Monday, October 24, 2011

Add It Up

I just--as in less-than-an-hour-ago just--got back from a three day trip to Chicago with my sister, Heather. To say the trip wasn't a great one is like saying--well, I'm really tired and can't come up with a comparison right now, but it's like making some hugely obvious understatement (feel free to insert your own).  From the time I went on my less-than-great trip until just after I got home, I made several observations, which I'm going to write down right now before they go away.  Because I'm ridiculously tired, elaboration will come at a later date. Maybe.

1. I love running outside and looking at pretty things while I do it.
2. I can get lost even when logic dictates that I can't.
3. People who don't have a spouse/bf/gf/significant other are selfish and inconsiderate and don't know how to coexist harmoniously with another human being.
4. The cause-and-effect relationship of Observation Number 3 can probably be switched.
5. Class in no way dictates how good of a person someone is nor does it dictate likeability.
6. The people on my father's side of the family feel the same way about dogs as I do.
7. Chicago is overflowing with Asian people.
8. The girls on my father's side of the family all have the Cappellano hips.
9. I tend to romanticize.
10. Two people from the same family who were raised exactly the same way can be completely different, not just in personalities, but in beliefs/practices/lifestyles/anything and everything.
11. I am a curmudgeon.
12. I really don't want to teach for another 18 years (hell, I don't want to teach for another 18 days!).
13. Florida is poo.
14. I'm past the age of desirability (but you guys already knew that one).
15. My romantic-colored glasses make realism infinitely depressing.

As promised, no elaboration due to my extreme fatigue.
But I'm sure you get the gist.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

It Hurts

I had big plans to write a blog about the disgusting dinner I attempted to eat last night, but then, lo and behold, something way more interesting happened. So here comes different.

Today at school, one of my students stole the iPod touch that I've had for all of about four weeks (I said interesting, not good-interesting). I was listening to it during my planning period like I often do, turned it off when third period started, and some time between then and the end of the day, it was taken.  When at first I didn't see it in the spot I had left it, I didn't think it had been stolen; instead, I thought that I must have moved it without realizing it, and I searched absolutely everywhere in my room that it possibly could have been. I moved piles of paper, books, folders, and legal pads, and then I moved them again. I looked in all of my desk drawers, I looked in my closet, and I looked in my bag, and then I looked in my desk drawers again, I looked in my closet again, and I emptied out my bag.  And then I realized that I was wasting my time looking for my iPod because my iPod was nowhere to be found--it was absolutely, positively gone.

So now I'm out an iPod--a really nice one, too--but the iPod I can get over. What I can't get over is the sense of violation and invasion that I feel. What I also can't get over is the sense of betrayal.

You know, I'm a more-decent-than-not person, and anybody reading this who actually knows me knows how much I love my students. Anyone who knows me knows that they're not just my students to me, they're my kids--I cry when they cry, I get excited when they get excited, I believe in their dreams, and I cry with happiness and pride when those dreams are achieved. More tangibly, if I'm eating and one of them asks me for food, I give them some. I give them money if when they ask for it I have it (albeit in small, dollar-or-less amounts), and I let them wear my jacket when they're cold. I've baked my students cookies, I've made them cakes, I've brought in Halloween candy, and I've spent several painstaking hours writing out personalized Valentine's Day cards to each and every one of them. I give those kids absolutely everything I can.

And this is what they give me.

They give me the feeling that I'm an idiot. They give me the feeling that, despite what I'm always telling Glenn, my kids can't be trusted, and they're not really good, nice kids. They give me the feeling that I'm stupid to care so much--to do so much--to give so much.

They give me the feeling that I shouldn't trust.
They give me the feeling that I shouldn't care.
They give me the feeling that I shouldn't love.

They give me the feeling that the world, even with its angelic tow truck drivers and its random-act-of-kindness-exemplifying women who let me cut them in line at Starbucks, is ugly.

They took my new hope, and now it's gone.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

I'm on Another Planet with You

So a girl--this girl, to be specific (it's a link, click on it!)--that I never met just commented on a Facebook post that I "live in another planet." I really feel the urge to discuss why.

Earlier today, a former student of mine posted that she's selling her seven-month-old blue-nosed pit for $350.  The puppy has been giving her a lot of trouble, chewing and destroying her things, since she got him.  She's at her wits end and just wants him gone.

I commented, very nicely, that she shouldn't get rid of her dog, that it might be difficult now, but he's only a puppy, and soon enough he'll stop destroying her things.  I told  her that in the meantime, she should keep him crated, give him chew toys, leave nothing destructible within his reach, and maybe consider behavior training.  I also told her that my dogs give me so much happiness, and my life wouldn't be in any way complete without them.  I also mentioned that she made a commitment to him--to him, a puppy, not an object--and she shouldn't just get rid of him.

Comments (all nice and civil) went back and forth, and at one point, a girl said that everybody has an opinion, but nobody's in the situation and should just leave the original poster alone and let her do what makes her happy.  To that I wrote an admittedly snarky comment about how my sons break things and are ruining my house, and I clearly should have gotten rid of them when they were young.  And then the other girl--this girl, to be specific (it's a link, click on it!)--entered the conversation.

She said, and I quote (copied and pasted--you know very well the grammatical errors aren't mine), "I am a mother of three lovely children, a cute as dog, and a sexy ass Horse. Ther os no way in HELL you can compare the love of a mother to her children, to any damn animal in this whole world!!! [Name omitted] YOU DO YOU! Nobody helpd [Post ends abruptly. New post] Nobody helps you clean up dog shit, and pick up all the stuff the little darling destroys! get rid pf the little terror, if thats whats going to make you HAPPY!"

Rationally, I responded, "Noelby, maybe you can't compare the love of a mother to an animal, but I certainly can. And this isn't to [Name omitted] or meant to offend her, it's in response to what you said, but did she think somebody was going to help her clean the dog shit when she bought it? Did she research owning a puppy and all the responsibility that goes along with it? I'm guessing no to both answers which is exactly why hundreds of thousands of pets are in shelters and up to a million are euthanized every year--because people have a piss poor, lackadaisical attitude like you do--if it's not easy, get rid of it. Animals aren't inanimate objects that should be bought and surrendered at will. Quite frankly, your statement and attitude disgust me."

She then asked me what I would do if my house were on fire--if I would save my "precious dogs" or my sons.  First of all, I have to say, what the hell does a Sophie's-Choice situation and my house being on fire have to do with the price of tea in China (God, I love that expression)? The original poster wasn't selling her dog because she had to choose between him and her children.  Clearly this Noelby girl is either unbalanced, or none too bright (I think I have to go with the latter on this one).  

Even though her question was irrelevant, I humored her with a response.

I told her that we actually had a plan for that very situation, and, yes, my dogs would be saved "because they're that important to us."  I also told her, and , again, I quote, "We didn't get rid of them when they caused us trouble that cost us over one thousand dollars; we didn't get rid of them because we can't ever take a vacation where we can't drive anywhere or because it's almost impossible to find a hotel where we can stay with two sixty-pound dogs because we take them everywhere with us; we didn't get rid of them when we realized we have to vacuum twice a day because they shed so much because we understand that, as human beings, we are responsible for taking care of those that we've committed to loving and taking care of, no matter how inconvenient it may be."

Her response? A well-thought out, "Kelly you live in another planet."

To which I have to respond, Really? Really??

So...why exactly do I live in another planet (as opposed to on one, as people usually exactly did I get in there? A really big shovel?)? Is it because I don't think animals are here to buy and sell at our whims? Is it because I love my dogs like I love my children? Is it because I feel that people have a responsibility to honor our commitments and protect things that need to be protected? Is it because it makes me sick how she encouraged the original poster with a " YOU DO YOU!" because, like so many other people, selfishness rules her world? What exactly is it that implies I live in another planet? Is it because I'm not a self-centered, inarticulate bitch? You know, like this girl, to be specific (it's a link, click on it!).

Friday, October 7, 2011

I'm Okay (I Promise)

Let me just preface this by saying that this is totally crazy to me, but I was recently told by someone (please forgive the passive voice) that I'm somewhat inspirational to her.  My first reaction was surprise. Hearing that I'm inspirational to someone took me aback, and I simply thought, Wow. In the two days since then, though, I've been thinking about my friend's statement, which, in turn, led me to think of two other instances when I was taken aback in the same way.

Both incidents occurred about a year and a half ago, very close in time to one another.  A former friend of mine and I were talking, and she told me that she loved the way I looked and would give anything to look like me. I can't even tell you how shocked that statement made me.  Okay, wait--maybe I can--let's see. That statement shocked the hell out of me.  I'd spent my entire life up to that point vacillating toward being okay with my looks and hating every single thing about myself.  I'd spent (and still spend) countless hours in the mirror lamenting my looks, from my swimming-pool-sized pores to my dimple-ridden, extra-large ass to the Greek-Italian monstrosity of a nose that sits in the middle of my face to the Jew-curl hair that I could never control.  I mean, when I tell you I've hated my looks, I am in no way using the word hate lightly.  Not only that, but I've pored over countless magazines in my day, scrutinizing pictures of models and actresses and thinking that if I could just look like any one of them, my life would be so much better.  And then, suddenly, somebody was doing the same thing I'd always done, expressing her desire to look like somebody else, but shock of all shocks, she wasn't expressing the desire to look like Drew Barrymore or Lucy Liu (two people I'd trade places with any day), she was expressing the desire to look like me.  What?

The second incident came pretty soon after when I was out playing pool one night (I guess I must have been going through a good stage).  I was in the bathroom when a complete stranger told me that she loved my hair (it was super short and even super-er red at the time) and that she wished she had the confidence and the nerve that I had.  It's been awhile, so I don't remember her exact words, but I remember they were the kind of words that made me feel the same way I felt when my former friend said that she would give anything to look like me and that I recently felt when my friend told me that I was inspirational.  All three incidents left me with the same feeling of what? 

And here's where I'm going with this.  We're all so busy--and when I say all, I mean me, and because I mean me, and I'm not a complete anomaly, I also mean you--seeing what's wrong with ourselves that oftentimes we don't see what's right. We're so busy complaining about what we have--in my case, a crooked, chipped front tooth, my grandmother's hips (on a smaller scale, thank God), a fine layer of facial fuzz that gleams in the sun--and wanting what we don't have--to be Asian, to be dewy but not shiny, to carry off the gamine thing as flawlessly as Jean Seberg did (yes, my case again)--that we don't realize that we--We! Yes, you! And, yes, me!--are to other people as our objects of admiration/inspirations/motivations are to us.  In a lot of ways, we're better than we think.

So the next time you're having an episode, staring in the mirror and thinking that if only you'd upped your SPF way back when, you wouldn't look like a leather bag with eyes or like anything you do is futile because you're just a big nobody who could just disappear and nobody would even notice, remember that I--I!--am somebody else's Drew Barrymore, another person's Zora Neale Hurston.  And that, readers, means so are you.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What If You're NOT Beautiful, No Matter What They Say?

Just a quick blog to comment on something that's been bugging me. I posted a link to an article about Isaiah Mustafa creating a mild controversy when he said that he wanted to marry a woman with good hair, and among the conversation on my page under the link was this statement regarding mainstream acceptance for Jamaicans' preference for a certain type (made by a Jamaican woman):  "It's pretty ignorant and sad because an individual there isn't chosen based on knowledge and talent but on looks and desirable traits such as light complexion and eyes and softer hair texture. They're obsessed with those traits because it's believed she'll do better in life."  

First let's talk about the last part of the statement, specifically the belief that women with desirable traits will do better in life.  I have to say that's absolutely true. Studies show that attractive people are treated much better than unattractive ones--and you can spare me the beauty-is-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder spiel--and that, as a result of their attractiveness, they're afforded more opportunities than their unattractive counterparts.  If a culture reveres certain traits, having those traits is going to be an attribute. End of story.

Now, about the mate thing...I can't pretend to know a lot about Jamaican culture, but I know absolutely everything about human nature, plus a hefty amount about American culture, and I can definitively say that this desire for choosing a mate based on "looks and desirable traits" is universal and has absolutely nothing to do with being Jamaican.  (And, yes, before somebody points it out to me, I'm aware that there's prejudice within the black race that revolves around skin tone.  This post is not about that.)  As animals, we instinctively look for the most attractive mate with specific attributes; it's just plain nature.  Biology aside, we all, despite how evolved we might profess to be and how above being superficial we pretend to be, want a mate that's hot, rather than one that's not.  Knowledge and talent are, of course, nice traits for a mate to have, too, but when we're out looking, whether we're window shopping or looking for something to take home, it most certainly isn't  knowledge that we notice, no matter what culture we're from.

Look at this way--for this you must be honest (even if it's not here, at least be honest there, wherever you are). Do you really want to spend the rest of your life looking at somebody who's not pleasing to the eye? Do you? Do you?? don't have to answer.  I already know.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Girl, You'll Be a Woman Sooner Than You Think

If you've been reading my blog, you know that my car broke down in Boca last week, that I was stranded on the side of the road with a friend, that my hope for humanity was restored during the incident, and that the people who passed me by were complete and utter jerks.  Just about the only thing you don't know regarding the incident is that, as a result of it, I came to what probably shouldn't have been a startling realization but was:  I'm old.

Okay, so first let me say, my approaching old age isn't exactly news.  I've known for a long time that it was coming.  But still, knowing and knowing are two completely different things. For years I've been able to convince myself that even though I'm oldish numerically, I'm still youngish physically, but on Saturday, I realized that I've been laboring under a total misconception.  I'm almost forty, and apparently it shows.

On Saturday, I was on the phone with my friend, Curt, telling him the story of what had happened on Thursday, and when I got to the part about people yelling at Erin and me to move the fucking car, boom! all of a sudden it hit me:  not only did no guys stop to help us damsels in distress, but not even one single guy yelled something sexually inappropriate at us.  There were no whistles, no catcalls, no perverted ogles from behind car windows.  There was nothing at all to indicate that one person who zoomed past us found us sexually exciting at all.  If it weren't for the fact that people were being mean, I'd think nobody had even noticed we were there.

I've read, on several occasions, testimony from women about what happens to them once they cease to be girls and turn into what people commonly refer to as "ladies."  I've read about how these women experience what can only be explained as culture shock, having gone from being objectified their entire lives to being all but ignored, and though the women I've read about it happening to were not much older than I am, I somehow thought it would be a long, long time before it happened to me.

I was wrong.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Thou Shalt Not Berate Women Stranded on the Side of the Road

Yesterday I posted about the good that came out of a situation that started out as a fiasco. Today I'm going to post about the bad. I already set up the situation, so I'll spare you the recap. Let's just pick up at the point when Erin and I were standing on the sidewalk next to a car with its hazard lights on.

So there we were, standing on the sidewalk next to a car with its hazard lights on, a clear indication that something problematic had occurred. I was on my phone, frantically calling my insurance company, one of my credit card companies, various towing operations, and Glenn in an effort to try to figure out what to do with my car. We were both pretty panic stricken, having thought my car was going to blow up, and I was insanely stressed, having no idea what was going to become of my car. It's one of the few times in my life I've felt completely and utterly helpless in a "helpless woman" sort of way.

In the forty-five minutes or so that Erin and I were stranded on the side of the road, I'd estimate that at least one thousand cars passed us. It sounds like a lot, but we were on a busier-than-not-busy street right in front of a college, across the street from a shopping center with Whole Foods and Barnes and Noble, and only a few blocks away from the entrance to I-95, so that thousand is probably a conservative estimate. Now, I didn't expect anybody to stop to offer us help--although it would have been nice--but what I didn't expect even more than that was for people to yell and scream at us. At least five separate cars slowed down long enough for people to yell something akin to "Move your car!" at us (because, you know, we were obviously just leaving it in the middle of the road where it could have been smashed into at any moment for fun). At one point, a bunch of guys in a pick up truck stopped behind my car, sat there for at least two minutes, and then, upon pulling away, yelled at me to get my fucking car out of the street.

My question is this: What the hell is wrong with people? Like I said, I wasn't expecting complete strangers to stop to help us, but did they have to berate us? Did they not think that, as two girls with a broken-down car in the rapidly-approaching dark, maybe we were scared enough already and didn't need random strangers hurling vicious words at us? Did they not think about how they'd like to be treated if something like that were to happen to them?

The world makes me sad. I know I can't change the miserable hearts and bad behavior of everybody in existence, but I know I can make a difference with some. As soon as I got home, I sat my sons down and told them that if they ever see a woman in trouble, it's their responsibility as good citizens and good people to offer help to them. Griffin, because he always wants to help everybody, pointed out that sometimes men need help, too, and he was absolutely right. Everybody needs help sometimes. I'm glad that, through my children, I'm able to contribute to a new generation that understands that.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A New Hope

I'm usually quite the grumbler, but I have to take a break from complaining for a minute to acknowledge the random act of kindness that was bestowed upon me just a couple of days ago. I had just left FAU when my car stopped working--and I use the term stopped working loosely; in fact, what actually happened is my car lost all power, and sparks were flying up through the hood--in the right lane of Glades Road, a busier-than-not-busy street. Afraid that the car was going to explode (you know, since sparks lead to fire), my friend, Erin, and I ran out of the car as quickly as possible, leaving it in the spot where it stopped.

Once we were a safe distance away, I called my insurance company and talked to a man who informed me that they would reimburse me up to fifty dollars for a tow truck. He then gave me some numbers, which I wrote down on a dollar bill. There was no answer at the first number I called. A man answered at the second number, and we went back and forth for awhile about what could be done with my car and how much it would cost. I don't remember every number that was mentioned, but I do know $165 came up at one point. He wanted to take my car to his shop; I didn't think that was a good idea. After a few minutes, I told him I had to call my husband and would get back to him. When I talked to him, Glenn agreed that my car should be taken to an established garage, preferably a Toyota dealership, but at least to a Firestone or Tires Plus. A Bob's Garage-type place was out of the question.

I called the guy back (admittedly by mistake--I was actually trying to get an estimate from one of the other places), and when I told him my exact situation, about how my car was in the middle of the street and I lived over 30 miles away, he sounded genuinely concerned. He told me there was a Firestone three miles away and that he would tow it there for $55. After telling me he'd be coming in 10 to 15 minutes, we hung up.

About 10 minutes later, the tow truck driver arrived. I explained exactly what had happened to my car, and even though he in no way had to, he opened up the hood to see what was going on. After a minute or so, he saw that the battery had come loose. He said that was the reason my car had turned off, and the reason my car sparked was that the metal from the clamp was rubbing against the metal from the battery. He then tightened a few things, looked at me, and said, "Drive your car home."

Now, I know that may not seem like the nicest thing in the world, but this man could have completely taken advantage of me. He could have towed my car even though it didn't need a towing, making me pay money I didn't need to pay. He could have lied to me just because he was annoyed that he had driven out there in such a hurry for me. He could have done any number of things to a clueless woman standing on the side of the road, panicked. But he didn't. Instead he helped me, doing something for me for absolutely nothing in return but appreciation.

It's no secret that I'm not a lover of people. I read the newspaper and watch the news and cry over the absence of compassion in the world. I lament the loss of the values that I believe people must have had at some time. I mourn the loss of humanity on an almost daily basis. This man, though, this tow truck driver named Huss, made me feel something about the world that I haven't felt in a long time. He made me feel hope.