Category Archives: so old

the existential crisis prompted by filthy lucre

so, last week i talked jared into driving us to topeka to bask in the wonders of the baby industrial complex that is babies r’ us. but wouldn’t you know it? as soon as we pulled off the highway & into the city, the car started making this awful clunking noise & kind of shuddering every time it changed gears. i know next to nothing about cars & i figured we’d just driven over an especially egregious bump in the road, but jared knew better & suspected the worst of all possible car repairs: a bad transmission.

we tried to enjoy ourselves anyway, hoping that sitting unused in the parking lot for an hour or two would magically heal the car, but of course we both felt anxious, which made the babies r’ us experience even more horrible than it would have been on a good day. & trust me when i say that babies r’ us is a very depressing place. the topeka store has an especially distressing dollar store vibe to it. actual dollar stores can get away with being kind of plasticky & depressing because, hello, everything costs a dollar! but when i’m looking at stuff that costs hundreds & hundreds of dollars, i want a somewhat more luxurious environment. nothing says “aspirational consumer experience” quite like shopping for supplies for your first baby. so let’s see fewer pacifiers embossed with the words “future diva” & more silk-stuffed organic crib mattresses, please.

this all transpired last tuesday. on thursday, we finally got around to calling mechanics, & i was shocked when they all wanted us to make an appointment to bring our car in. & all available appointments were several days into the future. i’ve only had to take the car to the mechanic once, & they not only allowed me to bring in my car immediately, but they had it fixed & ready to roll within a couple of hours.

our appointment was for monday, & the mechanic finally called us late on tuesday with his diagnostic: bad transmission. he gave us the option of replacing a few broken parts & a fluid flush for around $1400, or a complete transmission replacement (with a used transmission) for $2200. bear in mind that we only spent $2800 on this car when we bought it. i know there’s probably some punk rocker reading this, feeling all smug because he gets around solely by bicycle, thinking the chickens are coming home to roost thanks to our yuppie asshole car-owning ways. when that punk rocker becomes an arthritic pregnant woman who lives three miles away from the closest grocery store in a town with very patchy public transportation that nonetheless is routinely 95-105 degrees for four months out of the year, maybe then we can talk about poor life choices, okay? we don’t use our car much, probably only about 2000 miles a year, but it’s helpful to have it for things like grocery shopping, going to the airport, visiting friends across town & not being beholden to other friends to give us rides, doctor appointments, etc.

luckily i have been hoarding money like a great depression survivor because i still have no idea how much all of my prenatal care & baby delivery is going to cost me out of pocket. the payment info i got my from my doctor said that an uncomplicated vaginal delivery costs $3000, & of course they will bill my insurance before they bill me, but that price doesn’t include any medications, anesthesia, hospital stay, IV fluids, prenatal care, sonograms, et al. & of course we will also have to buy a separate insurance program for the baby & hire a pediatrician, & i couldn’t even begin to guess how much that will cost. i doubt any of it will really plunge us into poverty (so long as the baby does not require the services of the NICU), but it’s going to require some shuffling around of budgetary priorities & i don’t know how bad the hit will be. the baby may also be eligible to collect social security as a child of a disabled parent, which would really help, but we still need to see a lawyer about all that stuff (another expense).

suffice to say that i have been a little bit freaked out about money lately.

i am reading this personal finance book that is supposedly, according to all the reviews i’ve read, really life-affirming & not scary, etc etc, but right now, just thinking about money even in the abstract sense is scary to me, & the book isn’t helping. it asks good questions, like, “what do you want your money to do for you? are you spending your money on what you truly value?” the author is trying to get readers to rethink the traditional wisdom that you should be spending like 45% of your income on housing & transportation costs, for example. maybe you value having a large/expensive home less than you value being able to travel, so maybe you can downsize into a less expensive home & use the difference to travel. it’s good advice, but housing & transportation (even accounting for occasional catastrophic emergency car repairs) is only costing me about 22% of my income. compared against the approximately 30% of my income that goes straight into a savings account for emergencies. i did try to use the book to figure out what i value & what i want my money to do for me. this is the boring shit i came up with:

i want to be able to pay all my bills without going into debt.
i want to be able to buy whatever i want at the grocery store.
i want to be able to go out to eat pretty much whenever i want without worrying too much.
i want to be able to buy a monthly pool pass.
i want to be able to pay all my baby-related medical bills without going into debt.
i want to be able to buy all the start-up stuff we need for the baby without going into debt.
i want to be able to do all of this without dipping too heavily (or at all) into my emergency savings.

this kind of makes me feel like a loser. i don’t have bigger dreams than this? i don’t want to, say, spend a week in paris before i’m 35? or have the funds to self-publish a book? or even buy a family membership to the kansas city zoo or something? my only “experiential” expenses (which experts say inspire more happiness that object expenses) are going out to eat (by which i mostly mean being able to order pizza like once a week) & going to the pool. i mean, the pool is awesome & pizza is delicious, but damn. life has beaten me down & the bar is now very low. i basically just want to be able to afford to put one foot in front of the other without leaning on my credit card. a worthy goal, to be sure, but also a very quotidian one.

hopefully i’ll still be alive at the end of the month

i woke up yesterday in absolute agony. my entire upper back & neck were locked into place. i couldn’t look side to side or up or down without excruciating pain. i am no stranger to chronic back pain, but this is a new one for me. usually my pain is concentrated in my lower back & hips. i’ve had a few sore neck incidents, but i don’t remember anything like this.

april is off to a pitiful start so far. sunday was jared’s first full day home from the environmental history conference, which was in some ways great, but in other ways–it’s tough for a grad school widow, you know? your partner is always packing up & leaving town, which forces you to come up with your own little tricks for managing the household by yourself. & then your partner comes home & screws up your system. jared woke me up from a nap on sunday, not once but twice! i overlooked it the first time because he had just come home from a soccer game. he had no way of knowing that i was asleep. but he woke me up again coming into the bedroom for a robe after taking a post-soccer shower. & i wasn’t taking some ordinary everyday nap that’s no big deal. i was that kind of tired that you get sometimes where you’re actually crying about how tired you are. chalk it up to the progesterone supplements i have to take.

he then multiplied the crime of waking me up by moving my typewriter off of the kitchen table (where i had stationed it with the best intentions for catching up with all my mail–totally did not happen, by the way) & on to my desk. even though the typewriter clearly belongs on the bottom shelf of the living room bookcase. my computer goes on my desk. i was in the bedroom watching “roseanne” & trying desperately to stay awake until 9:30pm when it would be acceptable to turn in for the night, so when i brought my computer back out to my desk, i had nowhere to put it because the typewriter was in the way. so i moved the typewriter & plugged my computer back in…but it didn’t start charging. i started freaking out in a really exhausted, low-key way, wondering if the power cord had finally given up the ghost. then i realized that jared had simply unplugged my charger to plug in his own. rather than unplugging, i don’t know, maybe the gratuitous floor lamp that we turn on maybe once a year when all the bulbs in the overhead light burn out at the same time.

so i had to share my feelings, which consisted of saying, “i’m so aggravated,” & then i burst into hysterical sobs. i’m also going to blame this one on the progesterone supplements. they can make a person a bit emotional, especially when she’s so tired that watching “everybody loves raymond” is starting to seem like it might be a good idea. jared did his best to escalate things into a real fight (“these are tiny problems that aren’t even worth mentioning, but i guess to you they’re evidence of what an asshole i am, huh?”) but i was too tired to take the bait & instead, i just cried.

okay, i will blame it a little bit on grad school widowhood. every time jared leaves for a conference or a research trip or something, i miss him so much & am simultaneously in vacation party mode & completely at loose ends until he gets home. sometimes i feel like a housewife from 1962 because i have taken on so many of the responsibilities for managing the household, just because i know i will probably be around to handle them–i don’t have to leave at random intervals in order to further my career. so i pay all the bills & take care of a big chunk of the housework & have a mental calendar for recycling day & whether we need to stock up on cat food & laundry detergent. i don’t mind it because i’d probably be stressing about this stuff anyway even if someone else was taking care of it, but it does start to feel feminine mystique-y sometimes. more than once, jared has been accepted to present at a conference or won a fellowship on the same day when my biggest accomplishment was that i cleaned the litterbox.

anyway, yesterday i woke up with this stiff neck situation. i couldn’t even sit up from laying on my back because i couldn’t move my neck that way. i had to roll on to my side & push myself into a sitting position. i spent most of the afternoon laying flat on the floor, listening to “this american life”. then i drove across town for an emergency massage. the massage therapist said my neck muscles all felt like rope, which is apparently not good at all. she always does a little stretching with her massages, & it usually feels nice, but this time i actually screamed in agony. pretty embarrassing. she worked on me for an extra half hour & knocked $10 off my bill, & sent me home with a bag full of some weird icy hot knock-off called biofreeze. she suggested a heating pad, but it was over 90 degrees yesterday, so that wasn’t happening.

also yesterday, i cut my leg on this part of the car that i fucked up by driving into a tiny pole, i smashed my left hand in the front door, i hit my head on my bedroom door jamb, & then i hit my head on my car window. i don’t even know how i did any of this stuff, but i did openly sob about it in public.

today my neck is still killing me, but truthfully, i think it’s a little better. i at least felt motivated to take the car to the car wash, as it’s probably more disgusting filth & schmutz than car right now, but wouldn’t you know? literally the second i pulled into the parking lot of the car wash, the sky opened up & it started pouring. so i turned around & went home. it’s like my life is a stand-up routine from 1986. “you know the difference between white people & black people?…melanin, probably. i don’t know. so, sun-dried tomatoes, am i right? what else can the sun dry, i wonder?”

tomorrow me, my stiff neck, my sudden predisposition for injury, & my constant sobbing are going to a yoga class for the first time. it should be pretty exciting. i can hardly wait to trip over a pile of mats & fall down the stairs & cry in front of some more strangers. tomorrow is also jared’s birthday. i think he intends to celebrate by doing lots of schoolwork & being incredibly anxious. but i’m going to make him a flourless chocolate cake, whether he asks for one or not.

i don’t want any town that would have me as a resident

i am trying to catch up on my mail. i was just wrapping up a response to a letter i received back in august (!!!) when i ran out of typewriter ribbon. i thought i had a few in reserve, but i guess not. or maybe they have been stashed somewhere & forgotten. & i’m sorry but i just can’t handwrite letters. i handwrite my journal & my daily log & that’s it. just doing that makes my arthritis flare up. so now i have to wait until i have new typewriter ribbon in hand, & of course there’s nowhere to buy it in lawrence. i asked at the little independent office supply store downtown & they were really uncomfortable. they were like, “um, no one really uses typewriters anymore…” well, i do! all the time! they said they could order ribbon for me, but i can order it for myself. the point of going to a store is to buy something that is already in stock.

this is just one more reason (of a gazillion billion) to be homesick for boston. i used to buy all my typewriter ribbon at bob slate stationers, an independent office supply store in harvard square. that’s also where i bought my notebooks (moleskines for journal, a five-year diary with a lock for my daily log, tiny little flip notebooks for to-do lists), envelopes, pens (black fine tip stylists), markers, stamp pads, colored pencils, scissors, rubber cement, staplers, staple removers, wite-out, etc etc etc. i stopped into that place on a near-daily basis. now i have to special order my pens & typewriter ribbon because i can’t find them in lawrence, & i pretty much just make do with what i already have for everything else. i buy envelopes at the kind of shitty/creepy indie office supply place here.

i started crying the other night & told jared that i hate living in lawrence. maybe i was just having a bad day, maybe i really do hate it here. there’s not really anything wrong with this town. it just doesn’t feel like home. i’ve lived here for two & a half years but i still don’t really feel like i live here. i know that doesn’t make much sense.

by the time i’d been in boston for two & a half years, here are some of the things that had happened:
* moved out of my first collective house & started a new one from scratch
* got divorced
* became an aunt
* attended the birth of my best friend’s first son
* started the boston skillshare
* started my zine distro
* got on disability
* dealt with my dad’s totally unexpected sudden death
* joined the boston radical cheerleaders
* tried (& failed) to start a feminist art collective
* joined a reproductive health collective

here’s some of the stuff that has happened since moving to lawrence:
* finally found a nice house after a series of craptacular apartments
* decided to start trying to get pregnant
* closed the zine distro
* had an epic falling out with someone that has impacted all of my other non-school-related relationships in the area
* got involved with the feminist book club
* observed while hollaback lawrence crashed & burned
* spent a summer living in philadelphia
* spent a summer completely alone
* started going to bingo & water aerobics

i mean, i guess it’s not all bad, but it just doesn’t feel as satisfying as my flawed memory remembers my time in boston feeling. i’m sure i was completely miserable in boston & i probably have the old journals to back this up. i’m sure i am romanticizing how great things were because i am nostalgic for being young & idealistic & relatively energetic. i know that a lot of this stuff fucking sucked. the girls in the reproductive health collective pulled some shenanigans that made me feel beyond shitty. the skillshare was always a huge bundle of stress, & my involvement with that project culminated in some seriously fucked up betrayal. my tight friendship with my friend who had the baby was over by the time that baby was a year old. the boston radical cheerleaders fizzled within a couple of months of my joining the squad, & had never been that active to begin with. & i did a ton of other stuff in boston over the next five years before i left (volunteering for the lucy parsons center & the zine library, learning to play the accordion, living in other collective houses, etc). sometimes those experiences were amazing, sometimes they fucking sucked. mostly, by the end, they fucking sucked & i was miserable, which is why i was so fucking stoked to move away when the opportunity arose.

it’s just hard to marshal the necessary energy & excitement to start over in a new place. especially after almost ten years making your mark someplace else. especially when you’re in your thirties & you just want to start relaxing & living life at a slower pace, with a lot less drama & bullshit. especially when you’re coming from a city, where you became accustomed to a certain degree of anonymity even if you’re walking around with hot pink hair & knuckle tattoos, & you’re moving to a small college town.

i still haven’t gotten used to the idea that i am not completely anonymous in lawrence. i went to the local coffeeshop last week to pick up a bag of coffee. while the barista was grinding it for me, i realized i’d left my pocketbook at home. i explained the situation & was going to offer to run home & grab it–i live just three blocks away. but he waved me off & said, “just take it. you’ll be back. you’re a regular. you come in every week for a pound of espresso. pay me next time.” i took the coffee (& returned the next day with cash in hand), but…i’m a regular? what if i don’t want to be a regular? i’d almost rather start buying tins of bustelo from the grocery store than be, you know, that lady. who comes in every week. with the yellow pocketbook & knuckle tattoos. & asks for a pound of espresso, ground for espresso. ugh.

more than you ever wanted to know about american girl

so, it’s wintertime, it’s getting chilly outside, & that is perfect weather for staying at home, curled up on the couch, reading my way through big stacks of library books. recently i have become somewhat obsessed with reading american girl books, especially the canonical six-book series that accompanies each historical character.

american girl is a toy company that is now owned by mattel, but was originally started in the mid-80s by an entrepreneur named pleasant rowland. she wanted to create dolls that actually looked like little girls (as opposed to the omnipresent baby doll or a fashion doll representing an adult woman, like barbie). each doll would be a character based in a different historical era, with a series of six books telling the character’s story. each series started with a basic “meet so & so,” introducing the character & the unique historical circumstances of her time period, followed by a school story, a holiday story, a birthday story, a story about the character doing something dangerous & helpful, & a story that sets the character on a new, more grown-up path. various accessories were also available for each doll, corresponding to her stories. for example, you could buy a replica school desk that was historically accurate for the character’s era, or a dress that matched the dress she is depicted as wearing in her birthday story, or even tiny miniatures of the toys she plays with in her stories. it’s all very cunning: catnip for adult collectors & little girls alike, & a perpetual moneymaking machine. wish i’d thought of it first!

the first three characters were kirsten, a swedish pioneer girl growing up in 1854 in minnesota; samantha, a posh edwardian-era orphan being raised by her rich grandmother in 1904; & molly, a spunky girl with glasses growing up during world war 2 (her father is off treating wounded soldiers on the home front). allow me to add, molly’s father is not an attractive man:

Image

though he was rocking harry potter glasses 50 years before his time. hipster dads strike again.

the fifth character introduced was addy walker. growing up in 1864, she was born into slavery & ran away to freedom in philadelphia with her mother after her older brother & father were sold to another slave master. she was the first historical character of color, & until this year, the only black historical. (cecile rey, a free person of color growing up in new orleans in 1853, was released this past summer.)

as children, my sister & i were OBSESSED with the american girl catalogue, which must have been mailed to every little girl who happened to be between the ages of 6 & 10 at any point between 1987 &…i don’t know, NOW, i guess. my sister loved samantha because her collection was full of frilly dresses & clever little accessory sets like a butterfly-catching set that comes with faux-butterflies, or a doll-sized watercolor set with real watercolors. my sister has always been a major girly-girl. let me just tell you that she has enough nail polish that it requires an organizational system & we’ll leave it at that. (i’m 32 & still bite my nails.) i liked kirsten & felicity, the redheaded colonial character who rises up against the british circa 1774 (she was released fourth). i’ve always had a soft spot for both the revolutionary war & the “little house on the prairie” books, so it was a tough choice for me. but the dolls cost something like $70 at the time, & each little dress or accessory set was at least $15 more, & it all just seemed like a money pit to my parents, who said no way.

which set the stage for an adulthood of being weirdly obsessed with these dolls that i was not allowed to have as a child.

i thought i had read addy’s books ten years ago when i started researching american girl again, but i guess i didn’t, because i checked them out of the library last week & read them over the weekend & HOLY SHIT. i knew on some level that she was an “escaped slave,” but her first book is all about the work she has to do on the plantation, her brother trying to run off & getting hunted down by dogs & hauled back to the plantation to be whipped, addy getting whipped for saying goodbye to his father while he is manacled on the ground after being sold to another slave owner…i mean, JESUS. there’s a scene where addy is helping serve lunch to her master, who is hosting a fellow slave owner. the other slave owner asks if addy’s master would be willing to sell her, & then he pets her head. if you are an adult who is aware that female slaves of all ages were routinely raped & sexually exploited by their masters, you will definitely pick up on those undertones in this scene. god only knows how it reads to a child. there’s another scene where addy is distracted while working in the fields because her brother & father have been sold. she misses a few worms that she was supposed to be picking off the tobacco plants & the overseer forces her to eat them. GODDAMN. i felt traumatized reading that, & i am four times older than the target demographic. when addy & her mother finally decide to run away, addy’s mother explains that they have to leave behind addy’s one-year-old sister esther. they have to run too far & too fast to make it to the safe house before being re-captured, & carrying a baby will only slow them down. plus she could cry at any time & give them away. i mean, it is beyond imagining.

i feel like most of the american girl books are heavier than i expect them to be when i am just looking at their plastic smiling doll faces & their cute little accessory sets, but addy’s really blew me away. i feel like most of her collection is quite fetching (especially the retired stuff), but really? no one at american girl stopped & had a moment where they were like, “hmmm…we have created an escaped slave doll…& now we are going to SELL HER.” it’s a bit tone-deaf, no?

alive & more midwestern than ever before

my self-imposed hiatus has finally come to a close. i guess. i needed a break to finish up a personal writing project, & i did that last week. i wish it was something really exciting, like a novel or a zine or something, but…it wasn’t. let’s not speak of it again.

i feel rusty at this blog-writing thing. part of it is that i have never really had a clear picture of what this thing is actually for, if anything. it’s not like i lead an action-packed life that actually needs to be documented on the internet for the entertainment & edification of others. but it’s also not like i need an outlet to express my innermost thoughts & feelings. i have not one but two real diaries i use for that purpose, which i write in using actual pens.

my first ever experience writing on the internet was in early 2000. i didn’t have a computer of my own at the time, because i had no money, no one that might have given me a gift had any money, & i still thought the internet was probably just a flash in the pan anyway. when i wanted to use the internet, i walked to the portland public library & enjoyed the free hour allotted to all portland public library cardholders. it’s difficult to imagine now. i wonder what else i would do with my time if i only used the internet for an hour a day now. i can’t imagine that i am capable of reading more than i already do (i three or four books a week, plus every issue of “bitch,” “the new yorker,” “writer’s digest,” &–i admit it–“real simple” magazines, plus the “new york times” every day). & i get plenty of sleep. maybe i would actually write a novel. or socialize.

“blogs” were just starting to appear in 2000. i don’t know if anyone used that word though. i think they were generally called either “websites” (by people who took themselves seriously) or “online diaries” (by people like me, who were 20-year-old girls). i started one because i had just moved to portland a few months before & i still had tons of zine friends scattered all over the place & i thought keeping an “online diary” might be a good way to streamline the process of updating my friends on my life. it was a diaryland site with a background of orange stars. so perfect for a 20-year-old girl! i’m not even going to pretend to be ashamed. at the time, i loved diaries & i loved stars because i was still at a point in my life where i felt tremendous amounts of goofy enthusiasm for things that were really simple & maybe kind of trite.

sometimes i miss those days.

in retrospect, i had boundless enthusiasm for all kinds of different projects when i was twenty years old. so it makes sense that my “online diary” turned into an exercise in documenting my adventures & i found my voice really quickly. i was working at a bookstore that was in the process of unionizing, i was volunteering at an anarchist infoshop, i joined the radical cheerleaders, i started a feminist art collective, i was planning regular anarchist protests (especially after the 2000 presidential elections), i was writing zines, traveling a lot, going to shows, stenciling, making art…i mean, it was a little ridiculous. & unfathomable to me now. how did i used to be that person?

my life is really different now…which is a relief, actually, because it’s twelve years later. my biggest project recently has been trying to get pregnant. it has been unbelievably stressful. part of that may be because i am the kind of person who can find a way to make a walk in the park on a sunny day or petting a sleepy kitten stressful, but…seriously. i think any ladies who have actually had to try to get pregnant instead of just waking up one day & being delighted to find that they got pregnant on accident know what i mean. it’s hard to fathom when you’re not in the midst of it, & it’s nearly impossible to explain.

in the meantime, i am trying to live my normal life. it’s utterly bizarre to go through the paces of adult living while simultaneously hoping that your pleasant & streamlined daily routine will soon be upended by nausea, physical discomfort, doctor’s appointments, & eventually a screaming, crying drool machine. & to realize that you will actually be upset if you have to just keep living a peaceful life of reading library books, discussing literature at feminist book club, going to bingo night, & traveling without thinking about car seats.

that’s right, i said bingo night! when jared first told me that he was thinking about applying to KU, i thought, “kansas might not be so bad. i bet they have a bingo night.” then i forgot all about it until a year ago. i discovered that there is bingo at the american legion on wednesdays & saturdays, & i asked around, trying to rustle up a friend to go with me. (needless to say, jared is not really interested in playing bingo.) it didn’t happen, & i was reluctant to go alone, so i forgot about it again. until last week, when my friend jaimie started going to bingo with her mom. they invited me to go with them, & now i have a raging case of “dabbin’ fever” (as it is known in the bingo vernacular). expect this to become a regular element in my writing here. in twelve short years, i have gone from being a heavily pierced feminist anarcho-punk who rarely slept but routinely called people out for their political transgressions to being a cape-wearing, “new yorker”-reading bingo maniac who attends water aerobics classes & suffers from baby rabies. i did not see that coming.

i don’t really want a community

i haven’t written here in so long that the wordpress website got kicked off my cache of most-frequented websites. even more shameful, internet solitaire replaced it.

august was something of a lost month. i enjoyed my last few weeks of spinster summer by hanging out in a truck pool, going to some punk shows, going dancing, getting drunk a lot, kicking back on the front porch listening to blue oyster cult, & signing up for a 6:30am water aerobics class. i read three books all month. usually i read a book a day, on average.

i may have mentioned previously that i keep a daily log–a diary, i guess? if we are using the old-fashioned definitions of “diary” (a book in which you write down what you do) & “journal” (a book in which you write down how you feel). i keep both, actually, but i’m a lot more devoted to the diary. i actually take notes on what i do every day so i can transcribe them as stories in the diary. which often strikes me as ridiculous because i am not exactly a lion tamer or a bomb defusing technician. the sentence “i cleaned the bathroom today” appears in my diary with surprising frequency.

anyway, i really fell behind in writing up my days during spinster summer, & after jared got back, i even stopped keeping my daily notes. today was the first really perfect day we’ve had in lawrence in months–perfect weather for putting on jeans & a hoodie & sitting outside somewhere, writing. so i went outside & tried to catch up on the diary entries for the days for which i did not have notes. the shitty part is that the reason i didn’t bother taking notes is because i was too fucking anxious, depressed, & miserable. the last few weeks of august were some of the worst weeks of my entire life. possibly flying out to ohio to attend to the details surrounding my dad dying, which culminated in me having a vaso vagal episode & needing to be rushed to the hospital in an ambulance in front of the already-traumatized four-year-old my mom babysat for at the time was worse…but only slightly. i feel that the worst is behind me at this point, but i had to relive it to write about it & i managed to thoroughly bum myself out.

& you know how it is when you’re bummed out, especially about something that is kind of a non-issue. you kind of start looking for other reasons to be bummed out. i didn’t have to look too far to get kind of bummed out by some friend issues. i have a friend in lawrence who is really hating on lawrence right now. luckily for her, she is also making plans to move away to another city. unluckily for me, this means she feels totally free to talk at length about how much lawrence & almost everyone in it blows. i am likely to be living here for at least another couple of years & i really want to try to make the most of it, so this isn’t really my favorite topic of conversation. plus, you know, there are some people in this general area that i really like. i have had some really good times here recently (see above: truck pools, punk shows, etc).

when i mentioned this, she said, “of course you don’t mind lawrence. everything worked out for you. you moved here, everyone likes you. you have a community.”

i feel like there’s so much wrong with this statement. everything most certainly did not “work out” for me. allow me to present the evidence: I LIVE IN FUCKING KANSAS. in what world can that be construed as “working out” in any way? i am just trying to make the best of a pretty shitty situation here.

second, i guarantee that not everyone likes me. never in my life have i ever been in any situation where everyone liked me. unless maybe i have been sitting in a room all by myself. i didn’t get this far in life without realizing at some point that i have a very divisive personality. some people love me, some people hate me. there are plenty of people in lawrence who fucking hate me. just because i don’t care doesn’t mean that anyone should be laboring under the delusion that i am universally feted & that the mayor is making plans for a ciara day parade…though i imagine a ciara day parade would look a lot like this:

& third, there is a world of difference between “everyone” (or even just some people) “liking” someone & that person having a community. i wrote quite a bit in “love letters to monsters” #3 about how i don’t even really believe in the concept of “community” (as employed by punk/activist types) anymore. everyone seems to use that word to mean something different. some people think that a person has community if they have people they can call up & freak out to at 3am. that doesn’t apply to me because i’m kind of beyond the stage in my life where i am going to call anyone at 3am unless it is a pretty serious fucking emergency, & then i’d probably be calling 911 or something. some people think that a person has community if they have some friends to bro down with at a show or something. but you can bro down with a fleeting acquaintance in a social setting just as easily as you can with someone who has vowed to have your back for life.

i think a lot of people confuse “having community” with “having friends,” with the caveat that once you have turned said friends into the mythical community, you get to…stop trying or something. but all relationships require effort. i have friends i’ve been tight with for over ten years & i still have to work a lot of times to make time for them, see their points of view, etc. & with the kids in lawrence that i “have community with,” it’s even harder because they are newer friends. & they are younger friends. they are still in that stage of life where the think it counts as “hanging out” if they randomly bump into me on the street when i’m out buying stamps. i like a little more intention in my relationships, personally. these are kids that don’t reliably answer their phones or return texts, & with whom i have spent far more time drunk than sober. they are very wonderful, funny, entertaining, sweet, helpful, thoughtful, interesting people…they are friends. new friends. with whom i am still finding my feet. “community” makes me think of shit like co-counseling (ugh) & accountability processes &…well, jared put it best when he said, “the difference between friends & community is that community is still there even after it decides it doesn’t like you as a person.” i don’t expect anyone to stick around after they’ve decided they don’t like me as a person, so let’s just be friends, okay?

so i turned 32 the other day

i received a really strange e-mail yesterday from some dude who works for a hydrotherapy equipment company. he said he had stumbled across some entry i wrote about taking a water aerobics class, & after ensuring me that water aerobics is 100% punk, he asked to write a guest entry on “the public perception of water aerobics”. he said he would be sure to maintain “the high quality writing standards that [my] readers have come to expect.” i have not taken him up on the offer. it has never occurred to me to bring in guest posters, & if i was going to do that, i probably wouldn’t start with a hydrotherapy equipment salesperson who wants to discuss the public perceptions of water aerobics.

so, i’m 32 now! i went to boston this past weekend to spend my birthday with jared. probably the weirdest thing that happened is that the ticketing agent at the kansas city airport didn’t ask to see my ID when i got my boarding pass. when i asked if she needed to see it, she said, “not if you’re under 18.” i told her i was 31. she said, “oh! then i do need to see your ID! & you look great for your age!” um, i really don’t. i think maybe i could pass for 27 or 28, but anyone who is standing right in front of me & thinking that i am seventeen years old needs to see an optometrist.

on another flight, a fellow passenger overheard me say something about wanting to smoke a cigarette after the plane landed. she started lecturing me about how terrible this is & was like, “you really shouldn’t smoke! you’ll regret it when you’re older!” i conceded that i probably would–hell, i regret it now! she said, “you’re in college, right? what are you, twenty?” my jaw dropped. i told her i was 31. she did a double take & said, “oh. well. i guess you’re an adult. i was going to say that smoking could hurt your job prospects down the road.” i told her my job prospects were not really a big concern, without elaborating that i am disabled. she said, “& smoking can prematurely age you. but i guess you’re okay.” i guess. it turned out that she was 38. she looked about 72, so she was speaking from experience.

my visit to boston was kind of awesome, & kind of annoying. it was really fantastic to see jared & get to spend some quality time with him. spinster summer is going swimmingly, but i do miss jared. he arranged to take me to salisbury beach for my birthday, where we stood around in the surf & played a gazillion games of skeeball. we accrued enough tickets to get a rubbery hot pink toy lizard, an awesome plastic shark, & an over-sized glittery pink ring.

me standing next to the world's most amazing hamburger sign, at salisbury beach.
jared at the soda shop, at salisbury beach.
me & the ocean! (clearly i am not a teenager.)

when we got back to the city, we went to see the outdoor seal exhibit at the new england aquarium.

me bonding with a seal lying on its back.
OMG so cute

& then we went out for dinner at trattoria di monica in the north end. jared & i ordered the bruschetta special appetizer, which was topped with mozzarella, plum tomatoes, figs, basil, & i don’t know what else. fucking. delicious. as an entree, i ordered the four cheese ravioli. i nearly lost my mind because it was so amazing. after i finished devouring it, i said, “i just want to do something to memorialize how unbelievably delicious this meal was.” but i couldn’t actually think of anything to do–maybe get a plate of ravioli tattooed on me?–so i did nothing. allow me to state for the record that not all italian food is created equal, & if you have a large selection of italian restaurants to choose from, doing a little research is a really good idea. i picked trattoria di monica because it featured a very simple, traditional menu, but had excellent reviews. i guess this advice works for pretty much anything, but there are few things i care about as much as i care about italian food, so. yes.

the annoying part is that, in the days leading up to my birthday, bart kept saying that he needed to do laundry. bart was letting us stay with him, & he was letting us use his car pretty much as needed, which was really generous of him, so i’m reluctant to complain too much about small inconveniences or whatever. but the point is that he did not follow through & do laundry until the morning of my birthday. & of course he needed his car in order to do laundry–the same car that we had been openly planning to drive to salisbury beach in order to celebrate my birthday. had we known about this crimp in the plans, we could have arranged to rent a car of our own or something, but we didn’t know, so we had to wait until he was finished with his laundry, & then we had to drive him to work before we could get on the road.

me outside the laundromat, just barely holding it together & not going on a killing spree.
jared, & bart in the background, slowly ruining my birthday one load of wash at a time.

i make a big deal about my birthdays. & i make a big deal about other people’s birthdays. a person’s birthday should be the one day a year when no one does anything to inconvenience them. i really did feel a little bit bad about being even a little bit upset, because hello. i was turning 32, not five. i acknowledge that it’s possibly a little bit childish for me to want my birthday to seriously be all about me & not at all about one of my friends washing his laundry. but still! i took the photo & warned him that i was going to post it on the internet with a bunch of complaining about how he ruined my birthday, so here it is.