Total Perspective Vortex
What really happened to Trillian? Theories abound, but you can see what she's really been up to on this blog. If you're looking for white mice, depressed robots, or the occasional Pan Galactic Gargleblaster you might be better served here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/hitchhikers/guide/.
Words are cool.
The English language is complex, stupid, illogical, confounding, brilliant, beautiful, and fascinating.
Every now and then a word presents itself that typifies all the maddeningly gorgeousness of language. They're the words that give you pause for thought. "Who came up with that word? That's an interesting string of letters." Their beauty doesn't lie in their definition (although that can play a role). It's also not in their onomatopoeia, though that, too, can play a role. Their beauty is in the way their letters combine - the visual poetry of words - and/or the way they sound when spoken. We talk a lot about music we like to hear and art we like to see, so let's all hail the unsung heroes of communication, poetry and life: Words.
Here are some I like. (Not because of their definition.)
Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Smart Girls
(A Trillian de-composition, to the tune of Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys)
Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains
Smart girls ain’t easy to love and they’re above playing games
And they’d rather read a book than subvert themselves
Kafka, Beethoven and foreign movies
And each night alone with her cat
And they won’t understand her and she won’t die young
She’ll probably just wither away
Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains
A smart girl loves creaky old libraries and lively debates
Exploring the world and art and witty reparteé
Men who don’t know her won’t like her and those who do
Sometimes won’t know how to take her
She’s rarely wrong but in desperation will play dumb
Because men hate that she’s always right
Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains
Life(?) of Trillian
Thursday, August 18, 2005 Liar Liar
I suppose it’s the time worn adage. Ignore a man and they’re like putty in your hands. To a lot of people, men in particular, I’ve noticed, there’s nothing more attractive than a challenge, and best of all, winning that challenge and claiming victory and control. (“I am in control. I have toyed and manipulated the truth and you and now your destiny is mine, all mine! Bwa ha ha. The mind games will commence in 4-3-2-1” Bitter? Me? Nawww. Cynical and jaded, yes, bitter, no.)
My report based on a lot of observation in the dating and business worlds is that people who seek out, either intentionally or unconsciously, a challenging partner or relationship are not in it because they like the challenge. They’re in it because they like to win. These are competitive people with an insecure streak who only feel good about themselves when they win. And once they win they’re bored or insecure and need another challenge, another goal, another victory, another situation to control and manipulate. Some of them may even admit they like a challenge. But. If you ask them why, have them really talk about what they get out of a situation which requires a lot of effort and very little chance of return, eventually the biggest smile and excitement will be revealed when they talk about how much better the reward is because they’ve worked so hard to earn it. Okay. If we’re talking about a regional sales drive, yes, those goals and effort are worth it.
But. When we’re talking about attaining a person for a date or a relationship, that’s more than a little concerning. If a person has to work that hard to get a would be partner’s attention, there’s probably a very good reason why. The other person simply is not interested, doesn’t feel the same way or just plain doesn’t like the pursuer. You know how on exams you’re supposed to always go with your first instinct? Same with dating. I know, I know, the wedding chapels are filled with people who didn’t like each other at first. I know. But. In those cases there was some emotional connection – something transpired for that dislike to exist. The challenge in those cases was to redeem whatever the issue was that caused the dislike, have a conversation and a mutually agreeable plan to move forward and try to forgive and forget.
In the case of no “chemistry” or just plain not being interested, the challenge is not “worth it” because the “winning” involves either the pursuer or pursuee to radically change their mind or ideas. The pursuer is usually the one who does this. They’ll change their clothing style, political or religious views, even a job in order to appear to be the person their target wants. They’re playing a game and creating a character who will attract the pursuee. I suppose there are cases where this is actually a good thing, for instance if a person smokes and quits because they have a crush on a non smoker, then, well, I mean, that’s great. As long as the smoker is able to continue to not smoke. Because sooner or later, the truth comes out, the real personality of the pursuer is revealed, and the pursuee is left standing there confused and feeling like an idiot for being taken in by the lies. Naturally they are hurt and angry and resentful. But the pursuer doesn’t really care because they’ve won, the victory is theirs, and they’re getting bored anyway. They don’t want to pretend to be whatever they were pretending to be, and they are ready to move onto the next challenge, the next personality they are going to try on in the name of love.
These are personality liars. I’ve met a lot of them over the course of my dating career. The core issue seems to be insecurity. They’re not comfortable being themselves. They feel they have to embellish or altogether change themselves, lie, in order to attract the sort of partner they want at the moment. They might have been doing this so long – maybe all their life – that they don’t even have a personality to call their own. They are personality chameleons or worse, personality sappers.
I met this guy online a few months ago. He read my revised no emotion, no romance, financial and societal partner profile and thought I was the girl for him. (Hold your scoffs – you would not believe the responses I’ve had to those profiles. Strange and weird men, yes, but, hoo boy are there a lot of lonely, emotionally drained people out there. More on that another day.) This guy seemed different. He seemed like he was coming from the same point of view as me, and, all indications based on our profiles and his introductory email to me were that we had a lot in common. Even though he lived in another state and traveled between there and Europe regularly, I thought, well, okay, worth an email. I travel a lot, too. His state isn’t that far away and O’Hare is an international hub, he’s bound to pass through there at some point. I can at least say hello, we might be able to offer each some support in our quest for an unconventional partnership.
He was very pleased to hear from me. He wrote back asking lots of questions about me and requesting another photo.
I answered a few of his questions, asked him a lot of questions, and didn’t send another photo.
He immediately responded with, “Where’s the photo? I asked you for another photo.” That’s it. Those two sentences were the entire email.
Okay. I have an okay photo of myself posted with my profile. Everything this guy needs to see at this point is right there in front of him. And I clearly state I am not looking for any sort of mutual physical attraction, that I am much more interested in common goals and outlooks than being attracted to a man or him to me.
So I said, “Easy there, boy. There’s a photo posted on my profile which shows you everything you need to know at this point.” And I then again asked him a lot of questions about things noted in his profile, his job, home, more of the usual stuff. Note that I said nothing about his slightly out of focus photo posted with his profile. Notice that I didn’t care what he looked like.
He responded vaguely to most of my questions, answering questions with questions.
In his profile he claimed to have a post graduate degree. When I pressed him for details, basic stuff like his major and where’d he gone to university he was very evasive. I smelled that rat instantly. I let it go without comment because, really, in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter. The lying matters, but, I mean, look at my (needs a new nickname) boss. Her CV is filled with lies, bogus degrees and highly exaggerated credentials. Everyone knows it, no one cares. She’s a fraud but the only one it bothers or affects is me. I let it go for the time being. “Eh, he’s got a job, what difference does it make?”
About that job. He listed a city and state of residence on his profile. You know, the place most people say they live? I originally thought, uh uh. No way. No more long distance relationships for me. I’ve spent way too much time on my own, way too much time apart from the people I care about most. My family, best friends and, well, That One Guy Who Emotionally Mattered (HWNMNBS, I’m trying out new names for him), are far flung all over the globe. If a guy is able and willing to come to me, fine. But. There are exactly seven people whom I am willing to deeply invest myself in over great distances. And Liar Liar wasn’t one of them. Swut, I would have leapt at the opportunity with Brit Barrister if I were willing to again allow myself get sucked into the LDR drama. He at least is willing to discuss his education and area of study.
Right. Liar Liar. When I asked him what he did for a living, what took him to Europe regularly, again, all I got from him was more evasiveness. Not even evasiveness, more like complete lack of response and change of subject. Which led me to assume he is a counter intelligence operative, a drug dealer, an independently wealthy international playboy, or doesn’t actually have a job which takes him anywhere. I even wondered if he actually had a job at all, somewhat jokingly.
The joke was on me when it was finally (after several weeks) revealed that he was in fact unemployed.
Okay. Right. Well. You know. I’ve been unemployed. It happens. It sucks. The Guy I Gave All of My Love (GIGAOML, hmmm, maybe) was unemployed for a while. Benjy was unemployed for over a year. It happens. I understand. It’s embarrassing and depressing and it sucks. I really do understand. But. Don’t swutting lie about it. And especially don’t make exaggerated and delusional claims about your fake employment. Unless of course you’re my (needs a new nickname) boss whose exaggerated and delusional claims about her previous work history are making the company look good to unsuspecting clients and awed underlings who don’t realize there’s no way her claims of experience could be true. I can kind of sort of understand lying about your employment status to a prospective date, at least at first. I mean, well, I understand. Especially if you’re looking for a meal ticket or a quick roll in the sack. But if you actually like the prospective date and are hoping for future dates, at some point the truth will be revealed and the more honest you’ve been about your employment the better. Just say something like this, “I’m actually taking some time off from work right now. I’m taking some classes and trying to sort out how I want to spend the rest of my career.” There. Done. The truth is out there, no one gets hurt.
Right. Liar Liar. As the weeks and emails passed, the untruth tally rose exponentially.
Most of them were lies by omission, most of them were about things which don’t really matter. I wasn’t emotionally invested in this guy, I had no expectations, so, whatever, no big deal.
And then one day, he let something huge slip by his lie detector. I’ll just come right out with it because the back story is stupid. Let’s just leave it with: Liars always slip up in a detail somewhere along the line.
That city and state of residence thing? Yeah. Well. A little more distance there than the profile indicates. Turns out he’s swutting Welsh. As in living in Wales, Welsh. Tom Jones Welsh. UK Welsh. He said he has been to the states, though, and considered taking a job here. Oh. Okay. Well, I mean, that’s almost the same thing as residing in a US state and traveling to Europe for business regularly. Splitting hairs, really.
When I asked for an explanation he claimed he was on vacation in the states, visiting the state he listed on his profile, and wanted to meet girls there. He’s just never bothered to change the profile. His “member since…” date is three years old.
I wrote him a quick, “Sorry, I don’t want a long distance relationship, you’ve misrepresented yourself in a big bad way. I need honesty and integrity in my friendships and anything we’ve had in the way of friendship or working toward meeting has all been based on a lie. I can’t abide by that. Not too many people will, so you might want to consider at least being honest about where you live on your profile.” Note that I did not mention the fraud policy of the dating site, or that one email to them from me would get his membership permanently deleted.
A day later I got a long, long, long email from him explaining why he has the lies posted, and that from here on out he’d be completely honest with me and would honestly answer any questions I asked. “I really like you, Trill, I really, honestly do. I like how you are, I like who you are, and I was just so overwhelmed that you’d even give me the time of day that I didn’t know how to tell you the profile wasn’t entirely honest. You’ve already given me so much insight and I’ve learned so much from you, please, give me a chance. Can I call you? Maybe if we talk about this it will be better than email.”
I know, I know, I hear you, “Nooooooooooooooo, Trillian, don’t do it!”
I wasn’t emotionally invested in him and didn’t intend to be, and, given the distance and the lying I was thinking nothing other than friendly correspondence. Because he was unemployed I didn’t think he’d have the money to make an international call, even if he did have a low rate plan, so, you know, really, I wasn’t too concerned.
I should have been.
Because Liar Liar is a serial drunk dialer. Fortunately the time difference works in my favor. When it’s last call where he is, it’s still early evening for me. When it’s opening time for the matinee drinkers, I’m heading out the door to work. Liar Liar began calling very regularly, very drunk. I began screening my calls or was legitimately not home when he rang.
Guys, really, I’m not opposed to a drunk dial now and then. Really. It happens. Most women are okay with an occasional (once a month, max) drunk dial if you’re not actually stalking her or a convict or making violent threats. Sometimes it’s even kind of cute, you know, if you’re a cute and mushy drunk. But. If you know you are either a crude or mean drunk, do not dial a woman you are interested in dating. Or anyone else for that matter. You have no idea what you’re saying, how stupid you sound, and how really offensive you are.
Liar Liar is a crude drunk. He would leave stupid crude jokes usually involving some part of my female anatomy. I finally sent him an email asking him to refrain from calling me when he’s that drunk. I’m not a prude, I said, but really, when you’re not drunk, too, those jokes just aren’t funny and are offensive. Note that I didn’t mention how inappropriate and weird it was for him to be drunk dialing me with crude jokes when we’d never even had a regular, non drunk conversation. Note that I didn’t mention he was behaving well below his age level. Note that I didn’t mention that he was stupid and annoying. Note that I didn’t mention that his repeated calls are phone harassment. Note that I didn’t mention that the calls were getting frequent and bad enough that I had already looked into his country’s and phone company’s policies on phone harassment and that if I so chose I could block his number and press international harassment charges against him via his phone company. Note that I was a very, very understanding good sport about all of this. Everyone agree? Was I being uptight or holier than thou?
He did apologize, via email, and said he’d been out drinking a lot lately to celebrate various events. I understood. Really I did. And the drunk dials ceased.
He continued to email me almost daily. The emails contained less and less words and more and more stupid internet jokes and crass photos which litter the junk boxes of anyone who has an email account. I know he was trying to spread some joy and mirth. I know his intentions were good. I know he was just being his version of nice. I know that. And I was okay with it. Really. But, in terms of getting to know him better, well, they didn’t tell me anything about him except that he gets a lot of crap email, apparently enjoys getting crap email, and thinks nothing of forwarding crap email far and wide. You know, okay, whatever. Fine. Some of those inspiration and pithy email things are thoughtful or at least well intended. The disgusting or stupid photos, on the other hand, well, I mean, again, I’m no prude. I haven’t seen it all, but I’ve seen most of it. But. Soft porn photos with truck stop humor slogans written on them don’t excite, impress or humor me. Especially not from a guy who pursued me online, lied in his profile, doesn’t have job and drinks a lot. Note that I did not ask him to stop sending them. Note that I did not block his email address. Note that I did not forward them to my email account provider as offensive unsolicited porn. Note that all I did was delete them. Am I being uptight about this? Should I lighten up? Was I being uptight or holier than thou?
He then started asking me why I wasn’t emailing him except when he emailed me. I thought about what I should or could tell him. I decided to take the honest approach. Here’s exactly what I wrote him. “(Liar Liar), when you first wrote me it sounded like we were in similar situations. There were a lot of lies from your end. That’s not exactly encouraging for me, not exactly making me want to open up to you. I like you enough that I thought we might have enough in common to be friends. But you haven’t really shared much of yourself with me, so I’m not getting to know you better. I like and need cerebral interaction. I thrive on the exchange of ideas. I like to hear other points of view and talk about them. Communication is a huge deal to me. Lying aside, it seems like deep down in there is a swell guy, you have swell tendencies, but for us to be friends I need to learn more about you, how you think, what you like, don’t like, all that stuff. As it stands I don’t really know a whole lot about you, I don’t even know what you studied in school or what sort of a job you want.” (Note that I did not mention the crude drunk dials or the soft porn emails.)
He replied that I was wrong, he shared a lot with me. Maybe we just needed to talk.
“Yeah, probably. But not when you’ve been drinking, har har.” I responded.
Sure enough, that night he called and wasn’t drunk. We actually had a nice conversation. However. He claimed to be a non smoker on his profile. Which is pretty much the only area in which I will not wiggle. I could hear him smoking. Yes. You know that inhale and exhale sound smokers don’t think anyone else hears? Yeah. That sound. So I slated him about it. I said, “Are you smoking?!”
“Wow. How’d you know? I don’t smoke very often. Just now and then.” He said way too casually considering he emphatically told me he was a non smoker.
“People can hear when you inhale and exhale.” I said trying to mask my annoyance at yet another lie, trying to see the humor in this continually pathological lying.
“Wow. You must have really good hearing. I’ll have to be careful not to fart, too. You’ll hear it and probably smell through the phone.”
Passive aggressive dig or crude sense of humor? I’m not sure and I don’t care.
That pretty much negated any progress we’d made in the conversation.
I made an excuse and ended the call.
He sent me a big long flowery email.
Uh oh. He’s playing the emotion card. Even though I emphatically say in my profile I do not want any emotional or romantic attachments. Even though I make it very clear that I am not going to give romantic or emotional effort in a partnership. He began playing the romance game.
He began telling me he loved me.
I hear you saying, “He’s psycho! Run, Trill, run!”
And you’re right. He’s a psycho liar. But he’s also unemployed and living 5,000 miles away. Not exactly a huge or immediate threat to my safety.
I pondered what to do about his proclamation of emotion, the granddaddy of all emotions. I assumed it was either another lie, a crazy mixed up kid caught up in the intrigue, or a sick attempt to get something from me-either an emotional proclamation or money or a green card.
If he’s a crazy mixed up kid, well, I mean, I need to set him straight. Ditto if he’s trying to get something from me. But if it’s a lie the best response was no response. So I did nothing for a few days as I pondered this.
Then he wrote another flowery email saying he was sorry for coming on so strong, he just really likes me. And then listed off all the ways we are so alike and how I’m so wonderful and we’d be foolish not to see what was right in front of our faces.
Okay. Fine. Time to set him straight. “(Liar Liar) I made it very clear I do not want an emotional commitment. You said you were in the same situation. I made it very clear I do not want a long distance relationship. You said you agreed. I cannot give you anything more than friendship, and that’s only via email and a call or two. I understand if you want more from me, but, you have to understand I cannot give it to you. All those things you listed are not actually true. You’ve lied to me from day one, you appear to be trying to be someone you’re not, someone you think I want. That’s not going to work for either of us. It’s up to you to decide if you can be yourself and if you want to then continue to try to be friends.”
And that, I thought, was that.
I ignored this guy and he was throwing himself at me. I responded to his emails when I had time, offered a sympathetic ear and a few points of view, but gave very little of myself to him. I was wise to his ways, I realized he was trying to suck information out of me so that he could mimic me or become what I wanted. Which, yes, in a way, is flattering, and, if we were 14 it might even be kind of cute. But. As an adult behavior it’s creepy and stupid and childish. Especially combined with the increasingly frequent and huge lies and the crude drunk dials and soft porn email.
I don’t want much from a man, but I certainly want him to be honest and to have his own personality. In fact, in my new dream partnership, the guy is going to need a strong personality and interests of his own because we’re not giving each other emotional commitments. I state that very clearly in my profile. He can’t be trying to sponge off my personality or try to fit some perceived mould. In fact, that’s not just true in my situation, that’s true in any relationship situation. Be your swutting self. And if you don’t think yourself is good enough to interest a particular partner, you’re either insecure or correct in the assumption they won’t like you. In the former case, work on building some confidence in yourself, think about your good traits and qualities. If it’s the latter, move on. Just move on. Lying and pretending to be something you are not will not get you anywhere. Instead, work on yourself. If you’re a jerk, take some time off from dating and work on developing yourself. Read some books, volunteer, do something for other people and guess what? You’ll learn a lot about yourself. Funny how that works. Trust me on this. Develop your own personality, be honest, have some integrity and we’ll all be a lot happier.
I thought maybe Liar Liar would mature from this episode and maybe, hopefully, the next girl he chooses to approach won’t have to deal with at least as many lies as I did. Yeah. Saint Trillian. Prepping men for other women since 2001.
I really thought after spelling it all out for him he’d leave me alone for a while.
But this is me. Of course there’s more.
A few days later I got an email from a name I didn’t recognize. First and last name. Spam, I thought. The message line said, “Let’s be friends.”
The next day, same name, this time, “I hope you’re not mad, can I call you tonight?”
That night, the phone rang. Liar Liar. “Hi Trill. Didn’t you get my emails?”
“No, what emails?”
“I sent one yesterday and today. I do want to be friends. You’re right, you were honest and I should have believed you.”
“Wait a minute. You sent me email?” I was concerned because I thought maybe I wasn’t getting other email from other friends or family.
“Yeah, a couple.”
“huh. Do me a favor, send another to test, okay?”
We talked, briefly, because I was heading out when the phone rang.
I got home later, and there was that name and “Testing 1 2 3” in my in box.
Ah. Okay. A different email account. Okay. That makes sense.
So I wrote, “Is (different email name) your alter ego?”
“No, it’s my real name.” He immediately responded.
Okay. I’ve now “known” this guy for almost two months, we’ve talked on the phone, he told me he loved me, and all the while I’ve been calling him by a pseudonym? Okay, okay, I have one, too. But. Combined with all the other lies, and the fact that my friends and potential partners know and use my actual name, this really, really did not set well with me.
“Ah, okay, another lie in the web of deceit which is the international man of intrigue (Liar Liar).” I replied.
“Yeah, well, I’ve never liked my given name.” He wrote.
Erm. Okay. I understand that. But. Still. All the other lies. And now this? Nope. Sorry. Uh uh.
“Right. Okay. ‘Night.”
He began sending a lot of email again. And calling a lot. He’s funny and sometimes unwittingly insightful. But I began to wonder if it was even him writing the email. Because when he called he wasn’t funny or unwittingly insightful or even, well, interesting.
And that’s what lying does. It fills all the voids with doubt about what’s really true. I finally reached the point of confrontation with him regarding his lies.
I broached the topic with him. I don’t really know why. I didn’t really care and I certainly didn’t have anything invested in him. Maybe that’s why. Maybe he was becoming a science project for me. Wait. That’s wrong. I didn’t care about him, but I wasn’t clinical with him, either. I can’t really answer why I bothered with him at all. Maybe, maybe he was filling a little brother void in my life. Maybe. I’m not sure, but maybe that’s it.
Every time I would confront him with one of his lies, he’d shoot some senseless, off topic retort at me.
Finally during one phone call I said, “There’s a lot wrong with me. But. I’m not the one who filled a dating site profile with a lot of lies. I’m not the one who sought out a person who lives 5,000 miles away with a huge body of water and a lot of politics separating us yet acts as if it’s only a few blocks and work schedules standing in the way of having a date.”
His response? That mocking whiney tone so popular with 8-year-olds, “Mneh mneh mneh. It must be wonderful to be so perfect. Nothing’s ever your fault. Mneh mneh mneh. Little miss can’t be wrong. That’s why you’re single.”
I know. I hadn’t thought of that song in ages either and I’m not sure if I was more annoyed that he was behaving like a child, or that he was once again reacting instead of thinking and being very (way too) defensive and accusatory, or that infected me with that horrible ear worm.
I said nothing. I didn’t dignify any of it with a response and thought, “No more. That’s it. This is boring, stupid and a huge waste of time.” I had serious misgivings from the start and only continued writing him because he said he had the same mindset as me and since there aren’t many of us out there I thought we could offer support to each other as we tried to maneuver the thrill of dating land trying to find a like minded partner. The lies are too big, too frequent and he’s too immature for me to continue any contact with him. But since I have no expectations or emotions, I dismissed it, and him, stopped writing.
I thought, again, that was that.
A week later I got an email. “You think you’re so perfect. You’re not, you know, you’re not. There’s a lot wrong with you.”
Erm. Yeah. I know. Thanks for the reminder, though. I forgot to put it on my calendar today.
(That’s what I thought) I didn’t respond.
The next day’s email, “We could have so much. I can offer you more than anyone can. I understand you. You don’t need to be stubborn and so idealistic. You’re single because you’re too perfect. I can make you imperfect.”
Uh. Okay. Not the most enticing proposal I’ve ever had, but certainly high marks for being unconventional.
My response? “If honesty and a grip on reality qualify me as perfect, then yes, I stand guilty as accused. And if that’s why I’m single, then I’m happy to remain that way because there’s no way I’m spending my life with a liar, and not only that, a liar with a serious Peter Pan complex.”
I got an immediate reply, “I’m breaking up with you. You’re seriously fucked up. You’re the one who needs to get a grip. You’re too perfect and holier than thou. Have fun in your perfect lonely life. No man will ever want you, I was your only chance and you blew it babe.”
Breaking up with me? Huh? Did I miss something? Like an entire relationship? Like face to face contact? Like mutually sharing anything like a hobby or book or an opinion or finances or a meal? What’s to break up? Maybe, maybe a small friendship. But it was all based on lies. And yet he’s “breaking up” with me? There he was all hurt and angry and trying to hurt me the way people do when they break up an actual relationship. Liar Liar needs a lot of professional help.
Whoa. There are some seriously odd people out there. And I end up meeting most of them.
I’m sharing this with the class so that maybe someone who has a lie or two on their online dating profile or has embellished a thing or two about themselves in an effort to impress a date will think twice about it in the future. It might seem harmless or inconsequential, but most lies beget other lies, and bigger lies, and at some point the truth will be revealed.
Fortunately I’m not hurt by Liar Liar, in fact I find the whole thing funny. But. If I weren’t me, now, I might have invested some of myself in him. I might have emotions about him. I could have been very hurt and very confused and very disappointed when any or all of his lies became apparent. It does bother me that there are people “out there” lying like this. And yes, I did report him to the dating site, and yes, they are removing his profile (the credit card address will get you in the end, if you're thinking about using Liar Liar's trick for pretending to live somewhere you do not)
Of course online dating comes with buyer beware strongly implied. People lie. People have ulterior motives and personal agendas. Sometimes people are bad. And sometimes people are weird. All the more reason to have no expectations, good or bad.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005 The Opposite of Good Oppositing is working out okay, apart from the little crisis of conscience over the selfish thing. But daily choices and behaviors seem to be working out well as a result of doing the opposite of what I would normally do.
So last night I did something very much the opposite of anything I've ever done, anything I would normally do on a Tuesday night. It was a little scary at first, but I was brave with my doing the opposite stance. I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to push myself to my limits. I took a big gulp, mustered up my courage and went for it.
I did something bizarre last night. Something I never thought I would do. Something I didn’t think I could do. Something shameful and deviant. Something embarrassing. I never thought something so wrong could feel so right. This is more than a guilty pleasure; this is raw, pure, wicked, satisfying unabashed ecstasy. I can’t wait to do it again, even though I know it’s bad for me. Even though I’m putting any reputation I might have left in serious jeopardy. Even though very few men will have me if they find out how much I enjoy this. Even though I know it’s wrong.
I am filled with desire and I want more.
And in true bad girl fashion, I’m too enraptured to keep my deviant ways secret. I want to share my newfound joy and pleasure. And deep down I want to be caught. Because I’ve been a very naughty girl.
I watched Tommy Lee Goes to College. Both back to back episodes.
I did this intentionally and of my own free will. I had not been drinking. I was riveted to the TV.
I have never liked Motley Crue. Not even in a cruising in the car having fun with rowdy friends on a Saturday night kind of way. Their songs do nothing for me. Not because they’re more about rock star antics and high jinks. Not because of that inane and degrading Girls, Girls, Girls thing. Simply because I just don’t like their songs.
However I have always strongly contended the world needs bands like Motley Crue and Guns N Roses. We need way over the top rock stars with more attitude than talent. These guys do have some talent, they do, really. But stress the some. What they have to make up for their lacking talent is attitude and the ability to live and revel in the rock star life. Sex, drugs, rock and roll. Hootchie koo. They’re known more for their “private” life behavior than their music. And that’s okay. We really do need people like them. They’re flamboyant and stupid and shameless and act as a behavior barometer. “Did you see Jane’s teenaged son? Pierced lip and a tattoo!” “Yeah, well, you know, not every kid can be an accountant. Motley Crue’s done okay for themselves.” “I met this new guy and, well, he’s a little wild, not Tommy Lee wild…” “Did you see Sarah’s honeymoon photos? Yikes! Move over Tommy and Pam!”
If you didn’t catch either of the back to back episodes I’m sure they will be repeated. There will undoubtedly be a DVD. It’s worth watching the first episode if for nothing else than the scene where Tommy hits the books to study and be all that he can be with Eye of the Tiger as the soundtrack. (The only non Tommy song I noticed in the two episodes.) The second I heard the opening refrain of Eye of the Tiger I knew even if this was not Tommy’s original vision of the show, somewhere there is a post production team who should be lauded. Good work, gang. The editing and post production design of the show is what makes it a standout.
Tommy Lee Goes to College aired. Millions of people tuned in to love him or hate him and ridicule him. And there he was, looking at least 10 - 15 years older than his 43 years. Making an idiot of himself as only Tommy Lee can do. It’s not one of those “It’s gruesome but I can’t look away” train wreck kinds of things. It’s difficult to say why this is as engaging as it is. Maybe the fish out of water theme, or the rock star making an ass of himself thing, or the fact that it’s Tommy Lee.
I’ve been thinking about it, trying to figure out why I like this show so much, what’s different about it, what’s the real appeal here? The editing and post production work is great, to be sure. The wholesome Midwest university campus and all the corn-fed co-eds vs. California flash Tommy are a natural for a fish out of water story.
But, the scary truth is: What’s different and appealing about this show is Tommy. He’s old enough to be a pathetic cliché, but young enough to still have some cool cred. He’s dumb enough to be funny, but self aware enough to be tragic. He’s an abusive drunk with a serious drug problem, but, he’s making no excuses for himself. He simply is who he is. And whether or not it’s for show and ratings, there are some very unflattering moments for Tommy.
I have to give Tommy credit for allowing NBC to make him not only look like an idiot rock star, but, also, highlighting Tommy's inability to manage a drum set. Tommy Lee. Notorious drummer for Motley Crue. Looked like a rank amateur trying to manage the drums. He couldn't play them. “Is this how you guys tune these?” “Whoa, these are heavier than I remember…” He looked pathetic, stupid and incompetent. And I don't mean that in a Tommy Lee way. I mean that in a completely incompetent drummer did someone say Tonya Harding kind of way.
As for his class load, well, no surprises here. “Let’s put Tommy in difficult and thoughtful classes like chemistry and literature. It’ll be funny to watch him struggle with complex concepts and ideas.” This was the opportunity for Nebraska to show off their fine academic facilities and rigorous but rewarding demands their professors place on students. They succeeded. Aren't we all impressed to learn Nebraska's more than a great football school? Yes we are. Duly noted.
Tommy was obviously planning to make fun of the whole thing by playing class idiot. He was okay with being stupid in chemistry because no one expects Tommy Lee to do well in a chemistry class. That's the joke. “I didn’t know there’d be math,” is a classic Tommy quote regarding chemistry. Ha ha. No disappointments here, Tommy delivers the imbecilic goods. But, whether it's clever post production editing or sincere, Tommy maintains respect, of sorts, for the college and the world of academia. He's not making fun of the students or teachers or higher learning in general. He's making fun of himself.
And it wears thin. But. There’s a joke on him. Those florescent lights so popular in college classrooms are not his friend.
I have to give him credit for allowing some less than flattering lighting and camera angles to illuminate his fading fast looks. Yep. I’m going to talk about looks. I’m going to make looks an issue over talent. Because Tommy’s talent, or lack thereof, speaks for itself. And he’s been a pin up poster boy and had a lot of mileage from his looks. So yes. I am going to discuss his looks. He’s made a career on his looks and antics so his looks are part of the whole concept. And yes. I will admit it. Under the tats, and stupid haircut, the dumb idiot strip chin patch, once upon a time, when he hadn’t done quite so many narcotics, he was a good looking guy. Work with me here. Give him a better haircut, a shave, no tats, no drug/drunk eyes and something other than lycra and spiky jewelry and he used to be an okay looking guy. Maybe even a little exotic. Nice bone structure, square jaw, charming smile, full lower lip, pretty eyes, normal nose, shiny dark hair, tall and evenly proportioned body...I just described Pierce Brosnan, John Depp, Bryan Ferry, Cary Grant, Gregory Peck and: Tommy Lee. And no, I'm not lumping him in with those other guys. Tommy is not in their leagues. But. The core features were there. And so help me Universe if anyone thinks I now or ever did have a thing for Tommy Lee you will be hunted down and forced to have lunch with Slanglish and Spanglish. I'm just saying under all the rock star life style accoutrements, Tommy was an okay looking guy.
But now Tommy's looking bad. Really bad. The sex, drugs and rock and roll combined with a less than taught canvas for all those tats have caught up to him in a big way. He’s resembling Mick Jagger, and to be fair to Mick, Mick’s about 20 years older than Tommy. Lots of wrinkles, sagging skin, buggy eyes, no muscle (seriously, for a drummer, he’s got absolutely no arm muscles. What’s up with that, Tommy? I know drugs will rob you of muscle mass but dude, you’re down right scrawny.) He has gone from rock star pin up to Just Say No poster boy. (I can see Tommy’s community service poster: A photo of Tommy, maybe one of his arrest mugshots, “Yeah, Drugs are f*#king cool.” Just Say No. That oughta be enough to scare most kids straight. And, kids contemplating getting tats: Look at Tommy. His skin is sagging and wrinkling. His former taught biceps sporting awesome art now look like a comical sagging satire of an aging rock star. Which is not a bad thing, either, but, we already have a Billy Idol. (Who, by the way, has been working out big time and could obviously kick Tommy’s skinny arse with one blow in a smackdown. And no, I do not now nor have I ever had a thing for Billy Idol.)
Which is what I think is the most compelling trait of this show. Tommy’s done this to himself. He stands before us with 20 years of a very wild, rough, stupid behavior life evident in his looks. He’s making no excuses for himself. His mere look says: “I’ve got all the stuff and all the girls and all the money, I abuse myself and other people for a living. But I’m an idiot and deep down I know I’m an idiot. A very lucky idiot, but an idiot nonetheless. I’m not asking you to feel sorry for me, I’m not asking for redemption. Just look at me as an example of what not to do with your life. It’s worked out sort of okay for me, but I had luck and good timing on my side. Those days are over. Go to school. Work hard on your grades. Don’t marry a girl you’ve only known 4 days. Don’t tape yourself having sex and show it to your friends. Don’t turn your back on kids in a pool for even a second…”
Right down to the shameless and ubiquitous promotion of his new cd every ten minutes, this show is perfect. So perfect there will undoubtedly be many imitations. But. There’s only one Tommy Lee. Thank the Universe for small favors on that score. But. Since we’ve got him, let’s learn from him. There is a little Tommy Lee in all of us. We’ve all done stupid stuff, made some idiotic choices, paid the price for those choices and have a few miles on us as well as a story or two we’d rather not have the entire world know. Tommy will manage, Tommy will somehow survive, and so will we. The difference is, Tommy doesn’t have a Tommy Lee whom he can view and learn what not to do. We do. We don’t have to be Tommy because he does it for us. And that is the real beauty of this show.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005 Opposing Ideas
Most of my friends live very normal and successful lives. Jobs they enjoy which provide them with good salaries. They have stable, loving relationships with spouses or partners. They have nice comfortable homes, good health, satisfying social and extracurricular lives. They are leading, you know, normal, well adjusted lives. Do they want more or better? Oh sure. They’re not stinking rich or charmed with non stop good luck. But they are happy with what they’ve got and are comfortable. They’re not struggling. They have worries and concerns, but not the keep you up at night sort of worries and concerns. And when they do have a problem or challenge, they’ve got partners to support them emotionally, financially and whatever other way they need.
I’m glad my friends are all doing well. I really am. I’m not jealous or envious of them. Maybe of some of their successes, but not of them. I still allow myself to feel a lot of emotions for and about them. Happiness, pride, compassion, love, gratitude... lots of emotions. These are my friends. I like them. I care about them. I want good things for them.
I certainly don’t wish my life on anyone, especially my friends.
I don’t usually talk about the weirdness and unsuccess in my life with them. They get worried and upset for and about me. They feel guilty for having what they’ve got and feel like their mere presence is flaunting success in my face. And yes, sometimes, that is that case. But I don’t blame them, I’m not mad or resentful at them. The situation, yes, but not them. Over the past few years I’ve learned it’s best for everyone if I just say nothing about the failures and strangeness in my life. I don’t lie, I just don’t say anything. I keep the conversation about them and their lives, their spouses, their jobs, their children, their vacations, their homes, their cars, their evolving lives. There’s nothing new, really, in my life anyway, nothing really to talk about which isn’t obvious or hasn’t been discussed. They’ve moved on to the next normal phases of life and I have not. If any of us dwell on it too much it would make us all upset and feel weird and probably erode or at least cause some distance in the friendships.
Consequently most of my friendships have become a little lop sided in the areas of communication. And I’m okay with that, I’ve pretty much orchestrated it. I am not an agony aunt, yet. They’re not only calling me when they have a problem or need a sympathetic ear because they know I’m the one person who will listen and understand. Most of them email or call just to say hi when things are good, which is most of the time. So no resentment in that regard. They do ask how things are with me, but, well, this is where it’s down to my orchestration, “Oh you know, the usual, weird, stupid, frustrating and a little scary. Status quo. How about you? How’s the new job/baby/house/car/vacation?” And from there the conversation involves whatever’s new in their life. Because there are always new things in their lives, and they are almost always good, positive, exciting, happy things. There’s a lot to talk about, a lot of ground to cover in their new whatever. Everything that can be said about the same old status quo in my life has been said, there’s nothing new to discuss.
So last night the phone rang. It was a good friend who lives far far away from me. We usually email and talk only now and then. I could tell she was upset the second I heard her voice. She tried to act casual, “Hi Trill (fake upbeat tone), how’s it going?”
“Hi friend! (sincere upbeat tone) you know, the usual, how about you?”
“Well, you know, okay...” (voice cracking, tears could be seen through the sound of her voice)
“Friend, what’s going on? Are you okay? Husband okay? Parents okay? Dogs okay?”
“Yes, yes, we’re all fine, everyone’s okay. Except, well, me, I guess. I didn’t get the promotion.” (Baaaa haaaaaa haaaaaa, sniff, sniff, waaaaaaaaahhhhh waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhh)
“Oh, friend, I’m so sorry. I know you really wanted that job. They’re stupid for not giving it to you, you were clearly the perfect candidate for it. Probably stupid politics which have nothing to do with you or your abilities.”
“That’s just it, that’s exactly what happened. I was the best candidate for the job, but they gave it to (younger, less qualified boy just out of University). I am certain they gave it to him because someone knows we’re trying to have a baby and they don’t want to risk me leaving in the middle of a project. I mean, I wouldn’t do that! And now that I didn’t get the job and the pay increase the baby plans are going to have be delayed (waaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh waaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh) it’s all so unfair!”
“Wow, yes, friend it is really unfair. Have you gone to HR? Did you ask anyone specifically why you didn’t get the job when you were clearly the best candidate? It probably won’t change anything, but at least it will make them squirm for a few minutes. And more importantly, it will make them aware that you know how their decision was made and that there are potentially serious discrimination issues.”
“(Husband of friend) wants to talk to a lawyer. But I’m not sure that’s a good idea just yet. I have to keep my job, at least until I find a new one, because I can’t stay here now, I have to find another job, I mean, I just can’t stay after all this. And I want (younger, less qualified boy just out of University) to fall flat on his face when I’m gone. I got straight on the phone to (executive recruiting firm), emailed my CV (executive recruiter she used to get her current job). He said there are a couple of opportunities brewing which would be perfect for me.”
“Ah yes, the best revenge is quitting your job. Are you seriously considering a discrimination suit?”
“As soon as I find another job, yes.”
“Isn’t that kind of expensive? And I mean, once you find another job and move on will it really be an issue? I’m not saying it’s right or that they should get away with it, but, I’m just thinking of the legal expenses. The main issue here is that you wanted that promotion because you were qualified and you wanted the extra money so you could begin those baby plans. Without the job and extra money you have to wait a bit longer to have a baby. Won’t legal expenses further delay those plans, too?”
“Yes. And that’s another reason I don’t want to run to a lawyer. But (her husband) is really hot to have a discussion with a lawyer.”
“I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to have a conversation about it.”
“No, I guess not. But I really wanted that j j jo jo job (waaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh waaaaaaaaaahhh)”
“I know, friend, I know. This stinks.”
And there was a long conversation about not getting what she really wanted, rejection, dignity and how to go on after the defeat. All areas I know enough about to be considered an expert. So I knew exactly when to just listen and when to offer some encouragement or ideas.
But here’s the thing. There were several times I was tempted to employ the opposite technique. But what I think were manners and responsibility prevented me from pointing out some issues which make this not such a big deal as it might seem.
She’s currently earning an amazingly high salary. And the promotion would have put her in the “top earner” category. And she does work very hard and is very clever and smart and experienced and all that. I’m not saying she isn’t worth it. And rejection’s the same no matter what the job or salary. If you really want a particular job, it’s the same hurt, the same disappointment, the same licking of wounds and trying not to be too resentful about the whole thing if you’re turned down for senior VP position or a fast food cashier. A lot probably hinges on those potential jobs and paychecks no matter what the job or amount of the paycheck.
But. Many, many people would give anything to be in her current job. She’s got a great gig and she earns a lot of money. She is basically very happy there and didn’t even think about leaving until the new job opened and she applied for the promotion.
And, if she does decide to quit, her husband also earns a very handsome salary in a very secure job in a thriving industry and successful company. She’s got a cushion. She has an out. I’m not saying she should quit just because she can rely on her husband for a few months or however long it takes for her to find a job. Her career is important to her beyond a paycheck. Until she has that baby, next to her husband she devotes much of her time and energy to that job and her career. So no, I’m not saying, “oh big deal, she can quit and her husband can take care of her.”
Normally I would never remind her that she is fortunate to have the cushion to fall into in case she does want to quit or hire a lawyer. Because that’s not the point. The point is that she was not given a promotion she honestly deserved, probably because she is a woman of child bearing age.
But. The fact is, she can hire a recruiter or a lawyer or quit or do whatever she wants because she’s got a partner who can soften at least the financial blow to the budget.
All of that was going through my mind and I nearly employed the oppositing technique. I wondered if a few reminders about her not so awful life might help her feel better about the whole thing. I chose to take my usual route and stayed very quiet about her not so bad life because right then she was upset about not getting the job and that’s understandable. I feel very bad for her. The licking of wounds and realizing things aren’t so bad after all will come in a few days or weeks.
And I was concerned it might come across as catty or jealous or angry. And I was truly not feeling any of those things. I was feeling very little emotion at all, actually. I wasn’t trying to void emotion, or even having no expectations. But. It’s kind of becoming a way of life. Which is good, for the most part. However, in the case of the people I actually care about I’m not sure this is a good thing.
Maybe if it weren’t involving issues which hit so close to home for me. Maybe if I were in a job I liked or at least paid a decent salary for the work I do I could be more sympathetic. Maybe if I had a husband. Maybe if I were trying to have a baby. Maybe if I weren’t sitting there looking at a bowl of dry store brand cereal for dinner because the store brand is 40 cents cheaper than the national brand and milk isn’t on sale until Thursday. Maybe then I could risk saying the opposite of the conventional supportive comment. I wouldn’t sound bitter and jealous. But that’s a lot of maybes. So I was sympathetic and understanding of her emotional distress.
We ended the conversation on a positive note, she had calmed down and seemed to be in a lot better mood. And that’s really all that matters.
Except. I’m now trying to sort out if the void of emotions, no expectations, do the opposite thing might be helpful in the relationships where I didn’t think I would employ the technique. Would it make me a better or worse friend to point out the obvious? That can come across as dismissive. “Eh, so what. You didn’t get the promotion, big deal. You still have a great job, money in the bank, a husband with a great salary. Rejection sucks, they’re stupid and wrong for not giving you the promotion, but you’re no worse off than you were before the job became available. You’ll have a baby in the next few years and probably not even be working. In the grand scheme of things this is inconsequential to your five year plan.” However, it’s true. But the slap in the face sort of reality has never been something I like to administer to people whose emotions matter to me. (Hence my inability to ever slate out HWNMNBS or even get angry with him.) But I wonder if maybe that’s not actually a good thing. Maybe I’m not actually being a good friend. Oh sure, I’ll be tactfully honest about an unflattering dress or recipe that needed a little more something, but those are inconsequential honesties (unless the dress is to be worn on a first date or the recipe served to a mother-in-law). Maybe doing the opposite would ultimately be better in some of these cases. Maybe my friend needed to be brought back to reality. Maybe by being understanding and well mannered and responsible I did both of us an injustice. But she’s my friend and I would never do anything which would offend or hurt her. What would be the point of bitch slapping her with reality, maybe even my reality, when all she needed was a sympathetic ear and friendly shoulder for a few minutes?
I knew there would be situations where the no expectation, no emotion, oppositing technique would cause questions, concerns and hurt feelings. But I didn’t anticipate the main issue and how I feel about it:
I’m not a selfish person. It’s just not how I am. Emotions or not, I have almost no ego and never think of myself or needs first. I just simply do not. Don’t tell me to change. I can’t do that any more than I can change my height or eye color. But. The no emotions thing, and the subsequent honesties and reality bitch slaps it might cause are going to make me feel selfish. Yes. Feel. And that’s a problem. The whole point of this was to void emotions. But, it could potentially cause a big emotional vortex in the form of selfishness. I’m not giving anything of myself, investing emotions on anyone but a few close and trusted people. This is selfish behavior. Oh sure, manners, responsibility and all that. Those will get me through the casual encounters with strangers or inconsequential situations. But. The bigger situations where I opt out of emotions and walk away leaving no trace of myself behind are going to make me feel very selfish. Feel. I’ll end up exactly the opposite of my goal. I’ll be feeling a humdinger of an emotion in the form of selfishness.
Monday, August 15, 2005 Desperate Housewives: Not Just for Primetime Anymore
A woman I used to know, a woman who was sort of a friend, well, I mean, yes, we were friends, for a while, came into town from the suburbs.
We worked together, briefly, several years ago. She had a young child and husband but she managed to find time do "single" stuff with me. She worked, she didn't want to move to the suburbs, we shared affinities for Will Self and Danish Modern, and, well, we had enough in common to be friendly.
But then she had another baby. And they needed a bona fide home instead of a cramped condo in a high rise.
They grudgingly began looking to the suburbs because that's where they could afford a home large enough to make a move "worth it." I understood their situation. I encouraged them. "Hey, you both work in the city, it wouldn’t be so awful. It's all about attitude. You don't want to be a suburbanite so you won't become one. You'll just happen to live outside the city limits. Really. It's for the best for everyone. And it really is a lovely home. Think of all the space you'll have. And a yard. And really, it'll be fine."
Their second baby was born with a lot of serious health problems which required many doctor and special care facility visits.
Eventually the choice was made that she would quit her job because their children needed a full time mother more she needed a full time job. I understood. I applauded and encouraged her decision. It was going to put a huge financial strain on them, but, it was all about priorities and the children, and, I mean, most of us would do the same if there was a way we could.
Naturally her trips into the city became very infrequent. She was becoming a suburbanite. I understood. I was a little surprised because she was so, well, unsuburban, but, well, I mean it's not as if it's a bad thing, what with the children and everything. Every time I talked to her she seemed happy. And that's all that matters. Period.
I haven't heard from her in a while. We drifted. That's what happens when you don't follow a normal life path, or, well, the path most people take: Spouse, house, children. We're living very different lives with very different realities and concerns to manage. She barely remembers what it's like to live in the city, seems to have no recollection of what a pain in the behind an office job can be, and she certainly is completely out of touch with what it's like to be single.
I have no clue what it's like to be a married housewife with two children in the suburbs. She hasn't read a book except for what's on Oprah's reading list or childrens' books in years. Danish Modern? Not child friendly. Not warm and inviting. Bring on the overstuffed floral prints.
We have nothing in common.
Neither one of us sent holiday greetings, not even emails this year. Every now and then she'll forward me something she thinks I mind find interesting, and every now and then I ask how she and the kids are doing.
Then I got an email: Hi Trill, a group of us are coming into the city Saturday night. It would be great if you could join us for a drink or dinner. Also, could clue me in on some of the better night spots? I haven't been downtown in so long I don't even know where the good places are. I'm the only one in the group who ever lived in the city and they are leaving the choices up to me. Help! I'm so out of touch! I'm so suburban!
Well. At least she's self aware.
And so I donned my cute pleated skirt and bright blazer (well, metaphorically) and became: Tricia McMillian: Social Planner.
And it's not that I mind doling out some ideas for places to go. Chicago has a lot to offer. And in a weird way, it's almost flattering she thinks I am in touch with the good places and wants my advice. A bit difficult for me, you know, still single, still "out there" in clubland.
Well. I've never really been in clubland. I'm more of a small bar/lounge/concert venue type of gal, but, I am at least aware of The Places To Go and which are worth the effort and which are not.
I dashed her a list of some of my favorite places as well as the places I know suburbanites flock to when they're in town for a big night in the city wanting to do it up right and go home and feel like they're cool and relevant and not suburban. I told her maybe I could meet them for a drink or two.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "NOOOOOOOOO, Trillian, don't go! This is not a good idea for you! Don't do it Trillian, don't do it!!!!"
Believe me, I thought that, too. I thought about it a long time. Normally I would have been filled with expectations about how a night with a bunch of suburban housewives I don't even know in town looking for fun would be nothing shy of torture and agony.
But not now.
No expectations. No good, no bad.
And I did the exact opposite of what I would normally do. I agreed to meet them for a drink.
Of course the second I met them in one of the "cool" bars I suggested I was scrutinized by six pairs of judging eyes. I was: Exhibit A: Never Married, No Children, Career Woman. And they were studying me with all the curiosity and jokes and photo opportunities people use when looking at a dinosaur or primitive living display at a museum.
All the polite introductions and remarks were made with a lot of comments. "Hi, I'm Jill. Mary told us all about you. It's so cool you live in the city. I always wanted to, but I married right out of college, got a job in the suburbs and the commute and high cost of living just never made sense."
"It is expensive down here. Do you own or rent?" another quickly chimed in, with what I am sure was an "a ha! gotcha!" look.
"I rent." I said. No emotion. I'd like to think they wouldn't be able to tell if I was happy or upset about being a renter because I said it so flatly. But rent is a four letter word to people like this. Most of them are probably half way through a 20 or 30 year mortgage and are feeling very smug and secure in the escrow they're accumulating.
My friend said, "Trllian just moved to a place on the Lake." (Thanks friend, I owe you one for that attempt at redemption.)
"Ooooooh, I love the Lake!" A woman, the one woman apart from my friend in the group I thought I might actually like, said, or rather slurred. She'd undoubtedly doesn't drink often and that cosmopolitan was going straight to her tongue.
"Yeah, me, too. It's the main reason I chose Chicago as a place to live. The Lake really is a changing canvas every hour of every day..." I started to enthuse about the picturesque qualities of Lake Michigan. But I was interrupted by another one of the women.
"Are you by Bloomies or are you in one of those old places up North?" a woman I affectionately named Bitsy barked at me.
I'd like to think she didn't mean that to sound quite as aggressive as it did. But that would require me to lie to myself and you. She was absolutely fishing to see just what part of town I lived in and subsequently my net worth. I wanted to lie and say, humbly, apologetic like, "one of those old places up North" in an attempt to make her look like the snob she is in front of her friends. But my friend, my friend who thought she was coming to my rescue butted in and said, "Right in the epicenter of the Gold Coast," and began rattling off all the Gold Coast features of my neighborhood. You know, the ones I never talk about because they're the ones I don't care about or even know exist. I never, ever refer to my address as the Gold Coast and I don't like it when other people badger me about "admitting" where I live. Yes. I'm in a bit of denial over this. But, on the other hand, I'm not exactly livin' la vida lavish so it's honestly a misnomer for me to say I live in the Gold Coast for any implication other than the physical address of my compartment on a real estate boundary map.
Bitsy, however, was visibly impressed, but was sizing me up even more aggressively. She was sussing out the obvious: I'm not typical Gold Coast material. So I must be the white trash of the neighborhood. Her unnaturally sharp angled nose was visibly higher in the air after her thorough assessment of me.
Booze. I need booze over here! Stat!
The evening progressed in much the same manner. The conversation was dominated by talk of husbands and children and home decorating and vacations and lots and lots of remarks about other people in the bars we visited. Apart from my friend and the nice woman, the women were getting proportionally cattier and louder with each passing drink. My friend, nice woman and myself were getting proportionally more embarrassed and quieter with each passing drink. The catty remarks were coming from insecure women. They were out of their suburban element and comfort zone. They wanted this big night in the city, they bought new outfits and had their hair done and wore the good make-up. But they all have obvious suburban looks to them. Even my friend who used to have a pretty hard edge to her look and manner has taken on that suburban look.
The women were like young girls, awe struck by the other women out on the town, city girls who do this whenever they way, maybe even as a way of life. But they were obviously feeling insecure in their suburban, unhip, I don't get out much except to a chain restaurant now and then looks.
Ha! Yes! She scores! I know I'm being as catty as they are, but I'm thinking of this is a check and balance sort of thing. They called most of the younger, prettier, better dressed women they saw out on the town sluts, bitches and skanks. They may have been true in a few cases, but, not worth stating or even noticing in the first place. I made a few attempts to defend some of the girls who fell under their attacks, "I like that top." "That's a great haircut, I wish my hair would do that." "She doesn't seem that skanky to me." It was a loosing battle. These were drunk, insecure women. There's nothing cattier known to humankind. So I just shut up and nursed my drink and tried to talk to my friend and the nice girl.
Once we settled into a comfy place, a place I'd made a few table arrangements at for the evening because, well, I could, I know the place, I've booked events there and well, I did something I rarely do, I pulled out a favor and had a very cool best table in the crowded lounge. Right. I did them all a huge favor and not only got them into a very hot lounge on a Saturday night, I got them a VIP table. Yeah yeah. Whatever. Hold your applause or abuse until the end of the program. I'm not trying to impress you or them. I was trying to do something nice for this group of complete strangers simply because I could. They are friends of my friend. I thought they'd get a kick out of it. I thought they'd have a good time. I thought since they don't get into the city much it would be something they'd really enjoy. I didn't expect them to be gracious or humble or even polite guests.
But. I also didn't expect them to be catty, foul mouthed embarrassments, either. I didn't expect anything, good or bad.
But as we know, I'm an idiot.
Yadda yadda yadda, lesson learned. Note to self: Never again.
The doing a nice thing for complete strangers where alcohol is involved thing, not the no expectations thing.
Fortunately I'm not feeling a lot of emotions these days. If I were the old me I'd be feeling embarrassment, shame, humility, sorrow, regret, and well, probably a lot of anger. Now I'm just glad the whole thing is over. The women are home, safe and secure in the suburbs, nursing super sized hangovers. In a few days, when they're able to face the day light without vomiting, they'll start remembering some of the evening. I suspect most of them will remember that wild night they went into town, got really drunk and had a great time.
Memories can be selective that way, especially with that oh so special cocktail of 40 proof vodka and no self awareness or shame with an insecurity chaser. That cocktail is what keeps suburban housewives smug and superior and singles bar guys self assured and back in the clubs and full of hope and bravado every weekend. Oh sure, they all behave badly, make fools of themselves and drag innocent victims into their boozey display of bad manners and bad taste. But all they'll remember is what a great time they had.
They won't remember how they set up an ad hoc judging table, criticizing everyone they could see, loudly enough for almost everyone in the lounge to hear, even over the increasingly loud music. They won't remember how they embarrassed a girl celebrating her 21st birthday by loudly proclaiming she looks a lot older than 21 and criticizing her entire outfit. They won't remember how they ganged up on a gay couple when their "oooh, let's flirt with those cute guys" game of sending several rounds of drinks and salacious winks and cleavage at them backfired in a bad way. They won't remember the way too loud mean and callous remarks they made about every woman there. They won't remember how they made vulgar and rude comments about and to every man in the club. They'll especially forget that part. Just like they forgot about their husbands and children after two drinks. They certainly won't remember how they became proportionally cruel to the woman they had never met but who arranged their VIP table for them. They won't remember how they told her it was obvious why she's single and always will be, even though she didn't ask for their opinion or even slightly hint that she was unhappy being single. (Hey, there are people who want to be single. They didn't know I'm not one of them.)
They won't remember any of that and it's just as well for everyone involved.
I had no expectations and have no emotions invested in them or any of what happened that night. However, it occurred to me even though I'm not feeling anything, there are still lessons to be learned. So I allowed myself to review a bit of the evening and some of the comments which were made. This was an honest effort to try to learn something from this. You know, out of the mouths of babes (or drunk housewives) and all that.
I didn't come up with anything. Which is a bit frustrating because I thought maybe a lesson or insight learned from all of it might make it all worth while. The challenge for me is that every time I take one of their criticisms or digs at me and try to spin it into a positive lesson and advice I am confronted with the problem of considering the source. There's a bigger umbrella issue here.
What I'm not understanding is the duality of their mindset. On the one hand they seem either smug in their suburbaness, their husbands, children, home and lack of job or financial contribution to their family income or, uncomfortable with it and subsequently overly defensive about it. They are united in their need to show off their lives as being superior to mine, or, if not superior, at least normal.
And yet, it never seems to occur to them that either a) I might actually want what they've got, or, that, maybe, I'm upset because I don't have a husband and family and a home to call ours, and maybe, just maybe, their not always so passive aggressive observations and remarks about my carefree party all the time single life which must get boring or shallow sometimes (another quote from Bitsy) hurt me and make me feel even worse about my lonely, pathetic isolated life, or b) I might not want any of what they've got and am in fact very happy with my life and they shouldn't judge or care about how I (or anyone else) lives their life.
They can be smug because yes, they've made a success of their role in evolution. They found a mate willing to, well, mate with them, and they've reproduced. They earned that and deserve the superior attitude over me, she who was unsuccessful.
However, it's not their job to criticize anyone in the herd who's not successful. The sick, elderly and unsuitable of the species are always abandoned by the rest of the herd. It's for the greater good of the species. Any member of the herd who is unsuccessful and will in any way jeopardize the herd by either calling attention to it from stalkers higher up the food chain or being a drain on the resources and not provide much in the way of anything useful for the herd's way of life and evolution. So the herd simply abandons them. They don't ridicule or gang up on them. This would call attention to the outcast and act as a beacon to stalkers higher up on the food chain. They just leave them alone and let them fend for themselves, letting nature take it's course. There's no insult with the injury. They just move on and get on with their evolution.
I realize insecurity is a human emotion and concept and therefore these woman cannot be dealt with in a rational herd like manner.
It's interesting to note that they do not realize if there's anything they should feel about me and my "situation" it's silent pity without a look of pity or in any way calling attention to my situation. They are not completely unaware, because they observed and reacted and comment. Yet they are completely intolerant or at least uncompassionate to any woman who doesn’t have what they have.
But what do they have? I’d like think if I’d had a marriage and house and children I wouldn’t have ended up like them. Maybe that’s what they thought, too. Certainly my friend didn’t think she’d end up like this, but then again, she’s not really like them. Well. Not too much. She did make it clear that I “need” a husband if for no other reason so that I can buy a home. (See a trend here? Lately everything and everyone in my life is consumed with homeownership. It’s really weird. Every day I am confronted with some conversation about this topic and the horrible state of my lowly renter’s existence.) I’ve been thinking about this random sampling of women. All married, all mothers, all homeowners, all suburbanites. I’m not saying all suburbanites are like this, okay? I’m not. I’m just saying this is a type of suburban woman: Smug and superior, yet insecure and threatened.
I took me a day of thinking about it, but I realized there’s really nothing to be learned from them. I don’t value their opinion or their lifestyles. Would I like what they’ve got? No. The surface stuff, the husband, the children, the home, yes, that would be great. But. Underneath the basic commodities, they’re emotionally bankrupt. You’re sitting there thinking, “Well, Trill, so are you. Remember? The whole void of emotion thing?”
Yes. I remember it very well. It got me through yet another potentially upsetting episode. And I thought about that, too. I thought maybe they’ve found the secret of void of emotions to deal with less than loving or idea marriages, motherhood which isn’t the nonstop joy they thought it would be, and the fiscal realities of providing a comfortable and secure home for themselves and their children.
But I don’t think that’s the case. They are not void of emotion, they are emotional voids. I can and want to function in society. My void of emotions state requires me to be responsible and maintain manners. They are irresponsible and lack manners. They are functioning in society but not really.
And they are delusional. The really weird thing about all of this (at least to me) is that they “jokingly” referred to themselves as desperate housewives. I don’t watch the show, but, I know the premise. It’s not exactly a lifestyle worth identifying with or mimicking. Call me stupid, pathetic or crazy, but I don’t want to identify with a group of women who struggle to maintain a façade of bliss and calm success in the suburbs when inside those successful exteriors they’re having sex with underaged boys, covering up murder and raising ill mannered, troubled children. These are not successful people. These are deeply troubled and, well, really swutted up characters on a television show. Suburban women everywhere: Desperate Housewives is making fun of you, it’s parodying the dark side of your Betty Crocker lives. It’s not something to which you should be aspiring. And if that sort of thing IS happening in your neighborhood, it’s not exactly brag worthy. The name of the show is Desperate Housewives. Desperate. Do you understand what desperate means? It’s not a good thing. It means involving extreme danger or possible disaster. Like the characters on the show, you should be trying to keep it all very quiet. You should be worried and embarrassed and well, really concerned, if not for yourselves, for your children.
And if you are desperate housewives, why are you so quick and eager to criticize anyone who is not like you? You’re the ones who should be taking a good look around at people who are not like you and trying to learn how to change your lives.
I’m not going to say this was an eye opening evening and that I have a newfound happiness in my singleness. Nothing’s changed for me. In fact, it’s given me hope that I might actually find that unemotional financial marriage partner. These women did it, or that’s what most of their marriages seem to have become. If I’m successful in my plan to find a financial marriage partnership I’ll be in exactly the same situation as these women. All I will have done is skip the early delusional we’re so in love and raising children years. The end result will be the same. An emotionally void marriage with a home and some financial security.
Am I judging them too harshly when I only them on one drunken evening? Probably. But. That's how they judged me. A level playing field with one exception: They brought their predetermined expectations of me with them. I didn't have any expectations for or of them. This isn't a lesson in right and wrong, but an observation on a tale of two mindsets. They left with exactly the same expectations of me that they brought with them. Nothing I could have said or done would change their opinion of me or their expectations. I went into the evening with no expectations or opinions, and came away with plenty of observations and data to form concrete theories and behavior models.