Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Not Engaged!

(I continue to struggle with the stupid new blogger beta version which makes posting (and commenting on others' blogs) difficult. I used to love blogging. Now it's time-consuming and constipated.)

(I continue to struggle with the stupid new blogger beta version which makes posting (and commenting on others' blogs) difficult. I used to love blogging. Now it's time-consuming and constipated.)

I had a very nice Christmas with my new boyfriend. He still feels like a new boyfriend because I'm still amazed that I'm in a relationship at all. Denial? I guess so. I can't believe I'm capable of real, long-term commitment. But we've actually been dating since last January, which means it's been a year. Incredible.

I'm aware of increasing questions about when we're moving in together or getting engaged. After all, we're in our 40's and quite old in the world of dating. Many couples who meet in their mid 30's or 40's end up moving in or getting married within months. They say by that age people know what they want and when it feels right, it feels right. I've known many couples who were older (mid 30's or 40's) who made permanent commitments to each other within about a year of falling in love (Modigli!).

Not us. I would love to report that, after a year of dating, my boyfriend proposed to me on Christmas Day and I said yes and we're setting a date, but it would be a lie. The truth is that an engagement would sink us at this point. I might say yes because I'm a 40-year-old spinster, but then I'd freak out and feel trapped and start resenting him. And he could buy the ring and put in on my finger, but he'd sense my emotions and feel rejected and angry. His anger would mask his own fear of giving up his 44-year-old bachelorhood and freedom and our relationship would go right down the crapper. The end.

Good news: my boyfriend didn't propose and we have no plans to get married any time soon and we're happy! But I know this makes us abnormal and freakish losers, but that's my life. I said to a friend yesterday, "When it comes to that path to marriage, some people are in the fast lane, some are in the medium lane and some are in the slow lane. Me and Bob are just getting on the on-ramp."

sigh

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Still Bad Haircut

It's been a month and a half since Mirror Mirror at Randolph and Halsted gave me a terrible haircut that made my hair look like Keith Partridge's. The extra inch that my hair has grown in adds to the length of the cut, but doesn't change the shape. Now I look more like Carol Brady whose hair fit her head closely and then flipped out at the bottom. Yes, my hair is barely past my shoulders and flips out at the bottom just like Florence Henderson. Which sounds worse: invoking the name "Carol Brady" or does "Florence Henderson" have worse associations?

I hate my hair, but more than that I hate JESSICA at MIRROR MIRROR SALON at Randolph and Halsted in Chicago!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

“Isn’t There Anyone Who Knows What Christmas Is All About?"

The yuletide season is upon us once again, and I'd like to point out that there are more "true meanings" than one. The origins of Christmas are older than the Christian Church and much more universal than the story of its Savior. Many cherish the religious holiday for it's celebration of the birth of the Son of God, but here's the history that justifies those of us who simply revel in the bacchanalian, gluttonous, gift-focused festival of it. Here’s my summary of the History Channel's Christmas Unwrapped: The History of Christmas. The following historical facts are from the History Channel program, but the strong opinionated statements are mine.

Christmas Started Without Jesus

It turns out that early Europeans were observing a winter solstice celebration centuries before Jesus was even born. In Norse country it was called “Yule” and it lasted for as long as the enormous “Yule log” took to burn, which was about twelve days. In preparation for the cold, dark season people would kill almost all their livestock since it wasn't practical to try to feed the animals through the winter. The feasting and general revelry that resulted became the annual Yule celebration.

In Rome the winter solstice marked the period known as “Saturnalia.” During this festival people drank, behaved raucously and generally overturned the normal social order. While this was going on, the upper classes of Rome worshipped Mithras, the sun god, whose feast day was December 25th. Mithras was also believed to have been born in a field and worshipped by shepherds (hmm?).

Early Christians didn’t celebrate Jesus’ birth, focusing on his resurrection. But by the fourth century the new Church needed to establish his holy status, so it began to put together the nativity story. Unable to end the pagan traditions already in place, the Church adopted them, making December 25th Jesus’ feast day (he was probably really born in springtime) and appropriating the annual revelry as a celebration of his birth.

It Had More Sex Than Saints

In England during the middle ages, the pious went to church on December 25th for “Christ’s mass,” but most of the population just carried on as it always had on that day. Christmas was a festival of drunken revelry and sexual activity that would look more to us like Mardi Gras or New Year’s Eve. It was a saturnalian free-for-all with little connection to Jesus except in name.

By the 17th century the Puritans had had enough of this and they made attempts to outlaw Christmas in both England and the New World. These devout people saw Christmas as a debauched and depraved tradition that had to be stopped. It didn’t work, but the holiday was greatly downplayed for a long time, as evidenced by the U.S. Congress being in session on all Christmas Days for its first 67 years.

America Needed a Tradition

When the United States was established in 1776, the early Americans wanted to rid themselves of all things English, including Christmas. But over time they also needed new culturally shared holidays and a reinvention of Christmas was on the horizon.

One new aspect of the American Christmas was how it addressed the growing class divide of the industrial U.S. In the early 1800’s the holiday became quite dangerous as working class people turned it into a time of violent payback for the increasing gap between the haves and the have-nots. In response to growing economic imbalances, writers like Washington Irving and Charles Dickens created works of fiction that instilled a spirit of generosity and demonstrated sharing wealth with the poor. These popular stories gave the upper classes guidance about what their responsibility was to those who had less and established “giving” as a central Christmas theme. Christmas now gave people a chance to correct some of the socioeconomic unfairness of newly industrialized America.

The view of the family was also changing. Traditionally it was for raising and disciplining children and turning them into hard workers. But by the end of the 19th century the family was seen more as a nurturing body that protected childhood innocence. Christmas, with its emphasis on giving gifts, allowed people to lavish attention on children without seeming to spoil them. The holiday became a celebration of children, honoring them with presents and witnessing their expressions of pure joy.

Why Shopping Is Central

The creation of Santa Claus in the mid-1800's did a few things: it reinforced the idea that Christmas distributes wealth, it solidified the focus on children and it removed gift-buying from the marketplace and placed it in the realm of family love and affection. This diminished the obvious commercialism of gift-buying and obliged parents to fulfill their children’s expectations. Thus did shopping become the central activity of the Christmas season.

But Where Was God?

By the late 1800’s Christmas was just about everywhere, except in church. In fact, the author of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas was an Episcopalian minister who initially kept his authorship a secret because he thought the poem was too friviolous; after all, it didn’t mention Jesus once. The celebration of Jesus’ birth was an established part of the Catholic tradition, but for quite a while American Protestant churches pretty much ignored it. For decades they stayed closed on December 25th until their parishioners made clear that they wanted services on that day.

So much for Jesus’ birth being the real reason we have Christmas. December 25th was originally part of a pagan festival that morphed into a holiday of gift-giving that American churches didn’t want anything to do with until almost the 20th century! There was no golden age during which people observed Christmas primarily as a holy day. That idea is as much a myth as Santa Claus. Sorry Charlie Brown, but Snoopy's not off target: Christmas is as much about the big decorated tree as it is about the manger.

Christmas and Jesus

By the 1920’s all of the sex and revelry were gone from Christmas and by the 1950’s it was all about kids and presents. So, where does Jesus fit into this again? Clearly a spiritual focus is appropriate since religious services recall the need to connect with a greater power. In the centuries before Christ, people needed to believe they’d survive the winter and they worshipped the sun as their source of life. Modern Christians worship the son of God, whom they recognize as the source of life.

But if Christmas were really just about Jesus, the holiday wouldn’t occupy public space as it does. Strictly religious holy days tend to be observed only by those who practice that faith. Our grand-scale yuletide traditions -- big decorations, big eating, big shopping -- support the religious significance of the day, but they don’t really engage with it.

What’s the True Meaning Again?

The History Channel’s program ends with the observation that only children understand what Christmas is really about: pure joy and celebration, and the magic and mystery of opening gifts. That’s why, even as grown ups, we often experience a moment of delight when we see a Santa truly in his role or glimpse a dazzling light display. Such moments take us back to our childhood and the unadulterated awe and glory that Christmas held for us then. Our American Christmas tradition was tailor-made for children and they are critical to its magic.

Christmas started out as a pagan winter solstice ritual, became such a drunken orgy that the English and American Puritans tried to stamp it out altogether, and in the U.S. became the commercial celebration of childhood innocence we know today. There has really never been a time during which people treated December 25th as a solemn holy day. Maybe the real tradition of Christmas is the tension between its religious meaning and its secular public expression of gifts and decorations. So the next time someone complains to you that people have "forgotten the true meaning of Christmas" you can straighten them out. And we can count that annual complaint as part of the tradition, too.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Outta Here

Since the new beta version of Blogger sucks, I'm researching new blog hosting websites. I'm looking at Orble and tBlog and others. I realize Blogger is the godspace of blogs, but their new beta version doesn't allow me and my Safari browser to post (small problem)! I'm using Internet Explorer right now, but in this browser beta blogger won't let me to read the buttons on the publishing page! (I rarely use exclamation points and hope you see them as an indication of my frustration.)

Should I keep looking for a new blog host or suffer with blogger until the fix their shit? I realize I'll lose all my history if I have to start a new blog. Does anyone care?

Monday, December 04, 2006

(Sometimes)Technology Sucks

So the solution to my iPod problem is to install the latest operation system. The latest operating system is Mac OS X 10.3.9 and it costs $150. That is the only way I'll be able to use my $150 iPod with my PowerBook G4 Apple laptop.

I tried to find a friend with the original disks I could borrow, but Apple doesn't let more than one person use a set of disks (the owner has to immediately register online and then no one else can install with those disks).

Do I want to spend another $150 in order to use the $150 iPod I already couldn't afford? No, F#$% it. I'm returning the iPod Nano today. Does anyone have an old iPod from 2003 they want to sell? My laptop can support that. If not, I'm getting another CD player.

SUGGESTIONS?

In the meantime, I no longer like blogging because I upgraded to Blogger Beta and it's HORRIBLE. I can't post or edit posts in my usual browser and when I use my old Internet Explorer browser, the buttons don't show up.

This sucks!
Posting isn't supposed to be this hard!

But I can't switch back and there isn't even any way to communicate with the blogger.com staff to ask for help or complain. Blogging just sucks for me these days and I guess it just will until blogger.beta is improved enough to be compatible with Apple programs and that will probably happen never.
Maybe it's time to kill this blog and start a new one on a different website. Right?

SUGGESTIONS?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Is there an Apple expert in the house?

I bought an iPod nano today. But when I tried to plug it into my Apple laptop and install it, I got a message that says it can't be installed unless I have iTunes version 7 .

So I went on itunes.com and downloaded iTunes version 7. But when I tried to install it, I got a message that says it can't be installed unless I have at least Mac OS X version 10.3.9 (my laptop has Mac OS X 10.2.8).

So I went on apple.com and downloaded Mac OS X version 10.3.9. But when I tried to install it, I got a message that says it can't be installed unless I have at least Mac OS X version 10.3.

So I went on apple.com and looked for a version of Mac OS X version 10.3 that can be accepted by my Mac OS X 10.2.8 system. But I can't find one. Now what?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Caution: Beta.Blogger.com

I switched over to the new Beta Blogger version and I can't publish in my usual browser, which is Safari (I have an Apple). It turns out I can still publish with Internet Explorer which I also have, thank god. My suggestion is that bloggers avoid the new Beta version (Blogger.com has created this new version with Google). It seems to have a lot of bugs that they are still trying to work out.

Don't Do This

I can't believe I'm doing this again. I've burnt out on waitressing and want to make another career change. Career change? Can I call it a career change when I don't really have a career? Maybe a career in changing jobs. In the past 15 years I've held jobs in five industries and I'm already tired of the fifth one. I'm actually considering trying to make my way back into office work.

I started updating my resume and realized that I've held three jobs in the past year and had four jobs in the previous five years. I'm realizing that before I apply for jobs I'd better hook up with a job agency and have them help me with my very scattered resume. I don't know why anyone would want to hire me when I obviously can't stick to anything for very long. Maybe it's time for more therapy or a different kind of therapy or a life coach or some kind of professional advisor to people with f#$%-ed up job histories. Maybe all this job-hopping indicates a serious problem I should get help with.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

I just wanted to express my envy of everyone who has a regular job that gives you the next four days off. I remember the office-job shortened last day before the Thanksgiving break during which work ebbed and goodies were everywhere. It's so great. And then you get four days off which is such a treat...

Tonight I start my workshift at 5:30 p.m. and go until probably around 11:00 p.m. (if not later). Then I get exactly one day off before I return to work at 4:00 p.m on Friday and then work Saturday night, too. (I'm also experiencing ankle pain from the horrible shoes I have to wear for this job.)

I've just about had it with restaurant work. The romance is over.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

No death for me

Another blogger is suffering from the pain of the sudden death of her father. She's in her twenties and he died quite young. I have absolutely no way to begin to try to understand what that's like, and I wonder (again) how it's possible that almost everyone else in the world has experienced the pain of losing someone, but I (at the age of 40) never have.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Monday Charge

Big Fat Deal has posted two videos. Check out the second one. I love it. You go, girls! (But you might not want to watch it at work. If you do turn down the sound).

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Thanksgiving, Eat, Food

Could it be a national food addiction problem that leads us to eat and eat and eat until we're in pain on the day when we're supposed to be giving thanks for something? Maybe we spend a few minutes during grace focusing on what we're grateful for AND THEN WE EAT. Why? Maybe the Thanksgiving binge happens because of a collective sense of guilt for all the things we have while the rest of the planet is dying for those things (food, water, shelter). Maybe it happens because we're avoiding recognizing how starved we are for real meaning in our jobs, true intimacy in our relationships and a solid sense of our place in the world. Maybe we stuff ourselves so we'll be too preoccupied with digestion to consider the painful irony of our fat bellies and our empty souls.

Anyway.

Usually at this time of the year I'm sadly trying to find a place to spend Thanksgiving dinner. My yuletide tradition is angling for invitations to holiday celebrations, hoping my familied friends will notice that I have no place to go. They often don't notice or don't have the resources to invite me. I often invite myself over ("David, are you and your wife going to be having Thanksgiving in town this year? If you are, can I come over again?").

This is the first holiday season in years that I'm not doing that. This is the first Thanksgiving in my life that I will be cooking for a man. Just the two of us. To the sound of football, I'll toil in the kitchen over turkey, yams, stuffing and broccoli (I love broccoli) while he falls asleep in front of the tv. When he asks if he can do anything, I'll say, "No. Just sit down and watch the game. Do you want a beer?" I'm a 40-year-old spinster and I have never in my life prepared a Thanksgiving meal for the man I love. He never existed before. Finally he does.

So I declare a new Thanksgiving tradition for myself: cooking dinner for the man I love while he watches the game. It's isolated, it's selfish, it's stereotyped, it's dull -- and it's brand new for me.

Disappointing? Probably. I should remember where I was a year ago and throw open my doors to anyone I can think of who might need a place to celebrate our national force-feeding. But I'm not. In the same way that lonely people are disgusted by public displays of affection until we finally have a partner with whom to indulge in those displays, I used to press my nose against the windows of people with Thanksgiving loved ones but am now happy to have my own loved one with whom to draw the curtain. Maybe it's human nature to witness people's full, loving lives and feel certain no one should be allowed such happiness, until we finally touch it ourselves. Anyway, I'm grateful to be there. (Finally. At the age of 40.)

What's your (good or bad) Thanksgiving tradition?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

yeah, i'm 40...

I've been reading about this in Oprah Magazine and I'm sorry to say I'm experiencing it in real life: the mid-life weight shift and expansion of the midsection. I haven't actually gained any weight recently, yet lately I'm noticing that my pants are tighter and I'm developing even more of a "D" shape than usual when I look at myself in the mirror. AND at the same time my friends have told me in the last couple of months that I look like I'm losing weight.

What's happening is that my 122 pounds are changing location. I am getting thinner in the face, shoulders, arms and chest. My ring and watchband are looser, I'm wearing a smaller bra size and from the waist up, I look quite trim. But I'm getting extra bulges in the stomach, hips and legs. My pants and belts are tighter. There's no denying it: even without any actual weight gain, my body is changing and it's getting further away from the hourglass shape our culture reveres. I'm afraid I'm turning into a Gary-Larson-cartoon-type of thin-head-fat-stomach old person.

I'm thinking of an article that said that even women who don't gain any weight will notice that their midsections will spread as they move into their 40's and 50's. This sort of makes me feel better because it explains what I've been noticing lately and tells me that it's not my fault and there's no point in fighting nature. But it also makes me feel kind of bad because I'm never going to have that hourglass shape again (okay, I never really had it to begin with, but now there's NO hope).

I've heard that at a certain age women who work hard to stay trim and fit have to make a choice between our face and our ass. I think it's really a choice between our face and our stomach. But whatever your problem area is, the choice is that either we diet and exercise and diet and exericise until our problem area is as fat-free as possible, regardless of how much that deflates the rest of our bodies, including the face. Or we accept the reality of our thick waists/butts and leave our bodies and faces otherwise in proportion. I've heard Courtney Cox cited as an example of a woman who chose her ass over her face. I'd offer Alfre Woodard or Oprah Winfrey as women who have chosen their faces.

And now it's time for me to make the choice (oh hell, now it's time for me to make the choice!).

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Bad Haircut

It's been about 20 years since the last time I received a haircut I really didn't like. It's a horrible thing, especially when the main problem is that they cut the hair too short. Sometimes you can get a very good hairstylist to fix a bad haircut, but no one can make your hair magically grow back.

I was horrified to realize that my new haircut makes me look like Keith Partridge. I actually started singing "I Think I Love You" on the el to my boyfriend to make my point. But after hanging out with friends I realized I don't really look like Keith Partridge as much as I look like Angie Dickenson around 1972. If you don't know who that is, don't bother to ask.

So I'm pretending to be one of those women who had really short hair but is now growing it out, but it's in that in-between stage when you wear a lot of clips and barrettes and tiny pigtails. That's what I'm pretending because then I can think "It's so much longer than it used to be. In no time at all, it'll be long enough for an up do."

I never want anyone at Mirror Mirror in Chicago to touch my hair ever again.

Anyone have a bad haircut story to help me feel less alone on this one?

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

La Gritona, The End

This is my Halloween ghost story. Please go back to Part One if you're just starting it. I'm publishing it here in five (5) parts since it's kind of long.

“Mother!” Lillian called into the middle of midnight.  “Mother!  That's enough!  I have heard enough from you and we are done. I'm not doing anything else for you!”

The cold rushed into the room, making it somehow blacker.  Eulalia’s voice swirled around Lillian like conflicting winds, lifting her hair, her nightgown: “Shut up!  ¡Hija desgraciada!  How dare you, you betrayer!”

“I am not a betrayer, Mother!  I did what was decent and there’s nothing you can do about it.” Lillian felt her veins flushed with fury, a cold anger that felt powerful and good.  She breathed in the icy air, “I will not carry on your petty jealousies and -- and long-standing grudges over stuff that's old and -- and over and -- and I've devoted way too much of my life to you and I'm done!”

"Shut up! Don't you talk to me that way. I am still your mother," Eulalia's voice now came from the mirror at the bottom of the stairs and Lillian saw that it was now uncovered. This time she met her mother's furious glare with her own and said almost thoughtfully, “I don't know why you're not in hell."

Eulalia's eyes widened slightly. "Now you think you're high and mighty. Now you think you can talk to me like that because you've run back to your daddy so he can protect you. You think he can help you? Your father's no good for anything!”

Lillian wanted to protest her mother's words, but she suddenly realized her mother was right: her father was no good for anything.

"He never bullied anyone like you did," Lillian finally mustered.

"He never did shit," Eulalia gloated as she saw that her daughter knew she was right.

Lillian suddenly felt alone and abandoned, as she had so many times in her childhood. Memories flooded her mind of having to weather her mother's rage alone. Where had her dad been? Sometimes he was out, but so many times he was right there in the next room, watching tv or reading the newspaper. Doing nothing. And here she was, suffering solo again. Her father who should have been there, who should have had an opinion, who should have at least tried to temper her mother's tantrums, was absent. As usual.

"You only have one parent," the hard face continued, "and that's me. And you will respect and obey me starting right now."

Lillian heard photo frames being knocked over and it brought her back to the present. Now her anger returned, encompassing both her mother's abuse and her father's failure. Hot tears began to spill down her cheeks.

"No. I have no parents and I only have to respect and obey myself!" She hated to cry like a child, but the unfairness of it all overwhelmed her. "You're right! Dad wasn't any good to me. He should have protected me from you, but he didn't. I had to put up with your yelling and screaming all by myself, but I won't anymore!"

Cold air began to press in on her, as if the room were being squeezed.  Warmed by emotion, Lillian inhaled against the pressure. Maybe she had always been alone and maybe she always would be, but now she could take it. “I don't care what you do anymore, Mother. I am not afraid of you -- ” the pressure increased, “ -- because I have Ygnacio Carrera’s blood in my veins, too!”

The pressure let up for a moment and Lillian could feel her mother’s hesitation at the sound of her own father’s name.  “That’s right,” Lillian declared, “Ygnacio Carrera and you and me.  We’re all the same.”

The air became impossibly cold.  Now Eulalia’s voice multiplied and Lillian was surrounded by a chorus of her mother’s outrage: “You little bitch!"
"¡Desgraciada!"  
"Betrayer!"
"How dare you!"

Lillian lifted her head, inhaled that freezing wind and drowned out her mother's voice with her own scream, “SHUT UP!”  

Eulalia’s words echoed those of Lillian's childhood. 
“You shut up!"
"You never do anything right!"
"¡No piensas!”

“STOP IT!”

“¡Pinche chinga’o!"
"I can’t count on you for anything!"
"Are you stupid?”

“STOP IT!”

“¡Malcriada!"
"Who do you think you are?"
"You betrayer!"

“STOP!” Lillian shrieked, letting loose decades of resentment, rage and disgust.  “YOU ARE DEAD AND WE ARE DONE!”

The pressure in the room took her breath away and she collapsed.

**********************


Lillian opens her mail in the semi-darkness provided by her kitchen stovelight.  Months after her mother’s death, she still receives sympathy cards. They express sorrow for her mother's passing, but Lillian wonders how sincere they are.

The dripping kitchen faucet draws her attention. No matter how tightly she closes it, it never stops. “God damn it! Pinche cosa."”  Her temper flares more often now, rage always simmering just beneath the surface.  With disgust she recalls that she has no one who can help her fix things around the house. Since her realization about her father's place in her life, she views his uselessness with resentment, bright and fresh. Regarding her mother, it’s a Mexican standoff and Lillian lives with a cold anger that’s more satisfying than the thud of dirt hitting the coffin.

In the bathroom mirror, Lillian gazes at the reflection.  There she sees her mother’s hard face, her never-ending fury, her piercing eyes.  Lillian knows she’ll never stop seeing them because they’re her own.

Happy Halloween from Regina!

Monday, October 30, 2006

And now a short break...

Sorry, I hate to interrupt the flow of my ghost story, but consider this a commerical break or something. I need advice on this one. Help!

My boyfriend and I have sleep problems. He snores horribly and has an appointment to see if he has sleep apnea, but that still leaves the following:

1) he also has restless legs syndrome which sometimes keeps us awake

2) and he tends to toss and turn when he's really exhausted, which keeps us awake

3) and he has a tendency to wake up each hour in the night and might or might not fall asleep again, which keeps us awake

4) and now he's trying to convince me that he's just a naturally "short sleeper" and is happy and normal sleeping from about 9:00PM to 3 or 4:00AM and those are just his sleep hours. I'm having a hard time believing that because he seems so tired all the time.

But even if he really is a "short sleeper" that means our sleep habits are totally incompatible. He wakes up around 3 or 4 am, gets up and is opening and closing doors and I'm losing sleep because I can't fall back to sleep and then we're BOTH up for the day at, like, 4:30 am. and then I'm exhausted all day. And that's only IF I managed to sleep at all with his snoring and/or tossing around.

I'm tired of getting robbed of sleep each time he spends the night. I tried to suggest we stop sleeping together until all these problems are under control (even though that could take months), but he thinks that will irreparably damage our relationship.

I don't know what to do! Should we both start taking a sleeping prescription to sleep through the night? I'll take any and all suggestions at this point.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

La Gritona, Part Four

This is my Halloween ghost story. Please go back to Part One if you're just starting it. I'm publishing it here in five (5) parts since it's kind of long.

Eulalia's nightmare visits continued for over two weeks. Lillian felt a tugging at her mind and will.  She avoided all mirrors.  Where did this hatred come from? Why couldn't her mother let anything go? Lillian had harbored hope for some relaxation after her mother passed away.  Once dead, her mother would have to rest in peace, right?  Surely Eulalia wouldn’t have a choice about that?

When the nightmare-Eulalia changed tactics and began threatening her husband Ben, Lillian decided to return to Fresno. She had to make sure her dad was okay.  Was he having these horrible dreams, too?

As she drove, Lillian fixated on her situation. "I spent so much time and energy making sure her tea was just right, telling people her exact explanation for her health, getting her in and out of the bathtub without breaking my back. For God's sake, who wants to bathe their own mother? What else does she want from me?" By the time she reached the outskirts of Fresno, exhaustion and worry had drained her patience. "It wasn't enough that I got every load of laundry right, that I cooked for her even when we both knew she would never eat it?"

It was after midnight when Lillian arrived at her parents' house. The doorbell brought her disoriented father to the front porch.

“Dad!  Are you all right?”  

“What’s all this noise about?” Ben asked.

“Are you okay?” Lillian insisted.

“Yes, why?  Come on in.”  Ben flipped on a hall light as Lillian entered the house and she noticed that the mirror at the bottom of the stairs had been covered. Her own mirrors were similarly draped.  

“What’s the matter?” Ben asked.

Lillian noticed a scent she'd never encountered in her parents' house before: alcohol. Had her dad been drinking? She also saw that the place was a mess: clothes were strewn, cupboards were open and the phone book lay open in the middle of the floor. “I just, uh,” Lillian realized she had no idea how to explain her visit.  “I’m sorry I woke you up.  Um, have you had any dreams about Mother?”

Failing to look her in the eye wasn't unusual for Ben, but his hesitation was. Finally he answered, “No.”

“Oh. I have.  I’ve been having dreams where Mother wanted me to come back here.  I don’t know why.”

Ben turned and walked into the kitchen and Lillian knew she would get no more conversation out of him. He switched on an electric burner and reached for the kettle.  “Have some tea.  Then you can sleep in the guest room.”

Five minutes later, Lillian took her tea up to the spare bedroom she had stayed in so many times that it felt like hers.  She reflected on her dad's drinking and the covered mirrors and knew they indicated that her dad was being plagued, too. With resentment she thought, "She's disrupting two lives just because of her petty grudges. Stupid supernatural crap. What is this? Leave this stuff to the Mexican psychics. I'm not interested!"

When Lillian got up the next morning, Ben had left for work.  As she dressed and had breakfast, she felt her mother’s presence everywhere.  The phone book was open to the page with the name of Pedro Santiaguillo's store. The air hung with the cloying scent of the lilac air freshener Eulalia used to use for the toilet (because of this Lillian had never been able to separate the smell of lilacs from toilets). The cupboards hung open the way they used to after Eulalia had shut them too hard.

Sadly, Lillian looked at the two empty whiskey bottles sitting by the recliner in front of the tv. "He is drinking." She began straightening up, but as she closed the phone book she felt the familiar rush of cold air. “I am so damn tired of this!” she said to herself as she heard the cupboards again.

When Ben got home the house was tidy, the empty bottles thrown away and, in the first open act of defiance in her life, Lillian had taken a screwdriver and hammer and removed all the kitchen cupboard doors. Ben took it all in with bleary, tired eyes and Lillian wondered if there would be any point in trying to take away his whiskey. He stared at the cupboard doors the longest, then wordlessly turned away and walked upstairs, whether in understanding or exhaustion, who knew? Later, after Lillian had said good night to her father and fallen asleep, her mother’s outrage took yet another turn.

"Have you told Mr. Santiaguillo he can go to hell? Have you? How dare you disobey me!" The dream-Eulalia hovered over her daughter like an eagle about to strike when Ben stepped in.

“Stop it,” he said in a voice that was actually a bit louder than Lillian had ever heard him use. “¡Déjala!”

The spectre now turned on Ben.  “No!” Lillian screamed and woke up in a sitting position.  She got out of bed and ran into the master bedroom where Ben slept.

"Dad, are you all -- " His colossal snoring kept her from needing to finish the question. Still, she wanted to be sure he was all right.

"Dad!" she shook him, causing him to interrupt his buzz-saw breathing for a moment of incomprehensible mumbling before he passed out again. Unable to wake him, Lillian realized her father was in a drunken stupor. If he wasn't in medical trouble tonight, he would be eventually. She straightened up and said quietly, "That's enough."

Finally feeling her own rage, Lillian felt energized as she left her father's room. She pulled his door shut hard enough to send a cracking sound into the darkness and walked deliberately down the stairs.

The end of the story will be posted by Halloween.

Friday, October 27, 2006

La Gritona, Part Three

This is my Halloween ghost story. Please go back to Part One if you're just starting it. I'm publishing it here in five (5) parts since it's kind of long.

“Did you see Mr. Santiaguillo at the chapel?” Lillian called her sister as soon as she got home that night.

 “Yeah, that was nice of him to come,” Jill said.

 “Yeah,” Lillian hesitated.  “You know what?  That last week before she died, Mother made me promise not to let certain people in to the funeral.”

 “Really?”

“Yeah.  And he was one of them.”

“Are you serious? Oh, for God's sake!” Jill paused.  “Well, but what were you supposed to do? Kick him out? You can't kick someone out of a chapel.”

“I know!  I couldn’t,” Lillian paused again.  “But I guess it doesn’t matter now.” She tried not to let it sound like a question.

“No,” Jill said dryly, “It really doesn't matter now.”

“Yeah.”  Lillian ended the conversation and made her way through the darkened apartment to the sofa.  It was past eleven and she was determined to be in bed within minutes, so she didn’t bother to turn on lights.  By the kitchen stovelight she went through her mail.  Several envelopes were sympathy cards. Lillian smiled as she read words like "Our prayers are with you." Even clichés could be comforting. 

She stopped reading when the room suddenly went freezing cold.  She put down the cards and looked around for an open window, but the windows and doors were closed.  

“What the hell?” Lillian started towards the hallway to check the thermostat, but when she had walked only a few steps, she felt warm again.  Puzzled, she returned to the pile of mail on the sofa where the cold overtook her again.

“How could you do this to me?” a voice hissed at her and Lillian felt her bowels twist.  A cupboard slammed in the kitchen, then another.  Lillian froze in the cold spot, her eyes scanning the room frantically, her breathing shallow.

“Mother?” the thought formed in her head, underneath the fear, but she couldn’t bring herself to say it.  After a few more seconds, the cold evaporated and the room returned to normal.  Lillian left the mail on the coffee table and slowly, full of dread, walked towards the kitchen. No one was there. She forced herself to check the dining room, bedroom and behind the shower curtain. Nothing. Her nerves tightened to an unnatural pitch, she finally moved towards the bathroom to get ready for bed.

She stepped in front of the bathroom mirror, trying to steady herself.  “I’m fine,” she told herself. “It’s just me here.”  As usual she avoided looking at her image for too long because as she moved into her forties it was getting easier to see her mother’s features in her own.  

She bent to brush her teeth, trying to get that cold air off her mind.  Again she reviewed the situation:  Mother would have been furious to imagine Mr. Santiaguillo at her funeral, but Mother would never know now because she was dead.  Dead, dead, dead, Lillian tried to reassure herself.  She rinsed her mouth and straightened before the mirror.

It now reflected two faces . Lillian shrieked as she stared in the dim light at Eulalia’s piercing eyes, her drawn face contorted with fury.

“How dare you do that to me?” Eulalia’s voice boomed impossibly in Lillian’s mind.  “How dare you betray me!  You let that son of a bitch come to my funeral!  Do you know what you’ve done?” The voice swelled and Lillian saw the reflection of that thin, bony hand reaching towards her.  Unable to take her eyes off the mirror, she watched those talon-like fingers start to sink into her arm as Eulalia shrieked “DO you?”

“No!” Lillian cried as she pulled away from the hand and whirled to face the figure, but there was no one there.  She turned back to the mirror and saw herself still in her mother’s grasp. What the hell was going on?  Lillian ran into her bedroom.  Damn the wall-to-wall mirrored closet doors, they surrounded her with images of her mother’s rage.  Was she going crazy?

"You are not going to get away with this! You get back there and you tell Mr. Santiaguillo he can rot in hell! ¡Liliana! Liliana, so help me God!" Lillian fled to the living room, doors independently slamming shut as she passed them.  In the living room there were no reflective surfaces and the yelling and slamming suddenly stopped.  Panting, she listened for any noise.  The air felt normal, so slowly, she lowered herself onto the sofa.  Should she call someone?  What could she tell them?  Lillian cowered on her sofa for a long time before she fell asleep.

The next day was dominated by memories of her nightmares:  Eulalia shrieking and clawing at her, furious that her own daughter had been nice to that viejo cabrón who had tried to kill her.  All this because of a clean window? At one point Lillian saw Eulalia on her deathbed as she had been at the end, “¡Liliana!  ¡Liliana, ven aquí!”  Lillian dream-watched as her mother cycled through anger, cajoling, begging and condemning.  Eulalia wanted Lillian to return to Fresno, find all her "enemies" and exact revenge for stolen recipes, minor accidents and imagined insults.

“¡Liliana!  You tell those cabrónes I hate them!  You tell them nothing’s forgiven!  And you get it right this time.  For once in your life, don’t screw it up!”

Parts Four and Five on the way...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

La Gritona, Part Two

This is my Halloween ghost story. Please go back to Part One if you're just starting it. I'm publishing it here in five (5) parts since it's kind of long.

“Liliana,” Eulalia beckoned one day when she was feeling particularly weak.  The doctor had told them to prepare for the inevitable and Lillian knew they had limited time.  “Liliana, I want you to promise me something.”  Lillian reluctantly sat on the edge of the bed and looked into the piercing eyes that burned from her mother's narrow, drawn face.  “I want you to promise me you won’t let certain people attend my funeral.”

Lillian’s eyes slid away with chagrin.  “¡Liliana! I mean it,” Eulalia now clutched Lillian’s arm, her thin fingers like talons and Lillian had to fight the urge to pull away.  “Don’t you let Pedro Santiaguillo near my funeral,” Lillian recognized the name of the green grocer they had stopped going to years ago. The reason was that one day her mother had walked right into the grocer's glass door that was so clean it had been invisible, at least to Eulalia. Mr. Santiaguillo had actually apologized for keeping such a clean store, but Eulalia had never forgiven him for the forehead bruise she had suffered. This innocuous old man was banished from her funeral?

Eulalia continued, “And Ana Gonzalez.  I know she stole that empanada recipe from me, trying to make herself look like a good cook.  I don’t want anything to do with her, even if I’m dead.  Even if I’m dead and in my coffin.”  Lillian wanted to roll her eyes at her mother’s melodrama: some people were born to die.

Eulalia named half a dozen other offenders, quite minor in Lillian’s opinion, and ended with, “Okay?  Do you promise me you won’t let any of those people come to my funeral?”

Lillian took her time drawing in her breath and then exhaled heavily, “Yes, Mother.”  Eulalia’s hard face didn’t soften as she lay back against the pillow.  “Good.”

Eulalia expired within the week and Lillian exhausted herself with burial arrangements and event planning.  One thing her mother had gotten right was the uselessness of Lillian’s father. He offered no help with the funeral and mainly just sat in his recliner in silence, whether out of shock or relief, who knew? In the meantime, Lillian’s attention to detail was driven by the certainty that her mother would be furious if she chose the wrong coffin lining or served the wrong non-dairy creamer. Her mother’s judgement still felt very much alive and Lillian drove herself crazy trying to guess which version of “Pescador de Hombres” should be played at the rosary.

On the day of the funeral, Lillian was standing at the back of the chapel, feeling too tired to make her way to the coffin, when she saw Pedro Santiaguillo, the green grocer, enter.  What was he doing here? The people on her mother’s non grata list were people who hadn’t wanted any more to do with Eulalia than she had with them.  Lillian had never dreamed she’d actually have to face any of them.

“Lillian, I’m so sorry about your mother,” Mr. Santiaguillo murmured. Lillian stared dumbly before she was able to stammer, “Oh – yes –“

“I want you to know my wife and I are praying for you and your family,” he continued.

Lillian looked into his eyes and just couldn’t say any of the things her mother would have demanded.  “Thank you.”

Later she went over it again and again. She felt awful about breaking a promise she made on her mother’s deathbed, but what could she have done? To have asked Mr. Santiaguillo to leave would have been rude and would have carried on the pettiness of her mother’s grudge. Surely anyone could see that she had done the only thing a reasonable person could do: allow a well-meaning old man to pay his respects. She tried to put her mind at rest, but her mother’s old resentments wouldn’t die.

After the burial, the food, and the wrinkled old relatives who didn’t understand why they were still alive, Lillian packed and donated her mother’s clothes, then left for her home in San Diego. With each mile she tried to imagine putting the deathbed scene and her guilt behind her.

Parts Three through Five on the way...

Monday, October 23, 2006

La Gritona, Part One

This is my Halloween ghost story. I wrote it in October 2003 when I was in a scary, haunted mood. I'll publish it here in five (5) parts since it's kind of long. Enjoy.

Eulalia Carrera had a ferocious temper. As a child she had cowered with her brothers and sisters when their father, Ygnacio, began swinging his belt, but years of his behavior had taught her that when the world turns against you, let loose upon it a rage to contort the heavens. With her own children Eulalia used her hand instead of a belt, but the screaming was prime Carrera.

The terror of Eulalia’s rages worked on her children Tom, Jill and Peter until they were old enough to start valuing the opinion of their friends over that of their mother.  Sullen teenage-hood acted as a natural defense against the screaming and the hitting.  Only Lillian never stopped taking her mother seriously.  When the cat pooped on the carpet, it was Lillian who filled a bowl with soapy water and began scrubbing.

“You’re going to scrub that carpet until it’s clean!” Eulalia ranted. “How could you let this happen again? As soon as you see that thing starting to do the bathroom, you get it out of here!  ¡Pinche chinga’o gato!”

Lillian frantically worked as Eulalia stormed into the kitchen and began slamming cupboards as she put away dishes. Jill rolled her eyes and focused on the tv while Peter never even looked up from his homework. Lillian never understood how they could remain so calm in such a firestorm.

“Is it coming out?” Eulalia suddenly hovered over Lillian like a housekeeper’s nightmare.

“Um,” Lillian sat back and let her mother survey the darkened spot.

“I can still smell it! My house smells like a cat’s nalgas!” Eulalia barked and finally sputtered away down the hallway.  “Desgracia’o ..”

“Déjala.”  That was Lillian’s dad, Ben, giving his wife the only opposition he ever gave.  One word, muttered in a low tone: “déjala.” It usually focused her mother’s anger on him temporarily, which was some relief, but it always rolled back to her. Besides that one word, Ben tended to stay quiet during his wife’s tantrums, whether out of cowardice or indifference, who knew? He rarely stepped in to balance her panic with his calm, her emotion with his reason. Unperturbed by her yelling, he assumed his children also shrugged it off and never realized how much Lillian needed him. Without his reasurrance that life was fundamentally okay, Lillian only learned her mother’s fear. The only good thing was that these regular rages inoculated Lillian against feeling offended by anyone else’s bad language. She would reassure anyone who cussed in front of her, “No need to apologize!  My mother cusses in two languages.”

Lillian never stopped trying to prevent her mother’s outbursts. Unlike her siblings, she tread lightly if her mother was already in a bad mood, and constantly took her emotional cues from her.  For Lillian, Eulalia’s wrath always felt like the end of the world, making the prospect of hell itself look like relief.

Eventually Lillian’s brothers and sister chose their paths and made their way from the house of anger.  They set themselves up with careers and spouses, vacations and houses.  Tom turned himself into a Texan, thriving on the expansive highways and mild winters.  Jill and Peter didn’t go as far, settling down in New Mexico and Arizona respectively.  But Lillian could never quite bring herself to leave the state.  She chose San Diego for her home, remaining within shouting distance (with Eulalia, the expression was barely figurative) of her mother in Fresno.

After a lifetime of meeting all challenges with fury and being certain it was all someone else’s fault, Eulalia Carrera became very ill. She was diagnosed with leukemia the summer Lillian turned forty. Jill and Peter used their vacation time to visit when they could, Tom absented himself from the whole drama completely, but Lillian began spending her weekends in Fresno.  The commute was a six-hour haul, but Lillian couldn’t imagine leaving her mother sick and alone.  Eulalia insisted that her husband was worthless and she expected Lillian to tend to her.  How could Lillian say no?

Parts Two through Five, on the way...

Friday, October 13, 2006

Poetic Spinsterhood

Hey, look - I've been recognized on SpinsterSpin.com! My poem "Spinster" has been added to the site and I feel like I've achieved a new level of singlehood. Does this make me a published writer?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Deal-breaker?

I complain a lot. I never look on the bright side. I constantly blame myself for everything that goes wrong in my life and I rarely take much time to focus on what I do well. I’m sure everything is about to fall apart and I will have “failed” again.

Anyone want to contradict this?

Didn’t think so.

Last summer there was actually a period of a few weeks when I had nothing to complain about. My brand new job was full of hope and promise, my boyfriend and I were doing great, I had reached my weightloss and fitness goals and felt good about myself. Stunningly, for the first time in years, I had nothing to whine about.

And it made me uncomfortable. This past summer I learned this about myself: when everything is going well in my life and I can't find a problem to fixate on, it freaks me out. I actually feel a nervous tension in my body because nothing is wrong. In other words, I don’t know how to be happy. I don’t know how to relax and just enjoy contentment.

Recently my boyfriend expressed how difficult it can be to get along with me. My tendency to obsess about my “problems” keeps me from expressing interest in other people’s lives and eventually just gets old. Since I also don’t really have very big problems, my sturm und drang doesn’t even seem justified. Job troubles are common and there’s nothing particularly bad about mine. I’m in no danger of being evicted for lack of rent money. I have no health problems. I have a great boyfriend (for now). Without a husband or children or property or family nearby, I’m free of most of the stressors most people struggle with. There’s really nothing in my life to trigger the amount of agonizing I do. A lot of my stress is self-created. I create worry and stress because I’m uncomfortable without it.

I create worry and stress because I’m uncomfortable without it.

Except now someone very important to me is expressing how much my self-created stress is straining our relationship. (I’m not going to write that this worrying tendency is yet another sign of how f@%*-ed up I am -- even though it is -- because to do so would be part of the pattern.)

Can people change? Is it fair to ask them to? I’m 40 years old. Women in our 40’s have different hormonal levels and body chemistry that can make us less emotionally resilient than we were in our 20's. I’ve always done this worrying thing, but it’s gotten worse since my early 30’s and I don’t know how to reverse it. How do I give up my need (I think it’s an actual need) for fear and worry? I'm considering more psychotherapy, more anti-depressants, or maybe hypnotherapy or illegal drugs or meditation or The Tao of Pooh. I don't know what I need. How do I change a fundamental part of who I am and how I function?

And how do I NOT worry and stress out because this could be a relationship deal-breaker?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Blog for Spinsters!

Now THIS is what I've been talking about: SpinsterSpin.com celebrates spinsterhood without shying away from the word "spinster" which few people realize is a great word. I love her links to podcasts and articles on how to enjoy the holidays as a spinster, famous unmarried couples, "Emerging Spinsterhood in Nigeria," interviews of authors of such books as "Not Married, Not Bothered: An ABC for Spinsters," and a discussion on "Is it a couplist society?"

There's even a link to the SpinsterSpin Shoppe where I can purchase a "She's not the marrying kind" tote bag, a "What, Me Marry?" mug, a "Spinster" thong and an "I do not" tank top.

Spinsterhood is powerful!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Alcohol is worse for women

Now I don’t feel so stupid. According to Rene Steinke’s “Women on the Rocks,” an article in the October 2006 issue of Oprah Magazine (sorry, I couldn't find the article online), it turns out that alcohol has seriously worse effects on women than on men (way beyond causing us to sleep with the wrong person). Steinke writes that in the U.S,

one out of five women between 18 and 44 is said to be a binger (more than three drinks per occasion) which is particularly disturbing because health experts are finding that alcohol takes a harsher toll on women than men; even relatively small amounts can cause damage.

Notice the definition of “binger?” I think a lot of women drink at least three drinks at a time and do so frequently. To challenge the safety of that practice is to seriously criticize one of our favorite past-times.

Steinke also reports that the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University has found that,

compared with men, women become addicted to alcohol more quickly. It also takes lower amounts of alcohol and shorter periods of time to cause heart and liver damage in women. Alchohol weakens our immune systems and raises our risk of breast cancer. Even our hangovers are worse than men’s.

Apparently whatever the benefits of red wine or of relaxing and releasing stress, drinking more than one drink a day does women more harm than good. It increases the risk of heart disease and cancer and can increase our susceptibility to diseases we might otherwise fight off.

I’ve been so disgusted at my inability to develop a taste for alcohol and understand what is so appealing about getting buzzed or tanked. Now my puerile taste buds seem to be the good guys, keeping me from wasting time in bars and endangering my health (not to mention keeping me from sleeping with the wrong person). Steinke also mentions that one drink a day is actually too much for certain women, specifically ones who are pregnant, depressed, predisposed to alcoholism or on certain medications. I think I fit into the second and fourth categories.

Also, since the reason alcohol has stronger effects on women than men is our bodies’ higher fat percentage and lower water content, alcohol is even worse for women past menopause than younger women (older women are fatter and have even less water content). So I really better not start trying to drink now. My window of binge-drinking opportunity is CLOSED.

I guess it all comes down to a truth that even the biggest advocates of drinking have to admit: alcohol is not a health food. Even for men, drinking more than the most moderate amounts has a toxic effect on the body. You can’t argue against that.

Finally, a clear reason for me to say NO, although citing the increased health risks of alcohol on women sure won't win me any friends...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Too old to be flailing about like a recent college graduate

So! I started working full time at this restaurant in June. In June and July I made about 60% of what I need to live on, but figured it was because I was new, plus business was down. I made almost 100% of what I need to live on in August and had hope for the fall. Then I went back down to earning only 80% of what I need in September. The general manager kept saying "September is always slow, but business will pick up soon" and I wanted to believe her. But so far in October, I've earned $120 in four shifts. Earning $120 for four shifts is horrible.

After two years of working as a waitress it might be time to call this experiment a failure. And to call myself a failure as well. At the age of 40 (forty), with twenty years of work experience, I should be able to meet my basic financial needs (taking home at least $1800/month). I can't do it as a server and I'm sick of it.

But I can't imagine changing jobs AGAIN again right now, especially since my snazzy new, much better health insurance just started on Oct. 1st (yes, it's a waitressing job with health insurance!). So I'm determined to ride this job out until the spring. They say this restaurant does great business during the holidays, straight through Chinese New Year, which is in February this year. They say.

They say.

I'm feeling the way I did at Carson's Ribs where they kept telling me business would pick up, but it never did. I'm really afraid this experience is going to be the same.

Only at Nick and Tony's did I truly earn enough to live on, but I'm realizing now that that job was a gimme, a freebie, a pure luck accident because I personally knew someone who gave me that job at that wonderful, prosperous restaurant. I can't catch another break like that because I can't use that contact again and I don't have any others. It was a one-time pure luck chance and since that restaurant was sold and closed, I can't duplicate it.

My employment life is such a joke. I'm FORTY, way too old to be flailing about like a recent college graduate. Damn.

Monday, October 02, 2006

No more introductions

Things continue to go amazingly well with my new boyfriend (of almost nine months). Startlingly well. I mean, we're both startled at how happy we are with each other. I'm starting to really want my friends to know him and I want him to know my friends because he's really becoming a part of my life. This past weekend we bought a laundry hamper together.

A family wedding is coming up at the end of December and it seems like the perfect time to introduce him to my family, but I don't think I'm going to. I've just gone through this too many times: introducing my family to a boyfriend, getting them used to him, and then having to tell them that the relationship ended. It's humiliating to fail like that over and over again, especially at my age. Each time it happens I feel like I've disappointed my parents. In fact, I made a decision years ago not to introduce any more men to my family since none of my relationships ever lasts. Congratulations and well wishes are for successful people, people who manage to become a part of a married couple. Congratulations and well wishes are not for 40-year-old women who have never even been engaged.

Bob is the most important man to me in a very long time, maybe ever. But I just can't introduce him to my family without feeling like I'm setting myself up for another failure. I'm sure people can argue that my family doesn't see it that way and isn't disappointed in me at all, but it doesn't even matter what they're experiencing. I know what I'd be experiencing if I made another introduction. So I won't.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Fwd: FW: Be careful: New robbery method (must read for ladies)

By the way, do you know how to check if an email sent to you is true? In the past few days I've received forwarded emails about a Muslim "Christmas" stamp, a robbery method that leaves women naked in bathroom stalls, and which leading cosmetics companies have lead in their lipsticks. There are many websites you can check, but I went here:

www.snopes.com

and typed key words into the "Search" field (like "robbery women bathroom"). I got a screen full of urban legends, found the one I was looking for and read the background and truthfulness of it. I was eventually able to confirm that all of these forwarded emails were crap. There really is a stamp commemorating a Muslim holiday, but it's not a "Christmas" stamp and was never marketed as such. There are no robbers leaving women naked in bathroom stalls with an "Out of Order" sign on the door. Et cetera.

Just letting you know about this very convenient website that can keep you from looking like an idiot to your online friends (at least it'll keep you from looking like an idiot for this reason).

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

McBlog

I just have to say another word about Fatty McBlog. There is so much prejudice about overweight people, especially those who fit the description "morbidly obese." I know I have some of that prejudice, too, however much I wish I could be free of it. But her post of Sunday the 17th really struck me. I know what it's like to be on an airplane and see a large person getting on and hope they don't sit next to me. I've felt the annoyance of the righteous. But her post presents the humiliation of being that large person. People like me tend to assume that really huge people are selfish and uncaring of those around them, but Fatty McBlog exposes how wrong those assumptions are.

McBlog describes how hard she works to not inconvenience her flightmates. Can you imagine being a very self-conscious person who hates being the center of attention and having to walk into a small space where every single person will be looking at you with dread and disgust? Can you imagine the ache of sitting for several hours with your thighs squeezed tight and your shoulder muscles hunched and contracted? Can you imagine having an ongoing problem that you are doing your absolute best to handle, struggling every day and using the full extent of your resources, but still having to face the humiliation of people staring at you as if you're just a selfish, pathetic person?

From reading Fatty McBlog, I have much more sympathy for people who struggle with obvious weight issues (as opposed to those of us who struggle with "unobvious" weight issues, like whining over losing four pounds). I think her (their) blog is amazing (two women actually write it).

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Striving for Good Health


Reg in sunglasses, originally uploaded by regrodriguez.

I should accept that I am absolutely unable to see what my body looks like in the mirror. It's only when I look back on photos of myself that I'm able to truly see if I was thin, carrying a few extra pounds, carrying 10 or 15 extra pounds (which I have done), etc.

It's photos like this one, in which I weigh 122 pounds (taken two months ago), that make me doubt the experts who would have me believe I should weigh the same as on my high school graduation day. On that day in 1984, I weighed 105 pounds. I should try to drop another 17 pounds from the weight I have in this photo??

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Living Will

Ever since I attended a workshop on living wills two weeks ago, I have been slowly working on mine (a living will is a document that lets you decide whether or not to be kept on artificial life support and appoints someone to make health care decisions on your behalf if you're unable to do so).

This is the perfect task for me. It feeds my love of the macabre, my inner death wish, my fixation on details and my desire to be in control of my life. I have gone beyond the standard appointing of a Health Care Agent and clarifying what treatment I would and wouldn't want. I've even attached extra pages to my living will that give:

1. A list of people to be informed if I'm ever close to death.
2. What I want done to my body (donate, donate, donate!)
3. What I'd want posted on my blog.
4. A list of people to be invited to my memorial service.
5. My preferred music and readings for my memorial service.
6. How to distribute my possesions.

A friend of mine who's a nurse says she sees incapacitated people every day being put through various life saving techniques that feel like torture to them and it's because their loved ones feel too guilty to pull the plug. Agonizing over these decisions, a family will say that what happens in God's will, letting the person who is near death linger indefinitely and painfully. Avoid this nightmare by making decisions about your care and putting it in writing.

Aging With Dignity is an organization that has created a document called Five Wishes. The wishes in this living will refer to the following:

1. The person I want to make health care decisions for me when I can't (my "Health Care Agent").
2. The kind of medical treatment I want or don't want.
3. How comfortable I want to be.
4. How I want people to treat me.
5. What I want my loved ones to know.

Each section contains statements such as "I wish to have people with me when possible. I want someone to be with me when it seems that death may come at any time." If you agree with the statement, you do nothing to it. If you don't agree with it, you cross it out and it won't be followed (I don't agree with this statement, so I crossed it out). It's an excellent document and makes creating your living will easy. You just change or add anything you want. After I finish tailoring it for my preferences, I'll sign it in the presence of two witnesses (who also sign it) and distribute copies of it to my doctor and the people involved (some states require that it be notarized, but not Illinois). Each year (maybe at the new year) I'll review it and revise it. It's not written in stone. I can update it at any time, specifying that the version with the latest revision date be the valid one.

To order copies of Five Wishes, go to the Aging With Dignity website or call 1-888-594-7437.

Anyone who has ever had to make life or death decisions for someone else, without any idea of what that person would want, understands why a living will is critical. If our culture weren't so squeamish about death, it would be so much easier to handle. BE BRAVE: MAKE A LIVING WILL.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

High School Weight

I have heard from someone I haven't seen since we graduated from high school together (he found me through my blog). We've sent back and forth the usual information about work, career and family. Of course he's married and I'm not. Of course he has a respectable job where he's been for more than a year, which I'm not. But the most disturbing thing is that he says he wears the same clothing size he wore in high school. Of how many people is this true?

My friend Robert, the New York jazz pianist, also says he's about the same size he was when he graduated from high school. I'm further disturbed to know that high school graduation weight is the ideal maintained by medical research that shows that women who have gained a certain amount of weight (can't remember the details) since age 18 have a higher risk of breast cancer. Horrifyingly, we are not supposed to gain any weight after we graduate from high school.

It's horrifying for me because when I graduated from high school I was 5'3" and weighed 105 pounds. A hundred and five pounds. It takes all my exercising and dieting efforts to keep my weight close to 120 pounds, but really I should be aiming for 105 pounds? In order for me to do what it takes to get my weight down to 105, I'd have to lose muscle as well as fat. Maybe even bone. Jesus, I'm 40 years old and 5'2" and on a really good day I weigh between 120 and 123, but really I should be aiming for 105? Really?

But I guess the answer is yes because my friends have managed to keep their weights down to high school levels. Why? How? Is it a guy thing? What should I do?

(At the age of 18 I also wore a size 5, and I'm talking 1984 sizes, not the bloated sizes we indulge in today. These days I think I'd need surgery to fit into a 1984 size 5 pair of jeans.)

Monday, September 04, 2006

No longer (a carrier like) Typhoid Mary

When I was very depressed, but before my doctor and I figured out the right medication, I wrote a lot of songs and performed very regularly. There’s a myth of creativity that the best art comes out of the worst suffering and while I don’t think that’s always true, I think it often is. It’s like the way the best wines come from grapevines that survive the most difficult growing conditions, struggling through clay, limestone or - the most extreme example - the soil of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape district in France’s Rhône Valley which is just stones. An artist living a sucky life is like a grapevine trying to derive nourishment from a pile of stones.

Maybe it is or maybe it isn’t a fact of life that artists get good by-products from bad experiences, but unlike sad songwriters who write sad songs, in my misery and confusion I wrote a lot of upbeat songs with postive messages. I did this not because I believed those things, but because I wanted to believe them. I wrote the songs I needed to hear. Because I constantly worried about the future I wrote “Be Here Now.” Because I was always sizing guys up, hoping the next one would be Mr. Long-Term Relationship I wrote “Get Rid of 'Forever.'” Because I needed to lighten the hell up, I wrote a song based on Mark Twain’s quote, “Happy are we who can laugh at ourselves for we shall never cease to be amused.”

I wrote those songs in an attempt to make myself feel better, but what happened was that they started making others feel better. Strangers would see me onstage and assume I was the cheerful persona my lyrics conveyed. Friends would comment on the difference between my energetic performances and my daily gloom. I, too, thought the contrast was odd. Singing my songs did make me feel better while I was singing them, but my struggle with depression and loneliness never stopped.

Friends and strangers alike gave me the same feedback: my songs made them happy. I, with my depressed, gloomy life, was spreading cheer. I began calling myself a "carrier" of happiness, able to convey it to others without exhibiting any of the symptoms of having it myself. I asked myself - was that enough? Could I go through life unhappy, knowing I was at least making others happy?

The answer was NO. I wanted to be happy. If only I could attain a state of true contentment with myself and my life, I didn't care if I never wrote another note. I maintained that conviction for years.

And now it has come to pass. After months of not touching my electric bass, I finally put it away in its case today. Maybe my music career is over. Or maybe not since I could - one day, eventually - get married.

To hear some of my songs, go to www.myspace.com/reginarodriguez or www.purevolume.com/reginarodriguez

Friday, September 01, 2006

So this is happiness

I asked some co-workers, "Do you sing more when you're happy or when you're sad?"

They each said "When I'm happy."

I asked my boyfriend the same question. He said, "Happy."

I said, "That's what everyone has said so far. I sing more when I'm sad."

He said, "Why?"

"Because singing makes me feel better."

And then I froze as a realization struck me, "Oh my god."

He turned to look in the same direction, to see what had changed my expression so completely. "What?"

"That's why I haven't been singing for the past eight months: because I'm not sad!"

I finally have an answer to the question of why, after years of being devoted to writing songs and performing, I've had no interest in music since January: it's because I've been dating Bob since January. This is happiness. Of course, it also means that for me happiness includes all the stress, gloom, depression and freaking out that I've done at various points over the last eight months (about employment, unemployment, Bob and life in general). But at some basic level, the fundamental flavor of my life seems to have shifted from sad to happy because I'm happy with Bob.

So back in my depressive, desperate manhunt days, I guess I was correct in my assumption that everything would be all right if I only had a boyfriend. Which is a bit disturbing since, in my more lucid lonely moments, I figured that obssessive assumption had to be distorted and incorrect. At least, I hoped it was.

Nope! It turns out having a man does make it all better. So much for Spinster Power.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Your Funeral Preferences?

I'll be creating my living will soon, making explicit what I'd like done in case I'm ever unable to make my own medical decisions. So let's deal with the possibility of death full-on here. What do you want for your funeral? All I know is that I don't want "Amazing Grace" sung, played or performed at my funeral. I realize funerals are for the living, not the deceased, so really what I want doesn't matter at all since I'll be dead. This kind of rumination is pure self-indulgence.

So being self-indulgent, I'll say that I like imagining a service without "Amazing Grace," without a priest saying, "accept your servant, Regina" and without anyone referring to their god as a "Father." I also feel better imagining myself cremated so that there's no need for a casket, gravesite or burial. I hate owning things and I don't like taking up a lot of space. I don't like the idea of leaving my body behind for people to have to present and bury and tend the grave later. That's all too much trouble for a corpse. Just turn me into a pile of ashes, metal and teeth and scatter the ashes -- oh, it doesn't matter where. Lake Michigan? Just so long as there's nothing left to set on a ledge and have to dust.

But since funerals are for the living, I guess I'd want people to do whatever makes them feel better. But I'd still ask this: if someone has to read the 23rd Psalm, at the conclusion of it ("I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.") I'd like those that knew me best to think to themselves, "Or not."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Pull the plug if you're in a coma?

If you live in the Chicago area:

I've received an email from my former place of worship, Unity in Chicago, about a workshop next week on creating a living will. A living will is a document which lets you decide whether or not to be kept on artificial life support. Often these documents also appoint someone to make health care decisions on your behalf if you're unable to do so (and I definitely want to do that).

Maybe you've already taken care of this and if so, good for you. I haven't. By the end of this workshop, we'll have created our living will. Once that's done, I know I'll rest easier. Ahhh, now I can relax and slip into a coma.

No, seriously I believe having a living will is very important just like any other legal document you might put in place for JUST IN CASE. I'm there next Wednesday, August 30th.

Living Will Workshop
Wed Aug 30
7:00 p.m.
Unity in Chicago
1925 W. Thome Avenue (near corner of Devon and Ridge)

A donation will be asked. If you plan to go, email the faciliator at tom@unitychicago.org.

Monday, August 21, 2006

another short blurb

(another double shift. WHEN will I ever have time again for more than a short blurb?????)

In the film Castaway, Tom Hanks' character is madly in love with Helen Hunt's, but then he spends four years on an island and when he comes back, she's married and has a child. In 1983 Stephen King used the same plot device in The Dead Zone: Johnny spends years in a coma and comes back to life after the love of his life has married and had a child.

How is it that these women find other satisfying relationships and get married so damn fast? It took me forty, pathetic, constipated years to fall in love. If my boyfriend gets shipwrecked, he'll have a good ten or fifteen-year grace period to get back to me, no problem.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

My Day Off

Today was my day off from work. Because the restaurant is still understaffed and we're all working about 7 or more shifts a week, I consider myself lucky to get one day off a week. Unfortunately, a co-worker had a personal emergency that required that the rest of us fill in his shifts, so today I worked the lunch shift on my day off. But I'm determined to believe that today WAS a day off (takes a lot of imagination, but I'm trying) and tomorrow will be my day off part two since I'll only work the lunch shift again. I'm imagining that my day off this week is taking place during pieces of different days.

I do feel for the co-worker who is going through a hard time right now, but the only part of it I can truly understand is the financial hardship he'll face since he's losing a lot of workdays this month. I don't know what it's like to lose someone close to you because I'm 40 years old and I've never experienced death in that way. People assure me one day I will. I guess that's true, but not if I die first.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Nicotine

Today I had my first cigarette. I wanted to try to understand what people get out of it. I smoked the whole thing, waiting for the feeling that many addicts got the first time they smoked. I waited for the sensation that makes people want to do it again.

It didn't happen.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Staying Single May Shorten Life Span

Many people say life's too short. I say life's too long. (Click here for the article.)

And Happy Birthday to my sister, Judy! (because gloomy pessimism doesn't preclude celebration)

Monday, July 31, 2006

Middle East Situation

Here are some other places to go for a much more informed discussion than I could ever lead:

http://ampmramblings.blogspot.com/
http://perpetualrefugee.blogspot.com/

Other suggestions?

(A temporary cease-fire has been violated by Israel "only" to defend its ground forces or to head off an direct attack??)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Hiatus

I just can't blog about my usual trivial crap when Israel is bombing the hell out of Lebanon, even more outrage at the U.S. (for not doing what it can to stop it) is growing everywhere except in the U.S. and Israel, and we are once again seeing the Bush administration's foreign policy for the horrible joke it has always been (yet way too many Americans are still not seeing it). So I encourage people to look at blogs that are relevant to what's really important, like The Truth Laid Bear or Hysterical Blackness, but certainly not mine. Not today.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Cake

In response to everyone's comments about my 40th birthday: the 30's sucked dog penis. I can't say it enough. If the 40's contain half the desperation, loneliness and suicidal fantasies, they will be better.

Yes (Mr. Underhill), birthday cake! I have had lots of it over the past two weeks and it's not over yet. Chocolate, yellow, carrot and lemon, homemade, store-bought and gourmet, eaten with others in celebration and scarfed down alone in my kitchen (I at least tried to sit down). Birthday cake is my main binge, my main addiction, The Stuff. The month of July contains as many sugar-sucking triggers for me as December.

Oddly, I've noticed that since my new job has taken SO much of my time, I've lost weight in the past few weeks. Partly it's because I haven't had time to get in as many solid meals as usual. When a shift starts at 4:00 p.m. and ends well past my dinner cut-off time, I end up skipping meals. But it's also because work has cut into my gym time and I've all but stopped my usual weight resistance training. I think what I'm losing is muscle mass (Jo Anne). I've gone from weighing 122 pounds (my springtime goal) to 119 because I've stopped exercising. Weird. Maybe I'll never exercise again! (JOKING)

Monday, July 24, 2006

Happy 40 to me

Thank you all for your birthday greetings. I sort of felt down about this one. It's the first birthday I've felt that way about. I guess I'm not immune to the so-this-is-40 blues. But I had a great time going out for dessert with friends tonight and Bob even made an appearance and now I can go to bed feeling much better. Yesterday Bob took me on a dinner cruise on Lake Michigan and that was great, too. And I do have hope that the 40's will be good for me because they better be! I think I'll remember my 30's as the decade of the increasingly desperate manhunt and the decade during which I went on anti-depressants, OH yeah...

I remember being in college and imagining 45 as the ideal age. I looked forward to it. My reasoning was that by 45 I'd have enough of my life figured out that things wouldn't be quite as painful as in earlier years. I'm still hoping for that. As a woman in her 40's I just feel like I carry more life weight. Life weight is good because it keeps you from being blown away, pushed around and knocked off balance. At least it helps. At least it better.

Today I am 40

Today is my birthday. I am 40. More later.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Like loud noises and car exhaust

After seven months of under- and unemployment, I am FINALLY employed full-time. In fact, right now my restaurant is short-staffed, so I'm currently working seven shifts a week with one or two days of double-shifts each week and it's feeling like quite a load. My sore feet are trying to adjust to the sudden windfall of work, but my bank account is finally functional. All the employees at this place are stretched pretty thin these days, but another group of new hires is on the way, so I hope in a few weeks to be working the full-time hours I want. (This is also why I'm not blogging much these days. Too busy!)

One thing I go through at each job, is establishing all over again that I don't drink. Irritatingly, when I tell someone I don't like the taste of alcohol they -- almost without fail -- offer me an alcoholic possiblity I might not have tried yet. I say, "I just don't like the taste of alcohol" and they say, "I know a drink you'll like. Have you ever tried XYZ?"

Why? Why do they offer these suggestions when the plain truth is that I just don't like alcohol? Why is it so hard to believe that I HAVE tried every liquor, every alcohol, every mixed drink, every wine, every beer, every malted liquor beverage and I have no interest in testing any of them again? Why is it so hard to believe that I'm not on some lifelong search for the drink I'll actually claim as my own? Why is it so hard to believe that not only do I not drink, but I have no interest in drinking, the experiment is run, I'm done, I've excused myself from the bar counter and I can conclusively say I have no interest in alcohol?

If I said, "I don't like loud noises," they wouldn't say "Here, listen to my car alarm. Very few people don't like how loud it is." If I said, "I don't like breathing auto exhaust" they wouldn't say, "Well, you should lean over the tailpipe of the buses in Denver, Colorado. Their exhaust smells different from other petroleum-based emissions." If I said, "I don't like hot weather" they wouldn't say, "Don't say that until you've experienced high summer in Arizona. The temperatures go well over 100, but it's a dry heat. No humidity at all. I'll bet you wouldn't mind that."

What the hell?? When I say I don't like alcohol it means I don't like alcohol. Why do people keep trying to ply me with the exact substance I've just expressed a distaste for? I enjoy alcohol as much as I enjoy painfully loud noises. I enjoy alcohol as much as I enjoy inhaling urban exhaust fumes. I enjoy alcohol as much as I enjoy weather that's so hot you can't move, eat or sleep. MMMmmmm, alcohol.

Why don't people believe me?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

I Got My Money

The office manager figured out what went wrong: she clocked me in for that shift incorrectly, causing the computer to mess up my cash-out tape. She handed me back $30 yesterday, plus had me re-do all my tipouts (the amounts I give to the bartenders, bussers and foodrunners) in considerably smaller amounts. In the end, I actually got to bring home $102 for my Wednesday night shift, not $51. Thank god.

Between the incredibly busy dinner shifts that leave me physically exhausted, the late hours that have me a bit sleep deprived, and getting all the details of the cashout procedure correct, I'm feeling like I already need a vacation. And I've only been working as a server at this restaurant for about a month! Time for a bath...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

work

Had a great night at work last night. My second dinner shift. My personal sales were over $1,100. I made over $180 in tips, tipped out $68 total to all the bussers, bartenders and foodrunners and should have come home with a good wad of money, over $100.

But at the end of the night when I counted my pile of twenties and ones, it all added up to $51.

Fifty-one dollars? I'm walking out of the restaurant after a night like THAT with $51? I was the last one to leave at 11:30pm and I went over all my paperwork and cash with the manager. He couldn't figure it out either. I had gone through every plastic check presenter in the restaurant. There was no extra cash in any of them.

I lost over $60 in cash. Just gone. I tipped out $68 and I got to keep $51. What the hell is the point?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Almost starting to see the light

Lucky for me my new restaurant is experiencing a shortage of staff and it's getting me more shifts and better shifts than I would normally get as a new server. I finally worked my first dinner shift last night and I finally made some actual good money. If I could just get scheduled steadily for dinner shifts, I could stop sweating the rent. I mean, I will get scheduled steadily for dinner shifts in a matter of time. I just want it to happen as quickly as possible.

Inhaling, exhaling...

P.S. In exactly two weeks I turn 40!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Togetherness

Here's a question for those of you who are dwelling in the same living space with the person you're in an intimate relationship with (married couples, unmarried couples, etc):

HOW do you handle spending so much time with each other? Seriously, how do you do it?

I can only handle so much time with my boyfriend (of six months) before I need to be alone again. At the moment even talking on the phone every day seems like too much contact to me.

I don't understand how couples who live together can stand each other. I realize this might distinguish me from everyone else on the planet. Maybe my bafflement with this lifestlye indicates that I'll never be capable of marriage or anything approximating it (which would be consistent with how badly I suck at relationships). And so my question stands: how do couples who live in the same living space not hate each other at least half the time?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Reluctant Apathy

(wow, when even apathy is reluctant...)

Mick, otherwise known as White Rose Boy, is vacationing in Chicago right now and I promised him I'd play an open mic while he's here. So for those of you in Chicago, it's an increasingly rare chance to see me onstage:

9:00 p.m. (hopefully I'll be on before 10:30)
Open Mic Night THURSDAY NIGHT
Red Line Tap Bar
7006 N. Glenwood Avenue, Chicago

I haven't performed since January and I'm feeling very much NOT like a musician anymore. Why the great apathy towards my music? It was so important to me for so long. I used to do regular gigs, I recorded stuff, I practiced, I wrote new songs. It all mattered so much.

Now nuthin'. Was it all just a response to my loneliness and lack of a man, and now that I have a man the music can just go down the toilet? Maybe. It's the only thing I can figure. Oh, and I'm going to be 40 years old in 19 days.

I wish I still liked music. At least then I could call myself a musician. Without that, there's nothing I can call myself. A breather?

Friday, June 30, 2006

Discouraged. Again.

I'm feeling discouraged (what else is new). I guess I've only had one restaurant job that was good from the very beginning and that was Nick and Tony's. From the start I was able to live on my earnings there. My new job is at a successful, busy restaurant with good reviews. It's part of a large restaurant corporation and I really like the people there (co-workers, management, kitchen staff -- all great). But I'm struggling with the earnings.

At this new job I completed the training period on June 13th. After that, a new server works only lunch shifts. She has to work a certain number of days without mistakes, then she serves the managers a meal without totally screwing up, and then she gets to work dinner shifts, which is where the money is.

I've completed the required number of days without screwing up and I'm hoping next week to serve the managers a meal. There were six of us in training together and only one of us has made it to dinner shifts.

The good news: two weeks ago I was "rated" by a mystery shopper-type of service and on a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 as the best score) I got all 5's in every area. The general manager says it's unusual for a new server to be rated so soon and excellent that I got such a high score.

The bad news: lunches are so slow. It's really hard to make a decent pile of earnings at this place which is apparently different from every other restaurant in Chicago. Most restaurants are busiest in the summer and during the holidays, but drag in the winter. My restaurant apparently does great during the holidays and the winter, but slows down for the summer (it's a Chinese place and I guess people aren't as into Chinese food in the summer).

I've been slumping home from lunch shifts with $30, $21, today $18. I can't live on this! I've GOT to get on dinner shifts soon. When I get stressed out, two things often happen: I stop sleeping well and I hit the sugar hard: cake, cupcakes, cookies, chocolates (sometimes even ice cream, but I'm not big on ice cream). Maybe I stop sleeping well because I've got so much sugar in my system.

I guess I'll get on the dinner shifts soon enough. I'm SO glad servers have been leaving to go to school for the summer and others are interested in having more nights and weekends off. I need those shifts.

Today I worked lunch, then came home for a couple of hours, then I was going to work tonight (serving cocktails in the bar, not the dining room), but they called and told me not to come in because apparently the entire city of Chicago -- or at least those who should be eating out today -- are either at the Taste of Chicago or they're leaving town or I don't know where they are but they aren't at my restaurant. It's just as well since I was in a really bad mood when I was at work today (making no money, depressed that I can't pick a good job). So instead my boyfriend is going to come over (relationship back from the brink) and we'll have dinner and hang out. I'm not sure it's a great idea considering how I feel about life right now (he's having a hard time at his job, too), but I think it's better than sitting alone and staring at a wall. I think.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Revised opinion on anonymous blogs

Based on the feedback I received on my last post and the feedback Modigli received on her post on the repercussions of blogging, I have changed my opinion: I believe it's impossible to maintain an anonymous blog that no one you know will ever, ever find out about (at least with personal blogs).

As you can see from the comments on my last post, many people have created anonymous blogs, written freely about anything and everything, and then had to face the fire when family and/or friends and/or ex-lovers discovered their blog (even if the blog was anonymous, photo-less and lacked profile information). Not fun at all.

Even if you never tell a soul about your blog and sign it with an ingenius codename, eventually someone you know will google some constellation of words, end up at your blog and think, "This writer sounds exactly like my sister-in-law. Hey, wait a minute - I know the family gathering they're talking about. This blogger IS my sister-in-law!" And there it is. You have no control over it.

The only thing to do is write as if your audience is everyone you know plus everyone else on the planet. Because that's who might conceivably one day read your blog and there's nothing you can do about it. It's dangerous to think you can create a blog that will never cause any personal or professional repercussions. If you assume this and write freely about anything and everything, it will eventually explode in your face.

And we bloggers really haven't got a leg to stand on if we accuse people of reading our blog who we didn't intend to read it. One blogger used the verb "lurking" which is a good, righteous, accusative word, but misplaced here. The Internet is public domain and blogs are free and open to anyone who wants to see them. To accuse someone of invading our privacy because they're reading our blog is like accusing someone of invading our privacy who listens to us shout a private conversation into our cell phone while riding the subway. Of course they know they aren't the person we're trying to communicate with, but who can blame them if the conversation is juicy?

I think bloggers are just going to have to take responsibility for our words and actions, establish some boundaries and limits, and conduct ourselves on our blogs as we would at the office/with our families/with our friends/etc. The fantasy is to be able to connect with others while maintaining a safe cloak of anonymity. There are probably ways to do that, but maintaining a blog isn’t one of them. We need to be more realistic. When you really need to share the incredibly selfish thing your brother-in-law did or vent about your boss, send someone an email. It could still wind up in front of the wrong pair of eyes, but at least you’ll have a moral leg to stand on when you feel violated.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

To Blog Anonymously or Not

My blogging colleague Modigli just posted on this subject and I’d like to weigh in.

Some blogs are completely anonymous with no identifying details whatsoever, so those bloggers can write at length about absolutely anything without fear of anyone ever knowing it's them. While that might seem freeing, for me to do it would feel cowardly. Complete anonymity precludes real intimacy and it seems like a form of false representation. But some people really can’t afford for anyone in their life to know about the things they put on their blog, or they need complete anonymity in order to write what they need to write, so for them it makes sense.

Some bloggers start out anonymously, but then tell their friends and/or family about the blog or there are enough identifying details in their posts for people figure out it’s them. Or they build friendships with the readers of their blog and these people become friends the blogger now feels self-conscious in front of. If these bloggers have been writing without self-censure about everything from how they feel about their boss to their sexual fantasies, they can get in trouble. You can't have it both ways. If your blog is absolutely 100% anonymous, you can spill it all, but you can’t tell anyone about your blog, not even your sister, not even your lover because once one person knows about your blog you can’t control who else will. Unless you can maintain that absolute secrecy about having a blog, you have to assume anyone might read it. Because anyone might. For a 100% anonymous blog maybe it’s also better to keep some distance from your readers if building friendships with them makes you self-conscious about writing (or just get a diary).

I let all friends and family know about my blog from the start and I'm glad I did because it’s caused me to consider carefully what I write. There’s nothing on here that I wouldn’t want my relatives to know or my boss or my first dates or anyone who might google me. That might be surprising because I tend to put a lot of extremely personal stuff on here, but it’s true. And because I’m comfortable with such a high level of disclosure (even with family, co-workers, dates, etc.) my writing doesn’t feel hampered at all by the self-censure. And I think that indicates how perfect my personality is for blogging: I’m comfortable spilling almost anything to almost anyone.

So I say to Modigli and to anyone who feels their blog has become too carefully watched by people they feel self-conscious in front of: it might be time to start a new blog, one you don’t tell anyone about. Not even your family. Not even your boyfriend. This is one reason bloggers often have more than one blog.