Happiness as Boolean (Part 1: To-do or not to-do)

Each morning, I wake up and start deciding which things will get done that day. Which things are more urgent, which things will take the longest, which things will serve as a nice break in between more boring things. I keep a to-do list of these things in a desktop gadget (gadget, not widget, cause I’m on Windows).

Side note: I remember when widgets where placeholder words for things one would manufacture if one had a business. “Say you’re making, uh, widgets…” the professor would say. Now that widgets are actual things, I wonder what word business schools use as a placeholder. Smorglflat? And whether WordPress sidebars will soon utilize smorglflat technology. Also, Smorglflat sounds like the name of a black metal band comprised of Muppets.

Anyway, the to-do list. I look at the clock and say, “I have _____ hours. Let’s see how far I can get on this list.”

That’s a fine way to go about things if all you need to do is get things done. If you care about not losing your mind, I’m not sure I’d recommend it.

Trouble is, when you go and go each day until you can’t go anymore, all you’re really doing is working and sleeping. One day, your cat knocks over a glass of Kool Aid and you just lose your shit, that being the final straw in a giant hay bale of frustration and loneliness. As you’re kneeling on a towel in your bedroom, soaking up the last of the seltzer water you used to clean up the spill, you just lean your head on the edge of the bed and cry because you’d think that, for ONE THING on Earth, your cat would let you god damn sleep past 5am.

(continued tomorrow)

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We are Siamese if You Don’t Please

Every so often, I have a thought that seems perfectly rational to me for about a minute or so before I realize that it’s kind of insane. I will admit that the thought is insane, but there’s still some little part of me that thinks, “but you never know…”

See, The Wingman* and I have taken to referring to Herr Puss as Douche Cat. He earned this title by doing such things as meowing loudly throughout the night, putting his butt in people’s faces, attempting to eat people’s food and drink people’s water (a behavior that has now extended to Crystal Light), and generally being up in everybody’s business. In other words, HP is referred to as Douche Cat (and sometimes Troll Cat) simply for being a cat. At the ripe old age of “twelveish,” Herr Puss may be starting to look a bit threadbare, but shows no signs of slowing down or being any less ornery. He’s Siamese. Evil keeps him young.

Once we started calling him Douche Cat, the yelling seemed to get worse. Then, the insane thought came.

“He’s been around for 12 years. Maybe he’s learned to understand English.”

If he were a human, he’d have understood probably 8 years ago. He’s not human, but he is a pretty smart cat, having figured out how to escape from cat jail (aka the laundry room) AND how to get non “cat people” to pay attention to him (aka “rub my belly” aka “the a game”). So maybe learning English just took him a bit longer than it would a toddler?

Does this mean that he knows we’re mocking him? Can he understand me when I’m talking about him on the phone? He doesn’t know what a douche is, but maybe he understands that, whatever it is, it’s not nice? Are we being terrible bullies, like the cool kids in the cafeteria?

No, Amy. This is insane.
He cannot understand you.

In truth, the thing that most convinced me that he can’t understand English is the fact that, if he could understand me, he probably would have peed on something of mine by now. Or he just doesn’t want me to know he can understand me because then I’d be onto him. I’d try to make him get a job.

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* I realize that calling someone who is officially my boyfriend The Wingman is kind of silly, but using the word boyfriend is still a little jarring, and calling him The Wingman allows me to picture us as pilots from Top Gun. No official word on who’s who in that equation, but I suspect I may be Goose. Obviously, Herr Puss is Iceman.

Little Boxes, Day One: “Dude, Where’s My Retribution?”

If there is one phrase that I’ve gotten really damn sick of uttering to people in the last six months, it’s this one:

“Dude, I wouldn’t do that to you.”

In other words, somebody does something semi fucked-up to you and, when the other person doesn’t understand why you’re angry with them, you explain how they made you feel and have to point out that you wouldn’t have done something like that to them. Please note that I used the phrase semi fucked up. Truly, deeply fucked up actions result in immediate and permanent deletion. Sometimes you just say, “there is nothing good that can come from having this person in my life” and move along.

I’m sick of people treating me like my feelings don’t matter and then just having to walk away from the whole thing. I mean, what’s the alternative? Write them a well thought-out email about how they hurt my feelings? Well, we’ve already established that said person doesn’t really care about my feelings; what would be the point of letting them know they hurt me? Maybe I could could write something down about how much I hate them? Well, all that accomplishes is releasing more shit into the world and opening up myself to a possible reply from that person which would probably just make things worse. I guess you can always beat the hell out of somebody, but that’s also bad karma and a good way to end up in jail.

What’s a girl to do? If the problem can’t be worked out or the crime is really heinous, I usually just walk away. I thought this was a pretty effective, simple and dignified way to handle things. As it turns out, it just boxes up the problems. Seals them up with packing tape and then they just sit there. You want to ignore them, but there are your feelings, all boxed up and still just as they were when you put them there. Maybe a little skinnier and paler, but there they are. The other person gets to go on, and you end up with all these damn boxes.

There’s no retribution.
There should be.

The person who hurt you is never made to answer for what they did. You get to lie there metaphorically bleeding and they just get to walk away like nothing happened and keep behaving in whatever fucked-up way they choose. They’ll hurt more people and then, when people start to catch on to them, they’ll just move to a new city and start over. Like serial killers.

Usually, I just have to comfort myself with, “the life that he/she is headed for with that kind of behavior is far, far worse than anything I can deal out.” It’s true, but it’s cold comfort when all you really want is five minutes and a pair of steel-toed boots.

For example, when a pack of douchebags laid me off six days before I was supposed to close on my house, I wanted to key their cars so badly. SO. BADLY. Instead, I thought “the way you operate is going to bite you in the ass eventually, and that’d be way better.” I left their cars alone. That business eventually ended up having to cut 70% of its staff. What’s left of the company is a laughable shadow of what it could have been.

I’ll admit that, because I am a flawed person, I really enjoy the fact that everyone in town is slowly realizing that those guys are douchebags. However, the little box of anger is still there. It’s not like keying their cars or beating them up would get rid of the box of anger. I could focus on how I ended up doing just fine without them. I could remind myself that everybody else from the company got laid off later, in the middle of the recession. But nothing makes the box go away.

Have we all become so afraid of consequences that we’re afraid to call people out on their bad behavior? Is there no come-uppance anymore? Is everyone content to just become sort of passive-aggressive? Or is just walking away the more mature, adult thing to do?

No, really. I’m asking. I need answers.

Me Against The Music

I know I promised you days of poetry. However, I am currently lacking the balls to post today’s poem as I saw its subject recently and realized that said subject is, in fact, a real person with real feelings. As stepped on as my feelings may have been, that doesn’t excuse walking up and metaphorically sucker-punching said subject in the face. Basically, I can’t bring myself to post what I’ve written.

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I keep meeting musicians. I guess that’s not unusual, since I live in Nashville and you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a musician, or at least a drummer (insert rim shot here). The guy working at Starbucks probably has a degree in Music Business. The girl building your website probably has a degree in Music Business. Ahem.

Naturally, when I meet these musicians, they sometimes ask if I play anything. Some of them forget to ask, but eventually see the rather hard-to-miss piano sitting in my house.

“Oh? You play?”
“Yes, but not as much as I used to. Just don’t get time.”

This, I’m realizing, is a half truth. It’s true that I don’t get time. It’s also true that, if I had time, I probably wouldn’t spend it at a piano. “So?” you ask.

“So” is me tossing aside years of lessons. “So” is me throwing away hours of practice. “So” is me looking at 19 year old Amy, the one who thought she would never, ever say this, and saying “this just isn’t our medium anymore.” 19 year old looks back in horror and calls 32 year old Amy a turncoat. A FUCKING turncoat. (19 year old Amy had some issues.)

It’s just that I found a more direct means of communication. I don’t speak in notes and poorly-worded lyrics anymore. You can play a song for someone all damned day and they can turn to you when it’s over and say, “that was pretty.” But did you get the point? The POINT was the point. Being “pretty” was not the fucking point.

Worse still, all those musicians I meet tend to demand that I play them something and then start talking to me halfway through my playing. They definitely don’t get the point; they’re just evaluating my technique and wondering why I almost always use the third. The POINT is the point, not my pedaling technique. Did you hear what I was telling you? It’s frustrating, like being trapped in a soundproof glass box. They can see you just fine, but have NO idea what you’re trying to tell them.

That’s why I post words. Why bury myself in metaphor and chord structure when I can just look you in the eye and say, “THIS the the point; HERE is what I’m telling you”?

Those musicians I keep meeting, when I explain that I don’t play much, don’t record much, and don’t play shows ever always just sort of look at me like they don’t understand. Like someone should come and repossess my piano, giving it to some unfortunate skinny-pantsed fellow who can’t afford his own. Like one needn’t bother playing if one isn’t looking for a record deal. That’s the tyranny of Nashville. Music isn’t allowed to be just fun…music is meant to “become something.”

I still play. Sometimes music is still the right medium for certain things. Sometimes, you need to get something out and need to bury it in metaphor. Sometimes, getting the feeling out is the point, rather than the point being the point.

The medium is determined by the message. See, I can spew pretentious bullshit like this all day because I also went to art school.

I’ve been trying to explain this to 19 year old Amy. I’ve been trying to explain this to musicians. I’m not sure either group really understands. As for 32 year old Amy, she still feels guilty for not practicing more.

World’s Best-Written Blog. Only not.

Yesterday’s blog ended with me mentioning something about how, in a perfect world, the bedroom would be a sort of no-judge zone. I believe that this is the case for a lot of couples, and it should be, but I also believe that this is all too often not how things are. This also ties into that thing I said a few weeks ago about the virgin/whore problem. I mentioned it in the context of talking about how guys were kind of screwed when it came to knowing the right things to say, but that women were also screwed in a lot of ways.

I apologize for the somewhat “all over the place” nature of this one. It’s hard for me to cover this without listing specific events that may or may not involve people you know. It’s hard for me to talk about this without telling on myself. It’s especially hard for me to talk about this without getting into a subject that would take a 5-part series and spark some debate that would piss me off. I don’t really need any more things in my life that piss me off, thanks.

So, the virgin/whore problem. The quick explanation is the one I gave a friend:

“Guys want you to throw down in the bedroom…but they also want to believe that you’d only ever do that with THEM.” As though only that ONE guy would have the power to bring out your inner sexpot. As though he were the only guy you’d ever been with. As though he is made of magic and you have no recollection of anything or anyone that happened before him. Honestly. The male ego.

If you’re good at something, they wonder if you’re lying about how many people you’ve been with. If you’re bad at something, you will be dismissed pretty quickly. They never, ever really want to hear anything that went down with anyone before them. This is a shame. We women will tell you these things in hopes that you are paying attention and taking notes. You don’t NEED Maxim to tell you what we’re thinking. We will tell you all sorts of things, in excruciating detail. If you’re smart, you’re taking notes instead of judging us.

Also, we’re also telling you these things in hopes that you’ll reciprocate. Hell, make a user’s manual. With video. Whatever works. Ask about our sex toys instead of fearing them. Ask why we prefer those to other ones. A woman who is having a good time during naked time is a woman who will care a lot less about you leaving socks on the floor. It’s a win/win.

Several of you are looking at me with one eyebrow raised. You’re saying to me, “but Amy…don’t you think you’re a little under-qualified for this conversation?”

Maybe a little, say I.

However, the thing about me that makes me under-qualified also makes the virgin/whore problem glaringly clear to me. Men start off treating me like a delicate child, only to have me point out that I’m still 32 and this is not my first rodeo. As a result, the two perceptions collide and men have no idea what to do with me. The virgin/whore contradiction comes through with glaring clarity; they feel bewildered and disoriented and I feel harshly judged. More than once have I been offered the position of one night stand or booty call, only to offer up an inconvenient truth that prompted one guy to have to sit down and apologize for the next ten minutes. He was horrified, as though he’d whipped it out in front of a nun. All he’d really done was touch my hand, and possibly had a couple impure thoughts.

Enough of you know what I’m getting at in that last paragraph. To those of you who don’t know, I’ll just point out that I am not now and have never been a man. That is all.

Via Fountain Pen

I have just finished watching Bright Star, a biopic of Keats that involves more romance and costuming than any film ought to. The star-crossed love story ends in death (from tuberculosis, of course) and the movie is directed by Jane Campion. All of those things means that I’ve come to one conclusion:

This is why we’re all fucked.

Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. It’s just that I also think that movies like this should come with a warning label or require some kind of license to rent. These things, these stories of love that is expressed in flowery poerty and doesn’t even stop after death, are dangerous.

It would be lovely if, when your man has to travel to Italy, he would devote much of his time to writing you ornate poems about how much he misses you. It would be lovely if they were hand-delivered and sealed with bright red wax bearing his initials. But we don’t do that here in the 21st century. Here, we have email. We have Facebook. Those things are instant gratification, but they are not particularly romantic. Ladies, if you get any bright ideas about hand-writing poems in fountain pen, proceed with caution. This tends to scare the hell out of the 21st century male. You might as well go find some moors to wander. In the rain.

Even if your man were to write you ornate poems from Italy, half of you would think it he was just up to something. Like, “he’s just trying to get in my pants” or “I wonder what he did that’s about to piss me off.” Guys, forgive us. Years of being 21st century women have taught us that guys who do things like this probably ARE up to something.

It’s like guys can’t win.
Ladies can’t win either.
Ask us about the virgin/whore problem sometime.

Actually, maybe you can win a little. At the end of the day, it’s not about the wax-sealed poems. It’s not about flowery language that could only be managed by a master of Romantic poetry. It’s about us women just wishing we knew how you felt about us. If you go to Italy, we just want to know that you’re thinking of us. We’re all screwed because modern technology has gotten us used to knowing exactly where everybody is 24 hours a day. One tiny hole is someone’s Foursquare timeline, and our stupid girl brains start wondering. It’s silly. It’s insane. It’s the 21st century. Five years ago, we didn’t have this kind of access to each other, and now it’s become commonplace, and sometimes expected.

There’s a part of me that really enjoys having every status update from everyone I know sent to my phone. There’s also a part of me that wants to run screaming from that, move to the country, and communicate only via fountain pen.

Taking It Like a Man

As far as I know, I have been female my whole life. I mean, people kept dressing me in skirts and giving me haircuts with names like “pixie,” so I assume that I was female that whole time, even though I wasn’t really thinking about it. There are pictures of a 5 year-old Amy wearing a fluffy blue tutu. Yep. Female.

So, the nurturing that I got (even though my parents were both flaming feminists and only ever called me “princess” in sarcasm) was the kind of nurturing that girls get. Nobody ever called me “sport.” Nobody ever told me to “walk it off” when I got hurt. People expect little girls to be sensitive. People expect us to cry. This follows us into adulthood. When we have a rough time, we call our friends, we cry, we write horrible poetry and sometimes even do that shit in public. It’s not dignified, but we get away with it and nobody calls us pussies because we’re females. We deal with our pain by piling it on the table in front of us and looking through it, piece by piece, usually bringing along a couple of very tolerant and understanding friends.

I know what to do when a female friend calls at 2am, crying about a breakup. Wake up and talk about it until she’s done, sleep be damned. I do not, however, know what to do with male pain. Male pain is like termites: you know it’s there in the wall. You can hear it chomping away, but you can’t just rip off the moulding and get a good look at it because it hides the second light hits it. We women try to come at you guys with both barrels, trying to make you talk. We think we’re telling you that it’s OK to talk to us. We think we’re giving you a green light. You think we’re invading your space, judging you and being weird. We’re just trying to help, and we end up scaring the crap out of you.

We’re trying to help because you’re scaring the crap out of us. We’re watching you handle your pain in a way that is unsettling to us and not completely functional. Not to sound all judgey, but suicide statistics say that your love affair with Jack Daniels isn’t a very effective coping mechanism.

When faced with pain, guys will just hide in their houses, drink, throw themselves into their work, or try to pretend that they’re fine. They’ve been taught that “needing to talk” isn’t very masculine, crying is “weak,” and seeking help is even worse.

The whole thing pisses me off. It pisses me off that there are still women out there who are repulsed by the idea of their man crying. I mean, none of us WANT to see you in pain, but there’s a difference between “this is hard to watch because I care about this person” and “omg, what a fucking pussy.” Of course it’s hard to watch someone you care about be in pain, but that’s also a big neon sign to you that reads, “this is your opportunity to be there for someone who never seems to need help.”

Ladies, if you need your man to be bulletproof so that you get to be Delicate Princess, maybe you should take a closer look at yourselves. It’s not about Delicate Princess and Marlboro Man. It’s about two equal people who hopefully lose their shit at different times, so one can step up when the other needs it. (See? There’s that feminist upbringing. Honestly, you should meet my mom. She’s a bad ass.)

I am tired of watching male friends go through rough times and breakups, only to end up drinking too much, becoming someone else, pretending as though nothing happened, or deciding that all women are evil and must be fucked with. I am tired of this because those male friends are going to date again, and I would hope that they would do so as well-adjusted humans and not as giant balls of crazy-assed baggage. I am also tired of this because, once, someone didn’t date again and opted to just kill himself instead. I know it’s a little dramatic for my brain to fly into “omg, he’s going to kill himself” mode every time someone has walled off some pain, but there it is. My brain goes there every time now, because it didn’t go there the one time that it really needed to. Indulge me.

The wrap-up thesis statement being this: ladies, guys are not going to be able to undo all of that upbringing overnight. Be patient. Just because they’re bigger than you doesn’t mean they don’t want to be held sometimes. Guys, give us a chance to show you that we can handle your feelings. If you need help, call. This is 2010 and no one wants or expects you to be John Wayne.

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(I should point out here that, despite any real-life events of the last year, this post isn’t directed at anyone in particular. In fact, the reason for writing it was that it needed to be directed to so many people. If you think I’m talking about you, I probably am…I’m just not talking ONLY about you.)