The last month and a half or so have been surprisingly good. I mentioned some time ago that I’m doing okay emotionally speaking. It’s weird for me. I’m used to being dissatisfied and unhappy about the way things are. I’m used to this underlying current of…. well… depression. That’s what it is, so why am I looking for another word to convey it?
I am, by no means, implying that I’m “cured”, and I am afraid that it’s not going to last, but, something has changed. Things are different now. I’m not quite sure what did it. Maybe it’s not having the secret of my sexuality hanging over my head. Maybe it’s the fact that I finished my book and I’m taking the next steps in that process. Maybe it’s just that 36 1/2 years was long enough and those depressive neural pathways have shorted out. Somehow I doubt that it’s that last one.
Admittedly, it was easier to feel good about life when I was on vacation and therefore could sleep late and do whatever I wanted with my day while still having the guarantee of a pay check every other Friday. Now I’m back at work and really nothing has changed about work. I’m finding it really hard to go there. Not because I’m dreading going to work specifically, just because it’s really hard to get up and get moving in the mornings. And my brain seems to want to believe that I’m still on vacation even though I know it’s not true. I’ve been staying up way too late, which makes getting up early for work very difficult. I’ve got to change that behavior, post-haste.
That is not to say that I don’t dread coming to work… Or more specifically, it’s not to say that I look forward to coming to work. But I’ve really begun to see what an easy gig I’ve got, and how little is required of me for the money I make. In that respect, at least, I’m really, very lucky.
As I mentioned before, I’m very much aware of how little value I add to the operation around the office and knowing that leaves me unfulfilled. I want to do a job that I feel like matters and/or that leaves me fulfilled with the outcome. It seems like that would be one and the same, but I’m not sure.
I’ve been dragging my feet a bit on the EMT thing and if most people asked me why, I would tell them it’s because there aren’t really any jobs to be had, and that’s true. And I’d tell them that I haven’t figured out a way to do that job and still make a living wage, and that’s also true… though my definition of “a living wage” may or may not be accurate in most peoples eyes.
The reality is, though, I’m scared. I’m scared of taking a huge risk and finding out that I’m not happy doing that job. I’m scared of finding that I’m not really very good at it. I’m questioning whether it’s really right for me. And I don’t know if that questioning is because my spirit is trying to tell me something my brain doesn’t want to know, or if that questioning is my fear trying to hold me back. We’ve all heard the old saying, “…those who can’t, teach.” What if that’s all I am is a teacher? (And before anyone says it, I can’t be a teacher either, not before I have some practical experience to fall back on.)
So it’s true that I’m dragging my feet for practical concerns but that’s not the only reason. Still, I put a lot of effort and energy into that training and there’s a part of me that feels like to give up on it would be wasting something valuable. What I’ve been thinking about for the last several months, though, is that I can’t make enough money to support my current lifestyle working full-time as an EMT. And then I realized, I’ve fallen back into an all-or-nothing way of thinking. IF I can find a part-time job as an EMT, I have the option to go part-time in my current job as well. I’d still take a cut in pay, but not nearly as much.
A recent comment on my blog reminded me of something that, oddly enough, I’ve forgotten: I love to write and would really like to get paid to do it. Actually, for some reason it seems important to make the distinction that, more so than wanting to be paid to write, I want to be paid for my writing. I see a difference between the two and for me that difference is this: when a person get’s paid to write, they are compensated for the act of writing. When a person is paid for their writing someone has purchased the words, placed value on the information or opinion or story that is created and ideally it’s a residual income for the product rather than a one time check for your time. I suppose I’m splitting hairs and I certainly wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to be paid to write, but I’d really like to be paid for my writing.
Yesterday, I discussed my position with Deb: Ten years in a job I don’t love with no idea of where to go from here, but knowing there will be no more advancement in my current position. A desire to make use of my training. A desire to write for profit. We talked about figuring out what it is I want to do and then how to pursue it. I told her, “That’s kind of my problem. I want three things: 1) to make use of my EMT Training, 2) to write and 3) to make at least $XX,XXX a year.” (Obviously, those X’s were real numbers, but I’m wondering if it’s tacky to talk dollar amounts here…)
Deb said, “But don’t you make pretty close to $XX,XXX already?”
“Including my bonus, I made $XX,XXX and change last year,” I told her. (those first two X’s were the same numbers in all three instances.)
She said, “Okay! So you’ve already achieved one of those things.”
Part of what I’ve been struggling with is the money. I think we know by now that I grew up in a poor family and I suffered a lot of lack. The pain of that manifest itself in my own relationship with money and how I handled it when I started earning my own. It took me a long time to understand that and learn to be more responsible, and I would by no means say that I’ve learned everything I need to in that regard but for the first time I feel financially secure. I make a nice income and can afford all my bills. Recently, I’ve even been able to afford a little bit of a social life, though admittedly that’s due, at least in part, to the insurance reimbursement for my therapy bills. Still, I’m understandably hesitant to make a change that will reduce my income.
So it’s difficult for me to not see things in a limited capacity. Either I accept that what I have here and now is the only way for me to make a livable income and I stay here for thirteen more years (the company has some odd equation having to do with your age and the number of years of service for when you can retire with benefits), or I quit and pursue some of my other interests which will, at least in the short-term, leave me extremely lacking. It might be noble to “do what you love, even for less money”, but for me, the money is part of the equation. If I’m not making a satisfactory income, I doubt that I’ll be happy doing what I’m doing… I know that’s not all there is, it’s just that, for now, I can’t see anything else.
Deb said, “You’ve already accomplished one of those things. You already make $XX,XXX a year.”
I told her, “Yes, but I didn’t say I want to work as an EMT, get paid to write OR make $XX,XXX. I said I want to work as an EMT, get paid to write AND make $XX,XXX, or more. The problem is, I haven’t figure out a way to make those three things happen.”
There was a brief pause and just as Deb opened her mouth to say something, I said, “And yes, I realized the end of all of those sentences is, ‘At least not yet.'”
I keep clicking on the Firefox tab with WordPress on it thinking, I should post something here and then I click on the Microsoft Skydrive tab thinking, I really want to work on my book. And then I click on the facebook tab to see if I can fish yet. And I just keep bouncing around between the three tabs trying to figure out what to do now, while effectively doing nothing at all…
I’ve done a little bit of work this morning, which is, of course, what I should be doing. But I either don’t have a lot to do right now, or I’ve forgotten something terribly important… Honestly? Either one is possible.
I’m not sure why I’m not more enthusiastically following through… Well, maybe it’s more accurate to say that my enthusiasm for the two writing options is equal and one seems to cancel out the other. But the truth is, I’m also aware that I set out to write something very different the other day when I was here, and I’m… not really embarrassed, just reluctant, I guess, to make another stab and having something like that be the end result again.
Finally, though, I just decided that I needed to get this out of my system and then I can go back to the book and so here I am. You’re welcome!
There have been a few, relatively small, but relevant and significant developments recently that seemed worth sharing.
After the Spring EMT class ended, I had some idea of the path I wanted to follow. My end goal in this Emergency Medicine business would be to work part-time as a Paramedic (with a good salary) and part-time in some sort of Community Outreach/Education role. (OK, if I’m being completely honest my ideal scenario would be to do something along those lines with a Fire Department, where I could make a Fire Department salary and work Fire Department hours, without having to be a Fire Fighter.) I mentioned all this to Mr. Williams on the way out of the building on the last night of class and he told me they have positions like that in the San Francisco Fire Department and when I was ready he could put in a word for me. Great! So now I just have to get ready…
But in order to be ready, of course, I need to go to Paramedic school. One of the prerequisites for paramedic school is between five hundred and a thousand hours of practical experience in Emergency Medicine. But how could I get those hours and still support myself?
A few days later I had a conversation with my boss about the possibility of me working part-time in my current role, fully expecting him to be negative about it. Much to my surprise he immediately, and without hesitation said, “sure.” Of course, almost immediately he started to backtrack. He wasn’t so sure it would work in my current position, but he was happy to help me find a place within the organization where it would work. He promised to make some calls.
Some time passed and nothing really happened. He told me periodically that he was trying to touch bases with a specific someone in a specific department that he thought I might fit into with my skills but of course the specific someone was never around when he went to see her. They played a lot of phone tag and missed e-mails and finally, just as I felt nothing was ever going to come of it he copied me on an e-mail with the woman and her assistant, with a suggestion that she and I should talk directly. I was of course open to that and she wanted to set up an informational interview… in five weeks. Beggars can’t be choosers.
A few weeks ago, John asked me if I had met with this woman yet. I told him I had not but that I had an appointment scheduled with her. He suddenly had the “brainstorm” that I might be a good fit in the department in charge of disaster recovery and business continuity and he promised to contact the person in charge of that group. I don’t think that ever happened.
I had sort of given up the hope that things would work out for me to work part-time for my current employer when the time finally rolled around for my informational interview. As expected, the person I met with didn’t really have much to offer in terms of possible positions within the company under her direction. She agreed that disaster recovery/business continuity might be a good fit for me and lo and behold, she works with those people.
While the informational interview itself, didn’t garner much result, I came away with some good advice about my resume, and her promise to send a note to a gentleman in Southern California who oversees disaster recovery/business continuity for the entire state for the company as well as reaching out to some of her counterparts in the medical centers to find out if they have anything that would fit the bill.
Later that day, I was CC’d on a couple of e-mails between the two and as it turns out the SoCal man will be here in Oakland next Monday for meetings and agreed to meet me for lunch to discuss my situation. Later still, that day, I had a meeting with John (my individual Monthly Meeting which happens about once a quarter, whether I need it or not). He informed me that he had discussed the idea of reducing my hours with his boss and his boss was open to the idea. Suddenly I find myself with a realistic option to work for my current employer reduced hours (part-time) and work part-time as an EMT, if I can find a job. I would keep my hourly wage, though I’d no longer be salary. I’d keep my benefits with only a slight increase in the cost of the premiums and with the addition of the pay I’d earn as an EMT I’d only be making slightly less money than I do now.
Now I just need to find a Part-Time EMT job.
In November, the contract for Emergency Medical Services in my county changes hands. At the end of May, I submitted my application to the new company, on-line, just for the hell of it. I really didn’t expect anything to come of it. There are about to be a lot of much more qualified, experienced people looking for jobs in this field and I’m just fresh out of school. I took all the preliminary steps and e-mailed the recruiter to make sure he was aware of my interest and background… I may have mentioned I was the top of my class… maybe. The recruiter did acknowledge my e-mail and then I didn’t hear anything else. I can’t say I was surprised.
The same day as my informational interview and my discussion with John about me working part-time, I got an e-mail from the new Emergency Medical Services provider. It was a questionnaire they called “the next step in our hiring process” designed to get a feel for my personality and whether I’m really built for this type of job. One of those “there are no right or wrong answers” kind of questionnaires, but with questions like, “are you better able to identify dangerous or risky situations, than others.” I think I have the right temperament for the job.
The process is slow. They take over in November and I know they’ve already hired the first round of people; the people who have to ready to work on day one. But it is my understanding that they are also hiring a second wave of people and that they did reserve a block of jobs specifically for people who live in town and who are new graduates. It may take a while still but it’s not at all beyond the realm of possibility that I will get hired with this company.
I’m not, by any means putting all my eggs in one basket either. There are other companies that I have applied to and still more that I should/will but things are looking up.
In other news, it turns out that I know somebody who knows somebody who might know somebody. My friend Karin had a brainstorm the other day that might turn into something good. She has a friend who has lots of connections in lots of different industries and places and as it turns out Karin’s friend knows someone who “has connections in the publishing industry”. Karin sent the first two chapters of my book to this friend who will read and comment on them and send information about publishing. Certainly, this is a far cry from the success that I fear, but it’s a step in the right direction and a lot further than I was yesterday.
… or you guys are going to give up on me and just assume I’ve lost my mind.
That may not be all that far from the truth.
I just don’t really know what to say anymore.
One day last week after class, Mr. Williams and I were talking about some of the students. Many of these “kids” are not doing as well as they should be, and for the first time, I’m beginning to see a little bit of wisdom in the way Mr. Williams approached things with my class. I don’t think he needed to be quite so much of an asshole as he was, but he has been super easy on this class and now they’re paying the price. They didn’t have all the pressure on them that we had, because he wasn’t so demanding and because he only did two chapters a week instead of three and now they are scrambling, on their own time, to get through the rest of the reading before their final which is this Wednesday.
We spent the last three class sessions doing skills tests. Since I am a certified EMT I can do the testing and I have done all of the Trauma Assessment tests thus far. Not everyone has tested, but most of them have and of the ones that tested, most of them failed. Even the class brainiacs who I expected to do well, failed the test. In some cases, it was on a technicality. Judy failed because she didn’t initiate high-flow oxygen for her patient (well, pretend to anyway.) She said that she didn’t feel that her patient needed oxygen since he was not showing signs of respiratory distress, and technically she’s right, but, it’s right on the testing sheet that “failed to initiate high-flow oxygen for the patient” is an automatic fail and we’ve been stressing this with the students all semester. She gets a second chance to take the test and she’ll do just fine, but she should have passed the first time.
We lost half the class at the midterm because they didn’t pass the test, I’m not sure that all of the rest of them will pass the final and all their skills tests. Last Wednesday, they were all afraid to come to me for their Trauma Assessment test because everyone who took it on Monday failed. That wasn’t my doing, it was theirs, but of course I have the reputation of being the guy who fails everybody. I was very glad that most of the people who did take in on Wednesday passed so now they know it wasn’t me.
Tonight, I am conducting a review for the final and they take the final on Wednesday. Next week we will finish skills testing and then this class will be over. It feels like it went so fast; much faster than my class.
I’m kind of glad it’s ending. I’m tired of having to run from work to school two nights a week. I’ve given up a lot of my personal time to meet with students and help them practice skills. Most of the one’s I have helped, have passed the skills and so it makes me unhappy that the rest of them didn’t take advantage of the opportunities that were presented. But I’ll be glad to have my time back. On the other hand, it makes me kind of sad because I don’t know when I’ll get the opportunity to make use of my knowledge and skills and I don’t want it to fade away.
I’m working on my resume, something I’m not skilled at and I’m waiting for some feedback from some people on it. Once that’s done, I’ll start applying to jobs and see what comes of it. I still don’t know how I’m going to support myself working in this field, but maybe if I just try it’ll work out.
I want to try to make a “teaching” resume as well, and I’d like to see if I can’t work part-time as a safety trainer; maybe with the company my employer uses, maybe with the Red Cross, maybe with another entity I don’t yet know about, I don’t know. I just know that I need to make a change.
I’ve been putting something off that I shouldn’t have, I just was reluctant to deal with it.
Today, I took as much of the necessary paperwork as I could gather, along with my Cashiers Check for $110.00 to the Alameda County EMS Agency to apply for my State EMT Certificate.
I got my National Registry of EMTs Certification in February, but I can’t work until I have my state certificate which really only amounts to submitting copies of my national stuff, my course completion certificate, a copy of my CPR card and drivers license, a copy of my Life Scan form and paying the fee. Life Scan is a Department of Justice and FBI back ground check. I did the finger printing and paid the fee, last week and the results will be sent directly to the AlCo EMS.
I hadn’t actually filled out the request form until I was at the bank to get the Cashiers Check. I had glanced over it and knew that it asked if I had ever been arrested or convicted of any infraction, including misdemeanors. What I hadn’t read was what it says on the back about providing a copy of the final disposition of my case from the court and a written explanation of the events.
I ran back home to search my files for the “final disposition” only to realize that I don’t think I ever got anything from the court.
For anyone who is unaware of what I’m talking about, on January 18, 2004, I was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. I was given a hefty, hefty fine and additional punishment. I did everything that I was supposed to do. I paid my fine, did my community service and attended the ridiculous excuse for “alcohol education” classes and I put the whole thing behind me… until now. When I went to court for my trial, I was given a date, in February, 2007 when I was to return to court to have my case closed out, but I was given written instructions to call a few days ahead to find out if I really even had to go. Because I had fulfilled everything I was supposed to, I was told I did not have to return to court, but I do not believe I ever received anything further from the court.
I wrote my simple, unapologetic, matter-of-fact account of the situation and the outcome and made a photo copy of my form from my original court date which showed my “sentence” and I took those to the AlCo EMS Agency with the rest of my paperwork. They accepted my packet and my money and told me that someone would be in touch if they wanted additional information. Honestly, I’m assuming the Life Scan will bring back all the information they require, but I don’t really know. Before I left I asked, “So I’ll either get a phone call, a letter, or my card. Right?” The receptionist confirmed that to be correct.
I’ve been putting this off, because honestly, if I don’t have the state certification, I can’t work as an EMT, and I guess on some level, if I can’t work as an EMT then I have an excuse not to be. Also, there is a chance that I will be denied state certification, because of my DUI and if I am, then that means I will have done all that I have done, for nothing…
Well, not nothing. I did start this whole adventure simply because I wanted to know more and now I do. But I also became very invested in it and I think I want to pursue it. Now that I’m invested, if I find out I can’t do it because the state won’t give me certification because of this stupid thing I did seven years ago, that will really disappoint me, to say the least.
On May 1st the fee goes up from $110.00 to $135.00, so I dragged my feet long enough. I dropped it all off, and now it’s just a waiting game…
Honestly, my anxiety level is pretty high right now and that tells me one thing…
I really don’t want to think or “talk” about this. The problem of course is, I can’t not think about it. So I might as well write it and get it out of my head. I’m very confused right now.
Somewhat against my better judgement, I went out with some people on Saturday night. Two of the people were students from the EMT class that I’m helping with. The third person was another “Teacher’s Assistant.” I guess that’s what I am, unofficially. I’m volunteering my time because I wanted to reenforce the knowledge for myself, but right now I’m kind of dealing with some feelings of being taken advantage of. I don’t doubt that Mr. Williams appreciates my help, but I think after so many weeks of my reliable presence he is taking it for granted that I am going to be there and that he can put me to work. That’s not what bothers me though; that’s what I signed up for. It’s the students. Some of the students are less than gracious. They seem to take us (the other “TA”, Micah, and me) for granted and they don’t seem to appreciate the sacrifices we are making for them. I suppose that feeling may have accounted, to some extent, for Mr. Williams attitude last semester, but the thing is, he is getting paid. The rest of us are volunteers.
That’s really not what this is about.
After my experience last semester, I am very reluctant to consider being friendly with any of the people in this class now. I have given up every other Sunday afternoon (the time when I’m not hanging out with Lil’B) to go and meet with some of the students and help them practice their skills. Over the course of the weeks a rapport has developed among some of us, and I was more or less OK with it except that I feel like at times I’ve let my guard down more than I should and I’ve allowed my need to be liked to interfere with my position as a leader or an authority in the setting.
Micah has been very involved with this class, more than he was for mine. He has helped with all the study groups and skills practices. He’s a good guy and I like him a lot. He and I are the only ones who show up reliably to assist with the class. There are other people, but their attendance is sporadic and unreliable. And when they do show up, all the students clamor to join up with Micah and me, because Allen is a jack ass who yells at the students (when he’s not telling them of his personal life difficulties) and teaching them to his teacher’s specifications, which is all well and good except that his teacher wasn’t Mr. Williams, and Mr. Williams is who is teaching now, and then there’s Noah, who really has no idea what he’s doing and routinely comes to me to understand what he’s supposed to be doing, even though I’m not the teacher and graduated from the class more recently than anyone else who is helping, which seems wrong to me, because at least in theory, they should have more experience than I do, and oh my God, I can’t believe I just wrote another run-on sentence.
Anyway, I’m well liked, apparently, by most of the students so it came as no surprise when Judy texted me. “Check your calendar for the 16th. It’s Laura’s last home game & I want to go & support her. & then we want to go out afterwards.” Laura comes to class most days, dressed in some sort of athletic attire embroidered with the name of the water polo team from one school or another. These days she is affiliated with the women’s water polo team at Cal State Berkeley. She’s athletically built, is quite outgoing and has a very confident personality, or at least that how it seems at first. More on that later.
Judy is two years older than I, and Mr. Williams says she is my twin. I don’t honestly know why and I’m not sure I like it. We do seem to have a lot of similarities, however where we differ, we differ greatly. Judy was a cheerleader; I was a dork. Judy is very outgoing; I’m shy. (No really, I am!) Judy makes herself the center of attention, all the time; I try to fade into the wood work. Judy is perpetually laden with sexual innuendo, to the point of seeming like she’s trying too hard; I’m unreasonably uncomfortable talking about such things. In another text Judy said, “I hope you know that when this class is over, I am going to actively pursue you till you become one of my best friends!!!”, to which I replied, “Read: Stalk.”
I told Judy, “You might have guessed I don’t know the first thing about sports, but I am free that day and I might go.”
She replied, “there is no ‘might go’ available.” Earlier that night, I had to actually separate Judy and Laura because they wouldn’t stop talking and giggling while I was trying to teach them the skill of emergency childbirth, something I really don’t know how to do in the first place (would very much like, never to experience) and found out halfway through the night, I was not teaching correctly. Judy texted me, “That is what Laura & I were talking about is how much fun we would have hanging out with you.”
The next day she texted me to say, “I need another job so bad. Don’t you need a personal assistant or something?”
I told her, “Have I mentioned how much I hate MY job?”
She replied, “Yes…but you would like your job more if you got to hang with me all day.”
Somehow I doubt that.
Over that week-end, I found out that Aisha Tyler was playing a local comedy club this past week-end, but only on Saturday and Sunday. I love Aisha Tyler! (If you’ve been coming around here long, you know this already) I don’t generally go out on Sunday nights though, because I’m old and I have to work the next day, so I really wanted to go see her show on Saturday night at 10:30. I texted Judy, “About what time do you think Laura’s match will be over?”
Judy: “Don’t know but we wanted you to hang with us afterwards.
Me: “Did you have something specific in mind?” I wondered if they’d be interested in going to the show and if we had time to get there. Maybe everyone could get a little bit of what they wanted.
Judy: “Yep… but I can’t share it with you. Teehee. Laura wanted us all to go out after the game. Especially if Cal wins!!! It will be fun (trust me). Just pencil us in from 7 till we get you safe back home.”
Me: “You obviously don’t know me very well.”
Judy: “I don’t… that is why we have to hang out.”
Me: “I never trust anybody who tells me “Trust me”.
Judy: “Haha. Smart move.”
Me: “So??? What is the plan?”
Turns out there was no plan made. Micah apparently wanted to challenge Judy to Karaoke. Laura just wanted to make sure there were drinks involved. Judy said, “I think we will just go with the flow & see what there is to do in Berkeley.” This week, the school where the EMT class is taught is on Spring Break. Cal is not on Spring Break so it’s not really a break for Laura, but it’s a break from the EMT class at least.
When it was all said and done everyone was interested in going to see Aisha Tyler. Laura, I found out, is not a player, but an assistant coach. She’s a Fifth-Year Senior, “My victory lap” she calls it, and apparently she’s no longer eligible to play. Judy’s answer was, “Sounds like fun, but I don’t drive in the city.” I get so tired of people saying that. San Francisco is not that bad to drive in and certainly that’s no reason to deprive yourself of having fun. Originally, I told her I would drive her car. She drives a small-ish SUV, as compared to my compact hybrid. I didn’t really think we would fit in my car very well, but I really didn’t want to drive someone else’s car and eventually I told her, “Micah is so big he actually crowds me in the driver’s seat of my car. But I can wear my big girl panties and suck it up, if you two don’t mind being cramped in the back seat.” (None of these people know I’m gay, and occasionally I drop hints.)
Judy: “Yah… except that way we don’t get to see you drunk, which would be really entertaining.”
Me: “I don’t do drunk.”
Judy: “I figured…that is why it would be so entertaining.”
Me: “It’s really not that entertaining. That’s why I don’t do it… Anymore.”
Judy: “Well, I’ll just keep it on my bucket list (since we will be friends till we are old & gray.)
Saturday morning I sent a group text to the three, “FYI. There will be a 5 or so (not level) block walk from the parking garage to the comedy club and back again, so take that into consideration when selecting the height of your heels… Micah.” See, more hints. Laura, apparently, was very impressed that I thought to warn them. She said she told her father about it.
I was a little reluctant to go out with these people. I feel a little bit like it’s inappropriate to associate myself with the students. On the other hand I’m not the teacher and I don’t exactly have people banging down my door to be my friend. I decided I would go and just try to maintain an appropriate level of detachment which, by and large, was easy enough to do.
Micah is currently unemployed and he doesn’t have a working vehicle. I agreed to pick him up and take him to Laura’s match. I asked him on Friday what time he wanted me to pick him up and he said 5:00. That seemed unreasonably early to me but I let it go for the time being. However, as the, as it turned out, very lazy Saturday progressed, it became apparent I was not going to be on time. At 5:00 when, Micah called me, I was just about to step into the shower. Micah told me he was in Pacifica and just about to get on BART. He then told me he’d be back in Oakland around 5:30.
Mr. Williams, he himself a black man, often talks about some of the students living on “BPT” (actually, he says “CPT” but I personally find the C to be offensive.) BPT is “Black People Time”. I would never use that terminology myself, but based on my experiences with Michelle and her family, I can see where the phrase comes from. Michelle has no concept of time. She tells me she’ll be over at 5:30, it’ll be well after 6:00 before I see her. She tells me the movie starts in 20 minutes and we have plenty of time, even though we’re a 15 minute drive from the theater and still have to park, buy our tickets, go to the bathroom, buy our concessions and find seats in the crowded dark theater, but she’s still wandering aimlessly around the house.
It takes nearly an hour to get from Pacifica to Oakland on BART and I knew there was no way that Micah was going to be home by 5:30. I told him I, too, was running late, and we’d play it by ear. I took my shower, brushed my teeth, beautified myself, before I texted him to say, “I’ll be ready to go in 10 minutes. Will you be ready to be picked up?” I got dressed and went into the kitchen to feed the cat. That’s when my phone rang. It’s was Micah who wanted to know how long ago I had sent the text. I told him about 4 minutes. It was 6:03 and he had just arrived in Oakland. He was waiting for the bus that would take him home so he could change for the evening. I told him I would head toward the street corner he was on and we would see if I got there before the bus did.
I picked Micah up and took him to his house so he could change clothes. I hadn’t eaten in hours and I was starving. I knew we would all go eat after the water polo match but I was too hungry to wait that long so I told Micah we’d stop at McDonald’s or something along the way. I didn’t mind buying him a burger. Due to a few circumstances beyond my control we were late arriving at the match. Cal lost to Stanford 8-4 if anybody cares. The match was over a little after 8:00 and we went back to Laura’s apartment so she could change.
Laura’s room mates were having an impromptu party, and there were many distractions as Laura was trying to change and Micah was trying to Flirt. Judy and I were starving and we wanted to get something to eat before heading into The City and Micah and Laura were slowing down the works. Despite my warning, Laura wore a pair of close-fitting jeans, a lovely, but casual black maternity shirt (she says she actually bought it in the maternity department, but God only knows why, she certainly doesn’t need to shop there) and three-inch heels. To be honest, that surprised me for reasons unrelated to the walking that would be taking place. The top was low-cut and she was displaying a pleasant, not absurd amount of cleavage. This was the first time I had ever seen Laura with her hair down and I had no idea how long her hair actually was. She always comes to class with a pony tail. Laura is beautiful, with long blond hair, clear, glowing skin and bright blue eyes. She has perfect, white teeth, with a beautiful smile. She has a low-pitched voice she describes as a smokers voice, even though she doesn’t smoke (think Angie Harmon). It’s not gruff, just not high-pitched. She has a fantastic laugh that is very infectious. She’s just a lot of fun to spend time with.
When she was ready and we were about leave her apartment, Judy told Laura that she looked “hot”. I was surprised to see Laura blush and trivialize the very accurate complement. Later as we walked from my car to the restaurant, I asked, “Laura. You’re not self conscious are you?” She said she was not, but then she said she didn’t believe it when people say things like that. (Um… What does “self-conscious” mean to you?) Judy’s reply was that she had enough confidence for both of them. Oy!
We had dinner at Chipotle and then headed into San Francisco. While we waited in the longest line I’ve ever experienced at this club, I looked up and realized I had a beautiful view of Coit Tower. I tried to take a picture of it, but of course in the dark, at a distance, with my crappy little point and shoot digital, it came out as a blurry swab of dim light on an otherwise dark background. As I pointed my crappy camera at the beautiful specter, I heard Judy behind me. “Two beautiful blondes right here and he’s taking pictures of landscapes.” After I took my bad picture, I turned the camera on her. I couldn’t even see her, and I didn’t really care how the picture turned out, but when it was taken and I looked at the finished product, I saw that in the blink of an eye, she had posed for the picture.
The host/first act of the night was a local morning radio show host; one half of Fernando & Greg, the only gay radio show I’ve ever heard of. I don’t honestly know if it was Fernando or Greg. I don’t really care. He wasn’t funny. The opening act, also a gay man whose name I can not remember, was downright filthy and offensive. Both of them made a lot of gay jokes, which, naturally, I found humor in, to a point, but they both pushed the envelope quite a bit. There were a number of anti-female and anti-heterosexuality jokes made with a lot of derogatory references to female genitalia and I found the whole thing very uncomfortable. I know some people believe that’s what comedy should be. I am not one of those people. Aisha Tyler, of course was hilarious, only once saying something that I found offensive, a single word, but still. That was a new experience for me.
Judy, Laura and Micah enjoyed the show. They complied with the two drink minimum. Micah with a whiskey & lime and a Kamikaze, Laura with two beers and Judy with a bottle of White Zinfandel. I had two Diet Cokes. Judy paid for Micah’s drinks and unbeknownst to me, Laura paid for mine. I drove, used my gas, my electronic toll pass to cross the bridge and paid for the parking, so I didn’t mind letting Laura pay for my absurdly expensive soft drinks ($4.00 a piece).
When the show was over, we got in line to meet my BFF. Laura took this picture. It’s better than the one Michelle took the last time I saw Aisha. That picture was unsharable. (Also? LOOK BRACES!) We also took a group picture.
After, we headed back to the parking garage where my car was parked. No sooner did we get outside, than Judy grabbed Micah and said, “I need an arm.” She then proceeded to hang on him all the way to the garage. Laura and I walked together a few paces ahead of Micah and Judy. Laura was curious about my “relationship” with Aisha and we talked all the way back. She was amused and seemed genuinely… Impressed doesn’t seem like the right word, but for lack of a better option…
It was nearly 1:00 AM when we got to the parking garage and I realized I forgot to have my parking ticket validated. I was just going to pay the full price for my parking ($2.00 every 20 minutes for the three or more hours we were there) but both Judy and Laura told me I shouldn’t do that. I said, “Do you guys really want to walk all the way back there?”
Laura said, “Sure!”
Judy said, “No.”
I said we would have to walk back to get it validated. Judy wanted to wait while I went back. I told her, “We all go or nobody goes.” So we all turned around and went back to the club, about seven blocks, to get the ticket validated. The whole way, Laura and I were ahead of Judy and Micah, and we talked. (You’ll recall that Laura was wearing three-inch heels. What I didn’t say was that she was wearing them with no stockings. At no point did she complain about her feet.)
I was very thirsty and after getting my ticket validated we crossed the street to a liquor store so I could get a bottle of Diet Pepsi. While I was standing at the cooler, I heard Judy say, “Pepsi please” and I grabbed one. Micah and Laura both said they didn’t want anything. I held the Pepsi out to Judy and she just looked at it.
I asked, “Didn’t you say you wanted this?”
“Yeah,” she replied, “but I can’t hold it yet.” After a beat as I just looked at her, she said, “I’ll pay for it, I just can’t hold it.”
I put the bottles down on the counter. The cashier rang them up, and I gave him $4.00. He handed me my change and put the bottles in a black plastic bag. I turned around and followed the crew outside where I pulled the Pepsi out of the bag and held it out to Judy. “I can’t hold that yet,” she said again. Enough was enough. I rolled my eyes, put her Pepsi back in the bag, pulled my Diet Pepsi out and held the bag out to her. She whined for a second and I continued to hold it out to her. Finally she took it and I turned to walk back to the car. Suddenly I felt a drag on my arm as Judy reached out and grabbed it to “steady herself”. Again she said, “I need an arm” and she proceeded to hold on to me all the way back to the car. I hated it, but I didn’t man up and tell her to let go of me.
At first Micah and Laura were ahead of us, but soon, Laura fell behind and walked with Judy and me, and she and I continued our conversation. Soon, Micah joined us.
We were back at Laura’s apartment in Berkeley by 2:00. After a few minutes of conversation, Laura went inside, and Micah and Judy got into her car while I got into mine.
You may be wondering what is so confusing about all this, as the title of this post would imply. On the other hand, I’m not terribly subtle, maybe you’re not wondering at all…
Really, there are a number of things that are confusing to me.
I had fun, and yet, I didn’t.
I liked being out and doing stuff, but I didn’t enjoy feeling taken advantage of. I didn’t like playing taxi service.
I was simultaneously willing and annoyed to have to buy Micah’s food. I understand what it’s like to be broke when everyone else isn’t, and I’m OK with helping him out, and yet, I kind of feel like he should have declined to come out with us if he didn’t have any money. I can imagine how he might feel and I don’t want to make him feel worse. I also think it’s kind of presumptuous of him.
I found Judy’s behavior off-putting, but I realized I don’t really have a good reason to not like her. Plus, she seems to really like me, which means if I reject her, I’ll feel like even more of a dick, than I would if we were just casual acquaintances. She really isn’t a not nice person and I should accept her friendship at least to a point, but I really hate that girly, helpless, I need a man for everything attitude. Too dainty to walk very far. Too dependent to hold her self upright after a couple of glasses of wine. Too cold to hold the cold soda that she asked for. Give me a break! Puh-lease!
Judy and Laura had a lot of whispered conversations. I really hate that! I know it happens. Frequently even. Especially among women. But it’s just so annoying, and I think rather rude when in the midst of company. They sat in the back seat of my car as I drove into the city and they were whispering to each other. They wanted me to turn on music, but in order to be able to hear each other talk, it had to be turned down so low that you couldn’t hear it anyway. After one song I turned it back off and no one noticed for almost 10 minutes.
I felt a little bit like I was bullied into the whole situation, because Judy wanted it and she always seems to get her way. I’m realizing as I write this that Judy tells people what they’re going to do, but she does it in such a way as to feel as though you’re being asked when in fact you’re not. And it’s not until later that you realize you’ve actually been manipulated into doing what she wants. Generally what she wants is harmless enough, but that’s so not the point.
And then there’s the biggest confusion of all.
Without really giving it any thought or even really being aware of what was happening, I found myself admiring… Laura.
I’ve liked Laura since I met her. She’s funny. She’s smart. She’s personable. She’s self-assured. She’s athletic. She seems to be very happy. She’s always seemed a bit of a tomboy, which is fine if that’s your thing. Not butch, not masculine, just… Tomboy.
Something that has always bothered me about women, if you haven’t already picked up on this, and which should have probably given me a clue about myself sooner in life, is the helpless, needy, dainty, girliness of them. I know that I’m treading on dangerous waters here, since the majority of my readership is female, but still…
I never wanted to be with someone I had to do everything for. I always wanted to be with a partner; an equal. I want someone who when they ask for help carrying in the groceries they mean help not do it for me. Better yet, someone who won’t ask for help. That would be awesome! I want to be with someone who, when they get a wild hair to rearrange the furniture, asks for my input, because that’s the only thing they need from me, not my “help” because they want to point and direct while I push all the furniture around. Someone who wants to remodel the bathroom together, not have me do all the work (which is a joke, because I’m as unhandy as you can get.)
I wanted to be with someone who is strong (physically and emotionally), capable, independent, but who can clean themselves up, throw on a nice outfit and be attractive and sexy for an evening outing.
The point is, I wanted to be with someone who was independent. Someone who didn’t need me for every little thing. Someone who is perfectly content to do things on their own but who enjoys doing things with me. I want to be with someone who wants to be with me, not needs to be. I want to feel wanted not needed.
Growing up, I was sure I was never going to find that, but if I some how did, it would be a woman. It had to be, there was no other viable option. For the last few years I’ve been sure I was never going to find that, but if I somehow did, it was going to be a man. Men are my thing, and since I’m not sure I’ll ever truly come to terms with that, I fully expect to be alone for the rest of my life.
But I haven’t stopped thinking about Laura since Saturday night. It’s all very confusing. And there are a lot of reasons for this to be confusing.
I have no idea if Laura is interested in me. Sometimes I think she might be. She enjoys talking to me, and naturally, that can’t possibly be just because she likes me as a person… I’m realizing now, that whatever her motivation, or the extent of her interest, she does show genuine interest in knowing me. She bought me lunch once when we were meeting with a bunch of people to review skills. She hasn’t done that for Micah. She bought my drinks on Saturday, even though I had already handed her money for them. She didn’t buy anything for Micah all night. She walked with and talked to me all the way to the parking garage and back to the club. After just a couple of minutes with Micah, she came back to talk to me on the next walk. She presumably wanted me to come on this outing with them, at least that’s what Judy said.
Laura, seems to me to be all the things I described above: strong, capable, confident, a partner not a clinger on. She’s tough and athletic which is something I’ve always found appealing. But when she took her hair down, and she wore the high heels, never once complaining about how hard they are to walk in, and walked a lot. She looked beautiful; sexy even.
Laura is also too young. She’s only 22. I’m 35. There’s a whole span of history and culture she knows nothing about and I do. I’ve strongly adhered to the “half your age plus seven rule of not being creepy”, which clearly dictates that I can’t be with anyone under 24.
Also, in case I haven’t mentioned it previously… Laura is a girl. A full-fledged girl with floppy chesticles and a real vagina… I assume.
I never truly ruled out the possibility of accidentally falling in love with a woman. Lord knows, a part of my heart always has and always will belong to Heather, but Heather is safe and those feelings are far more about the unconditional love and acceptance I get from her, and not so much about physical or sexual attraction. Heather represents something I’ve never had in my life and I never expect to have again. Laura… Laura is something new.
But I have been with a woman. I know what it’s all about. I’ve performed oral sex, exactly one time, on a woman and I was quite sure, from that one time, it was not something I ever wanted to do again. I can’t imagine feeling differently about that, just because it’s a different woman.
It would be horrible of me to try to get over it and fail. How could I do something so hurtful to someone I cared about? The risk is too great, and not worth taking.
Besides, this may all be one-sided.
I’m blowing this out of proportion.
Laura is something I don’t often seen in women, something that I like and I’m sure that’s what this is about.