Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Sign That Says: It's Free, And I Hope You Have More Luck With This Than Me.

I had an unusual experience last night—I went to an entertainment event that had roughly 85% women in attendance. Since I don’t enjoy Twilight, listen to David Archuleta, or ever make it to Women’s Conference, this was a pretty unusual occurrence. But I didn’t have a moment’s hesitation on whether or not my sister and I were possibly mistaken in our chosen amusement, because Stars on Ice is the best thing since double-stuffed Oreos.

And while I traditionally disdain any efforts of sisterhood bonding unless it has something to do with a book club study of The Awakening, I had no problem feeling solidarity with everyone else there who was ridiculously excited and solemnly up-to-date on the techniques that go into triple axles, death spirals, double-toe-loops, and Sal chows.

Most of us can’t even skate backwards, but that’s beside the point. We are committed to the marriage of art, athleticism, and sequined men’s trousers that is figure skating. So, for today, I will look fondly on the female gender as a whole in a rosy spangle-influenced air of well-being. Until somebody walks by in sweats rolled down at the waist, raggedy ponytail, and perfectly applied makeup. This just happened. Goodwill officially rescinded.

X-Men has ruined my ability to pronounce the name of my coworker Xavier correctly. I’m pretty sure every time I’ve seen his name on the caller id I’ve answered it addressing him like he’s Patrick Stewart's character. It doesn’t matter how many times he tells me the X has an ‘h’ sound, I inevitably screw up the next time. Mortifying.

I’m starting to get stir crazy to the point where my skin might just rip off my body and head for the hills. Gross image, but it’s what it feels like. It’s gotten to the point that I don’t think a vacation is going to fix it, even if I do still think that my life will be incomplete until I go to Denver for a Rockies game and a viewing of King Tut’s tomb artifacts.

I’m 23, I have a year and a half left of school, and if I’m not out of the state within a month of my graduation date you’ll know that despite my best efforts I died inside before reaching the finish line. Ew, now my skin is gone and I’m dead inside, that just sounds like all kinds of unpleasant cleanup for you guys that are still around, picture sacks of decaying flesh and the stripped flesh of wasted ambition. Yuck. Guess we better hope for the best, then, hope that I get into a grad school in New Orleans or St. Paul or the like so that I can escape before I look like something from the aftermath of a comic book fight.

Let me share with you the best family moment of the decade:

A couple weeks ago I crashed a Sunday dinner my parents were having with another couple in their neighborhood. I was the loose cannon at the dinner: I only lived in that area for two years and have rarely returned in the last five years, so the gentler folk of Sandy suburbia approach me with all the caution I would give a particularly paranoid porcupine with projectile quills.

But, surprisingly, it wasn’t my presence that made the quiet Sabbath gathering go sour—the guests committed unwitting social suicide all on their own. Everything was going more than pleasantly until the visiting wife responded to a reference of Mary Poppins with the comment “Oh, I’ve always hated that movie. She’s a real witch; I can’t see how anyone could like her.”

I swear those words echoed as a hush fell over the room. The temperature plunged into the arctic zone. The air pressure tripled. I tried to catch a look at my parents’ expressions without drawing attention to myself, and my dad—the man who prides himself in his superb hosting skills and even tempered conversation—had a frozen look around his eyes, his brow a mass of creases as he attempted to cope with that faux pas of epic proportions. Their guest’s faces lengthened in tandem with the sustained silence, their mouths opening occasionally in aborted efforts to save themselves, only to snap shut in a dejected manner before a single sound escaped.

Dad’s ears gradually lost the ruddy quality that had abruptly flushed up his face, and he took a few slow breaths, reaching over to enclose my mother’s tightly clenched hands in a reassuring manner. But time was still being pulled along like salt water taffy, my mother’s mouth was still pinched and downturning, there seemed to be no escape hatch in sight. I was having the time of my life.

Eons later my dad finally rallied with a boisterous “And the most aggravating thing about the Japanese people is their complete refusal to believe than anyone not Japanese can have any skill or understanding of their language.” An awkward transition, but no one was criticizing technique at this point. The dinner concluded shortly after, the guests still seemed to scurry within their slow even tread; their faces were still apologetic as the door closed firmly behind them before they could retrieve their tupperware.

It’s possible, just possible, that that event may be highly colored in my mind based on how well I know my parents. But whether or not that vein in my mother’s forehead was really as prominent as I remember, I maintain that having a family that reacts almost violently to any criticism of Disney’s live-action masterpiece is as cool as having a jetpack of my very own. It’s also one of the best demonstrations that despite all other proof and/or skepticism, I do share DNA with the most noble and ancient house of Shurtz.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Withholding The Rest So I Can Be For You What You Wanna See

I have an insatiable hunger for pie this week. But instead of spending too much time whining about it, I have the situation in hand and will be devoting the majority of my Friday night to repieifying the county. I am particularly suited for this monumental task, since I make even better apple pie than my grandmother. Shhhh, she can never know. I don’t know if she would cry or kill me if she found out she had been knocked off the pedestal. She’s old now. She doesn’t need that kind of information to burden her twilight years.

I’m starting to talk like a coward. Or, worse, like I’m too nice. Either way I’m giving the impression that I care too much about what other people think to say what I really want to. It’s been a growing problem that has rapidly escalated in the last nine months.

I’m not liking the trend, so I feel the need to justify it in high-falutin language that makes me look like I’m really the next step in our ethical evolution by doin what I do. So, here goes. The reasons for my appearance of cowardice fall into two camps:

1.    I can’t control the crazy people I say things to--no amount of force can make them accurately interpret/portray what I say. Essentially, when I’m talking to someone I know to be overly dramatic, self-involved, a bibbling idiot, or just plain hostile, I’ve learned over time to just save myself the trouble of carefully crafting anything of note to say to those kind of people.

Because no matter how brilliant my syntax, and let's not cut corners, I bandy words with the best of them, I have learned from painful experience that you can never underestimate a person’s ability to turn everything and anything into a sentence that makes them look wonderful/like the victim and myself into a horrible, dark-slime-of-the-earth-like-in-Fern-Gully type. I’m not even talking about how they would twist my words when relaying a conversation to others, I’m saying they have some sort of horribly constructed camera obscura right in their frontal lobes that turns something like “Hey, roommate, I really like this guy, could you do me a solid and give us some alone chat time?” upside down and inside out until they’re narrating real-time “And then Mary head-butted me, called me fat, and said the next time I opened my mouth around her boy—like she owns him, gosh, she’s so possessive—she would key my car.”

Don’t even get me started on how much worse it gets if I ever allowed myself to talk politics with anyone my age—yes, I know, I’m a Poli Sci major--I must talk politics at least occasionally. That line of reason is entirely false. If you think I actually volunteer to discuss anything with those nimrods in my program, you’re crazier than me. I think it’s my constitutional right to refuse to give my peers fodder that they can flip into “And then Mary confided in me that she is a racist profit-driven oil whoremonger who would prefer nuking Beijing to discussing gun control.”

So essentially, in these scenarios I’m not a coward, and I don’t care what they think necessarily, I’m just tired. Just plain tuckered out, drained of any motivation to keep on hitting my head against the wall of another’s determination to misunderstand me.

You could easily turn this into symptons of a myriad of trust issues that I seem to be avoiding, but I’ve been burned often enough that I’m going to stick to my guns on my cautious, guarded manner. Also,

2. I don’t need to be forthright at the cost of making civilians a part of the collateral damage. Unfortunately for my rep as someone who cares more about telling it like it is than her own personal popularity/safety, the harsh truth is that about 90% of those people that I want to give a verbal dressing-down have either a blood or friend connection with someone who I actually like. And too often in the past I have disregarded that fact, with the inevitable result that the shared third party gets dragged into it and either has to choose between us, mediate, or sit there uncomfortably and try to juggle us.

Unkind. Unfair. I can sacrifice the natural high I get when sticking it to someone if it means at the end of the day I still have the highest stats of people who still like me and consider my friendship to be low maintenance.

So, in this case, I do care what someone thinks or feels. It’s just the man behind curtain number three, not the one I want to chew out for choosing to make a break-up or mourning period more about them than the people actually involved.

It’s a crippling new part of my character that I’ve come to a point where I can no longer accept innocent bystanders as acceptable losses in my expeditions to take the crazies down a notch or two. My mission has been severely compromised by this change in my mandate. But there are enough people in the world right now who are with full legitimacy still pissed at me, so it had to stop some time.

I’d like to think that all of this prudence comes from a place of growing maturity, but let’s not get carried away here. It has a lot less to do with how wise and awesome I am and lies mostly in the blame column of how much other people suck. But at least you can come away feeling warm and fuzzy inside if I verbally berate you—it means I think you’re not one of the crazies. If I seem typically polite in a manner reminiscent of Stepford, you better watch yourself.

Someday I'm going to be granted a wish from a genie and I'll have a voice like Mayer Hawthorne or the Temptations for a day so that I can sing the soulful blues in the manner a little pasty-faced chick like me will never be able to do unaided.