Saturday, July 28, 2007

Not

My father tells a story that has a certain ending, even though he tried his damnedest to make it turn out differently. He recently wrote:

In 1962, I decided to make a month-long circle tour of Europe, i.e., London, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Berlin, Munich, Innsbruck, Venice, Rome, Nice, Madrid and Paris (the roundtrip fare was only $650.00!).

I had all my hotel and flight reservations made in advance. At one point during the trip I called the airline, AirFrance, to double check on my flights, especially the last one from Paris to New York/Houston. At one point they told me that I was to be changed to another flight out of Paris. I protested this since I had made my reservation months before, plus I wanted to keep to my schedule. They would not relent. From different cities I called AirFrance to try to persuade them to allow me on that original flight. They said, “No. That flight has been taken over by a group so it is no longer available, you have to go on a later flight" (that same day). Even when I got to the airport that day I still argued with them but to no avail. I had to watch "my" flight take off without me.

Well, my new flight was delayed, delayed and delayed and they would not tell the passengers why. When we finally landed in the U.S. I found out why the flight had been delayed. There had been an airplane crash. Soon after take-off “my" plane had crashed. There were no survivors.


Imagine: if my dad had succeeded at getting on that doomed flight, right now I would be -- not. I wonder what never having been born would feel like. Most people think it sounds bad, but I think it might be just fine (and there are certainly times in my life when I would have preferred it). (But not now.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Today I am 41...

...and I'd love to publish that updated photo of me that I published in a post on July 19th, but it's not working. I'm using the link (from when I go into "edit posts" mode) that starts with "img" as blogger suggests, but when I try to update my profile, I get a message saying that link contains illegal characters. Even though it's from blogger's own code!! Any suggestions? A solution would be a great birthday present.

Fear of Men, pt. II

In response to the comments on my last post:

There used to be a social expectation that gentlemen greet ladies, such as with a tip of the hat, without any encouragement from the ladies? Why? How does this show respect? Respected is the last thing I feel when a male stranger says hello. I feel insulted, as in "How dare he presume I could be sexually interested in him?"

But this discussion is beginning to show me that maybe I've been wrong in assuming that all men are sniffing around for sex at all times. Maybe these unsolicited greetings are actually polite. Some of them anyway. How do I tell the difference? A couple of times I have responded to a greeting only to have the guy start a conversation and then I really felt like running away. How do I avoid that? How do I tell the difference between a "tip of the hat" and a guy who wants time and attention?

Someone who tries to chat me up in a bookstore or bar is not what I'm complaining about here. In that case, I can easily make it clear that I'm not interested. I'm talking about two strangers passing each other on the street when all they know about each other is what they can physically see at that moment. Why does any exchange at all have to happen? Why can't we all just leave each other alone?

I'm having SUCH a hard time accepting that this isn't all about sex. What does that say about me? That I'm an egomaniac who believes the whole world is attracted to me? That I'm so full of myself I can't imagine a casual greeting that's unmotivated by sexual desire?

I appreciate Mary reminding us that some men count on women not wanting to be rude. I've had men sit too close to me on the train and I've felt that conflict between, "I've got to get away from this guy. But if I move, he might be insulted, like I think I'm too good to sit next to him." As stupid and absurd as it sounds, that's exactly how women get taken advantage of or assaulted. I once had a guy masturbating next to me on the el, and I actually debated in my head for a minute, "Is he really doing that? I should move. Wait, maybe he's not and I'm imagining it. I should stay. No, he's really jacking off. I gotta go. No, wait. Um, okay, I'm moving." Women are so trained to not offend others we can really end up in bad situations.

That's why I'd rather err on the rude side. I'd rather assume the worst of people rather than then best because it's safer. Can anyone argue against that? Can anyone convince me that it's actually safer and in my best interest to answer strange men on the street when they greet me (instead of pretending I didn't hear them which is what I do now)?

(Tom, is it really possible they're just tipping the hat? I have such a hard time believing that!)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Fear of Men

It's 1:20 a.m. on a Friday night and I'm almost home from working the dinner shift. I'm getting off the train and as I head towards the stairs that lead down to the sidewalk I hear an unknown man's voice behind me saying, "I see you at the gym."

What would you do? Turn around and say, "You do?" or "Are you talking to me?" Or "Excuse me, do I know you?" Whatever your words, you might at least turn around. I don't even glance back. I don't even consider glancing back. My response is the same as when any male stranger tries to talk to me at any time: I pretend I don't hear and keep walking. It's not because it's after 1 a.m. or because I'm alone or because it's creepy to hear a stranger address you so closely and casually. It's because I am afraid of all men, all the time. In broad daylight, with plenty of people around, when I'm in a good mood, I respond the same way. "Hello!" a man will sometimes say to me, or "How are you today?" or "Hello, fellow Bally member!" (this guy has spoken to me once before at the same el stop). Nothing in my demeanor, expression or gait reflects that I've even noticed that anyone's speaking. I just keep going. Sometimes the guy will switch to Spanish, thinking I'll want to talk in that language. "Hola, señorita!" he'll try, which only gets the same response, plus me thinking to myself, "Idiot."

This is how I behave in public. At the age of (almost) 41, I act as if I were ten, following my parents' strict instructions to never talk to strangers. Sometimes they really are just trying to be neighborly and wish me a "Good morning." I still ignore them. I figure, if everyone's so nice and neighborly, why do only men address me this way? I rarely pass a female stranger who tries to greet me. In fact, I don't know if I've ever had a woman I didn't know try to tell me hello on the street. It's really only men.

And that makes me feel hunted and unsafe. I hate this attention. Sometimes when I'm walking towards a man and he's about a half a block away from me, I'll feel his eyes on me. If I glance at his face, he'll take the eye contact as an invitation or acknowledgement and then he's more likely to say hello to me. Why? Why does a man stare at me and then when I look back for a quick-quick glance, he takes that as his opening? Why?

So I make a point of not looking at men when I walk down the street. But sometimes even when I don't look, they still talk to me. I really hate that. How dare they speak to me? I've given them no opening, no invitation, no reason at all to think I might like to talk to them. So why do they say hello, good morning, how are you? Why?

It feels like a game, with men trying to get me to return their greeting and if I do, they've won. It's like they just want my attention, even for just a second, because if they can get my attention, if they can get me to answer them ("Fine. How are you?") then they're in. And what does that mean? I don't know.

Is it about sex? Are men so relentlessly on the lookout for possible tail at all times that they just constantly say, "Hello," "How are you today?" "Good morning!" "Hola" just in case one of us might actually say, "I'm good. How are you? Can I press my body against you for a little while?"

Am I paranoid? Am I filled with irrational man-hatred? Am I just a hardened California feminist surrounded by all these nice midwestern men who just want to offer me their seat?

I hate when strangers talk to me. I ignore them every time.

Friday, July 20, 2007

too happy to tell that I'm unhappy?

Trying to figure out if I should marry my boyfriend, I'm reading a book on compatibility in relationships and it's making me think that my boyfriend and I are compatible in most important ways, except one: how much we engage in serious conversations about politics, social patterns, global policies, interpersonal dynamics, etc. If I want to talk about an article that shows how men and women are genetically programmed to interact in certain ways, he'll listen, but he doesn't have a lot to say about it. I have to go to other friends in order to get a real discussion going. And I regularly need those kinds of discusssion.

I hadn't been worrying about this, but now I'm imagining that we could get married, but in a few years I'll go, "What am I doing? I need to be with someone who has an analysis of our foreign policy with North Korea!" It could be a long time before I realize how truly unhappy I am because I've been very happy so far. Things have been great. But how can I be happy when we don't think the same way? How can I be happy when we're not having the discussions I need to have? How could I be so happy with this guy when we're not really compatible?

I'm stressed about this and still gaining weight. It's so easy to see how people become obese if worrying about your marriage puts a couple of pounds on you a week. Maybe this has all been a mistake. I was trying so hard not to be one of those spinsters who settles down with someone with whom she's not really compatible just because she's so old and tired of being alone.

I thought I was happy, but maybe I was wrong.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

updating my photo



The photo on my profile is over three years old and since my birthday is next week, I figure this is a good time to update it. This photo was taken on moving day, April 29th. It's hardly representative of my usual mood, but it's recent. (Can you look at the two different shirts I'm wearing in these photos and tell what my favorite color is? Yes, they are two different shirts.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Grow old(er) with me

Ah, middle-aged love. That's me and my boyfriend, who can't even pretend to be in the first flush of life. My birthday is coming up in one week and I'll be 41. We moved in together this past spring and co-workers have asked me if we'll be getting married. Is that question only strange to me? I thought most couples either got married OR moved in together. We've moved in. I've also heard that couples who move in together might be great for years, but if they get married later the relationship goes to hell and they end up divorcing. I've witnessed this. It's like their relationship stablizes and thrives when they live together, but then getting married changes the dynamic and -- I don't know -- fear takes over? The horror of staring "til death do us part" in the face?

I'm ambivalent about marriage, by which I mean that I feel pretty strongly in both directions. I feel strongly that marriage would be a noble goal for me since it would mean I am lovable, normal, mature, a full adult. I want to be all those things. At the age of 41, I'd love to be able to say, "I am an adult." I can't do that while I'm still referring to "my boyfriend" instead of "my husband." The two of us are certainly OLD enough to be husband and wife. Why don't we get on with it?

I also feel strongly that marriage is a cultural construct, used to organize societies and establish paternity, inheritance, familial ties, political alliances, etc. It's a legal arrangement that may or may not be useful to me personally. I'd be eligible for my man's health insurance coverage, but I'd also take on his debt. Practically speaking, I'd do well to consider all the legal and emotional consequences of becoming a "Mrs."

I also feel strongly about the title "spinster." I like being a spinster. I like startling people with it, since I think of it as a positive (or at least neutral) term. Why not spinsterhood? Let's all (women) remain single for as long as possible until we are reasonably sure marriage will bring us more benefits than problems. Let us all view the altar with skepticism and clear eyes. Falling in love is an emotional experience over which we have little control. Getting married is a legal state we should consider with level-headedness. Oh, that more people did.

Although being countercultural appeals to me, unfortunately the myth of marriage - that it leads to happily ever after, establishes your adulthood and is a goal worthy of all your time and effort -- has worked on me, too. I fear I remain stunted and arrested in my life progress as long as I wear no wedding ring. No wedding ring?! Also, one of the main reasons people get married, to have children, doesn't apply since neither my boyfriend nor I wants kids.

Are my (44-year-old) boyfriend and (41-year-old) I going to get married? My question back is, how long should we live together before we decide?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Yay, July is halfway over.

It seems like I was just celebrating June being half gone and now July is. Let's see, what's happened since then? I was fired. I gained weight. I started thinking about yet another job search. Okay, I hope the next four weeks are better.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

this explains the bubble popping image

I finally told my boss at the restaurant that I lost my other job and am available for more shifts (for now). It's very weird to explain to your boss that another boss fired you and you can't even say why, especially when she (the restaurant general manager) considers you one of her top servers. She just looked shocked and confused. I felt bad all over again.

But I'm okay and now that I've recovered my confidence from my bad Bubbles Academy experience (There! I wrote it! That's the place that treated me in such a suspicious way! Bubbles Academy, Bubbles Academy in Lincoln Park, Chicago!), it's time to decide what kind of job I'm looking for. Another position similar to that one: being a teacher of music to young children and/or babies? A similar but different kind of music job? Do I want to teach at all?

The ideal, of course, is to get paid for doing the thing I love doing the most: singing. The baby music teacher job did that, but in addition to singing I also had to do a lot of other stuff. A lot. How could I get paid to sing without so many other plates to keep spinning in the air? (rhetorical question, not really looking for an answer)

By the way, is it still possible to look me up and download my songs on purevolume.com and myspace.com? (real question, looking for responses.) I set up pages and uploaded songs on those websites years ago, but I don't know if they're still accessible and available. I remember I had trouble getting onto them with my browser.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Stalk-free

I was just over at Mr. Underhill's blog, When you're burning in hell, I'll ask Jesus if I can send ya some koolaid, and he tells a story that includes some bizarre blogstalking. I've heard of bloggers getting stalked (receiving emails, having the weirdo monitor your comments on others' blogs, etc.) by someone who became completely obsessed, even to the point of the blogger having to delete their blog to break the connection. I'm grateful this has never happened to me. It's actually kind of odd to me that it hasn't, since I include my photo, full name and city on my homepage. Maybe the stalkers pass me by because I've made it too easy?

Also during my depressed, lonely, manless years, I dated about five million guys, all of whom I told about my blog. I'm lucky none of them has given me more attention than I wanted. What luck that I'm much more obsessed with myself than anyone else.

(Can you tell from all these posts that I have some extra time and energy these days? Clearly there's a correlation between how unhappy I am and how much I blog. When I'm totally happy, you rarely hear from me.)

Sunday, July 08, 2007

thank god I don't believe in him

These rough two weeks after being fired have made me grateful for one thing: that I don't believe in a god. Growing up I believed in a Catholic god, but had no clear idea of what that god was like. At the age of 19, as I put it in one of my songs, I gave Catholicism up for Lent. For several years I believed in nothing and didn't care.

In my 30's I joined a New Age spiritual community called Unity in Chicago. During that time I developed a very specific belief system. Now I'm not saying this is what anyone else believed or that this is what Unity in Chicago was teaching in any way. It's just what I got out of my spiritual experience at that time in my life.

What I believed was this: there's no heaven or hell, and "God" isn't an external patriarch with human qualities (like jealousy or pleasure) that judges us or moves us around like chess pieces. There is a god force that exists in everyone and everything. We are all participants in the dance of the Universe and the only "sins" are the errors we make. If we remain open at all times to divine guidance, we will naturally move in the direction of our highest good. Everything happens for a reason. We can find "the good" in any experience.

That's all crap to me now. It turns out I'm unable to believe in any kind of divine mechanism without suspecting its motivations. I guess this is a trust issue. I don't tend to trust anyone or anything, including "God." While I was an active member of Unity in Chicago I tried to trust this benevolent divine force. When good things happened, I felt grateful to divine guidance. When bad things happened, I suspended my anger and bitterness because I wanted to look for the life lesson, "the good," the ultimately positive reason that this bad thing happened.

Then I had a personal family crisis. Then my boyfriend and I realized we didn't want the same things and broke up (very bad when you're 35 and never-married). Then I had another personal family crisis. Then 9/11 happened. Then the job I loved so much disappeared after Arthur Andersen was indicted for obstruction of justice. This all happened in one year. I spent that time holding on to my faith, suspending anger and bitterness, and looking for the good. Oh, I wanted to believe the good stuff was going to come clear at any minute. I wanted to believe this would all make sense. Then I fell in love with a man who didn't tell me he was married. And finally the anger and bitterness took over and I pitched everything I believed (or had been trying to believe) out the window.

I've been doing much better since I re-embraced atheism. I feel much freer and less fearful now that I believe it's just us here: no god, no divine energy, no angels, no spirit guides, no saints, no highest good. It's a godless, random universe and that means that sometimes there's a reason for stuff happening and sometimes there isn't. And sometimes really incomprehensibly horrible things happen and there's no "good" to be found in the experience. It's just the worst of how life goes.

I find much more peace in this understanding of how the world works. I'm too willing to believe that if there's a god and bad shit is happening to me, it's because the god doesn't care about me, or it wants to do me wrong. It's not good to believe in a god that's screwing you over, so I'd rather believe in no god at all.

I guess this makes me weak in faith, but people whose faith is strong, even in the face of extreme loss and unimaginable pain (I think of those who still believe in "God" even after 9/11, the 2006 tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, etc.) are people I will never understand.

Bobbing to the surface

After two weeks of feeling bad about getting fired, eating cake, putting on weight, soliciting the opinions of friends and blog readers and trying to listen to the comments that made sense, I think I'm recovering my confidence. Some have told me they believe this wasn't just about my performance; they think there must have been other circumstances contributing to my firing. I have to consider this when I think of how much of time passed between receiving my job performance reviews and getting canned. Usually an employee will receive an initial evaluation, even a poor one, and be given some amount of time to improve. My 11:00 a.m. class was observed, after which I received one person's review, and then my 2:00 p.m. class was observed after which I received a second person's review. By 11 a.m. the next morning I received a phone call to set up a time for me to come in and meet with a third person, which was the person who fired me. From the distance of two weeks, I think this sequence of events suggests they were in a bit of a hurry to let me go, either because I sucked that bad or because they suddenly needed my position open or because they were receiving some other kind of pressure to give my classes to a replacement.

In any case, I have no way of knowing exactly what happened, so it's time to stop assuming that I sucked that bad. If there's anything to be learned from this experience, it's that I shouldn't take all the responsibility for a situation that is unclear, especially if there's no way to ever make it clear.

So.

This week I start putting together a new plan of action to find another job (and lose some weight). I will consider if I want to work with children, if I want to teach, how far I'm willing to commute, how the place feels to me, and how much initial training and ongoing support will be available to me. I'd also like to know what system they have in place for giving (new) employees feedback and monitoring improvement. I need to remind myself that I've done best at jobs with solid corporate structure and protocols for training, performance reviews and termination. I like clear rules and above-board explanations. I don't do well in situations where expectations are more fluid and supervision is less consistent, as is often the case with many (but not all) small businesses where the owner runs the daily operations. If it's an organization where we all wear many hats and sort of figure things out as we go and everyone's a troubleshooter, I tend to get confused and overly dependent on the approval of the boss, who's the only one empowered to make final decisions. This has been MY experience. I'm sure others have had completely different ones.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me through this rough time. I really appreciate all your words. Onward.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Fired from music

Today I woke up after four hours of sleep and suddenly remembered that I have friends who earn money in some way from the vocations they have chosen (art and music) and I did too, but then I got fired. I've been fired from my musician job. I'm sure it's just as well since I was in over my head and if I were still working there I'd be really stressed right now since this week begins the new term and I would have had a dozen new songs to learn, including some to learn on guitar. Plus I'd be working in this high pressure situation in which I'd be aware I wasn't doing the job they wanted and I'd REALLY better freaking RELAX right NOW. It would have been bad.

But I don't know what to do now. I really don't think I should try to get another baby job. Why don't I take a hint? It's time to start finding and talking to people who are doing musician jobs that I AM qualified for, or that at least I could actually do. I guess my confidence is pretty shot right now. What can I do? I don't know anymore. Of the 18 (make it 19) jobs I've had since I left grad school, half have been jobs I didn't have the background for, but was able to figure out as I went. That's how this job was supposed to go, but it didn't. Am I unable to do that anymore?

I feel old and untrainable. I feel discouraged.I spent $1500 on a life coach and worked hard on all the steps and all our work got me to that job as a baby music teacher. I wasn't supposed to be left with a waitressing job, a $1500 hole in my savings account and the knowledge that others are earning money in their fields but I'm not because I was fired. I was fired from a music job. Who cares about being fired from a deskjob or a babysitting job? But I have now been fired from music. I think it's time for another cake.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Commuted?!

Okay, maybe I was being unrealistic by thinking that Libby would actually serve as an example of how the Bush administration has got to stop f$%*-ing with the law, the Constitution, etc, but damn. I guess the only way anyone's going to be held responsible for anything is if they're prosecuted after Bush leaves office. I wonder how long it will be til that happens...