I enjoy housesitting for the obvious, conventional reasons.
You know, the occasion to raid a fridge for everything approximating sugar, vinegar or sustenance. The chance to recline on a leather couch and watch cable. (Living, as I do, without a TV, I benefit from the occasional reminder that 900 options of channels quickly translates to a choice between Golden Girls and Bethany Geting Married?). The opportunity to pal around with a 120 lb. rottweiler named Fido whose most aggressive move is a mild effort at vertical elevation in those moments when he anticipates a (not-too-long) walk or a dropped morsel of breakfast burrito.
As I lazed around yesterday afternoon, alternating my attention between a short story collection, the dogs, and a marathon of America’s Next Top Model, I thought of yet another reason I enjoy it that I’ve never quite been able to articulate–one largely unrelated to sloth, gluttony or rottweilers.
Shock of shocks, what got me thinking was one of the stories. It was by the writer Pam Houston, with whom I got to take a workshop last weekend, in Taos. If you haven’t read her, do. She writes funny, insightful and heavily autobiographical fiction about being a smart and successful woman with chronically poor judgment about men. Imagine my interest.
I’ve been reading her second and lesser-known collection, “Waltzing the Cat,” in which all the stories are linked and have the same narrator. They deal with her misadventures finding a man, but also with her quest for place.
On Sunday, after some public griping on the blog about my single woes, I went out and had a perfectly lovely day: I took Bon Bon to a new dog park where we met a lovely dog-owning woman–a local journalist and musician who told me about some new local spots. I caught up over the phone with an old girlfriend and talked about her potential skype sex. I took a rare trip to Trader Joe’s for some peach salsa and other things-I-don’t-need. And then to a low-key house party/rock show where I saw the first 40 oz. bottle of malt liquor I think I’ve spotted since high school.
And in the midst of it all this loveliness, I must confess, I thought of yet another recurring single-girl grievance: the dilemma of, “who to call?” As in, I just had the loveliest afternoon, and who do I have to tell about it? (I mean, no offense to my mother, but I can only call her so many times in a given week without starting to feel completely pathetic.)
First, I thought: “That’s why I have a blog!” Second, I thought: “I can only exploit my readers’ sympathies so much in one weekend” and “Actually that’s not why I have a blog, it’s why I would have a diary if I was somebody who didn’t feel ridiculous whenever I kept one.” In other words, I imagine that most of you who read this–with the possible exception, perhaps, of my mother–do not do so out of strange fascination with the quotidian details of weekend adventures related to grocery shopping. Correct me if I’m wrong.
I got home, shrugged it off, contemplated what it might mean to simply enjoy the experience of happiness for a moment, and then checked my email.
When I was little, I took comfort in the thought that even child stars were older than me. People like Michelle Kwan and Macauley Culkin.
As though, given a couple more years, I too could become an Olympic champion or become male, blond and dysfunctional after starring in a blockbuster Hollywood movie.
When I started high school, the reigning national Spelling Bee champion was in my class. I rationalized the fact that such people were now my peers with the bizarre way that she compulsively tapped her feet and thrust up her arms during freshman English class.
I thought that I’d still managed to hang on, to some extent, to this method of self-justification.
But today, reading a profile of Greta Gerwig–the female lead in Greenberg, who I fell for in the movie Nights and Weekends–and seeing that she, like me, is twenty-six–I hardly flinched. Which made me wonder: when did I surpass the age when it was surprising for me to be older than a critical mass of really successful people? Really successful people who aren’t even considered young to be successful?
In other words: when did I get to be older than I feel?
“This is the best date ever!” I said last night.
I said it to my friend J (my girlfriend J) as we walked around an international food market browsing red-bean-filled dessert snacks following a delicious dinner of Vietnamese food.
Back when I wrote about my Craigslist Missed Connection romance, J joked that I should really also write about our Missed Connection. Given that she did provide one of the best dates I’ve had in a while, and that we recently had a moment on the blog confessing that the women in our lives are far more important than the men, here I go.
J and I grew up about four blocks from each other in Brooklyn, but we didn’t become friends until I moved to New Mexico less than a year ago.
This is not like saying that we missed each other living on West 82nd and West 86th: the neighborhood we’re from is almost entirely Orthodox Jewish. I don’t think it’s controversial to note that this community, at least the one there, is not particularly friendly. They pretty much keep to themselves, save the occasional Saturday when they need a stove turned on. Recently, for the first time, my parents acquired a neighbor-friend who they call Gary the Jew–which is the kind of thing you can really only call someone if you’re Jewish, and even then it’s mildly offensive.
I know I’ve already dismissed it, but I have to tell you that I found one of the most relatable observations in that “How to Be Single” book–excuse me, novel–to be about female friendship:
“I always wanted a gaggle of girlfriends, always longed for a posse, my little family of friends, but it just didn’t work out that way. It would have been nice if at one job I was able to grab a whole bunch of them, like lobsters in a trap. But meeting a group of women who end up living in the same city, remaining friends and sharing the most intimate moments of their lives is rare and wonderful and definitely something to pine for, or at least watch on television.”
That passage really struck me when I read it (the first time, and yes, the second). Because I think a lot of women would agree that what is most enviable about those “Sex and the City” ladies is exactly that: not their clothes or Cosmopolitans or even their seemingly infinite leisure time–it’s the mere fact of a cohesive group with a common history (not to mention lunch schedule) who all live in the same place.
Yesterday I had a really, really good teaching day. I ran into one of my own professors soon afterward, and confided that I always get a sinking feeling of disappointment when I walk out of a really successful class I’ve taught and there is no one waiting for me outside the building, with a banner that says “Congratulations! You Rock!”
She said she knew just what I was talking about. Maybe she was just being polite. But regardless, it made me reflect on the fact that I’m not the only one in the world who requires lots of affirmation.
Which made me think, first, about how lucky I am to have a readership that seems willing to stick with me on these meandering trains of thought I call blog posts. Second, it made me think of a Public Service Announcement that I have wanted to make since around the time I got hormones. I don’t like to think of this space as a soapbox for my random opinions, but this is too important (and: who am I kidding).
It’s directed toward all you heterosexual male readers. If you take away nothing else, please, for the love of humanity and procreation, take this: if and when you are intimate with a woman, tell her she is beautiful. As much as possible. Well, actually, not too much, or she’ll begin to question your credibility. (Sorry, women are crazy. I can’t help or change this, only tell you about it.)
Over wine at a bar last night, I proudly proclaimed to my friend J my day’s most significant achievement: that I successfully held the Wheel posture in yoga class. (You know, the one you go into from Bridge where you’re holding yourself up on your outstretched arms and legs and feel that life is highly unstable).
“Great!” she cheered. “Has this been a longtime goal of yours?”
I considered the question, and replied, honestly: no. Or rather, yes, but only since Wednesday when we tried it for the first time and I couldn’t do it. I then explained that because of my epic and lifelong inflexibility, I am always shocked on the rare occasions that I succeed with yoga moves beyond a basic lunge.
“I couldn’t even do a summersault when I was a kid!” I exclaimed. Now the whole group of women was paying attention, and highly skeptical. Folks, I know that I have a tendency to exaggerate. And as many of you pointed out to me after that last post, I can also veer toward extreme self-depracatation. But I am not lying here: I really couldn’t do a summersault. Don’t even get me started on a cartwheel. Also, I was a moderately chubby child. I told my friends this by way of explanation.