Friday, March 27, 2009

Book Review and Related Thoughts: "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man"

I'm not a typical Oprah Winfrey-watcher, but Monday's episode was thought-provoking enough that I checked out her latest endorsement: Steve Harvey's New York Times Bestseller, "Act like a Lady, Think Like a Man." As a matter of fact, I tried to purchase this book on Monday evening, so great was the intrigue. It was sold-out at my local bookstore, and a store employee told me it was extremely popular.

Last night I not only purchased, but read all of "Lady/Man." Here's the premise:

Harvey suggests women are often unsuccessful in love because they expect men to demonstrate their love in the same way women do. Where women are nurturing and compassionate, Harvey submits men show love through Professing (which is not so much telling a woman he loves her, but staking claim on her through giving her a title and using it around people important to him), Protecting (rather self-explanatory), and Providing. He suggests that when women either a) do not let a man fulfill these three roles/duties (perhaps because a woman is capable or successful and does not appear to need them) or b) does not demand that the man in her life does so (by expecting him to pay for things, fix things, actually make her the girlfriend instead of the booty call, etc.), the relationship will not succeed. He also suggests men have three primary drives: Who he is, What he does, and How much Money He Makes. Harvey says a man who is not clear or comfortable with any of the three drives is not ready for a relationship, so a woman looking for meaningful companionship with such a man is merely spinning her wheels. Finally, Harvey reveals men need three things from women: Support, Loyalty and Sex. If he can't get all three things from the woman in his life, he'll find another woman (or an additional one, in some cases).
Harvey has plenty of advice for women looking for quality men. The best advice is for women to get some standards-- if a man is walking all over a woman, it's because she's letting him. He offers questions to be asked throughout the early stages of the relationship to help a woman determine if a man is even worth her time and if they'll fit into one another's life plans. He gives thoughtful suggestions for implementing accountability in men and urges his female readers to employ such methods without fear, asserting that any man worth his salt would not be scared off by the tactics (which are mostly another set of questions). Harvey humorously tells women how it is-- or at least the way he interprets things.
"Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man" on the whole was an easy-read (three enjoyable hours, I'd say), and rather entertaining. While not without problems (chiefly Harvey's explanation of men's sex drives and reasons for cheating come across as justifications), the book has merit, and many women (and perhaps men) would benefit from taking a look at it. Women who better understand how men work are always more empowered, and the book spins the "He's just not that into you" reasoning into a more palatable medicine (read: "You don't want that d-bag anyway!"). Men ought to be aware of what Harvey is selling here, because the ladies in their lives are all going to be reading this book (Oprah has that effect on people, you know), and expecting more from their men. Harvey says no to women paying, women driving on dates, and women giving out sexual freebies. While some of his sentiments appear at face-value a bit chauvinistic and backward, the move of nouveau feminism to a less-angry, more traditional woman's role softening the demands of her bra-burning, suffragette, pioneer sisters-in-the-cause may allow for a more accepting audience than Harvey would have found in say, the 1970s. This book will quite likely become the next fad in relationship lit, following predecessors, "Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus," "The Rules," and the aforementioned, "He's Just Not that Into You." Right or wrong, the book is gonna make waves.
Initially, I listened to Harvey's spiel on Oprah and thought of how many of my gal-pals would benefit from the messages. Two of my loveliest and closest friends have recently experienced some heartache on this front, and I wanted to run out and buy the book for them. But I'll admit, part of my interest in this book was personal. Singles self-help books are embarrassing to buy or borrow, but often empowering to read, particularly when one is doing a little spring-cleaning of the boyfriends.
How I wish I'd read this book Tuesday night in preparation for Wednesday's less-than-excruciating, but far-from-engaging date. On my own, I was able to explain to the young chap who took me to dinner (but didn't leave a tip! I was mortified, but couldn't figure out a way to slip back into the restaurant to leave one myself, as Miss Manners and Dear Abby always caution against calling people out on their bad manners-- they say it's just as rude as the original offense. So I think in the next day or so I'm going to have to drop by and ask that some money I leave for waiter Jose will be accepted with my greatest apologies for my date's uncouth behavior), that while I greatly appreciated his interest, time, and the money he spent on me, I am starting a sabbatical and not accepting future dates at present. You know, the old, "It's not you, it's me" approach. Even though it was totally him. It worked perfectly well, but I'm not sure the speech will help him in the long-run. In all likelihood, this young man probably thinks he still stands a chance (which truthfully, and as kindly as I can put it, he never actually did), and in the meantime will probably ask other girls on dates and fail to leave tips at future restaurants. Could I have helped him be a better candidate for someone else down the road if I'd said something? We may never know. All through dinner, he did brag about how cheap he is, so perhaps not.
However, I am pleased to have read the book last night, if for no other reason than the call to action Lady/Man provides: to not let men treat me like dog poo. When an erstwhile suitor contacted me this morning regarding an upcoming date, I was better prepared. When he told me that rather than carry out our original plans, he'd prefer to reschedule so he could watch basketball, I told him I was busy. This was not a lie. I have every intention of spending my Saturday evening in support of a friend in his hobby and pursuit of musical dreams, so why in the world would I cancel something I like and in support of someone whose feelings I care about to spend time with someone who thinks so little of my feelings? Gosh, this whole entry is a big run-on-filled, stream-of-consciousness, but I think you can hear the passion behind it.
"Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man" did not change my life, but it strengthened some resolves. In the bigger spring-cleaning of my lifestyle, paradigms and procedures, I'd already determined a few things which I'd like to share publicly, if only to give myself some extra accountability:
1) It's generally better to be tactfully and kindly honest, rather than cruelly fostering a false sense of hope. I not only appreciate the men who treat me with this courtesy, but I also am resolved to return the favor. If this means speaking up and asking the strange boy I was polite enough to dance with to refrain from rubbing my shoulder in a creepy way or to kindly tell someone I'm not remotely interested in that I am flattered, but I'd prefer to stay friends, so be it. I hope this will aid in my greater goal of considering others' feelings.
2) I'm quite over my earlier Holly Golightly stage. While I have enjoyed my former status of unattainable wonder-- the social butterfly everyone knows and watches, even if only out of morbid curiosity-- the time has come for me to stop flitting and fluttering from one unacceptable young man to another. A girl in my former party shoes always has to wonder if it's her, or the status of holding the captured prey hostage for a few weeks, that is attracting pursuers. I don't want to be a tragic beauty longed for in an F. Scott Fitzgerald story any more than I want to be an immature Juliet, stumbling across a lovelorn Romeo, looking for a replacement or flavor of the month. No more kissing a best boy friend only to see how it feels or some other nincompoop because there's nothing better to do with my time. All this leads to problems in the end (and thank goodness, no mouth sores-- ew! But that is a miracle, my friends, a miracle indeed). All these former behaviors were selfish and self-destructive. Besides, I have plenty of other, and better, things to do. Like learn how to REALLY play the piano or to finally write that book. I need to learn to love the outdoors instead of hanging out in a tanning bed for a counterfeit and dangerous glow. I need to not be afraid of dirt under my fingernails (so long as it's temporary) as I get out and landscape my awful, weedy property. Actually, it wouldn't hurt me to just finally walk the property line. See? All better than kissing the cheaters, and cheating myself out of good things.
3) I will extend my "dating" rules to other social aspects of my life. I can no longer spend time with those who treat me like a mere convenience, male or female. While all friendships ebb and flow in giving and receiving, there ought to be a mutual concern and love one for another. When tragedies, great or small, strike in our lives, it's rarely at a convenient time. But there is no justification for abandonment. My friends need the same things I crave: companionship, laughter, the lifting of hands which hang down, a cheering section/fan club, a listening ear, and acceptance. I'm happy to say I'm not too tired to keep up on the giving end, and can report that doing so is energizing. But for those phasing me out in favor of something better coming along, I think I'll be OK in loosening the ties-- not in malice, but in self-preservation. I'm not out to give anyone their comeuppance, but to merely fade from the pack, to remain as a memory of good times past. I'd prefer to live on as a happy memory than a thorn in the side. Call it pride or whatever you like, but I feel OK pulling myself out of circulation for a time.
4) I am happy to start with a clean slate. It's become clear very quickly whose friendship and company I cannot do without. For those on the fence, I'm trying to carefully add them back one at a time in an effort to separate the wheat from the tares. Thank you, Steve Harvey, for helping me say no when necessary.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Beauty All Around

Life really is pretty great and gorgeous most of the time. But often you have to work to make it that way.
It would be rather easy to sit around, waiting for life to happen to you, or to win the lottery (assuming one ever purchased a ticket), or for someone to come sweep you off your feet and propose to you by singing "The Luckiest" by Ben Folds during halftime of some big sporting event, or to discover that by chance you were born with a bionic body and could live forever. Wouldn't it be great to wake up and find the Brady Bunch sent Alice to live with you and clean your house and prepare your meals, and most importantly, collect the Albertsons Grocery Stamps for you? And how nice would it be to get a call on a Monday, when you were dreading a week of work, and have it be your personal assistant Fabio checking in to tell you that he's booked your vacation to Fiji. Yes, of course you're flying first class. And because you're so high-and-mighty, they've arranged for you to stay on your own private island, where your only guest will be Matt Lauer, coming to interview you about your new best-seller for the Today Show.
With the exception of Alice (poor thing must be worn out from those ungrateful Bradys-- Marsha, Marsha, Marsha) and the lottery (because gambling destroys families), I do kind of expect the other things to happen to me sometime during my life. And some of them will just come, because I put my order in with the Universe (the book, "The Secret" told me to), but other things I don't mind working for.
For example, last night I came home from FHE jazzed that my hyacinth is not only blooming, but its fragrance is wafting through my entire house. It gave me this great sense of energy and joy, so I found myself sweeping and mopping past midnight. It wasn't a Cinderella fantasy thing, or even because the house was terribly dirty. I just wanted everything to be in line with the greatness of my little flowers in the entryway.
Likewise, the other night I went home exhausted from work, but rather than plant myself on the couch and watch hours and hours of "Arrested Development" (which I may do later this week), I pulled out some junk from my magical craft closet, and made this:
Alphonse Mucha is my all-time favorite artist, and I figured that framing some pictures from last year's calendar would bring a little oomph to my living room. Painting a dozen frames and embellishing them with metal leaf was messy, but the end result was worth it. The next evening, I put everything up, and I'm in love with the result:

I wish the picture did it justice, but there's a new coziness to that corner of my existence. Any time I've been home since, I take at least a brief moment to sit in a chair and gaze across the room at this little bit of lovely.
You have to do this. It's essential in this sometimes-nasty world. I really think it's important to find your own brand of beautiful, and bring it into your home and your work (not just the workplace either, but one's very career) and social life. Fostering beauty in its many forms helps me feel a deeper spiritual connection, and brings me peace. I think that's part of why I've become a bit of a compulsive cleaner. If something is within my sphere of influence, I want to put my hand out to lift it up and make it better.
Contrast that to what happens out in the world. This morning I rolled my garbage can out to the road, and noticed a strange car parked in front of my house. The driver opened his car door, and proceeded to vomit in the road. Bless his heart, I could tell that he was embarrassed, and he sped off before I could offer him a bottle of water or some Pepto Bismol. So now there's puke in my street, and right in front of my mailbox. But it could be worse. At least I live on a dirt road, and maybe it'll kind of get absorbed before I check my mail this afternoon. I just hope that somewhere, the little chap has someplace beautiful to go to help him forget he tossed his cookies in front of a stranger this morning. I noticed he didn't turn around to go home. If I'd just thrown up, I'd at least want to go back to my house and clean myself up-- brush my teeth! He probably just went to work, which makes me worry that no one is making life beautiful for him. I can only hope he does it, in his way, for himself. Even if that means just listening to Ben Folds on his way to work.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I Still Only Travel by Foot and by Foot It's a Slow Climb

The other day I was hanging out at my house thinking about how great my life is. I know, this may come as a shock. Believe me, I have much to be grateful for, and I'm really not as bitter as one might think, had they happened upon my blog in time to read my last diatribe.
So I started thinking about the small and simple things that make me glad when I wake up in the morning. There's the really big stuff-- like the fact that while my family is a touch on the ridiculous side here and there, they're really generally awesome people who work with a will and would give you the shirts off their backs. I'm grateful to get up in the morning, stretch, and sing the Hallelujah Chorus in the shower. I've got a good posse of friends, and even am influential enough to merit the "I Hate Rachel" club. It's pleasing to me to hear the birds sing outside, and all that jazz. But sometimes it's just life's little luxuries that bring a smile to one's face. Hence, an entry dedicated to the artistry of shoes. This picture is a little messy, but when I walk into my closet, this is what greets me:
I love having options! And I started thinking about that old proverb about walking a mile in someone else's shoes, and wondered what people would think about their experience in mine. Some of the best-loved ones are the yuckiest, but have you ever really looked at someone's shoes? There's a whole lot of personality insight.
The other day, I was talking to a friend about what she was planning to wear to a formal fundraising event. She is the kindest soul on the planet, but because she's so much more concerned about helping others than doing anything for herself, I was not at all surprised to see she'd chosen some very utilitarian, comfortable black shoes to go with her outfit. In fact, they may have been a touch inappropriate for the event, but this woman couldn't care less. And more power to her.
As for me, you'll often see me choosing comfort over fashion, though I feel like my footwear makes a good statement or two. I love my Chucks because they appeal not only to the nostalgia factor, but also to a movement of artistic rebellion. Now they're a touch cliche, worn by little hipsters and disenfranchised youth, but you can tell a lot by the shape a pair of Converse are in. I'm almost embarrassed to wear new ones, because when they're beat to death, you get some street cred. I plan to copy Tresann and wear some (clean ones) at my wedding someday.
Likewise, I'm the Queen of flip-flops year long. Here's my fav pair, courtesy my best friend's trip to Brazil a year and a half ago:

Fortunately, NM weather allows me to sport these even in winter-- leg warmers do wonders.
Next, let us turn in praise of the ballet flat. These leopard-print ones are some of my favorite, and if you could see the insoles you'd know it. There are many who reject leopard print, but how can you ignore it? It's almost like a neutral if you wear it the right way. And I like the way they can jazz up an otherwise drab, conservative look. Shoes are great for that in general.

I got my first pair of Doc Martens when I was about 15, and boy, were they ugly! They were these plain ones that were simply awful and masculine. My great-aunt Sophie sent them to me. She'd asked me what size I wore, and I told her, but they were way too big. She got them for me at an outlet store, in an effort to make me cooler with my grunge friends (I believe this was during the Jenco era, which pants are only slightly less ridiculous than the tight, tapered jeans popular again during this 80s revival). Through the years, I'd save up money and get wing-tip pairs, which were a great improvement. I had the sandals (which were dangerous... leave them in the floor and pop your little toe out of place every time) and probably some others, but my favorite ones (and the only ones I still wear) were these that I bought in Canterbury on my first trip to London when I was 17:

Notice the scuffy toes? That happened pretty much right away. But I like these because they appeal to that London-punk feel-- you look like you could kick the crap out of somebody while wearing these. I prefer them with dresses, like Angela Chase in "My So-Called Life."
When it comes to the purely frivolous, here are my galoshes:

It never rains here, so I've only worn these once-- to the recent Los Alamos activity. They're not too comfortable, but I was so excited to wear them in the snow that I kept them on most of the day. I wore them with rolled up jeans and a Scandinavian-looking sweater. I kind of forgot what I must have looked like when I strolled into Sam's Club and proceeded to flirt with my cashier-- the most attractive, er, Little Person, in the world. Oh, what he must have thought of me! I'm kind of a shorty myself, at only 5'4", but to him I likely looked like this giant Viking woman. Still, I'll pull these out again if we have a good monsoon season this summer. Why do I think they'd also be charming with a skirt?

Then of course, there is this beloved pair of sneakers by Ed Hardy, the famed tattoo artist. Normally I am opposed to fake Converse but these are super-cool. Like my others, I feel like these are a lot cooler now that they're dirtier, but the beautiful girl on one side and nasty skull on the other were too fab to resist. I like the way they shock some of the older ladies I see. Here is Gypsy Rachel, who tends to err on the side of femininity ever since being called "young man" in a McDonald's at the ripe old age of 12, in shoes better suited to her goth counterparts. And yet, I wear them, and feel like someone seeing them in a store would say, "Rach would love those!"
And as I am a New Mexican, I feel obligated to own a pair of Cowgirl Boots. Most of the time, I think boots are icky, and when I got these I felt like a huge poser. I went into Western Warehouse with pink hair (which was an accident), but they've since become a great closet staple. What else would you wear to the Mechenbier's Annual Pig Roast?

Then, of course, are my slippers. Sock monkeys seemed like the natural choice. I'm afraid that shortly after this picture was taken, part of the sole came out of the right slipper. When I bought these at Target seven months ago, I thought maybe they were at bit extravagant (is $15 too much for slippers? I'd argue not, considering I've worn them every day since). But now I just hope they still have 'em, because I'm in need of a replacement pair.
So maybe this frivolous little post makes you think that I'm not only bitter, but also a shop-a-holic and quite vain when it comes to shoes. But I think if you're going to walk a mile in 'em (which I often do-- even in the heels, taking Zoey for walks in her stroller), you might as well make a statement.

Monday, March 16, 2009

My List of (Reasonable and Unreasonable) Demands

As many of my faithful readers know, March is Wedding Hell Month. Everyone and their brother seems to be getting married, and that means all my weekends are booked up with receptions. I made brief appearances at two on Saturday alone.
Now, don't get me wrong: I wish these couples every happiness they deserve (and more, in some cases). No one gave me the "You should get married" lecture, except my father, but this is a daily occurrence, so not a big deal. The brides are always lovely. The cultural halls are consistently and magically transformed into fairylands of twinkling lights and tulle. But all at once, it's just a bit of overload. I wasn't even tempted to eat cake. I used to justify eating wedding cake, thinking it was for a special occasion. The weddings are indeed special, but if I ate cake at every reception I attend this month, I'd gain 50 pounds.
Regardless of my personal feelings about other people's weddings and receptions, paired with my current spring-cleaning of all boyfriends, I figure my blog is the perfect forum for making my own list of demands. You see, I can do this now better than at any time. If I said any of these things while I had an actual boyfriend, I'd be the psycho he'd be justified in ditching. If I were to let these things be known during my engagement, I'd be Bridezilla. But under the present circumstances, no one can call me out-- who would dare stomp on the dreams of the Old Maid? Ha! I got ya there.
First off, let me give you the vision of the reception itself. You'll notice that at this point in my life, any old groom would do for the fantasy (unfortunately, this is what is most wrong with society: most women have a grand idea of what their weddings will look like with very little thought given to the actual marriage). I'm picturing something much less grand than my sister and sister-in-law were able to achieve. Truthfully, I'm intrigued by the idea of elopement, but we'll go traditional for the sake of the argument. Get rid of all the excess lace and frillies. Give me a reception in my parents' backyard in autumn. I don't want expensive flowers (and for the record, I hate roses... so unimaginative-- but daisies just look cheap, people!): give me green button mums and maybe a little hypericum (that's the coffee-bean berry, for those who don't speak flower). I don't want a floor-length dress with buttons down the back-- How about a white 50s style party dress like the one Diane Kruger wore by Giambattista Valli? We'll eat a little cake (on this occasion, I think indulging is appropriate) and dance the night away (and because this is the fantasy, let's go ahead and book Le Chat Lunatique). Decorations: Wrap Ma and Pa's trees in lights a la Tavern on the Green. Throw in some white lumanarias for good New Mexican measure. People can throw feathers instead of rice. Then I can get the heck out of there, and on my way to the honeymoon with my handsome husband with all the money I saved by not arriving in some horse-drawn carriage or a hot air balloon or whatever other brouhaha brides come up with. I'll splurge on a photo booth for my guests instead.
As for the groom, let's just forget about him. Oh wait.
OK, well, that won't work, but let's get my new boyfriend rules out there into cyberspace first:

1) Any future man I date must either a. Have a job (and we're not talking part-time, fast-food here) or b. Be very close to having a job. No more college freshmen. No more grad students studying Spanish Linguistics (sorry David... it's not personal). No more "I'm 3 credits away from graduating in microbiology but let me just switch to accounting because I have commitment issues." It doesn't have to be glamorous, and it doesn't have to make him Donald Trump rich, but there needs to be an income.
2) I will no longer accept dates with boys I have no interest in, only to have them cancel on me at the last minute anyway. It is a waste of my time and money. I'm calling you out, Jacob Divett. Not that we have ever a) have had a date or b) you've canceled on me. But what I'm saying to men everywhere is WOMEN SPEND A TON OF MONEY ON DATING. Not only do I spend hundreds of dollars every year on clothing, makeup, hair products, etc., etc., etc., but also I often find myself driving (because let's face it, I get car sick and I am a more cautious driver than most people I know) which = gas money and wear and tear on my car, and I ALWAYS offer to pay. And you know what? I think I could count the men who have insisted on paying for me on ONE HAND. I'm not joking. This is not just going dutch. This is me footing the whole bill for something that wasn't my idea in the first place. This subject has brought on new issues, thus:
3) No car, No date with Rachel.
4) If you are selfish and self-centered, we are not a match. Go find a high-maintenance girl who can make you look good, because I'm looking for someone in the Peace Corps.
5) I will not be your beard. If you are a gay man, bully for you. I've got no problem with you, and I wish you every happiness. But don't you dare treat me like one of your misfity, self-loathing girls who needs a self-esteem boost and therefore will feel like your flattery is enough. I'm not looking for a Will and Grace situation.
6) If you are Mormon in name only, walk on by. I don't mean to be a judgmental jerk, but we're not going to work out if you can't pay your tithing, serve cheerfully, and put God first. We don't break the sabbath. We don't treat General Conference weekend like a freebie. I'm not a Molly, but I do take religion seriously. And let's face it-- it's part of everything I do. Things will never work out if we don't have those same fundamentals. Remember the guy who asked me if I were a virgin in "every sense of the word?" Hit the road, jack.
7) Goodbye, political extremists of any variety. Yes, I believe that there is right and wrong and black and white for certain situations, but if you let talk radio or MTV do your thinking, we can have no future.
8) Please don't force me to suggest you help out. I've just cooked you a meal. Can you please help clear the table or offer to do a dish? Wipe off the trash can if you spill junk on it. Clean out the microwave if there's chili or butter splattered all over the inside. Or better yet, cover the leftovers before you nuke them. Don't flop on my furniture and break it. And please, please, please be helpful when we spend time with my parents. We have little use for the useless in my family.

I just read this to my mother. She thinks I sound bitter. I told her that was the point.
Anyway, as long as we're on the subject, I do have just a few suggestions for any man who makes it long enough to get to the engagement portion of a relationship. Congratulations. You managed to Tame the Shrew. So you can do a few things to make our engagement and wedding planning go smoothly:

A) No lame proposals, please. By this I mean if you want me to marry you, ask me. But can you please surprise me? If you want me to pick out my own ring (which I can almost guarantee will save you a lot of money because I'm practical and greatly admire Costco jewelry), then propose with a ring pop or a fakey from the toy store. I want a surprise. Sorry to all those who had it go down this way, but in my mind there is little more sad than the girl who says, "Oh, I was so surprised! We'd picked out a ring and the jeweler said it wouldn't be ready for three weeks, and two days later, it happened!" This is the oldest trick in the book. It's always ready early. I hate that B.S.
B) Remember it's your job to pay for the bouquet and the honeymoon and your suit. This is not asking very much. I am paying for everything else-- Le Chat Lunatique and your fancy cake and the decorations, etc., etc. It will be marvelous, don't worry.
C) Go with my vision here. Now, I don't buy into this "It's the bride's day" crap, because you are the most important reason I'm getting married. But can we pretty please have "Somebody" as our wedding song? Can we go with green and brown? That's all I really want, unless it's you wearing Chuck Taylors with your suit or tux.
D) Please don't ever expect me to say, "I think I'll go slip into something more comfortable." There are very few sentences in the English language that give me the creeps faster (in fact, the only one that beats it is, "We need to talk.").
E) Just in case you were wondering, I prefer square or emerald cut diamonds, white gold, and antique, art-deco settings.

And people say women don't communicate!
One last thing: My mother thinks it would be tacky to substitute the traditional slide show featuring the bride and groom growing up and sappy Magic 99.5 love songs with my idea: A slide show of me with my 95+ boyfriends of yore scrolling through to Beyonce's "Single Ladies/ If you Like it Then You Should've Put a Ring On It." What do you think?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I'm Dumping all my Boyfriends

For sure this is true. I'm basically done with the human race these days.
It all started with the little things-- the lady telling me "she told me so" (which she didn't) when I mentioned how my luggage was lost and along with it, my special medication (ie, birth control so my face is pretty and not a war zone, and an antidepressant, so I don't cry when morons tell me that I should have known better). I fought the urge to stomp on her foot.
Then I found that other things were annoying or offensive-- snide remarks here and there from people I find obnoxious anyway; insinuations about my life choices (or rather, my circumstances-- my choices I am 100% proud to own up to [even when I'm not proud of what I've done], and I wear my less-than-desirable circumstances like a badge of honor: I have an amazingly blessed life, even under the most difficult of times) from people who know me and people who don't; and let's not forget that way humanity's general failures seem to manifest themselves in people and disappointment sneaks up on ya-- namely selfishness, greed, arrogance, and forgetting about life being a journey and helping along your fellowman.
Women are awful. They're catty. I'm particularly annoyed with the martyrs who like to throw you under the bus at the first chance they get to step over you into someone else's good graces. Another particular brand of annoying: the cluelessly insulting, who can't seem to help but be offensive. Sometimes women's brand of evil is doing nothing but loudly complaining about the hard work of another, and sometimes it's just pure meanness-- truly mean women are famous for making sure you know you're not invited to something and then saying in a sickeningly-sweet voice, "Oh, you should have come!" Blast!
And men, while perhaps not patently evil like the members of my gender, fall into the category of mindlessly selfish and generally unconscious. When I was in high school, I found a significant number of the boys who'd ask me out would stand me up. Obviously, I wasn't very important to them. Years of better dating experience have healed me, and though I maintain my general propensity for frank, immediate forgiveness, I've gotten a little wiser in my old age and I no longer put up with the crap. These boys who would have me cook for them week after week who never lift a finger to clear the table? Outta here! I've lost my patience for the slow ones who tell me they are so proud that they kissed someone of my caliber, now surely they'll be able to get girl x, y, and z. (I know what you're thinking: "Rachel! Why do you go/hang out with nincompoops?" The sad answer is some of these men represent the so-called cream of the crop from my social circle.)
Last night, a boy who'd asked me out a week before announced that we weren't going out as planned. There was no explanation except he didn't want to go to our planned activity. And I said, "OK." But while he probably thinks he can reschedule, I secretly smile at his idiocy. The ship has sailed, and I'm moving on to greener pastures (how's that for a mixed metaphor/cliche?!).
So for my masculine readers, or my young sisters who think that I'm an old, jaded harpy, I'm going to share a secret I've learned. I was once in your shoes, and thought single women of my age were surely in that position because they were bitter and ugly and had nothing to offer the world. I do what I can to not be ugly and to leave the world better than I found it. This post may mask well as bitterness, but I think it's more exasperation. I'm gobsmacked every time I think about a) how lucky I am to not be straddled with commitment to a lazy, unthoughtful jester for eternity and b) how I don't see a light at the end of this tunnel.
As I wander alone in the dark, I'm particularly pleased that I've worked to be a likable, interesting person, because the company is pretty good.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Publisher's Clearinghouse

What has my life come to? I just sat at my desk for 30 minutes putting little stamps on the Albertson's Monopoly Gameboard, hoping to win $500,000 or a new car or free groceries or a cruise. But a person can only do so much paperwork in one stretch and I'd just bought Yoplait Yogurt (a qualifying item for extra gamepieces-- try the Lite Cherry Cobbler flavor, it's FANTASTIC), and who wouldn't want to win even $2? I feel a little bad, though. I haven't gotten to the point where I sit and fantasize about Ed McMahon coming to my door with an oversized check (does he even do that anymore?), but I could see it happening, and fast. A girl needs a dream, right?
There's so much sorrow in the world. I read the newspaper this morning, and President Obama is trying to restore good relations with Russia. Well, that's cool, but he's doing it at the expense of our relationship with Poland, and that depresses me, because they've stuck with us through thick and thin. I'd not be at all surprised if they came in and saved us from something or other, because that's what they do. Anyone remember the battle of Vienna and Jan Sobieski? Yeah, I didn't think so. Add that to the oppression. Add that to my sorrow.
And that's only the beginning of my troubles. This weekend I tried to be supportive of a little girl I have a "big sister crush" on (that is, I think she's the bomb, and I wish she were my younger sister-- not to replace Ashley, but to tack on another sibling). Little Sis treated me like a big sis, though, and wouldn't talk to me. I was sad.
Also sad-- I had a dream that my friend Kris Felix was a ride operator at Disneyland and could get me to the front of any line and showed me how there were secret levels in the Alice in Wonderland ride (which I personally like way better than the Teacups). I woke up disappointed. An old boyfriend who I'd not heard from in ages called me up trying to sell me Cutco knives... as if! I hate, hate, hate multi-level marketing, and I like my Calphalon knives from T.J. Maxx, thank you very much. Plus also, remember when he told me that I had a great personality and it was too bad I'm not physically attractive? Well, I've got news for you buddy: I'm not the girl you want to have around a bunch of knives. And ok, I'd never be violent, but I might have to slit my own wrists listening to his stupidity. Blech.
I can't even happily exist in boy-fantasy world anymore. Yesterday I sat between two boys I'm mildly interested in, and noticed that they both cross their legs like women. That's it. Cross them off the list.
Do you see why I find happiness in collecting game pieces from grocery stores?
By way of an update, the concert I went to on Friday night was excellent, but the comedians told base, off-color jokes meant to appeal to the lowest common denominator. I was appalled at the lack of talent required to receive an endorsement from Second City. Boo to the Pajama Men, but major props to Le Chat Lunatique. I am their newest groupie. Ah, a silver lining. Go see these guys-- I'm serious! If I were rich, I'd hire them for my wedding someday.
And ok, maybe there are a few other nice things leaving me feeling fulfilled. I walked into Anthropologie the other day and thought, "This stuff is cool. It reminds me of my house." Always a good thing to think that a chain store has caught YOUR vision and not the other way around.
I'm also pleased that Daylight Savings Time is here. I know, I'm probably the only person in the world who actually likes losing an hour, but longer days means more energy, more time to get work done, and more time to party.
Another fulfilling element of my life? My gal-pals. This weekend was heavy on the girl-time, and it was refreshing. Concert with high school friend of yore+joint bridal luncheon complete with the game "Two Truths and A Lie" (which exposed my late kissing fandango) + girls night out with all things ladies love (visiting a friend's new baby, a craft store and Flying Star all in one evening) = respite from the Y Chromosomes plaguing my life (and crossing their legs).
So I guess I don't really need the grocery games after all, but hey! No one will make fun when I win that trip to Bermuda.

Friday, March 6, 2009

I pay my mortgage with Mr. Potato Head Checks

It's sometimes a little difficult being an "adult." There are definite perks, of course-- you can stay up as late as you want (not without consequences of course, but bedtimes are self-imposed... for me it might be more accurate to say you can go to bed as early as you choose). If you wanted to, you could eat candy for breakfast. If you are lucky enough to be generally unattached to anyone, you can take off for crazy vacations just because you need one and you always wanted to do it. And if you're lucky enough to be attached to someone, you can kiss for hours and hours (if you're a nice Mormon girl like I am).
But adulthood is more than buying yourself flowers from Costco just because you want to, can afford it, and they'd augment the beauty of your home. It means being the one to fix the toilet (which may mean putting your hand in it). It means counting all the people in the group so no one gets lost in a foreign country where the tour guide doesn't care (and it's amazing how many "adults" do get lost, or worse, have a "take-care-of-yourself" attitude... the latter especially means that you just have an old body, but a childish disposition). Being an adult means worrying about more than just today. Real adults watch the car in front of the one they're following, because they know that looking out for just one will likely get you in trouble. When you grow up, you get more concerned about how clean your house is, and you'd never think of flopping down on someone's furniture so brutishly that you break it. Moreover, you don't throw your food wrappers down in your friends' cars (in my minivan I had a trashcan... that makes me 40, I know, but not having one makes my otherwise perfectly angelic friends revert to being 4, and I find trash in my car all the time-- a huge pet peeve of mine). And speaking of friends, being an adult means you are lucky enough to have friends from several different areas and eras of your life, but it also means that sometimes you have the unpleasant task of cutting out the toxic people (again, so you don't turn back into a teenager, or worse, somebody's unsuspectingly sweet but gullible grandmother).
Adulthood buys you a bit of (implied) bravery as well. Tonight I'm going to an improv show/concert. On the one hand, I'm excited because it's a break from my normal Friday night activities. One of the performers is this brilliant guy I saw at a theatre festival back when I was in high school. However, I also remember thinking that one of the pieces he acted in was absolutely inappropriate for a high school audience. Where I was shocked and appalled as a youngster, if it gets naughty tonight I have no problem walking out (and let's hope it doesn't come to that).
When I was a child and spake as a child, I was 7-going-on-50. Now that I'm 27 and 3/4, I've learned to negotiate that delicate balance of being responsible and being fun. It really is a little slice of perfection. Even though I am not perfect, 27 and 3/4 is just old enough to bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan (plus add to the food storage and emergency fund, pay the insurance and property taxes, do yardwork and home maintenance, check the oil and tire pressure, pay the bills the moment I receive them in the mail and give to charity) and to have more fun than I ever thought possible (like taking off to Europe for a couple of weeks, writing the great American novel, rafting down the Rio Grande, offering to help a stranger, subscribing to any magazine I want, shopping at farmer's markets and holding hands with someone just because it feels good). I consistently put in more than 40 hours in a work week, but I do it while listening to my iPod. I'm a good girl and I love going to church, but I also love wearing fishnets with my otherwise conservative clothing. I don't leave home without making my bed not only because I can't stand the mess but also because I like the butterflies on my sheets (or the stripes or the paisley-- whatever...being Bohemian, I just mix it up). I have no beef with wearing little-girl barrettes in my hair with my power suit (OK, I don't have a power suit... I'll admit it. But I do love wearing neckties), and I reject the idea that dinner isn't complete without meat.
So even though I could live without worrying about the economy or global warming (I live within my means and recycle, by the way), I'm happy that I'm making it work in my own way. And thank goodness I'm still young enough to justify not wearing mom jeans. Or anything with an elastic waistband.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Spilling Beans

Have you ever had a secret that you were itching to tell, but you knew you weren't supposed to? Did it ever drive you so crazy that you were completely unable to do anything but dwell on it? That is me today. Yes, this is my second post of the day. Yes, I've been on Facebook all day long instead of doing my paperwork that I desperately need to catch up on. Yes, I posted two photo albums of my trip, texted friends, emailed my bestie and basically done everything but work. I crossed one big thing off my to-do list, but I don't feel at all justified in wasting so much time. Still, I can't seem to help it. I'm a bundle of weird, pent-up energy, even though I'm running on just a few hours' sleep. The guilt of slacking off is no good. So I thought that maybe if I divulge other secrets, I'll get the urge taken care of and I can get back to invoicing like a good girl.
One quick disclaimer: I am completely able to keep secrets. I am capable of being discreet. If there is a sensitive issue, or if someone confides in me, I have no trouble keeping my lips zipped. It's just that my own life is so open that there's this part of me that wants to share. I don't even think it's because I'm looking to foster intimacy or anything. More than likely, it's because my life is like a stand-up routine, and secrets are great punch-lines. It's not me I'm revealing so much as the next chapter in my journey, or the character I'm growing into. I feel more like I'm living a made-for-tv-movie-in-the-making. The audience will know the secret, so why does everyone else have to wait 40 years for my life story to make it to the screen? Ooh, justification.
Here are a few of my substitute secrets, in hopes that I'll be sated:
1) Sometimes I use the fact that my mom and I have similar phone voices to my advantage. Today, for example, a customer called looking for some really random information about what percentage of our products are made from recycled material (none for her job-- she's using fiberglass... different story for cellulose). She'd actually emailed me and called me right before I left for vacation and I didn't get to her request. When she said she didn't remember who she'd talked to, I mentioned that "one of the girls from our office has been out of the country," so that might account for the delay. I took care of her request and just pretended that it hadn't been me all along. Naughty.
2) It's probably been more than a month since I went to the gym. Vacation accounts for much of it, as does sickness, but the truth is I've just been too tired to go. I know that I'd have more energy if I could just get my bum over to Main Street Muscle and Fitness, but sometimes I just prefer to stay home and read teen lit.
3) I'm mildly interested in a boy who may not know I exist. Well, I suppose he knows, but he likely does not care. And it's ok, because I flirt with 80 other boys (give or take), and next week it'll be someone else. But sometimes, if I'm thinking about my future wedding, I'll plug his face into the fantasy. This isn't nearly as creepy as it sounds... he's just more of a place-holder than anything. I often judge a man's datability by how good he'd look in brown, because that's one of my planned wedding colors.
4) I didn't listen to about 90 percent of what was said in Stake Conference on Sunday. Instead, I just watched the little Greenwood girls be very naughty, and I kind of encouraged it. I thought it was funny.
5) When I was a little girl, I once wrote on a piece of paper "I love Shawn." Actually, that's censored. I wrote "I want to do it with Shawn." I didn't know what "do it" meant because I was in 2nd grade, but I knew it was naughty. I wrote it in purple marker on lined notebook paper and then tore it up and flushed it down the toilet so no one would find out.
6) I am delighted and surprised any time a man tells me he likes something about my physical appearance. For years, I thought the only things that were nice about my looks were my hair and lips. One boyfriend liked my backside and three have like my legs (to which, I think, whoa! blindness!), and though I find this hard to believe, it gives me secret hope. One boyfriend actually told me "our bodies like one another." It was weird, but there is something infinitely important to me about being as physically attractive as I am a good person. In truth, I need to be better on both counts.
7) One time I made out with one of my guy friends just to see what it would be like. We loved each other but were not interested in one another. Still, it took me a long time to get over wanting to do it again. I admired my swollen lips the whole next day.
8) I had a dream the other night that I was being set up on a date with Chris Farley. This is mildly disturbing because he is dead, but I was really excited about it. When I got there, though, I ended up going on a date with Hulk Hogan and he was a dirty old man.
9) I am at odds with my maternal instinct. Sometimes, like on my recent vacation, I feel barren and like I want to tote a baby or two around. But most of the time, I'm so glad I don't have any and that I can just substitute with my niece and friends' children. I feel guilty about the relief I feel when I pass children back to their rightful owners.
10) I talk in my sleep, and one of my greatest fears is that I'll fall asleep in front of someone and end up cussing or saying something equally embarrassing. It's one of the reasons I hate sleepovers and road trips.
OK. I'm not sure I feel purged of pent-up secrets or not, but maybe I'll just go write it down on some notebook paper and then flush it down the toilet.

Sail Away

The Nile at Night
So I'm back from the cruise. I had all these noble plans to update the blog from abroad, but the ship's Internet was terribly slow, and at 75 cents a minute I figured you all could wait. Summer and I basically ran from sight to sight, so there wasn't much time for an Internet cafe, and well, you know. But it was a great trip, so now here's the customary gushing, with a few of the less-reverent stories from abroad.
First of all, I think it's fair to say that Egypt was my favorite. It was a close race, but it was so unlike any place I'd ever been, and I'd recommend it to anyone-- even with the grenade that went off in the market while we were in town (but not nearby).

But let's not get ahead of ourselves here. Here's the quick and dirty summary:
First, I'm happy to report that my illness was fleeting and I felt fine for the entire trip. I packed every over-the-counter drug known to man, but only took my Flintstones vitamins. Still, I felt nice and prepared and was able to help a few people out. There were several people in Turkey who benefited from my travel TP (never leave home without it) and everyone used hand sanitizer at every turn. While in Athens, my friends and I took a little tour of a meat market where vendors hung skinned sheep, split down the middle with the faces still pretty much intact. All this bloody meat is exposed, and the merchants shout and sell and smoke and have a grand time. A very nice Indian man (my personal favorite ethnicity... no joke) was good enough to propose to me. I told him I could not marry him because he smoked. He threw down his cigarette and kissed my hand. As I walked away, my friend Julia quietly pulled out a bottle of Purell. It was appreciated.
Chronologically speaking, I suppose I should mention Espana. I was a bit jet-lagged as I flew into Barcelona, but thought of my best friend Sokphal as I took the airbus into town to Summer's hotel. What should I see first but Mount Tibidabo-- she and "Friends" fans everywhere know why this is particularly amusing.
Having just been in Spain two years earlier, I didn't feel too terrible about taking only one photograph, which I'm not even bothering to post here. I haggled with a man over the price of a Flamenco costume (complete with shoes) for my dear little niece, but I ended up walking away. What does Zoey need with polka-dotted high heels at her age, right? So Summy and I happily boarded the ship where we were quickly met by some of the most obnoxious people ever (aka the entertainment staff, particularly a man wearing a tiny matador hat... hopefully Sum will soon post video of the life-jacket drill).
There are some amusing things about going on a cruise, you know. First of all, if you are poor and have an inside-cabin, you are cut off from any natural sense of time and can sleep for 18 hours at a time. The gentle rocking of the ship lulls one to sleep. I doubt I've ever gotten such rest on a vacation, and I'm not complaining.
Secondly, you quickly find pros and cons with cruising. On the plus side, you unpack the luggage and that's it... no hauling around backpacks or awkward rolling suitcases, which is perhaps the worst part of European travel. However, you give up that sense of cultural immersion because you're only in a port for a few short hours. I miss that. I love coming home from another country because I typically feel quiet and humble and less ignorant. The culture I was surrounded by was rich, loud American. When one of the entertainers mentioned the economic stimulus package, the whole audience booed, and I realized there were more Republicans concentrated in that theatre than in a Utah township. It was actually super-interesting, and perhaps the only "We're not in Kansas anymore" moment of my vacation. Also, I got a kick out of the various cab-drivers, tour-guides and locals across Europe, Asia and Africa laughing at "St. Obama." Now you all know I'm for supporting our President, but it was certainly eye-opening to see that people abroad (despite popular belief or what pop-culture would lead the less-than-discerning to believe) aren't as impressed with our new leader as trendy American apologists would have you believe. It was a surprise I'd not anticipated. How's that for social studies?
But in a less-serious and stodgy vein, I had a genuinely enjoyable time. In Rome, Sum and I opted to not take the expensive tour where you got to see one or two landmarks, but instead ran through the city at break-neck speed and a fraction of the cost with our new friends Jim and Julia. We hit all the typical sights, including my personal favorite, the Trevi Fountain:

Honestly, this ranks as one of my top-five favorite places in the world. I could sit there for hours watching people, feeling the breeze off the water, and day-dreaming about holding hands with some handsome Italian man as Andrea Bocelli music wafts through the air. I think we got about 15 minutes there, but I threw my coin in, so I'll be back.
In Italy, Summer and I met the COOLEST couple, the above-mentioned Jim and Julia S. J&J were our traveling kindred spirits, interested in seeing everything possible. Now that I'm home, I can't imagine what the trip would have been like without them-- from karaoke (Jim does a great Neil Diamond) to advice (apparently if a gypsy throws a baby at you, you should never catch it) to lunches and dinners all over the Mediterranean-- they were amazing. I think Julia is possibly the sweetest woman on the planet, but she's got this unexpected sassiness. Sum and I loved them.
Of course, they were not our only friends on the cruise. For example, we became tight with Alan:
Alan is an oil man from Texas, and extremely funny. He's the king of the deal-- he can haggle with the best of them.

Cab driver: Twenty Euros to go to the market.
Alan: I'll give you three dollars.
Cab driver: Whatever you say.

Alan and his wife Betsy were super. Alan was very good to advise Summer and I on dating, reminding us that it's just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor man. Alan says he doesn't know any LDS guys in his circle, but he's promised to keep a lookout. I wouldn't mind if one from his Austin synagogue expressed interest, but you know....Anyway, I really did love Alan and Betsy. I hope they'll come visit me sometime.
Of course, there were other people you'd never want in your home. Sum and I met a couple we called "The One-Uppers." They'd say things like, "Oh, you didn't actually go INTO the pyramid?" Oh, that's too bad. Your camel ride was ten minutes? Ours was half an hour." They thought they were pretty cool, but their idea of a great TV theme song was "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." You know the type.
Another couple we met, dubbed "North Carolina," was even more obnoxious and entertaining. These people had been on enough cruises to learn how to get everything for free. By the third day, the wife had won a pearl bracelet, an emerald necklace, and the first of their two bottles of champagne. They attended the overpriced art auctions to receive the free prints, and because they always got two, they told me and Summer that they'd buy a frame from Wal-Mart for the extra and voila! A Christmas gift for one of their children! I think they were the cheapest people I've ever met.
There were those who admonished us to stay close to the Lord and others who suggested with stay out of the casino (no problem on either count, actually). One man in Cairo took a piece of cake off my plate at lunch and ate it without thinking it was at all socially unacceptable (I'd taken a bite out of it already). Others told me how lucky my future husband would be someday, and how I reminded them of their daughters and granddaughters. There were some BYU boys who avoided us (no big loss, I assure you), and Egyptians who loved us (well, Summer anyway).
And then, there was just the stuff to see. You know-- those things you read about your whole life and then they suddenly become real because you can touch them? Here was the library at Ephesus:
And here I was at the pyramids with Ahmed, our armed bodyguard. He yelled at people and flashed his big gun. We sat together on the bus on the ride back to Alexandria. He told me about his fiancee, but offered to be my boyfriend.

Every five minutes or so, I'd say something like, "We're in freakin' AFRICA." And Summer would sing a "They Might Be Giants" song and we'd both walk like Egyptians.

Even Malta, which I admit I didn't even know existed before the cruise, was a wonderful surprise. After two weeks of cramming in everything possible, Jim, Julia, Summer and I just strolled through the streets, breathing sea air and enjoying the slow pace of island life. We were disappointed to not get to rent mopeds and/or swim with dolphins, but it was still a heck of a place.

In the end, I whole-heartedly endorse a cruising vacation, especially if it's to Europe (because let's be honest, I'm not "beachy") and if you can get a smokin' deal like we did. Where else are you going to meet a man with a pirate earring whose wife looks like Keith Richards (again, these were some of the coolest people we met on the cruise-- the other couple was obnoxious)?
I was sufficiently entertained and came home relaxed, refreshed and rejuvenated. And then I got asked to sub seminary for the week, so I get up at 4 every morning. But that's the beauty of a jacked-up circadian rhythm. It's 1 p.m. in Cairo, so I feel like I've slept in.