The Crucible

I am pacing back and forth in a puddled parking lot, clutching my cell phone to my ear knowing that I’m talking to a loved friend for the last time. There are words in my head, but I can’t make them come out.

Christ’s sake.
There were only three of them.
The plane is going down, girl.

“If you don’t say it, you’ll spend your life wishing you had, and you know it. SAY IT.”

I knew if I said it, I would cry.
My people do not cry in public.

“If there were ever a time when public crying would be OK, this is it. For God’s sake, girl, SAY IT.”

Deep breath.
OK, on three.
One, two…

“I love you.”

There. As predicted, the tears. God damn it.

I tell you this story because I remember it, plain as day, years later. I know what happened before and after. I know what I was wearing. I tell you this story because it’s one of the few times that a life lesson has walked up and smacked me over the head, mercilessly. I tell you this because we’re going to discuss The Crucible Theory. We’re going to get it all out. Days’ worth of it, the way we did when we fired the shrink. Not to play the “older than you” card, but I am older than you, and I’m trying to teach you something. Come with me.

Where were we? Ah, the parking lot. The three words I’d never said to anyone not related to me by blood. It doesn’t matter that he said them back to me. It’s nice, but it’s not the point.

The point is how, later, I was ashamed at how hard it was to get myself to say them. How, through this bone-perforating, mind numbing, balls-to-the-fucking-wall pain…I learned something.

Welcome to The Crucible Theory.

Crucible, in addition to being a book you probably had to read in high school, also means “a severe, searching test or trial.” Also, “a container for heating substances to high temperatures.” It gets hot as Hell and produces strong alloys. Assuming nothing bursts into flames or explodes and kills someone.

Friends, you cannot outrun pain. You can’t shop it out, drug it out, drink it out or fuck it out. You can’t push it down. You can’t tune it out. The further you shove it down, the more it festers. It’s going to come get you, and when it comes back it’s going to bring friends. Friends named anger or panic or insecurity or addiction or whatever. You shove that pain down, and you’ll be dealing with a small army in ten years. That’s if you’re lucky. If you’re lucky, your brain melts and you have no choice but to deal. If you’re not lucky, you become a shopaholic, hoarder or suicide statistic.

You have to stare the pain in the face. Roll it around in your mouth. See what you can learn. When you learn it, don’t forget it.

Invite that pain out for coffee. Give it a name. Think about it. Write about it. Play it as a movie in your head. Write horrible emo poetry. Write songs that are even worse. Get down in it and get it in your hair.

It sounds awful.
It sounds like wallowing.
That’s only because it is.

One day, you’ll be sick of yourself and sick of wallowing. You will have processed every single atom of that pain in such excruciating detail that you could make a life-size model of it. When you pick yourself up off the floor, you will wipe the blood from your nose, look around and know two things:

1. It didn’t kill you.
2. Neither will the next thing.


Also, a quick footnote about yesterday’s blog:
The subject of that blog had nothing to do with the four dudes who spent the night at my house Saturday. Total coincidence. All clothes were kept on and everybody slept alone. LOL @ you guys. Can’t you see the flashing red sign over my head?

The Heathcliff Theory

“Heathcliff,” of course, refers to Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, not the annoying cartoon cat. Heathcliff is a pretty tragic guy: he runs around making everyone miserable, nabbing people’s fortunes and generally being unpleasant to everyone in his incestuous little moor neighborhood. Why, then, am I strangely drawn to him?

He’s horrible because someone broke his heart. He loved so deeply that, when it went wrong, he lost his damn mind. It’s tragic and goth as fuck, but it’s also kind of romantic because it never happens anymore. In present day, Heathcliff could have just deleted Catherine from his friends list, moved to another town and pretended she never existed. He’d either shrug her off and get over it or end up drinking himself to death in the privacy of his own home. Or he could pretend he was OK and whore around with every girl he knew, subconsciously taking out his wounds on every girl who would have him. Or he’d just become married to his work. I have seen male friends do pretty much all of the above. At any rate, he probably wouldn’t end up exhuming the skeleton of his beloved, just so he can sleep next to her. (Toldja. Goth as fuck.)

To get back on-task, I think women are drawn to Heathcliff because, even in his complete dysfunctional insanity, he’s still an example of a male heart that, while surrounded by rocky crags, is secretly very delicate.* It’s the double-edged sword: any man capable of feeling anything deeply enough to be driven insane by it is probably worth knowing. Unfortunately, he is also insane.

This isn’t simply the old “women find a bad boy and want to ‘fix’ him” phenomenon. I have never been particularly into that one, as it seems like a lot of work to put into something that doesn’t come with a 401k and full dental. I have actual craft projects; I don’t want to date one.

The thing that makes me drawn to Heathcliff isn’t that he’s messed up. It’s that he felt deeply enough to get messed up.

Ladies, don’t lecture me. I didn’t say I was seeking Heathcliff. The fantasy of Heathcliff and the reality of him are two very different things, and not something to tackle unless you thrive on drama and don’t mind never getting a good night’s sleep. I am not seeking Heathcliff. I’m seeking Rochester. You see…I’m still screwed.

*You heard me. I used the moors in the story as a metaphor for Healthcliff’s heart. Rocky, but blessed with fertile soil. Do not front on my mad 10th grade English skillz.

(evil)classics: Love is a Decision

This originally ran on January 8, 2008 over on LiveJournal, but I find that it’s still true and could bear repeating.

I’m sprouting gray hairs, which means that I get to start self-righteously preaching to people about various views on life. Not that a lack of gray hair ever stopped me before.

Today’s thesis statement: there’s no such thing as soulmates. Sorry, kids, that bubbly bullshit that you feel when you meet someone is not the hand of the universe guiding you toward the one person who was meant for you. It’s hormones. It’s the glee of having a new toy. It’s the rush of chemicals designed to make you still want to pursue someone, despite your brain knowing that relationships are fucking scary. Nature gave you those bubbles to keep the species going. The Universe doesn’t particularly give a rat’s ass who you marry.

Yes, there are some people that you like more than others. There are people with whom you have an easier time being in a relationship. The thing that separates the bullshit from the love is one simple decision: deciding to love the other person. The tricky part is getting TWO people to make the same simple decision at once. This doesn’t mean “I really, really like you until the fun wears off.” It doesn’t mean “I totally want to have sex with you.” It doesn’t even mean “I want to move in with you, share a bank account, and maybe spawn.”

It means that you’re there for that other person, that you have their back no matter what, til the end of the Earth. You see now why it’s hard to get the L word out of me. I put a lot of weight on it. It’s not something you say because it’s time, not something you say because it’s fucking Valentine’s Day, and not something you say just to see if the other person says it. It’s a promise. “I love you” is just shorthand for “I have your back forever, period.”

But, in the immortal words of Prince, “forever is a mighty long time.” The other person in question may decide that they no longer want to get up every day and decide to love you. Whether or not you continue to love them is up to you and the shrink you will end up needing to hire, but know this: you should not stay with a person who doesn’t want to stay with you. It’s a pointless waste of time.

My parents have been married for 39 years. Did they wake up every morning and see puppies and rainbows in each others’ eyes? Uh, probably not. Did they both wake up each morning and decide that they wanted to be there? Apparently so. That doesn’t, however, necessarily mean that some cosmic force aligned, pushing the two of them together. It means that, every day, they both wanted to make it work. All day. To the end of the Earth.

I say this to underline something that I learned some time around age 26. Up until then, I was pretty much half-assing all of my relationships. I just didn’t know it. I shouldn’t have even allowed to be in the dating pool, but there wasn’t a lifeguard around, so hey. Some people seem to grasp the non-half-ass concept before others (I suspect Nat was born understanding the relationship dynamic), but it took me a long period of singleness to realize that I wasn’t really trying. This is probably directly related to the fact that I’ve never been in love.*

Learn from me, kids, and don’t leave a trail of bodies in your wake. Oh, if I could apologize to every dude I dated back then. Luckily, most of the ones I still talk to have been forgiving, figuring that we were both young and stupid. Don’t half-ass it. You’re just fucking it up for everybody else.

*Results of post-half-assing dating have been discouraging and minimal. I was much more popular with dudes when I was emotionally unavailable. And 23.

Drawls in Print

I was watching a Tivoed show last night in which these two linguist dudes go to far away places to document dying languages. You see, linguists like to look at how languages mix and intermingle, how they evolve through various colonizations and wars.

I’ve thought about all this before, but not as it pertains to some tribe living in Siberia. I’ve thought about this in terms of the English language that we speak everyday. I’m endlessly fascinated by little variances that happen between regions. I’m even more fascinated by the effect that the internet and text messaging are having on us. Am I about to indict everyone who abbreviates “wtf?” No.

John McWhorter made an excellent point is his book, Doing Our Own Thing. Little changes in English are natural progressions that happen in a living language. Am I OK with people not knowing the difference between “your” and “you’re?” Hell to the no, but I think that the inventions that we’ve come up with out of necessity are still interesting.

With the growing popularity of Twitter and text messaging, does this mean that we’re going to come up with increasingly less-charactered ways of talking to each other? The people on Twitter have found ways to abbreviate a lot of stuff because of Twitter’s 140-character limit. I even had to look up “fml” on (“fuck my life”). Will the increasing popularity of the internet slowly merge all languages into one language? It would certainly simplify things, even if it would homogenize us a lot. Will the internet cause us to lose regional slang? Will people ever agree on a way to pronounce “syrup” and “pecan?” For example…

I follow the tweets of someone who tends to greet us with “what’s good?” I finally broke down and asked him if said question was rhetorical. He’s pretty much using it like “what’s up,” but I had never heard this expression before. He only lives 8 hours away.

There was recently a big to-do about a contestant on American Idol telling judges “be careful” as he was leaving the room. Those of us in the south know that he meant it like “drive safely” or “take care,” but the Idol judges took it as some kind of threat. Idol eventually issued an apology, worded in such a way as to imply that Kentucky (home of said contestant) was some other planet.

I’m still a grammar nazi at heart, but I also really enjoy slang. It’s a little snapshot of the time where we live. “Rad” screams 1980s, and “sweet” says 2000s. If you know what a grizzy is, you’re either from the hood or listening to rap music. If you’ve ever spoken the phrase “handstapleforehead,” you’re probably goth. The way we speak says a lot about where we’re from, but the way we type does, too. In a world where we type as much as we talk, it may pay for us to learn to hear an accent in type.

I Enjoy Being a Bitch

“You’re…difficult,” Mark once said to me.

“You can be a bit…now, don’t take this the wrong way…I don’t want to upset you…but you can be a bit…”

“Abrasive?” I know it’s kind of rude to interrupt one’s shrink, but honestly, the amount of time he would spend trying to make me not upset would use up too much of our rather expensive time together. It’s my dime, so I chose to move things along.

“Dude, it’s ok. I know. How about we work on some elements of my personality that you have some snowball’s chance in hell of changing? Basic building blocks of my personality are such a lofty goal.”

I used to feel kind of bad about this whole “hey, dude, you’re kind of a bitch” thing. Then I realized something. Being a bitch isn’t the same as being an asshole. Assholiness, yes, I’m working on. I’m working on saying “thank you” more. I’m working on trying to phrase things less abrasively so they’ll have a bettter shot at being heard. I’m working on being more supportive, not blocking intersections, and being nice to the people at Comcast even when they’re total dicks to me. Hell, I might even start recycling.

But you’re still going to know exactly what I think of you. One of my selling points as a human is that people always know exactly where they stand with me. I have no poker face. It’s not for everyone, and that’s fine. Might as well be hated for who you are and not who you’re pretending to be, and I might as well be zen about my “fuck you” attitude because it’s not going anywhere. Birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim.

This, I suspect, is why the dudes I end up with are usually IT guys or guitar players. They’re the only guys with enough ego to survive me, and I’m the only one stupid enough to tell them, “hey, you’d better dial it down a notch.” It takes all kinds. Some dudes enjoy bitches, and God bless those dudes. I’ve dated some very nice guys, but the trouble there is that it frustrates the piss out of me to have this conversation:

“Where do you want to eat?”
“I don’t know.”
“How about _____, _____, or _____?”
“I don’t care.”

And then I feel like I’m always making all of the decisions, like he’s secretly resenting me for always picking the restaurant/movie/whatever. So I start trying to guess at what he would want. It’s exhausting, and I gave up on that years ago. If he can’t voice an opinion, then fuck him. He doesn’t get one. I’m not going to spend my life trying to guess the cinematic desires of someone who can’t even decide between Saw II and Beaches. And when he throws that up in my face (and they always eventually do), I’m just going to be like “well, you never voice an opinion…you forfeited your vote.” And then he’ll say something like “well, you’re a scary bitch.” And then I’ll say something like “I don’t recall putting a gun to your head to date me.”

What was my point, besides reminding myself that I’m glad to be single? Screw it. Will be coherent tomorrow.

Million-dollar Idea #728: Dashboard Cam

The Concept: Tiny (preferably hidden) camera and microphone mounted on the dashboard of the car with a wide enough angle to capture driver and passenger side. Video and sound is captured on a flash drive and/or hard drive mounted in the trunk. Tapes can be retrieved on hard disk or transferred via wi-fi to one’s home computer.

The Catch: The camera starts when the ignition starts, without exception. A fresh movie clip is started each time the engine starts, enabling the owner to easily delete boring footage of solo car trips. Why the auto-start? So driver and passenger can forget said camera exists, retaining realistic behavior.

The Muse: Mark and I originally came up with the thought and started adding extra specifics, but I had forgotten about it until last night’s dinner with Jen. Picture it:

Jen was so hungry that she was filled with rage and starting to say things that didn’t make a lot of sense. I was in the same state of mind, exacerbated by what I will now refer to as Ozzy Syndrome*. Our two incoherent asses had to negotiate the traffic flow around Rivergate Mall. You can imagine. If you can’t, here are some clips:

Jen: I’m totally pulling into this lane!
Me: That lady…El Camino lady….totally just gave you a “oh no, she di’int!” look. Like she has any room to talk. Hello, you have 80s hair! And an El Camino! Painted with house paint!
Jen: Fuck you!

Jen: I can just cut through this parking lot….maybe….
Me: um…
Jen: oh, nope…but I can
Both: back to the street!

*Ozzy Syndrome is a condition brought on by working at home by oneself, communicating solely via IM. Symptoms include disjointed sentences that come out in a jumbled pseudo-English, and the ability to go literally days without talking to anyone but the cat (my record is 6 days). Rarer symptoms: unbrushed hair, forgetting how to put on makeup, neighbors who think the subject is unemployed/a stripper (based on subject’s footwear).

Death is Contagious

Somebody somewhere once wrote something about how they thought aging may be a contagious disease. Like, if someone never met any other people, that person would stay young forever. Then again, you probably shouldn’t take scientific advice from poets.

Death, however…I think that IS contagious. Someone near you dies and it puts this little seed of unhappiness in you that slowly grows and gets fertilized by the deaths of even more people. Eventually, the seed grows into a tree that feeds on you, leeching nutrients out of your body and eventually killing you. That’s what it feels like, anyway.

You’d think that babies would serve some purpose in all this, keeping us young and counteracting the death. Sorry, but no. Babies may make us act and feel younger, but they’re just spiritual Tylenol. They make your headache feel better, but that brain tumor is still going to get you.

I have not been dropping acid.
There’s also a new post at Kill The Radio Star.