Saturday, August 19, 2006
HOT BUN IN THE SUMMERTIME
I've got too many deadlines to see straight at the moment, so go read my piece in the LA Times about being pregnant during a heat wave.
Monday, August 14, 2006
First of all, congratulations on your hormone high. Congrats on finding someone with whom you feel comfortable procreating, too. I feel somewhat awkward congratulating you on the whole Being Pregnant thing, since I'm rather ambivalent about the prospect of breeding, myself (not to mention the fact that we've never met), but I am happy for you nonetheless.
I am less happy about my own current situation.
I just had a great weekend alone. I got more done than I had in ages. My apartment is clean again. I even mopped the kitchen floor! I got my filing under control. I did two loads of laundry, and even put away the clean, dry clothes. I wrote in my journal. I got the car checked, then washed. I went to Target and Jo-Anne's and picked up my prescription refill at the pharmacy. I studied for the CSET, cracking my math book for the first time since I graduated college (in '99). I washed a sinkful of dishes while singing along with the Dixie Chicks on my stereo. I exercised on Saturday and Sunday. I watched The Brak Show (over and over again) and made significant progress on my current cross-stitch project. I matted, framed, and hung artwork. I rested. I felt utterly restored.
And all this after a dreadfully upsetting evening (that had been intended as a date) with The Boyfriend on Friday.
I had a nice lunch with him today, but I'm still feeling a bit...concerned. Confused. I'm happy to have rediscovered self-reliance, but I feel suddenly ambivalent about our whole relationship.
I feel disconnected from TBF, and I'm tired of making reconnection efforts that fail. I'm tired of making relationship efforts in general that aren't noticed or appreciated.
I feel like maybe I'm a better person when I'm single and unattached.
Up until this weekend, I was crying a lot every day and thinking about my ex-husband and how I'd failed in that relationship and how sad I am that he's no longer in my life in any capacity. I sobbed to TBF that I can't go through that again.
A bit of background, which may or may not be helpful: I'm 29, and The Boyfriend is 40. We've been dating for almost a year now, which means I am required by law to start asking Serious Questions about Where This Relationship Might Be Going. He is the most wonderful man I have ever dated. He is smart and artistically talented and a good writer (he introduced me to your blog) and about as feminist as a hetero man can be. He is very, very cute and well-endowed. He smells nice. He's funny. We have similar senses of humor and similar tastes in music. I love him very much. I may be pre-menstrual.
But there's this thing that bothers me immensely: he can't have a really good time unless he's the center of attention. I find that incredibly frustrating and embarrassing. Much as I love him, he's not terribly suave. He is, on the contrary, a total know-it-all nerd (and balding ponytail former rocker guy, to boot). I love him both due to and in spite of his frequent Star Trek references and webcomic and embarrassing penchant for air guitar. It's not as simple as me wanting to be the center of attention myself, or me wanting him to change. It's that I wish he could enjoy listening to other people. I wish that he could enjoy the role of observer - or even participant - without being The Big It. I keep trying to tell him that he doesn't have to go into Mr. Party Mode (or "Mr. ROCKER WOOOOOO!"), because people love him for who he is. He responds that he's a guy, and that that version of him is as valid/true to his personality as any other face he shows to the world. He says it upsets him when I nitpick at him, and he feels like " a lot of times when we are out, especially at parties, I feel like if I do anything other than stand near you and hardly say a word, you will get upset."
I tried giving him a few examples of times we've been out with friends and enjoyed ourselves, and he countered that those were examples of times when he'd pretty much kept his mouth shut.
I don't know what to say to that. At the time, it seemed like he was enjoying himself.
Please help me, Rabbit. I don't even know the right question to ask. Maybe I'm wondering how this relationship can be saved, and whether or not it's worth the effort.
I think I'm also hoping that your hormonal rush will allow you to be gentle with me.
Too Flustered to Come Up with a Clever Pseudonym
Dear Too Flustered,
Oh, the hormones don't make me any more gentle, sadly. I've been very self-righteous and uppity since the hormones took hold -- more so than usual, I should say. I would spare your feelings and be soft and sweet to you if I could, but I'm way too big and bossy for that. I weigh 165 pounds, motherfucker! Soft 'n' sweet isn't an option when you're lumbering around like a Grizzly all day. When you try to stroke something gently, you just end up swatting it with one of your enormous paws, and then it lays there, mauled and bleeding on the ground in front of you, until it dies. To which you, the heartless Grizzly, say: "Harrumph! Fucker shoulda stayed the hell outa my way!" So consider yourself forewarned; read on with as thick a skin as you can muster.
As I see it, you have two separate problems, and neither of them is that your boyfriend is too outgoing at parties.
Your first problem is that vulnerability, for you, is a serious challenge. You're a little bunny rabbit with a soft pink underbelly, but you hate your soft white fleece and your pink bunny nose, so sometimes when you feel slightly whimpery and weak, you throw on your Grizzly suit and fuck shit up. Other times, you cry bunny tears and beg your BF not to leave you, thereby stirring up the failure feelings and neediness that you almost didn't recover from in the wake of your failed marriage. OK, maybe you don't beg him not to leave you. Probably what you do is get mad over something really small, and then fight about it (swinging enormous paws to and fro), then you give up and dissolve into sad bunny mode, then you tell sad stories about screwing things up with husbands, then you put the Grizzly suit back on and state, emphatically, that you are drawing the line and it's your choice so no more feeling shitty when people don't end up loving you enough. You deserve to be adored, goddamn it, and anyway, who cares? Because you don't fucking care, you're way better at being alone! So to hell with it!
Here's the giveaway with you: You're either teary and needy and kind of a wreck, but you're smart enough to throw in lots of dogmatic statements and false boundaries of "No more!"s and "Not happening!"s, but the clothes are piling up and the basic errands aren't getting run and the car is filthy OR you're independent and things are clean and you're on top of stuff and you're singing and doing dishes and you're better off without him and probably you're not a breeder anyway, so fuck it.
You're not that crazy, most of us are just like that. I was exactly like that in every relationship that didn't work all that well before now. I would swing between being sort of a scraggly, emotional, PMSing bunny and a big, angry Grizzly who didn't need anything -- but don't leave or I'll swat you with my big-ass paw. I would almost break up with a guy, then I'd feel really, really good and strong, then I'd win him back with my good mood and my strength, and then I'd slide into a weird needy but conflicted state again.
So, you might guess that you're just in a relationship that makes you a little crazy OR that you don't know how to be soft and vulnerable and let your guard down. Could be either thing. I've been in crappy relationships where I couldn't be honest and nice and vulnerable, and I'd talk to TBF about it, and talk to my therapist about it, and then I'd cry and try to really, you know, open up and be child-like, but it never worked. And why didn't it work? Because I didn't even LIKE my stupid boyfriend all that much, I didn't trust him, and I didn't fucking WANT to be vulnerable with that guy. Basically, all the "self-work" just masked the fact that he was lame and I wanted out.
So that's one possibility. Don't rule that one out. I mean, after all, you described some great traits that your guy has, but you didn't really say, "I love him and we're really happy together when he's not annoying the shit out of me."
BUT, you're a little hard to read, I don't want your Grizzly tone to lead me to jump to any conclusions about what you're actually feeling.
Another possibility, though, is that you do really love him a lot and you're having trouble abandoning yourself to it emotionally, because you associate that with having no life and letting the laundry pile up and having your marriage end. And look, regardless of what you're doing with or without him, you do have to get into a vaguely consistent space about what you want your life to look and feel like from day to day. You need to take care of yourself regardless of what the ebb and flow of the relationship is. Easier said than done, I know, but if you're inconsistent in the way you treat yourself and handle your own life, you're going to naturally take that out on him and lash out at him for being your escape hatch from yourself. You have to make sure you like yourself and your life, overall, with or without him. You have to be nicer to yourself in general. Maybe you need to spend a little bit more time with your girlfriends, not always with the guy or alone all weekend. Lean on your friends, tell them the truth about what's going on with you, trust those who are trustworthy and can hear you out.
OK, you could be doing that already, just decided to throw that in for anyone who's prone to underestimating the importance of leaning on friends and being there for them that consistently, since I used to be really bad about it in the old days.
So, maybe you're not happy with him, but maybe you're mostly not happy with yourself. That's your question for yourself, and my hunch is that until you do a lot of hard work, you know, being alone more, talking to friends more, making TBF a little bit of a lower priority, only then will you get some perspective on which part of your life needs to... gasp, I hate to say this, but... HEAL.
Then there's the "He talks too much and can't listen" thing. If he did this all the time, around the clock, then that would be a big deal. But it sounds to me like he's just a little bit of a loudmouthed goober at parties. And, as a serious loudmouthed goober myself, let me tell you what: You can't change that shit. That's what he considers fun. Now, if he's getting drunk every single weekend and he's not that nice when he's drunk, or totally nice, sane people think he's scary, or he says totally ridiculous absurd shit that is truly offensive, then fine. But if he's just loud and sort of dumb and geeky and embarrassing, well... I don't know. It sort of sounds like you irrationally want him to be cooler than he is.
This is partially about the age difference, by the way. I went out with a guy who was 40 when I was 29, too, and he wore MC Hammer pants out of the house. They were pink, too. He looked like a fucking moron in them. His favorite book? Conversations with God. I shit you not, my friend. Ok, that's not just a generational issue, that's a serious problem, but still. The point is, when someone is almost in a different generation, they're just naturally going to sound a little dorky sometimes, even when they're not wearing Hammer pants.
My husband is 7 years older, and he's pretty cool (particularly in contrast to Hammer) but every now and then he'll say something really painfully obvious about some underground thing that absolutely everyone already knows all about, he'll repeat the conventional wisdom on some pop cultural something or other like it's his original opinion that he came to on his own. (I know, I'm the asshole here, I get that.) And even though I know it's because he's a little older and he was in grad school for a decade while I was getting falling-down drunk on microbrews in coolier-than-thou San Francisco, where I was majoring in What To Know and How To Act About What You Know and other fucking useless moronic bullshit, even though I'm the one who's the big loser in the picture, I still have to mumble something like "Everybody knows that, dude." which makes me feel like such a sorry little bitch, I can't even tell you.
And yet, he tolerates it, because he's actually much cooler than me. As if you can't tell that by now.
But you know how else he proves that he's cooler and nicer than me? By tolerating me on those stupid nights approximately three times a year when I insist on drinking one too many beers and then imitating a Solid Gold dancer. Or, I'll have a few margaritas and decide that some sort of interesting-seeming stranger at a party should hear my instant guess about what kind of person she is (I'm more interested in women than men, generally, at this point in my life), followed by an in-depth analysis of whether or not she should marry her current boyfriend, what the deal was with her parents, etc. Yeah, sort of like the stuff on this blog, only it's far, far, far less charming in person, trust me.
I never noticed how completely tolerant and cool my now-husband was about this stuff until we hung out with an ex of mine who saw me demonstrating some totally stupid Tae-Bo move in the kitchen at a party and said, "Don't you want to tell her to tone it down?" to which my hero answered, "Ah, whatever. What does it have to do with me? She's having fun, what's the big deal?" (The irony of course is that the ex in question was a huge ham and was happy as a pig in shit when he had the opportunity to act like a dummy for a crowd, but you know, whatever, what does that have to do with me? He was funny, I'll give him that.)
The point is, it's good, when you love someone, to be tolerant of them when they're just being their goofy selves. It's not good to try to press people to be "cool." Cool is for losers. Cool is seriously uncool. I'm not saying I love the sound of air guitar and balding ponytails, or that I wouldn't be mean about that shit, I'm just saying, try. Try to figure out if it's about him or you.
And if your guy is just being silly, and he's not getting absurdly wasted regularly or being a dick, then you probably need to cut him some slack.
BUT, if the real problem is that he sort of makes your skin crawl or he's kind of a huge dork in a way that really, truly rubs you the wrong way (and I don't mean "rubs the Grizzly the wrong way" because the Grizzly hates everything and everybody that isn't also a mean, Harumphing bear) then maybe you don't love him enough and you should call it quits.
So there you have it: Back off and be more accepting at parties with TBF, try to open your heart to him and be less defensive about the possibilities, both that you'll break up and that you'll end up together forever, try to spend more time alone doing the dishes and singing, make sure you have healthy good friendships and if you don't, put more time and energy into them and straighten that part of your life out, and most of all, take it easier on yourself.
But also: Is TBF a good listener when you're not at a party? Because if it's always all about him, maybe he needs to hit the road. If he is a good listener, then experiment with being very honest with him and showing him yourself without getting all weird and "never again"y about relationships. Look, relationships carry with them the threat of pain. You're already putting yourself through the ringer, it's not like if you break up you're going to feel worse than you do when you're crying all the time. You're like me: When I'm in a relationship that's not working, I'm so weepy and sad, and I never, ever want to let go of it or give up on it, so I work and work and work. Then, when I finally feel a little better about myself, I get out of the dumb relationship and feel fucking great after something like a week, and I spend my rebound months humming and framing stuff and feeling great.
Well, most people are like that, probably. I'm just not sure your relationship is supposed to end yet. I don't know if you're bringing your best self to the table. Maybe that's a fault of the relationship, or maybe you should try to work on some stuff instead of blaming your stuff on him and then kicking him to the curb. Oh, and also, is he being flinchy about the relationship over the long haul? Because if he is, that may explain a lot of your emotional ups and downs, and honestly, if he's dragging his feet? Definitely move the fuck on. Don't waste your time.
Anyway, feel free to write back, clarify some of your points, whatever. As always, no matter how sure I might sound about this stuff, I'm open to the possibility that I don't know what the hell I'm saying. As I said, it's not that easy to tell what's at play here, and I want to make sure I haven't got it all wrong, thereby not giving you enough credit or not hearing the important parts of the story.
Wow, that last part was so fucking wishy-washy! Don't I usually end these letters with an insult? I am losing my edge, damn it!
Yeah, so... Turn blue!
And good luck.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
This sucks, I just know you're going to be so happy with your perfect life and beautiful baby and supporting husband and those multiple orgasms and whatever. Next thing you know, you'll think twice before calling your readers names, lose that condescending attitude and write very exciting favorable reviews on the latest "Teletubbies" episode.
Please, for us, start working on becoming an alcoholic, or something.
A bitter cynic
Perfect life? Honky, please. Don't let my hormonal retardation give you the impression that I'm headed down some glowing, blissful path. I'm telling you, I am on some good shit right now. This hormonal high is no joke. I can sit for several hours, scratching my dogs behind the ears, with a huge shit-eating grin on my face. It's too good to last.
And that's not to mention the sheer joy of eating. Not only does food taste a million times better than it usually does, but I'm hungry most of the day. Plus, I feel completely justified in eating as much as I want, whenever I want it. Now, I have a pretty good metabolism, normally. But this is different. It rules.
What's messed up is that pregnant women never really tell you about the high, instead they just say that they looove being pregnant, as if it's the sheer thrill of impending motherhood that makes them so damn happy. I had some inkling that there was a chemical element involved, though, when my normally cynical friend gushed to me, in her 8th month, that she could not wait to see her darling husband gaze at his daughter for the first time. I said, "Yeah, that'll be so cool" but inside, I was thinking, "This fool is high as a kite."
And here comes the good part, you bitter fucking cynic, you: She had a collicky baby, which means that the kid basically cried the entire time that it was awake for about three whole months and didn't sleep for more than 3 hours at a time AND she had post-partum depression (not surprising, given how high she was, that she crashed when her hormonal fix was cut off) AND she had all kinds of crazy infections and blocked ducts and painful stuff relating to breast-feeding, the details of which I've very consciously side-stepped in order to avoid giving up on childbearing altogether.
If I wanted a perfect life, I wouldn't be having a kid at all. Kids have a certain way of fucking with perfection, either by smearing their grubby little hands all over it or by knocking it over and breaking it or by becoming exactly the opposite kind of a person from the kind of person you generally like.
So don't misread my current befuddled, happy-go-lucky state and hope that I'll turn to the bottle soon. The path that lies before me is treacherous enough as it is.
Friday, August 11, 2006
THE LITTLE FUR FAMILY
OK, I know what you're thinking after reading that rescued kitten story, and you're right: Yes, I do sort of wish I could give birth to a little kitten or a puppy. I'm far less likely to throw my baby out of a moving vehicle, if it happens to be covered in fur and sometimes makes little wimpery barking noises, or meows, or purrs.
It would also be nice if it would run outside and crap in the backyard.
GOODBYE, CHILDLESS WHORE!
Well, it looks like I have to come clean now. I was going to put off writing this, since I feel sort of like I'm abandoning my people, but the fact that I confused the words "desert" and "dessert" in my last post is just far too painful and absurd not to warrant an explanation: I'm seven months pregnant.
Motherfucker! Can you believe it? Well, neither can I. If I weren't waddling around like a fat grandma and complaining about my aching back and being kicked in the gut by an anxious squirrel all day long, I wouldn't believe it for a second, either.
Here's the scoop: Got engaged in December, decided to "start trying" in early January, figuring "it'll take a while." HAHAHAHA! Oh yes. Ha ha. We found a place for the wedding and set the date in late January, and then decided we should -- get this! -- "wait until after the wedding to get pregnant"!! HAHAHA! Because then I wouldn't be "sick" and "grumpy" while we were "planning the wedding," and then I could also "drink" at the wedding! Ha. Ha ha. Then, the first week of February, guess who took a pregnancy test "just in case"? Heh heh. Heh. Huh.
The great thing about being pregnant, though, at least for me, is that you get this serious rush of hormones that keeps you from thinking the whole thing is a big fucking mistake. I mean, sure, I've been irritable. Of course! Short-tempered? Naturally. But no big existential crises of the sort one sometimes experiences, oh, approximately once a month. Remember, PMS is caused by a drop in hormones. Even though we refer to a "hormonal rage," or say "that's the hormones talking," what we generally mean is "Too bad the bitch is short on hormones today." Hormones are good, they motivate you to get the fucking baby room painted even though you weigh 160 pounds and you can barely get out of bed in the morning.
Yes, the happy mood of pregnancy is a damn good thing, because when your childless whoring days are over and you're staring down the barrel of years of screeching and fussing and stinky baby poo, it's important to cling fast to the illusion that you're on the right path. But really, between the happiness hormones and the post-wedding afterglow and the fact that Bill, my husband (argh, that word!) is really, really great to live with (I know, I fucking know, it's hard to hear that -- don't worry, I've got childbearing, post-partum depression, parental bickering and god knows what else in front of me, the perky talk can't last), the adjustment hasn't been all that difficult.
Does this mean I'm likely to lose my edge? Well, you'll be comforted to know that all of the hormones in the world can't keep me from shuddering when I get around a big gaggle of Moms, talking about nap time and attachment parenting and dragging out several dozen of those little Tupperware containers filled with Cheerios and cut-up fruit and rice cakes for their drooling monkeys to grasp in the drooly little fists. Bleh.
BUT. But. I did rescue a kitten from the middle of a busy street about a month ago, and it was only about two weeks old and we couldn't find its mom, so I had to bottle-feed it every three hours, which meant I had to set my alarm and get up several times a night. And I had to take it to the vet and launder all of its blankets over and over and wrap it up like a burrito so I could wash off its goobery face, and it would blink at me lovingly and purr whenever I cleaned it and gave it a bottle. Aww. It was buff-colored and had bright blue eyes (although most kittens do) and fuck, I don't even like cats all that much, but this guy was so tiny and sweet. Then it woke up one day feeling shitty, I took it back to the vet and, well, it died and I cried for two days. TWO DAYS. I cried hysterically in the vet's office, all the way home, called my husband to cry, called my friends and started crying and couldn't stop, cried cried cried. Pregnant women and baby animals are sort of a dangerous combination, as it turns out.
My point is, we were biologically created for this job. You can be as skeptical and as mean as a cornered raccoon, but when you're responsible for a needy little thing, well, it can turn you inside out.
Yeehaw, right? But I loved taking care of that kitty, that's the other crazy thing. It was the greatest. I didn't want to do anything else but wash his little face with a warm washcloth and give him a bottle. It was the greatest. And I was fucking obsessed.
So of course I'll lose my stupid edge. Look, I'm already retarded. That's something you don't hear about as much: Hormones turn you into a fucking half-wit. The other day I actually said "Freudy-ism." FREUDYISM! I was a goddamn psychology major, ok? I had a 3.8 GPA. It's the craziest feeling, searching for a word, and it's just not there. So you just say something, hoping it makes sense. And sadly, when you're used to being smart, and suddenly you're retarded, you still have faith in your intelligence, so you let these NON-WORDS come flying out of your mouth. I feel like the guy in Flowers for Algernon.
But you know how sometimes you meet someone who's kind of dumb, but they're really happy? And you feel a little bit jealous, like, "If only I were that stupid, it would be sooo much easier to be happy"?
Well, being dumb and happy is definitely just as great as you've always imagined.
THE BANQUET HALL OF INJUSTICE!
I used to have just one recurring dream, and pathetically enough, it involved a dessert buffet. In the dream, I wander into a huge banquet hall and discover an enormous table covered in fabulous desserts, each more impressive than the last. There's a chocolate mousse cake covered in whipped cream and raspberries, a hot cherry pie served with a big dollop of vanilla ice cream, some fancy custard and fresh fruit parfaits in tall, pretty glasses, a peach cobbler... In my dream, the camera pans slowly over each dessert as my excitement builds. But wait! I have to go to the bathroom, now!
I rush off in search of a bathroom. This takes several decades, and when I finally find one, the floor is covered in two inches of water. Eww.
No matter! I rush back to the dessert buffet, but -- gasp! -- there are only crumbs left on the platters there! Around the room, a crowd of friends and family are finishing off the last bites of the desserts!
My mind reels. I don't understand! Why didn't they save any for me? Not even a small slice of chocolate mouse cake? Not even a sliver of cherry pie? Why? Why?!!!
I feel very angry and misunderstood, so naturally I pull the table cloth off the long table, and all of the empty platters shatter all over the floor. People stare at me, mutely, and back away slowly. For some reason they seem to think I've lost my mind completely! This makes me feel incredibly misunderstood! So naturally I grab someone by the throat and demand some answers. "Why?!! Why didn't you leave me any pie, damn it?!"
"Ack! Ack!" the person usually responds, and I can tell that what he or she means is, "Let go of me, you psycho!" and not "We should've saved you some peach cobbler! We're assholes, it's true! You're completely justified in choking me right now! I totally understand and I feel your pain!"
I let go of the person's throat, and begin crying, hysterically, but then everyone is gone from the banquet hall and I'm all alone. Why? Why would they leave me all alone when I'm clearly crazy and enraged and violent? It's so unfair!
Without fail, every time I had this dream, I was PMSing. Which makes sense, since it's obviously possible to fly into a rage over delicious desserts when you're PMSing, whether you're asleep or awake.
One of the most dramatic effects of finding a good therapist, way back when, was that suddenly my dessert dreams would culminate not in violence, but in heartfelt discussions. "Why didn't you leave me any pie, exactly?" "Well, we forgot you were here. You were gone for a long time." "I was trying to find a goddamn bathroom. And anyway, that hurt my feelings, the fact that you wouldn't have saved me something." "We can see how you might feel that way, but we weren't really thinking clearly. There were lots of pies and cakes around, remember. It was tough to keep a clear head."
And then last night, out of the blue, I had another one of these Dessert Obstacle Course dreams. In my dream, I was staying in a hotel, alone, on vacation. I walked out onto my balcony and spotted some kind of a free buffet being served in the lobby of the hotel below. People were helping themselves to these big, round, brown fried things. Coconut fritters! Yum! But there was a long line, and it looked like there were only about ten or twelve of them left!
I needed to get down there immediately, before those coconut fritters ran out!
Keep in mind, I've never had a coconut fritter in my life, but they looked damn good in the dream. So I hastily threw on a sweater, found my glasses, and rushed out the door -- but when I turned to lock it, I saw that there was some kind of elaborate padlock with various steel bars and loose parts and it required five or six keys of different sizes. Damn it! Those fritters were going to be long gone by the time I finished with this ridiculous lock!
It's tough to prioritize well in dreams. You'd think that I'd just slam the door shut and run to grab a fritter, but that's not really how it works. Once you focus on some task in a dream, you have to complete it, no matter how frustrating and tedious it is. (My dreams are very different from my real life in this way.)
Just as I finished locking the hotel room door, I woke up. I guess my extreme distress over missing out on coconut doughnuts the size of my head must've overwhelmed me that much. The gods are merciful indeed, to restore conscious thought when the psyche is confronted with emotions too powerful to bear!
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
THE HALLS OF INJUSTICE
I used to be like the handsome Israeli guys only less handsome and no Angel Dust, just driving drunk and hitting the LSD and whatnot...
But that isn't what I'm writing about.
All that drunk and that LSD and so forth led me into about twenty-odd years of Finding Myself, wasting my Enormous Brain and my liberal-arts education on glorified construction work, all the while thinking "I think there might really be something to this computer stuff.."
And behind a modest inheritance I finally broke out of the stoop-labor market and learned a little bit about these computer things, enough to land me a singularly unglamorous job with a hugely prestigious technology company. Well my actual employer was an employee-leasing firm which provides contract workers to the prestigious company, but the understanding was that I needed to learn some more stuff and then the prestigious company would hire me.
So I learned the stuff, and it took me a year, and the day I was expecting to be told, "Hey the fix is in, we're gonna straighten you out and you should be a made guy soon," they told me to go home for ninety days and start over. One of my colleagues had blackballed me, a silly little twat who nobody likes and nobody but me really even respected at all, had taken offense at a perceived slight and my shit was over. My boss and his boss (the Regional Manager) have encouraged me to come back. After ninety days on the dole. Apparently there had been some changes in policy and that little twat's opinion was more important than the obvious needs and desires of the team as a whole -- even though he is now being punished. Everyone is being punished, this was not supposed to happen, the Regional Manager is furious, how could this happen? Why was nobody told?
So I'm about halfway through my ninety days and I have finally managed to stop frothing at the mouth about how they *fucked* me and I've decided that my job is to just get over it already and get ready to go back to work, be nice to the twat, watch my attitude, wear a clean shirt and so forth.
But I wonder, am I being a sap? I have never had a real corporate job, is this just how it is or should I pursue other opportunities? Like you would know, when have you ever had a corporate job? You're a fucking stuffed rabbit! If I go back is everyone going to look at me funny and mutter about me to one another under their breath? Do my boss and his boss really want me back or do they just tell everybody that shit to ward off some imaginary liability under civil law?
This would be an easy decision if I were not talking about a company that is in the headlines almost every day. As a career-changer I could really benefit from having this company on my resume, and not just for a year as a contractor. I still don't have the technical chops to do very well elsewhere, at least not right away, but do I really want to hitch my wagon to a company that thinks nothing of employing me for a year only to tell me that my work is very good and I can go fuck myself?
Did I mention that I have some problems with self-esteem? That I have a big mouth and a stubborn streak as wide as the Pacific Ocean? That I'm talking about a company which has substantially redefined the Web in a matter of a few years, and that is years ahead of everybody in technical areas that fascinate me? That my drag persona and my attempts at a career as a media critic and a housewife did not work out?
What's a poor little supermodel, with a body for sin and a head for massive virtualization, to do?
Hmm. Confused. Body for sin, big mouth, stubborn streak, liability, twat? Your story is a little bit difficult to follow, frankly. I can't really tell what kind of a job you're doing, whether or not you're using the term "on the dole" because you're in Great Britain or because you think it's a cool way of saying "on unemployment," what the actual terms of your leaving your job for three months and then coming back were, or how the twat in question was punished for being a twat. I also wonder how you offended him, how he generally navigates the office, and what makes people dislike him.
But forget all that. Basically, I'm going to take your word for it: You were dealt an unfair hand by authority figures who misunderstood, or who were covering their own asses in some way, or who just didn't care all that much about your well-being. Maybe it was convenient to get rid of you temporarily, to placate the twat. Maybe they secretly didn't like you all that much, and wanted to teach you a lesson. Who knows? First and foremost, I want you to clear you head and focus on one very basic truth about the workplace, any workplace in the world: It's no fucking fair.
It's very, very important to remember this, no matter what industry you work in, no matter what kind of a job you have. Offices are poorly managed. Almost across the board. In fact, let's make a list of ten things to keep in mind, every single day, before you arrive at your job, whatever job it is.
Rabbit's Eternal Truths of the Workplace
1. Most offices are horribly managed.
2. Most managers can't, technically, "manage" worth a shit.
3. Most coworkers are out for themselves and no one else.
4. Most people -- bosses, colleagues, underlings, whatever -- don't know how to communicate clearly with each other.
5. Most people do work that ranges from mediocre to absolutely shoddy.
6. When you do good work, most people won't notice or if they do notice, they won't reward you for it.
7. Most bosses don't know how to clearly communicate their expectations to you, and are likely to sprinkle in personal insults, inappropriate comparisons to your coworkers, condescending asides, and other disturbingly unprofessional digressions when they speak with you.
8. When you communicate your goals and objectives clearly, most people will misunderstand you or assume that you're being overly aggressive or nitpicky or trying to steal their jobs.
9. The culture of most work settings is ineffectual, passive aggressive, wildly dysfunctional, dorky, and almost willfully chumpy, and often rewards mediocrity, troublemaking, pouting, and juvenile behavior.
10. If you attempt to be yourself or express your true feelings in most office settings, you will inevitably offend someone, step on someone's toes, piss someone off, or get slapped with a sexual harassment suit.
Now look, I'm not saying there aren't offensive people out there who sexually harass their coworkers. I'm not saying that some offices, somewhere, aren't filled with nice people who communicate with each other clearly, get along well, and do their jobs efficiently. I'm not saying there aren't good managers and highly effective colleagues and straight shooters and healthy, friendly people in the world. My boss at Salon, for one, is extremely smart, clear, encouraging, and easy to work for, and I'm honestly not just saying that because I like getting paid.
That said, in my experience, most offices suck ass and most coworkers are hard to take. Most people don't understand you even when you speak very clearly to them. Many, many professional human beings out there are troublemakers, even when you take pains to lay out your objectives in the most polite manner possible, even when you try hard to be detail-oriented, to keep everyone in the loop, to graciously accept extra work, to help the people you work with and make their jobs easier.
And look, it's not like you and I are the only sane people on the planet. I'm sure if we worked together, I'd hate you and you'd hate me. The fact is, it's very very easy to get offended when you're on deadline and stressed out and you basically dislike every word of every email that's popping up on your computer and every word you overhear in the elevator and every bad laugh or stupid joke you have to endure in the conference room. Even if you love your job, even if you're grateful for it and you enjoy the company of some of the people you work with and you actually savor most of the tasks set before you each day, it's very easy to get bent out of shape at work.
So where does that leave us? With Rabbit's Golden Rules of the Workplace, which are particularly useful to hotheads and people with big mouths like you and me.
Rabbit's Golden Rules of the Workplace
1. Accept Rabbit's Eternal Truths of the Workplace. When you feel angry and want to bash someone's face in, reread them. Remind yourself that everyone is in the same boat: All offices and people in them are disappointing in one way or another.
2. Never send angry emails, or pick up the phone when you're angry, or allow yourself to have an angry outburst in a meeting. Go for a walk, call a friend, eat a couple dozen candy bars, but don't get pissed off at work, it's a great big huge fucking mistake and you'll regret it. Losing your temper at work is the definition of unprofessional.
3. When you need to express yourself on the phone or through email, be exceedingly polite. Thank people for helping you, for taking the time to read your emails or answer your calls or requests for information.
4. When other people are unprofessional or want to start shit or bicker with you, stick to the objectives at hand. Communicate what you need to in order to do the job and nothing more.
5. Don't complain to people at work about other people at work. If you must, choose one person who you trust to complain to. Gossip and gripe all you want to that person, within reason, but make sure you can trust him or her first, and don't involve anyone else in it. Make sure the person won't repeat anything to anyone else. If possible, find someone outside of work who you can confide in about work stuff, but don't overdo it. Listening to someone else's petty office bullshit is about as interesting as hearing about the "really long, really weird dream" they had last night in excruciating detail.
6. Try not to pick sides. Don't stir the pot. Don't jump right in with your opinion. You can be the most opinionated motherfucker on the planet, but save that shit for your friends, don't trot it out at work. No one will trust you, and they'll start to undervalue your work, even when it's good.
7. Exercise at least four times a week. Working in an office will eat away at your sanity unless you stay in shape.
8. Do your best to manage your manager. If he or she can't communicate his or her expectations of you, find out what they are. Check in often. Ask questions. Make it very clear what you're working on.
9. Don't waste your time doing jobs that someone else can easily do. This is a great way to stay trapped, frustrated and undervalued. Find the things that no one else can do quite as well as you can and do those things really, really well. If there are parts of your job that any trained monkey can perform, try to get your boss to hire someone else to handle those things while you excel at the stuff they can't hire out. This might take time, but if you never do anything that is a waste of time or can be completed by someone else, you'll naturally shape your career path based on your talents and you'll make yourself irreplaceable.
10. Meet your fucking deadlines. Dummy.
11. Exceed expectations.
So, specifically, Cisco? I'd say you need to stop being yourself in the workplace. I know that sounds oppressive, but you've clearly got a big personality and a lot of opinions, and frankly, people hate that shit at work. You may be able to get away with it if you're the boss, but even then, you're going to run into some trouble.
Remember, offices are filled with threatened, frustrated, unhappy people most of whom are pretty fucking bad at their jobs, and they know it. You don't have the freedom to be your charismatic, talkative, smart self in that setting. Hell, you don't even have the freedom to offer feedback that you think might help to improve the stupid product. Half the time, your opinions and input, however spot-on, aren't welcome. That's just the way it is.
If you want to work with other people, you have to act like a nice, mild-mannered person. That's the kind of person people want to work with. I'm not saying you can't stand up for yourself, but it sounds like you're going to do that regardless. I'm just saying, you've got to put that light under a basket. Save it for the weekend, supermodel, because you've worked hard to get here, and you're not going to have a career if you feel compelled to express yourself freely in the workplace.
Yes, it's unfair and stupid. Please feel free to reread "Rabbit's Eternal Truths About Workplaces" if you want to remind yourself why you have to mute yourself eternally. Just accept it. If I were you, I would stick with this job despite feeling like your pride has been hurt by it -- you said yourself that it's an important firm and a really great opportunity for you. You have to leave the past behind you, and make it clear to everyone, including the twat, that you're not going to sulk or start trouble despite the injustices of the past. Focus on your work, ignore the twats, excel at what you do, and blow off steam by working out and bitching to people other than the ones you work with. At work, you need to learn to be low-key, easy-going, and quiet.
This is about your future, it's not about fighting battles that will not only give you high blood pressure, but will nip your career possibilities in the bud. Leave your great big personality at home and become the kind of no-nonsense, hard-working employee that it's easy for people to respect, to promote, and, most importantly, to overpay.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
A BAD WEEK FOR BAD HONKIES
Oh boy. First Mel Gibson lets his true colors fly, then scary "Girls Gone Wild" creator Joe Francis reveals his ugly side to an L.A. Times reporter (and an unfortunate teenage girl), and now we get the latest details of the rape and murder of an Iraqi family by a bunch of drunk American soldiers.
Go ahead, read those two articles and see if you don't feel seriously depressed afterwards. Are men angrier than they've ever been, or is this just a typical sampling of the same frustrated, hateful fuckers who have existed for centuries? How can we gasp and wring our hands at the atrocities of the Vietnam War, and then thirty years later, the same fucking thing happens all over again?
A WINNER NEEDS A WAND
Posting to a blog every day is no fun if you don't know have a clue whether or not anyone is reading it. I had to get rid of my Nedstat counter because the company was purchased by a bigger fish and suddenly started throwing up ads and cookies and bullshit.
So, does anyone know of a statistical counter thing -- there's probably a term for it -- that's entirely harmless and sweet, lingering in the corner, seen but not heard, until it's needed? Please write to me, rabbit at rabbit blog, to recommend one.
If you don't know of such a thing, but do have lots of troubling problems or just mild challenges you'd like to relate, write to me about those instead. I've got to keep the wheels of industry turning if I'm going to post every day in August as promised. Meanwhile, back at the Salon ranch, I have to watch about 40 hours of TV and write about 10,000 words this week. But I sort of enjoy insane challenges. It's better than drifting around in your dirty socks all day.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
DEADWOOD LIKE ME
For those who just read this week's I Like To Watch TV column on Salon, I do realize that David Milch and HBO have agreed to produce two two-hour movies to round out the story. Personally, though, I'm too disappointed that there won't be a full fourth season of the show to get incredibly excited about two movies. I'm not usually a purist about these things, but I love "Deadwood" and can't really understand why it would be given the short shrift. To me, the end of the third season really feels like the end of the show, and it depresses me.
Or it did, until I popped in the DVD Showtime sent me with the first five episodes of "Weeds." "Weeds" kicks ass, I have to say. It's rare to find a half-hour comedy that's substantive enough to make a great one-hour drama, but "Weeds" is it. I wish it were a one-hour drama, in fact, because then there'd be more of it to go around.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
ALL THINGS GO
First of all, if you haven't heard Sufjan Stevens' "Chicago," adult contemporary version, from "Avalanche" (outtakes from the album "Illinois")? Well, you aren't living. You'd better get on iTunes and work it out, motherfucker.
Ah, the freedom of the blog. I almost forgot about the pure joy of writing pointless drivel for anyone desperate enough to drop by these parts, given the notable lack of activity of late. But the times, they are a' changin' -- at least in the month of August they are.
Yes, that's right, I hereby declare August another Post Every Day Month for Ye Olde Rabbit Blogge. Now, I know, February didn't go quite as planned -- namely, I skipped a few days -- but August is going to be different, Trust me.
What, you don't trust me? Because I never post anymore? Because I suck? Because once, this blog was a thing of beauty, or at least a source of occasional amusement or distraction for the procrastinating worker bee, or the procrastinating housebound layabout, and now it's nothing but a shabby little neglected ghost town?
I know I have some explaining to do (although there are no explanations in this post). And I do want to explain, and I've wanted to explain for months, but when your life feels like it's on fast forward, it can be daunting to get everyone up to speed, particularly when you feel -- as I do -- that, even though this is a blog, that doesn't give you a good excuse to turn it into a great big public diary. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love certain very personal blogs, and I wholeheartedly endorse their existence. But I'm not sure that's my style. If I were to, say, get post-partum depression and be forced to spend some time in an unsavory institutional setting, for example, I would most likely sink into a haze of alienation and self-pity behind closed doors. I wouldn't want to write about it until, say, maybe a year later, and even then, I'd probably end up writing a short humor essay on it, or something about post-partum in general. Or maybe I'd write a personal essay on it, an Incredibly Moving and Relatable personal essay that would naturally find its way into every Best Essay anthology printed. While we're all high on angel dust, let me add that I'd probably win a MacArthur Genius Grant or get sent to Paris on some luxury writer's vacation fully funded by some huge foundation that those who aren't brilliant writers never even hear about. It's all very hush-hush - you're proclaimed the next Joan Didion and then you're whisked away to drink fine wine and eat incredible cheeses with other genius writers for several years. Even Joan Didion doesn't know about it.
Speaking of angel dust, though: Why did anyone ever do angel dust? It was the one drug that you always had the feeling was just as terrible as the anti-drug propagandists led you to believe it was. While it was tough to believe that anyone high on pot would freak out and jump off a rooftop instead of, say, just ordering a pizza and watching ten hours of "The Simpsons" in a row, when the drug cops told you PCP would make you hostile and dizzy and unhappy, you believed them. Hell, I remember this really awful drug awareness thing they did with us in fifth grade at my Catholic school, and even though I was a goody two shoes and had no intention whatsoever of sampling any drugs stronger than Tylenol, I remember being skeptical about most of the information except the stuff they said about PCP. It didn't sound good.
Then, one New Year's Eve several years back, I had a few too many drinks and ended up taking a few puffs off a joint some Israeli guys were smoking at a big-ass party in New York City. Kids, you know how they say don't accept drugs from strangers? Sounds kind of like a big fucking no-brainer, doesn't it? Well, I'm here to tell you that, after two shots of tequila and two or three beers, paradoxically, it doesn't seem like such a bad idea at all.
Unfortunately, now I'm going to have to admit that I'd had plenty of drinks and then smoked pot many times before, and it all went just fine -- I'm going to have to admit that it went quite well, in fact. You know, well as in I talked way too loud and bored everyone around me and had a really good time. Please just trust me, this was Different. And I should've known when the one Israeli guy, who was quite tall and had beautiful honey-colored skin and green eyes but also seemed like he might have a mean streak a mile wide, turned to me and said, "Very VERY strong, be careful," I should've know that he didn't mean this was just really exceptionally strong pot -- which, having lived in San Francisco, I was plenty familiar with. He didn't mean, "You shoulda smelled this skunky-ass weed before we rolled that joint, dude, it's the kindest of kind bud," the way my high-school boyfriend, who grew pot in his closet at home, might've meant it. No, my high-school boyfriend, who liked to do shots of 151 Bacardi rum in the afternoon, who sometimes brought big bags of pot home from college in Boulder, CO -- Yes, brought it home on a plane, like some self-destructive, half-retarded fuckhead, packed in coffee grounds to throw the drug dogs off its scent! -- he had the good sense to stay the hell away from angel dust.
No, by "Very VERY strong" this lovely young man meant, "My friends and I are the sorts of crazy motherfuckers who aren't satisfied to simply get high on New Year's Eve, no, we'd prefer to lace our pot with the sort of drug that's so fucking unlovable and nasty that, even when it was widely available, it basically never caught on, because people fucking hated it."
But I listened to the words "very VERY strong." I took a very small puff or two. I was conservative. And about five minutes later, I was sitting behind a door in the dark -- as in, in the corner, kids, behind an open door, hiding behind the fucking door -- and the entire room had turned into some black-and-white painting, filled with people speaking in tongues. I couldn't tell what the fuck they were saying, but I felt very, very sick to my stomach, and I was way too paranoid to get up and find a bathroom. My pulse was racing in the most unpleasant way, I was sweating, my face was bright red, I wanted to disappear. You know, all the side effects you really look for in a drug.
Then, my boyfriend at the time found me (no, I wasn't all alone at the party) and I felt like I had been saved from the inky abyss. Sadly, though, I mentioned that I had smoked some pot, and it was bad, very bad, not just strong but possibly laced with something, and what did my very responsible, sweet boyfriend do? He ran off looking for the guys with the pot, leaving me in the corner, behind the door. He was a nice guy, honestly, but it was his birthday and he felt like he had the right, more than anyone else in the world, to get high at that exact moment. You see, when I said the words, "Bad, VERY BAD, possibly laced with something" what he heard was "You shoulda smelled this skunky-ass weed before we rolled that joint, dude! It's the kindest of kind bud."
After what seemed like close to a decade, my boyfriend returned and proclaimed the pot "very strong." I told him I needed his help, very badly, NOW. He said, "I'm going to help you, I am, I'm going to help you," and then he planted his face on the hardwood floor, with his ass in the air, and said, "Uh oh."
See how it works, kids? See what happens when you take pot from handsome strangers with exotic accents? See what happens when you visit the big city and get all bold with your drug use? See? My boyfriend disappeared for another decade in the bathroom while I sat right there, behind the door, feeling panicked and furious at myself and worried about how incapacitated I was, but the main words that kept going through my head were: "Angel dust. Angel dust. Angel dust." I knew that's what it had to be, because I had instantly become the poster child for everything horrific about the drug that I had ever read or head about.
Anyway, we did somehow make it home OK. It wasn't like we were driving or anything -- we were fucking idiots, but we didn't have a fully-formed death wish -- in fact, we were staying about seven blocks away, and even so, the second I hit the curb, I jumped into an illegal cab (they have these on New Year's because there aren't enough cabs around and they know they can fleece you), the guy said, "Twenty bucks," my boyfriend said, "That's bullshit, man, we live like a few blocks away," and I said, "Perfect! Let's go!" The next day we woke up and felt like we'd narrowly escaped the fires of hell.
If you think I'm overstating the dramatic effects of this crappy drug, just read some of the fine side-effects here. Oh yeah, baby. Who doesn't want to feel anxious, disoriented, psychotic, confused, and paranoid? Isn't that what heavy drugs are all about?
Kids, if you're going to experiment with drugs, here's my advice: First, always wait until someone else has tried it. See how they act. Then, do exactly one fourth of what they just did, particularly if you're a woman. Even if you feel freaked out, you'll have the edge of knowing that you have more of a hold on reality than anyone else in the room. Next, drink lots of water and eat something, but don't do either so compulsively that you end up killing yourself. It's possible to poison yourself by drinking gallons and gallons of water without any electrolytes -- throw some Gatorade into the mix, or something salty -- particularly if you're on drugs and can't fucking tell what you're doing. Also, don't drive, for christssakes and don't, for any reason, let the asshole who said he wasn't going to drive suddenly say, "I changed my mind. I'd feel better if I drove." You know, you have a designated driver lined up, but this dick wants to drive his car while he's high on drugs anyway. Don't let your Mommy find out from the cops after some gruesome accident that you were all very high on something very strong EXCEPT FOR ONE GUY IN THE BACKSEAT, WHO WAS TOTALLY SOBER. Don't let your Mommy bury you knowing that you were a total fucking dumbass. Explain very calmly to the dickhead that you can't get in the car if the sober guy isn't driving, you'll stay right there in the middle of the desert if you have to (Bring a cell phone, for fuck's sake, or have a friend with you who you can trust not to get in the car with the idiots). I had to do this once. Look, I don't know if relying on a designated driver is any good at all, if that driver is the sort who'll tell you EVEN THOUGH HE'S SOBER that you're a control freak for wanting the sober guy to drive instead of the guy who did drugs. I mean, watch out for the kinds of fuckers who do drugs in the first place, kids. Lots of them don't have any sense at all, let's face it. If you can't have a smart, sensible, reasonable, vaguely sane friend along who you trust, you're sort of asking for it. In this situation I had a friend willing to sit there in the desert with me, if necessary, waiting for daylight or a cab or whatever. Nothing is worse than getting too messed up to drive and finding yourself surrounded by wasted dummies. A far too common experience, when you yourself are a wasted dummy.
OK, here's another important one: Don't go near balconies, overcrowded decks, roofs, or open windows. Once, I was just a little buzzed on a roof, and I noticed that it didn't seem all that dangerous to step close to the edge. "Weird! I'm three stories up, but this doesn't feel dangerous!" I thought. Then I went inside and didn't go out there again, because I knew that this illusion might lead me right to the intensive care unit.
Here's a better story, for those of you who aren't impressed by subtle realizations: A friend of mine was walking down Haight Street on some big party/festival day, can't remember which, and there were drunk and high people everywhere -- on the street, hanging off balconies. Everyone was drunk or stoned or tripping on acid or doing God only knows what. Then, about six feet in front of my friend, a woman falls backwards off a balcony onto the street. She writhes around, eyes wide open, having some kind of a seizure-type event, then dies, right in front of him. Woohoo. Party.
Stuff like that happens a lot. Kids not much dumber than you or me die ugly deaths for no good reason, and they miss out on getting old and crusty and having poorly updated blogs like the rest of us. I don't mean to go all "Reefer Madness" on you, here, but there are downsides to dabbling in stuff that turns you into a moron in seconds. Easy enough to say when you're old and don't have any interest anymore, and would rather eat doughnuts in bed and watch the first season of "The Wire," but still.
Alrighty then! Good thing all that stuff happened a long, long time ago, so I could write about here without cringing too violently. Now I should probably write that award-winning essay on the subject, with a title like "Angel Dusted" or "Angel Dust in the Wind"... Nah, I think I'll go get some doughnuts instead.