In case you haven’t heard… I’m competing in the 18th annual Eugene Laugh Off on March 31st. I might be great or I might suck eggs. Either way, if you want to be there you’d best get your tickets before they’re gone!
I think I have a peeping Tom situation, of sorts. The of sorts is because I sort of know this person and because he isn’t exactly lurking in the bushes under my bedroom window. It’s my kitchen window he’s into and his view is from a busy bike path that runs past my backyard.
According to Wikipedia, (a great resource for lazy people who want quick and, sometimes, accurate answers to questions that vex) the original peeping Tom was a dude who was struck blind or dead after witnessing Lady Godiva riding her horse in the nude. For the record, and for any other creepy-creepers who might be reading, I do not own a horse. I also no longer walk around the house in my underwear.
Anyway, for the past few weeks I’ve seen the same guy walking by my backyard right when I happen to glance outside. Like I said, it’s a busy bike path and there are plenty of legitimate reasons for people to be on it; but I see this guy more often than my elderly neighbor who walks his dog at the same time every morning. At first I thought it was just coincidence; then I got the suspicious, creepy, am I imagining this? feeling.
That is, until this weekend…
On Saturday night, tired from work and chores, I was in the kitchen making the kind of dinner I eat when there are no children around: a big glass of coconut milk and toast with Nutella. Mmmm. As is customary, I used my index finger to wipe the remaining Nutella off of the butter knife and licked the chocolaty spread from my finger… with a normal amount of enthusiasm. When I turned to put the knife in the sink (finger still in mouth), there he was, standing on the path, staring right at me. It took about a millisecond for him to turn and dart away, looking both embarrassed and a little thrilled. I, on the other hand, was mildly embarrassed and deeply annoyed. I do not wish to have my pathetic (and unfortunately misleading) single-person dietary habits gawked at by others. Especially married male others.
So when I spotted him out there again last night, I planted my feet firmly on the floor and stared him down with a look that said, “I know what you’re doing and you’re messing with the wrong angry woman.” I think he got it. But just in case, here it is in writing:
Dear Mr. Peepers,
If I catch you hanging around my backyard one more time, looking in my window for a free show, I will not hesitate to embarrass you… AS PUBLICLY AS I PLEASE.
I know who you are, I know where to find you (even when you’re not on the bike path) and I know how to reach your woman. Costco sells the big jars of Nutella in 2 packs; go get your own and make your wife some toast.
My friend Bekah says that all women should create a personal list of rules for being in a relationship and hand them out to all potential suitors. (She also says it’s never too late to make up some shit — even if you’ve been with the same person for years.) I decided to take a stab at my own list… and because I am compelled to overstate everything, it’s turning into more of a reference guide…
Chapter 1: Navigating the Crazy
1. Jennifer likes lots of verbal affirmation and reassurance.
2. Affirmations are like money in the bank.
3. The more money you put in the bank, the easier life feels– less worries & stress; more relaxation and “fun-time.”
4. Examples of affirmations include:
a. “I like you.”
b. “You look so pretty today.”
c. “You’re fun.”
d. “I can’t believe I get to spend the whole day with you!”
e. Holding her hand under the table in restaurants.
f. Putting your hand on her back in social settings. (This one doubles as reassurance when Jennifer is experiencing social anxiety.)
g. Initiating spontaneous hugs and cuddles.
h. “What is a smokin’ goddess like you doing with a goofball like me?”
i. “I miss you.” (This one is especially effective when employed during a phone call from the grocery store where you are buying her some donut holes.)
j. “Come here and give me some sugar!” (This is not a reference to the donut holes; those belong to her.)
5. Reassurance is mostly necessary during periods of conflict or anxiety. (Periods of anxiety typically occur between the hours of 8 a.m. and 2 a.m.)
6. During times of conflict, Jennifer becomes anxious and assumes you mostly hate her.
7. There is no direct correlation between the severity of the conflict and how much she thinks you hate her.
8. If, during conflict, you remind Jennifer that you like her and aren’t going to dump her and then tell all of your friends how bat-shit crazy she is, the duration of said conflict will likely be significantly shortened.
9. If you are in conflict with Jennifer, sandwiching a valid criticism between, “I like you” and “I think you’re beautiful” will make it MUCH more palatable. (If your criticisms are invalid… please see the “Picking up the Pieces of Your Ego After Jennifer has Finished a Head-bobbing, Finger-waiving Rant” section in chapter 17.)
10. Dating Jennifer is a lot like dating Miss Piggy. Good luck, Kermit!
Coming soon… Chapter 2: Why Crazy Chicks are Better in Bed.
I lost my virginity the summer before my senior year of high school, at the ripe old age of 16. Even then I thought that was a stupid phrase. I didn’t lose anything or give it away like some carefully wrapped maraschino cherry. I had sex, because I wanted to. I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. Among my semi-wild friends, I was the last of the dying virgins. I suffered their teasing and listened to their escapades with a critical ear. Most of my friends first sexual experiences were with boyfriends, in the context of love and commitment. The love usually ended when they discovered that their boyfriend’s idea of commitment meant he only fooled around with other girls from other schools. That was not the experience I sought.
I wanted to have sex. I wanted to fall in love too (actually, at 16, it’s more accurate to say I wanted someone to fall in love with me) but I didn’t see the two things as inherently connected. Love is complex and illusive; sex is everywhere. I wasn’t looking for The One. The idea of having only one sexual partner for life never appealed to me. I simply wanted a safe and enjoyable experience with someone cute and nice. I looked around and picked the older brother of a close friend. He was 19, cute in a hickish-jock sort of way, funny, and a bit of a player who flirted with me constantly. It happened one hot summer night, after skinny dipping at the reservoir, in my bed, in my house, with protection. It was alright. 16 year-old girl + first time + 19 year-old guy… never = mind-blowing.
Afterwards I thought, “Okay. That was that.” I didn’t want to be his girlfriend and I’d satisfied my curiosity. Two days later when he showed up for more, I told him thanks but no thanks and that I preferred to just be friends. I was a well-informed teenager, but clueless about the power and fragility of the male ego. He was stunned and mad. He accused me of lying about having been a virgin, saying that no virgin could break up with the guy she’d just lost it to. He repeated this statement to everyone I knew, for the rest of the summer. I went from prudish virgin to lying slut in a few short weeks.
Slut is a very subjective term. The Oxford English dictionary defines slut as: a slovenly or promiscuous woman. (Slovenly?? Don’t even get me started on how there is no correlating term applied to men.) Over the years many women, including myself, have reclaimed this term to mean something positive and empowering. One of the definitions for promiscuous reads: consisting of a wide range of different things. I’ve called myself a slut many times and always in reference to my love of new and different experiences, as well as my inherent right to choose sexual partners based on a variety of merits and moods. Once I figured out what works for me and how much fun that work is, why hold back?
Women I know get this; men I’ve known have a harder time letting go of the old definition. More times than I care to recall, I’ve been with men who were initially attracted to my sexual confidence and appetite, but eventually grew to resent and ridicule it when the relationship became serious. I’ve been accused of cheating simply because “there is no way a woman can like sex so much without sleeping with other guys.” (I should clarify that I don’t mix promiscuity and commitment. I have always been monogamous in my relationships. Monogamy comes very naturally to me; I prefer it and it turns me on.)
I’ve been with men who kept their judgements well hidden until, stripped of their clothing and inhibitions, they unleashed a bucket-full of degrading remarks that reached back to the puritan definition of slut. The result was an unpleasant lesson in how quickly a hot naked chick can disappear from their life and bed.
When it comes to concerns about fidelity, my natural tendency is to reassure my partner. But this is a slippery slope and often leads to jealousy, control and isolation. In my 20’s I found myself in a relationship with a man who accused every waiter of flirting with me, forced a car off the highway because he thought the driver was checking me out, and frequently embarrassed the crap out of me with other Neanderthal-type behaviors. Soon after, I dated a sweet and sensitive guy who was everyone’s friend. After a year together he sat crying in my bed, begging me to tell him who else I was or wanted to sleep with. Same story, different dude.
At 38 I get that these experiences have everything to do with the male ego, and nothing to do with me. The media and our cultural norms tell us that men should want and enjoy sex more than women. So if I’m in the mood and he isn’t, the only way for him to maintain his sense of masculinity is to make me feel like a freak of nature. Right? Likewise, accusations of cheating reflect his own insecurities and/or struggle to keep it in his pants… not mine.
I get all of this… on an intellectual level. Emotionally, it’s a bit harder to reconcile. As I reenter the dating world I worry that this issue will come back to haunt me. Is it simply a question of my previously poor taste in men? (I’d like to add that I haven’t only dated jerks and fools… there have been some good eggs in the mix and they know who they are.) Or is suffering these judgements an unavoidable side effect of female sexual confidence and empowerment? Have men evolved beyond the sexual double-standards, or are they just better at hiding their inner cave man? Have I evolved beyond letting past experiences contaminate present relationships? Obviously not, but I’m working on it.
I am dating. I think. No, I am…I am dating. My ex knows (save yourself the trouble of leaving a “you’re so stupid!” comment; honesty is my thing), my friends know, my therapist will know…as soon as I find one.
One might consider dating ill-advised at this stage in my life and divorce proceedings. Unfortunately, other than my kids still being outrageously adorable super geniuses, and this new dating thing, life is pretty fucking horrible right now. Therefore, I need to find my happy wherever I can so as not to lose my shit in a large-scale kinda way. Save your judgement and just enjoy the fact that I’m willing to kiss and tell… a little.
What I like about dating…
1. Dating gets me out of the house and into wondrous places where grown-ups gather. On dates I have eaten dinner in restaurants without any children at my table. I consumed alcoholic beverages and ate my meals slowly in these restaurants. I completed sentences and listened to other grown-ups complete sentences. I’ve gone to movies that had no animation or singing. I’ve even gone to movies in theaters that also serve alcoholic beverages. I’ve gone to hear live music and danced in a crowd with a hot potato’s hands on my hips. I’ve stayed up late and worn clean clothes going to these grown-up places.
2. Flirting. I almost forgot how fun it is to flirt. I’m still only slightly above awkward teenager with the in-person flirting (unless alcohol is involved, in which case I’m right at awkward teenager) but I think my written communication skills make up for it–if you like that sort of thing, that is. I like that sort of thing very much and definitely enjoy being flirted with. Compliments, winks, and banter are all very uplifting and stress reducing, I have found. Being told I’m pretty is nice too… no matter how much of a feminist I am. It makes me blush and blushing is fun, in a slightly uncomfortable way… like sneezing.
3. Stress Relief. Many dating-related activities can be very aerobic and, therefore, stress-relieving. Hiking is one such activity, dancing is too, hot-tubbing may be another; feel free to make up your own as you go along.
I admit that all this fun comes at a price. My new adventures in dating did not come with a Get Out of Neurotic Jail for Free card. In my 20’s my neurotic dating thoughts were mostly, “I wonder how he feels about me and where he sees this relationship going?” These days my head is full of, “How do I feel about him? What about right now? How will I feel tomorrow? Where do I see this relationship going? Oh fuck! Where do I see my life going? Shit, I am so unprepared for this!” I like to play this tape on a repetitive thought loop at highly inconvenient moments. So that’s a downside.
Here’s the thing; I am a highly neurotic person and if it wasn’t this, it would be something else. My brain is compelled to freak and fixate… it’s what I do best. At least this mess comes with great perks and leaves a smile on my face at the end of an evening.
If you were on Facebook this week, you undoubtedly saw this:
I have no idea if this is a real Betty White quote or not, but I wouldn’t put it past the old broad. Betty is on my short list of celebrities who could be related to me if my parents would ever admit that I’m really adopted. I never fit in with my “real” family and “Mom” fueled my adoption fantasies when I was 14 by telling me this woman was my real mother:
Charo is perhaps best remembered for her frequent guest appearances on the Love Boat. But it was her big hair, shiny outfits and constant hip-shaking that led my mom to finger her as my birth mother. That, and her (Mom, not Charo) total disgust over the fact that I tried out for the cheerleading squad and acted dumb so boys would like me. To this day, I’d say it’s a toss-up who clings more tightly to the adoption fantasy, me or my mom. When I was learning to drive at age 15, a limousine that said “Charo” on the license plates passed us on the road. I hit the brakes and Mom said, “She’s here! She’s looking for you!” I made a u-turn and we spent the next 20 minutes trying to find that limo, but it was gone.
To be fair, my dreams of having another family started long before the first episode of Love Boat ever aired. As the story goes, around the age of 3, every time I got in trouble or didn’t get my way I’d cross my arms, stomp my foot and say, “If you’re not nice to me I’ll go live with my real family in California!” I’m still not sure where California is, but it sounds like a place I’d be from.
In kindergarten I was convinced that my real family hailed from a place even more obscure and exotic than California. Themyscira is a small island nation of the coast of… ?, and is home to Diana (a.k.a Wonder Woman) and her Amazon sisters.
“Chicks Rule, Boys Drool” is the national slogan of Themyscira and if Diana herself wasn’t my real mom, one of the other Amazons surely was. I waited patiently for my super powers to kick in and for the invisible jet to show up and take me away from the idiotic mortals I’d lived with thus far. I waited until I outgrew the Wonder Woman costume my mom sewed for me when I was 4. Last year I started making a new costume for the adult size me, so the dream lives on…
By second grade, Lily Tomlin was my new birth mom. This genetic link provided a reasonable explanation for why I was so much funnier than the rest of my family. It also gave me my first career aspiration. If I played my cards right I hoped to become a telephone operator who spied on the misbehaving masses and put them in their places with my sharp tongue and quick wit.
I rehearsed “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone company.” until I had the rhythm and tone just right. Additionally, I was a natural eaves-dropper who spent years pretending to fall asleep in cars and living rooms so I could listen to adult conversations. Ernestine’s “I don’t give a fuck” attitude spoke to something deep within my 6 year-old soul.
By fourth grade a longing to be FABULOUS trumped funny and fierce. Enter The Divine Miss M.
Bette Midler did funny with song and dance in outrageous sequined costumes and heels. The lesbians raising me loved her too, but they were no help whatsoever in teaching me to walk, let alone dance, in heels. Don’t get me started on how alone I was in the hair and makeup department. I briefly fantasized about trading in the Potluck Crew for two fabulous gay dads, but feared I’d have to give up camping and long-distance spitting. My comedic showgirl dreams died soon after and I resigned myself to a life of simpler pleasures.
With Halloween right around the corner I’m inspired to find a new role model and/or birth mom to impersonate for the evening. It’s a lot harder than it used to be to find someone to look up to because famous people are so much less talented these days. That and…I’m older than most current celebrities, which makes the possibility of any of them being my birth mom that much more unlikely. The obvious solution: Twins!… separated at birth. I’ve been told I look like:
Nancy Botwin (Mary Louise Parker) on Weeds…
Some chick from a sci-fi show I don’t watch…
Totally awesome singer/songwriter, Kate Nash…
Daria, when my hair was straight and I wore my glasses…
Well now I’ve gone so far down this rabbit hole that I have no idea where I started or what my point was. Let’s just wrap things up by saying, maybe it’s time for me to be my own role model of for my loyal readers to give me some fabulous Halloween costume ideas. Please keep in mind that this year I would like to (for the first time ever, whether or not you believe me) use Halloween as an excuse to dress like a complete tramp. Suggestions will be much appreciated by me and a certain hot potato I’ll be trick-or-treating with. More on that later…