Wednesday, March 29, 2006
-- after all my hardened bitterness from too many lonely, manless years and
-- after all the advice I’ve received that suggested that I’d find a man if I weren’t so bitter and
-- after all my dating jadedness and anger because it felt like the world had cheated me out of my happiness and
-- after all the people who suggested I wouldn’t attract anyone while I was so jaded and angry
...it turns out that I was able to find and fall in love with this funny, generous, charismatic, successful, fun, affectionate, openly adoring man who knows just how to cherish me and I didn’t have to give up a single drop of anger or bitterness to do it. The whole relationship has finally materialized for me with all of my resentment and pettiness totally in place!
Over the years I’ve also received feedback that suggested that my delusions and fairy tale expectations of romance were getting in the way of finding love. But that turned out to be wrong, too, because those delusions and false expectations are solidly in place, but here I am -- in love!
Through gritted teeth I would say to all the relationship workshop facilitators I paid and love experts I listened to and People Who Think They Know, I would say, “Me falling in love had nothing to do with releasing anger or changing expectations or trying to perfectly become the perfect person I was seeking. I now know that any bitterness-hardened, resentment-wielding and romance-deluded Desperate Dater can find a great person and fall in love BECAUSE I DID. And I didn’t have to let go of one note of anger to do it. And even right at this moment I’m still angry and bitter but I’m also in love. So there: these things aren’t incompatible!”
I knew finding a man wasn’t about being perfectly beautiful and perfectly wise and perfectly thin and perfectly sane and perfectly financially solvent and perfectly free of all ex-boyfriend bullshit, etc. etc. ET CETERA. Because if it were, how would you explain all those unpleasant married people?
But for way too long I believed falling in love was about being perfect, so I spent way too much money (thousands) and too much time and too much energy trying to fix myself, fix myself, fix myself. Oh, my god what a waste.
And now I know from talking to my new boyfriend that he’s spent even more energy than I have over the past 15 years feeling resentful of his lonely state and believing he’d been cheated out of his happiness. We’re the same! We’re both hardened and embittered by way too much time failing at relationships and dating miserably and looking sadly at couples and being alone on Christmas Day, year after year after year after year.
And now here we are: two jaded, angry, resentful, never-married, way-too-old-to-be-single (I’m 39 and he’s 43), middle-aged people, finally happy together and we didn’t have to give up one shred of our anger and bitterness. So there.
(Some express happiness by being happy. Others express it by ranting some more.)
He said “Yeah, I like a lot of light.”
I said, “Well, I hadn’t turned any lights on because I like it dark.”
He said, “Okay.”
I said, “So we’re pretty much going to be, like, you’ll be walking into rooms and saying, ‘Why is it so dark in here?’ like you don’t know the answer, and I’ll be walking into rooms and saying, ‘Who turned all these lights on?’ like I don’t know the answer.”
He stopped in the hallway, looked at me and said, “I’m looking foward to it.”
Sunday, March 26, 2006
I've got to give my two weeks notice soon. I've GOT to. Out by Easter, that's my goal!
Back in 1984, when I was an undergrad joining a church choir, people asked, "Are you a student?" The answer was yes.
In 1992 when I was a graduate student applying for a charge card, the saleperson asked, "Are you a student?" The answer was yes.
In the past 12 years since I moved to Chicago, people sometimes hear me say I'm originally from California and for some reason still ask, "Are you a student?" At first I tried to be patient, explaining that I was done with grad school and had moved here to work on music. But every year the question becomes more exasperating. No, I'm not a student!
Yesterday I applied for a job at a restaurant. The manager sat down with me and looked over my application and resume. He asked, "Are you a student?" As politely and patiently as possible, I lifted my hand and pointed to the graduation date on my resume. "No," I said, "I graduated twenty years ago."
I'm going to be 40 years old in four months. Forty years old. I'm goddamned sick of this question. Please don't bother telling me it's a compliment and I should be happy that I look so young. The question "Are you a student?" always makes me think I must appear small, underdeveloped, uneducated and stupid. Every time someone asks if I'm a student, I think they must see me as inexperienced, vulnerable, not yet ready for the real world and like they can take advantage of me easily. Every time someone asks if I'm a student, I feel offended and I want to say, "I'm almost 40 years old! Do I lack the wrinkles on my face that might convey all the life experiences I've had? Do you think that because you don't see crows feet and laugh lines that means I haven't spent the past twenty years since I graduated trying to plant myself in the world, trying to establish my character and moral code, trying to figure out my best talents and fix my worst flaws? Because if I have to explain it to you, I can tell you about my experiences with cultural alienation, self-loathing, financial struggles, creative frustration, suffocating loneliness, familial pain and realizing I'm too old to ever be a young bride. I've been through all of that and more so don't you dare take away the only thing I know I've gained. While I have failed to achieve monetary success, marriage, motherhood, critical acclaim, self-actualization or creative accomplishment, the only thing I know I've gained is age. So don't you dare try to strip me of the weight and experience of my 40 years by asking if I'm a student."
The photo above was taken in the past few weeks. What is it about me that looks so green and naive that I look like I haven't managed to graduate from college??
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
I refuse to take that attitude. I refuse to wish my life away. People who get to work and immediately wish the workday were over are wishing their lives away in eight-hour chunks of time.
I've never understood people who don't prioritize enjoying life. I've never understood people who prioritize earning money or getting promoted or raising a family or staying married (or getting married) OVER the goal of enjoying life.
I enjoy being a server because I enjoy all the little parts that make up the job: talking with customers, carrying things back and forth, straightening/stocking/cleaning, etc. Those aren't tasks I try to avoid. They aren't tasks I try to get out of the way as quickly as possible. If I don't want to do them, it's time for me to find a new job.
I want to enjoy my restaurant work and I can't do that if I'm stressed out with co-worker personality clashes or a kitchen that won't cooperate or such a TIDAL WAVE of customers that I can't see straight. And a job with any of these conditions as an ongoing part of the job is just not worth any amount of money to me.
So I'll leave the I-want to-earn-a-pile-of-money-as-quickly-as-possible-and-get-the-hell-out-of-here attitude to the rock star servers with the "sudden death" approach to waiting tables. Robert said there must be restaurants with more of a family orientation, where the restaurant forms a community of people who are focused on serving customers, but not in a turn-and-burn kind of way.
And that's exactly what my job interviewer described tonight. She said they are basing their service on the custom of serving travellers food and treating them as if they were members of the family, VERY different from the downtown lunch rush dynamic. The restaurant also wants to form a family-like community among its staff. I'm home!
Or I'm not, but whether or not this job works out, I'm changing my job search. I'm not even going to consider any more downtown jobs. I want OUT of downtown with it's lunch crush and its maniac restaurant workers. Let me join a staff with something else on its mind besides MAKING MONEY.
Modigli just quit a part-time job that was seriously ruining her quality of life. I think soon it will be time for me to get out of my purgatory, too.
Friday, March 17, 2006
Which literature classic are you?
T.S.Eliot: The Wasteland. You are a desperate cry to God, moulded in intricate word-craftmanship. Your language is controlled, but inside, you feel empty and are not content with your life. You see both the world and your inner self as a waste land: nothing good can come out of it anyway. People find you difficult to understand but admire you nevertheless.
Take this quiz!
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Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Looking for Club Dancers
Reply to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: 2006-03-15, 3:05AM CST
Established Chicago nightclub looking for new, fresh, female sexy dancers for Friday night gig. Exp. a plus but not important. Please forward pics and resume to email@example.com asap. This promotion will start 1st week in May and we need time for costumes. Will pay $$$$$$$ for top talent!!!!
Job location is Downtown
Compensation: Big Money and lots of FUN!!!!!!!
You all know I like working in a costume! Or wait, maybe THIS is the one I've been waiting for:
Reply to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: 2006-03-15, 3:26PM CST
Work in a great and fun environnment. Cupcakes in Lakeview is seeking a fulltime froster/counter person. Great pay and health insurance available (after 30 days). Please apply in person Wednesday through Sunday 10am to 5pm. Retail/restaurant experience preferred. 613 W. Briar Place. No phone calls please.
Compensation: Hourly wage
Hmmmm...one of these is my dream job, but which one....?
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
So let me know if anyone sees any HELP WANTED signs in any restaurants in Chicago or Evanston. And let me know if you know of anyone who works in a restaurant in Chicago or Evanston. I'd love to talk to people at different places to find out what it's like to work at their restaurant, what they earn, if the management is good, etc.
Here I go again (I'm so tired of this).
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Went out to lunch on Friday and ran into...Freedom. The occasion was a march protesting several competing bills now before Congress regarding immigration. My colleague, Adam, and I wondered about so many uniformed officers as we crossed Jackson, but the Chicago downtown Loop is always filled with a police presence due to, well, it's the Loop.
It was a nice day, so we headed up Wacker to enjoy the sun while lunching on tostadas, perhaps fittingly. We watched the first wave of marchers heading down Jackson on their way to Daley Plaza. The signs and chants immediately revealed the nature of the the protest, but the specifics were still elusive until we spotted a sign with H.R. 4437 on it, one of the aforementioned immigration bills.
Soon the gaggle of marchers turned into a phalanx, then a wall. We turned the corner and saw an unceasing flood of people emerging from Union Station and beyond. Merging into the crowd, we walked several blocks, slowly segueing across Jackson to head back to work. Once safely ensconced back in the office we were regaled with ever increasing spontaneous cheers from the street below. There was a certain timbre to these shouts. They were not angry, though there was certainly \ a hint of defiance. No. This march was as much a celebration as it was a political statement.
Someone in the office mentioned the possibility of violence, not a wholly unreasonable statement given the continued swelling of the streets with, according to some, nearly 40,000 people. Yet this irked me nonetheless. One night years ago I witnessed a seething mob slowly backing away from the boiling point soon after the Rodney King incidents. Anger floated in the air like hydrogen, needing only the slightest spark to explode, which it thankfully did not. Friday was nothing at all like that. Nothing.
The crowd finally began to thin around 4:30 or so. By 5 p.m. the only signs of the event were some scattered debris and the memories, both written and personal. I thought about the angry bitter man we had heard earlier. Just as the march began, he sidled up to us and said, "Look at that: all these illegals, who refuse to speak English, waving the Mexican flag and demanding that we give them rights. Ain't America great." He ambled away, his cynicism firmly intact, as we refused to respond with anything more than quiet nods. (Another mystery here. I am as Anglo as the day is long, but Adam, whose grandparents are from Barcelona is dark-haired, and swarthy, but this man directed most of this attention to Adam. Curious.)
Still, he had a point. America is great because of events like this. Turn the tables for a moment. In what other country could thousands of American citizens, some perhaps illegally in that hypothetical country, march down a major city waving American flags and demand redress of grievances. I can't think of one. That sentiment does not necessarily help immigrants, legal or otherwise. But I think it is revealing that there were more American flags than any other nation by far. Indeed a picture from above might have been mistaken for a July 4th parade. Perhaps in 2020.
Despite the prevailing sentiments in much of this country today, I was, just like many of those marching I am sure, quite proud to be American.
Best sign: Don't Panic, We're only Hispanic.
Trib link. (Requires registration)
My question to Elf: what did the bills say that are going before Congress?
The Wichita Eagle reported in January that Mary Capps, 45, had filed a $75,000 gender-discrimination lawsuit against her former boss at a municipal office in Park City, Kansas, claiming he'd used "abusive, intimidating language and physical gestures" with her and hindered her career via an unfavorable evaluation report. Capp's former boss is Dennis Rader, better known as the BTK killer, who tortured and killed at least ten people in the Wichita area between 1974 and 1991; last June he pleaded guilty to ten counts of murder and in August was sentenced to a minimum of 175 years in prison.
Okay, this is what I'm going to try to remember whenever I think some crappy, life twist is f%^*ing me up. I used to think the "it could be worse" platitude was the most ineffective way to drum up gratitude, but reading this news item has changed my mind. I'm going to try remember Mary Capps and how mistreated she felt by an employer who was torturing and killing others. It suggests to me that I'll never know what nightmarish experience is being blocked by some sucky rotten luck.
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Friday, March 10, 2006
...but do I want to? No, not for $9 an hour (and maybe it goes without saying that I really can't live on what I earn at this job). This job should really be re-evaluated. Maybe hostesses in other restaurants are doing a $9-an-hour job, but I'd say being a hostess at a busy, upscale steakhouse/wine bar in the heart of the Chicago business district that is patronized by the wealthy is worth well more than that.
Would I rather wait tables? Would I rather be bringing the salads and Pellegrino to these cleanly dressed people, in the crowded lunch crush, hustling for an hour and a half so I can walk out with maybe $70? I don't know anymore. That was the goal: to hostess until I rejoin the ranks of the servers, but I don't know anymore.
I've lost sight of how I want to fill my time. Nick and Tony's was so great, I just wanted to find another situation just like that one, but I don't know how likely that is. This restaurant is completely different. Or is the whole restaurant experiment over? Should I be turning back to the corporate world for my next job?
How do I want to earn my living? I thought I wanted to be a server at a nice restaurant with thirty-dollar menu items and a big wine list and here I am on the path towards that, but I don't know if it's what I want anymore. So much for goals and vision. My ability to retain vision and achieve goals sucks.
If I could do whatever I wanted to all day long, what would it be? Teamwork, creativity, some feeling of expertise, fun, financial security. I love writing, but writing is such a solitary act. So is music. I need to be around people. People, people, people.
I guess some of us never stop trying to figure out what the next job should be. I just wish I could work at a job that doesn't make me feel like a fish out of water. Again.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
I’ve pulled my profile off of all dating websites, stopped seeking out the left hand of every cute guy I talk to and started wondering what the young folks are using for birth control these days.
I don’t know how to tell you about him, or about me with him, or about how we met or anything. Sooooo, here’s a story.
At work in the restaurant, he was in his element. He’d started as a dishwasher at the age of 16 and spent two decades working his way through several jobs in the industry. Better at partying than at school, he’d always been the class clown and his co-workers liked his easy approach, his goofy jokes and his constant desire to make everyone happy. He loved restaurant life with its teamwork, its mealtime tidal waves of customers and the way he could easily read people when their need for food or drink brought their true natures to the surface.
But for all his charisma on the job, he was lousy at dating. He just froze up. As a result, his only romantic relationships were with the women with whom he served tables, tended bar and cleaned counters. Unable to function very well socially outside of the job, the restaurant was his entire world.
By the age of 38 he was the general manager of a large restaurant in downtown Chicago. It was an excellent job and he devoted all of his energy to it. He had a great staff and a beautiful building. But as the general manager, he couldn’t date anyone he worked with. They were all his subordinates and he couldn’t break his personal code any more than he could violate company rules. He spent his first three years there mastering the never-ending tasks of a general manager, but he spent parts of his fourth year anticipating his 43rd birthday and wishing he weren’t always alone on his days off.
She had no problem with nervousness on dates. At the age of 39 she calculated that she’d been dating for 24 years which meant she must have gone out with over a billion men. Although most days it felt like two billion. Earnestly longing for a relationship she could settle into, she also had certain standards. She knew her future partner would be just as extraordinary as she. Their vocabularies would span lakes, his mind would be so agile it would occasionally surpass hers and everyone would admire their beauty and know that these two attractive, brilliant, fascinating people belonged together. There would be no ordinary romance for her.
But finding this romance was turning out to be extraordinarily difficult as well. She had tried every dating tip she had ever received and she had read every book on relationships that anyone had ever thrust into her jewelry-bare hands.
And although she had a masters degree in English literature, she had skipped from job to job and was currently exploring life as a waitress. Even her broad employment experience, through which she’d met thousands of people, hadn’t yielded that lifelong match.
She had no problem finding men that wanted to be with her, but she just never felt more than a passing interest in them. Her mind was too sharp, her education too prolonged, her humor too quick for any of them. And she dismissed entire populations out-of-hand. Why even bother dating someone without an advanced degree, or who lived in the suburbs, or who had never been to Europe? Her soul mate would be distinguishable by how far he stood out from the ordinary people. She even weighed first names carefully and would insist “There’s just one name I cannot date. I will never be able to go out with anyone named ‘Bob.’”
Bob needed a server. Regina needed a job. When she applied at his restaurant, Bob recognized a good employee and offered her a position. Sure enough, Regina learned quickly, carried herself with poise and professionalism and turned out to be an excellent server. Before long, Regina noticed that Bob was the best manager she had ever had: organized, communicative, funny and very supportive of his servers and kitchen staff. She appreciated him as a boss and enjoyed his personality. Bob was very funny and he made work fun. Regina liked his tall, lanky walk and his calm response to problems. He was so good at his job and at making everyone feel at ease, Regina immediately preferred working with him. It was the best job she’d had in years. She wanted to stay for a long time.
Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed at the end of Regina’s third full month there and everyone was laid off.
Determined to put an end to his protracted bachelorhood, Bob did his best to keep meeting women and stay active. He had long ago stopped seeing his work environment as a place to meet people, but as Regina settled into the job, he inconveniently found himself attracted to her. Of course he’d never act on it and he carefully made sure he never displayed the slightest favoritism. Regina was a great server and a great person and he wasn’t going to let her great rear end get in the way of a comfortable professional relationship.
But as the owners closed down the restaurant around them, Bob felt a desire to reach out to her. They would no longer be working at the same place and he didn’t like the idea of letting her out of his life. He screwed up his courage and asked her out for a drink one night. If he didn’t try this, he might never see her again.
Although she saw him as nothing more than a great manager, Regina said yes to the drink because she wasn’t doing anything else that night and hanging out with Bob would probably be as fun as working with him. And it was. They ended up going out for pizza where he ordered beers and she decided to relax for once. She was surprised at how much she enjoyed his company, so when he asked her out the following week, she said yes again.
The third time they went out, Regina steered him to one of her favorite all-night diners and chatted happily away about whatever came to mind. She knew she wasn’t attracted to Bob and never would be, but hanging out with him was great. It was so easy to talk to him and he made her laugh. And he seemed to think she was fascinating. The only thing she had to do was ignore the attraction she knew he felt for her. She felt bad to be taking up his time and money when she was never going to feel the same way about him. But each time he asked her out, she heard herself saying yes.
When Bob called for the fourth time, Regina had to work at displaying nonchalance. She got ready with only a little more than her usual attention to detail and she chose her outfit still clinging to the worn certainty that this was not a date, not with Bob, not a date at all.
When she saw him that night, she was impressed with his sharp new haircut and goatee. Regina had always been a sucker for a goatee. Was it possible that Bob actually looked kind of hot? As usual, they had a great time. In fact, it was the best non-date yet. As they talked and bantered over steaks, Regina considered whether or not she might feel like kissing Bob good-night. Yes? No? Maybe.
As he drove her home, Bob told her about his new assignment. He had been sent to clean up a restaurant that was losing money and needed a management overhaul. With his car stopped outside of her building, Bob started to say good-night. Regina still wasn’t sure what she was going to do.
Later Bob would say that he’d never forget watching Regina undo her seatbelt, turn around in the front seat and climb over to sit in his lap. As she put her arms around him and moved her lips to his, he thought, “There is a God.”
Later Regina would pull back from one of the hundred kisses that followed, reflect on her former opinion of Bob and her old dating standards and say, “I’ve been an idiot.”
After the events in this story, I began dating Bob while still dating others. I didn’t decide to be exclusive with him for several weeks, but recently (very recently) I decided to just concentrate on this one man and see how things go. OH, boy...HERE we go...Bob might believe there’s a god, but I still don’t...
Friday, March 03, 2006
spinster - an unmarried woman past the common age of marriage.
Yes, I - at the age of 39 and a half - am a spinster. Now I know many of you will want to tell me about ALL the women who get married after age 35, but let's stick to the definition: a spinster is past the COMMON age of marriage. I'd say the common age of marriage in the U.S. is below the age of 30. So I've been a spinster for a while. Yay, me!
Here are a couple of examples of how I conceptualize spinsterhood. Go to http://www.myspace.com/reginarodriguez to hear "Solterona" which is Spanish for "spinster." Maybe I'll also post the lyrics in case you can't access the songs I've uploaded there (I can't access the songs I've uploaded on MySpace!).
And here is my favorite poem:
Underneath piles of wedding lingerie,
dented brass dreams, rusted with disappointment,
Under faded images of strong, handsome men with
and silvery lace dusted with loneliness,
quivering flesh, new and wet,
excited to grow and stretch into its glory,
free of fingerprints, collars or gold-band chain links
free to spill wonderful, wingspan possibilities
all over the horizon,
leaving admirers behind.
© Regina Rodriguez December 2003
Tía Veronica sits in wedding lace inherited from abuelita.
All the dreams of family are sewn into it.
But as she feels the lace against her face
she sees into her mother's life.
All the pain, endless drain,
a lonely angry wife.
And she says,
I live my life as I want it to be.
I refuse to re-use another's dreams.
Esta es mi propria vida.
No la doy porque soy
mi misma duena.
Tía Veronica earns her way to the day
she's the center of her life.
She resists marriage bliss.
Sometimes it's just a lie.
Collar-free she can be
a beacon for another kind of chance.
Crimson heels tap the feel of a solterona's dance.
And she says
Now we yield to the feel
of freedom in our veins.
Make the world, shape the world
as we change.
Stretching full, feel the pull
as inner passion leads.
Full embrace, leads the chase
after our own dreams.
And we say
[Listen to this song at http://www.myspace.com/reginarodriguez]
Thursday, March 02, 2006
I called several friends, but at 6:00 p.m. on a Saturday night, most people had plans or didn’t answer. But I really wanted to go out. Determined to have a date for this movie, I got the wild idea that I would find my companion at the theater. That’s right, I figured there would have to be at least one lone male going to see this movie and I would find him and introduce myself. I didn’t care if the man was 18 or 80. He didn’t have to be cute or even interesting. All I needed was a companion. Yes, I was serious.
So I marched up to the cineplex in Evanston, bought my ticket and entered the theater where my movie was playing. Standing at the bottom of the stairs, to the side of the screen, I surveyed the auditorium. Couples, couples, couples, almost as far as the eye could see. But I was patient. I just knew there was a guy here without a date and he was mine.
Finally I saw him in the very last row. An unassuming-looking white guy, in his thirties, sitting by himself. That was my guy! I headed up the stairs towards him. Yes, shyness did overtake me as I got closer and I had to take a moment to check in with myself: was I crazy, was I really going to do this? Really?
“Hi, is there anyone sitting here?” I asked. Note: the entire row was empty except for him.
“Um, do you mind if I sit with you? I’m afraid this movie is going to be too scary for me, but none of my friends wanted to see it with me,” I hedged the truth so as not to sound completely desperate and lonely.
“Oh, sure. No problem,” he was friendly, although just as I sat down, his friend walked up. Oops! Were they a couple? No, just two single guys out at the movies. Perfect.
He was Tim and his friend was Jacek (I can't remember where he was from) and they were very nice. We watched the movie which wasn’t as frightening as I expected. When it ended I started to say good-night, but they were going to have dinner and invited me along. I wouldn't have to get in a car since they were walking to a place nearby. A movie and dinner -- why not?
So I walked about two blocks with them and we sat down in an agreeable little bistro for a late dinner. It was actually too late for me to eat much, but I sat with them for a while and sipped a club soda. It was fun and I felt very lucky to have stumbled on such a good Saturday night. I’m finding that the longer I’m single, the more I’m willing to try anything. In addition to the huge amounts of work I’ve done to raise my self-esteem, I think just plain old age has improved my confidence. I just feel better about myself the older I get. Of course, my confidence is also bolstered by the fact that men tend to like me, so this little experiment really wasn’t that scary to me. Odd, yes. Scary, no.
Before I left, I exchanged email addresses with Tim and Jacek and thanked them again for being my companions for the evening. I only heard from one of them once, but that’s okay. All I needed was a date for the night and I got two!
Because of stuff like this I’ll never deny being crazy.