Sunday, November 21, 2010

Who knows, even?

"If we seek the pleasures of love, passion should be occasional, and common sense continual." Robertson Davies

Everyone says that love is supposed to be that thing in your head that drives you crazy and makes you want to do strange things that you wouldn't otherwise ordinarily do. It sounds like the only way you could ever truly know that you're in love is if you're finding yourself commandeering a vehicle and engaging in a high speed pursuit on the way to the airport where you have no problems dropping major coin on an international flight only to catch her before she boards to pursue her life long dreams. Let's be real. Some people will never find themselves in that situation. I'm not saying "no one" I'm not even saying "most"--but for a few people, this might be an unlikely scenario. And those people could be confused because television don't often end series finales with two people sitting on a couch with a bag of gummy bears and an InStyle between them. But, honestly, that idea seems a lot less terrifying and infinitely more tangible than spontaneously booking a flight to Wales. I mean, how can you have an ordinary Tuesday night after that? Serious time.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Please Eavesdrop

So getting personal is pretty essential to my job description. But personal as in, "What are your hobbies?" "Where do you spend most of your time?" "What do you use your eyeballs for?" Then they make conversation and I usually say some variation of these things, "Nope. Just 'Libby', it's not short for anything." "Yeah, I heard it was supposed to rain/ get warmer/ get colder/ remain the same." "I've lived here for about a year and a half." "Yes, I love it." Then, today I had this conversation with a middle-aged married couple. The following is a true story.

"Okay, so he's from New York and you're from California? Wow! How did you guys even end up in the same room?"
"Well, he was visiting his brother who was stationed in San Diego. His brother dragged him to this bar and then left him there while he went out with a girl. I was at an after-work party and terribly bored and I offered him a ride home. We both left stone sober."
"I got in her car and we talked until the sun came up."
"And we decided to get married."
"Right then?!"
"Yep. I went home, broke up with my boyfriend of two years and that was thirty years and eight days ago."

I'm pretty much just staring at them in stunned silence and I finally managed to squeak out that question that's been nagging at me for the past half-dozen years, "What made you want to marry her?"
And quite simply, in the most unromantic and honest tone he said, "She was nice to talk to."
"You see, I figured I'd never see him again. So I didn't start with any pretenses. No lies, no put ons. I was just myself--very transparent. Too transparent."
"Not too transparent."
"And I've never had to pretend with him in thirty years and eight days. He only wanted me like I came--straight out of the box."

I was mostly speechless. But I did manage, "I. Love. That story."
She looked at me and asked me the type of question that can only be asked by someone who's not used to putting on airs. She said, "I wasted my time with that other boy because I was lonely. It's a very pathetic part of the story.
so are you wasting your time with anyone, Libby?"
The scope of my grin surprised me, I couldn't hold it back because I felt truly happy to be answering this question honestly when I said, "Nope."

And then they left and I transcribed our conversation.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Camera tricks. Auschwitz. Phone Books

The most simple concepts will often times strike me out of the blue and I'll fancy myself some kind of evil genius. Take this morning, for example. I'm standing in the bathroom, staring at the mirror and simultaneously tweezing and blowing out my hair and there's something about the me-ness (yes, a word) of that moment that sucked me out and my reflection said to me, "you're just one of millions." I say my reflection said it because it really didn't seem like I was the one saying it. Just a camera trick.

When I was little I used to wonder if there were television cameras hidden in the bathroom or in bushes on my way to school. I would try my hardest to be on my best behavior even in my alone moments. I remember trying to find a discrete way to go to the bathroom without exposing myself to America (just in case). I didn't think about it all of the time but it probably crossed my mind once or twice a day. I remember thinking that if that wasn't happening, then what was I doing? What was the point? Why were there alone moments if not for the cameras?

Of course I'd heard the phrase "the world does not revolve around you" but what does that mean even, to a kid? Hell, it barely means anything to me these days. And then one day I looked up our name in the Stafford County phone book. And there we were--our whole family wrapped up in two words and seven numbers: Charles Parker 234-5367. And there were hundreds of others surrounding us and it struck me very heavily, probably too heavily for such a young and emotionally delicate girl, we are real but so is everyone else. I was one of millions. I remember that things changed for a while for me. I saw other people, even the other people in my house as just bodies moving around and eating and talking and doing homework and going to bed and waking up and eating and leaving. On one hand it was highly disturbing but it was also sort of comforting. Sort of the way that it must have been comforting to have your mother with you when you got off the train at Auschwitz. That example is, granted, a pretty exaggerated one but I'd rather assume that you can understand what I'm getting at than come up with something better. If I've at this point left you completely confused, feel free to make a note in the comments section and I'll take consideration. I didn't wonder about the cameras anymore, though, and in time I went back to living a pretty self-absorbed life sprinkled about with arbitrary moments where I'm struck by the world's expanse juxtaposed against my scrawny situation.

I don't remember at what point it flip-flopped and stopped being scary and started feeling comforting. I think everyone comes to a point at least once where they hope that the world doesn't revolve around them because that world would be very small and very boring and headed somewhere kind of scary.* If you don't believe me just think about those nights where you know you should go to bed like a responsible person but really you just keep posting shit on Facebook and checking back every 30-90 seconds to see if anyone's commented on it. All we want is for someone to "like" something we've done and then we can put ourselves to bed--loved and appreciated and needed for one more day. "What would my friends do without me posting my most darling videos/ political warnings/ scripture verses/ photos of stuff I found at the supermarket? You're welcome, World." Yeah--here's hoping there are bigger things out there and here's hoping that it's nothing I'm very familiar with at this point because I've exhausted all of my interests to the point of bitterness. The internet. Wow, what did we use to make ourselves feel important in the 90's?

No one uses the phone book anymore. We barely use phones (except for everything other than their originally intended purpose). Now we have blogs and Facebook pages and these are the things that tell me that I'm a real person--but also that everyone else is, too.

*That is not to say that I don't occasionally spend a dishwashing session perfecting my sexy, swoony rendition of Wild World for that one time that I get pulled up on stage and I pretend to be shy and forget the words and then surprise--mind blowing. You have to be prepared for these things even if they may be a little unlikely.

Monday, November 1, 2010

My First Boyfriend

My first boyfriend happened to me on accident.

I was sitting there in my seventh grade English class and Miss Earles was being ruthless as usual. She had me terrified from day one, she knew that everyone hated her and she capitalized on that--an iron fist sort of teacher. For example, at the beginning of the year she passed out these huge packets. Pages and pages of grammar rules. There would be the name of the rule and then at least a paragraph about that rule, correct ways to use it and examples of its appropriate usage. Nice, right? No. Every time that we wrote an essay, she would correct it in red pen--like teachers do, and then she would write in the margin the name of the grammatical rule you just obliterated. That's normal, that's fine, that's whatever. The homework assignment would, then, be to go home and hand write the rule, copied word for word, ten frickin' times for every single one that was desecrated in your pitiful piece of crap essay. Hours and hours of tedious homework. On her kindest days she would allow us to use actual class time to work on this bastard assignment. Even still, I don't really know what a comma splice is but I do know that I way overused it back in Jr. High and I guarantee that I probably still make those errors now. That assignment didn't train me to learn grammar rules, that assignment trained me to copy word for word without absorbing any information. I'm genius at it. It also united everyone in our hatred for Miss Earles. This was the one thing that boys and girls all the way from the seventh grade up to the senior class could bond over. Man, I hope she's not on Facebook. I wonder if my memory is embellishing her a little bit.

So one day in early October while we're all hunched over our desks, copying feverishly with cramped hands, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Quietly, I turned around and a classmate handed me a note. Let me just take a minute to interject and tell you what kind of a student/ kid I was in those days. In a word: scared. I never wanted to get into trouble. I never wanted anyone to look at me. I never wanted to go to the bathroom in the middle of class for fear that someone would see me in the hallway and ask what I was up to. I wanted to live my life unnoticed and uncalled upon. I didn't talk during class and I most certainly didn't pass notes. I was a mediocre student living a mediocre life and I was very, very okay with that. My last moment of individuality was in the third grade when I got third place in the county-wide spelling bee. On my way out to the bus to take us home, I slipped on the ice in front of everyone. To add injury to insult, my knee started swelling so much that my tapered jeans were prohibited from being pushed up to get a look at it. I had to pull my pants down so that my principal could inspect my knee and make sure that it wasn't broken. That's what being an individual gets you--standing in your unicorn underpants in a cramped bathroom with your principal and a teacher's aid trying to fend off a lawsuit. No thank you.

So like I said, a note got passed to me and I panicked. I saw that my name was written on it. A note to me? Me? Who could possibly have anything to say to me? On one hand I was relieved that I wouldn't be expected to pass that note along any further. On the other hand I didn't like knowing that I would have some hard evidence of rule breakage on my person. Oh, the nausea. I shoved it into my notebook and kept copying until the bell rang. On the way out of class, everyone kept patting me on the back and saying phrases of congratulations. I was confused and forgot about the note until a few hours later when I opened my notebook to do my homework during homeroom. That was a much more lax environment, even for an ultra tense kid like me. My homeroom teacher was named Miss Frank and she had a tattoo on her ankle--it was her first year teaching and everyone liked her a lot. I swear to you, there's not a single boy that went to SHS who won't remember Miss Frank. I guess she was pretty hot. But, then again, when your competition is Miss Earles it doesn't take much to be the hot teacher.

I digress. So there I am in homeroom at this table surrounded by upperclassmen, on whom I had varying degrees of secret crushes, and I open up my note. It read (in horrendous scrawl and numerous eraser marks--shockingly, this note had been heavily edited):


Let's not kid ourselves. His name was obviously not Tevin. But while this guy is not currently one of my Facebook friends he is, undoubtedly friends of friends and how rude would it be to read the following things about yourself a dozen or so years after the fact? I'm not going to pretend that we haven't all grown up. So, world, this guy's name is Tevin. Anyway, the thing about Tevin was that he was kind of an icky guy. He was kind of an icky guy who hung around the jerks who would pick on the gay kid and say things like, "Yeah, what he said!" Tevins are not clever or smart or kind. They do not shower regularly and they do not have a shot with the pretty, classy girls. In retrospect they probably have a kind of sad home life. Tevins (for whatever reason) hope that they have a shot with the chubby, quiet, shy girl who sits in the middle row and is working on an ulcer. I balled up the note and threw it away and spent the rest of my homeroom period pretending that I wasn't crying. Little did I know that in ignoring Tevin, I had accepted his proposal.

A few weeks later, we were celebrating fall-break with a class trailer ride. Everyone was piled up on hay bales and we were riding out to Mrs. Turner's farm where we would roast marshmallows and then our parents would come pick us up after dark. I had one or two friends that I sat with and we were having enough fun snickering and daring one another to go sit next to Mr. Buck, our class sponsor. Mr. Buck was the male equivalent of Miss Frank (homina homina homina). Did the hottest teacher's name really have to rhyme with... that? It really wasn't fair to him, poor guy. The limericks were endless.

There came, from the back, a rumbling. The boys were laughing and pushing each other. We heard a low chanting, "do it! do it!" Everyone turned to see Tevin walking on the wobbly trailer, tripping over people's feet. I knew he was coming at me and I considered bailing out but I knew that would just cause a bigger scene. Tevin sat down next to me and didn't say a word. Mr. Buck stared at him and warned him not to get up again. Great--keep him here, thanks a lot! My face was hot and I refused to look at him. I kept my head turned to my friend Heather and let her go on and on about her boyfriend, a much older 9th grader.

Without warning there was a hand on my leg and a tongue in my ear and the cheers from the boys at the back of the trailer was enormous. I don't remember what Mr. Buck said to Tevin but I do remember that he used the word "hell" and then pulled me over to sit next to him. Tevin shouted that I was his girlfriend (as if that would suddenly make it appropriate). I rode the rest of the way with Mr. Buck's arm around me. He patted my shoulder and kept saying, "I'm so sorry." Tevin's parents came to pick him up as soon as we got to Mrs. Turner's farm and he wasn't allowed to eat a s'more. He was also forced to apologize to me and in doing so he also broke up with me. I guess it just wasn't working out. I ate burned marshmallows and all the pretty, popular girls surrounded me, gushing about how lucky I was to get to sit next to Mr. [B]uck.