Friday, January 28, 2011

Surviving Singledom

Let me start this blog with saying, no I did not recently become single - Mr. HK and I are doing well. However, where it was a number of years between serious relationships, for me, I can understand and appreciate this article. It was posted by a friend on Facebook and I thought there were many great points (even if it is heteronormative to an extreme).

To The Ladies Pining for a Relationship, Fret Not
By Jane Ganahl

It happened far too many times on the book tour. After a reading from my memoir about turning 50 as a single woman (Oh the places I’d gone! The adventures I’d had! The men I’d slept with!), I’d open the floor to questions from the predominantly female audience.

In addition to queries about writing, the publishing world, and the true names of my lovers, I could count on at least one from a 20- or 30-something, clutching her purse anxiously: “Um, can you tell me where I can go to meet guys in the Bay Area?”

I’d smile, sigh, and utter my standard response: One of the best ways to meet like-minded men is to find a cause you’re passionate about and volunteer. I’d relate an anecdote about a friend, an animal lover who helped rescue dogs stranded after Hurricane Katrina, and how she met the love of her life in the Marin County shelter while she was covered in dog hair after two days with no shower.The questioner would nod enthusiastically and smile, cheered to have added yet another arrow to Cupid’s quiver.

But what I really wanted to say was: STOP IT. Stop it right now—the sad-eyed, self-doubting, nail-chewing longing. Eau de desperation is a stinky fragrance, and men can smell it a mile away. And you’re not even 40 yet! Get out there while you still can, sleep around, and enjoy that young body before nature’s forces drag it south.

Of course, this kind of reply would not have sold books and might have even cleared the room. So instead, and just in time for Valentine’s Day, I’m seizing this opportunity to write and send an open letter to all you young ladies pining for a husband. Read this in the privacy of your living room, cocktail in hand, thoughts focused. Are you ready? Whether you land a man or not, you will be F-I-N-E.

Because in case you didn’t get the memo, being single is now a lifestyle—a way of life that women have learned to love and, I dare say, even perfected over the past five decades. The 40-year-old spinster of 50 years ago is now considered to be in the prime of her life, and she’s got a huge sorority to hang with on Saturday nights.

The Census Bureau tells us that 43 percent of all Americans over the age of 18 are single. One main reason for the increased numbers is that we’re marrying later, and if we divorce, we often don’t remarry. No big surprise there. As one who’s been on both sides of the equation—married twice but single for most of my 58 years—I can tell you that I prefer a ring-free left hand. This is partly due to my exorbitant need for personal space; but also, I wasn’t a very good wife. I was apparently born without the selflessness gene. I resented how much of my energy was spent making sure everyone else was happy and thriving and how depleted it left me of time to tend to my own life.

I suppose I could have enforced the current self-help advice, “Take care of yourself first,” but most wives (especially mothers) will tell you that’s an uphill battle. It’s possible I could marry again, but it would have to be an extraordinarily good deal. Guaranteed sexual benefits, written promises of equal toilet-cleaning time, and tons of solitude. Any takers?

Were marriage a better deal for women, I’d understand why women still crave it. But as Isadora Duncan famously said, “Any intelligent woman who reads the marriage contract and then goes into it deserves all the consequences.” Granted, Duncan lived during an era when wives were little more than indentured servants, but it’s not like things have improved significantly. We won the right to work outside the home but apparently not the other benefit men have enjoyed for ages: The right not to work inside it. Even though men are now doing twice the housework and child rearing they were in the ’60s, studies show that even among dual-earning couples, women still do about two-thirds of the housework.

But it’s not just about housework, is it? Relationships themselves take work. And we all know who does the bulk of that work. Ask yourself: How many countless hours did you spend in pursuit of his happiness instead of your own, making sure his ego was massaged, his quality of life upheld, his needs taken care of, your needs communicated in the most amenable way? Then imagine if you’d spent half as many hours taking care of yourself as you did of him and the relationship. If housework is unequal between men and women, emotional caretaking is even less on par.

Consider, too, that the financial incentives to marry are no longer what they were. These days, women comprise nearly 60 percent of college graduates, and according to Census Bureau statistics, single urban women in their 20s actually out-earn their male peers. Throw in the fact that if you’re dying to have a baby, you can still do it and join the growing legions of single moms out there who are making a nice life for themselves without the presence of a traditional dad.

Add it up, ladies. Is the single life really that scary and unrewarding? Or does it offer its own deep pleasures and fine times? I’d vote for the latter.

Although being a happily single person does take practice, in my experience in writing about the single life, I can tell you that the happiest, least lonely singletons are those who actively maintain their work ties and friendships and get involved in community or religious activities they feel passionate about. That’s why my response about volunteering, while glib, is heartfelt—there’s no better way to meet great people of like minds.

To make the most of being single, it also helps to acquire a slightly tough hide. It’s impossible to ignore the fact that our culture is officially off its nut when it comes to weddings and marriage. It’s also hard to ignore relatives who cluck their tongues when you come to yet another family dinner solo and wonder out loud why you keep rejecting that nice friend of theirs who sells insurance over in Fremont.

But stand tall, single girl. Stop fretting about your ring finger, and worry more about finding your best self during a time that can be the most fabulous of your life. No perfume in the world is sexier than confidence—and no outlook more sustaining than one that actually bears up to reality.

Jane Ganahl is author of Naked on the Page: the Misadventures of My Unmarried Midlife (Viking Adult) and the anthology Single Women of a Certain Age (New World Library). A journalist of almost 30 years, she is also codirector of Litquake.

*Published in the February 2011 issue of 7x7. Subscribe to 7x7 magazine here.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Karma's Revenge.

Karma as believed and practiced in Hinduism and Buddhism is "the cosmic principle according to which each person is rewarded or punished in one incarnation according to that person's deeds in the previous incarnation"

There are even parallel concepts in the Bible. "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life" -Galatians 6:7-8

Hell science is even on board with Newton's Law of Motion " To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction"

Reaping what I sow.
Cause and effect.
What ever you call it - it is kicking my ass lately!!

It started off small. Little things here and there that on their own I'd consider just "too bad"....buying the wrong size shirt for my boyfriend's Christmas gift, the special features on a DVD I bought didn't work,  I lost a brand new earring down the bathroom drain the first time I wore them....small things. Nothing catastrophic. 

Then earlier this month I got a call from our landlady - the rent check never showed up in the mail. We took into account that the holidays always back up the mail and there was a chance it would be a few days late...but this was already a week into January. 

So we had to go out, withdraw another month's worth of cash from ATMs, get a money order, drive over to her house and paid our rent. The next weekend I texted her to see if the envelope had arrived. It hadn't. My half of the rent wasn't a check - it was a money order. Meaning I was (in theory) out $440.00!!

Luckily MoneyGram has a process for filing a claim of lost money orders. Hmm...where is that receipt? After a few days of hunting (and a few minor panic attacks later) it was found, now I just had to remember to fill out the form and send it on it's way. 

Fast forward to yesterday - one month exactly since I purchased the money order. FINALLY I get my act together, print off the paperwork, make copies, buy a stamp and slip it into the neighborhood blue post office box. Done. Now to wait between 30-65 days for MoneyGram to reimburse or deny my claim. 

*     *     *

Side story: So keep in mind the story we're in the middle of "Drama with Dollars".... because of the money order chaos that happened with last months rent check this month we decided that I'll take out my portion of the rent, give it to my mother and she'll just write on large check. So I went to the ATM last night and pulled out my rent. Then on our way home my mother remembers - she doesn't have any checks so I'll need to write one for the rent this month. We stop by another ATM and I (re)deposit the money (after having to deal with a broken walk-up ATM and then trying to verbally help my mother through the drive up ATM process - she has a different bank). We get home and what do we find in the mailbox? Her bank has sent her new checks. Meaning Thursday I'm to pull out my rent money again! I'm convinced the bank is going to red flag my account, the IRS is going to audit me and I'll be accused of being a money laundering mafia member. 

*     *     *

(Back to our original story) I've put the MoneyGram lost-money-order-claim in the mail and am pleased with myself. Then this morning as I'm getting into the office I hear that I've missed a call on my cell. I look and it's my landlady. Just as I'm about to call her back she sends me this text message:

"Guess what? Your checks finally arrived :) with a note on it that it was at the wrong address (mail man mistake) What do you want me to do with it?"

FUCK! You're kidding me right? I just filed a claim that the money order was lost. Gone. Disappeared. Doesn't exist! AND NOW IT'S REAPPEARED A MONTH LATER!!!!!!! REALLY!? What else can go wrong?!

*Cue Jaws theme song*

I had to ask right. I had to push my luck. Tempt the Gods and force their hand. 

What else can go wrong? How about the wrong Social Security Number on my W2 for work? Yep, you heard right. 

For a few brief hours yesterday I thought that I had found my silver lining. I thought the Gods were no longer mad at me and were blessing me with companies who were done processing W2s early. I was given all three 2010 W2s in one day. Yay for being able to do my taxes right? Wrong. 

I'm sitting in the living room, lap top perched on my legs, stack of W2s and my 1099 sitting next to me type type typing away. I'm watching the little TurboTax calculator spin away increasing how much they predict the IRS will send back to me. I'm getting more and more excited - after all this money is going towards getting my own apartment.

....Then it happens.....

I get to the third W2 - my current employer. I look down to type in the company's ID number and whoops - wait - wrong number...what is that number? "Employee SSN".... huh? Wait. That's not my SSN number....a "1" was where a "7" should be. CRAP! 

I think - well maybe it was just a typo when they processed the W2s - I look at my latest pay stub and nope, sure enough my SSN is wrong there too. DAMNIT!

This means for the past 5 1/2 months they've been giving the government my tax information for some random other person!

I shoot off an email to my Payroll and HR Director right away and luckily am able to take care of it first thing this morning. A new W2 has already been reissued and I can finish my taxes tonight.

*     *    *

I still have to wonder WHAT THE HELL DID I DO WRONG? 

I haven't kicked a puppy. 
I haven't knocked some old woman off her cane. 
I am polite to the Sunday morning "Have you found Jesus?" people.
I donate to the VA thrift store and don't claim them as write off on my taxes.

I consider myself a good person, so what did I do wrong in a past life?
Do I need to make a large anonymous charity donation?
Do I need to go to confession? 
Do I need an exorcism?

If you know of a good Voodoo Priestess who lives in a bus
in the back woods of Louisiana let me know
- because if this is what it means to be an adult...I'm done.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Closer to 30

This year I'm celebrating my birthday in a few different ways. Since my birthday falls on a Wednesday these activities/events are being done the weekend before and the weekend after. 

This weekend we're doing a large(r) family gathering and going bowling. My mother, younger sister, her boyfriend, his little girl (who is turning 2 this weekend), my older sister, her partner and their two boys are joining me at a miniature golf course (or bowling alley depending on the weather) and then pizza, birthday cake and swimming back at the condo's club house. 

The following weekend the immediate family will be driving out to the coast for an overnight trip to the aquarium and eating at a place called Mo's (<< family/friends will understand the excitement of this). Returning on Saturday I'll then be joined by some of my gal-friends to an evening of Martinis & Manicures, photo booths and dancing the night away. 

 "Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional" - Charles Theodore "Chili" Davis

*     *     *

My birthday is in one week, and while I won't be turning 30 (turning 28) that's all I can seem to think of. I'm not dreading the big 3-0 but more just wondering where I'll be in two years.

Will I still be here in Portland? Will I have finally got off my arse and gone back to school? Will I be in this same job? Will I be living closer to (or with) my sweetheart? Will I feel like I finally have a grasp on what it means to be me?

I think the reason it worries me the most is because I'm two years away. That's two years of my life I don't have planned. The vague and unknown.

"30 is the new 20. Unless you're 20 and then it's the new 40" - Dane Peddigrew

*     *     *
So here's my request, to my 30something (and older) friends/family:

What's so hot about 30?
How does life improve once your 20s are over?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Looking at my LDR

I received an email from a friend today. She'd met someone online a few weeks ago and had recently reread my blog "Surviving a LDR". She wondered if we were still together and what had or hadn't worked for us. 

Here was my response:

*     *     *

Yes, we are still together. 2 years next month actually. What works for us is texting, calling, emailing as often as possible. Our biggest problem is the time difference. He's in Hong Kong so the middle of his afternoon is the middle of my night basically. We still make it work - he's a night owl and a workaholic so we can usually catch each other awake during my mornings and I just don't get as much sleep as normal some nights when I'm up talking to him. I think CA-MI might be easier in regards to making plans to see one another. Flights to HK are just way out of my price range lately.

When it comes to making it work I think it's just like any other relationship. You find time to spend with one another (in whatever shape/form that takes) and appreciate every moment. LDR there is no room for games, when we first started dating (as it were) we agreed up front to be completely honest and I have to say it's been wonderful. There was never any games about what we wanted from one another. There was never any games when it came time for saying "I love you".

It's hard, I'm not saying it isn't. There are days when I get so frustrated that I don't have a "regular" relationship like other people. There are days when I get so jealous of strangers because they're holding hands with their bf/gf. I've written emails to him crying about my frustration. But in the end, I know this is who I want to spend my life with. And if I have to deal with 6,000 miles for (what in the end will be) a short time - then I'll just suck it up and deal with it.

*     *     *

I saw a poster once that said "Distance isn't for the fearful. It's for the bold. It's for those willing to spend a lot of time alone in exchange for a little time with the one they love. It's for those who know a good thing when they see it. Even if they don't see it nearly enough."

I think it's true. I've had to be strong and remind myself that in the end it'll be worth it. That my heart might be in Hong Kong for now but it won't be forever.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

"When a Former Life Beckons"

I read this article in the NYTimes today - the title "When a Former Life Beckons" but it was the subtitle and tag-line that really made me decide to read.

The subtitle: Renewing a Tattoo

The tag-line: A youthful mark turns out to be a good inoculation against atrophy

Being as I have a tattoo I've been thinking of having up-dated and working at a medical school I was amused by the topic and word choice - my curiosity was grabbed.

I read through it and had an initial reaction of "Awww."

I cheered when she reclaimed her body and put a new and thought out tattoo over the old alcohol-induced-spontaneous one, "I decided to get a new tattoo. Or rather, I decided to reclaim my old one."

The romantic heart in me fluttered when the story ended with her husband asking her a question she wasn't asked before, "Did it hurt?"
*     *     *
Then I stopped. I began to wonder, "Would this be me?"

Not the regretting my tattoo or finding myself open to "something permanent" in the man I marry...but the feeling like I've "lost my swagger" or regretting a "Lucy Jordan" life.

Why is it that so many 30somethings (and beyond... 40s, 50s, etc) look back at their 20s and feel regretful, or at least shake their heads about the ignorance of youth?  Why are people waking up in their 30s to feel they spent a decade (their 20s and possibly younger) being a jackass and are ashamed of what they did? Why are some deciding once you become a 30something you hand over your "life-can-be-fun" card?

This is exactly the reason I started this blog. I'm just so confused as to what it means to be a 20something and what it will mean for me once they are over.

I haven't spent my 20s doing things I regret.
I haven't spent my 20s sitting at home under a rock.
I haven't spent my 20s in a drunk stupor swinging from the rafters either.
I don't plan to look at my 30s as the end of life.

I turn 28 in only a few weeks. My 20s are going to be over before I know it. I hope that once they are I can look back at them as a time of learning, a time of joy and sorrow, a time when I came into who I am. But equally I'm going to look forward to my 30s as a time of further growth. As a time of wisdom and another decade for more laughs, more nights out with the girls, more time to snuggle with the man I love.

I may not know what it means to be a 20something but I'm not going to regret trying to figure it all out.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

No lies. No prize. Just truth.

I found this once online...

I honestly don't remember what I was searching for under images; but I loved it so much I've kept it.

On occasion it becomes my profile picture on various networking sites.

I've always thought it would be the inspiration for a wonderful photography collection. Individuals writing a poem, or brief monologue about their feelings of identity and how others see them. Then mimicking this picture - by having a picture of the written piece written on them (either their back, legs, chests, arms, etc). 

Hmmm....not sure what I'd have mine say?

What would yours say?
Where would you have it placed?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

I've never really been one for New Year's Resolutions. I'm not sure why. We never did them as a family growing up so it wasn't something that became ingrained in my as an adult. 

I like the concept. A new year. A new beginning. 

However, I don't know if I've ever been overwhelmed with people who have succeeded or accomplished their resolution(s). I feel more bombarded with people starting strong and then dwindling off a few months/weeks/days into the new year.

Maybe it's because people shoot for the generic or broad. 
Quit smoking. 
Get fit. 
Stop drinking. 
Spend more time with family.

These are all great things. But if for me, if I don't have tangible goals or steps to accomplish I don't think I could do it. Give me guidance. Give me a goal.

*     *     *

I suppose in a way I have a New Years Resolution....I've been wanting to increase my exercising lately. 

I walk about 1 1/2 miles to get to/from work...but that's walking to the bus stop, riding the bus for a 1/2 hour and then walking to work; and then in the evening walking from work to the train. Good that I'm walking but not steady enough to get my heart rate going.

So today, after being inspired by a friend over instant messenger, I went for a walk on my lunch break instead of reading (which had been something else I've been trying to increase). Up the hill from my job there is an out door track; so I walked to the track (0.3mi), did a full loop (0.25mi) and then walked back to work (another 0.3mi). I kept a steady pace the whole time - not what I'd consider "speed walking" but more than a stroll - and even when I had to stop for things like a Red Light I stood in place and bounced to keep my heart rate going. 
Hopefully the friend and I will continue to inspire one another and keep up our new lunch-time walks (even if we are 1,800 miles apart). My goal is to do this everyday. Every day at my lunch (1/2) hour I plan to go up to the track, do at least one loop (hopefully I'll work up my speed so I can do more than one) and come back to work.

I admire people who make goals for themselves every year. And while I'm not looking at my hope/goal to increase my walking everyday as a "resolution" I do hope it's a goal that I can keep up and reach for myself.

*     *     *

What resolutions have you made this year?