Friday, April 29, 2005

Eat at Carson's

In a society full of lost fitness dreams and nutritional good intentions gone bad, there's one place you can be sure to get a plateful of carbs, high sodium content and slow-cooked meat: Carson's the Place for Ribs!

I've been a server at the downtown Carson's (612 N. Wells, near Ontario) for five months now and it's a great job, but I dream of the night when the manager says, "Regina, you have a request." That means someone actually asked for a table in MY section. I work on Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Aim for a Tuesday or Sunday evening when it's a little slower. Here's the menu so you can decide which credit card to bring.

And if you're someone I don't know, come on down and introduce yourself as someone who has read my blog. That would be REALLY wild.

Carson's
612 N. Wells Street
Chicago, Illinois
(312) 280-9200

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Penises

Okay, guys, if for no other reason that this one ("Italians Come Out on Top in Penis Study"), please stay in shape and keep the WEIGHT down:

A group of scientists in Hong Kong spent five months from October last year measuring 148 ethnic Chinese volunteers aged between 23 and 93.

The average length of their flaccid penises was 8.46 cm (3.4 inches), which compared favourably with similar studies on other men overseas.

Germans have average lengths of about 8.6 cm, Israelis 8.3 cm, Turks 7.8 cm and Filippinos 7.35 cm. Italians were the longest at 9 cm and Americans averaged 8.8 cm.

The study did not measure the penises when they were erect.


Men, here's the part I want you to pay attention to:

It found that a man's height bore no relation to the length of his member, but those with higher body mass indexes, or fat content, appeared to have shorter penises.

"It seems that as someone gets older and fatter, his blood vessels change, so the penile size is not static. It may be a reflection of the condition of the person's blood vessels," Chan said, adding that this could spur yet another study.


Come on, men, let's all stay fit together...!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Why Are There Catholics?

Funny how my 4/19/05 post on the pope ("Benedict XVI") was all of two and a half lines long, but received quite a bit of commentary. I'd like to consider Lon's in particular. He wrote, in part:

Why do so many people cling to Catholicism when they don't really try to live by its rules, don't really believe its dogma, can see clearly the power/violence/arrogance it's been guilty of forever? Why not get rid of it from your life? If it no longer serves you, give it up...the [C]atholic church doesn't want intelligent, autonomous thinkers.
(For more comments, see the 4/19/05 Feedback).

First, I'd say Catholicism is a more of a culture than a religion, with a very deeply entrenched set of mores and beliefs. As I wrote in my 3/23/05 post ("Latinos Leave the Catholic Church), guilt and obligation are the bedrock of Catholicism. Behavior patterns of guilt and fear set in place by my parents continue to function powerfully for me, even though it's been decades since I took any god stuff seriously, and I don't think there's any way to completely purge myself of that. It's extremely hard to overcome the early and concrete belief that Catholicism is "The Way," and many Catholics feel devoted to the religion that nurtured our ancestors and parents. It's an extremely rich, mystical and sensual tradition. The experience of the Catholic mass captures all five of the physical senses (even smell and taste) plus the imagination. It feeds our innate sense that there is a mystery to life that we will never understand. It reminds us of our small role in the world even while it comforts us with the presence of a Divine Father Being who will provide all we need if we only follow His every word.

And there's the problem: we want to be good Catholics, but we also live in the real world. Most practicing American Catholics (and let's keep in mind that Catholicism is done differently in other parts of the world) function in a nest of personal contradictions and compromises. Unwilling to adapt our daily lives to an ancient belief system, we've been forced to become "cafeteria Catholics," that is, we take what works for us and leave the rest. And there are parts of this nuanced spiritual tradition that work for us. In its purest, unadulterated form Catholicism, like all religions, is just another journey towards oneness with the Spirit that is a part of all things. The difficulties come up in human daily practice. I think most American Catholics would agree with me as I say that to be Catholic is to be conflicted and questioning. If the Catholic church were more reasonable and contemporary and less asshole-y, I'm sure the Catholic church would not face the problem of membership loss that it currently struggles with in the United States.

Lon also commented that he left his Baptist beliefs when they no longer served him, but I'd say Catholicism must still be serving plenty of "intelligent, autonomous thinkers" or they wouldn't still be there. I believe Catholics actually find lots of room for debate and compromise among their brethren because if they didn't, the American Catholic pews would be empty by now. American Catholics aren't clinging to the belief that we have the "one true church," continuously victimized by a sinister governing body. American Catholics cherish the traditions of their families and the celebration of the mystery of life, "while they live in joyous hope" that one day the papacy will pull its head out of its Holy Ass.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Potential Date

We had emailed several times and it was our first phone conversation. Every few minutes, his narration would slow down as he'd get to the end of what he had to say on the topic at hand (how often he sees his family, how he likes to exercise, where he works, etc.). At first, I'd step in at that point and give information about my job or whatever. But after a while, I began letting him wind down without saying anything back. He'd flounder, cast about for more to say on the subject; the words would slow down, then drag. I'd remain silent. He'd start improvising with anything that came into his mind (how the wind sounds hitting the back of his townhouse) just to fill the void I was not helping at all to fill. He'd eventually lapse into silence while I continued to not speak. He must have wondered why I wasn't helping, why I was just sitting there with nothing to say, why I didn't jump in. This was supposed to be a two-way conversation. He must have wondered, what's wrong with this woman?

This is why I was so quiet: I was waiting (and hoping) for him to ask me a question. Come on, baby, at least act like you have some interest in the person at the other end of the line. People, you have got to know that when you're in the middle of a first impression and you're trying to figure out if she's interesting enough for you to have a $5 drink with you have got to ask her questions.

I was keeping my end of the conversational bargain by asking him questions about his life and then listening, but a couple of times when we got to the point where it would have been appropriate for him to ask me a question back he just kept talking about himself....until he ran out of things to say on that topic.....and then faltered....and then we had an awkward pause, during which I silently begged him, "Please ask me a question. Please ask me a question."

Why didn't I say it out loud? I get tired of being a dating coach to these people.

There Are No White People In Chicago

I’m a third-generation Mexican American and originally from California, but I’ve lived in Chicago for 12 years. One of the most startling differences between the two places is that there are no “white” people here. People who look white to me, and who would be called white in California, strongly identify as Italian or Irish or Polish. Co-workers eventually make clear to me that they’re Lithuanian or German or English. Peers my age have demonstrated their strong identities as Dutch or Swedish or Croatian. This sense of ancestry that most Caucasian Chicagoans have surprised me at first and I had to get used to it. I grew up in California where people of color had our cultural distinctions, but white people just called themselves “white people.” Very few of them conveyed to me any sense of their ancestry.

Maybe the California lack of cultural distinction has to do with the running joke and only slight exaggeration that no one is actually born in California; they all move there from somewhere else and the largest population that moves there isn’t Caucasian. Perhaps the large and growing population of immigrants to California has made non-Hispanic whites there insist on their homogeneity against the rising immigrant tide.

While growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I heard many times the anti-diversity argument “Why do people want to call themselves Mexican American or African American? Why do they want to separate themselves? Why can’t we all just be ‘American?’” Many Californians supported the idea of everyone letting go of their cultural distinctions and just fading into the mainstream. These people see homogeneity as the cure for prejudice. As a young girl, I thought it was my Caucasian friends’ lack of ancestral identity that made them favor everyone just being “American,” but maybe it was actually a bigoted backlash. Maybe for some Californians the solution to racial problems was to erase all cultural distinctions. Maybe to that end they insisted they were just “white” and that was the end of it.

Whatever the reason, I grew up expecting people who looked mainstream-American-white to think of themselves as mainstream-American-white and I was impressed by the first Chicago acquaintance who identified so strongly as Irish that she really took St. Patrick’s Day personally. A boss proudly declaring his Polish background on Pulaski Day surprised me, and countless guys that I’ve dated have startled me by making clear their identification as Dutch or Lithuanian, etc.

Thus have I discovered that there are no “white” people in Chicago. Everyone, not just those of us whose parents learned English as a second language, carries a solid sense of their cultural heritage. Is it like this everywhere outside of California or is this a Chicago phenomenon? I don’t know but, after the cultural blandness of my California Anglo friends, I’m realizing how many different colors there are in white.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

If I were a model..

Last January I was recruited by a brand new magazine to pose for some shots. Cuerpo didn't end up using any of my photos in their magazine, but at least they're letting me use some of them. Here's my favorite. I don't think I wear enough skirts...

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

My Spanish vs. his English

So last night I was trying to tell Francisco, the salad and dessert cook, that I needed to somehow pick up a brandy ice and a brownie (two melty ice cream dishes) without either one melting while the other was prepared. I started explaining this, when he said, "No comprendo, Regina. No puedo hablar ninguna palabra de inglés." One of the few truly bilingual workers at Carson's was standing nearby and she said to me, "He doesn't understand any English." So I turned to her and said, "Well, what do you think? I need to get a brandy ice and a brownie but I don't want the brandy ice to melt while I'm getting the brownie or the brownie to melt while I'm getting the brandy ice, so how do I do this?" Lupe turned to Francisco and translated this and we eventually figured it out.

But I was left wondering, how can Francisco say he doesn't understand a word of English? English-speaking servers give him instructions all the time. I know he doesn't understand all of it, but he's got to understand some of it or Otto and Myles would never get their orders the way they want.

I puzzled over this until it occurred to me that maybe Francisco is doing the same thing I do. I constantly say, "I don't speak Spanish," (and I often say it in Spanish) because I don't want people expecting more than I can give. If I say I speak NO Spanish, all I can do is surprise them when I can actually do speak some. This is much less painful than saying I speak Spanish (which I would never say) and then disappointing them.

So maybe Francisco and I are playing the same game, our defense in an environment that requires more than we can actually do.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Benedict XVI

It took them ONE DAY to come up with Ratzinger?? I'm so disgusted. I am so disgusted. #$%-ing Catholic church. @#$-ing, son of a *$&%^, dum-b%*# Catholic Church.

Getting Married, update 1

By the way, I am totally working Steve's plan for how to get yourself married. I remain as conflicted as ever about marriage itself, but I'm determined to try this strategy. Interestingly, every one of my friends with whom I shared the plan and almost every one of you who commented on my blog, was against this plan. Everyone has told me they don't like it, they don't think it will work and it's a bad idea for me. I'm ignoring all of you and doing it anyway. This idea of not getting exclusive with a man until I've taken my time getting to know him over a period of months is not a bad idea at all. I think way too many of us single-never-married's (especially those of us in our 30's, 40's and 50's) tend to date only one person at a time and we become exclusive with them, and start having sex with them, way too soon. Then the whole thing crashes and burns and convinces us we're cursed.

Well, maybe we are cursed, but I'm going to try to lift mine by taking my time and getting to know the men I date, for chrissake. And not eliminating any of them until we've had some damn time to actually get to know each other past the initial flush of I-can't-believe-you-just-quoted-from-my-favorite-Woody-Allen-movie.

Also, many male friends and male blog commentators made clear that if they dated a woman who followed Steve's plan (eg. asked life goal questions on first date, no sex before 3 months of dating, etc.), they'd stop dating her immediately. This only indicates to me that I have drawn a lot of not-ready-for-marriage guys into my life (and blog) so I'd better not date them.

So, onward with the big experiment that is my life. I will follow Steve's plan for getting married and see where it takes me.

Damn it.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Please Weight

After wrestling my weight down to a healthier level, I have been very carefully maintaining the 15-pound weightloss I achieved last summer. As is typical I guess, I have held on to another 5-pound weightloss goal. This goal helps keep me from having as many seconds as I want and eating when I'm not even hungry.

But one thing finally sank in recently. I realize that when I weighed almost 140 pounds (I'm only 5'2"), I ate to maintain 140 pounds. In order to lose weight, I had to eat for a lower weight. Now that I hover around 123 pounds, I'm eating to maintain 123 pounds. It's not easy or instinctive and I really have to pay attention, especially when I have a bad week (I tend to binge on sweets under stress. Recently after a party, I ate half of a sheet-cake over a period of three days. Big surprise that I'm currently working to lose the couple of pounds that put on).

But in order to achieve that fantasy below-120 lbs., I will have to eat fewer calories, not just to achieve the weightloss, but to maintain it. Do I want to live at below-120, eating only as many calories as below-120 needs? NO. I'm barely happy now, eating to maintain 123. To maintain below-120, I'd really have to eliminate sweets, really limit snacking, really strip any extra fat from my meals and/or add more exercise to my already six-days-a-week routine. I don't wanna!

So, I am finally, for the first time since I was too little to think about my body (10 years old? Nine?), finally accepting my body as it is and declaring it JUST FINE. I will carefully, strategically work to maintain my 123 lbs. with exercise and diet every day and I will consider it good and start truly enjoying my physical body. I have hips. Hips feel great. I love walking with my hips, working with them, not against them (as I used to do from 11 to 37 years old). Five feet two inches and 123 pounds is just fine and I will stay here. That is, until in the future my aging metabolism slows enough and my aging skeleton loses enough height that I have to cut calories again. I just can't think about it...

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Tax Day Eve

Happy Tax Day Eve. I have now done my taxes. Time for a beer. I used Telefile, although the message said this is the last year Telefile will be available. Next year they want everyone to file online, or use the regular forms and the U.S. mail, which I guess will always be available. I think the end of Telefile is terrible. The government clearly people to have online access, but a lot of people don't, unless you count public libraries and that access is very limited because of library hours and high demand.

We can't assume that everyone has access to the Internet, even though cybergeeks like me want to assume that everyone does. It's lovely to think my blog is available to everyone, but that's pure fantasy. Being directed to a website for information or services only works for a minority of the U.S. population, people! Let's keep it realistic.

Stuck on Pause

By the way, the reason there hasn't been a new gig posted on my music website is that I'm currently feeling stuck. I feel tired of the original songs I've been performing, I can't see the point of performing (especially for audiences that are mostly made up of my friends), I feel like my music career is "going nowhere," to use a total cliché, and I don't even feel like performing the new songs I've written lately. And I don't feel like writing any more new songs because what's the point?

This is bad. Today I got off work at 3:00 p.m, came home and took a nap and then watched tv for eight hours straight. This has become typical of me. All I do anymore is watch tv and go online, go online and watch tv. And the only two things I do OUTSIDE of my apartment are work and work out. I guess working out is productive. But o my god, how many Law and Order episodes can I watch before my back goes out from lying on the sofa for hours at a stretch? I actually felt back pain tonight. In response, I stood up for a minute before I laid down again and kept watching. I think this counts as a Tivo addiction. If only I could drag myself to an open mic, I think I could begin to counter this decline.

Remember, if I slip into a permanent vegetative state, pull the plug...

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

I Haven't Done My Taxes Yet

This is the latest I have ever procrastinated. I think it's because I had two jobs in 2004, plus I was on unemployment for two months. It just feels too complicated and it makes me hate myself for not having a steady, regular job with nice, neat paychecks and a single, simple W-2 form. Oh, life is so easy with just one W-2. I would just take the amounts off the little W-2 boxes and put them in the little 1040EZ boxes and mail it off. And that was it! I really wish I didn't have unemployment to tangle with.

I'll do my taxes tomorrow.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Saturday, April 09, 2005

How To Get Married

Next in my ongoing experimentation with dating and relationships: an ex-boyfriend who is now married says the following is guaranteed to get me a husband. I'm not sure I want to be married, but no strategy could possibly make my love life worse.

My-ex-boyfriend-who’s-now-married, let’s call him Steve, says:

ASSERTION #1: It takes 3 to 6 months of dating someone to evaluate whether or not he is appropriate for exclusive dating.

ASSERTION #2: You can't effectively evaluate a partner if you are sexually involved with him.


Based on those two beliefs, Steve advocates the following:

1) Never date a guy exclusively until you’ve dated him casually (once or twice a week) for MIN 3 months, preferably 6 months. If he proposes exclusive dating far earlier, be concerned.

2) Always date several people (as many reasonable candidates as possible) concurrently during the “casual dating” phase because it increases your odds of success.

3) By the end of the third date, get answers to the big questions that determine primary compatibility:
a) When does he plan to marry?
b) How many kids does he want?
c) Any prior marriages?
d) Smoker, drinker, drugs?
e) Religion?
f) Is he stable in his career?
g) What country/state would he move to, given the chance?
h) In his free time, does he prefer to stay home or go out, etc.?
i) Any chronic health conditions, or sexual diseases?
Et cetera.

4) Never have another date with a guy after you uncover an incompatibility in one of these major areas. You may think saying no to additional dates with the majority of men reduces your chances of marriage. Just the opposite is true. You are keeping an open space in your life for the right guy instead of blocking the right guys by keeping a wrong guy.

5) Never have sex with someone unless you have mutually agreed (in a clear discussion) to date exclusively, and you have agreed you are compatible on the "big issues." Before that, any intimacy beyond a quick kiss is also OFF LIMITS.

6) Don't continue having protected sex more than a few times, unless you've had AIDS tests together.

7) Never move in with someone without being married.

8) There is a 12-month (or maybe shorter) TIME LIMIT once you are in the exclusively-dating-having-sex phase. If you don’t have an engagement ring on your finger after 9 to 12 months in that stage, walk away and don’t look back. Having a cherished woman walk away often is what motivates a man's proposal.

9) Never get engaged unless you have been dating (casual dating and exclusive dating combined) him at least a year.

10) No dating whatsoever if there are emotional attachments still lingering from a previous lover.


Steve’s final comments:
Living and thinking these rules attracts people who are ready for a marriage commitment. It’s a good idea to ask the life compatibility questions BEFORE even having a first date. And, yes, when you ask a man those questions, it WILL scare some away: the ones who are years away from being ready to propose to anyone, even the “perfect” woman.

I ran Steve's rules past several friends who think he's raving and will be divorced within the year. I actually don't think that evaluation is fair or reasonable because some of this stuff makes a lot of sense to me, especially the part about not dating anyone after finding an incompatibility red flag. I think that rule right there would prevent a LOT of heartache in the world.

If I really follow this all the way through, I figure the worst thing that can happen is that I end up divorced, which is still better than being single-never-married (see 2/25/05 posting “Single-Never-Married”). When you're at dead bottom, the only direction to go is up...

Friday, April 08, 2005

If I Had Self-Esteem

If I had self-esteem...
...I wouldn't waste one second on any man who didn't engage/intrigue/fascinate me from the start.
...I'd stop calling myself "desperate."
...I'd stop looking for a man.
...I wouldn't care that I'm almost 39 and unmarried.
...I'd forget about marriage.
...I'd start having sex again.
...I'd expect guys to fall for me and wouldn't work so hard to try to make it happen.
...I'd worry less about how I look.
...I'd be friendlier to strangers.
...I'd stop being so hard on myself.
...I'd have way more confidence at work.
...I'd focus on my shoulders and legs in the mirror instead of my stomach.
...I'd put down the chocolate cake.
...I would never again eat until I'm in pain.
...I'd perform more often.
...my music would be better promoted and distributed and I'd have better contacts.
...I'd know my life is worth living and stop fantasizing about dying.
...I'd stop freaking out.
...I'd be in a better mood.
...I'd stop thinking about getting my teeth whitened.
...I'd invite my friends out/over more often.
...I'd watch less tv.
...I'd stop worrying about my Spanish-speaking ability.
...I'd feel just fine about being Mexican American.
...I'd trust myself to choose the right job/life/apartment/friends/hair conditioner.
...I'd believe I can be happy.
...I might even be happy.
...I wouldn't need this blog so much.
...I'd take fewer naps.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

English Dominant

I have now worked as a server for four and a half months. Ironically, after a lifetime of avoiding Spanish, I find myself at a job that requires more Spanish than I ever would have agreed to. The Mexican immigrant kitchen staff expects fluent Spanish from me. As I made clear in a previous blog entry ("My native language is English", June 20, 2004), I'm not fluent in Spanish, never have been and probably never will be. I speak it as well as any American who learned Spanish in high school and then felt forced to speak it, haltingly and painfully, because of extreme cultural pressure and shame (okay, maybe there aren't so many Americans like that, but we do exist).

Unfortunately most people are unable to comprehend the existence of a "full-blooded" Mexican American who doesn't speak fluent Spanish. At the restaurant it's clear that the kitchen staff thinks I understand far more than I do. They regularly give me long explanations I can't follow and no matter how many times I tell them I need them to speak slower, they just won't accommodate me. I'm sure they think I'm holding out on them. They must think I'm a fluent Spanish speaker, but too lazy or stuck up to use it.

Why is it so hard to accept the existence of someone whose nationality is blurred? Why can so few people understand that since I'm not white enough to count as white, but not Mexican enough to count as Mexican, I occupy a rather lonely middle ground where I seem doomed to disappoint everyone? All my life people have passed judgment on me when they've learned how poor my Spanish is. At least my co-workers aren't doing that. On the contrary, they're refusing to accept the reality of my limited bilingualism. It almost feels like a compliment: maybe I've been accepted as "one of them." Only I know I haven't been every time I have to stop the conversation and say, "No te entiendo. No te entiendo."

I'm not one of them and I'm not even really one of us. I'm one of me, the unicorn, the Chicana who can fake a fluent Spanish accent until the end of the first sentence. After that it's clear I'm just another American whose second language ability is hampered by her lack of a real need for it.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Cruel

A friend suggested the following:

You want to know how to find love? Don't look for it. Instead, do service work, using your talents and gifts to help others in ways that honor God. You'll soon find your mind focused on what you can do to help other people. Then some great guy is going to see you giving your talents to help people, and fall in love with you. But don't keep looking over your shoulder to see if it is happening, instead just ignore the whole question of men, since helping others is more important than men or marriage anyway.

References to "God" aside, it's not that this isn't good advice. It's perfectly fine advice, but it shouldn't be presented as a prescription for how to find a man. I've been using my talents in service of others for years and it hasn't led to a relationship.

Also, it's cruel to tell a lonely person that she'll find a relationship as soon as she stops looking for one. It's like telling a starving person they can have a meal as soon as they stop feeling hungry. As long as I have a beating heart, I'll be looking for a man. To tell me I'll find one when I stop looking is to say I'm not going to find one as long as I am looking. And that's just a mean thing to say.

No one who is alive ever stops feeling hunger, thirst or the desire for intimacy with others. It's just not reasonable to suggest that someone shut off a natural desire and part of their humanity.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Desperate

In a college psychology course (twenty years ago), I read about behavioral experiments performed on birds. They were taught that hitting a button would dispense food. Once this behavior was in place and the expectation set, the food was with-held. The initial response was for the bird to hit the button with increasing force and frequency. When nothing happened, the next response was for the bird to give up completely.

The last time I had a boyfriend was four years ago. I hate myself for being so focused finding another one. I hate how much time and energy and money I've sunk into this increasingly discouraging project. I hate how many times I've written about this obsession on this blog. I hate myself for writing one more right now.

I'd say the past four years of feverish dating, using Match.com, the Reader Matches website and various other dating services and strategies, is analogous to that poor bird hitting the button with increasing force and frequency. It's probably time to stop. That psychology textbook probably described the quitting behavior as followed by despondency.

Yeah.