Friday, July 30, 2010
HUSBANDS = LOSERS?
You offer such wonderful advice to women who need to break up with the jackasses they’re dating. I am currently dating a man with whom I badly need to break up, but I just can’t seem to do it. He is, like the boyfriends of many past advice-seekers, handsome, delicious, great in bed, and fundamentally unavailable emotionally. He also doesn’t want children and will NEVER want children, and while I’m not quite ready to have them yet myself, it’s an option I may want to ponder in the next few years.
I’m 33, happy with my job, and I hardly drink at all (and yes, I’m pretty hot, though I’m definitely not too beautiful to be your friend). I have great friends and hobbies, cute pets, my own place, and a good life generally. Except for the fact that I am in love with a difficult man-child who, although he loves me, doesn’t really want an “every day” kind of relationship. He’s more into a “two to three days a week” arrangement. Sometimes this feels romantic and fun, and sometimes I feel lonely despite my solid crew of ladyfriends and just want the comfort of a lover who is also a close friend, who wants to hear how my project is going and what I think about Jersey Shore or the new Haruki Murakami novel.
Here’s where the psychological twistedness begins. When I (calmly, with I-statements) try to express the desire for more time with my guy, he basically says, “Guys who have time to be husbands [and by extension, fathers] have NOTHING else going on in their lives. They’re not creative and they’re dead inside. You’d be bored with a guy like that.” And to a small degree, he might be right, except I really really hope not. My dad was (like my boyfriend, cringe) one of the hip, gypsy ne’erdowell deadbeat dads that were endemic in the seventies (he was “too creative” to have time to be a dad…you see where this is going). I hardly saw him at all from the time I was four until he finally came back to the States when I was in my teens—and by then, it was far too late to have any semblance of a father-daughter relationship. So here I am, acting it all out again. Ugh.
Over the past three years, I’ve tried to break up with this guy many times, even going so far as to move to another state with another man, which was as ill-fated as it sounds. I did well professionally, but emotionally I didn’t hold up too well, what with having no friends and having the guy I moved for break up with me about a week after I unpacked. Silly, I know, but I learned a lot and it ended up affording me better opportunities when I came back. Anyway, I also fell back into the arms of the beautiful, stubborn puer aeternus, and here I am. Still sniffling into my soup on a semi-regular basis because he just doesn’t have time for me. I have a kind of vague idea of what a better relationship would look like—I think it would involve sleeping in the same bed occasionally and having someone to play Boggle with. I also know there must be creatively fulfilled men out there who also happen to be husbands and fathers. But the concrete details of these things are foreign to me.
I realize there is some kind of deep choice that I need to make—I loved what you wrote about “waking up feeling good” with your person. I need to be strong! I need to put my foot down! I need to put one foot in front of the other and walk away! And I just don’t really know how to do that. I think you are pretty good at some of those things, so I am hoping you might have some pointers.
Stuck at Square One
Dear Stuck at Square One,
What do you think of the new Haruki Murakami novel?
See how good that feels? Your day could start like that every day, if you married the uncreative loser who has time to be a husband or a father. Back when I was glamoured by a wide range of very well-intentioned man-children, narcissists and oh-so-creative unemployed stoners, I always worried that a stable, interested, present, mature adult would bore the shit out of me. I loved overconfident, blustery, bold men with a swagger in their step – and when I cried over something small and these guys told me that this very nice thing about me, my ability to weep at, say, a dead bird or a really moving TV ad, made me a loser, I believed them. I believed that my emotions were a huge inconvenience, and that only a truly debilitated zero would ever give a shit about them.
Sigh. And you know, these guys felt like home. I write about this in my book. Longing for more love felt utterly comfortable to me, in many ways, while having someone pay real attention to me and only me just made me nervous. What kind of a worthless toad would spend a few seconds focusing on me and me alone?
But a survival instinct did kick in eventually, about 2 years in. When I'd finally grown a little less blown away by the charms (created partially by pedestal-building by me) of this or that guy, I'd picture myself raising kids with a man-child, cleaning up after a man-child, or just letting myself get older and older and more and more invisible as some man-child lingered ambivalently at the edge of the frame. And finally I'd say FUCK THIS SHIT and cry too much and act like your classic psycho chick. ("Why won't you wake up and see how WONDERFUL I AM?" I'd lament, looking like Captain Caveman in my grungy soft pants.)
The thing you need to know is this: The stakes are fucking high. Because having a nice boring, lame loserman who's willing to listen, support me, drive the kids to daycare, walk the dogs, hang out, be a good friend, etc. is the single best thing about my life. I'm not saying I was nothing before, or that marriage is everything. I'm just telling you that if you do feel, at some level, that what you really want is a real partner and not a distracted cat in your life, then it's crucial that you drop this guy immediately. Just start researching now. Line up an apartment if you live together. Line up a week's worth of activities to keep you busy. Pack up your shit. Dump him. Be polite about it – you'll know you're ready if you can manage that. Sure, you'll also cry and lament, but you're really just torturing yourself, both in staying with him and in weeping about it. You already know he's not good for you. You already know you're about to be happier. There's nothing romantic about being ignored, so work really hard on removing the tragic romantic drama from your image of him. TRUST ME, in a year, you will see him very, very clearly and you will think: Christ almighty, that guy. Why?
While you loom around, waiting for Handsome to get home, you're letting lots of really great possibilities pass you by. Why would you fucking do that to yourself?
Again: It's already over. Now you're just torturing yourself. Just take action. Pack some stuff. Make a few phone calls to friends. Just act, don't lament, don't get dramatic.
And sure, you won't like anyone for a while. That's fine. Make friends, focus on living very large for a while. But while you're single, and you're sometimes lonely, just remember: You will find someone who's just as pretty to look at and smart and creative as your boyfriend, only he'll also love talking about shit, and he'll love you. Have faith in yourself, and keep telling yourself that you're not settling for less than someone who's head over heels about you. Be clear on that, and the rest of your life is already guaranteed to be better than it is right now.
Some other ideas: Buy a nice outfit. Commit to a vigorous exercise routine. Get your hair cut and colored. All of these things seem to help. Splurge a little for a few weeks.
And finally? Everyone is really boring after a while, at some level. The thing that saves so called "boring" men and husbands from being as unbearable as man-children is their genuine engagement with the world. There is really nothing in the world nicer than having a real conversation, a real back and forth, with your husband. There's nothing nicer than seeing him really talk to your kids, and listen to what they say. You look at someone like that and you say to yourself, "Christ, I must be doing something right, to be a part of this picture." I'm not just bragging emptily about my fantastic life here; this is the way that women who have thoughtful, smart, present men in their lives feel.
It's good to be an adult. You will love it, believe me. Fuck it, why not start today?
Best of luck,
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Mom. Dad. We need to talk. When your toddler bites another toddler, don't rush over and say "Oh! Oh! Oh!" to the bitten child, whose parents are right there saying "Oh! Oh! Oh!" already. Look at YOUR kid. She's smiling. You need to talk to her. Don't pick up your smiling daughter and then walk over to where the bitten kid is crying and say, "Do you see what you did? Do you see?" in a soft voice you might also use when you say "Aren't you big!" or "You ate all your peas!" Don't say, "Do you see? Do you see?" over and over like you're looking at a humming bird or the north star. After that, don't blush and freak out and feel embarrassed and explain yourself as if this is All About You, because no one actually wants to hear it. Don't juice a bunch of reassurances and friendly feelings out of the bitten kid's parents -- even though they know that all toddlers are crazy, enraged monkeys because they have one living in their home with them, too, they won't mean a word they say. In fact, they won't like you no matter what you say next. But this isn't about your experiences, or your new friends, or how cool or not cool you appear to the other hipster parents assembled.
This is about telling your kid that she shouldn't bite. You have to do this right after it happens, so she gets it. That's what you do when your kid bites. You get down at eye level and you say, in a harsh tone (sorry, but this is the rare occasion when it's not only warranted but recommended), "That is bad. We never, ever bite. That is very, very bad."
But you never stopped and looked your kid in the eye, mom. You never used a harsh tone or even a firm tone. So your kid smiled and babbled to herself as you were freaking out and apologizing to everyone else. Let's review what your kid just learned: Bite a random kid at the hipster coffee playpen and mommy rushes over, picks you up, and coos at your accomplishment along with all of the other parents.
I have not read multiple parenting books. I do not pretend to know anything about raising children. I am a far cry from an ideal parent -- that's why my kids are somewhere else while I sit here in a cafe, trying to write some ultimately pointless critique of a pop cultural artifact no one will remember 3 weeks from now, let alone 3 years. I do my best, almost, not quite.
But look: Your kid bites? Don't think about your stupid ego. Get down on your goddamn hands and knees and look your kid right in the eye and tell your kid that we do not fucking bite each other, period.
I'm not saying it'll ACTUALLY WORK. Christ almighty, of course not! I would never imply such a thing. And I'm DEFINITELY not saying that the parents of biters are bad, or that they cause their kids' biting. No way. They really don't. Kids are lunatics, we all know that.
All I'm saying is that if you see your kid bite another kid, and instead of addressing your kid directly, you pick her up and then make a big show of explaining yourself to everyone else like you're running for city council? You're fucking lame. That is all.
Friday, July 23, 2010
OLD, BROKEN THINGS
I'm hand-coding my archives, finally, because the automated blogger script isn't working and has been misplacing my ancient history since before man discovered fire. Yes, this blog is that old!
In other news, my neighbor seems to have dealt with his faulty, beeping fire alarm by ripping it out of the ceiling and leaving it in his backyard about 20 feet from where I now sit. BEEP. Here's how it all unfolded! BEEP. First, the dog looked very frightened out of the blue, perhaps fearing that carbon monoxide poisoning might kill us all at any minute. BEEP. That's when I noticed the weird, shrill beep. BEEP. I wandered around the house trying to figure out which of our alarms was beeping. BEEP. Luckily, that's when Bill returned home, and, in a ritual as old as time itself, I instructed him to dismantle the suspected alarm. BEEP. I said, "It's that one! Take it down! It's making me fucking crazy!" BEEP. In a dance as old as the very stones on which our humble bungalow was crafted 100 years ago, Bill took the alarm down and removed its batteries to replace them -- but the beeping continued! BEEP. Like so many proud men had done before him, he stomped around the house, swearing and yanking down the other two alarms. BEEP. By now, Bean, the frightened dog, was sitting in my lap, hoping against hope that we weren't about to pass out and die in our compound like cornered fundamentalist separatist types, the really extremist kinds who watch "Top Chef." BEEP. Finally, Bill looked out the window and saw that the offending alarm was our neighbor's. BEEP. Well, now. BEEP.
But enough of that. BEEP. I'm on deadline. BEEP. I have to concentrate! BEEP.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Awwwww Rabbit I'm sorry, I sure didn't mean to hurt your feelers. As a matter of fact, I do have friends of all sizes, not to mention many ages, levels of attractiveness and in various stages of mental health - God knows that last one changes for me monthly. I do take responsibility for what I say or write however, so my sincere apology to you for any insult caused by my first email. But I really think my bigger mistake was assuming you were thicker skinned. And no, I'm not copping out with one of those lousy,"it's-really-your-fault-for-being-insulted" back-handed apologies. My friends and I just happen to enjoy a lot of insult-type banter. We call each other out, give each other loads of shit and laugh it off. It's not our exclusive style of rapport by any means, we also love and support each other and we respect and defend one another. We just don't get too worked up about the "F" word (as in "fat'). Why give society the power to tell us how to feel about our bodies? And yes, we get bitter too and yes, it can, at times, be fun and funny! Your column(s) just make you seem like one of the wisenheimers in our group. My bad for getting too familiar.
With most deepest reverence and profound respect,
p.s. Did my 2nd email make the boo-boo even a wittle bit better?
Dear Lisa B,
You're very funny. Do you do stand-up? Are you coming to LA on your next tour?
I hope when you get famous you don't forget the little people who put you there. Or the fat, angry people. And I hope you remember every last one of your loving, supportive, respectful, teasing, bantering, thick-skinned, secure, occasionally bitter, fun, funny friends.
If you would just write to me every day, I'd never have to generate any ideas for this blog. Please write to me every day. Pleeeease.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Rabbit, are you getting fat?
Because you're sounding more bitter than usual. So, pip-pip, cheerio and all that - in other words, chin up!! (Seriously, you have gobs to be thankful for.)
Oops, my stupid internet connection stopped before loading the rest of your latest post so all I read was your whining about the people you think are perfect. Sorry, I just saw the rest of your post and you don't sound bitter at all, also who cares if we get a little fatter? Christ, this country is so hung up on being thin. I'm naturally thin, but I think a little meat on the bones just looks so much better so I'm always trying to pack on a few lb's. Why is it that what feels so soft and supple to touch and caress is not what our eyes are supposed to find attractive? It just makes no fucking sense. I like what you wrote about the bouncy lady with the sign, I hope I see her some day.
Dear Lisa B.,
This country is so hung up on being thin and happy that most people assume that anyone who's pissed off at something is downright bitter. And fat.
Because I'm irritable and I'm a woman, people have often asked me if I'm fat. I assume this doesn't happen to men, since presumably a guy can be angry about something without overeating, or he can be unattractive without being furious about it, or maybe we don't give a shit how much a guy eats or how big he is. A woman, though, had better have a nice ass under all that anger.
And then there are the single women who write to me like to clarify that they're very attractive, that many, many men agree on this front, so before I go thinking that they're lonely because they're ugly, rest assured they are not.
What I've noticed, though, is that women look really good when they aren't distracted by their own reflection. When someone's worth doesn't ride on a reaction, you can see it, and it looks hot. Fat or not, angry or not, beautiful or not, if you're a walking apology, or a question mark, or a splashy billboard, you're not looking good.
Several years ago, I knew a group of women who spent a lot of time telling each other how extraordinarily beautiful they were. This went beyond the usual "Hey, you look really nice" or "No, you really don't look old," which is just how women talk to each other. This was "Holy Christ, you are so gorgeous I just can't STAND IT." Somehow, the guys they knew were a part of this, too, throwing in that this or that woman is hot or is or isn't gaining weight.
Then one night, one of the women was telling another woman that she was so gorgeous, just soooo gorgeous it was just unreal, it was unbearable, and I threw in, "Yes, I think you might be too beautiful to be my friend."
A week later, my boyfriend received a call about how devastating it was for this woman to hear those words, because all her life, people have judged her based on her looks, and gone on and on about her looks, and this comment was just exactly like what she's always heard, and it cut her to the core. But when she tried to discuss it with me that night, I waved her off, laughing! How could I be so callous?
I felt a little bad for her, really, because I had no idea her beauty was such an albatross. I didn't realize that she was any different from the other women around her. To me, she looked like the rest of them. Sometimes she looked pretty good. Sometimes she looked ordinary. Sometimes she looked stunning. She had been a model, but half of these women could've modeled, maybe if they were a little taller, maybe if they had more conventional noses or perfectly symmetrical features. They all looked great, but ultimately no greater or less great than most of the women I've known.
The model, though, was hung up on the notion that she really was a creature whose beauty was so transcendent and distracting that it kept anyone from taking her seriously, and that hurt her deeply.
In other words, she really was too beautiful to be my friend.
But then, I'm probably way too fat and bitter to be your friend.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
FOR THE PRODUCTIVE MOTHERFUCKERS IN PARADISE
Isn't it time we stood up to the plague of productive motherfuckers out there, living happy and successful lives in beautiful places, writing timely thank you notes to their aunts and uncles and mothers and second cousins twice removed for the delightful gift that was sent in the mail and arrived right on time for Florenza's third birthday (which was truly wonderful, thanks for asking, the goldfish pond and pottery wheel and fondue-making class were all a smashing success)?
Is it fair for these people to run all over town, their fashionable outfits draped over their abs of steel, chirping happily at each other about the upcoming publication of their second poetry chapbook, which is really going to make the move to the remodeled loft a little hectic, but hey, that's life when you're beautifulish and smartish and hopelessly productive? Is it right that we should sit a stone's throw from these people, who are centered and relaxed, and tolerate the fact that they're smiling sweetly while knitting whimsical scarves and tea cozies for their goddamn friends in their goddamn book clubs?
Now, thanks to the internets, which lumpy, unproductive humans like you and me are drawn to like flies to enormous piles of grassy cow manure, we know all about these people and their many, many, many fun hobbies and activities and pet projects, and we are treated to professional-looking shots of their photogenic families, their fit husbands and their delicious children who are always hugging kitty cats or laughing joyfully, children who are always filled with wonder (which we know from the cheerful and awestruck blog posts written about them). Their children never pee in their Tinkerbell undies by accident and then whine about going commando, just for example.
But that's because their children don't carry around the enormous burden of having conflicted, ambivalent, distracted, drag-ass self-hating ovens for parents. Their children have parents who make elaborate veggie casseroles for dinner and finish it all with Bananas Foster, and then the sword-swallowers arrive for a pre-bedtime surprise. Or they sleep under the stars at Joshua Tree and no one soils their sleeping bag or has a bad trip from too many high-fructose-corn-syrup-infused juice boxes.
But forget the kids, they're a footnote to the real crime: Those seriously productive donkey-fucking assholes, frolicking in paradise, publishing stuff, starting online magazines of their own for fun, leading support groups, going to classes at the new cardio ballet place that gives you an ass like a basketball. Fuck them! Fuck those people! Fuck the serene, positive-thinking professional hipster, with her fucking handmade crafts and her mid-century modern furniture and her good skin!
This morning I was feeling like a loser, and I saw a very big woman waving around a Yard Sale sign. She was wearing an outfit that didn't compliment her body, and her boobs were jiggling and bouncing in a wild way, and she was smiling and waving around this piece of cardboard with something scrawled on it, and you could barely read the words. You really had to squint - the writing was in some shitty ballpoint pen and maybe she ran out of room for the address because the last part was really squeezed on there, and then there was this huge space under the words, she didn't even make use of the whole piece of cardboard. The whole thing was very unprofessional, the kind of thing that, if I had done it myself, I would've ripped it up, declaring it unacceptable, and then I would've bitched about how I didn't have anymore goddamn cardboard to start another sign, and then I probably would've blamed my husband for not buying more cardboard at the drugstore. "When I say get some cardboard, that word 'some' means more than one fucking piece." That's really what I would've said, too.
But I also wouldn't have put on that outfit, if I were as big as she was. I'm not all that slender at the moment, but if I were her, I would've stared in the mirror and sobbed and then gone back to bed. Maybe I'd put on some kind of a housedress or some elastic pants eventually, but I certainly wouldn't go stand on the stupid curb with a sign, drawing attention to myself. No way. If I were big like her, I'd be at home, sulking. I'd make my husband stand around with the sign, but then I'd blame him when the yard sale got too crowded and hectic. "Where have you been? I can't handle this whole thing on my own! This was YOUR IDEA IN THE FIRST PLACE!" That's really how I would've been about it.
But this morning I sat at the intersection at watched the woman bouncing around, and even though I was in a bad mood, she made me smile. She was just a really great person, you could see that. She had swagger. She didn't give a shit that she looked a little bouncy and unwieldy out there, jumping around, she didn't care that her sign sucked, she was jumping around and waving at drivers. And all of the drivers in the cars next to me were smiling and waving at her, and some of them were men, too. They weren't giving her a cheap, "Hey there, little hottie!" wave, they were giving her an appreciative, you-made-my-morning wave. They liked the cut of her jib. And so did I.
I need to be more like that woman, I thought. I'm 40 years old now, and I need to stop comparing myself to productive motherfuckers with 3 really good novels and half a dozen knitted tea cozies under their belts. Fixating on other people and their accomplishments and their energy and their ability to get shit done is just like wanting someone else's shiny car. It's like being 40 and paying a surgeon to make your tits look like a 20-year-old's tits. Once you start down that road, nothing will ever be good enough. You can't be a combination of Mary Gaitskill and PJ Harvey and Georgia O'Keefe and Joan Didion and Giselle Bundchen and Meryl Streep. You can't even be one of those people.
Right now, with my writing, I'm ripping up the goddamn sign and starting over. I'm saying "This is all wrong." I'm saying, "You fucked up, this would be fine if you hadn't fucked up." To myself, mostly. Serene, productive professionals are getting on my nerves – maybe because they really are annoying, self-satisfied motherfuckers, or maybe because I just happen to prefer people whose sweaters are unraveling, who are second-guessing themselves, who just spilled coffee all over their pants.
But that woman on the curb doesn't give a fuck about what serene, productive professional hipsters do or don't do. She doesn't send thank you notes and she doesn't consider that a personal failing of hers. She has other shit to do.
I am going to try to be more like her.
HOW YOU GET UNSTUCK
Go read this right now. Better than the finest rabbit stew! It made me cry my eyes out.