Thursday, January 27, 2011

BTW: It's still January

If it were up to me, months would all be less than 30 days. 31 days is just too many days.

So, Audrey--Baby Daddy #2--is back from the Argentinian leg of the Eternal Summer Tour she's been on for the past two years. The poor child has been sleeping on our Ikea sofa bed (EKTORP!) and is becoming accustomed to being woken up at 7 in the morning by a sleep-drunk, snaggle-toothed toddler with her jammies unzipped to her belly button, yelling "Aud-IE, AUD-IE, Auuuuuuuu-Dee!" She doesn't seem to mind.

Anyway, it was just Audrey's birthday, and her sister sent her this book:

Well, I guess you could call it a book.

The other night, Audrey, her friend Samantha and I spent 2 hours watching videos of the author, Katherine Chloe Cahoon, giving tutorials on how to meet European men.

You guys, either this is for real, or this woman is a G E N I U S.

There are no words to describe my love for her. Do yourself a humongous favor and watch the other ones. Please watch them.

Just watch them.

Anyway, it takes things like The Single Girl's Guide to Meeting European Men to get me through January. Thank you, February, for being so short.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Baby's Banjo

My dear friends Rob and Vicki went to a couples' retreat before they got married. It was one of those retreats in which a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and/or a church deacon gets up in front of you and a bunch of other couples, and over the course of 2 days, finds about 700 different ways to tell you that the key to a happy, successful marriage is listening. Listening and patience. The patience of a guy who spends his whole life sending messages to aliens and waiting to receive messages back. I'll get back to this in just a sec.

Anyway, Vicki and Rob have a toddler just exactly Odessa's age, and today Vicki and I were standing in a parking lot bitching about how confoundedly difficult it is to reason with someone who poops in their own pants. And I was also belly-aching about how Bryan and I can never agree on exactly how to put Odessa to bed, and as a result, she knows that if she cries in her crib for long enough, someone will eventually end up snuggling her to sleep in the grown-up bed.

[I'm going to pause a moment here so you can have time to make a disapproving face and maybe say "nuh-uh, girl--when I have kids, them babies gonna sleep in they OWN bed." And for me to wish you luck with that.]

Back to the couples' retreat. So, today Vicki was standing in the parking lot of the grocery store, listening to my whining, smiling serenely like she does when she's about to tell you exactly what she thinks. When I was finished she said, "Remember that time Rob and I went to that couples' retreat? The only thing I remember about that whole weekend is when some church deacon got up and said 'Once ya'll have kids, if ya'll ain't on the same team, THEM-KIDS-GONNA-PLAY-YOU-LIKE-A-BANJO!'"

The last time Vicki told me that story, I was pregnant with Odessa, and I was like "Oh, hee hee hee ha ha--that's funny to think about a cute little baby playing a banjo." And today, I was like "Oh shit. I'm getting PLAYED. Like a BANJO."

Friends, there are reasons for horror movies about creepy little children. It's because little kids have basically no conscience. My friend Jane's dad has been a pediatrician for like 87 years and he insists that babies are the world's greatest extortionists. It's not their fault--it's just developmentally inappropriate for a toddler to think, "If I cry like I'm being attacked by hornets between the hours of 2:00 and 4:30 in the morning, Mama will be sad and very sleepy tomorrow. So I'd better just roll over, catch some shut-eye and see Mama in the morning." What's going through their heads is something more like "OHMYGODI'MALONE!!!!!THEHORROR!!!!!MAAAMAAAA

I'm just sayin'--it's stressful.

Well, last night Bryan and I were engaging in some heated discourse concerning the fact that it's hard to raise a toddler and it's probably all your fault, etc. So, it was my turn at the podium, I had removed my shoe, and I think I was really getting my point across (in case you were wondering, it was that he--my sweet husband--was actually a Stalinesque oppressor/despot). There was some chin trembling and glassy, brimming eyes. Anyway, just as I was carefully choosing which scandalizing expletive was going to make my point most elegantly, Odessa appeared in the doorway wearing her purple footie pajamas zipped down to her naval (she likes to suck her thumb and dig around in her belly button at the same time--there's really no accounting for taste), grinning like a fool because she had successfully escaped from our bed. And she found us! Her favorite people! And the kitty was there! Oh holy crap, this is so awesome!

And you know what? I laughed. We both did, and that was the end of the argument.

It turns out a banjo can be played for good or for evil.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Astrologate 2011

Excuse me, but what the hell is going on?

You know what I feel like? I feel like Astrology needs a way better PR person because no less than SIX people have applied to me in the past two days in a dither about no longer being a Scorpio or whatever. ("I like being a Scorpio! Plus I have a Scorpio tattoo on my neck, so what now?") And I'm getting absolutely no support from the International League of Astrologers or whoever's in charge of this stuff.

So, if you haven't heard, we're all supposed to have different astrological signs now. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, read this, or I'll just tell you: Basically an astronomer by the name of Parke Kunkle (that's right--get in line, ladies!) told a Minnesota newspaper this week that the whole astronomical premise for Astrology isn't even correct anymore (due to Earth's wobble, the sun no longer passes through the constellations of the Zodiac at the same time that it did when Astrology was invented eleventy-grillion years ago, blah blah blah), so each sign in the Zodiac is technically off by about a month. Also, the ancient Babylonians had this thing against the number 13, so they decided to leave the constellation of a man wrastlin' a python out of the Zodiac all together to make it more aesthetically pleasing, even though Ophiuchus the snake charmer is technically in the same band of constellations as Aries the ram, Taurus the bull, Gemini the twins, &c.

All this isn't exactly news to anybody--at least not to astronomers or astrologers--but something about this week and Professor Kunkle's statement and the alignment of the stars (har har) came together in just the right way to make everybody freak the hell out. So, my friends have been applying to me for advice on how to proceed as an Ophiuchus when they've spent their entire lives as a Saggitarius because I'm the only person they know who actually believes that stuff. Or rather, I'm the only person they know who freely admits to believing that stuff.

I do. It's true.

The reason for my undying loyalty to the astrological arts has to do with my grandmother's friend Judy Shaw. Judy went through a stage in the early 90's in which she dressed like Stevie Nicks and carried a pack of Tarot cards in her purse. I remember her coming over to Virginia's house one night when I was about 12, and as the ladies were talking, I sat in the corner and pretended to read a book while I listened to them gossip about people I didn't know. In the middle of their conversation, Virginia turned around to see if anyone was listening, and realized I was there. "THAT one!" she hollered. "THAT one' s been following me around this house all week! She won't play outside and she just reads Harlequin romances and listens to me talk on the phone!"(For the record, it's true--that's exactly what I had been doing.) Judy smiled at me and said, "She's a Capricorn--she's collecting data." And even though I had no idea what that meant, I was like THANK YOU! Because all of a sudden, after a week of being told to go play outside and to stop reading trash, and why did I want to watch soap operas anyway?, Judy defended me with my own personality. I thought it was brilliant.

So, now I'm the person that everyone applies to when they start dating an Aries or are about to give birth to a Cancer. Or when some guy with a telescope decides to break it to us that we're not the people we thought we were.

Well, I don't know what to say about Parke Kunkle' allegations, but I do want to say this: if Mick Jagger isn't a Leo, I have no faith in gravity or the multiplication tables.

Also, I've dated FOUR Pisces in a row, and I can tell you a thing or two about a Pisces. Call me. Also, Leos and Scorpios are always going to think it's a good idea to fall in love with each other, but it very rarely is. Additionally, try not to argue with an Aquarius, don't rifle through a Virgo's things because she'll definitely notice, and it's always a good idea to wait until he's over 40 to marry a Sagittarius.

And I'm not sure what to say about Ophiuchus. You're going to have to Google him.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

In Which I Get Emotional About My Birthday

Tomorrow's my birthday, ya'll! Some people refrain from telling you when it's their birthday because:

1. They don't themselves care
2. They're legitimately shy and/or modest
3. They're just trying to be cool about something they're secretly pumped about.

But not me. Because no. 1 is a feeling I can't understand, so I'll let someone else explain it. No. 2 I respect, but that's just not the way I roll. And no. 3 is something I have totally tried to pull off in years past and--well, I've just decided not to do that anymore. Because why all the false modesty, you guys?

Face it--birthdays are awesome. Because it's a holiday, right? But instead of trying to feel something profound about Jesus or the pilgrims or ghosts/witches or Jesus or America or the storming of the Bastille, you can feel something profound about yourself. Which is way easier in my experience.

So, here are some things that I am going to celebrate about myself this year on my birthday:
1. I give excellent advice. Seriously, I am an advice-giving genius--I should get paid to do it, but I honestly don't think it's ethical to be paid for something you might eventually receive a Nobel Prize for.
2. I'm legitimately likable. I dare you not to like me at least a little tiny bit.
3. I have an unexpectedly pleasant singing voice.
4. My hair is really lovely like one of those prostitutes in the Pre-Raphaelite paintings.
6. I'm good at writing things, like this blog.

Oh yes I did just write a list of my sterling qualities. Because, in my opinion, that's what birthdays are for. I, for one, spend so many other days of the year worrying over the long, boring list of my flaws: disorganization and selfishness and lack of focus, the size of my pants and the fact that I'm incapable of finishing projects. It seems to me each one of us spends at least a little time each day beating ourselves up over what we can't control or what's actually not a big deal.

Well, I've decided that for my birthday this year and for all birthdays henceforth, I'm going to forgive myself for being a disorganized slob who gives excellent, unsolicited advice to people who might not want it. I'll forgive myself for not being as beautiful, patient, clever or focused as some other people. I'll forgive myself for wanting things I can't have or don't need. On January 9th, 1978, I was born into the world a tiny little baby with no personality and nothing to regret. And Hear Ye, Hear Ye--every year on the same day, I'm gonna high-five myself for having a personality, no matter how flawed. Also, for continuing to exist in one piece because that's kind of an accomplishment in itself.

So, that--along with some kind of expensive boots--is my birthday present to myself. And maybe, if you feel like giving me a present this year, make a list of awesome things about you and then high-five yourself, too. Because you're great.

Oh yes, you are. Don't argue with me on my birthday.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Center of the Universe

When I was in college, I had this teacher named Matt Thomas. He was one of those people who make you desperate to figure out how he got to be the way he was, because he just kind of did whatever he wanted, which is what I've always wanted to do.

Anyway, how I became as familiar with Matt's peculiarities as I eventually did is a long story which I will tell you one day if...well, if you ask me, I guess.  But here are ten things I knew about Matt:

1. He was a giant man with a big, brown beard.
2. In his youth, he had spent time in the Coast Guard, which was noteworthy because the only thing I can really picture Matt doing in the Coast Guard is telling the Coast Guard to go fuck itself.  
3. He made his own pants.  Some of them were lavender.
4. No matter where he was or who he was with, Matt refused to stifle his farts. Some of them were deafeningly loud.
5. He traveled with a bunch of little color-coded nylon bags. In the pink one, he carried everything he'd need to make a fire; in the blue one, teabags; in the orange one, fun-sized candy bars. There were lots of them.
6. He took both reading and eating very seriously. He always read while he ate.
7. Rather than put his fine old dog through the indignity of euthanizing her at the vet's office, he carried her to the top of a mountain and shot her in the head.
8. He bought one raincoat in like 1990 and kept sending it back to the company for a new one every time he thought it was about to start leaking. By the time I met him, he had gotten six free raincoats this way.
9.  His laugh was really soft and high-piched for a man his size, and if you ever wondered whether Matt was laughing at you or with you, it's probably because he was laughing at you.
10. He was unusually devoted to Missoula, Montana.

So, when I was 19, Matt fascinated me. Seriously, he was just this 40 year old man--and grumpy, by the way--and I hung on his every word like he was telling me how to disable a bomb. The first day I met him we were driving around Missoula--a place I'd never been--and he broke one of his long, slightly uncomfortable silences with "Missoula, Montana: Center of the Universe!"

Having once been 19 years old myself, I feel pretty qualified to contend that 19 year olds know basically nothing. Less than nothing.  Because, deep down, the one thing they're completely sure of is their own ignorance, and they spend most of their time trying to hide from the world this one pure, humiliating, self-evident truth. When I was 19, the only thing I really wanted was to know something important. Matt obviously knew tons of important stuff, and if he said Missoula, Montana was the Center of the Universe...well, seemed like as good a thing to know as any.

Matt died of a heart attack when I was 24, and a year later, when I was living in Athens, Georgia, going through a bit of a rough patch, I decided the best thing to do for myself was to move to the Center of the Universe. As it happened, it was the very best thing I could have done--but not for the reasons you'd think.

Admittedly, Missoula is wonderful. You can hike up a mountain every day if you want. You can choose between adorable farmer's markets to visit on Saturday mornings. People make eye contact and smile because, why not? In Missoula, it's not difficult to be happy and to love your fellow humans, and I'm grateful that Matt got to live there until the end--in what he called his querencia.

The idea of querencia comes from bullfighting. Sometimes at the end of a fight, a matador will discover that the bull he is about to kill has found a special place in the ring where he feels more emboldened, safer and more assertive than in any other spot. Obviously, a bull that has found its querencia is a lot tougher to kill. Maybe I thought moving to Missoula--to Matt's place--would make me tougher to kill.

But here's the thing: one person's querencia might just be some other person's Really Nice Place To Visit.  After all, if everybody had the same querencia, nobody could be happy being there. I noticed living in Missoula that I really liked certain things about it, but it felt kind of like I had left one of my organs behind in Georgia--my spleen, maybe?--which went on observing the seasons of the Southeast with all the heat, haze, rainstorms, daffodils, and sunsets through bald forests in winter. 

It was too weird a feeling, being somewhere my spleen wasn't; so I came back.

And I've been back in Athens for a few years, and here's the thing: this is it. This is my place. And the reason I know is that people are always asking me things like, "Don't you want another baby? Don't you want a dog? A bigger house? Where are you going to move after Bryan finishes school?" And questions like that don't seem to bother me when I'm here, because not having answers just means I don't really have to do anything different than what I did today.  And today was pretty good. Answers will come when they're ready.

Anyway, I was just thinking about the first day I met Missoula, Montana and Matt--that day we were driving around town in his rusted out Suburban and he told me we were in the Center of the Universe. And just today I remembered a part of that conversation I've forgotten for so long--I think I un-rememebred it because it embarrassed me and caught me off guard at the time.

Immediately after he said, "Missoula, Montana: Center of the Universe!" Matt turned to me from the driver's seat and asked conversationally, "So, where's the Center of the Universe for you?"

Well, Matt--I wish I could tell you in person, but nearly 15 years later, I think I've got an answer.