On Patience

People ask you for things all the time. You ask for things. These interactions form parts great and small of daily life. You may not even notice these sticky obligations.

Tata (on your answering machine): You have the idea you could have something more important to do besides call me back. That’s so…misguided…

I am not a nice person. I am a good person – sometimes – and there is a big difference.

Tata: Are you going to ask out that girl who no longer works for you? The one who quit this morning and did everything but tell you where she’d be holding a menu at 7:30 tonight?
Shocked Co-Worker: I…I can’t…I can’t ask her out…
Tata: And that, my friends, is why God gave us email.
Shocked Co-Worker: What…what if…
Tata: She will absolutely do you. Pick up the check and she’s yours. Bon Appetit!

Some people need a shove and my hands happen to be free; some people need patience. On my best days, I can be patient with small children, the elderly, the infirm and hapless local drunks. If a guy on the street tells me he needs $3.85 to get a train home and I have a buck, I’ll give it to him – the first time. The second time, I lose patience when his imaginary plight fails to entertain me. He needs a new story! I need a new harrowing tale! It’s selfish, and I don’t care.

Recently, a friend asked me to be patient with a Difficult Situation(tm) while he worked out what to do. I’m just a bystander, here. I agreed to try keeping my trap shut on the subject for a while, which you might think would be as simple as hanging up the phone – except I obsess. So. I didn’t say, “HAVE WE MET? I’m the least patient person you know without an assault conviction.” I didn’t say, “Tick tick tick time’s up.” There’s nothing I can do about that Difficult Situation(tm), so I am trying to go about the business of preventing other Difficult Situations(tm) from compounding my worries.

1. I need a microscopic apartment I can afford LAST WEEK, ALREADY.
2. My driver’s side door seems intent on bashing itself shut permanently. How can my mechanical nemesis despise itself through and through?
3. Do I need a land line anymore?
4. It’s back to the Wonderful World of Multiple Jobs for me! How will I do it?
5. Audrey proposed a book of themed poems. The project appeals to me. Hmm.
6. Miss Sasha and the new Mr. Sasha moved to Pensacola last week. Perhaps I’ll knit them a rowboat and a GPS transmitter.

Fortunately for me, there are only 24 hours every day I can be sick with fear. At least that hasn’t changed. Developing patience is no fun but having it might be helpful. So. Can I keep my hands so busy I don’t shove myself off a cliff?

Q: Boo! A: Eek!

The other night, I said, “I am a terrible judge of character.” Six people rushed to assure me that yes, I was a fine judge of character! I wasn’t fishing for compliments and wouldn’t accept any on the subject.

Tata: No. Statement of fact: I am a terrible judge of character and you as my friends should suspect yourselves of having monstrous character flaws.
Friend 1: I’m a drug addict.
Friend 2: I watch the Travel Channel to disguise my xenophobia.
Friend 3: I teach second grade.
Tata: Arrest each other immediately!

Johnny and I met when I was 14. Though that’s 98 in dog years, it’s mighty young by human standards. His last wife hated my guts so this one will probably never meet me. This shouldn’t be funny but it is:

They have roadrunners here. Actual live ones, running across the, as you would imagine, road. And tarantulas. And foxes. I think I already mentioned that they have coyotes.
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Miss Sasha, not impressed with the season’s first hurricane on Pensacola, sets in motion a linguistic storm of her own:

Soooo, how was ur trip? did it go great? what did you do in WI? Oh, by the way, the knot.com…the website I used for the wedding now has a new cite for newlyweds. I have been setting up my blog and new webpage the last couple of days…I will send you the link when I finish updating everything.
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A newlywed blog? The April-freshest of fresh Hells! Yesterday, we had a mother-daughter discussion of hanging laundry outside and the perils of folding flying insects into one’s sock drawers. I can’t wait to read more about what my advice sounds like to Miss Sasha.

What I Might Actually Say:
Baking soda softens hard water but you should look into the condition of the pipes in your house or apartment. Salts corrode. Maybe. Or maybe plumbing disasters have all been a terrible coincidence. We should ask someone who knows.

What Miss Sasha Might Hear:
Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels. Squirrels.

We don’t know! She could be listening! But we don’t know! I’m a terrible judge of character.

In This Future, You Demonstrate Great Courage

Yesterday, I was standing in a friend’s foyer discussing the current furor in the reality-based blogosphere. If you don’t know what happened or is happening at this moment, it’s not likely that linking to the participants’ blogs will help. On Saturday, when the first shots were fired, I was at the bottom of a pile of refreshing beverages and cats with medical conditions and catching up has proven remarkably difficult. Mamie joins us in the foyer, takes one look at me.

Mamie: You’re talking about Shakespeare’s Sister?
Tata: Yeah, how’d you know?
Mamie: That’s the expression your face gets everytime.
Tata: What? I have a look just for a person I’ve never met?
Mamie: At least she makes you think!

Life is short, unless you’re in prison. A gal’s got to pick her battles and fewer of them as age creeps up and metabolism slows. For instance: that I get to work in the morning is a daily miracle; there’s no way I’d have the time or energy to pick a fight with a bigtime blogger and pin him to the mat. So I’m watching the fracas with the expression on my face that says, “Look at that girl go! She’s gonna run out of stomach lining before she runs out of opponents.” This is how I know I must be nearly old enough for a red New Yorker and the early bird special: the fire that drove me for decades has burned down to embers.

Plus, Vanessa Marcil is on the cover of Maxim. And I love Vanessa Marcil.

The initial fight was over an ad on a progressive website, and that degenerated into the bigtime blogger calling feminists tired, tired insulting names, dismissing the point, and backing up so, so close to dismissing women altogether. What I see here, and what the dozens of women participating in the story see is nothing new: many men, no matter what they say, want women to stop challenging them.

Personally – because that’s where the political stream meets the ocean of day-to-day results – I have watched affection and interest disappear from the eyes of men who chased me when they realized that what they caught was just as smart as they were. Men who really liked me tried to keep me a secret from their friends because I wouldn’t shut up. I have seen men who loved me lose their nerve and break things off, and I hate them for being such cowards because the only love worth having is brave love.

Personally, I have a band of female friends who say the exact same thing. We have a mantra: “Maybe this one is different. Maybe this one is brave.” Over and over, we find that no matter what his politics, the new man is terrified of vivacious women with their own opinions and ideas (the utterly fearless Paulie Gonzalez being one exception.) The more single women I meet, the more often I hear this story.

Menfolk of the Left: women are watching you, and every. last. one. has heard some form of the old horseshit about spreading her legs for the Revolution. You are not slick. You have to take us seriously whether you like it or not. We simply will not behave for you. We will not be quiet. We will not go cook you something.

The best thing you could do is cultivate a shiny-new steel-reinforced spine where your smart female counterparts are concerned. Plenty of us are going on with lives without you because you’ve lost your nerve. Wouldn’t it be better for everyone if you grew the hell up and we could go on together?

Dear God! Don’t Try This At Home!

Warning: This true life adventure contains a lot of breasts! I mean lots of ’em! If this is a problem for you, please go directly to the phone book and pick a therapist for a long-term relationship.

You met my thirteen-year-old sister at the wedding. Her name – as far as you’re concerned – is Dara. Dad’s third wife – also as far as you’re concerned – is Darla. Sister #1, sixteen months younger than me and preceeding those other two on the dirt path we call family life is named Daria – as far as you’re concerned. While you’re sick of being concerned, Dad, whose fault this is somehow, realized the error of his ways in the produce aisle of Kroger a few years ago.

Dad: This is my wife Darla. These are my daughters Daria and Dara. Oh my God.
ThreeDs: What?
Dad: That sounds like a set of plate-spinning Italian triplets.

Daria calls me at work.

Daria: Did the airline deliver your luggage?
Tata: Yup. My bedroom looks like it snowed clean laundry.
Daria: I need the bag back. I’m going to Aruba on Saturday.
Tata: With a brand new baby?
Daria: The boys are staying with their Long Island grandmother who currently has no air conditioning. Maybe I’ll call and ask if she wants to stay at my house…
Tata: You’re taking a brand new baby on an airplane?
Daria: Yes, I’m taking my brand new baby on an airplane. What are you getting at?
Tata: I just flew from Milwaukee to Newark two rows from a squawking troupe of Christian children who made me nearly homicidal with their chatter about how microbiology flew in the face of God’s Creation.
Daria: Children?
Tata: Earnest teens.
Daria: Ooooooh.
Tata: Good thing your husband’s a Marine.

Nine times out of ten, our conversations include whole rapid-fire sections of no words at all. This would be unintelligible to anyone with fewer than three Jersey sisters.

Tata: And then I read the words “I’m lying” across his forehead.
Daria: [full-body Jersey chick gasp, manicure at high air-flutter, if she were driving she’d be in a ditch.]
Tata: Shaaaaaaaaaa!
Daria: Uh ahhhhhhh.
Tata: Mmm hmmm!

In person, it’s as if we read the Times Square news crawls across one another’s foreheads. There is no possibility of lying or pretense. Thursday night, I drove over to her house and found our Mom’s unique vehicle parked in front. Daria lets me in. Her hair is flying all over the place as she leads me upstairs to the master bedroom where, as I enter, nearly all Hell breaks loose. The new baby is crying her eyes out. Mom’s changing the baby and changing her and changing her – Mom generally moves slowly and deliberately and thoroughly and though babies usually like that, this one’s not having any of it. Daria’s two boys are floating in the bathtub and squealing delightedly. Bathtime is their favorite. They are hooting like monkeys on two-for-one banana day. The TV’s on. Daria’s vast wardrobe fills a walk-in closet, covers her bed and spills from the expensive luggage on the floor. This room is so busy I walk laps around one side of the bed just to keep up.

Tata: Hey Mom! Show us the battleship!
Mom: What?
Tata: Your new tattoos! Show us the battleship!
Mom: Truly, you were raised by wolves…

Current radiation treatments involve tattooing little dots on the patient. I hadn’t heard of this before yesterday, but now Mom and I finally have ink in common. Mom hands the in no way calming down and now irate baby to Daria, who stops running in tight circles, plunks down on her bed and hikes up her shirt. Apparently, the baby’s hungry. The boys continue splashing each other and pretending to be invisible. Mom checks to see the boys can’t see her and shrugs off her tank top to show me the dots. And then, my lecture begins. Look closely. You see me standing in front of a chalkboard in Daria’s closet, whacking the chalkboard occasionally with my extended pointer.

Tata: Mom! That bra does NOT fit you.
Mom: It fits me! I want it to fit me!
Daria: I saw this on Oprah
Tata: That bra does NOT fit you! Remember we used to go to the corsetier in East Millstone?
Mom: Yes…?
Tata: The back of your bra should be –
Daria: – Even with the front! That was on Oprah this week, too!
Tata: And while this is a nice design –
Mom: See? This is a good bra!
Tata: – it gives you four boobs, and that’s two too many.
Daria: What are is she talking about? Turn around, Mom, lemme see.
Mom: Um…the boys…
Daria: You’re right! The boys will never bring home –
Mom: – Girls. “I trace this back to the moment Grandma…”
Daria: I will never have grandchildren because my sons were emotionally scarred by three women in ill-fitting underwear. “I thought my sons’ girlfriends were so nice. Turns out they were their long-term therapists.”
Tata: Sometimes your weight redistributes. That happened to me recently after I stopped lifting weights and my ribcage narrowed.
Mom: Really? I’ve always worn either a 32 or 34 –
Daria: STOP RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE –

Mom and I freeze. Daria’s pointing urgently down the hallway. Oh. My. God. Her husband’s home and no one heard him shut the front door! The chalkboard disappears. I dart around Mom, grab her shirt, turn it right-side-out in one motion and put myself between her and the doorway.

Daria: – OR YOU WILL NEED THERAPY FOREVER.
Tata: You have the Stealth Husband? How is that possible? He’s much too big!
Daria: He is in fact the Stealth Husband. See?

I turn the corner. There he is. I decide seven people in one bedroom is at least one too many. On my way out, I tell Daria I left a couple of recent issues of International Gymnast in the bag for her, should she miraculously have a minute to flip some pages. Daria likes that idea.

Well…now we know that writing imaginary dialogue and talking to the narrator is a family trait.

Was It Something I Said?

Poor Impulse Control, this modest endeavor, this vibrant equivocator, is the kind of blog you read because I am engaging, and you haven’t yet found a way to give me jewel-encrusted gifts. Let’s face facts: I amuse you, and I’d be a bargain at twice the price despite the many moments I tick you off or leave messages on your cell that’d make sailors blush. Or perhaps because of them.

So. There we are: Me, me, me. It’s all about me.

Thus, I have been surprised and perturbed to find myself staring at PIC’s stats and noting that someone has added the 12.23.04 entry Pointy, Bitey, Sharp Sharp Sharp to their reading list. Several smart people I trust to tell me the absolute truth because they fear my ability to find cutlery anywhere have been unable to track down who’s linked to this causerie. The strange, silent attention is creepy. I can’t tell whether I should bake brownies or boobietrap my kitchen window – though anything involving boobies is bound to be fun, isn’t it?

I’ve met me. In fact, most of the time I recognize me right away. Who’re you?

Plum and Plumber

Hi, honey. I’m home!

My manicure’s a wreck, my luggage returned from Luggage Hell, my inbox is stuffed with suggestions that my erections could be just like when I was twenty-one. If by that spammers mean those erections are someone else’s they may be onto something. Where do I sign?

Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, cried the whole time I was gone – so says Paulie, who apartment-sat and cat-sat while I was camping in the Midwest. A three-year-old beagle decided she was my best friend. Cats, big busybodies, know all about who you’ve slept with, so Larry wouldn’t speak to me last night. Today, he’s much friendlier, having forgiven me for bedding down with with dogs even if I didn’t get up with fleas.

The thing I wanted and needed was a week away from TV, phones and computers, not to mention blood relations waving guest lists or co-workers issuing demands as my employer takes away money it promised – but why should I be special in this Fuck You, I’ve Got Mine economy? There’s only so much a person can do for simple peace of mind when the mind in question is in endless pieces.

Where’s the express line for a new life?

Shoe the Children

A few years ago I went to Pennsic War with ten thousand of my closest friends. We all walked around in silly costumes for a week or two, doing silly things and eating starchy foods. As vacations go, it was what I could afford – provided I never got arrested for annoying the locals while wearing a clown suit. This went on for a few years in a row while I was in a deep, dark depression. With Medieval clowns.

So one sunny afternoon, my visually impaired friend says he has no idea what’s going on outside of our campsite, what the craftspeople are doing and what’s going on at all.

Tata: You haven’t seen any of this?
Bob: Nope.
Tata: Let’s fix that right now.

For the next few days, we crawled all over every inch of fake battlefield, fake castles, portable churches, merchants and their merchandise. The guy selling knives looked particularly nervous when Bob wanted to “see” his wares.

Tata: Hey! Knives!
Bob: Cool!
Tata: Here! Catch!

Okay, we didn’t actually play catch, but the knife guy spent one sweaty half hour handing some really beautiful knives to Bob so carefully you would’ve thought Bob was made of boiled ham and we were standing on a field of provolone. Sort of. Later that night, we had a different kind of cheesy excitement.

Tata: Yeah, I was walking back from my tent and I found this lying in the grass.
Bob: What is it?
Tata: I dunno. Free-range lawn gouda?

http://www.pennsic.net/maps/

Our adventures in examining every little thing included fabrics, garments, kites, footware, jewelry, furniture and food made in most cases by hobbyists of tremendous skill, passion and with much too much time on their hands. Most of the merchants really enjoyed the attention we paid to the detailed work. When clothing caught my eye or seemed like it would be interesting to touch, I stopped people and asked if Bob could feel something. Though most people were initially skeptical, every person explained something about stitching or the origin of the fabric, or what court established what tradition. Touching everything was breathtaking good fun. People take this Medieval recreation business so seriously that when I accosted a man with interesting headgear while he was eating lunch I felt a gasp sweep through the circus tent. Ah, screw ’em.

Tata: Can my friend – my friend is nearly blind – can he see your – would you show him that –
King: My crown?
Tata: Yeah yeah. It’s very handsome!

He stopped eating, took off his crown and placed it in Bob’s hands. I narrated until the king got the idea and described the engraved scenes as the seasons in his kingdom. It was a brilliant bit of equal opportunity mischief. We thanked him and ran back to our camp, where a dozen or so friends listened aghast.

Bob: Then she ran over to this guy and said, “Can my friend – can he see your – would you show him your crown?”
Crowd: Oh my god, you’re supposed to leave the tin hats alone! When you see them get out of the way! Don’t talk to them!
Tata: Fuck that! He took off his hat and explained the whole thing to Bob!
Crowd: NO!
Bob and Tata: Yes!

If we’d had a dog we would have been dangerous.

These few days of searching intently and joyously for the most fascinating bits of life served as a turning point in my depression. I remembered that I was – before – interested in absolutely everything, and I’d forgotten that, and forgotten what I was like. When I got home, I took out my sketchbook and filled page after page with things I now remembered about myself. No, I am not the same person I was before I fell down the well in 1996; neither am I that dead thing wandering around with my face. This is why we take vacations and get out of our routines and environments.

Tomorrow morning, I’m leaving for vacation. Paulie will take care of Larry, the little black cat bent on stealing your soul, and the tiny apartment because when I have a breakup it’s not like anyone else’s. Unless it is. Anyway, after a year and a half of Miss Sasha’s wedding stress, I can’t wait to be out in the woods, reading my email by the campfire and avoiding bears on the way to the fur-lined outhouse. I’m due a satori or two and clown suit or no, I’m in a table-turning mood, possibly on myself.

Hopefully, on myself.