Something About You - Level 42
Obsession - Animotion
Lady in Red - Chris de Burgh
19 - Paul Hardcastle
Wouldn't It Be Good - Nik Kershaw
Hold Me Now - Thompson Twins
No One is to Blame - Howard Jones
Caribbean Queen - Billy Ocean
Relax - Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Don't You Want Me - Human League
Need You Tonight - INXS
Whisper to a Scream - Icycle Works
Two of Hearts - Stacy Q
Rhythm of the Night - DeBarge
Safety Dance - Men Without Hats

I know there are many I'm forgetting. Since Kristin dated the DJ at the Gunghroo for a while, we had an excellent mixed tape of many of the gems listed above. Which we played over and over and over. I wish I still had it, although I have nothing to play it on at this point.

We did a cheerleading routine (yes, I was a cheerleader - but only for a year, and it was India, so I feel like that mitigates the ridiculousness of it) to a Human League song, and I think it was Seconds - it was definitely off the Dare album, but it bugs me that I can't remember which song it was at this point.

Last Night a DJ Saved My Life is a song I found on iTunes. That they played every night at the Number One disco. A phone rings during the song, and it's the ring of one of those old, dial telephones. Which we had one of, for the entire house, in Delhi.

The phone was very heavy black plastic. It sat in our front all. And sometimes worked, sometimes not. Sometimes you could hear the men who (we were pretty sure) tapped our line having a conversation. You could politely tell them that you wanted to make a call, and they'd stop talking.

Once Betty got so frustrated with lack of phone connection that she picked up the phone and bashed it against the wall. And it broke apart.

She went to the neighbors to call the phone company to say her phone wasn't working.

When the repairman came to fix it, he saw it shattered. "Madam," he said, holding distinct chunks of the phone in each hand, "I see your problem."

He was entirely unfazed. Perhaps he saw this level of phone frustration all the time.

Digging into your music past, even if it's embarrassing, is so much fun. Some of these songs, like All Night Long, make me wistful. That was the song played at the end of the night, and everyone would get in a big group slow dance circle and sway. How many times in your life are you that intensely close to a large number of people? I don't mean just physically. I loved the sense of community, the closeness.

If you believe that music tells you a lot about a person, that's who I was in high school. Or maybe who I still am.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The rest of the date

This is a continuation of this post.

We went out for dinner to a place he chose. A perfectly nice restaurant, but neither amazing nor overly spendy. This becomes an issue in post-date interaction, in case you're wondering why it merits mention now.

As soon as we'd settled into dinner, the questions began. Initially, when someone asks you a bunch of questions, you feel flattered, no? Who doesn't like to talk about themselves? Wow - he must be really interested! He wants to know all about me!

Here's the thing about me - if you ask me a point-blank question, I'm likely to answer. And so I very candidly answered a variety of questions. You really want to know something and you ask, I'll tell you.

But then, at some point, I started feeling like I was being interviewed. And the questions got too intense.

Unfortunately, my verbal Akido skills are rusty. I haven't been put so completely on the defensive in a conversation in a long, long time.

And so I started asking questions back. And it became clearer and clearer that any questions I asked were being deflected. He was, in fact, quite defensive. He didn't want to answer questions. Just to ask them.

And then the compliments/why aren't you married? piece of the evening began.

I can't remember if he asked if I was wearing my glasses on the date because I was deliberately trying to look less pretty than I am before or after the rest of what I'm about to describe. It all lumps together for me in one big blur of assholiness.

Anyway. Then there was a period of you're strikingly beautiful. And clearly really bright and hilarious. This, as you know, was only leading up to. . .

"So, why aren't you married? I'm going to assume that you've had opportunities?"

How do you answer that? I've laid it out before and a number of you offered possible responses.

But what I said was, "Really, what you want to ask is, what's wrong with me? I mean, that you can't see on the outside? Right?"

In fact, that was what he exactly wanted to know. So awesome that I'd been so blunt about it!

I couldn't wait for the date to end. And it was one of those dates where the person wants to lock you into the next date before you've said goodbye. I just wanted to get to the corner, say goodbye, go home, close the door, and breathe.

I've given this a lot of thought. Initially I was furious. It took a while - because it took a couple days past the two-day post-date aftermath - for me to stop being angry and really think about it.

And what I think, particularly considering his actions afterwards, is that this is all about him. He's unhappy with where he is in life. He's angry, afraid of being alone, afraid of being considered undesirable. His "what's wrong with you?" is really a "what's wrong with me?" question.

This is sad. And it's also the reason I hated teaching little kids. Kids will come into the classroom and dump everything that's going on in their home lives on you. But of course they can't articulate it.

You won't have a 7-year old say, "I'm misbehaving and a complete pain in your ass and totally attention needy because I'm neglected at home." Or, "We have 11 people living in two rooms and I don't have my own bed and am perpetually tired and hey, that's why I kicked her and took her notebook."

That stuff you learn slowly, through stories. They made me so sad. And classroom management was so hard for me. I didn't get any intellectual stimulation from them, and got a whole lot of emotional challenges. The whole thing exhausted me. I just don't have the right personality to teach children.

But now I'm beginning to think that we all do it, everywhere, to varying degrees. In the office, on dates, in interactions with the cashier at the supermarket. The amount to which you affect people negatively with your own baggage is going to depend on level of self-awareness, how much you've dealt with your issues, and how secure and happy you are with yourself in that particular time and space.

This is not where I thought I was going to go with this. And now post-date stuff doesn't really fit here. But I think my assessment is correct.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Maybe I’ll play it for you, Sam

I never claim to have good taste in music. I get teased about it regularly.

As I’ve said many times, I grew up overseas with a father who listened exclusively to opera and show tunes. I wasn’t raised with any musical awareness or appreciation.

What I love love love are 80s tunes. Some of it is liking the music, but most of it is nostalgia. I loved high school, loved Delhi, and some of those songs, cheesy as it may sound, are like a childhood blanket. A reminder of safety and fun and amazing friends and having no responsibilities past getting good grades.

What I am leading up to is this. I got the most hilarious, fantastic present from Kelli last week. She’d said she wanted to send me something. It was something I wanted, something that made her laugh, and I couldn’t imagine what it might be.

It was a CD. With several versions of a song called Superstar by Lydia Murdock. Never heard of her? Me either. But once I put it in and started listening, I had to jump up and down and clap my hands.

By the time she got to the chorus I was dancing and singing along.

I haven’t written much about high school in India. We had this very weird social life, in that there was no drinking age, and if you were Western, you could go into any of the bars or discos in the big hotels and nobody batted an eye. Even if you were 14 years old. And looked, oh, 12, at the oldest.

And so, when I was 14, even though I wasn’t allowed to go out and do anything, I started going to the Number One disco at the Taj hotel. The following year everyone started going to the Gunghroo, which we called the Gung. This was where we were at least one night every weekend of my high school life.

Mom and Dad, this is going to make you apoplectic, I know. Since I wasn’t allowed to do anything, I mostly spent the night at the houses of friends with more lenient parents. Or we snuck out.

I drank more in high school than I ever have in my life. We’d get very dressed up – mini skirts, heels, makeup, probably even off the shoulder shirts and a lace glove or two, as it was the 80s, after all. And we’d go out. And grown-up men would buy us drinks.

But the weirdness of the social life is a different story entirely. This is about the music.

So Delhi in the 80s wasn’t exactly on top of the international music scene. We didn’t hear a lot of American music, or what we got was a year or two behind. We heard a lot of Britpop, but even that wasn’t immediate.

Because remember, we still used cassette tapes and sent things through the Post Office and things like that in the 80s.

So we would go to these discos and drink gin and tonics (except that I drank gin and soda – fewer calories, of course) and dance our little teenage asses off. To 80s pop.

Michael Jackson was internationally huge, and Thriller is still one of my all-time favorite albums. I think they probably played every song on the album every weekend. And so we regularly danced to Billy Jean.

And then this response song came out. “I’m Billy Jean and I’m mad as Hell. I’m a woman with a story to tell. Superstar, you know just who you are.” She tells the story from Billy Jean’s perspective. She raps. It was an all around delight.

This, of course, is a song that nobody else that I know has ever, ever heard. If you weren't at the discos in Delhi in the mid-80s, apparently it didn't exist.

I decided at some point I’d made it up. Until Kelli and I were talking about high school when I visited her in Chicago. We were talking about the Gung, about our social lives and how grown up we thought we were. And I asked her if she remembered this one weird song.

“Do you remember an ‘I’m Billy Jean and I’m mad as Hell’ song?”

She absolutely did. And she’d never heard it since. And nobody else had ever heard it, ever.

So after I left, she Googled those precise lyrics, ordered the CD, and sent it to me. It’s not like it’s a quality song. It’s not deep or meaningful. But it is a reminder of experiences (admittedly not deep or meaningful either, except in a teenage angst and Best Friends Forever kind of way) and friends and a particular time in my life that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

And, also? Proof that I didn’t randomly make it all up.

“And I know you might be a big superstar
And the whole wide world knows who you are
But the next time we meet
If you don't want a scene
Tip your hat with respect
'Cause I am Billie Jean”


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The kind of day where even M&Ms wouldn't do the trick

Do you ever have days where you just wake up irritable? And you stomp all the way to work? And glare at just about everyone who crosses your path, even the people you really like? Just because they're, I don't know, breathing near you or something?

And I'm not only annoyed for no reason, I'm confused. I can't make up my mind on things. I'm fuzzy. I'm indecisive. I wrote a post, posted it, read it, modified it, read it, and then got annoyed with myself and deleted it. A lot of effort for nothing.

It's the kind of day where I might say mean things just to say them. Which makes me not want to interact with anyone.

That's how my entire effing day has been. And it's not improving even though I've been trying.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Maybe it's time?

Today I'm thinking that maybe I should move to Chicago. Actually, not just today. I've been thinking about it a lot recently.

Maybe it's time to be in a new place. I've been in DC for quite a while.

I grew up moving every two to four years. And when I hit the four year point here, I got all twitchy. Time to go! And then I realized I was happy in DC and couldn't really think of anywhere else in the US I'd rather live.

I used to uproot myself just out of habit. Or I'd get bored or discontented, and I'd move as an attempt to fix something I didn't like. And at some point I realized it was me I didn't like, not the particular place. It was me I had to work on; changing the place had nothing to do with it.

This time it's different. It's not "I don't like this" but "maybe I'd like that better" - and maybe I would. I don't know.

I'm going to poke around for jobs - I'd like to find a writing job, or a job with a huge writing component, which is not what I currently have. I'm going to visit in the dead of winter. Because the truth is, I might just not be strong enough to survive the cold. And I categorically hate winter.

It might be a today whim. Or it might be what I'd really like to do.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Tow-heads, wild hares, and a trip down the toepath

I discovered this weekend that the town of Princeton has an inordinate number of tow-headed children.

Seriously, I don't think I've seen that many white-haired kids in one place since I was in Germany last.

One of my friends remarked on all the tow-heads, which led to a conversation about the spelling (toe or tow?) and the origin. I looked it up, and Urban Dictionary defines it as: "...literally "flaxen haired". This meaning of tow comes from Middle Low German touw (which means "flax, hemp fiber")."

On a side bar: My ayah, or nanny, used to tell me repeatedly when I was a kid in Bangladesh that I had hair just like jute, which is a pale fiber. This made me cry, because I wanted black hair, just like everyone else.

Who wants hair like jute?

Anyway, this tow-toe spelling conversation led me to say that even though I now know that the towpath is spelled "tow" in my mind I picture the word "toe."

This is because when I hear a new word I spell it to myself. Right or wrong. I might look it up, or ask, or never bother and keep spelling it wrong. But usually I like knowing how things are spelled.

So before I knew the origin, I spelled it toe. To myself. Turns out it's called a towpath because the path used to be used by mules who would tow the barges on the canal. Towpath. Path for towing. I get it.

But whenever anyone says they went running on the towpath, I still think toepath. And I still get this vision of an enormous naked toe traipsing along beside the river.

Like, you know how the finger of God is reaching towards Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? A lot of times you see a picture of just the hand and the finger as a detail, rather than being given a picture of the whole ceiling. But you get the reference. You know the limp hand is attached to Adam, and the hand with the pointing finger belongs to God. It's an easily recognizable image.

So the toe on the toepath is kind of like that in my mind. It's a sunny day and there's this enormous, disembodied toe of God traversing the toe path.

Right. Moving along.

Next up: the homonyms "hair" and "hare" - which I really only confuse in one context.

A few years ago my brother called me up. He said, "Lis, I just got this wild hair up my ass to play the guitar."

Wild hair. Right? Except that what I heard in my word-to-image mind? Was wild hare.

Yes, I know this makes no sense, although don't you think it only makes marginally less sense than a wild hair? Up one's ass?

So I started to laugh. The vision in my mind, "a wild hare up my ass to play the guitar" was just so fabulous. My brother suddenly wants to play the guitar. And this wild rabbit, out of the blue, is furious. And wanting to get the hell out of his ass.

Not many fleeting, random thoughts are funnier than the idea of my brother, or anyone, really, with an angry feral bunny sticking out of his butt.

I've tried to determine the origin of the expression "wild hair" but haven't been able to. Admittedly I haven't spent 54 hours on it, but I have done some Googling. It was suggested to me that it originated with horses, who, if they get a wild hair from their tail stuck in their ass, will take off like a bat out of Hell.

And the "bat out of Hell" business? Why a bat? And then does that somehow connect to "batshit crazy" - one of my favorite expressions?

So many things I don't know.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Me, a long long way to run

Yesterday at the office a colleague complimented my jacket. Which, if I may say so myself, is incredibly cute. It's very 60s, white with a huge, floppy collar. I got it last year at a trendy boutique in Buenos Aires.

I've recently decided the hell with convention; I'm going to wear white as often as I want to after Labor day.

Anyway, she said, "As I recall from last year, you love jackets and coats, don't you?"

I agreed that though I hate winter, a love winter clothing. "I do! I love coats and jackets and hats and boots and scarves. . ."

Something about the way I was chanting this made my boss say, "And brown paper packages and warm woolen mittens."

To which I responded, "Absolutely! And I love raindrops on kittens!"

Wait, what?

Anyway, I wish you all a great weekend! I'm heading up to the state of nice lawns!

Oh, and PS - This only relates because it is about NJ and it is random. Which means maybe it doesn't really relate. But I thougth it was interesting. Did any of you hear that thing on NPR recently about Cowtown? Apparently there really is a place in NJ called Cowtown and they have an actual rodeo!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A very DC date

I had what I think is probably a very DC date recently. Except not with a lawyer, shockingly enough. Because I am trying to branch out.

I did have a temporary injunction against dating lawyers a year ago, but then I realized that meant I'd have pretty much no dates, so it was short lived. But still. I'm trying to broaden my horizens.

This one was with a journalist. One whose name was not familiar to me, but that a few of my friends knew. Someone accomplished. Someone easily Googleable.

Very, very resume-ly impressive. And attractive, fit, and smart. Could've been amazing. But the truth is? He wound up making me angry. And prompted this post. If there's a part two, I'll go further into it.

We'd arranged to meet for drinks downtown after work. I was excited to hear war stories. Like, literal war stories! I figured it would be really interesting.

He called me the afternoon of the date to confirm that we were still on, and if I still wanted to meet at the same time and place. Because, he said, he had a "thing" on CNN that night, so he was double-checking, because he was going to have the car pick him up there.

Huh. As in oh, wow! I mean, I figured he mentioned it because it's impressive, and that's a little irritating. But still, who gets whisked off to a thing at CNN?

I'm punctual, but he was already at the bar when I arrived. So after we'd been talking a while, and had ordered a second glass of wine, he asked if I'd like to have dinner that night. And since we'd been having an actual conversation (which contrasted starkly with the endless interview over dinner) and fun chitchat, it seemed like a natural invitation.

If so, he continued, would I like to go along to CNN? The interview wouldn't take long, and then we could have the car drop us at a restaurant.

Now, I am all about random experiences. And this sounded cool! Holy cow!

It briefly crossed my mind to wonder if I'd seem like a floozy traipsing in behind him. But then I reminded myself that I was wearing a fairly conservative dress and tasteful shoes. And my chunky glasses. So worst case scenario, I might seem like a tarty librarian along for the ride or something.

Of course, I didn't want to seem all holy cow! TeeVee! so I nonchalantly said sure, that sounded like a fun adventure.

But then I pictured sitting there endlessly, with nothing to do. And it will not surprise you to hear that I often have a New Yorker in my bag, but that evening I didn't. So I asked, "Are they going to give me some reading material? I don't have any along."

"Reading material? What are you talking about?"

"You know, while I wait through your interview. I don't want to just sit there; I want to have something to do. So you think they'll have something to read?"

"I won't be on air more than five minutes. Literally. And at this point we're going to get there too late for makeup, so I'm just going to walk into the studio. And then we'll leave immediately and have dinner."

"Oh, OK."

"And anyway, you could do something like, oh, watch me on TV while I'm on it!"

Well, huh. Makes sense they'd have one in the waiting room. Being a television station and all.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sometimes you sit next to the crazy person; sometimes you are the crazy person.

I think you'd all agree that there's nothing pleasant about air travel anymore.

It's all annoying. And on top of security lines and the three-ounces of liquid restriction bullshit and the delays and the tiny seats, you're squished in with strangers. You've always been squished in with strangers; you're just more squished now. And you're probably already irritated by the time you get on the plane.

So your stranger tolerance is very low. Or at any rate, mine is.

I left, or anyway tried to leave, Friday afternoon for Chicago. I got to National an hour ahead of my flight. I'd checked in online, and only had a carry-on. I had plenty of time. Only to find it delayed one hour. Then two.

And then we boarded and sat on the bloody runway for an hour and a quarter.

I was in a window seat - stuck! hate being stuck! - next to a blonde, pink, slightly chubby, way too eager guy. He kept making little noises so I'd turn to start a conversation. Which, after two hours of sitting at the airport, I was having none of.

For example, when they announced we'd sit on the runway for 25 minutes, he said, "Oh, no!"

And I growled, "Goddammit!"

And then they announced it would be almost another hour. And he said something like, "Well, could be worse!"

Just as I said, "Fuckers." Nice, I know. In fact, I dropped a lot of the F-word. As I am wont to do.

But honestly, after two hours in the airport, and facing at least an hour on the runway, why on earth am I going to want to start conversing with eager guy? Because I know how it goes - I'm stuck for the next couple hours. I've stupidly done that before.

I almost asked him why, why on earth, why would you want to make conversation with the angry, profane stranger next to you anyway?

But I chose to ignore him instead. A couple times I opened my eyes to him peering over at me. Kind of like, if you've ever had a dog, and they really want to play, they just kind of wait, quietly but wiggling, hopeful, if you know what I mean. Ugh! Stop! No!

When I got to Chicago I was wandering around trying to find Arrivals, as Kelli had said she'd pick me up on that level. And my seat mate saw me wandering around, face upwards, trying to figure out which signs were which. And pointed me in the right direction.

Which was very nice of him. And I felt unkind, having been so avoidant on the plane. Except that I'd avoid him all over again in the same scenario.

And then on the plane back, I was in an aisle seat, and we left on time, and all was good. My seat mate kept himself well occupied. Neither of us tried to talk to the other.

But every once in a while, I'd think about something funny from the weekend, like the TEETH CLENCH, and catch myself giggling uncontrollably. Hee hee hee hee!

A couple times I laughed loud enough that he glanced over.

And by this point, I know that you just can't do anything about it. You certainly can't start a conversation trying to explain why you are laughing in your head.

I mean really, what would I say? "So, hi! My name's Lisa. And I visited these friends this weekend, and we were out, and, oh, never mind..."

And so I'd put on a straight face as fast as possible and then either close my eyes and try to doze or focus on my magazine. Which worked until the next time a giggle snuck out of nowhere.

I'm certain he thought he was sitting next to a nutjob.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wouldn't you agree?

When I fret about being single, someone should remind me that sometimes I am so ridiculous that there is no earthly reason why the guy would ask me out again. I truly have no idea sometimes.

Because at the start of a recent date, the guy said he had been looking forward to our date, and then asked if I had been.

And I said, very truthfully but before weighing a gentler response, “Oh, I never look forward to early dates, until I have some idea of which way things might go. Too risky."

He delved a little further, only to have me explain that the people that I connect to quickly and intensely are invariably damaged, like, childhood damaged, and ultimately unhealthy to be in a relationship with. And so generally I approach dates with a fairly casual attitude, because either I’m going to be bored, or I’m going to be really engaged but wonder what’s wrong with you.

He then said that he had a totally normal upbringing, and so odds are I won’t like him.

I replied, “But you’re fairly intense. You could still have something lurking in your past.” Which I firmly believe.

He defended his normalcy and I didn’t try to put any crazy on him. But you just never know.

We then chatted a bit about men that I’ve historically been head over heels over. And the fact that they tend to be incredibly successful, catch-your-breath intelligent. . .and massively anger-driven. Anger is what gets them up at 5 am and keeps them working till 11 pm. Over and over, these are the men I date.

“Are your female friends like this?”

“Oh, god no! I pick women I really like!”


So you can imagine when he asked me if I’d like a second glass of wine and I said that the danger was that I would lose my filter, he was really curious as to what might come out.

The conversation we ended up in, or rather, one conversation we ended up in, is how I am different from most women on dates. This was because I said “That doesn’t mean I’m not trying to impress you. Of course I’m trying to impress you.”

And he said, “Actually, and I don’t mean this rudely, but I’d say you’re not trying to impress me at all.”

“What do you mean? I’m wearing a cute dress. These boots are really cool. I put on makeup for you!”

Looks aside, he said, I wasn’t doing any of the things women typically do on dates when they’re trying to impress the guy.

Such as?

“Such as being agreeable. Women,” he said, “tend to be very agreeable on dates. They keep things light. They nod, agree, say how interesting whatever I’ve said is. You, however, are not at all like that.”

Oh. Right. Except that I’ve been interested in what he’s said. Wasn’t that apparent?

“You’re very intense, and you’re very present. You’re clearly listening and engaged, and you give thoughtful responses. But if you don’t agree, you narrow your eyes and say, ‘Hmm. I’ll have to think about that.’ Or you disagree.”

Well, yeah, that’s true. Why the hell would you agree with stuff just to agree?

“And most women will take something I’ve said and then demonstrate their own interest in it. Like saying, ‘Oh, sailing! I’ve always wanted to try that!’ Whereas you’ve said nothing of the sort. And in fact, don’t hesitate to tease me about things.”

Oh. Well, that’s true too.

“And you’re not going out of your way to tell me about something really important that you’ve done.”

“I can’t think of anything important that I’ve done. I wonder if I’ve ever done anything important?”

“See? Exactly. You’re not trying to impress me. You might even be making fun of me. As far as I can tell, you’re just being totally yourself.”

Well, yeah again. Nobody ever told me I was supposed to be all agreeable and important and stuff.

I ran all of this by Bob, who totally agreed with everything the guy said. And assured me he wasn’t just trying to be agreeable. He said women on dates tend to keep things light, and definitely agree with the guy.

Is this universally true? It's hard to imagine.

Bob also said that this guy seemed to have very reasonable responses to the crazier things I put out there. Which, according to him, is a hopeful sign.

I had to agree.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Disco 69

This post isn't remotely racy, despite the title.

Several friends have gone to Greece on their respective honeymoons recently, and so of course I had to ask if they went to Ios. I didn't say, "Ios, home of Disco 69" when I asked. But I would've mentioned the place if anyone had gone there. Alas, they had not.

The summer after my junior year of high school, we went to Greece for two weeks. My family rented a tiny sailboat, and hired the boat's captain, and sailed around some Greek islands. I got to bring a friend. There was just precisely enough room on this boat for the six of us.

And for some reason, on this particular vacation, my dad lifted his really strict social life restrictions. "Go out! Have fun!" We had no curfew.

And so at some point on our Greek island tour, we wound up on Ios, which has wild bars. And here we were, two 16-year old girls, who looked 14, out at the bars. Drinking, dancing, having a great time.

Because we were used to going to the fancy hotel bars and discos in Delhi, this wasn't weird to us. We didn't drink till we passed out. We weren't all intimidated by all the grown-ups. We were used to having adult men in bars buy us drinks. That was just the way our world worked.

What was not part of our world, however, was sex.

And so, when we got to Disco 69, we thought nothing of the name of the bar. You'd think that normal people would've looked at the logo - a silhouette of a man and a woman, you know, together - and gotten it. Yeah. Not us.

And so, late in the evening, when Carolyn said, "Let's buy T-shirts!" I thought it was a great idea! Whee! We're having so much fun! Let's get a memento!

So we traipsed back to the boat at 4 am, Disco 69 T-shirts in hand. And, since the boat was small, we woke everyone up as we toddled onto it.

They weren't upset about the late hour, or our condition, until one of us, and I don't remember which, said, "Look what we got!"

And we held up the shirts. With Disco 69. And the people.

Carolyn said, "We're going to wear them on the airplane!"

We were in sooo much trouble.

I refused, on principle, to relinquish the T-shirt, although I never, ever wore it out in public. I slept in it, just to be belligerent. It's mine, and you can't stop me from wearing it, was my take on it.

And so it stayed in my possession until somehow, some years later, getting lost in a mysterious flood in the laundry room.

I am embarrassed to say that t took me years, I mean years to realize why my parents were so upset.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

If they're on the front of your body, they're yours

You might wonder, once you get a bit further into this post, if I'm going to keep writing about last weekend in Chicago until you want to spoon your eyes out. And the answer is possibly.

Although this post is really about Kelli's breasts, and location doesn't have anything to do with it. They just happen to be in Chicago.

When I re-met Kelli a couple years ago, after a zillion years between 10th grade and our reunion, she had much larger breasts than I remembered. I asked my brother if he remembered them from Delhi. He is good at telling, as he has not only seen many breasts up close, but also spent years in San Diego, where, if you walk down the beach, you see many, many breasts standing straight in the air, as if they'd been scooped on to bodies with an enormous ice cream scooper.

He took a good look at her and said, "You know, it's an excellent job, but no, she paid some good money for those."

It got late, rounds and rounds of drinks had been consumed, and she and another woman at the reunion, who we hadn't known before, started talking about their boob jobs. I was involved but of course had nothing to add to the conversation.

And so we spent some time talking about their respective breasts. And finally I asked Kelli if she'd mind if I felt them. Because, I said very honestly, I have no friends with large breasts. And I have always been really curious what they were like.

She said sure, go ahead, no problem.

What surprised me was that they were heavy. I wasn't interested in feeling her up - I was mostly wondering what they'd be like weight wise.

So there I was, holding her breasts from underneath, talking about the surprising weight of them, when the other woman, who had brand new ones, said, "Don't you want to feel mine?" So of course I went ahead and felt hers, mainly to be polite, even though my curiosity had already been assuaged.

The guys then all wanted to do the same, but of course for very different reasons, and the answer on both parts was a resounding no. Except, I think, one old friend, who cited "clinical curiosity" or something of the sort.

All this to say, I knew already that Kel was pretty casual about her breasts. But what I didn't realize was why.

Now back to last weekend in Chicago. This guy that we had been talking to for quite a while on Saturday patted one of her breasts. He did this a couple times. Not in a lascivious way. In the way you might briefly pat someone's shoulder, or put your hand momentarily on their arm for emphasis.

It really didn't come across as sexual. And he and Kel were not interested in each other. They were just talking about really intimate topics. So in the scheme of things, I suppose it was sort of in context, and not actually a huge thing. But it shocked me.

And so I blurted out, "Why are you touching my friend's boob?"

She replied, "Oh, no worries, honey. You know, they're fake. So they're not really mine."

My contention is, they're on the front of you, they're your boobs, fake or real. They're part of your body. We brought this up with Christy. She agreed.

Kelli said, "But since they're not real, I don't think of them as mine. I look at them as more like a detached garage. It's on the property but not actually part of my house."

Christy replied, "But it's still your detached garage! You wouldn't say you park your car in a garage on your property. You park in your garage. And those, those are your boobs!"

Saturday, September 15, 2007

One strong drink of coffee

This is a very prosaic topic, but I've started buying Illy coffee for my espresso maker, and I love it love it love it.

Maude's husband Dan kept making me lovely cups of cappuccino while I was visiting them. And it was just so delicious. He's got the foaming of the milk down perfectly, too. Anyway, before I left I peered at the coffee cannister and it was Illy.

I went and bought some when I got back to DC. And it's my new favorite coffee. Really strong and dark and not bitter and totally yummy. Which, it occurs to me, probably also describes my perfect man.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The imaginary perils of being prepared

I went down to the gym with Bob at lunch today. You know, the gym with the big red button. The one that's clearly labeled.

On the way out the door I murmured, "I hope we have the place to ourselves." And wiggled my eyebrows.

And then we both cracked up, and I said, "You know, you should just tell me how much of a dork I am. Like, you should totally say, 'Lis, you know all those guys you complain about? Well, I've got news for you. It's not them.'"

Insead he said, "Are you kidding? If there's anyone else in there, I'll have to kick their asses and throw them out the door!"

Good boy.

We were in the elevator with two of our colleagues, one of whom was trying to open a pack of gum. She was trying, to no avail, to tear the wrapper.

So our pal Bob pulled out a Swiss Army knife. He opened the scissors and said, "Here, let me help you with that."

Seriously. It turns out he's always looking for opportunities to use the thing.

So once we'd rounded the corner to the gym, I said, "God, Bob, I can totally you picture you with some girl. She'll be trying to open a condom, and struggling with it. And then you'll pull out your Swiss Army knife and try to be all prepared and helpful."

"Yeah. And then she'll say, 'Oh, it's getting late. Gotta go. Perhaps another time.'"

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Get married in your 20s and stick it out

So listen, if you're not up for vitriol and the F-word, you should probably skip this post.

Get married in your 20s and stick it out. This is what I have been saying to my 20-something friends.

Seriously. Find someone reasonable, marry them, and then stick it out. Be nice to them, and figure out how to make it work.

Because by your 30s? Dating is so complicated.

Because does anyone say, "Wow! You're beautiful! Like, incredibly beautiful. And smart! And funny? How come you're not married?" with the implication that there's something wrong with you, when you're in your 20s? No. In your 30s? All the fucking time.

So I should be less attractive. Or less articulate. Or not say as many funny things on dates. Because then, then perhaps it would make more fucking sense to the man in front of me that I'm not married. And I wouldn't get asked that fucking question.

I'm tired of being complimented in one breath and then asked what's wrong with me in the next. The next time someone asks me that, I'm going to pick up my salad fork and stab them in the hand. I'm not kidding.

By their 30s, people have gone through bad divorces. They've been cheated on or had affairs. They're jaded. Cautious. Angry. Bitter. You name it. They've lived through too many hurtful situations, have made mistakes they don't want to repeat, are scared to commit, scared to get hurt, scared to trust.

So, seriously. There are plenty of perfectly reasonable single people around in their 20s. Pick one you like and marry them. And stick it out. Even if you loathe the person sometimes, stick it out. Unless you loathe them all the time, and then I imagine it's pretty much impossible.

Now, it's true that in terms of marriage I don't know what I'm talking about, because I've never been married, much less in a bad marriage. People say I've never been in a loveless marriage, and I have no idea how terrible it is. This is true. I've also, that I know of, never been cheated on. So I don't know anything about marriage.

But I do know an inordinate amount about dating in your 30s. And while some of it is really fun? Get married in your 20s and stick it the fuck out. This is my advice to men as well, not just women.

Unless they person is mean or abusive, a felon, a pedophile, a substance-abuser, or, I don't know, I'm sure there several more extreme things which are not coming to mind. So, OK, if there's some extreme issue, bail post-haste.

But for the smaller things with reasonable people - there must be a way around them. Annoying habits? There's got to be a way to break them. Boredom? Work through it together. If you can't, get some interesting hobbies. Or more interesting friends. Your spouse doesn't need to be your entire world.

Jaded? Me?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Oh, it was so nice to meet you.

I try not to be deliberately unkind. I don't always manage, but I do think kindness is important. I attempt, at very least, to be polite. I never dismiss people.

Because of this, I used to always be the target of the crazy person on the bus and get stuck in dreadful airplane conversations. I've learned how to avoid the latter, at least most of the time.

What I'm not good at is shutting down conversation in bars. This I just do not know how to do gracefully. And so I will be bitterly stuck in endlessly dull conversation.

Saturday night Kelli and I were deep in conversation when a guy asked if he could join us, and parked himself on the low table in front of us. He was probably a perfectly nice human being. Just really boring. And boy, could he talk.

I literally had nothing to say to him. I could, and did, nod in response, but nothing he said triggered any kind of, well, anything from me. Except boredom.

Kelli is nice, and could hold a conversation with a brick wall and make it seem interesting if she had to. So she was chatting politely. But mostly he was just talking at us. I wasn't sure what he wanted. Was he just looking for an audience?

And I was sitting there pretending to look at him, but actually making lists of things I needed to do when I got back to DC (laundry, go for a run, PEPCO bill, file nails. . .) thinking, "Oh, you're so tedious! And how much more can you talk? And, wait, are you honest to god telling us you made an aerobics video in the 90s?"

When I tuned back in, the man, who had been expounding at length on a variety of topics, had moved on to the subject of comedians. He was talking about two that I'd never heard of.

Mainly he was talking to Kelli. And nothing was required of me. So I just sat there, nodding, without saying anything. Because what would I say?

At some point he said, "Lisa has no idea who these people are."

Kelli agreed with him.

He looked straight at me. "And she doesn't think I'm funny."

I couldn't deny it. I just sat there, eyebrows raised, mouth in an O, a little like a deer in headlights.

Then he asked, "So, Lisa, what do you think is funny?"

He caught me so off guard! Forced to respond, I said, "To be honest, at the moment I can't think of a single thing I think is funny."

He looked a little taken aback.

"Except Kelli. I think Kelli is hilarious."

And I smiled at him. Because I didn't want him to feel bad.

Except that my smile? Was not, it turns out, a smile.

It was, as Kelli pointed out after the man rapidly excused himself, more of a grimace. If you want to know what this looked like, do the following:

Stand in front of a mirror and clench your teeth shut. Then pull back your lips to bare all of your teeth. You know, kind of like those pictures of angry monkeys in National Geographic. Make sure the rest of your face is blank.

Apparently, that's exactly what I did. It's no wonder he fled.

After Kelli demonstrated my "smile," she, Christy and I took turns making up insincere statements and grimacing at each other. Then we took pictures. We even got Dr. Jason to do it.

"Oh, that's so funny." TEETH CLENCH

"Why, of course you're not boring me with the details of your bowel obstruction." TEETH CLENCH

"So awesome that you made an aerobics video in the 90s." TEETH CLENCH

We entertained ourselves for a good while like this. We explained to one very cute guy how you have to say something completely disingenuous and then do the face.

We demonstrated with limp handshake and a lackluster, "It was so nice to meet you." TEETH CLENCH

He thought it looked like the face you'd make if you were constipated.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A day I'd rather be busy

I'm home with the flu, feebling around, supremely tired and achy and grumpy.

In case "to feeble" is not a verb in your vocabulary, it turns out that in English, we can turn anything we want into a verb. As a linguistics professor used to point out, when he was young, the word "party" was only used as a noun.

Oooh, can you tell I'm a massive crankypants? I was home yesterday too, just didn't feel like complaining about it. On day two, however, complain complain. Fortunately, I'm alone.

I blame the flu on the icky recycled air on the planes, although the fact that I ran around sleeping very little and having ridiculous amounts of fun over the weekend probably contributed. Fine. It's probably my fault entirely.

I'm awake enough to be awake, but feeling crummy enough to not be able to do anything. This is a definition of hell for someone who has a mind that doesn't stop.

So today, on our sixth September 11 in the post 9/11 world, on a day that I'd ordinarily be working and busy, I'm curled up in bed with my laptop. And between naps I'm reading online accounts from that day, reading about memorials and commemorative exhibits, looking at pictures, and crying.

I'm not a New Yorker, and I didn't actually live through it, so while I may feel immense amounts of grief, I can't, as many New Yorkers have said, fully get it. I believe that. I wasn't there. I didn't lose anyone in the attacks.

I remember watching the first plane hit the tower on TV and thinking it wasn't real, it couldn't actually be real. It must be a movie. And then it got worse and worse, and you learned it was indisputably real.

Once you'd watched the planes and the towers and the people over and over and over again, you'd think you'd become inured to it. But you don't. Or anyway, I never have.

Those words and pictures, those people, they stop my breath, close up my throat, squeeze my heart. They make me cry every time.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Out with the pretty girls. Who say the most outrageous things.

When I go out with Kelli and Christy I have a hilarious time. But looks-wise, I feel like Country Mouse.

Truly. On Saturday I wore a Susana Monaco dress I love. It's stretchy and clingy and really flattering, as her stuff is. I always feel great in that dress. And I had on these funky red platform shoes Maude gave me. They're British and hip and fun.

And yet, I felt dowdy. Because these women are just so tall and girly and impossibly glam.

Whenever I look at Christy, I'm like Rain Man - all, "oh, pretty, shiny, sparkly!" I mean, she's very real, in the sense that she's totally down-to-earth and kind and wickedly funny. But she's startlingly, walk-out-of-a-magazine beautiful. I don't even think this woman has pores. She might not sweat. I didn't know normal people ever looked like that. I thought it was all Photoshop.

On Saturday night Christy made a bunch of fancy and delicious appetizers and we sipped wine and chatted and waited for her friend Dr. Jason to come join us. We'd eaten too much to want to go out for dinner, so after she got ready we went straight to the bar, early for our reservation.

We went to a new, super hip lounge called Lumen. It's all low couches, low tables, modern swank. Lots of pretty people. Christy and Dr. Jason know everyone - I mean, everyone - and we had a long couch and table in the front, facing the crowd that gathered later in front of the bar. It was like watching TV.

Christy and Dr. Jason were on one couch, and Kelli and I were on the other. We had one long, low table in front of us. On which sat a bottle of Cristal. Until we finished that, at which point we moved on to vodka.

The two of them were immersed in conversation, plus occasionally being visited by their friends the club owners and people who worked there. And Kelli and I were catching up, and talking about very deep and important things like the size of our toes and what constitutes a good pedicure, while intermittently entertaining men who stopped by to chat.

This story is getting long, so I'll save the teeth-gritting smile part of the evening for a story in itself. But what I'd like to mention is this. You never have any idea what's going to come out of Kelli's mouth. More than half of the time you know she says things to keep herself entertained.

For example, one of the myriad tall, cute, corn-fed men who came over to chat asked Kelli if she likes to watch football.

"You know," she said, "the only way I'm willing to watch football is if I know I'm going to get nailed really hard at half-time."

You have never seen a man whip out his phone and ask for a number so fast in your life.

Only to be told that while he's very cute, she's just started dating someone and wants to see where it goes. But thanks.

Dr. Jason, however, bore the brunt of Kelli's self-amusement. Before he arrived, Christy said that he's gay and he doesn't like to talk about girly stuff. No mentioning girl bits. None of it.

You mean, like, we shouldn't talk about our vaginas? Exactly. No vagina talk. He doesn't like it.

This is like issuing a challenge to Kelli. Because were we talking about them before he arrived? Not at all. Would we have otherwise? Not so much. But you could see her lovely brown eyes narrow ever so slightly and begin to sparkle in a mildly evil way.

And so, throughout the evening, Kelli worked the word vagina into casual conversation. I can't even remember how, but it was never awkward, like, "Oh this place is great and wow am I happy I have a vagina!" It was always subtle and somehow fit the conversation. Except that, of course, most evenings do not include 17 vagina mentions.

Finally, getting on past 2 am, past wine, champagne, and vodka, Kelli was dancing provocatively with Dr. Jason.

He beamed and said, "I think I've found happiness."

And she said, "Oh, honey, it's called a vagina. You'll never meet one that won't smile back at you."

If he was twitching, he covered it really well.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Waking up to shake your money maker

I just got back from a weekend of visiting Kelli and her friend Christy in Chicago. I have lots to write about, but I'll have to do it tomorrow.

I adore these women and I love Chicago. Every time I go I have so much fun. And I haven't laughed that hard in ages.

I'd just like to say that the men? Are tall and cute. For all of you DC women who feel like there are no tall cute men around, I strongly recommend a trip to Chicago. You might even want to move there.

Tall, cute, corn-fed (if you like the type) men abound. Men who will walk up to you and talk to you and flirt with you, and the first thing they ask will not be that "So, what do you do?" question that makes you want to poke them in the eye with your finger for their lack of creativity.

If, however, sometime in the future, I say I'm going for a quick weekend jaunt to Chicago, will someone please remind me that I should rest up the week beforehand and clear my schedule the week after? Because seriously, I am not strong enough to keep up with Kelli and Christy and come back Sunday unscathed.

Honestly, this morning, when we awoke to "Shake Your Money Maker" - which I guessed immediately and correctly was Kelli's cell phone alarm - I was so discombobulated.

I think I was still drunk. I probably was. Since honestly, our last glass of wine was consumed at 4 am, around the time we were finishing our slices of enormous pizza. The pizza that we cabbed to get. You know, after we left the club at, oh, 3 am.

Kelli bounded out of bed, and was perking around in Christy's kitchen, actually shaking her money maker. They were making coffee as I slowly, quietly skulked into the kitchen. Kelli was saying how she was surprised that she felt totally fine.

Fine! She felt fine! Of course she felt fine! Because I believe she's completely insane. Either that or bionic.

Because Saturday? When I tip-toed downstairs around noon, nursing a massive hangover, after a night in which I'd retired for bed hours earlier and glasses of wine fewer than her? She and a friend were casually sipping a beer and chatting.

By the time I got downstairs she'd been up for hours, and was doing laundry, among five other productive things. She was, at that point, with Clorox Cleanup, her favorite product on earth in hand, all set to scour her backyard fountain. Which is not a weird euphemism, if any of you would even think to go there.

And did I want a beer, they asked? Yikes! I did not. I was, I said, more than a little afraid of them. I got some coffee and some juice and huddled, very quietly, in a corner of the couch, reading Us Magazine, waiting for the ibuprofin to kick in.

So this morning, Christy asked us if we wanted coffee. I most definitely did. Kelli, who rarely drinks it, said she did as well.

I looked at Kelli and said, "I wouldn't be surprised if you said you'd just have a shot of mercury and you'd be good to go."

I'm not kidding.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Color mixing

Last night was the first class of the semester for my textile class. I've taken this class several times, and in fact, for two semesters worked as the lab tech in the lower level one so that I could have free studio time.

The instructor and I have gotten close and so for those two semesters she invited me to come on Thursdays instead of going to open studio. Which is much more fun, because you get such good ideas from other people doing similar things, even if you're just working on independent projects.

But this semester I decided to just pay for the Thursday class. While not free, it is, as many say about blogging, cheaper than therapy. And you not only learn a lot about yourself, but it's such fun . And such a good way to stretch both mentally and physically.

Last night, however, was not super fun. I mean, it was wonderful to see the instructor again, and there are two people I really like taking the class again, so it felt like a little reunion.

One of the women does a lot of Photoshop work and prints her designs on fabric. She makes some exquisite things. The other absolutely refuses to measure anything. And most of the time her things turn out beautifully. She just refuses to get worked up over precision in this class.

We did a color mixing exercise using the primaries: red, yellow, and blue, both warm and cool, in different percentages. I've done this before, but this time we're weighing the dyes rather than measuring by teaspoon and tablespoon. It's more precise, and so you can control your color better.

I knew I wouldn't love this project, and I didn't have to participate, but I also knew it would behoove me to do it. Because spending one evening dyeing eight different colors, measured in metric beakers, means that in the next class, once we share, I'll wind up with 28 colors, or really 56, if you count both warm and cool colors.

I'll have two color pyramids to work from, and know the exact percentages if I want to mix a specific color. Which is a fabulous resource to have.

Me, though, I see math and I cringe. And avoid. I immediately assume it's going to be painful. And dreadfully dull.

The worst class I ever took in my life was this horrible probability and statistics class in college. I took it my freshman year, when everything was terrible anyway. Poor timing, poor choice. Although in the course catalog it basically said "math for the math retarded" - which describes me perfectly.

And I hated it so much. It was all, "If you have 45 green marbles and 32 white marbles and 97 red marbles all in separate barrels, and you deal 5 cards out of a 52-card deck to a deaf monkey, what's the likelihood that the coin you toss on a a speeding train heading east will come up heads?" Or something like that.

And instead of being all, oh, I should totally apply myself! I was more, oh my god this makes me want to spoon my eyes out and what the fuck is this and anyway I'm never going to be picking marbles out of barrels or give a damn what kind of cards the monkey has. And I'm much more about the Rock Paper Scissors than flipping coins. And have I said how much I hate this?

Needless to say, I did very poorly in the class.

But now when I have to deal with very concrete math and it actually relates to and makes sense in my real life, I realize how useful it is. Seriously, why the fuck couldn't they make any of it relevant somewhere along the way in school?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Oh, y'all (and yes, I'm y'alling you) it's one of those long, meandering, I promise I do have a point at the end kind of posts

I got a comment on a post from a couple days ago about how I write about dating too much.

And my first thought was, "Oh, no! I'm boring! How come I write about dating so much?"

And then I got mad. It's my writing space. And so I commented back saying that the blog world is wide open. Find another blog.

The commenter replied with an explanation, which I read as: Basically, you have a good deal of depth and the capability of writing about more substantial topics. Why be shallow?

And this gave me pause. "Am I wasting the bulk of my time being totally shallow?"

Because, you see, if you criticize me, my first reaction will be to wonder if you are right.

I grew up conditioned to think that someone else knew more about everything than I did. That person for years and years was my father, who made all of my decisions growing up and the bulk of them until I was out of college. Mainly because I just didn't realize that I could make better decisions for myself than he could.

Sadly, I'm not exaggerating.

Despite the fact that I started college with enough French credits to bypass all the intro courses, and in fact, probably get out of the language requirement entirely, I kept taking it. I liked the language, I liked the literature, I liked the poetry. The French, it felt good.

And then on top of the French I took a year of Japanese sophomore year. Why? Because my dad said I should.

Since I didn't have a better idea, or really even the wherewithal to know what the fuck I was doing in college in NC, and because I was good at languages, well, when he said to, I went ahead and signed up.

My Japanese class, in which I got an A both semesters, took more time than all of my other classes combined.

I don't know how much you know about the language, but to start with, instead of an alphabet, Japanese uses a syllabary. Meaning each symbol stands for a syllable rather than an individual letter. Actually, there are two syllaberies - Katakana and Hiragana - and we began by memorizing both.

And then we started learning Kanji, which is beautiful but basically, you're writing with complex pictures. In order to look up a Kanji symbol in the dictionary, you have to know how many strokes it takes to form it. But some strokes are curved. So you might think one curved line is actually two strokes when it's not. Which makes looking up a 12-stroke character impossible when you're mistakenly looking in the 13-stroke section.

And then there is the grammar, where the verb appears at the end of the sentence. All this to say, all of it took a hell of a lot of work. I liked it, though. It was fun and interesting, and I love languages and I loved the teacher.

And then the school year ended and I went to Rome for the summer. My high school friend Kassie had taken a break from college - none of us had an easy time jumping into college straight from India - and her parents were living in Rome. So she went. And her dad got us both summer jobs at the embassy. So I went.

I loved being in Rome. Some of it was Rome, and some of it was getting out of Chapel Hill and being in a huge, international city. Oh, I loved Rome so much. And so I decided to spend a semester there. When I got home at the end of summer, I announced that I was going back spring semester.

This turned into a huge fight. Several huge fights. Because one, when did I ever have really strong opinions that clashed with my dad's? Almost never. Whenever I did, it was a struggle.

And two, Rome, as my dad rightly pointed out, made no sense. You know, with the Lisa speaking French and Japanese and not speaking any Italian and all. And why didn't I go to, oh, France? Or Japan? For example?

Why? Well, France I couldn't explain, except that it was not Rome, which was where I wanted to be. And Japan, well, at some point I realized I had no interest in going to Japan or Japanese culture or really much about it beyond sushi and Hello Kitty. I was just taking Japanese because he told me to.

Italian? Could be learned. Make sense? I wasn't trying to make sense. I just wanted to figure out how to be happy again. I'd been so very far from it since arriving in the US. I'd spent two utterly miserable years at Carolina and Rome felt like magic. I finally felt good again. I felt like me. And I was going to Rome, come Hell or high water (an expression I don't fully understand but love).

In the end, my dad said that it sounded like the right thing for me to do. And off I went to Rome.

I had to declare a major before I left. You know, as one does when they're in college. A not unreasonable expectation. Except that I was so lost and floundering the whole time, and so I'd been procrastinating on it. The last possible day to declare, I picked French.

Did I have plans for it? No. But I liked it and I was good at it. And I'd taken so much of it already.

When I got back from Italy, I had a year left of college. I went into fall with the knowledge that I just had to suck it up for a year and I'd be done. And I could take it easy - I had barely any French classes left to take, and very few credits needed to graduate.

Until my dad said, "You know, French alone isn't a very practical major. I think you should major in Political Science as well."

Because Political Science? Is an incredibly practical major.

And so I took, I don't know, five Poli Sci classes that year. Maybe six. Whatever it was that I needed to add it as a major and graduate that spring. And get the hell out.

The point of this eternal college angsty story is this. That while my decisions might not all be the best ones ever, in this, the best of all possible worlds, they're the best ones I can make for me. And I wish I'd had the confidence and the ability to make and stick to my decisions, regardless of who questioned them, years and years ago.

But now I'm no longer changing what I do because someone else thinks I should.

I did that for years and years. I even went out of my way to find the critical men. And spend a lot of energy trying to make them happy. But it turns out that if you find the unhappy people, it doesn't matter what you do. They can't stand themselves and they will take it out on you. It doesn't make them feel better; it just makes you feel worse.

But at this point, I choose people and things that feel good to me. Purely because they feel good to me. If something feels right, I strongly suspect it is, in fact, right.

Just because I could speak Japanese didn't mean I wanted to go to Japan. And just because I can get more profound on my blog than fretting over guys doesn't mean I won't spend a good deal of my writing time splashing about in the shallow end. If it is the shallow end. I'm not even so sure it necessarily is.

And there you have it.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

It's good to be prepared

Last Friday on our outing, one of the places Laura and I went was the Container Store. She needed to find a hanging rack.

So when the checkout line was eternal, we entertained ourselves by inspecting various products placed alongside the line to entice you. Laura spied a windshield-breaking hammer.

I'd never heard of such a thing. She decided to buy it for me as thanks for driving her around on errands.

If you've not heard of this either, basically it's a small hammer with a pointy end that you can use to shatter your windshield if you are ever stuck under water. You can also use it to cut your seat belt if you need to. In movies people always get stuck in their seat belts; I don't know if this happens in real life. Betty says it does.

I tried to suggest that in the unlikely event that I were stuck underwater in my car I could use my key or my club to break my windshield, but she was having none of it. Her contention was that if you drive over bridges with any regularity, you should have one.

I almost never drive over bridges. Well, then, also for flash flooding. Really, according to Laura, you could be stuck underwater in your car at any moment.

When we got in the car she opened it for me so I'd have it handy in my glove box. Just in case. The only bad thing, she pointed out, is that you don't really get any practice with it.

I don't know if any of you have every taken First Aid or CPR. I took them both years ago. And then for the longest time I kept expecting someone around me to choke or have a heart attack.

I was twitchy when I was out in public because, ostensibly, I knew what to do if someone were in crisis. And so I'd have to respond. I was constantly on the lookout for the universal sign for choking. Or someone falling to the floor clutching their heart.

I'm not even kidding you. It was very stressful. Now that I no longer have the skills to save anyone, they could probably drop dead behind my chair at a restaurant and I wouldn't even notice.

But anyway.

This was how I was starting to feel. I have this hammer, and so now I have to be ready to use it at any moment. I started envisioning water lapping at the windows, and how I'd reach over to flip open the glove box, how much time I might have. . .

And then I remembered. "Hey, wait! I do drive over a bridge between your house and mine!"

Except that it's a bridge over Rock Creek Park.

"Oh, Lisa, you're going to get in a fender bender and then immediately panic and pull out the hammer, aren't you?"

That's exactly what will happen. I'll get in some small accident, and by the time the police get there, I'll have shattered my windshield and climbed out over my hood.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Last Monday, as I was airing my cell phone deletion vitriol, I got a voicemail from the someone I've entered and deleted many times over.

Randomness? Serendipity? Accio Dementor? I dunno.

He was going to be in town for a meeting today, and considering coming to DC Monday afternoon. And would I be available to hang out in the afternoon? Or do dinner? Or both? Yes.

And I knew, as I walked up and said hello yesterday afternoon, that it was going to be the kind of evening that makes me ache. No, actually, I knew it before I got there. The kind of time we can have together where the banter is so quick and sharp, the conversation about life and family so deep and sincere, and the attraction palpable.

We have this weird history. We dated for a couple months and broke up. This was two years ago. And then he moved to New York. I could say I don't know why we keep in touch, but there's a particular connection that you have with very few people that is very hard to sever.

In many ways it's surprising that we're still in each other's lives. We do not have friends in common; we have few, if any, common interests. We've basically formed a friendship of sorts over two years of meeting up every several months for a dinner, a drink, a last-minute coffee.

What we do have is a profound understanding of where the other person comes from, and a ridiculously intense connection. It's not just the red hots, although that kind of breathless sparkle is hard to pass up.

In the past year I've called him a couple times in crisis, totally out of the blue, not because he is my closest person, but because he was exactly who I needed to talk to. Because he knows how things are, and where I'm coming from. And he's so cynical about the world, and sugar coats nothing.

We will never be together again; I know this for a fact. And yet, I'm unwilling to delete him from my life. And in fact, there are moments, completely irrational moments, where I want him more in it. Much more in it.

As we were having dinner last night, I got a couple texts from guy friends, enquiring about the state of Azkaban.

And the truth is, sometimes I'm tempted to walk inside and pull the door firmly behind me. Sometimes it's utterly intoxicating.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The sigh of the end of summer

It's a gorgeous, beautiful, stunning, sparkly, sunny day in DC. And it makes me a little nervous.

This is the beginning of the early mornings where you feel the faint cool of end of summer, where the earliest edge of fall kisses you ever so gently when you walk out the door. It's subtle, and if you're not looking for it, you could easily overlook it.

And these mornings glide into lovely golden days. They're beautiful, truly. But I can't appreciate them as fully as I'd like to.

It's not that I don't love this weather - I do. How can you not love full-on sunshine with no humidity? It's the kind of day that feels amazing to be out and about in, and that you can exercise endlessly in without drowning in your own sweat. It's amazing.

But summer, summer is my favorite season. It's not that I don't like fall. It's a perfectly good season in itself. But it's pre-winter. And winter, winter is not my friend.

I realize it's not going to happen overnight. We're going to be eased into it. But the easing for me is like, well, it's like in a movie (or occasionally real life) when you are watching a scene play out, or maybe you're even participating in it, and it begins to dawn on you that something bad is going to happen. You get that slow dread feeling in your stomach. That's sort of what fall is like for me.

It's the light more than anything. This fall light, which begins to slant, makes everything a little paler. And there's less of it. The light, I mean. Not everything.

Summer for me is is all about light and bold colors. The sun is strong, sometimes even too harsh, and shadows are sharp and dark. Flowers are flashes of bright, just begging to be appreciated. And people, I think, mimic nature, and don clothing of a much more colorful and whimsical nature than in any other season. Summer is color and motion and light. Not to mention heat, which I can never get enough of.

The crepe myrtle, which blooms late summer, and is on its way out now, comes out in some of the loveliest, strongest pinks and purples. It always feels to me like those trees are blooming their vividly colored hearts out in a sort of goodbye parade for summer. "Whoo-hoo! Yippee! We're gorgeous! We love you! Oh, you're going? OK! Bye! Come back again next year!"

Me, I'm looking around thinking, "No, don't go! I love the light! I love the bright! I love the too hotness of the days and nights. I love the daylight that goes on forever! Don't go!"

This is my sigh of the end of summer.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Happy Birthday Betty!

Today is Betty's birthday! This picture was taken when she went home to visit relatives last month in North Dakota.

Doesn't she look so cute and sunshiney you just want to squeeze her?

Happy Birthday, Mama! I love you too much!