Monday, March 19, 2012

The Ballad of the Long Distance Lover

You would think I would be good at this by now.

And in some ways, I am good at this. I know the secret corners to plug in my laptop. I know where to get Chinese food at O’Hare when I’m craving even the most greasy of vegetables and how long of a stopover I need to be able to walk there. I know which airports have the kinder customs officials, the ones who don’t balk or excessively when I explain that my fiancé does live in another country and, yes, I am still returning to Canada in two days time. I know which airports have free wireless and which travel websites have the best deals. And I’ve stopped caring who notices me crying as my rolling suitcase echoes behind me.

So after seven times, you’d think I’d have figured out how to say goodbye.

I always tell myself I’m going to be more graceful, more contained. I’ll maybe let a well-intentioned tear or two trickle out, but I will not let out body shaking sobs and have mascara collecting in all the creases in my face. I will be able to walk through the revolving doors, only looking over my shoulder to wave, rather than always needing to turn around, dash back, and bury my face in his neck one more time. I will not loathe the couples sitting near me, contently holding each other’s hands, who don’t understand how effortless their relationship seems to me. I won’t always wake up the morning before he or I leave feeling as though I have been kicked in the stomach. I won’t keep on doing mental arithmetic, counting how many hours, minutes we have left until another goodbye.

But I always do.

I think the mind can’t handle this level of aching every day, this dullness behind the eyes. It covers it up quickly in details like what time to set the alarm, what to make for dinner, what shoes are best for the weather outside, when this report is due. The details, though tedious, are soothing, in that they take you away from the rawness of your own mind. It is as though the only way you can handle being away from the person you love is for you to forget how hard it is when they aren’t there. It is only when you see them again that you realize how barren these days full of details actually are.

It's the night you can roll over and touch him that you realize how empty your bed has been.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

14 days until 30

I hate how histrionic I'm getting about turning 30.

It's like I've turned into a parody of myself somehow. I want to just let it slide on by, just another number, but instead any time that number even nudges itself into my peripheral vision, I grab onto it. I make bad jokes about all the things I'm no longer allowed to do as of two weeks from now and about turning 20. I declare "We don't speak of the 30!" to my younger friends. I'm sure I must seem insufferable to my older friends, like those university students on the bus who bemoan their upcoming 20th birthday.

For an (almost) psychologist, I have some mighty pitiful defence mechanisms.

I think it is really the forced reflection that I'm reacting to more than anything. It's like whenever we ring in another decade, there are countless fluff pieces and televised countdowns about the true theme of the 90s was or what the 2000s mean to you. I feel as though this strange symbolism of 3650 days (give or take for leap years, I suppose) is trying to peg me into summing up my 20s somehow. Turning 20, though still surreal, was easier, because so much happens those ten years before, you can't help but feel kind of accomplished.

When I look back to my 20s, my first flash is "Holy Christ, I spent all of my 20s in school." This is, truthfully, an amazingly one-dimensional way of looking at the past ten years. True, I did spend almost all of my 20s in school, except for that 12 month break between 21 and 22 where I worked two jobs and focused all my attention on getting back into school.

But, lest I get into one of those "let me list everything that was awesome about the past ten years" kind of posts, there genuinely has been loads of other stuff going on behind the research papers, unpaid practica and numerous moves. Even just a few days ago, on an incredibly mundane Wednesday evening with the cold seeping into the crack between my sleeve and mittens, as station wagons drove by, I had one of those surreal moments of gratitude for my life, as cyclonic as it may feel lately. I'm loved and I do what I love, after all.

So why the hell am I letting two little digits even try to shake me?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I know the statistics

It takes women, on average, six to eight times to leave an abusive relationship.

There's no comfort in that. Sure, it normalizes the situation a little. But normalizing doesn't get her the hell out of there.

I suppose it's easy for me to attribute the sense of helplessness crouching at the bottom of my stomach to the more than 3000 kilometres distance. Truthfully, though, I don't know how much more in control I'd feel even if I lived next door.

I'm just so fucking angry. Enraged. I don't know if I can ever manage to take a single breath in his presence again.

The funny thing is, I've worked with criminals before, and was often surprised by the ambiguity of the situations, the profound regret.

Yet I don't know if I ever can bring myself to see the shades of grey in a man who would touch her like that.

It was weird when I thought he was just awkward, insensitive and maybe a little old fashioned in his ideas about gender.
It was awkward when they would argue in my presence.
It was difficult when I began to realize how much of his seeming nuances were actually indirect ways of having control over her.
It was worse when I caught wind of the misogynistic things he would say when the door was closed, his rants about what a good wife should be, and what she was not.
It was frightening when she called me in tears because he was senseless in his anger, and she was scared he would lose control.

Before I left, she told me of how he would tower over her, inches from her face, screaming at her. Then she told me how he'd grabbed her. And shook her. We spoke about her leaving. How she could tell him, how she would manage in practical terms. She confronted him. He agreed things were bad. They negotiated the notion of a trial separation, discussing how they needed to do things differently in their relationship. Then his family came to visit, and they fell back into the husband and wife pretence.

We spoke yesterday. And things went bad. Really really really bad.

She left.

And then she came back.

It almost scares me how textbook the whole thing is. He says it was a wake-up call for him, that things will change. But two days later, he's already telling her to shut up again. I can tell by his tone of the voice in the background that nothing has changed. I'm so scared about what's going to happen next time. And I hate the fact that I'm so convinced there's going to be a next time.

If there's one spark of a blessing, it is the people that are there. They got her out this weekend, and I know they'll do it again, as does she. I'm talking to them, we're trying to figure out what we can do to keep her safe.

Even worse, though, is that one of her friends actually told her to stay. This woman, you see, used to be physically abused by her boyfriend, but in her eyes, they worked through it. So now she's put that impetus upon my friend to "work through it". And my friend has somehow used this one woman's self-centered advice to frame it as though there is debate amongst her friends about whether she should leave. If there's any leftover capacity for anger that isn't directed at him, it is clearly directed at this woman.

But I'm 3000 km away. My rage can't do a lot from here.

I'm trying to figure out what exactly I can do from here.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The one where I pretend I really want to bake muffins

Living in a new city is always a bit of a humbling experience.

You never think of it that way, of course, when you are leaving. That is the time where every spare moment is crammed full of the people you are expecting to miss. When you're leaving, it suddenly seems rational to invite people to assist in wrapping plates in newspaper while you are wearing sweatpants, when in any other month, the same request would be a little tactless. And people, because they expect to miss you, volunteer for such ridiculous tasks as fishing cardboard boxes out of the recycling bins behind a Pottery Barn. They pepper you with hugs and goodbye gifts. You leave the city with your head foggy from a dizzying mixture of gratitude, excitement and wistfulness.

The first few days in your new home are dizzying yet again, but this time from the sheer number of baking dishes and pyjamas you own, and how boxes seem to be exponentially multiplying every time you turn around. Finally, you pause.

And realize how you know absolutely no one.*

When you were leaving, you knew this fact. But you tell yourself things like "Yeah, it'll be kind of weird, but I'm independent, so I'll manage."

And you do manage.
And you go to parties and say hi to your neighbours.
But you still have those humbling nights, the ones where you convinced yourself that you really did want a Friday night alone because when was the last time you baked muffins.
And you aren't sure who to call when things feel a just little empty.

You also wonder when making friends got so systematic. In high school, you just somehow had friends. Suddenly, you're questioning yourself.
"Is it too soon for me to call them? Should I add them on Facebook? What does 'we should hang out sometime' mean?"**

But you expected this, in a way. What you didn't expect is how lonely you are by virtue of lack of contact from home. When you were leaving, everyone was waxing on about keeping in touch.

But for them, you are just one person, while for you, they are everyone. So it's easy for them to not respond to emails right away. Yet its easy for you to count the people who haven't responded to your emails, and feel that number weighing on you. As though you expected your absence would change everything for them, when really, it's only changing everything for you.***


*Okay, that line was a little over dramatic. To be fair, I do casually know a couple people here- oh, and that handsome dude I moved here with.

** I actually discussed this experience with a handful of people who were also new in town. We all laughed about being 'friend desperate'.

*** I feel as though this is all coming off a little more pessimistic than is genuine. This city has actually been remarkably friendly, and relationships are developing at about the speed one could really expect. However, I think what really stands out is the act of 'getting to know' a lot of people, but not really knowing anyone just yet, if that makes sense.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Copy cat

I've been wondering about how to introduce my new identity as a Wisconsinite to the internets at large. It feels as though moving to this random midwestern state is reason enough to start writing again.

After all, who doesn't want to hear about the escapades of two Canadians in imperial measurement land!

Like me trying to order turkey in grams with the deli counter worker looking quizzically at me when I declare "Two hundred, please."
Or the Duke ordering a half-gallon of beer to go from a pub not realizing how much a half-gallon really was, and thus getting wasted out of a sense of obligation to his already purchased jug of beer.

Also, apparently Americans don't know what a garburator is. And laugh at Canadians who say it.

(BTW, it's a garbage disposal.)

But, amidst my contemplation about how exactly to jump back into the land of anonymous self-disclosure... someone pulled me back in.

Apparently someone still likes me enough to read me... and to plagiarize me.

Not even a real post, mind you. Just my "About Me" section. You know that little thing in the left hand corner babbling about neologisms and staring in people's windows? Yeah, that one.

NOT this one:

Thank you, anonymous commenter, for pointing this one out.

Anyways, it turns out that our friend Katie (she of the surely soon to be defunct Mommy Outnumbered) is quite heavy handed at the copy and pasting. My random googling turned up at least 10+ people she'd ripped off (including the freaking Bloggess- come on, how's that going to go unnoticed?). By the angry comments on her website, it looks like there's a ton more.

I remember these mini-scandals back when I was a little more entrenched in the blogging scene. People were rightfully pretty incensed about others stealing their words, especially in blatant disregard of copyright statements. This woman took it even a step further-- she copied someone's post mourning her dead mother, and another about a woman's child who had recently passed away. You've got to wonder about the motivation to try to almost usurp someone's identity like that. That's no longer about just getting lots of complimentary emails swooning about how witty you are. That's trying to gain unwarranted sympathy from someone else's pain.

But, hey, we apparently both like dogs with cones on our heads. So there's that!

Monday, May 10, 2010

A big ol' glass of Haterade

That's right, I be hatin'.

On what, you ask?

Nachos with not enough cheese. No one pays $12 for a $3 bag of tostitos with a side of never-enough sour cream. Cooks, you need to learn to layer that shit-- a handful of chips, a pile of shredded cheese, repeat, repeat, repeat.

People in McDonald's at 1am. This Saturday night, post friend's birthday party, the Duke and I hit up McD's. (Don't judge. I decided that 6 years was long enough to go without Chicken McNuggets. And it most definitely was.) And, of course, the place was full of drunk d-bags ordering cheeseburgers in a 6-pack, trying to pick up a table full of girls, and verbally abusing the staff. The best part is that they thought they were so goddamn hilarious that the kept on looking over their shoulder expectantly at us, looking confused as to why we were not laughing. Sorry, I don't find screaming "Fries fries fries!" at a 16 year old kid hysterical. I guess my sense of humour is a little more nuanced.

As a side note, where is it that people got the notion that alcohol comes along with a free asshole pass? Sure, alcohol does give a free pass to several things, such as teaching your co-workers how to rap, reminding the entire dance floor why the running man should have never gone out of style, eating your weekly caloric intake in poutine, or hugging the new BFF you met in the bathroom because her shoes were too damn awesome. But, frankly, alcohol has never made me want to unleash a tirade on a random stranger or humiliate a late night cashier. So, while the "I was drunk" excuse might work to how you woke up with a half-eaten bowl of ramen noodles snuggled up in bed beside you or why you are above the age of 18 with a hickey, it ain't gonna fly to explain sheer douchebaggery. That's not because you were drunk. It is because you were-- and are-- an asshole.

People who don't lock the restaurant bathroom door. And then you look like an inconsiderate jerk and have to apologize profusely when you walk in on them mid-pee.

Putting my duvet back in its cover. I'm more likely to end up tangled in there than my blanket is.

Girls who pretend to like hockey. So it's playoff season, and the city is all a-twitter with hockey excitement. Just the perfect time for the pseudo-hockey fans to come out of the woodwork. They are easy to spot at the bar, in their just-purchased team t-shirt, often that awful pink girlie one, to remind you "I like hockey. But I'm still a girl. Tee-hee." They chat throughout the whole game, looking uninterested, until a goal is scored- then they cheer like their lives depended on it, and try to catch the eyes of the guys around them. I have friends like this-- a game is on during the week, and they are clueless. They call me in the middle of overtime to chat. They don't know who won what game, or who scored a hat trick the night before. Yet, on Friday night, they are insistent on finding the best spot in town to watch the game, and they are talking to guys about how much they loooooove our team, spitting out facts that I told them earlier that night.

I know that the playoffs are good in getting new fans into the game, and that people are often eager to learn more about a popular sport-- and that's fine. But I just resent the pseudo-cache that people throw around, as though they are the "original" fans. There's nothing wrong with being a bandwagoner... just don't pretend to be otherwise.

People who don't understanding that working from home means that I'm working. I have one friend in particular who can't seem to understand how much self-directed work doing a PhD entails. She is constantly asking me what I'm doing now that I'm finished all my classes, as though I have nothing better to do than catch up on Seinfeld episodes. How ever many times I tell her seeing several clients, writing manuscripts, running participants, completing data analyses, having several meetings a week, non-class lectures, writing a massive dissertation, on top of my job, all she seems to take from this list that I have plenty of spare time since I do this from home a couple of days a week. So, whenever she wants to do something, she calls me at 3pm, when she gets off work. And no matter how many times I tell her that, even on the days I work from home, I am in front of the computer until *at least* 5pm, she gets annoyed that I won't meet up with her on her schedule. I've taken to lying and telling her that I'm in a meeting or a lecture until the evening, just so she takes my work seriously, because even telling her "major deadlines" doesn't seem to stop her from getting snappy when she thinks that I'm just sitting around at home when she is waiting around for me to finish working.

Wow, I'm a little bitter, aren't I? Is it any wonder rants is my #1 tag? Just to be fair, I also love the new Josh Ritter album, all you can eat sushi, cheesy nachos, freshly washed sheets, sunny days, boston terriers, key lime pie, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and spending time with my friends after a hard day's work.

Oh, and an update- I also hate whoever the spilt an entire box of bran flakes in my apartment building stairway without cleaning it up.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

How tenure can help your sex blogging career

I've written before about the hazards of blogging. It never is quite as simple as proclaiming freedom of speech. People judge and people have stake in your public persona. I'm becoming more and more aware of this as I scour the internet in advance of my exit from grad school and my entrance into the real working world-- detagging myself from unflattering photos, increasing my Facebook privacy settings, regularly Googling myself just to ensure there is not a webpage dedicated to antics from my 19th birthday party.

Still, there's nothing like a few high profile cases-- both to remind us that anonymity can be fleeting, as well as the awesome hypocrisy involved.

Case #1- Anonymous sex blogger, who writes about her sex life and reviews pornography, through a Twitter/Google malfunction, accidentally links her real name to her blog, which is promptly found by her boss.

Case #2- California State University professor's non-anonymous website, in which he focuses extensively on the how-tos of being a sex tourist in Thailand (including how to pick up grieving women at a temple and getting lap dances from teenagers), also gets discovered by his superiors.

Guess who gets fired?

The moral of this story? Be careful what you put online. Or just try really hard to get tenure.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

In which Facebook ruins my teenage crushes

I realized the other day that I know the current whereabouts of the majority of the guys I've ever dated or had a serious crush on.

There's something a little underwhelming about the reality of this.

There was that point, sometime after leaving my home town, where, in the midst of a big city where I knew such a minuscule fraction of its inhabitants, I would wonder "whatever happened to so and so" and if I would ever run into them on a random street corner again.

(Of course, the only one that this ever happened with was The Worst Boyfriend Ever.)

Then Facebook happened, and they all stopped being mysteries.

This really hit me when, one random recent Saturday morning, I received an email informing me that Russ had added me as a friend on Facebook.

Russ' and I's history can be summed up quite simply. I'd met him a few times. We never had much of a conversation, but he made it clear whenever we met that he thought I was hot. I had recently broke up with a long-term boyfriend, so I called him. We made out on a handful of occasions, and maybe went out on a date or two. He got annoyed when he discovered that my "I'm-not-looking-for-a-relationship" did not mean "I'm-looking-for-no-strings-attached-sex", and we quickly faded out, relegated to obligatory nods if we ran into each other to make it clear there were no hard feelings. I honestly never knew much beyond what movies he liked.

Yet, 10 years later, he adds me on Facebook. I'd noticed him on it before, but never saw much of a point of contacting him. What, exactly, would we have to say? Remember that time we made out during Sleepy Hollow? Or the one time we had coffee? Still, out of sheer curiosity, I accepted, wondering his motivations-- of which there seemed to be none. I said hi. He said hi. That was pretty much it.

Now, as it it wasn't odd enough that I know what my high school boyfriends are doing with their lives, I even know what the guy I made out with in college is doing on Friday night (apparently having a BBQ, if you were wondering).

Crushes who nothing ever actually happened with are even more surreal. It seems that when things never really developed the way you'd hoped with a certain person, or when your relationship with them never had a messy end point, you always wonder if they were really that special. And what Facebook has shown me is that, while they may vary on where they end up in life, they are all just so tortuously real.

I remember when I received notification that the guy I fiercely crushed on for the entirety of my 13th year had added me. He was the older boy who teased me mercilessly in the way that only heartbreaking 17 year old boys can, by throwing me into the lake with my clothes on and tango dancing with me in the middle of the street. He had brown hair that always flopped into his blue eyes. He was just so achingly dreamy. I eagerly clicked on his profile, to see what had become of him, more than ten years later. And while he hadn't necessarily changed... he was just so painfully average. Sure, he wasn't ugly, he seemed to be happy and he didn't communicate solely in text speak... but he just wasn't as magically special as I recalled. And he couldn't help but lose a little of that shine in my memories.

Sure, there are advantages to all of this. I'm not gonna lie and say I didn't feel a tinge of smugness when I discovered the lying guy who crushed my heart at 16 gained about 100 pounds. I've also gotten back in touch with many a lost friend, including exes or ex-crushes who are genuinely good people I'm happy to see. Still, I can't help but wonder if there was something to be said about certain people remaining a bit of a mystery.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Her foot

Things change in instant, we know, we know. It's a platitude by now. Live every day like it was your last, because you never know what the next moment will bring. Seize the moment. Etcetera, etcetera.

Sure, every once in a while, in a particularly somber mood, after a particularly depressing song, perhaps a little too much wine, or maybe after reading one too many headlines, we set ourselves to really considering this notion.

Or maybe after one of those rushing moments. When the dish on the stove catches on fire, and you don't notice right away. When the brakes grab just in time. When you catch yourself just before falling. In those hazy moments just after the overwhelming sensations start fading, you can't help but thing how everything could have changed right there. But it didn't.

Yet sometimes it does.

Valentine's Day this year was perhaps not very romantic, but was what one would call a very good day, nonetheless. It was one of those days where you walk out of the house planning to return by lunch time, but instead end up following a series of random strings, and return home at midnight to that pile of laundry you really meant to do.

And, as such, our day went like: Pre-planned serious event! Lunch with Julie! Bilodeau wins gold medal! Drinks! Patriotism! More drinks! More sports! Anisa calls! Gallavanting through the countless celebrators in the streets! Drinks and dinner with Anisa and crew! More sports! Sophie calls! Go see Sophie's brother's band! More drinks! Oh shit, it's midnight and we have to work tomorrow! Go home.

Except the next day, we get an email. Anisa, who at the last minute decided not to come see Sophie's brother's band, has been hit by a car.

Not a car, actually, but rather a Hummer. A Hummer driven by a guy who'd had too much to drink and decided to fly through a crosswalk at high speeds without checking to see who might be walking across said crosswalk.

Seemingly, she was lucky. Sure she'd spent 13 hours in the ER in crippling pain, undergone massive reconstructive surgery on a heel that was nearly shattered to bits, a week in the hospital, still can't work, needs a walker to negotiate her apartment and a wheelchair to go more than a block. That's not too bad when one goes flying through the air after being hit head on by a Hummer, right?

This Sunday night, we went out to watch the hockey game. Anisa, as always, was rolling with the punches, joking about how her walker would help her pick up men. We began talking about her next doctor's appointment, as the last had given her very little idea about likely prognosis. She spoke of trying to go in with as little expectations as possible, as there was still a chance that despite following all the right steps, the bones in her foot may die. Someone asked about worst case scenario. She said the doctors refuse to tell her, stating that they will "deal with that if the time comes".

I assume worst case means that she will never walk without crutches again.

Later, when she goes out for a cigarette, the Duke murmurs to me "You know what worst case scenario is, right?"

I shake my head.

He had spoken to a friend of his with a PhD in nursing. "If the bone death is really bad, they may have to amputate her foot. I don't think she has any idea it's even a possibility."

So there's what a moment can do. It can seize a 26 year old woman away from an entirely average day, toss her into the air, and leave her in danger of losing her foot.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A list of potential ways to resurrect my blogging career

  • Incite enough interest in discovering my true identity by implying that I am actually someone of vague importance, like Justin Bieber, a gigolo who is carrying on a long time clandestine affair with Sarah Palin, a star of Glee, or whoever else the kids are talking about these days. Hope that this results in several new websites speculating on my true identity. Did I ever tell you about that time I slept with Tiger Woods?
  • Start a feud with a much more popular blogger. (Hey, page views are page views, even if they are associated millions of hateful comments, yes?) Hope that said popular bloggers even acknowledges my post starting fierce rumours about them.
  • Stop being so damn paranoid about my blog being found, and have it searchable on Google so that people searching for "pornstar with PhD" and "how do I have sexy cheese hijinks" may, perchance, be taken by my quirky writing style, and decide to bookmark me.
  • Find a ridiculous niche topic, such as "Wiener Dogs who Look Like Oscar Wilde", so I can most definitely be the number one site on said topic.
  • Break up with my boyfriend in order to have salacious, awkward, drunken sex with random people that makes for snappy blog-worthy anecdotes. Be sure to include saucy nicknames, such as "Aardvark Man" and "The Spatula Guy".
  • Write more than once every 7 weeks and hope that people still find you remotely endearing. Oh, and move to Wisconsin, because that's sure to be a hot new bandwagon people are going to want to hop on.