The reason I lost my friend
I hadn’t heard from Alice for a while, so I popped over to her apartment unannounced with a bottle of wine. The way friends do when they’re hoping for a good gossip session.
“You can’t come in,” she said blocking her door.
When I looked hurt, she responded in a stage whisper.
“There’s a mouse living in my couch. It’s why I’ve stopped having people over.”
I don’t invite people to my place either. Not since we bought a new hide-a-bed sofa from Ikea and after the first week, I walked in on my son standing on the arm rest pissing onto one of the cushions.
Now I don’t even remember what colour the sofa was originally . It’s become a collage of ketchup and milk smears, pen scribbles and something that looks suspiciously like blood. I just chose to ignore the whole thing until my mother-in-law came to visit and requested a towel to put down so she could safely sit on the sofa to watch tv.
It was then that I took a cold, hard look around my apartment, assessing all that I’d accumulated over a lifetime and realized everything I own is crap.
This is never what I intended for my life. I always wanted to be one of those people who searched out unique pieces, lovingly handcrafted by artists and journeymen. So that I could fill my space and my life with beauty. People would say, “Oh my God! What an amazing couch.” I would wave my hand and say, “Oh I got that little piece after lightening hit a tree next to the hut where I was staying and a master craftsman carved it into this two-seater.”
But this little dream was dashed to pieces when I realized good stuff costs money. And so I’ve usually opted for the cheapest possible option – especially since having kids and realizing those little fuckers destroy everything.
Where all my kids’ shitty birthday presents end up.
The last time I went to Ikea, I had this unsettling vision that everything I was looking at was destined for the landfill in a couple of years. That’s all I’m doing every single time I buy loot bags at the dollar store or a toy at Toys R Us – just adding another layer to that floating island of garbage, strangling sea life out in the Pacific. Last time I heard, this garbage island was the size of Texas. It’s fucking depressing. And now I’m in a funk.
If I continue to live with the crap I have, I’ll be too embarrassed to invite people over and my family and I will live an isolated life. But if I buy new stuff I can actually afford, I’ll just be part of the problem.
And then I think I’m basically an asshole for caring about any of this at all. I also know I’d better be careful what I start inviting into my life with an attitude like that.
I once knew this woman who was basically a hoarder. She was also basically a witch. One time she invited me over to her house for a full moon ceremony. Since I was in one of those head spaces where I was just saying yes to everything, I went along. After casting the circle and calling in the “energies” she asked that all the clutter be removed from her house and from her life.
Three days later her house burned to the ground.
So I’m just going to put a funky looking tablecloth over my sofa, call up some friends and stop being such a pussy.
Deal with it. This is my fucking couch
Well, this is uncomfortable
So, as I’ve been struggling along, my mind has a penchant for grasping onto metaphors to help me understand.
I grew up in a Christian family. One of those church-on-Sunday-morning- or -else kind of families. And even though I’ve moved away from all of that, whenever I feel something approaching crisis, my mind always goes to a biblical metaphor for help. I just can’t help it. It’s just what my mind has been trained to do.
And it occurred to me that a midlife crisis is actually a sort of crucifixion. Because something significant has died in me and now it’s like I’m wandering around in the Valley of Death for a while and then I’m hoping I’ll just pop back up – as a better, more evolved version of my former self.
But while this metaphor is great as an explanation, it really sucks for providing any actual guidance through the whole process. Because it just yada yada yadas through the most challenging bit. I mean what was Jesus doing down in the Valley of Death for those three days?
Was he all calm and serene?
“Oh wow. I’ve just been murdered. And this. Endless. Void. What a nice change.”
How’s this for an idea… Don’t be a douche
Or was he more like me? Flapping frantically around, grasping for a strong drink and the perfect self-help class?
Maybe this is the reason no one mentions this part – because if anyone knew what a basket case Jesus probably was during those three days, no one in their right mind would listen to anything else he had to say. Check the vaults of the Vatican. That’s all I’m saying.
Perhaps being a basket case is just part of the journey. Maybe part of my natural, healthy process involves freaking out and and buying a bunch of shoes. Or signing up for Past Life Regression Therapy. Great! Or that free workshop about real estate investing. Oh ya!!
I’ve been to every palm reader, psychic, shamanic healer, pranic touch practitioner who puts a poster up in WholeFoods. I say yes to Ballroom dance lessons. Because it improves balance – who doesn’t need more balance?. Whatever it is, I’m totally game. Just fix me. Make me better.
And then something shifted and instead of being terrified that I now have no idea who I am or what I’m doing or where I’m going – I now see the gift in being cracked wide open. I will do, say or try anything just to see how it feels, sounds and tastes. Life has gone from being terrifying to a little bit of an adventure. The secret, I’ve found, is not to give a shit.
Here’s an example:
My kids have gotten into competitive swimming. At first I was all like, “good for you!” But then I realized what they’d signed me up for. Swimming practices six days a week. Often at some ungodly hour of the morning.
Then I was like, “Why are you trying to destroy my life?” Until my husband reminded me that when I got knocked up, I was actually committing myself to supporting theses little beings and driving them around to whatever they take a shine to. Forever.
Even though, he’s right, I still pouted every time I was forced to spend another weekend with a bunch of Tiger Parents who seemed way too focussed on comparing their children’s level of achievement to mine.
Then one day – while I was in the process of making this mental shift into a much less victim-y and much more-open-to-possibilities mindset – I just blurted out.
“Am I the only one here who is trying super hard not to stare at these fine young men in their speedos? Please tell me I’m not the only dirty old woman here.”
“Oh my God.” Said the little voice in my head. The one I usually ignore.
“That might have been the worst, most inappropriate thing I could have said in this moment.”
But a crazy thing happened.
One of the super uptight-seeming mothers who had been sitting quietly off to the side started laughing.
“Finally! Someone else said it.”
Then another mother started laughing and then another. Turns out one of them had Baileys in a flask hidden in her purse, which now got passed around. By the time our kids emerged out of the change rooms, we were laughing our heads off. Having a great time. Now that we’ve all cracked open a little to reveal our own humanity, weekend swim meets are fun.
I used to think my verbal impulse control issues were a curse. Something to constantly correct, but now I’m thinking this might be the gift that lights my way out of my own Valley of Death into something much more shiny and new.
Have magical things happened to you when being inappropriate?
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If only I really loved this part of the job
Moments before my husband is due home, I adjust my position on the sofa from one expressing languid relaxation to one implying grace under pressure. My freshly washed hair is fanned across the armrest, and, as his key turns in the lock, I fling an arm limply across my forehead.
He rustles out of his coat and pauses, reconsidering his habit of tossing it on the nearest chair. I hear the clank of wooden hangers in the hall closet and feign a weak smile as he approaches with tenderness, even a bit of reverence. Because what else can a man feel for a woman who spends the day working (from home, mostly) and then takes care of children, manages to perfectly clean her home, wash, fold and put away the laundry and still look so amazingly good?
Before he has time to ask about my day, I murmur wearily, “I’ve been slaving all day to get this place in order.” My husband kisses me a little more passionately than usual. He clearly finds the thought of me slaving exciting. In lieu of foreplay, he slips into an apron and makes dinner. Tuesdays are my favourite.
That’s because on Tuesdays, a lovely woman comes to clean and do laundry for four hours while I run personal errands, meet a friend, or play with the kids in the park. Because, as you might have gleaned from earlier posts, I’m a bit of a handful, I felt like I needed this one thing to make him think, “Holy Shit! I married an amazing woman.” For this reason, I was certain my husband must never ever find out.
Is this what it’s all coming to?
We are reminded from toddlerhood never to lie, but those fibs that make living and raising children with a man possible should be lumped into a different category. I wonder if it’s only my dysfunctional brain that makes marriage work this way.
While growing up, my grandmother taught me womanly arts: how to separate an egg, get blood stains out of a white shirt and to sew on a button. She also taught me how to avoid unnecessary fights.
Although she juggled being a mother and a full-time schoolteacher, my grandfather nevertheless commanded that the kitchen floor be waxed every week. Gran wanted to comply because her man believed a freshly waxed floor was a sign of an orderly house; a sign of love. But it was a soul-destroying task that had to be done on hands and knees, easily consuming an entire day.
My grandmother admitted she was dangerously close to hating her new husband early in their marriage. Until, that is, she began to smear a bit of floor wax around the door frames an hour before her husband came home. When he walked into the kitchen, he smelled floor wax and everyone was happy.
It may have been a lie, but it sounded like wisdom to me. When Grandpa died in 1998, they’d been married nearly 60 years.
In this instance, I think lying is okay if it saves your relationship or your sanity. So why is this subject so taboo? I took an informal survey of my closest, smartest coworkers. Just two admitted to telling untruths in a loving, stable relationship.
But now, at this point in the whole mid-life crisis journey, I feel like it’s time to come clean. And guess what? It led to a rather interesting conversation in which I explained that for our family’s bottom line, it is far more cost effective to prevent me from going crazy than to actually let me go crazy. (topic for a later post, I think). So the cleaning lady is here to stay, I think.
The ultimate wife and mother…if you don’t care about her having a vagina or a brain
But that doesn’t mean I’m honest about everything…. Last week I stopped my husband from repairing our broken garburator by telling him our neighbour’s son needed to fix it for his school project. I paid the plumber in cash and shredded the invoice. In the moment, it seemed an act of love: the garburator got fixed by a professional. My husband still feels manly. I didn’t have to drive anyone to emergency. Harmony is maintained. Love reigns.
But sometimes I need to be sure he does know all of this really is about love. So I’ll let some stories slip and make sure I’m ready with a laugh and a kiss when he finishes reading this piece.
Who in your life appreciates what a smart, funny, resourceful person you are??
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I’m a bit stressed out writing this because all week I’ve been planning this one blog and then I just went and did something stupid and ridiculous, which I just now realized is a much better story. But I have no idea if I can tell it as well.
Also I don’t have any hilarious pictures of this little doozy. For which my husband is exceedingly glad. As I write this, he is sitting on the bed next to me, pretending I don’t exist – so I can tell he’s still pretty mad.
Right after I post this, I’ll call my oldest friend, Stephanie. I can already hear the gasp of astonishment, like she’s saying, “Because I live in a comfortable house with a backyard and a deck and separate floors with rooms and doors that lock – simply tonnes of places to escape my spouse – I can’t imagine why two sane people would sit next to one another on a queen-sized bed, arms crossed, planning their respective divorces and hot rebound sex with some nameless, gorgeous whomevers instead of … oh I don’t know, talking?”
Welcome to married life in fucking Yaletown. This is a community full of 900ft2 apartments, where a family of four tries to pretend that they’re all not seriously getting on each other’s nerves. There are plenty of benefits to this lifestyle, but all I’ll say about that right now is that the small spaces force us to do our living outside.
Which is why I chose to air some dirty laundry on the field in the middle of the school’s annual BBQ Carnival Fundraiser. I have no idea what made me turn to my unsuspecting husband and say, “So where is all this anger coming from?”
He shot me a look, which I can only describe as exhaustion mixed with deep annoyance and said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
To which I replied, “You’re not being honest. I can feel how distant you’re becoming. I feel like we’re not connected at all and I feel like you couldn’t care less.” and with this, I just burst into tears. But I’m instantly embarrassed so try to pretend that I’ve got allergies. While my husband hisses to my daughter, “Get your stuff. Time to go home” And I’m not even drunk. I’m totally sober, wondering if this is what menopause looks like or if my mental illness is becoming even more mental.
But we couldn’t get out fast enough. In the 6 seconds it took my daughter to grab her book bag, 4 moms I know come by to start a friendly conversation, see my face and make a bolt for it. I got a couple of pity looks and one solidarity sista look. And then this one woman passes by making an exaggerated attempt not to notice the scene in front of her, but I can see her taking it all in and I just know what version of the story she’s dying to tell anyone who will listen. By Monday, a dozen versions of my little public meltdown will be whispered in a dozen different coffee shops. She’ll tell mutual friends and strangers too all with fake concern, but will paint a picture putting me in the worst possible light, “Well of course everyone fights from time to time, I mean we’re all only human, but things must be pretty bad for them to do it in public like that. I just feel so sorry for him. He’s such a reasonable, private person.”
And you have a bizarre need to consistently behave like an asshole, but at least I can medicate my problem.
Now what’s rattling around in my head, while I also consider the best way to begin an apology, is – is this little scene an example of me being a hormonally-unbalanced, weirdo or have I just hit that point in my mid-life crisis where the boundaries of who I’ve been trying to be and who I actually am are starting to collide and I’ve just stopped giving a fuck?
I guess time will tell.
What explosive impulses have you been stuffing down these days? Are any starting to trickle out?
All week people have been congratulating me on quitting my shitty job. I won’t lie. It’s such a lovely change when my impulsivity and irresponsible disregard for long-term consequences – which is often regarded as a major character flaw, gets a bit of appreciation for being awesome.
And then I woke up
It was terrifying. I woke up from a terrible dream where a disembodied voice said:
None of this will stop you from turning into your mother.
This fear doesn’t always sit right up front in my brain, but it’s always hanging around the periphery of my self awareness. There was a brief second while skipping down the office hallway for the last time, when I thought: “my mom would totally shit her pants right now.”
How immature am I that this thought gives me so much pleasure – like I’ve tricked fate or something. Still, I carry a looming dread of fulfilling my family curse. This particular curse has been passed down for generations on my mother’s side for as far back as the women in our family can remember. I knew my grandmother only after the curse did its damage. As a teen, I watched my mother battle and finally succumb. The stories she told about herself – all from a time before – may have stirred warm sentimental feelings for her, but for me those stories only served as a warning. So I watch myself closely. Changes – especially physical ones – evoke alarm and I wonder, “Is this how it starts?” Honestly, I don’t really know at what point the curse begins or what its indicators may be, I only know, that when the curse takes hold, every women in my family is always overpowered and when she finally gives in, she follows the same fate as every other woman before her: she becomes her mother.
In my family, when a woman reaches the age of 40 or has two kids, (whichever comes first) she gains 100 pounds and grows a moustache.
I used to joke about how this is the unfortunate result of Eastern European genes. I’d laugh about the suddenness and inevitability of it all. The thing no one mentions, but I have always known is that this is the moment when she stops caring. She is no longer part of the present, but lives in the world of before. She stops doing things. She goes out less and less – eventually only to places she knows like to church and the mall. Dreams, ambitions and interests are reduced to stories meant to reveal why they weren’t worth the trouble or why they could never happen for her, or for anyone else. It doesn’t happen all at once. It starts as exhaustion or a general overwhelm and eventually a past-tense replaces sparks of excitement and previously held interests wither and decay like last season’s garden until no one remembers these women as anyone other than they are – the mother, the grandmother, the bitter old woman.
To make her seem less threatening in this state, I have purposely reduced my mother to a two-dimensional character. After all this is what she has done to herself – flattened out. Even after the kids left and she had time, she wouldn’t get a job – too scary. Or go back to school – too old. Or even travel – what if? She refused to stretch herself in any way. But she would sigh a lot and complain and talk about how the world was going to hell or go on and on about small slights turned into large offences. At first I would listen, terrified, dismayed. Years later she still tells the same stories, but I’ve long since stopped listening – it is simply too boring, too depressing, and now too threatening. Especially since I find myself doing the very same thing.
I have always carried a fear of the curse ever since high school graduation when my grandmother waddled over and laid a heavy hand on my shoulder. With the tone of someone imparting great wisdom she said, “I was as pretty as you when I was 18.” I remember watching her join my family at the table thinking, “Never. Never. Never.”
In my twenties, when I don’t think I was seriously worried, I used to examine myself in the mirror, looking for features that resembled my mother’s — but my ass was still firm then, my upper lip still hairless. I thought I might be exempt. Physically, I take after my father’s side – smaller bones, taller. But because my mother and I are so similar in other ways, I may have over compensated at bit…
I’m terrified of ruts. Before I got married and had kids, I moved often, travelled frequently, changed jobs just when my learning curve began to plateau. I dated outside my type. I lived outside my comfort zone, thinking perhaps it was really comfort and stability that somehow invited the curse in.
But then I got pregnant twice and bought a condo in Yaletown. Comfort and stability are my new goals. I’m slowly entering menopause and trying not to freak out as the sales assistant at Nordstroms described my figure as “sausage shaped.” Or as more and more dark coarse hairs begin sprouting all over my upper lip.
Every night, I stand in front of the bathroom mirror and mutter,
What the fuck? over and over.
Oh of course I am reminded every time I open the Georgia Straight that there are chemical peels and all types of cosmetic surgery available. I know about boot camp and yoga. I know I can diet if I want. But it seems pointless if it only scratches the surface.
What scares me is that for the first time in my life I can see how easy it was for my mother to lose herself – first from necessity because a woman has to let herself go a little to cope with children and the pressures of running a home. Then because it requires so much energy to find or recreate a self. I can see now, for the first time, how it is possible for a life once richly lived to shrink into the shape of a well-worn path from home to the mall and back
What stops you from drinking every night?
I’m writing this blog post in a rush. I finally pulled the trigger. At last I’ve addressed one of the root causes of my restlessness and anxiety. I quit the job I’ve had for the past five years.
When I first got the job I thought it would be help me be less boring. After staying at home with my babies for three years, I’d run out of things to say to another adult that didn’t involve children. I hated myself for compulsively singing Wheels On The Bus, even when I was alone and getting a job seemed like a good way out.
It all started off well. But after a while I started feeling restless, then anxious, then mildly depressed, then hugely depressed about going to work.
I must admit this is a bit of a pattern for me – doing things that I think are going to improve my self esteem, but actually make it much much worse.
Like the time I asked for improv classes for my birthday.
“It’ll be great,” I explained to my husband. “It’s all about getting out of my comfort zone and thinking faster on my feet.”
“That doesn’t sound fun.”
After being married, he should know that the only thing more fun for me than being uncomfortable is making other people uncomfortable. So improv really did seem perfect.
Until I got to the class.
As soon as I walked in the room, my gut did a little roll because it knew right away I was probably in the wrong spot, but as usual my brain completely ignored my gut’s advice.
Eight other people, all under 30, had also registered because they were obviously very serious about improv. Every other person began the class by standing alone in another part of the room, holding a bottle of water, doing yoga stretches or voice warm ups. When we stood in a circle, taking turns introducing ourselves, more than one feigned humility as they listed off their performance resumes and one described the most powerful time in her life as the summer she spent at Second City.
I immediately and completely regretted that I’d shown up sober.
The first exercise involved one person saying a word and making a corresponding action. A second person was to immediately follow by saying another random word with an action and then a third person was supposed to tie it all together with a single phrase.
A statuesque woman, dressed entirely in Lululemon, jumped up on the stage, assumed the position of a cat licking her paws and said, “A baby kitten’s ear.” A guy in very tight hipster jeans crouched beside her and growled, “A rusted out tractor.”
Trying to look natural, I lept up on the stage and said, “What my vagina feels like without lube.”
Silence. The faces around the room twisted into expressions ranging from confusion to disgust.
“Just wait until you hit middle age, then you’ll know that joke is completely hilarious.”
By the mid morning coffee break, the instructor, who seemed confident that he was speaking for everyone in the room, told me I hadn’t enrolled in the right class.
“Ummm. Maybe you should try something else. Maybe something more basic.”
I called my husband as I walked home, somewhere between laughter and tears.
“I thought the class ended at three.”
“ I just got kicked out of my self-esteem-building-class.”
“Of course you did.”
I hadn’t been able to articulate what was making me depressed about my job until I passed by a dog park that morning where I stopped to pull myself together before going home. Watching dogs interact is such an enlightening experience. The dynamics played out are all about these creatures deciding then agreeing to who is dominant and who isn’t. On this day, this little dance seemed very human.
There was one black lab cross, obviously young and a little agressive, who insisted on humping anyone who’d let him. Another white, slightly smaller terrier, just stood there and submitted. Finally the lab wanted to really make a statement, so he moved around to the terrier’s face and started dry humping his nose.
Holy Shit! I thought. This is an exact model of my work dynamic.
Every year my boss asks if I’d be willing to get humped in the face – which would be the dog equivalent of reporting to Angela and every year I respond by making gagging noises. This doesn’t stop Angela from trying to dump her shitty jobs on me. I can tell she’s getting off on the little power surge, knowing I can’t refuse since she’s a Senior Manager and I’m only a Manager. And also because she just came back from a week long holiday with our boss and her kids. I know she’ll take full credit for being a superstar, “Angela, you’re just amazing. I don’t know how you manage to do it all!”
The final straw came a few weeks ago when she insisted I write a proposal for her. “I’m just swamped,” she exclaimed while heaving a pile of file folders onto my desk. “It’s for one of my biggest accounts, so get this to me by Friday.”
Thursday evening, just as I was putting on my coat, Angela marches into my cubicle. “I want to check your progress,” she said folding her arms in front of her.
“Progress?” I ask innocently.
She huffs and juts out her hip. “On the report you were to complete for tomorrow.”
“I”m sorry. Remind me about that again?”
“The report. That you were to complete. For that big account. I gave you all the files.”
“Oh. Wow Angela.” I said looking confused. “I don’t recall getting any files.”
“I put them here. On your desk.” Her voice getting shrill. My cubicle neighbours poked their heads around the partition to see what was going on.
“I gave them to you Monday. I put them right here.”
“I’m sorry Angela, but I’m not sure what you’re talking about and I’m afraid I’ve got to go now and pick up my kids. Maybe we can talk about it tomorrow.”
“It’s due tomorrow,” she shrieks.
“Sorry. I can’t help you right now. Perhaps you should have made time to chat about this earlier.”
Emily texted me that Angela was still tearing my cubical apart looking for the files.
“She’s really pissed off. Where are they?”
“In the filing cabinet, as per our policy.” I wrote back. She found them a few days later, filed in the wrong place.
Fucking up is one way to effectively end this sort of workplace abuse. But not quite enough to gain anyone’s respect.
About a week later, in order to save money on professional development, our boss asked Angela to facilitate a series of mandatory workshops about “respectful communication.”
Angela had taken a course and read some books and was now an expert. To kick off the first workshop, she passed around some scenarios typed out on pieces of paper. She divided us into smaller groups of four in order to read the scenarios and discuss the corresponding questions. Here was the first one:
“Samantha and Chloe are co workers in the same department. Samantha is a Senior Manager and has a lot of important accounts. She has also been given responsibility for managing budgets for the entire team. She is a valued Excel expert and also very busy. Chloe is Samantha’s junior and much less experienced at her job. While she does not report directly to Samantha, she is expected to learn from her and assist as needed since she is not responsible for anything of importance. One day Samantha asks Chloe to complete a simple task on a deadline. Chloe misses the deadline, loses the files and then refuses to take any responsibility for her failure. How should Samantha respond to Chloe’s incompetence?”
So I quit.
Have any of you been humped in the face recently?
Click here to read my “Award Winning” story about how I’m basically not meant to work in an office
I don’t think I’m allowed to just post the story like I own it, but here’s the link.
PS. That is totally not how I look at work. Unfortunately.
If you get on Alice’s good side you just might get to volunteer for the best, most exclusive committee at our kids’ school: the hot lunch program. The group is invite only and if you’re lucky to join in on Friday mornings at the coffee shop across the street to label lunch bags, then you know being a parent is going to get a whole lot better.
All of the women on the committee are gorgeous and so they’re widely known as The Hot Lunch Ladies. I’m more of an honorary member ever since I came up with the idea of a calendar and series of videos for the next school fundraiser. It seems like such an obvious fit, I was actually surprised no one had thought of it before.
“…even if it is tasteful, we can’t make porn to fund our library program,” Alice told me in the hallway after drop off one morning.
Hot lunch erotica,” I corrected.
“Still no.” But I think she was secretly disappointed.
Note To Our Provincial Government: This is what happens when you cut public education to the bone. Hot Lunch Ladies have to consider unorthodox fundraising ideas. We wouldn’t have gone there on our own. You drove us to it.
So when Alice turned 50 last weekend, it seemed like a great idea to Google, “big+male+ stripper+Vancouver.” There was only one listing, so we booked him to arrest Alice at her birthday party for “being too horny.” Which is hilarious because she totally isn’t.
When Alice answered the door, our “cop” quickly ripped off his velcro pants and got right to the gyrating and the dry humping. After he’d finished with Alice at the door he moved into the room and took a turn with each of the Hot Lunch Ladies.
Did I really need to see that?
You may be looking at this picture wondering, “What the hell am I looking at here?” If you were the woman on the bed, the answer would be – a guy’s shaved asshole and ball sack. When he got up, it was obvious he was hoping for some appreciation. We, being mothers, tried our best to say the encouraging things we might offer one of our uncoordinated children on the soccer pitch.
“I can tell you’ve really been practicing!”
Then he made Alice lie down on the floor. What you’re seeing here is him slapping her face repeatedly with his penis. She’s trying to politely indicate that this isn’t working for her, but he’s trying to earn that US dollar under her shoulder. I kept wondering, Where is this guy getting his information? What woman has ever given him the impression that this sort of thing actually works?
“To turn you on.” was the answer, apparently. I didn’t want him to know my flushed face was actually a hot flash because I’m not ready to admit that yet.
But the whole experience initiated a lively conversation about things our husbands and boyfriends do – that they incorrectly believe turn us on. Inspired to correct past wrongs and provide a valuable service to men everywhere, the Hot Lunch Ladies have compiled a list of suggestions:
#1 – This move might seem hot to you, but it really isn’t
#2 – When talking dirty, never ever ask, “Who’s your Daddy?”
#3 – When we’re making dinner and you come up behind us and grab our ass or our boob – please know how badly we’d like to punch you in the face.
#4 – That thing that you do in the middle of the night or early morning where you spoon us so you can push your erection into our backs does not actually equal foreplay.
#5 – Discussion about insurance rates + who should pick up kids from swimming will never = blow job.
Please – for education purposes – add to the list.
Alice called me at work today. A healthy 43 year-old, father of three, who lived with his family in an apartment two floors down from her just had a massive stroke. Now he can’t speak and the right side of his body is paralyzed.
“They didn’t have life or disability insurance. They don’t even have family here to help.”
Her voice faded as my louder, more insistent inner voice filled up all the space in my brain.
“It was stress that did that and you know who else has stress? Me!”
What kind of person makes some poor guy’s stroke all about her? See? Just one more thing to get stressed about.
I’ve been living with stress for so long, it’s become a full-blown disorder. I know this because my one and only hobby is diagnosing myself using online medical journals. This is a hobby I’ve had since I was 12 and my parents gave me a medical dictionary for Christmas (probably because it was big, educational and on sale). It only took a few weeks to diagnose myself with leprosy. No one took me seriously, especially not the community nurse who answered the medical phone hotline.
Even now, every time my doctor opens the examining room door and sees me perched in a paper robe, legs crossed expectantly, a look flits momentarily across his eyes. Like he’s not too excited to enter the room. For some reason. He’s been like this ever since I was on mat leave with my daughter and my husband dragged me into the clinic. I was crying so hysterically he had to explain to the receptionist why we were there.
I spent the first six months of my daughter’s life in a constant state of anxiety, pretty sure I was already screwing her up somehow. Some days, I would be too afraid and too exhausted of being afraid, to do anything but sit on the couch and binge watch daytime talk shows, with my tits hanging out. One day Oprah did a show about young mothers like me who had terminal cancer. At one point this very pretty woman, who actually looked a bit like I did when I used to sleep, started telling Oprah about all the symptoms of stomach cancer she’d been ignoring. A light went on in my head. That’s why I feel like a complete sack of shit. I’m dying of cancer.
I began to imagine having to say goodbye to my daughter. Her standing by my bedside, not understanding why I couldn’t cuddle and feed her.
My husband walked through the front door to find me clutching our daughter and weeping.
“I’ve got cancer.”
“Oh my God! Are you sure? What did the doctor say?”
I tried to explain about Oprah’s show, but my husband just grabbed me and threw me in the car.
We were both sitting on the examining table when the doctor came in and said, “Well the tests came back and you’re pregnant.”
“No no no no,” I said violently shaking my head. “I have cancer.”
So now my doctor is sure the only problem is that I’m mentally ill. When I’ve told him about how anxiety feels like I’ve got a hive of bees constantly buzzing in my body, he suggests an antidepressant or some Ativan, which I’m happy to take because Ativan is awesome. But I know this mental illness is more about alerting me to some things in my life that aren’t working for me. Just because nothing shows up in any of the blood tests doesn’t mean much, because I know there are physical repercussions to being a stress case and meds alone aren’t going to fix those things. Though I’m grateful for the space they’re creating in my head.
Here’s how the manifesting game has been working these days:
I’m walking down the street muttering to myself when I finally throw my hands up and say out loud.
“I need some fucking help here.”
I take maybe 10 steps and there in the gutter is a business card. It says, “Yaletown psychic.”
I cross the street and head down Homer and there’s a little placard, next to the one for Japanese chefs knives and a tea shop, which says “Yaletown Psychic.” That night, I get a Groupon alert. “Save 55% on a tarot or past life reading from Yaletown Psychic.”
I can never ignore so many signs in a row. So I call the number and make an appointment for next week. I imagine it’ll be like a good therapy session, but for $40 an hour instead the usual $175.
I’m hoping this is the Universe’s way of presenting ways to keep me alive to see my kids grow up. That phone call from Alice is just another sign I’ve got to take some action.
What have you diagnosed yourself with?
I’m one of those people who is constantly looking for signs. I think this is because I tend to second guess everything I say and do. So some sort of external confirmation is absolutely necessary to keep me from driving myself and everyone around me totally bonkers.
Here’s an example of how signs have been working in my life lately:
The other night, right in the middle of sex, my husband offhandedly asks me:
“Do you think you’d ever consider getting a boob job?”
The next day, I get two email solicitations and one Facebook advertisement for three different divorce lawyers.
Could the Internet be the new Oracle of Delphi?
How do those guys working in The Cloud know this shit? Is The Cloud some sort of spiritual conduit I’ve just been really slow to catch onto? Since high school, the only spiritual discipline I could commit to involved reading my horoscope every morning, but now I’m thinking Facebook ads are way more accurate.
As for signs. The day penile enlargement adverts are replaced by tips for “What to Do With All Those Exciting Job Offers” or ads for offshore bank accounts, will be the day I’ll know something special is heading my way.
The big question I’ve got rolling around in my brain is – how can I sway things in my favour? There have been a few times in the past when I’ve made magical things happen. As my restlessness intensifies, I’m trying to deconstruct those times.
When I was 23 and deep in the clutches of an obsession with salsa dancing, I met Tommy Chong – of Cheech and Chong fame. He was a fabulous dancer who was also in the throes of a midlife crisis.
(note: I believe my life expectancy at the time was 46, so yes it is possible for me to have been having a midlife crisis at 23)
So Tommy and I started hanging out to dance and smoke weed (Absolutely no sex) Despite that, it was a super fun time. So when he made a few comments about me being “talented” and having “potential” followed by a few suggestions that I could “have a future in script writing” and that he could “introduce me to some people;” I did what any sane person would do – quit my job, gave up my scholarship and my apartment to sit by the phone waiting for his call. Which never came. Even when I left about 10,000 messages, each with increasing shrillness.
Finally the day came when I had to admit that I’d made a terrible mistake. I was completely and thoroughly fucked. I had no money, no job or prospects. I had to be out of my apartment in two days and had nothing else to go to. And on top of that, due to me being arrogant and completely self-obsessed, all my friends were pissed off at me and I was too ashamed to call and ask for help.
While lying in the bathtub that night, surrounded by empty packing boxes, I thought about doing myself in. I even went so far as to place a bottle of vodka and a razor blade on the shelf next to the tub. Then the haze of self-pity cleared and I could see the entire scene played out in front of me – how I was really the cause of my own misery.
I said out loud: “If you can get me out of this, I swear I’ll do everything different from now on.”
“So, what should I do now?”
“Just put one foot in front of the other.”
As if pushed gently from behind, I got out of the tub and still wrapped in a towel, went into my bedroom, kneeled beside my bedside table and started putting stuff into a box.
There at the bottom of the drawer, tucked way in the back, was a blank cheque Tommy had written me some months earlier to buy some office supplies.
I dried my tears, called a lawyer who suggested I write Tommy a letter explaining why I was filling out the cheque for ten grand and wait for the cheque to clear. Which it did two weeks later.
I then paid off all my debts, apologized to everyone and hopped a flight to South East Asia, where I travelled and sorted out my head for the next six months.
That’s what I want. I want that to happen. Now. I think the successful formula involves being
- Saying it out loud.
And because this is an Unhelpful self-help blog. I don’t really have anything else to offer in terms of hints or suggestions. But maybe you do….
Please comment. (nicely)