Thursday, January 31, 2008

I'm Getting Married

I was born single. I grew up single. I spent my 20's and 30's being single. I never had any other view of myself. As a young child I never wrapped a towel or scarf around my head and pretended it was a bridal veil. I never asked someone to play the husband so I could make dinner and take care of the baby. As a young woman I never considered baby names or imagined where my wedding would be, who I'd invite, or what it would feel like to walk down an aisle with all eyes on my beautiful gown. Getting married just wasn't part of any future I ever imagined.

In my early 30's it hit me that, in spite of my low interest in marriage up until then, I'd better get on with the business of finding a man if I didn't want to die alone. With my self-image as a single woman solidly in place, I dated. And dated. And dated. And dated.

It was horrible. My certainty that singleness was as much a part of me as my own skin directly conflicted with my increasing desperation to become a part of a married couple. Trying to find a man obsessed me and I blogged a lot on the subject. I tried to meet men in all the ways I had ever heard of, from online dating to joining a political campaign. Why couldn't I find a man? What was I doing wrong? What was wrong with me? Why? Why? Why?

I theorized about what marriage was for. I theorized about how relationships worked. I theorized about if god was screwing me. I spent almost 10 years feeling lonely, desperate, terrified and angry.

I finally fell in love with Bob in the winter of 2006, when I was 39 and a half years old. I was still lonely, angry and bitter from my years of failure. It turned out he was also lonely and bitter from his 43 years of similar failure. But we still managed to initiate a relationship, showing that you don't have to let go of all resentments about dating in order to date successfully.

After that, I all but stopped blogging about dating, relationships and marriage. It was partly because I didn't want to invade my new boyfriend's privacy, but also because I still saw myself as a spinster and it was hard to really accept that I was no longer alone. It still is.

So without making a big deal of it on my blog, I built a relationship with this man, moved in with him last spring and this past fall decided to marry him. I am finally, finally engaged at the age of 41.

I'M 41! I still find it remarkable that neither of us has been married before when I'm 41 and he's 45. What a couple of losers. It took us this long to finally settle down. I'm finally engaged and I'm 41.

I underplayed my "announcement" of this engagement here on my blog not so much because relationships no longer fill my mind all the time, but because it's still very strange for me to think of myself as a fiancée. I'm wearing an engagement ring. I'M WEARING AN ENGAGEMENT RING. How the hell is this possible? It just doesn't seem real. Regina Rodríguez is wearing an engagement ring? It's against all that's natural. Is rain also falling upwards?

My fiancé and I took it very slowly. We dated from January 2006 to February 2007 before we decided to move in together. Apparently this is very slow-moving for people as old as we are. My friends and acquaintances made clear to me that many people who get together "later in life" get married within months because by then they know what they're looking for and want to get on with marriage. Not us. We lived together from April 2007 to November 2007 before we decided to get engaged.

And yet, as slowly as we moved, it still feels like lightning speed to me. I'm engaged? Engaged? After so many years of spinsterhood? After determining that my blood type must be "single?" Regina Rodríguez, the angry, bitter, lonely, manless, depressed Chicana on the Edge, is getting married? We're in the bizzaro world.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Taking down the Christmas tree

This morning I finally accepted that it's time to start taking down the decorations: the cards on the mantel, the lights in the window, the tree that still stood splendidly decorated in a corner of our living room. This afternoon I went downstairs and got the empty boxes and began plucking ornaments off the tree.

My boyfriend and I don't like to rush the process of taking down the Christmas tree. We put it up a month ahead of time and we think it's reasonable to leave it up for a month after the holiday is past. Why do others (businesses, especially) put up decorations weeks and weeks ahead of time, but have it all down by the day after New Year's? It makes no sense.

So, yes, all of our yuletide cheer was still solidly in place until today at about 3:45 p.m. Now I've taken the first step and put the tree decorations away, but the rest of it is still up. We don't like to rush these things.

(Okay, I can no longer call my boyfriend, my boyfriend. On Christmas Day he proposed and now he's my fiance. From now on, I'll call him my fiance, until he's my husband).

Monday, January 28, 2008

My Job Is OVER

It's over. My last waitressing shift was Saturday night, and my three-year career as a restaurant server is over.

My final shifts on Friday and Saturday nights weren't easy. It's almost as if the general manager wanted to make sure I would really go. She scheduled me to be the anchor person on Friday: getting the lion's share of tables, being the last to leave and doing the extra Friday night work, handling tables sauces and sauce jars that need to be washed that night. Ugh.

On Saturday night I was scheduled to work one of two special parties, while also carrying a full section on the regular dining room floor. I really didn't know how to do one of these parties and one of the managers had to help me a LOT. I felt pressured, out of my element and resentful. Why throw something at me for which I have inadequate experience, on my final night? I couldn't even make a learning experience out of it because I''ll never do it again. It was just really annoying.

We were also busy on Saturday night, so by 9:20 p.m. I felt frazzled, frustrated, overwhelmed and fed up. In the kitchen, I lost it for a minute, yelling, "I don't want to work here anymore! I don't even want to be here anymore! Who WANTS this job?" Finally, at around 9:45 it let up and the crowds subsided.

Now I will never work as a waitress again. It's sad because I did like (most of) my co-workers, the clientele and a lot of the work. I just hated the pressure of having to do dozens of things at the same time when it was busy. And the late hours and the physical pain. So I'm gone.

It's hard to believe I'll never wear that uniform and those shoes and bustle about for hours at a time. I can spend the extra five- and one-dollar bills I always kept in my pocket, put the wine key in the kitchen drawer and forget EVERYTHING I memorized about wine (which I'll never use because I don't even drink wine). Thank god. I'm free.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Fringe Hispanic

Today is the day of the Nevada caucuses, the first time in our history that a state with a large Hispanic population will get an early say in who our presidential nominees are. I'm looking forward to strong support for Obama coming out of Nevada, but as has been demonstrated, no one can take for granted the support of Hispanic voters.

I'm never sure if I can count myself as one of the people referred to by the term "Hispanics," "Hispanic voters," or "Latinos." I realize that for the most part, Hispanics are seen as low-income, Spanish-dominant, family-oriented, believing in God and with close ties to their countries of origin (or their parents have close ties to their countries of origin). None of these characteristics applies to me. I have no idea who I'm related to in Mexico, the country my grandparents came from (and I didn't know my grandparents at all). Am I being counted in the "the Latino vote?" Or are Latino voters identified in ways that would leave me out?

Maybe I'm irrelevant. Efforts to make available, to Latinos, quality education, good health care, well-paying jobs and affordable housing focus on Latinos who don't have these things. I've had all these things. If my grandparents came to the U.S. so that their children and their grandchildren would have progressively better lives, ultimately being able to do whatever they want that makes them happy, I think I have, for the most part, achieved that. I attained the education and income-level that allows me to do what I want with my life. This makes me not part of the Hispanic population that needs better opportunities. This makes me not part of the Hispanic population that struggles with racism (much). Maybe I don't count as part of the "Hispanic voters" politicians are courting.

But I still care about immigration policies. I care about English Only bull&*(@ -- I mean, legislation. I will wake up for political discussions that target issues like that. Maybe I'm a fringe Hispanic.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Prioritizing Fat

(Note: my profile photo now shows that I've finally grown up and chopped off what I call the college ponytail.)

I'm fascinated by the ideas in a book called The Fattening of America, which includes the theory that many people are overweight because that's what serves them (the Newsweek review I'm responding to is here).  This book says some of the things we already know:  American culture encourages overeating with an abundance of easy, cheap, high-calorie foods and a lifestyle that requires very little physical exertion of any kind.  In order for people to lose weight, they have to put considerable effort into resisting the dominant behaviors. Even actions as simple as taking the stairs are just not supported by the mainstream (I'd have to interrupt the conversation I was having with someone who's taking the elevator, or persuade her to climb seven flights of stairs with me).

But what's interesting to me is that the individual still makes a choice about what kind of lifestyle she's going to follow, that choice reflects her priorities, and her priority is often something else other than being thin.  Co-author Eric Finkelstein says "...the costs of being thin, in terms of what they would have to forgo, have just gotten so high that people are saying 'I'd rather be fat' than make the increasingly difficult sacrifices necessary to be thin."

This is fascinating to me because I never consider people saying "I'd rather be fat," even though lots of people must think this on some level.   Finkelstein gives the example of his Uncle Al, a wealthy successful lawyer, who wouldn't be as successful if he spent less time at work and more time exercising.  He also wouldn't be as successful if he didn't attend high-calorie client dinners a few times a week.  Because career accomplishment is more important to this person than being thin, he's fat.

I have witnessed so many women, including me, caught in the terrible self-flagellating twist of "How come no matter how hard I try, I just can't lose an ounce?  Why?"  We pass up the donut cart and walk away from the candy dish over and over again, living in a constant state of self-deprivation, not realizing that while we're taking care of our families, we're undoing all that self-deprivation with high-calorie quick meals or late night snacking.  We hate ourselves for being fat and don't realize we might congratulate ourselves for putting others above ourselves or putting our career aspirations above a fitness calorie-burn.

After reading this book review, I considered how I don't like working more than 40 hours a week and won't even take a job that would interfere with my workout schedule. I'm at the gym almost every single day and I watch what I eat and whenever I put on an extra five pounds (like during the holidays) I make damn sure I lose it again. I would count as a thin person.

But I've never earned very much money, don't have much in the way of material wealth and have no career accomplishments to point to. I used to think my lack of career aspirations was because I was a shiftless flake. Now I can see that at least part of it could be that my clear priority is health and fitness. Likewise, my life partner way outearns me, is very ambitious and can definitely point to career accomplishments. He works even when he's not working. And his level of fitness reflects his disinterest in going to the gym or eating salad.

I'm sure there's a way to be slim and fit AND have a satisfying career. I just haven't yet put the time and effort into figuring it out.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Vote Early

Yesterday I voted early. Chicago has early voting polls open from Jan. 14 through Jan. 31, Monday through Saturday, 9a to 5p. For anyone who lives in Chicago, click here to find one near you:

I'm hoping to be so busy on February 5th, "Super Duper Tuesday," with temp work and choir practice, that I won't be able to make it that day. Plus I have lots of free time right now. It was a sad moment passing up Dennis Kucinich's name, but I did what I thought was best: I voted for Barak Obama. John Edwards looks pretty good to me, too and if the main tension were between him and Clinton, I would have gone with Edwards. But I think it's got to be Obama. Anyway, my vote is cast.

Monday, January 14, 2008

still dead in the water

I live on the border of Chicago and Evanston, the suburb to the north. I want to start working on the northside of Chicago or Evanston since the commute downtown takes at least an hour and public transportation is unreliable these days. I'd like to ease back into office work by temping. In November I managed to sign up with two staffing agencies before I gave up because everyone said it's pointless to job hunt during the holidays. How I wish I'd kept going, if only so that I could have noticed my missing social security card then.

Those two agencies are now my only hope of temporary work since it will be two weeks before the replacement card is here. I've been in contact with these two agencies since I signed on with them, but last week one of them didn't respond to my email. Today I called and found out that my staffing consultant has left the agency. I spoke with another consultant who indicated that my chances of finding work through them are quite low since they mainly work with downtown businesses. Discouragement on top of discouragement.

The other temp agency I am signed up with is in Evanston and getting work through them would ideal, but they've had no jobs for me so far. And that's it. I'm dead in the water without that social security card. I spoke to another Evanston temp agency on Friday who said they can't even interview me without a social security card. Today I called them just to let them know I'll set up another appointment as soon as I have that card.

As soon as I have that card. Which I should never have lost in the first place. Now what do I do? I can't rescind my two-week notice at the restaurant because my right foot is having problems again and I've got to stop with the 8-hour shifts. For health reasons, waitressing is no longer an option for me. It's also hard to go back on giving two-weeks' notice. Employers don't like to "take back" employees who have already quit.

Thanks to everyone who's been commenting lately. It helps to know I have a panel of people with advice and encouragement.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Dead in the water

I'm still applying for permanent positions and trying to hook up with staffing agencies as I prepare to transition from waitressing back into office work. I'm realizing that maybe I'd like to temp for a while before committing to another full-time permanent job. Yes, temping is probably the way to start off easy.

Yesterday I gave notice at the restaurant because it's time to focus full-time on job hunting, plus I want my weekdays free for temp work, plus it's time to get serious about shifting back to a daytime schedule. I need my sleeping patterns back on an early-to-bed and early-to-rise rhythm, but that's hard to do when I have to work late shifts three times a week. So, in two weeks I say good-bye to my restaurant career, for good.

This week I had two staffing agencies interested in interviewing me. I made an appointment with one for yesterday morning. Before I left, I went to my desk to grab copies of my resume and my social security card. Where was my social security card? My search became more frantic, but finally I left without it.

I felt awful as I rode to the agency. No social security card? How is that going to sound to a potential employer? I felt like a total loser and failure. I'd never gone into an interview feeling so certain I didn't deserve to even be there.

Sure enough, the recruiter was really nice and understanding, but the rules are that they can't interview anyone without a social security card. So no more signing up with staffing agencies, which is exactly what I need to be doing right now.

I crawled miserably back home and went through the apartment. Desk, wallet, purse, bedroom, kitchen counter where crap piles up. I know I had it the last time I interviewed with a staffing agency, but that was two months ago. I looked everywhere, but I had to finally admit that my social security card is gone.

What kind of loser can't hold on to one of the most important documents an American has? The social security card is the key to everything. You need one to prove you even exist. And employers will not add you to their payroll (nor even interview you, sometimes) without one.

On the way to work that day, I stopped at the downtown social security office and applied for a replacement social security card. How long will it take to get a new one? Two weeks.

My job search is dead in the water for two weeks. I can't believe this. I was just gearing up for the serious job hunt now that the holidays are over. I'm supposed to be signing up with staffing agencies and casting the net wide for work, permanent or temporary. Now I can't even get past the paperwork. I can still apply everywhere, but as soon as anyone wants to see proof of my ability to work, what am I going to say?

I feel so horrible. I've got two weeks left at the restaurant to look for my next job and now I'm without a social security card for those two weeks. Instead of preparing to leave my old job, all I can do is watch the clock wind down, doing nothing, while I wait for the replacement social security card. Or I can stay active, applying and searching, but I'll have to bluff anyone who actually expresses an interest in hiring me because I can't produce that card. I feel like such a loser.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Edwards Beat Clinton

I've been out of town and haven't been able to blog, but here are my responses to the Iowa caucases on Thursday:

1. I am SO glad Obama beat Clinton.
2. I'm also happy that Edwards beat Clinton.
3. I want Obama and Edwards to nudge Clinton right out of this thing, so we can focus on the Democratic candidates who have heart.
4. The press completely focused on Obama beating Clinton, but Edwards beating her was even more unexpected. Why hasn't any attention been paid to Edwards' triumph over the supposed front-runner?
5. I like Obama and Edwards. I'd love to have to choose between them and not have to worry about a Clinton nomination at all.
6. Joe Biden and Chris Dodd are out, but we haven't heard about Mike Gravel or -- my favorite of all -- Dennis Kucinich quitting!
7. Dennis!