Another Quiet Week-End

Not too much to report this week-end.  After work on Friday, I stopped by Karin’s house to drop something off for her and ended up staying for three hours, hanging out, having dinner and, of all things, talking religion… go figure.

I slept late on Saturday and then took my recyclables to the recycling center.  I buy way too much Diet Pepsi, so I pay way too much in California Redemption Value (bottle deposits), not to take them in and get my money back.  Every few months I load up my car with trash bags full of aluminum cans and plastic bottles and take them in.  Yesterday, I got just a few cents shy of $45.00 so I’d say this is a worthwhile exercise.

After I dropped those off, I went to Popeye’s Chicken and Biscuits to get some… well, chicken and biscuits.  I was feeling the need for a little comfort food.  It helped a bit.  I spent the rest of the afternoon just relaxing and hanging out.  Watched all the regular television on my DVR.  Watched a Netflix DVD, original Doctor Who, the episode where Peter Davison relinquished the role to Colin Baker (not that anybody knows or cares about that), and then I watched Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog.  It was pretty good and funny, right up to the end, and then it got a bit weird.  Oh well.  I even got some recreational reading done.  And in spite of all that resting I still managed to stay up way too late last night.

I slept in this morning, but woke up to a very nice voice mail message from Gene who, sadly, returned to San Diego today.  I got up and watched last night’s episode of Saturday Night Live, hosted by Maya Rudolph (very funny) while I ate my lunch and then it was time to get ready and head out.  Today was Lil’B day and we went to the movies.

I occasionally ask him if there’s anything in particular he’d like to do and he almost always says, “I don’t know”, which comes as a surprise to exactly zero people, I’m sure.  But last Monday night, when I was taking him home after dinner, I asked him if he had anything in particular in mind that he’d like to do this week-end and after a moment’s contemplation he told me he wanted to go see Journey 2, The Mysterious Island.  This is not a movie I would have opted to go to on my own, but Lil’B rarely expresses a specific desire of any kind so when he does, I like to try to make sure it happens.

I posted this on my Facebook page:

About to watch Journey 2 with my Little Brother…  I may have to watch this movie through my fingers!!!

I thought this movie was going to be filled with over-sized creepy crawly things and that my skin would be crawling by the time it was over.  There were a couple of instances with enormous centipedes, some massive spiders and a couple bee’s large enough to ride (I’m allergic to bee stings so they always oog me out!) and of course a lizard as big as a house, but all-in-all the movie wasn’t terrible.  It actually had a pretty good story that should have been pretty entertaining but it was not as well executed as it could have been.  Too bad.

I spent the rest of the evening cleaning up my Twitter account.  Deleting people who have either been inactive for a long time, or who do not follow me back and therefore aren’t interactive.  Or at least I did until Twitter started having technical difficulties and now here we are!

It’s a long week-end and mercifully I do not have any big plans tomorrow.  Officially, it’s not a holiday for me, but my company is kind of weird.  We have multiple entities that all co-exist, but the employees are on different payrolls.  Since my office building is owned and operated by the Northern California Region which considers Presidents Day to be a holiday, the building is closed, but since I am not a Northern California Region employee and Presidents Day is not a holiday on my payroll, I am required to take the day off and use one of my four float days for it.  I don’t really mind though.  I used to be a Northern California Region employee and I had the holiday but no float days.  Now I have four float days but lost this one holiday.  So I choose to look at it, instead, as though I have three float holidays and continue to have Presidents Day off as a paid holiday.

I texted Michelle earlier today to see if she wanted to go see This Means War tomorrow but as it turns out, it’s not a holiday for her.  So I guess I should just be grateful.  And I am!

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Irony, It’s What’s for Lunch

Just last week, I mentioned here what I had read on Jen Lancaster’s blog about writing being like a muscle and how you have to use the muscle in order to keep it from atrophying, so writing daily is the way to go.

Today, I used that analogy in a noon-time meeting I was leading.  It was in relation to the frequency with which my little council puts out a newsletter and how we’ve struggled to meet our deadlines and find subject matter and materials to include.  Till now, we’ve published twice annually and always later than we said we would because the people preparing stories (myself included sometimes) have not met their committed deadlines.  Since the newsletter comes out only once every six months, it’s been difficult, in my opinion, to keep it topical and relevant.  I suggested to the council, which I chair and therefore am the boss… (isn’t that what that means?) …that I would like to shoot for quarterly publication with the belief that more regular activity will result in an easier time with the previously mentioned challenges.

Interestingly, the council members agreed with me and we’re going to shoot for a quarterly publication.

“Why is this Ironic?” you might be asking.  Well, it’s ironic because after eleven days of consecutive blog posts, I was stumped about what to write today, even though I just got through preaching the virtues of steady efforts.

Also, ironic because with that realization?  Suddenly I had something to write about today…

 

What’s the Opposite of Clinical Depression?

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.'”

And We’re Back

Well, it was fun while it lasted but, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end eventually.

After two long and wonderful weeks off work, I’m back in the office today where, really, nothing much has changed.  I don’t really know what I was expecting.  The same messes are still in the back room.  My office is exactly the way I left it, not that I expected much to change.  Bertha has been out most of the time I’ve been gone with some sort of medical issue.  She’s fine now, or so I’m told (she’s still out of the office,) but with her absence it was just K and John.

I don’t seem to have missed much.  It was the holiday’s so that certainly accounts for some of it, but I’m also reminded that my presence here isn’t all that valuable.  I’m not complaining, mind you.  I’ve got a decent job with a good pay check.  It’s just apparent that life would carry on here without my help, if I weren’t here.

On my last day before vacation, John gave me my annual evaluation.  It was good, of course, though it seemed a bit contrived; speaking of nothing ever changing.  We had the requisite “where do you see yourself in…” conversation.  K and I have a term for the outcome of these conversations.  It’s “ponies”.  John has all kinds of grandiose things to say and ideas about what we can do within the department or the company.  He makes big assertions about what he will do for us, and then they don’t amount to anything, ever.  In other words, he promises us pretty, pretty ponies.  This time the pony was the prospect of a new job, within the hierarchy, above my current level…

This May I will have my ten-year anniversary in this job.  I will have worked for the same company, in the same department, for the same manager, doing more or less the same job, for ten years.  Sure, there have been minor changes here and there in my responsibilities, but for the most part, it’s been the same job.  I have been promoted three times and received two additional title changes that were lateral moves.  I’ve received raises every year; some better than others based on the economy.  But what I’ve been acutely aware of, lately, is that I’ve gone as far as I can go in this position.  There are no more promotions to be had.  No more title changes likely.  No more progress to be made in this position.  I’m in the Army: I AM all I can be… here.

The idea behind that discussion was that John thought it was a good move and would campaign for a new position to be created, wherein I would run the Emergency Response Program for the entire region, not just for our building.  It would be a lot more work and a lot more responsibility, and to be honest, I’m not 100% sure it’s what I want, but it would be progression…

This morning, in a brief conversation with John, it became apparent that he doesn’t really think anything will come of the idea.  Basically, he doesn’t think he can convince the right people of the value of such a manuever, and I can’t say I’m surprised.  I believe I’ll name this Pony “believe it when you see it.”

Long before my evaluation happened though, I began thinking about what comes next.  I knew I had gone as far as I could go in this position and unless I want to spend the next 20 years doing the exact same thing I’m doing now (I don’t) for incrementally more money (I can’t,) it’s time to start making a change.  This year, I have to really think about the direction my “career” is going to go and start making some things happen.  I put “career” in quotes because I’ve never thought of this as a career, just a job.  But after ten years, is that still true?

Hand Knives and Other Nonsense

Based on the existence and fairly stringent enforcement of child labor laws in this country, I feel fairly confident that I can take it for granted that I work with adult, full-grown people in my company. 

Adult, full-grown people generally possess common sense; granted they use it far less frequently than we might like, but they possess it nonetheless.

Sometime with-in the last few weeks one such adult, full-grown person, upon arriving at a meeting wherein breakfast was provided, (despite the ongoing directive to conserve funds wherever possible, I might add) and noticing the lack of proper cutting implements to divide the unsliced bagels, took it upon herself to bring a large serrated knife from her cubicle into the conference room to cut the bagels.  She then proceeded to place one of said bagels into her lesser hand and begin slicing the bagel in two.  What happened next is very unclear as there were, in reality, very few witnesses to the event, but from what I understand the adult, full-grown person somehow managed to cut through the bagel and fairly deeply into one of her fingers.

Having used her own knife, brought from  her own cubicle and under her own steam sliced into her own finger, she took it upon herself to clean up her mess, wrap up her hand, and driver herself to the emergency room where she received, I’m told, approximately eight stitches.  No one called 911.  Crime Scene Cleaners were not called to clean and dispose of the bio-hazardous fluids that escaped.  No one even bothered to call security and submit an incident report.  Hell, it wasn’t eve filed under Workers Compensation.  The woman is fine.  No lasting effects from her injury.  She has even returned to work.

What with us being a bunch of adult, full-grown people, you might think that was the end of the story.

You would be wrong.

Earlier this week, I was shown a document, created by an unknown entity, and approved and finalized by someone who makes a lot more money than I do, to be posted in all break rooms and conference rooms.  The document was printed in full color and laminated thickly so that it would hold up for a good long time to come.  As is so often the case (particularly with things that originate where this document did) not nearly enough, or the right eyes fell upon this document in advance of calling it complete and only after it had been finalized, printed and posted did I see it (not that I’m calling myself the right eyes.)

I have received a number of comments from people I am friendly with in the building.  People who are not complaining to me in an official capacity or with any expectation that I will, or could, effect a change, but simply because they know me and my level of intellect and know I will understand where they are coming from.  Nonetheless, these people are complaining as they state, rightly, that this document is downright offensive.

The document is titled “Careful Cutting:  Knife Safety Tips”, and just as it sounds it is a list of suggestions how to handle a knife safely…  Because clearly one distracted person who took responsibility for herself is irrefutable proof that the entirety of modern society is too ignorant to manage a knife without some guidance.   The document is laid out as a list of bullet points; brief sentences with suggestions that are entirely valid, though clearly written for kindergarteners.  It is written with some of each point bolded as one would do for a document that has highlights within each point that are most important.  In other words, I make a list of things and I’d like you to read the entire list, but if you won’t, please at least read this part and you’ll get the primary focus of the line item.  The purpose of strategic bolding in a document such as this, is that even if you don’t read anything more than what I have strategically bolded, you will still get the point of the document.

That said, here is what this document says to most people who will read it:

Following these basic guidelines for using knives can help to ensure safety in the work environment.

  1. Be alert and pay attention
  2. Always use a solid surface
  3. Do not hold food
  4. Point away.  [That actually is a sentence on the document.  Just “Point Away.”]
  5. Use your free hand to firmly hold the food
  6. Never use a knife
  7. Hand knives
  8. Do not startle or distract someone
  9. Wash and store knives immediately

Honestly?  Some of those are really good advice; words to live by, even!  However, with the exception of number six, I’m not sure how clearly they actually convey whatever point it is we were trying to convey, which I can only assume is not “We think you’re too stupid to take care of yourself.”  Now don’t get me wrong.  I understand we live in a ridiculously litigious society where we sue fast food restaurants for selling hot coffee that we then burn our vajayjays with when we put the scalding hot cup between our legs and then drive, resulting in the necessity to print “caution, contents may be hot” on every hot-beverage paper cup ever made for the last 17 years.  But I think the actions of the woman in this situation proved that she was not interested in suing her employer for something she so clearly held total responsibility for. 

  1. Be alert and pay attention  Well, yes.  Whether you’re driving, or walking, or cutting a bagel or balancing your checkbook (does anyone do that anymore?) being alert and paying attention seems like excellent advice.  It prevents mistakes from being made and erroneous information being disseminated.  Admittedly, it also prevents fingers being severed… usually.
  2. Always use a solid surface   Always?  Isn’t it conceivable that there will be times when a solid surface will not be ideal?  I like my bed to be soft and fluffy.  For sure my pillow needs to have some give. My chair at work could actually stand to have a bit less solid surface that I sit on.  On the other hand, I prefer a solid surface to drive on and a solid surface to write on and a solid surface on which to put my laptop.  Solid surfaces do, indeed, serve many purposes; but “always”?
  3. Do not hold food   Holding food can certainly become messy from time to time.  Crumbs drop everywhere.  Sauces tend to drip off of the food item and run down your hand and arm.  It can make for a real mess.  Hell, even today I ate a couple donuts with a knife and a fork, (In clear violation of rule number 6).  But sometimes you have to hold food.  It’s pretty tough to prepare food without holding it from time to time and some things, like pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs and sandwiches, were just made to be held (actually I eat pizza with a knife and fork too, but clearly I’m a rebel.)
  4. Point away.   Seriously.  That’s an entire sentence.  I have no idea what purpose this advice serves.  I mean, my mother told me pointing was rude.  And after a while your arms get tired.  Clearly more research is needed on this one.  I need better guidelines before I can go around pointing, away.
  5. Use your free hand to firmly hold the food   But?!?  Didn’t you just tell me not to hold the food?
  6. Never use a knife   It would be pretty tough for me to imagine going the rest of my life without ever using a knife again.  Nonetheless, I think we could actually have accomplished exactly what this document is trying to accomplish with these four simple words.  NEVER. USE. A. KNIFE.  I can guarantee you will not cut your own finger off if you never use a knife.  You will also never cut a steak, or toast and shmear a bagel or make a peanut butter and honey (or jelly if you prefer) sandwich, effectively, again, either.
  7. Hand knives   The only thing I can figure is this must be the working title of an Edward Scissorhands Prequel/Sequel (commingsoontoatheaternearyou!)
  8. Do not startle or distract someone   Again, it only seems polite.  I mean, some people really don’t like surprises and some people are easily distracted and need to be able to focus.  Wouldn’t you feel guilty if you startled someone into a heart attack or something?  I know I would!
  9. Wash and store knives immediately   Well, I mean,…  I’m kinda in the middle of something right now.  Can’t it wait till I’m finished?  Also, what knives?  I don’t see any knives.  Does that mean I have to guy buy some knives first?  You’re kind of asking a lot.

I admit it.  I think the whole document is stupid.  I think it’s utterly absurd that something like this has to be made because of one isolated incident with one person who hasn’t even suggested that it’s anyone else’s fault, but if we are going to do something along these lines, at least we could come up with something that is a little better written and laid out!

(By the way, if you’re anything like me, you really want to know what the rest of the document actually really says.  If you’ re not interested, you can stop here and skip to the bottom to leave your comments. Ahem.  Otherwise, here is the rest of the document in its entirety.)

  1. Be alert and pay attention when you have a knife in your hand.  Do not get distracted or engage in conversation when using knives.  Keep your eyes on the blade at all times.
  2. Always use a solid surface  to cut on.
  3. Do not hold food  in the palm of your hand while cutting (i.e. bagels, fruit.)
  4. Point away.  When you are using a knife, always cut downward and with the blade of the knife angled away from you.  Never angle the knife toward you or your fingers.
  5. Use your free hand to firmly hold the food item against the solid surface, making sure fingers are out of the way of any slips that might occur.
  6. Never use a knife  for any purpose other than cutting.  A knife blade is not to be used as bottle/can openers, staple removers, box cutters, etc.
  7. Hand knives  to another person handle first, with the cutting edge pointed away from your palm.
  8. Do not startle or distract someone  who is using a knife.
  9. Wash and store knives immediately  after use.  Hand wash knives with the edge of the blade away from your hands and dry thoroughly.  Never leave knives in a sink.

Actually, I don’t think knowing the full text of the document makes it any less offensive…

Anybody know if they sell “safety knives” next to the “safety scissors” for kindergarteners?

Amber Alert

I was running absurdly late for work yesterday, made all the more unreasonable by the fact that I decided not to take a shower in the morning.  I intended to restart my gym routine this week and I would, of course, take a shower after my workout.  I needed to get to work earlier so I could go to the gym.  I piddled around the house a little bit due to the “extra time” I thought I had allowed myself by not showering first.  And then a few minutes after I ate my breakfast, I started getting that feeling.  You know the one.  The one we don’t discuss in polite society…  woops.  The one that says, You are never going to make it out of the house without a stop by the porcelain throne, first. Dammit!

All the “extra time” I had allotted myself was suddenly gone, and I was very late!  Now I’m not even going to be able to justify time away from work to go to the gym! Major Planning Fail!

I was standing in front of the mirror, working on my now arduous oral hygiene regime when I got a text on my iPhone from a 918 phone number:

918 Phone Number, 9:45 AM: Hey Kevin!!!! Guess who?!

Waiting waiting waiting…..(Jeopardy Theme)

Clue: been friends since 1992

I had a feeling I already knew, only I thought I had a cell phone number for this person.  I thought I had a cell phone number for everyone in Tulsa that I cared to interact with.  There are other people in the 918 that I wish not to interact with ever again and so I didn’t want to reply blindly.

I texted the number to my mother to find out if it was a number she recognized.  Mom confirmed the identity and I realized the number I had for this person was one digit off.

I waited a while to reply.  I needed to finish getting ready and get to work and I didn’t need a conversation with anyone to slow me down.

Me, 11:28 AM: Hey Amber!  How’s it going?  Been a while!

Her: Hey!  Good!  Congragts on EMT!!

Me: How’d you know that?

Her: Haha…..I’m watching you…..don’t look over your shoulder…..

Me: That would be impressive.  There’s a 23rd floor window over my shoulder.  With closed blinds.

Her: Ha!  I had to e-mail your mother to see if you were still alive!!! Lol.

How the story tracks from “to see if you were still alive” to “Congrats on EMT” I do not know.

~~~~~

Amber and I became friends in 1992 when we both worked in the grocery store in my mother’s back yard.  I’ve mentioned this before.  There used to be a big empty field behind our house and then they built a grocery store there.

I swore at the time that I had met Amber somewhere before, but neither of us could figure out where.  To this day, it seems like I had to have already known her (though, to be honest, my impression is that we weren’t friendly.  I thought she was a snob, and in fact didn’t talk to her for a while at work because of it) but who knows.

One summer evening, I had gone to the store to pick up my pay check and Amber was just getting off work.  I ran into her in the magazine aisle as she was heading back to the staff lockers to get her purse.  We chatted for a little while and it came up that we were both hungry.  Amber had a car and I had money burning a whole in my pocket (nothing new about that) so I convinced her that she should drive us to my favorite (no longer in existence) restaurant and I would buy her dinner.

We found that we had a lot in common at the time; at least enough to build a friendship on.  We started hanging out regularly on weekends.  She would drive and I would pay.  We became good friends.

Amber is two years older than I, and at the end of the summer she started classes at Oral Roberts University and I started my Junior Year at Broken Arrow Senior High School.  Our friendship continued and we hung out many week-ends and talked on the phone all the time.  It occurs to me now, Amber was probably the only person with whom my mother never rushed me off the phone.

Amber is beautiful and very flirtatious and never wanted for guys attention.  Eventually she told me about a guy who was asking her out.  She told me she really wasn’t all that into him but she was going to go anyway.  That seemed strange to me, but then what do I know about relationships.  I said nothing.  A while later, I was on the phone with Amber one day and she told me that she was “going steady” with this guy and that we couldn’t be friends anymore because he didn’t think it was right for her to spend time with another guy when she was “with” him.  I told her that was stupid, we had been friends for a while,  I was here first and she didn’t even like him all that much.  I told her it was her loss.

A couple of weeks later she called me and told me I had been right and that she wasn’t going to see him any more.  I told her this was the only time I was going to take her back after being dumped for a boyfriend.  She promised never to do it again, and she didn’t.

A while later Amber met Brian, a handsome, brilliant, multi-talented, disgustingly self-confident man who fell head over heals in love with her the minute he laid eyes on her.  Amber’s biggest complaint about Brian was that he wasn’t jealous of our relationship.  A few months before I moved to California, they were married, have been together ever since and have three children together.

In college Amber studied Physical Therapy and she was all about physical fitness and nutrition even though she never struggled with her weight a day in her life.  She even joined Weight Watchers even though she was thin.  I used to resent that attitude, but now I understand it better.  Despite getting her degree, she hasn’t worked a day in her adult life.  She’s a stay at home wife and mother and her brilliant husband makes more than enough money that she’ll never have to think twice about that lifestyle choice.

When I moved to California I used to communicate regularly with Amber by way of instant messenger programs.  I enjoyed implementing these tools to stay in touch with people I cared about while I was working.  Though there is only a two-hour time difference, by the time I get home from work and get settled in and have dinner, it is too late to call people back “home” even if I were so inclined, which I’m really not.  I’m not a phone person.  So using Instant Messenger to talk during the waking hours was a nice treat.

The problem was, Amber usually initiated our conversations and they were usually about nothing.  She would sit for hours typing messages to me while I was trying to work and they were about things like recipes and her workout that day and how she’d just found out there were x number of calories in y food item.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to talk to her, I just didn’t have time for meaningless rambling while I was trying to work.  I started ignoring her messages and then pretending I had been away from my desk while she was typing and “Oh so sorry I didn’t see all that!” lying.

We drifted.  A few times I tried to have deep, personal conversations with her and she just blew them off and diffused them with her idea of humor.  We drifted more.

Several years ago I began having conflict with my mother.  Amber has known my mother for years, but she know’s the mother that outsiders are allowed to know, not the mother that her children know.  One day, Amber asked me if I had any plans to come back for a visit any time soon.  Up until then I had always made time for Amber and Brian when I came to town.  I told her I really didn’t have any plans and didn’t really know when I would because I was no longer on good terms with my mother and I couldn’t see myself coming to visit her, maybe never again.

The appropriate response to that would have been sympathy for a friend.  Curiosity about what could have gone so terribly wrong and why I might never want to visit my mother again.  Understanding for how hard parent-adult child relationships can be.

Her response?  “Don’t say that!  As a mother it hurts me to hear a child talk about not talking to their mother.  You don’t have kids so you can’t understand…”

Few things in this world piss me off more, or faster than, “You don’t have ____, so you can’t understand” or “You aren’t ____, so you can’t understand.”  It just belittle’s the person’s intelligence and it’s not a valid argument for anything.  We drifted some more.

A few years ago, an e-mail was making the rounds.  By today’s blogging terms I suppose it would be a “meme”.  It was one of those, replace-my-answers-to-these-questions-with-your-answers-and-forward-this-to-all-your-friends-and-back-to-me, blah, blah, blah e-mails.  One of the questions on the e-mail was about how many piercings you have.

When I left Oklahoma, I had one ear pierced.  Interestingly, right now, I can’t remember which one it was.  Several years ago now, my friend Heather begged, bullied, convinced me to get the other ear pierced stating that times had changed and it was no longer trendy to wear only one ear ring.  She promised that it was not a statement about one’s sexuality.  I hadn’t yet worked out my issues and I cared a great deal about that fact.  When I completed the e-mail and sent it out to my friends (and my sister) I simply answered the question honestly.

“How many piercings do you have?”

“Just my ears”.

I wondered if anyone would notice or comment.  Amber’s response?  “So what?!?  Are you gay now?”  Coming from the private school, good-little-Christian-girl background that I know she does, I automatically interpreted the tone as being derogatory and insulting (I still do).  We drifted completely.

In contrast to that, over the years Amber has asked me repeatedly, almost obsessively about my love life.  “Do you have a girlfriend yet?”  “Why don’t you have a girlfriend?”  “Don’t you want to have a girlfriend?”  “When are you going to get a girlfriend?”  “You need a woman.”  Somewhere inside me, every time she asked these questions I knew the answer, I just couldn’t face it and I sure as hell couldn’t tell her.  Her incessant prying combined with my own internalized shame only served to make me resent her for pushing.  I always answered her tersely and she just laughed it off as thought it were nothing.  She never could take the hint that this was something she ought not ask me about.

~~~~~

We exchanged text messages as conversation for about 15 minutes when she finally asked:

Her: OK- so- do you have a woman yet??

I waited several minutes to answer.  I wanted to tell her the truth, but– well, there is no but.  I was scared.  Plain and simple.

Me: What are you?  My grandmother?  Would you like to pinch my cheeks and talk about my punum too?  No.  No woman.

She waited nearly twenty minutes to respond.  I wondered if she’d finally gotten the message and was leaving the topic alone.  I wondered if she was considering the possibilities and going to ask me, again, if I was gay “now”.  I made up my mind to answer her honestly if she asked.  I wondered if she had gotten her feelings hurt and was pouting in silence as she was prone to do.  And then she replied.

Her: hee hee hee.  Oh well, just checking.