Thursday, October 27, 2005
I BELIEVE IN ZOD
In preparation for the upcoming elections, I was just reviewing some flyers left on my doorstep detailing General Zod's campaign platform. I think you'll find his position on many different subjects quite fascinating. Be sure not to miss his special Kids' Page, either. Example question: "Mommy and Daddy did not give General Zod all of their worldly possessions, so they were sentenced to 5000 days in prison. How many years is this? (Hint: There are 365 days in a year.) Thanks to LA Observed and Ain'tNoBadDude.
Monday, October 10, 2005
SAVIOR SAVOIR FAIRE
Long story short, my father has one of those eventually-fatal degenerative diseases, and he's finally gotten to the point where he's a permanent hospital resident. It seems like every day, something new and bad happens to him. The doctors have officially said they can and will string out the inevitable for a few more years with the aid of heavy medical technology, but now he's a drooling vegetable in a bed and things will only get worse. This has been going on for my entire adult life. I spend a lot of time doing crisis management on the phone with my mother, going to the hospital, etc.
Dating has been difficult for me ever since the diagnosis. While my exes tried to be supportive, eventually they have had a problem with always coming third in my life, never spending the holidays with them because every year might very well be Dad's last Christmas, having to deal with me crying after getting off the phone with my mother because she was saying I spent too much time with some boy instead of my parents who need me, etc., etc. I felt like a pushmepullyou. And I couldn't deny that it was reasonable of my exes to want to come first with me, or at least higher on the priority list. But still, Dying Parent Guilt has to come higher than someone I date, not to mention trying to keep my mother from having a meltdown. After the last breakup a year and a half ago, I decided to not date again until after Dad dies, because all of the juggling was too hard for me to deal with. I don't want a baby or family of my own (I can't imagine ever wanting that- the last thing I want is to be someone's caretaker again!), so the biological clock ticking isn't a factor. I really like being single, and I could go on like this forever and be fine with it. It's much less stressful.
But unfortunately, the hormones eventually came back, as has the desire to have a boyfriend again. So far it's low-level and not exactly urgent, but seems to be rising. I started eyeing a guy who works where I volunteer. I don't exactly think he's my soulmate and someone I can't bear not to pass up taking a chance on, but he has some good qualities and seems like a person who'd at the very least be an interesting friend. I also suspect on some level I started eyeing him because I wanted some kind of positive distraction from the neverending hell I currently live in- I'm not even sure if I like him or if I just want some crush object. It also helped that the fellow seemed to have no idea I was alive, or at least never noticed me except for when I had to hand him a phone. Slightly irritating, yes, but at least I didn't have to worry about actually having to *do* something about this sorta-crush thing.
What's the problem, you ask? Out of the blue, the fellow noticed I was alive last week. And seems to have decided I am hot. Now I'm in a "Now what do I DO?" panic.
I could pursue this, or not. His work hours this fall are scheduled during my day job and I'll no longer see him during my own volunteer hours, but I could go in there during lunch to work on stuff and see him. I could utterly avoid him all season, or I could hang around acting like boybait. If I hang around enough, things may very well progress to the dating point. If I never see him, presumably they won't and/or he forgets I exist again. Rationally, I could pass up the guy- I'm not THAT crazy about him yet and I've been going back and forth on crushing on him due to the previous lack of interest on his part anyway. I'm not the kind of girl who maintains a fuckbuddy relationship without getting more serious intentions, so that isn't an option.
I'm still very convinced that dating anyone while in this situation is a bad idea- that hasn't changed. The idea of introducing someone else into the horrible family situation as it is now makes me shudder, and I can't help but think that trying to start a new relationship while I'm under all this stress would only doom it a la Laura Linney's character in Love Actually. If the situation was reversed, I can't say that I'd want to date someone in my situation either- it's that bad. But on the other hand, this week I've gone into the volunteer place during lunch most days, have dressing up in cute little outfits, and I have been doing other stupid 14-year-old girl behavior that I'm ashamed of. I'm afraid that my hormones are trying to drown out the voice of reason in my head.
I need an objective, rational, non-hormone-drenched opinion on this. Am I right to think that dating right now is still a massively bad idea and it's better to wait until after my depressing life drama is over? It'd probably be a different situation if there wasn't an end date to this for another decade and Dad wasn't so badly off, but I think I could stand to wait a few years more if it meant that any relationship I had had a better chance of survival without this dragging it down.
Depressing Drama Girl
Dear Depressing Drama Girl,
I don't know your parents and have no way of knowing the specific details of your situation, so bear with me, I'm just going to go on instinct here: You're a great daughter, you're obviously really involved with your dad and mom and have been a great source of support for them throughout this terrible situation. You love your dad and care about him and want him to know that he comes first and that your family comes first. Sounds like he knows that, and if he doesn't, at least you do. You know that you've been doing the right thing, you've been giving of yourself, you've been there for your family, and that's admirable and important.
Here's a complication: You're young, you have your own life, and you deserve as much of a shot at happiness as your parents do. For them, it's not easy to be happy now, it's not even easy to get through the day. You've taken this on, too, and that's really great, albeit incredibly difficult. But what about you? Given how much time it sounds like you've dedicated to your parents, where, exactly, does your mom get off, acting like the time you spend with a guy is time that you've somehow stolen from her, and from your dad? Is that really fair of her, given how much time you give to them every single day?
Now maybe I'm confused and you live 3,000 miles away from them and they're struggling and you only go out there to visit every six months and this toll the thing is taking on you is just emotional, not a day to day kind of a toll. But I don't think so - it sounds to me like your life is consumed by their situation. Look, there's no way it wouldn't be, they're your parents and you love them. But is it fair for your mother to say that she and your dad need you, therefore you're a shit for having a boyfriend? Your mother has been through hell, but it sounds like she's a lot worse for the wear.
And now you want to convince me that you don't have a right to get laid? Look, I'm not convinced that you're even ready to make a decision to never have kids - I think if you had a little time to yourself, if you had a little bit of belief that you deserve a little time to yourself, you might see the world in a whole new way. If it's true that most of your adult life has been dedicated to your dying father, well, how can you possibly not think that your entire psychological instrument panel is way, way out of whack?
It's insanely tough to face down death, and for some reason, it also makes most of us think about sex a lot. Not only that, but there's something about handling these things that can make you feel really young and alive and thankful, as strange as that sounds. Why in the world wouldn't you have the right to share that feeling with someone, or even to share your really bad feelings with someone? You shouldn't have to put any lover or boyfriend at the bottom of the list. Unless you've really been chasing boys and neglecting your parents for years, I don't see how you can pit one thing against the other. Explain your situation to the new guy if you really start hanging out, and eventually maybe tell him you've had trouble balancing things in the past, and tell him you'll never be quite as available as he wants you to be, but you'll try not to neglect his wishes as you might've done with other men in the past.
I also think you should see a therapist. First of all, you need it in order to help you deal with the end stages of your dad's death. Second, and more importantly, you need someone to help you sort out your priorities. I'm not saying go out and get one of those therapists who'll say: "Fuck your parents, what do you want? It's all about you!" I also would caution against, at this time, going into an in-depth analysis of your parents' flaws, as one often does when one starts therapy. It's just not a good time for you to be pissed off at them - save that for later. You can acknowledge their limitations, but I think you need to make it clear to your therapist that exploring the full brunt of your mixed feelings about your parents would be very difficult and upsetting, under your current circumstances.
But you have to be able to sort through some things that you seem to think are taboo. Like having time for yourself. Like getting laid and not thinking that's an insult to your parents. Like listening to your boyfriend and making time for him instead of saying, "You don't get it, my parents come first, everyone else can go fuck themselves." It's about time you learned to think of yourself and your life in a normal way, and you tried to have normal relationships with people outside of your family.
Honestly, as good a thing as it might seem to be to wait until your dad dies before you get involved, wouldn't he feel really strange if he were the reason that you were delaying your happiness? None of us get any guarantee that we'll be around forever. You need to find your happiness now, and maybe something you find will help you to be a better friend to both of your parents instead of just being a loyal, drained, emptied out, lonely daughter. Just because someone is sick, that doesn't make their happiness more important than yours. The best way you can love your dad is by taking care of yourself and balancing out your life a little. He would really want that for you, and so would your mom if she weren't so ambushed by her circumstances. You can't count on them to be smart for you and make your decisions for you anymore, you have to make these decisions for yourself. They had their good years together, they were young once. Why would they want to deny you those things?
So, in summary: Get a therapist, sort things out, and ask out the cute guy without worrying about how it'll fall apart. You can be there for your family and still live your own life.
Friday, October 07, 2005
DIM BULBS, REFUGE OF THE NARDLESS
So the summer has come and gone and so has the summer lovin'. My boyfriend of two years and I had a break this summer [at twenty, I decided to flex my independent muscle and do that whole "Better Get It Outta Your System" thing, thus spending my weeks at the beach with some easy going dude that made me laugh].
Serious Boyfriend and I are trying to get back together, but of course there are problems. What's a serious relationship without some serious problems?
I expected it to be a little tense in the beginning - I'm giving up Summer Boyfriend and Summer Life, and Serious Boyfriend is...well, he doesn't have to give up anything because he's just waited for me all summer. He gets to keep the friends he's made, the social life, the job stuff, blah-de-frickin'-blah. But if anything isn't going his way, lately, he won't duke it out with me. He'll go to the bars he's gone to all summer and hang out with his new [and female] friends.
I'm not in favor of self-destruction. If I'm upset about something, I'd rather curl up in my lonely bed and let the pain eat away at me instead of disembodying myself with liquor and shallow friends. Is it wrong of me to hate him for that? I feel like I've finally come around - I've done everything he wanted me to do to get back with him - and yet he hasn't done anything to meet me in the middle. Is this an indirect signal that he doesn't really want to get back with me? Is this his revenge? And when the fuck will it end?
Confused, Of Course
First of all, I think it's pretty obvious you should've added another word to your pseudonym, preferably one that begins with a "K" like "Kinda" or "Kracker." And while we're thinking creatively, let's try on how it feels to be your boyfriend: You decided to sow your oats, which I applaud because you're very young and if you want to, you gotta. Your boyfriend, meanwhile, waited around for you, and made some new friends. Now you're back, and when you two are locked in some battle, he just leaves, goes out and has fun with his shallow dummy friends. This helps his ego, and keeps him from facing the fact that things aren't really working out between you two. Is it more self-destructive to drink wtih dim bulbs or to lay around in bed, feeling shitty? I think lots of people would say that laying around sounds pretty self-destructive, too, but of course you know that I'd choose sulking over boozing with dummies fifty times out of fifty-one.
But still. As much as you hate him storming out and then exacting a little revenge by hanging out with the ladies, is that really such a terrible option when the alternative is to "duke it out" with you? Duking it out sucks, frankly, and even though you're young, you've really got to try not to rely on duking it out. It's a terrible habit, and it doesn't really do anything but make you hate your boyfriend even more than you do.
Talking it out is another thing. Have you demonstrated that you can actually talk things through with him without freaking the fuck out? I'm sorry if I'm jumping to conclusions, here, based on language, if you are, in fact, very good at talking things through. I mean, it's not easy. I sucked at it for years.
And if you're decent at talking, then, well, can he talk? Would he really rather chat with the bimbs than talk seriously about your relationship? He waited all this time for you, sure, but is he really your type? Sometimes the whole "Get It Out of Your System" thing is a reflection of your being young, but sometimes it's just a sign that you're not with the right person. Furthermore, when you come back to the old guy, and things suck? Well, first of all, it's tough to take a break and come back, but given that fact, should it really really suck if this relationship is so important that you'd come back to it? Is it really a great relationship, or is it just one that you both take seriously, maybe because neither one of you can face being alone in the world, because you're young and you don't know what life has in store and it's just easier to have one thing figured out already.
My guess - total fucking guess, mind you - is that you're not that into your boyfriend and you're a little jealous that he's been out making new friends. Sure, it felt right to return to him because you missed him. But it's not just that he hangs out with lame boring dumb shallow types that you don't like, it's the fact a) you want to be out making new friends who aren't dumb and boring and shallow and b) that you really suspect that those people are about the same to him as you are, and c) he doesn't really get you, he's not all that interested in you, he doesn't completely dig your complicated side and he would really like you as much, or even better, if you were, say, partially lobotomized.
Lots of my exboyfriends would've really loved it if I were simpler and less intense. When I suspected that, I usually experienced it through my lack of interest in the people they found interesting. I projected the anger at the boyfriend onto the friends, when really, boyfriend and friends were a perfect match - I was the piece that didn't fit into the picture. Meanwhile, I didn't have my own picture, because I was completely focused on their picture. What I needed, in those cases, was to go out and make my own friends who made sense to me, and then maybe, just maybe, start dating someone who might fit in naturally with my picture. It might be that your boyfriend is the person who fits in well with your world, but you won't know that until you have your own world.
Three months off isn't enough, obviously. Maybe when you wanted time off, part of what you really wanted was time to decide who you were outside of him. Have you really figured that out yet? All signs point to no. I'd tell him you're sorry for hurting him this summer but you're proud of him for having his own life, but tell him he's avoiding discussions with you and you can't live that way, plus, you need to figure some things out for yourself. Let him figure out whether or not he's drinking too much or his friends are too shallow for him when he's on his own, and let him off the hook gently. Then refocus on what you want for yourself, and make sure you get out there and find it instead of laying around in bed, fearing what comes next. This summer was great, and your whole year can be just as fun, but you have to go out with the same spirit of adventure, this time without the safety net of your relationship to fall back on. In addition to getting whatever it is you need to get out of your system, you'll also feel like a stronger, happier, more independent woman, and at your age, feeling that way is a good habit that can lead to a lifetime of feeling confident and taking charge. Personally, I put it off for a long time, and that avoidant, fearful way of living was really bad for me. You sound like you're on the right path, though.
Monday, October 03, 2005
STONIER THAN THOU
Stoners across the land are enraged by my Salon column this week, thanks to the sweeping generalization du jour:
And, most impressive of all, the rambling pothead idiocy depicted in "Weeds" isn't quite of the same dim-bulb, "I'm seeing stars!" Afterschool Special variety seen in most movies and TV shows. After Andy and Doug (Kevin Nealon) find a rat hole in the box where Nancy keeps her pot, Andy asks Doug, "Do you think there's rat spit in here, like plague rat spit? Are we smoking plague?" Doug responds with utter seriousness, "No, no. Fire beats plague. As soon as we lit it up, it was safe, it's sterilized."
See, that's the stoner brand of mediocrity: Stoners enjoy thinking big thoughts, mulling over various historical facts and scientific notions, only they don't have enough attention to detail to know exactly what the hell they're talking about, so it all amounts to a collaborative guessing game. Throw in a little strong weed, and collaborative guessing games look a lot like a bunch of second graders discussing where babies come from.
Now, as with my repeated references to whoring sea donkeys and unsavory slut tartlets, I assumed that readers would know that not only am I fond of this subset of the population, but I'm speaking of the general stoner population, factoring out the extremes, i.e. both a) the many, many stoners who are total morons and don't like thinking big thoughts at all and b) the many, many stoners who are scientists/math geniuses/musicians and not only think big thoughts but are armed with extensive, detailed knowledge of a wide range of subjects and can therefore speak with authority, armed with facts, on many topics indeed. Sidestepping these two extremes, I was taking aim at your average, pretty informed and curious and well-educated stoner. He's not unlike the average, well-educated human, except that he's perhaps a little bit more drawn to mulling over history, science, etc. and maybe a little bit more comfortable taking the facts that he has and creating big, loose theories from there - well-reasoned, somewhat sound theories that, if you really challenged their ability to hold water, if you really put their structural integrity to the test, they might just leak or crumble or let you down.
Theories like "Fire beats plague." It may be that the joint has been sterilized once it's lit but... fire beats plague? Will a lit match definitely, beyond any shadow of a doubt, kill every strain of bacterial or viral infection in a matter of seconds? A doctor or a biologist or a genius could tell you for sure, but most stoners will speak with impunity on the subject, with the same tone of authority in their voices, when presenting this hypothesis as fact. Sometimes this is obnoxious, sometimes it's charming, but if you've spent as much time with stoners as I have, you know exactly what I'm talking about: Get stoned, make informed guesses as a group, argue vehemently, draw hasty conclusions, polish off the Chinese take-out leftovers.
Are stoners less intelligent than the general public? In my experience, they're a lot smarter than the general public, and a lot more insightful, creative, interesting, and weird, and most importantly, they have better senses of humor, on the whole.
That said, the pot smoker who wrote me three furious messages in a row calling me a hateful liar definitely needs to get her hands on some higher quality bud.