December 2009


Dear Bus Boy,

I’m pretty sure your name was Mike but I can’t be positive.  I picked you up at a bus stop, although that’s more salacious than it sounds.  I’d seen you there many times before.  We took the same bus to work in the morning.  You were cute from afar, not as cute up close.  It was 2002.  You were young but so was I.  I was only a few years older than you, but I felt a lot older.  You’d just gotten back from Afghanistan.  You’d been in the army.  I’d just gotten out of my second three year relationship in seven years.

I’d just figured out the sex without love thing, and I didn’t mean to make you the first road test, but you were.  That was the first thing that I learned from you: that I could do it, no strings attached.  And that it was liberating and fun.

Of course, it was funny, too.  Particularly when you faked an orgasm.  I don’t know how a guy could think he could get away with that.  You said you were nervous.  You said you’d never had sex without a relationship before.  I tried to comfort you instead of laughing (but I assure you, I laughed a lot later).  It was sweet, though.  That’s what I recall about you mainly – I don’t remember you being particularly smart or cavalier or creative – but you were sweet. 

It was sweet, too, how you wanted to hold my hand out in public.  We were sleeping together, but you were so earnest about treating me like more than a lover.  But then, it started to get annoying.  I didn’t want that – I’d just left that.  That was the second thing: that there’s a difference between the lovers and the loving.  And when you start to mix them, it just gets confusing.  I didn’t love you.  I didn’t even want to think about love.  We were on different planes, and they couldn’t coexist.

I remember when you brought me to a party at your friend’s house.  I was excited about the idea, but then just got stressed out when we got there.  Not all your friends seemed old enough to drink and there was a lot of drinking.  And we were obviously at someone’s parents’ house.  Someone’s really expensive, fancy parents’ house.  I was afraid if the cops showed up that they’d look to me as the oldest person in the house and ask for some kind of explanation about the alcohol.  I asked you to leave pretty quickly.  You were a doll about it, but I could tell you were a little confused.  That’s when I learned lesson number three: that it’s impossible to entertain the idea of being with someone who is so very different from you in maturity level.  You were just a kid. 

Which brings us to the last lesson: how to break things off with a boy in a very nice way.  I believe I may have actually uttered the words “it’s not you, it’s me” but give me a break – it was my first time.  I’m sorry if you were hurt, but it just didn’t make any sense to keep going and to let you get attached to me when we were so incompatible.  You would have been more hurt down the line and neither of us would have gotten what we wanted in the end.

Since them, I’ve dated a lot, and I’ve had my lovers.  The lessons I learned with Bus Boy were ones I’ve carried with me since, which I’ve honed and used quite a bit.  It’s important to know who works for you and who doesn’t.  You can dream about falling in love with the person you’re lying next to, but if that person isn’t dreaming the same thing, you’re better off walking.  It’s been done to me and I’ve done it, and we’re all better off for it.  The only time I’ve ever had a problem with it is when I didn’t stick to my lessons well enough and got attached when I shouldn’t have.

In the end, I like to think that we all had fun and nobody got hurt and we ended up not in bad relationships and, hopefully, with the right people, or closer to them.  So Bus Boy, wherever you are, I hope you have grown up enough to know why I broke things off with you.  And bought a car.

This morning my son commented that I rarely watch the movies that I have on dvd.  It’s true – I pretty much leave the tv watching to him and spend my time reading or on the internet for entertainment.  Then he suggested that I give my movies away to charity, which made me laugh at first (I tend to give EVERYTHING we don’t use or have grown out of to charity) and then protest.  I will watch them, I insisted.  So tonight, as if to prove him wrong, I put one on.

I like a lot of movies, but I have to admit, I’m a sucker for movies with a lot of symbolism.  I was in the mood for Metropolis – the 2002 anime version, mind you, not Fritz Lang (I haven’t seen that one).  It was very cool, although I have to admit that after this viewing, even though I still think that a lot of the symbolism is brilliant (the old-fashioned and almost warm drawing of the humans and robots juxaposed with the cold and sharp modern animation of the city; the literal shot to the heart that hurts someone enough to want to destroy the world; and yes, I nearly cried the first time I saw the ending explosion muted with Ray Charles’ “I Can’t Stop Loving You” overlaid), some of it just felt gratuitous and meaningless.  Of course, it’s possible some of that comes from feeling duplication in its very similar themes to Blade Runner, both of which were influenced by the original Metropolis.  (Side note: it was also very cool to watch it after just having read an article on singularity – the rise of our next evolutionary stage via machines – which some people think is a lot closer than you might.)

A few weeks ago I was reminded that I still don’t have any tattoos.  I suppose it’s because I’ve always wanted the perfect symbol – something that would represent our humanity in a world of technology.  (I thought about Tima’s heart, but I can never get a good still frame of it.)  It’s a theme I’ve pondered since I first had my mind messed with by Terminator.  I’ve always struggled with emotions – I never quite thought I got them right.  Sometimes they’re crazy and sometimes they’re mute.  And they permeate everything, even when it makes no sense. 

There’s a quote in Metropolis where the Duke tells Tima she’s a robot and he says, “You’re no mere human being, ruled by emotion and love, torn between morality and love!”  I actually paused the movie there.  Is that truly what we are?  Ruled by emotion and love, torn between morality and love?  I think we are.  At least, I’ve always struggled with it.  I think I’m more rational than a lot of people are comfortable with, and I certainly haven’t gone out of my way to show anyone otherwise, no matter how I felt.  When I am emotional, it can be overwhelming.  I’ve wished to have the strength and clarity of a robot at certain points in my life.  But it’s the robots who have emotion – the ones who love and who see beauty and desire justice and equality – who we admire the most.  I can’t tell if that’s comedy, tragedy, irony, or poetry.

Right now I’m painting a table (not right now but you know what I mean). The second coat is drying. I was rearranging my living room this afternoon after taking down the Christmas tree and decided that I should take it out of storage and use it again. The problem was, it was some strange grey- and white-sponged pattern that reminded me way too much of the 80s (in a bad way). My son and I had been inside all day because of the weather so picking up some paint was a good excuse to get mobile.

I love the effect that vacation has on me. I wasn’t impatient. I wasn’t on a schedule. I felt relaxed. I let my son go off and check out the large appliances at Lowe’s while I looked at stove screens. (I swear, there’s something about kids and areas at stores that are set up to look like homes: I used to love hopping on the made beds at department stores and playing with refrigerators and stoves at appliance stores.) When we got to picking out paint, I wasn’t picky and I let him decide the color. It’s a yellow-gold, which turned out very bright, but with several more dark winter months to go, I am a-ok with that. He helped me with the first coat but now he’s off watching Nick, so I’m solo. It was nice to paint with him without being nitpicky, which, unfortunately, is my m.o. It was the kind of moment I was hoping to have while we were on vacation together. I’m also really enjoying painting itself; I forgot how nice it is to be physically creative.

Even though I started my time off four days ago, today’s the first day I’ve felt alert. Okay, truth be told, it’s the first time in a long time that I’ve felt alert. After adopting my son earlier this year, I felt a little lost – it had been such a long battle and I (a la Inigo Montoya) just didn’t know what to do next. So I moved us. It was a good idea and I’m glad we did, but then I got here and I didn’t know what to do next. I’ve been suffering under the idea that I need to keep picking these huge battles to make my life worthwhile, and it’s taken me a while to realize that isn’t true – that I can go back to enjoying my life day-to-day and truly enjoying the flowers. Not to mention getting to know myself apart from the circumstances surrounding my son that have defined me for almost six years now.

So, bit by bit, I’m doing that again. I started Weight Watchers Saturday and I already feel better from improving my eating habits. I’m writing every day and encouraging myself to think of myself as a writer. I quit my show today; it was time to make a real commitment to writing instead of performing. I’m tuning out of dating for a while, too. I don’t want to be with someone just because it’s better than being alone.

I write all this fully aware that this is typical talk for New Year’s, but I’d like think my need for transformation is simply coincidental. I’m taking it slow, not making rules, but trying to discern what’s right for me. For tonight, that means turning an ugly table into a bright yellow burst of sunshine for my living room. And that feels good.

Sometimes I’m socially inept. I think this must be strange for someone who likes performing, but it’s just me. Today, my coworker heard me sneeze and came over to my cube to ask me if I was getting “the cold everyone had.” I responded “no, I wasn’t” and was going to go back to my work when I realized that he was trying to start a conversation with me. I’m new to the office, and I still haven’t gotten to know the people there very well. So I turned back and made small talk for a while.

Small talk is like impressionist art: I can understand what makes it valuable, but I don’t appreciate it much myself. I like the connections that it allows one to make and the happiness it can bring, but occasionally I think I’ll blow my brains out if someone mentions yet again at lunchtime that the sodium content in frozen dinners is criminal. It’s hard for me to be self-aware enough to be deliberately open and conversational with people on a moment-to-moment basis. If I’m in a good mood, you can hardly stop me from smiling and cracking jokes and trying to engage people, but it’s not my normal state. Sometimes people will really surprise me: like a cashier complimenting a purchase, and I’ll remember that we’re two unique people in this world with a moment to meet each other. I think we all take for granted how many people we come into contact with every day.

Years ago, I met a guy on a bus from Springfield to Boston, and because I chatted him up, we’re still friends today. A few weeks ago, my son started playing with another kid when we were all waiting in a car dealership service waiting room and they got on so well that I struck up a conversation with his dad, and we learned that they have a lot in common. We’re going to get them together later this month. I wonder why I don’t take more opportunities to really value the people with whom I come into contact.

I know I’m not easy to know. Sometimes I’m so nervous that I clam up, or ramble, or say the wrong thing. Sometimes I want to tell total strangers everything about me. Sometimes I want to hide under my covers and never see anyone again. Sometimes I make mistakes in friendships and romances and I wish I could have just said things better, or stayed instead of walking away, or walked away instead of staying. I wonder that anyone gets to know me. I actually wonder that I know myself at all.

Tonight, I want to write down things about myself that are unique and interesting. Things that make me who I am. I feel diluted. I feel stretched thin. I feel like a lot of my identity comes from circumstantial outside stuff instead of from the inside. When I feel as though I’m acting like me, really open and happy and crazy, it’s the most incredible and scary feeling. I want to find her and own her and never get self-conscious. Is that possible? I would love that. And then when people spoke, I would know the perfect things to say.

This weekend, I went indoor rock climbing. 

Let that sink in for a moment.

Yes, I know I don’t seem the type, nor can I take credit for the initiative.  And I have to admit I was thrown a bit when I found out it was my date activity.  First off, I was in CT visiting family and hadn’t brought any appropriate clothing (my similarly-sized sister came to my rescue).  And frankly, I just thought I’d make an ass out of myself.

But when I got there, fear of the unknown was taken over by excitement.  Something I’d never done before!  I must conquer it!  Luckily my date led me well and, once I got changed and all geared-up, I felt really comfortable jumping in.  (And for what it’s worth, a guy tightening your harness is really quite a turn-on.) 

I started off on the easiest course.  It was really hard to remember not to just pull up with my hands the whole way.  About halfway up, I realized I’d forgotten to ask my date what to do when I was done, but when I called down to him, I couldn’t make out what he said (I wish I could claim it was because I was seriously far up but it was just my poor hearing).  Since I didn’t much like the looking down, I just kept going.  When I got to the top, I figured out from his gestures that I was supposed to touch the ring, which felt wicked cool to do.  Then what?  LET GO??  WHAT??  You must be joking.  Ask a control freak to trust her life to a slender rope and the intentions of a guy with a metal ring on his belt?  Why wasn’t this piece of psychological fun in the disclaimer I signed?

I made it down, albeit awkwardly.  I was really proud of my accomplishment (I climbed a WALL all by myself!), although everyone around me probably thought I was crazy.  And I had to admit, it was fun – a lot of fun.  I was sad to learn that my date couldn’t climb because I wasn’t certified to hold his rope (yes, I know there are technical terms but it is what it is).  I would have been petrified of hurting him, though.  He entertained himself with some practice walls and eventually I tried a second course.  This time, the heights got the best of me about halfway up, and I made a wimpy plea about thinking that was it for me.  But instead of accepting it, he laughed and called up to me to tell me where I should put my foot next.  I couldn’t tell if I wanted to kiss him or kill him, but I kept going.  He did that a couple more times when I seemed to get stuck.  He even told me to relax at one point.  RELAX??  This far off the ground – really?  Is this a trick?!  But I did.  And I made it to the top.

I had to quit after that one, unfortunately.  I didn’t realize that indoor rock climbing might not mix with my carpal tunnel, and both my forearms were swollen as hell even after such a short time.  I did some practice stuff with him for a while longer, but I really wanted to do the wall again.  I actually hope that I can fix the CP and go again.  Maybe get that fancy rope-holder certification.  Maybe get back into shape a little.  I had forgotten how good it felt to do something challenging with my body.

No matter what happens with this guy, I’ll probably always remember being up on that wall and wanting to quit and having him tell me to keep going.  I’m so independent that I’m not used to anyone offering me advice, nor am I used to following it.  But I did and it got me farther than I would have gone on my own.   I know it sounds strange but even though the rest of the date was really great, I have to say that was my favorite part.

This weekend, my mother called me a skeptic (like it’s a bad thing).  It’s true.  It usually takes some kind of convincing argument or all-out proof to get me to believe something.  We were discussing Santa Claus.  If I’d had my druthers, I probably wouldn’t have done the Santa routine with my son, but, as it is, I haven’t had to make the choice.  Now that he knows there isn’t one (gasp!), I’d asked him what he thought about the whole thing.  He said he didn’t think it was nice to lie to kids, although he doesn’t seem particularly scarred by it.  My mother didn’t like that, and said she wished I’d keep my scepticism to myself – that I was rubbing off on him – and that sometimes we just need to believe and hope in things that may not be real.

I agree that sometimes we all need to hold out hope for something – a new job, a clean bill of health, or a kiss under the mistletoe – no matter how unlikely it may appear to come true.  We wish on our birthday cakes and over railroad tracks.  Some of us pray for divine intervention.  It seems to me that hope, though, is not the real issue.  It’s lying to create a world of fantasy for someone who doesn’t know enough to not trust us.  That bothers me. 

Frankly, I think that kids naturally see wonder and beauty in the world.  They believe in dragons and fairies whether we tell them they’re real or not.  They escape into magic worlds in their own backyards.  They conquer hills and become kings and queens. 

There are a lot of films out this time of year about “saving Christmas”.  Oh no!  Santa’s in trouble because people don’t believe in him anymore!!  I think that’s misleading.  Just because people aren’t sitting on the laps of department store Santas everywhere doesn’t mean that they’re not daydreaming on the subway or marveling at the frost patterns on the window or feeling awed by the little miracles in their lives.  I just can’t believe that Santa stands for all of our hope and wonder in the world.  I see amazing things in the world every single day. 

I probably blew the conversation out of proportion, frankly.  Part of it is that my mom doesn’t understand me very well.  But part of it is true.  There are times when I want to get swept up in the fantasy of something amazing and I talk myself out of it.  Because there’s got to be a catch.  And usually I’m right, but sometimes I wish I could just go along for the ride.

My company got taken over last year by a bigger company.  Or, I should say, our large parent company got taken over by an even larger, behemoth-sized company.  Anyway, many many changes ensued, although they were cool and did it all slow and sure.

So this year, they transitioned all of us over to the new “performance management” system.  And now, instead of just having goals (mostly made up at the last minute to retroactively reflect what we’ve done) and having our manager give his/her opinion, in the middle there we have to do a “self-assessment.”

Now, my boss and I have a great relationship.  He’s my favorite boss ever.  We joke around a lot and understand each other well.  I told him I was going to just write “I am awesome” in every box because it’s true.  He agreed.  I decided, however, to take this evaluation seriously (although I was seriously tempted to reply to the company value of “high performance standards” with “if I could get them lower I wouldn’t need therapy”).

I don’t know if it was the fact that I went shopping on my lunch hour and got some awesome new clothes.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m planning on getting a new lipstick shade (believe me, it’s an event).  I don’t know if it’s because I’ve guessed the secret location to my date on Saturday and I can’t wait to say “ha ha ha I knew it” (the fact that my date even made a secret location rules).  I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been listening to Lady Gaga all day.

The point is that I gave myself an incredibly awesome fucking review.  It was thoughtful, accurate, well-written, and confident.  Future growth opportunities?  “Promotion.”  I actually wrote my boss to tell him that I was sorry if it was cocky, but at least all he’d have to write is “yes” next to all of my goal evaluations.   

I wish I felt like this every day.

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