Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Let's talk about the phenomenon of online dating and how odd it truly is. Online dating is supposed to help singles find a mate, email, chat, meet, fall in love, get married and make babies (last step can be eliminated for those not interested or able). These sites are set up so that lonely singles can peruse photo and profile after photo and profile of other lonely singles in search of "the one." But there are some odd double standards with online dating, both within the actual personals websites and in society.

Many attractive, well-balanced, smart and lovely people are just too busy, too shy or too tired of barhopping and clubbing to go out and meet people the old fashioned way--in person. So, the development of online dating allows them to put themselves out there into cyberspace while expending little energy or losing much time. They can check their personals mailbox from any computer to see if possibilitiies emailed them, and then, with a quick click of the mouse, they can accept or reject the prospective date. No fuss, no appeasing, no lying that it was you and not them--just a click of the mouse. Really, online dating provides a quick and easy way to get out on the dating scene, without actually having to be out on the dating scene. So where is the double standard in that, you ask?

When I see a perfectly attracitve, seemingly articulate and surprisingly funny man online, my first thought is," Why is he still single? And why does he need a computer to get a date?" Now, I am sure the irony is already striking you when you realize that I was also on the personals website, surfing for guys and there is nothing wrong with me (though that is negotiable). I always wonder if every guy who sees my picture asks himself those same questions and if that actually prevents him from emailing even though he too signed up for the program. The whole thing is just a little strange and not a little awkward.

The other double standards appear when I tell people I have posted a profile on an online dating website. Friends eyes fill with pity and they say," Honey, I had no idea you were so desperate (lonely, sad--insert any pathetic adjective)." Others say that they have a number of friends who have met some really great people through an online dating service and now they are getting married. Sometimes my friends first respond with pity and then say that they know some people who met great guys/women through the internet. And I wonder, why is it so sad to meet people online--and why is okay for their friends, or friends of friends, but not for me.

Another part of online dating that is just awkward is creating the profile. First, you take relationship and personality tests that tell you what kind of a partner you are and how you deal with life. While the results seemed fairly accurate, it is a little scary knowing that whoever clicks on my photo discovers that I am an "Individualist" and "Passionate." Just a little personal for a first meeting, don't you think? Thank God I didn't have to include my name! Then, I had to come up with a witty tag line and an informative, yet mysterious paragraph describing myself--feeling a bit like an advertising exec launching a campaign. So this little blurb is supposed to knock the socks off the reader, compel them to contact me and then....well, then what?

Then, I receive emails from men who, in no way, shape, or form fit the description I outlined. These men fail to use proper punctuation, grammar or decorum. Incomplete sentences, IM lingo and other such abominations fill the screen--and these are men in their 30s. Shame on them! Some men decide to be a little racy in their emails, writing things that make me say,"EWWWWW!" rather loudly. I mean nothing truly disturbing, but come on....a little respect. Periodically I wonder if I get these weird ones because I am a redhead, and people have all sorts of preconceived notions about what redheads want/don't want, do/won't do, etc. Other times, I sadly realize that these perverts probably scan the personals regularly just hoping for a repsonse, giving online dating a bad name. Some guys write nice little emails, filled with spelling errors and IM lingo, talking about what they are looking for and what they do. Thankfully, the personals people provide drop down menus of replies so when I don't think the guy is a match, I can click, reject and move on pretty quickly--or, if he does seem nice, I can write my own reply to continue the conversation. The problem is, it is easy to forget that a person with feelings sits on the receiving end of my drop down menu responses. While some men are just seeing what's out there, others may be lonely, hoping to make a some kind of fruitful, honest connection.

It is hard to know what people hope to gain from online dating. I can say, however, that I had to swallow my pride to sign up and I will feel a certain amount of glee when I terminate my profile (in about 3 days because it will no longer be free). This experience has humbled me, and made me think twice about making fun of online daters. Each and every one of us is looking for a deep, sustainable connection with another human and for some, online dating is a way to put themselves out there. And putting yourself out there takes guts!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Happy Belated Thanksgiving! I hope everyone had a lovely holiday. Today was my first day back in the office after two months of traveling. All of you have heard my moans, groans and laughs from the road so you may be surprised to know that today I actually wished I was back on the road again. I know, I know. This is shocking, but I have to say that being in the office is stressful. People make constant requests and there is little to no solitude to be had. The road was lonely, but the office is too much! There is no in between. Now that I have been back for one full nine hour day, I am ready for another vacation. Between socializing over the holidays and talking to people in the office today, I feel like my people tolerance has been saturated. I never realized I was a borderline recluse before!

A couple of interesting things that have occurred since I wrote last...
I drove down to visit a friend in New Jersey, about 30 minutes from NYC last weekend. During this drive, I experienced true mayhem on the road. People in the NJ/NYC line believe in anarchy on the road--survival of the fittest at its best. If you are not safely esconced in a large SUV, you may die! Me, in my Kia Optima, and the others in their Suburbans and Expeditions--I thought for sure I was about to witness an impromptu monster truck rally. To make matters worse, there were a significant number of tractor trailer trucks on the road, all of whom deemed it necessary to ride the bumper of any vehicle unfortunate enough to be in front of them. As we all approached the toll booths, at approximately 80 miles an hour, all hell broke loose. The Giants game had let out and there were hundreds of cars on the roads. People zigzagged across lanes, dashing to the toll booths, neglecting to indicate their direction with blinkers, instead utilizing horns and middle fingers. As I made it safely through the toll booth, watching the television on the dashboard of the car in front of me, I entered hell in a new form. Now trucks, cars and SUVs were trying to decipher which highway they needed while moving at snail speed and with little room to maneuver. As I peeked in my rearview mirror to see which horrible monster was riding my bumper this time, I witnessed an SUV and a tractor trailer truck collide. Both parties were only going about 20 MPH so no one was injured, but the reason of the crash was absolutely ludicrous. The SUV wanted to switch lanes and failed to put on a signal, instead they began honking at the truck, who had the right of way in the lane. Then, the truck started honking back at the SUV, who by this time had begun to angle its way in front of the really big truck. The trucker, instead of stopping laid on the horn and the SUV driver, instead of staying in his own lane honked back--both vehicles rolling forward during this interchange. Finally, space ran out and they crashed--the truck making a large dent in the wheel well and hood of the SUV. Before I could watch the interaction between drivers, my lane started moving forward and then I realized how badly I had to pee.

Now, on the NJ Turnpike, just past NYC, there is a rest stop--the Vince Lombardi rest stop. Since the stop is named after Vince Lombardi, a well-respected football coach, I assumed it must be nice. Why would someone name a shitty rest stop after a beloved sports icon? The signs told me how much farther to the rest stop-- 1 mile, 100 yards, next right--all the while, my eyes watered and my bladder screamed. Finally, I turned off the highway, relief flooded me knowing that a bathroom was only five minutes away. "Hang in there," I said to my body. "We are almost there!" "Almost there!" Really, almost there" Accept the road kept winding with many other roads branching off. The signs were confusing and when I looked around, there was no building in sight. I was in a sea of resting truckers and their eighteen wheelers. By this time, I had the worst bladder cramps and I truly thought I might have a very embarrassing accident. After about 10 minutes of winding around, trying to read signs through tear-blurred eyes, I finally saw the McDonalds. "Thank you, Jesus!" But, then, of course, there was no where to park. The parking lot was full, probably because people who entered could not figure out how to exit. Nonetheless, I found a spot about 50 yards from the McD's and ran. Thank God I made it! My next task was to leave the rest area.....needless to say, I made it, though at times it was dicey. NEVER USE THE VINCE LOMBARDI REST STOP! It is a government ploy to trap a significant portion of NYC's liberal population in the VL Rest stop. We enter unwittingly, trusting that anything with Lombardi's name on it must be good--but it is a lie! A mean, cruel joke. I know someone out there has cameras level with car windows, laughing at the pained, contorted faces of patrons who desperately have to go to the bathroom. Grown men and women forced to jiggle, squirm, grab and squeeze to prevent mortification. Truly, this "rest stop" is a travesty and those who made it are bullies. As Stephanie Tanner so eloquently says," How Rude!"
Life is a fickle thing, filled with so much gain and loss, love and hate. Just now, I was thinking about a few old friends—a few who have made profound impacts on my life, yet I have not spoken with them in years. My heart still holds a place for them, and occasionally hurts from their absence, but life continues. Since the last time I saw each one, I have made another dear, close friend who is now having a great impact on my life. People come and go, but their influence never quite leaves me. Sometimes I will trip over an old note, written in the hand of my lost loved one and daydream about where they are now, and what they do. I wonder if they are well, happy, successful—and I wonder if they ever think of me, if the loss of my presence in their lives has affected them as much as it has me. Some of them are lost loves, whose passion I will never know again and some are lost friends, whose compassion and insight made me feel like I wasn’t alone in the world. How do we find each other? Why do we find each other and then never speak again?

Recently, I have made a couple of attempts to find those people who have affected me so deeply—to see where they are now, and if they might be interested in catching up sometime. Sadly, these friends and loves have been either hard to find, or once found, difficult to re-establish contact. Perhaps we have served a purpose in each other’s lives—a purpose that is no longer present. Perhaps there is embarrassment at what happened then, or where they are now. Perhaps they have just moved on and that part I occupied in their heart has been filled. Perhaps I should fill those places as well and move on. Perhaps I will just continue daydreaming.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Who knew that these trips would challenge my ethics and manners so often—every night, in fact. Something you may or may not be aware of is that all hotels, no matter how nice, have thin walls. Inevitably you hear the walking, urinating, flushing, showering and blow-drying of your neighbors. Through the walls, snippets of conversations, whether on television or in person, float to your ears and you are faced with a decision: to listen or not to listen. Now, for many people, the choice may be obvious, but to me, there is a little gray area. If people are talking loudly, knowing how thin the walls are, then do they in some way intend for the conversation to be overheard? Do they hope a helpful neighbor will weigh in with a suggestion or question? I hear discussions about restaurants, activities, kids, the works and I wonder if they would appreciate comments from the peanut gallery. At moments, I consider calling the front desk, asking to be connected to room number XXX, informing them that all the rooms around them can hear and that they should try to Chinese place on the corner. Would that fly?

But, the sounds go beyond talking and lead into more intimate places. Occasionally, I hear couples fighting and/or making love, men snoring, women crying and I really don’t know what to do. When in the throes of passion, people don’t think about whether or not they are broadcasting to the rest of the hotel. During fights, crying and sex, I never know what to do with myself. The sound fills my room and grows louder with the volume of my television. I cannot escape it. Sometimes I fight my urge to appease and diffuse, instead choose to imagine the characters in question and how I might go about making them feel better. While listening to sex, I feel simultaneously jealous, happy and grossed out. Sex, as lovely as it is, generally does not display us at our most attractive, at least to outsiders. The range of screams, moans, giggles, cheering, and the myriad of other responses are inescapable and just a little stomach churning. I mean, I feel happy that people are finding pleasure with each other (at least I hope they are), but I am just not sure I want to hear it. When I paid for my room, I really just wanted to room and not my own dirty sound effects studio.

My conclusion is that hotels need to make the walls a little bit thicker, or we should eliminate any guilt society assigns eavesdropping. Right now, I am constantly riddled with guilt because I know I am not supposed to be hearing what is going on, but I do, and how can I not listen! From this moment on, I am releasing myself from guilt and I will listen unabashedly to my neighbors. I will celebrate the sounds and then write about them on this blog.
Today I fell in love. For a couple of days now, I suspected I might be, but today, I am sure. How do I know, you ask? I know because I smile, laugh even, as I pass white clapboard post offices and salty, cantankerous looking marsh grass. My heart swells as I hop over mud puddles because so many things are left unpaved. I feel fear as I drive by “Redemption Centers,” wondering if I can redeem myself from all the sins I have committed and how this center could possibly help me, until I realize it is really just an aluminum and plastics recycling center, not caring at all for my soul. Joyful taste buds tingle from the taste of real mulled apple cider that is available at all restaurants and cafes. Hungry eyes feast on the weathered shingles, clinging more tightly to the structures they cover in attempt to stay attached, spiting the determined, blustering wind. Houses wrapped in blue and orange plastics, bushes covered by sandwich boards and chicken wire, all to keep powerful winter from crushing and flooding. My car resembles a Jackson Pollock painting, splashes of browns, reds and yellows decorate the electric blue canvas. First thing in the morning, fog blocks the sun from warming and lighting me as I awaken, protecting me for a little while from the hustle and bustle of reality. A quiet reserve, a friendly manner and a hardy spirit describes the kind souls I encounter daily. Happy feet celebrate their spacious, contoured home because Dansko clogs are dressy and professional up here. Open space is in abundance both on land and in water. Soft, gray ripples beckon, desiring the company of quiet, gliding kayaks and the souls who bring them to life. People move slowly, taking time to observe and absorb the moody, natural beauty that surrounds them. Cresting a hill, I can see for miles—mountains, valleys, rivers, harbors, oceans, forests all for my eyes to digest. Truly, I am in love. With whom you ask? With central, coastal Maine, I answer.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Today I was in mourning, shrouded by gray tufts of fog, sealing me into my own pensive world within my car. I spent the day
in my mind, imagining, grieving, pondering, breaking out only to enter the high schools, speak about my school and hastily return to my car. Enveloped in the warmth, I hung on each and every word feeling the myriad of emotions that each sentence evoked. Over brunch, I took in the black and white print more hungrily than I ate my food, desperate to find out, to know. Finally, as darkness settled, the words, both spoken and printed, stopped. Their job was completed and now they could rest.

Tonight, I am in mourning. Mother Nature grieves with me, pounding my hotel room window with raindrops as the wind whines and whistles across the glass. Outside is the Bucksport harbor, filled with heavy fog and little white caps. The water is dark, swirling and moody--it seems restless, hungry. The gloominess permeates the air, walls, skin and makes everything feel heavy.

Tonight I mourn for the characters I will never meet, for the happy endings that will never come, for the worlds that have been so terribly destroyed, for the children whose innocence has been stripped away, for all whose illusions have been shattered and for all who will never be able to fully express and release their sorrow. Today, I finished two novels that were both heartbreaking and hopeful. Two authors have captured the human spirit, the human psyche with such honesty and humor that closing the back cover after those final, poignant moments filled me with emotions too numerous to count. My tear-filled eyes made the last pages difficult to decipher, so I paused until the tears fell, clearing my sight. Such beauty to behold in these pages filled with words, punctuation and white space.

Over the years, I have been made fun of and laughed for how I react to films, books and music. These forms of art affect me and I have no choice but to respond. Sometimes something in the song, movie or book just funnels into me, making me so full of feeling that it literally leaks, and occasionally pours, out of me. Certain moments or harmonies will elicit laughter that bubbles in my toes, flies through my veins and erupts out of my mouth. Other moments create a sorrow that penetrates my heart, making it swell to such a size that it no longer fits in my chest so it liquifies and leaks out my eyes. When I laugh or cry at art, I lose a part of myself--something in me leaves my body and soul forever. But, when I laugh or cry at this art, I am reminded of my humanity, of my ability to empathize and feel, and I feel alive--powerful. During these moments, I connect to every generation, to every sorrow and I am a part of something much larger than myself. Communing with words and music is my religion, it is where my faith and strength is fed.

Today I was in mourning for characters who have never walked the Earth, breathed the air, seen the sights; but, in my mind, for just a few hours, they became my companions and friends. Their struggles, sorrows, and successes belonged to both of us--a burden I willingly carried. When it was over, a part of me ended and so today, I mourn. Tomorrow will be a new day, filled with unknown characters and unique experiences--the process begins again.
Do you ever find yourself smiling at, responding to or relieved by the voice of a radio personality? Like an old friend, the voice appeases, teases, humors and informs you-life feels more manageable, understandable.

Each morning, I wake up to NPR's Morning Edition, moving from groggy to alert with these familiar voices as my soundtrack. As Carl Kassell wishes me good morning, I feel certain it will be now that I have heard that full, gravelly baritone voice. As Daniel Schorr explains and analyzes the week's events, the world and it's toils make more sense, feel a bit more manageable. These people are with me at some intimate moments--as I shower, dress, cry, sleep, wake-up-- delivering my coveted information wrapped in familiar, smooth, measured tones. Then, Marketplace comes on and my heart beats a little faster as Scott Jagow and Kai Rysdall fill the airwaves with their sexy voices.

Over the years, I have developed a bit of a crush on the two Marketplace commentators because of their smiles and senses of humor. I have adopted Carl Kassell and Daniel Schorr as cool grandfathers who help me understand this cruel, hard world--explaining and discussing the issues affectionately with me. All of this affection, trust and familiarity developed without ever seeing, meeting or speaking with these people. I have welcomed them into my home, my brain, my heart without any sense of who they are beyond the airwaves. How can some voices I hear each morning feel so much like family? How could I have such affection for people who I have never met, or even seen in a photo? I don't know the answers, but I do know that I plan to invite them into my home, car and hotel room for many years to come.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Today I smelled snow, wood stoves burning and fresh air. Winter is here, I thought, as I stuck my tongue out to catch snowflakes. Softly landing on my pink tongue, the white snowflakes danced and tickled as they melted. Despite their coldness, the sensations they created warmed my innards and soothed my soul. My black, wool pea coat was quickly covered by white flecks like a dark chocolate macaroon, looking nearly as edible. Moving my snow laden, heavy eyelashes skyward, I watched as the snow silently fell out of low, gray clouds and enjoyed each pinprick of ice on my face. Time briefly held still and I felt each of my 27 years layered on top of each other, with images and sounds accompanying the memories. Feeling light and heavy simultaneously, I continued on toward the high school I visiting with my face raised to greet the flakes. Winter is here, I thought, and I smiled.
Today I am up in Maine....all the way up in Maine. If I were to take a right off of Route 1 North, I would be in New Brunswick, Canada in about 5 minutes. The land up here is beautiful with a variety of plowed fields, meandering streams, looming mountains and naked trees. It truly is breathtaking! And, to add to the pleasures of being in Northern Maine, I saw my first wild moose--two, in fact. As I drove home from my school visit, the sky had since gone dark, I passed a number of big, yellow moose warning signs. I slowed down a bit because I do not think my little, rented Kia would stand a chance (nor do I want to get in yet another accident with the same rental company's car) and wouldn't you know, two moose were relaxing on the side of the road. Their big, gangly, broad silhouettes were displayed on the pavement and their eyes flashed in the lights of my car. Man, these are some large animals--definintely taller than my car. Unfortunately, there was a car behind me so I could not slow down to truly observe my first wild moose(s), but I squealed in delight at the sight--what a thrill!

Tonight held another unexpected thrill for me--a meal in a high school cafeteria with actual high school students. A meal with trays, lunch ladies, food fights, metiocre food-the works- but there was something missing. These kids were not flirting, giggling, posing or gossiping as I assumed most, if not all, high school students do, no, these kids were talking about linear algebra, organic chemistry, who was applying to what schools and what kinds of research they were hoping to do in college. The closest they got to gossip was which kids got into to what schools, followed by exclamations of disbelief and then proclamations that if Jane Doe got into to MIT then I should be a shoe in. Concerned with the research grants and awards won by possible future faculty, these kids would never settle for the undecorated, looking only at Ivy, pseudo-Ivy and highly respected research universities. I looked around at the earnest faces surrounding me, foreheads furrowed in concentration while listing off the applications sent or to be sent, schools visited or to be visited. Kids leaned forward on the table, taking in each detail, steam shooting from their ears as they received, processed and one-upped the reports of their peers. Dumbstruck, I silently ate my tasteless, mushy food, taking a moment to see if there was a cereal option. I could not relate to these students in any way, shape or form. At my high school, this type of kid sat at a different cafeteria table than I did, surrounding themselves with their competition, who played the secondary role of friend. My friends were certainly concerned about our futures, and we did discuss college in the cafeteria--but not like this, nothing like this.

As I took in their comments, questions and energy, which was zinging through the air, I wondered how these kids got this way. The boys are barely capable of growing facial hair, voices occasionally crack and yet they are talking about winning grants, working with the most notable of professors. The girls are assertive, articulate and baby-faced, discussing ground-breaking research and how colleges don't respect the difficulty of linear alegebra. (The table also took a moment to bemoan the ignorance of admission counselors in the fields of math and science. Apparently, we often do not understand that linear algebra is not the thing we learned in 8th grade, but something much more difficult.) Bemused, and a bit taken aback, I turned my dishes into the dishwashing man and headed to the room in which I would be presenting. I needed to escape the anxiety, competition and general flurry of energy in the cafeteria. My brain had had enough.

Following 20 minutes of catching my breath, I began my presentation on the college I represent (which is not Ivy, or even remotely affiliated with the exception that we do have ivy on our brick builldings). The kids listened patiently and responded with hands in the air when asked if they had any questions. They wanted to know the percentage of acceptances into medical school, will businesses recognize and respect the name, would we be less likely to accept them should they indicate the other schools to which they have applied (including, but not limited to, MIT, Harvard, Dartmouth, Brown, CalTech and Stanford), and what awards have our professors won. One girl needed to know if the research we do at my school is in any way groundbreaking, and could we support her groundbreaking research. Patiently, I answered their questions one by one...or tried to anyway, but I found it hard to relate. I could not place myself in their shoes to better understand the origins of their questions. I could not comprehend being so driven and focused at 17. Are these kids well balanced? Do they have a healthy perspective on life? Did they naturally become this way or has someone taught them what to strive for? While I have met my fair share of brilliant young people, I have never encountered teenagers like this--17 going on 40, with the best being the only acceptable option.

After an hour and a half at this school, I felt drained and perplexed. Are these kids freaks of nature, or were they just incapable of internal monologue so I was hearing the true cocerns of today's teen. If tonight was indicative of the general adolescent mentality, I must admit I feel a bit of fear for their futures. Is their any room for failure, or even a simple mistake? Is there room for personal exploration, discovery and growth? If these kids are an anomaly, thank God. Stretching your brain early is great, but putting yourself under unforgiving pressure before the exploration has even begun, that is a quite frightening. Tonight--tonight was frightening!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Just to clarify: it is November 13th, right? I mean, Thanksgiving has not happened yet and we are still in early-ish November. My next question then, is WHY ARE THERE CHRISTMAS COMMERCIALS ON TELEVISION? Christmas is an amazing holiday-worth celebrating and even giving some forethought, but do I need almost two months of forethought? We skip right over the day of thanksgiving and family because there are no material gifts involved and move straight into consumer heaven. Every year, the Christmas season arrives earlier and earlier, eliminating much of the joy of Christmas. By the time the day arrives, I am sick of Christmas, forgetting the true reason for the season. This irritates me and I needed to share!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

I always thought the things that would most make me feel like a grown up would be my first drink of alcohol, the first time I rented a car without an extra fee, my first "real" relationship, my first "real" job or perhaps the first apartment of my very own. As each one of these events has occurred, I check in with myself to see if now, at this very moment, I have become an adult, but the answer was always no. Recently, however, I have been feeling very much like an adult, and after some thought, I realized what two moments it was that jarred me into this new phase.

The first event was watching one of my best girlfriends get married. I have been to a number of weddings for close guy friends, but it was the wedding of one of my girls that made me realize I am an adult. Throughout the whole planning process I teased my friend because she had all of a sudden become knowledgable about flower arrangements, linen color coordination, cake decorations, honeymoon locations, diamond cuts and carats, and so much more. I asked if she was infused with knowledge when her man slid the ring on her finger as he proposed--if the ring has special powers to fill her with "big girl thoughts." She laughed at me and claimed she just read a lot of magazines, but I still think the ring may be a component. The wedding was stunning, and the couple is so enviously in love--and as I watched them dance their last dance, I felt that I had joined the elite club of adults. The fact that I am now at an age where I could get married with no one raising an eyebrow and asking,"Aren't you a bit young?" Instead, I think people will release the breath they didn't realize they were holding and say,"Phew!" when I announce my engagement. I have to say, that is an odd, sobering moment to have--especially while watching someone you love get married.

The second moment I realized that I am getting older was, surprisingly, at a college fair in Cincinnati. This college fair was filled with bright teenagers and their parents, excited and nervous about speaking with college reps. You might be thinking that being around teenagers might make me feel older, but it actually has the opposite effect. Being around these freaked out, anxious and energetic young people reminds me of how it awful it is to be a teenager. Each time I talk to a teen, I remember so clearly what it was like to be worried about rejection, acceptance, and futures. I acutally have to remind myself when I leave these events that I have already passed that stage, never having to return and I feel joy. At this college fair, the thing that made me realize I am an adult was this hot guy at the table next to mine. He seemed about my age, dark and handsome with a lovely speaking voice. We started chatting about our respective schools, where we are from, etc and I got just a tad excited. I am comfortably single at the moment, but I wouldn't mind a date every now and then and this guy seemed like a solid option. Then, while talking and gesticulating about the location of the college he represents, I noticed the gold band on his left ring finger just as he casually mentioned his wife. At this moment it struck me that all of the attractive men I have met in the past five months or so are married. I have reached the age where I now have to check fingers before I start talking to a guy to determine the appropriate way to approach him. When did my entire peer group get married? Where was I when all of this was going on? Clearly, I have missed the boat. I knew I was in really big trouble with Cincinnati guy when, for one fleeting moment, I thought,"Maybe it won't last!" This made me almost fall over with guilt. Having been raised as a conscientious Christian girl, I pride myself on having good character (character being your thoughts and actions when no one is watching) and now, as I meet married man after married man, my character is being challenged. Don't worry! I have complete respect for the institution of marriage--I just have moments of evil thoughts.

In conclusion, it is the marriage bug that has made me feel like an adult. After attending wedding after wedding and meeting married guy after married guy, I have truly entered the next phase. Some of my older friends, in attempt to make me feel better (I think) have said,"Just wait until the babies come!' My response: I can't wait....no, really, I can't wait!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

My apologies to faithful readers for not posting recently. I am actually home for a few days, and man was my house a mess. Making my home livable again has taken a couple of days, but now it is clean, bright and pleasant.

Being home has brought to light a number of interesting things, pertaining primarily to stuff and television. First off--stuff. Over the past couple of months I have gotten used to living in two pairs of pants, one pair of jeans, a couple of sweaters, two pairs of shoes and perhaps a t-shirt or two. Overall, on each trip, I have travelled lightly, to say the least, learning to deal with a little less variety on the clothing front. I have also travelled with a minimal amount of stuff, preferring a couple of books, my journal and my laptop as my tried and true companions. Life on the road requires me to be unencumbered, light, ready to move and to that I have grown accustomed.

When I returned home on Friday, I almost felt overwhelmed by the amount of stuff in my apartment--and my apartment is relatively sparse. Had I time, I might have cleaned out the whole place leaving only a few precious keepsakes, furniture, lighting, other essentials and, of course, my books. Beyond that, I felt like it could all go. Why do I need more? It doesn't make my space more homey, more welcoming, but instead caused my head to start spinning and my heart rate to increase. Am I becoming a minimalist? The next time one of you comes to visit, will you wonder why someone with so little stuff lives in such a sizable apartment? Perhaps you will. Or, perhaps you will take a nice deep breath and feel freed by the lack of clutter. Either way, travelling has caused me to re-evaluate how I choose to create my home and whether stuff helps or hinders the creation of such a sacred space.

Secondly, I realized that I have been slowly, steadily letting my brain rot by watching an obscene amount of television. Now given that the past couple of years have been difficult physically, emotionally and intellectually, it seems moderately understandable why my vegetative state of choice would be drooling at the boob tube. TV would not have such wonderful nicknames accusing it of melting brains, ruining eyes, atrophying legs, building thumb muscles, etc if it was not the ultimate loafing facilitator; however, it is so good at allowing me to vegetate that it almost became a drug. Over the past couple of years, I have let life pass me by in order to catch whatever scripted or unscripted lives that were being displayed in front of millions. I chose to live through Rory Gilmore, Paige Davis (Trading Spaces), Stacy and Clinton (What Not To Wear), Kristen (Laguna Beach), and many, many others instead of dealing with my own life. For a while, I needed to live vicariously because there were some uncontrollable things going on in my life--but, now that it is time to snap out of it, move forward and live for myself, I am finding the television difficult to give up. It has proven to be the single most effective tool for eliminating stress since running and ultimate no longer were options. Now, my healthier self needs to turn off the idiot box, get the brain churning and take a deep breath every now and then.

Tonight, I have begun my first night of no television. My favorite shows have been shaved down so I should only watch about 2.5 hours of TV a week. Not bad! Today, I did not turn on the television and have been hugely productive. Surprise! I worked hard at my job, went grocery shopping, cooked my first meal at home in almost 2 months, baked cookies, consolidated some educational loans, listened to NPR, talked to my brother, cleaned my kitchen, caught up on email, read a little and now, have written a couple of pages. Imagine if everyday were TV and clutter free--I might actually make something of myself yet! Imagine if we all lived our own lives a little more, and others lives a little less--this world might actually have a fighting chance!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Evan commented on my last entry. I think it is very interesting so this is what he wrote:

How much of the current trend in pornography is a reflection of human nature rather than any moral values or the actual interpersonal relations of the people who partake in the porn? Look at it this way. Pornographers are essenstially business people. They make whatever sells, and whatever turns men on is what sells best. The next question is why does degrading porn that objectifies women turn men on? This is possibly a reflection of the root s of human societal evolution rather than a recent development. I think that our society is breaking down taboos and societal restrictions and exposing everyone to the more intimate primal urges and instinctive emotions than have been around untold generations. In recent years (1600s-1960s) many of these things have been repressed by society and religion. They are starting to come out more in today's soceity as the world becomes smaller and the conections between people become easier on all levels. It would be nice to think that this is an advantage, and on certain levels it is. However when children (of any age) are developing it is sometimes important to protect them from objects and concepts that they are not yet prepare to handle. At certain points in development humans are unable to distinguish between perceptions and reality and this can bite you in the ass. The pornography situation is one where some people's (old and young) perceptions of reality are based on what is essentially a fantasy that has been created to cater to some very primal ego-based urges. Severe conflicts unsue when these fantasies are treated as reality by persons decieved by ignorance. How can people who are ignorant of the reality be protected from the decieving fantasy? Frankly I don't know. I feel like the conservative are doing the damnedest already, and if they can do it then I don't know how it can be done. Maybe the reality needs to be more clearly comminicated before the fantasies are the primary source of information. Of course the conservatives would like to surpress that too.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

I am writing this post from a cute little town in southern Vermont while sitting on a large, wrap-around porch attached to yummy cafe and a great little bookstore (of course), all housed in a beautiful Victorian. Today is a stunner and it is a full-bodied pleasure to be writing while feeling the breeze on my back, hearing cars go by, watching little kids play and absorbing the day's last rays of sunlight. This is my last day in Vermont and has it been a good one.

One quick complaint before I move on to the true thing occupying my mind: the food in Vermont, overall, has been delicious. Now you might be wondering to yourself, how is delicious food a negative? Well, it is a negative because the fresh blueberry muffins (as discussed yesterday) are difficult to pass by, as are the steaming hot scones filled with juicy apple bits and the hot chocolate made of rich chocolate with lots of frothy milk on top. The good/healthy part is the salads with deep green lettuce with freshly grown fruits and vegetables, the freshly laid eggs, and the many organic meats and dairy products. The bad part is, all of the wonderful ingredients combined into a scone, muffin, hot chocolate, etc, are nearly impossible to pass by. Needless to say, it is a good thing I am done today, leaving all of these tasty temptations behind.

Now, the issue that I have been mulling over for the past few weeks is sex/sexuality/pornography. What does this have to do with my travels for my job, you ask? And, you may also be asking youself, do I want to keep reading? Yes, yes you do. There is nothing too offensive to follow.

Over the recent weeks, I have frequented innumerable public restrooms whether at truck stops, gas stations, restaurants, rest areas or bars. My experiences in these bathrooms have led me to ponder: why are there sex toys available in many public lavatories? Why are there flavored condoms and other such "necessities" located in the majority of these bathrooms? As many of you know, I believe in free speech, in being in touch with your sexuality, in sexual equality and freedom. I understand that the need strikes at odd times and protection is a must. However, these machines are not just condom dispensers which I understand, they are dispensing actual sex toys and the signage is weird, borderline offensive and not necessarily appropriate considering the myriad of people who utilize these restrooms.

To me, the issue of sex toys in the bathroom directly connects to this country's obsession with impersonal sex, pornography, and sexualized female nudity while simultaneously legislating what is legal and illegal relating to sex (often involving the above obsessions) yet incapable of having a public, coherent, articulate discussions about these very same issues. Over the past few years, I have been studying the origins of pornography and its development into the multi-billion dollar industry it is today. I have grown concerned about how we have "pornographied" pop culture without educating our children about how to interpret these images and song lyrics. We want our kids to abstain, but we shy away from "the talk", so the only messages they do receive are from their "role models" like Britney Spears and Pamela Lee. We cannot blame Britney and Pamela because they have a right to behave how they choose; however, we can look at ourselves, think about our own attitudes, misconceptions, and expectations about sex, asking whether or not we want our children to grow up with these same ideas, or do we need to get over ourselves and have candid discussions with young people to help them formulate their own ideas. Kids are pelted (and assaulted) with information all day, every day, trying to negotiate, understand, participate in, grow into and feel confident within the world around them, but we adults seem unable or unwilling to discuss the very world these kids are living in.

As some of you may know (sorry, Dad, if this is TMI), I am not opposed to all pornography and know for fact that there is some pornography that is interesting, beautiful, mutual, equal and fantastical. Much of today's pornography involves debasing the female, where her role is solely to pleasure the male, even if that involves hurting herself, demeaning herself and/or denying her own needs. This same attitude is trickling into our high schools, our junior high schools and even our elementary schools. Boys expect pleasure without expecting, anticipating or looking forward to reciprocating. Girls are demeaning themselves, performing sexual acts to fit in, to be accepted and liked by the boys. I am not attributing all of this to porn, but I do feel that the more pornography's version of sexuality infects our culture, the more we are at risk of losing a type of sexuality that is respectful, consensual and pleasurable to both parties. Men are becoming unable to be aroused because their female partner does not look like a porn star and is unwilling to do what porn stars do. Women are unable to be aroused because they feel used and unattractive. Gone are the days of free love in sixties and seventies porn when all parties involved enjoy themselves and when couples could watch together, feeling like both of their fantasies could come true. In the sixties and seventies, for better or for worse, porn was a place of inclusion (the more the merrier) and today's porn excludes the female as a participant and includes her only as a vessel and a sex toy.

How does this diatribe relate to sex toys in the bathroom you ask? I am not sure totally sure, but when I know, I will be sure to share. For now, I just drive around and ponder where this country is going and why we are in this handbasket.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Two surprising things happened to me this morning in Stowe, Vermont.

First, I found a caterpillar inside my fleece sock. When I say found, I actually mean that I put my foot in my sock, stuffed it into my shoe and felt a funny, prickly sensation against my big toe. Having walked around a field the last time I wore the sock, I thought perhaps I had a burr, but when I removed my sock and turned it inside out, I realized it was, in fact, a caterpillar. This was a woolly one, black and brown and curled into a ball. Now the question many of us might have is: how the hell did a woolly get in my sock? Bemused, I picked up the woolly, laid him gently on the bed and hoped I had not killed him when I jammed my foot into my clog. I put my sock back on, placed my foot in my clog and checked again on the woolly. Sad to say, the little woolly didn't move and so I laid him to rest in a generic hotel garbage can. This felt disrespectiful, but really I had little choice and I have a severe distaste for flushing animals (whether fish, woollys or rats) down the toilet. This past year has been particularly traumatizing in the flushing-animals-down-the-toilet department and I could stand no more. I did say a few words, bowed my head and had a moment of silence in honor of the cute, fuzzy, prickly woolly who took up residence in my sock. This morning, I committed involuntary woolly slaughter and that is always a sad way to start the morning.

Secondly, and on a much happier note, this morning I was surprised to taste the best blueberry muffin I had ever had. This muffin was chock full of FRESH blueberries that burst with flavor in my mouth on every bite. Around these juicy morsels were a light, buttery pastry that had my taste buds singing gospel and my heart valves singing the blues. The muffin melted in my mouth on every bite. The top was crispy with tiny bits of sugar melted to just the right crunchiness. Needless to say, this muffin seriously uplifted my mood and caused me to feel awe for the baker who created this breakfast confection.

While I could not simply forget my run in with mortality this Wednesday morning, that blueberry muffin was a special reminder of why I am glad to be alive and glad I do not live in a sock.