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.