NaBloPoMo’12: A Scandal in Suburbia

Tonight was “make up Halloween” on my in-laws side of town, so while Charlie and I watched A Scandal in Belgravia, my mother-in-law sat in the wasp room (apparently, they’re having a problem with wasps (not the Protestant kind) in the house, and as such, have quarantined the living room), waiting for trick-or-treaters.

By the way, A Scandal in Belgravia was awesome, but I totally did an, “Oh, come on!!” at the end.

There were only 5 trick-or-treaters this year, a record-setting low for them.

Since moving out to Chestertucky, I think there have been a total of five trick-or-treaters in my whole tenure. Even Charlie, down in Ashland, only had one this year.

What happened to trick-or-treating? Have we replaced it with “trunk-or-treating” so that our kids are safer? Do kids just not trick-or-treat in lieu of having Halloween parties at school?

I look back on my time trick-or-treating with great fondness, having two huge blocks I could cover in an evening. And it was about showing of your costume to the neighbors (and for me, being the weirdo innocent voyeur I was, seeing how people lived by what I could see in through their front doors), and hoping you ran into friends so you could see their costumes.

And there’s part of me that thinks that if kids don’t have that now, that’s a bummer. I feel like they’re missing something vital to the fabric of their childhood. But I suppose that is the lament of those getting older. Experiences become different for each new generation, but maybe no less steeped with meaning.

Excising the Tumor

Recently, the Wall Street Journal had a column advising how to break up with a friend, and the Jezebel editors turned it out to their members who told a great many stories about friend breakups they’d been through and were considering in the future.

For the past few days, I have been constantly thinking of this article, and mulling over the stories of others who’ve been in friend breakups, as well as my own.  My heart poured out to the women who’d been through some ugly friendships; but I spent a good portion mourning the deaths of my own.

I don’t even break up with friends so much as I’ve let them fizzle out:  I have balked the hard work it takes to maintain a friendship.  It has never been fair of me to ask or to expect K and The Boy to bear the burdens of all of my interpersonal needs.  I have been a bad friend to everyone involved, and I miss the friendships that I have let wither.

In college, I was friends with a woman who was particularly damaged and angry with the way her friendships had turned out, and said (something like) these friendships don’t matter: you’re together for four years, and then you all move away.  Foolishly, I clung to this mantra as solace during a time when I was too unhappy with who I was to be a good friend to anyone. I let that negative-thinking cancer fester in me for far too long, and now my web of friends is tenuously connected, and has some large holes in it.

It must be part of this great Saturn Return I’m going through, but I’m internalizing how wrong this woman’s thought-process was.  More still, shame on me for allowing that negative thinking to take root in me like a tumor!

How stupid have I been to eschew my friendships?  When making a mental audit of my life and realizing that I have few things going how I’d planned, there should be meaning, fulfillment, and reward  in my friendships.  Now, more than ever, I need to foster a rich and fulfilling network of friends.

Atonements need to be made for my disappearing act in the last 4 years.  I will need to work, work, work to rebuild my friendships.  I am going to have to put a lot of sweat equity into breathing life back into these loose relationships if I want to keep them and make them grow.

There is a beautiful thing about setting it all right: that I can be a better person and start fresh.  All it takes is a small gesture: a sent birthday card, a quick email, a Facebook poke.  I hope that old friends will welcome me back, but that if some of my friendships are too far gone to revive, that I can accept that with dignity and grace.

But I have to start somewhere, and what better time to start than now?

The “In” Crowd

I had an odd experience happen to me in grade school that has affected my “need to fit in” when in a group setting.

I have always been classified as weird, which is an adjective I do take pride in now, but in grade school, I couldn’t wear it quite as the badge of honor that I do know.  Of course, being labeled as “weird” in grade school meant 8 years of being ignored or persecuted for the most part.

I’ve largely gotten over this: I’ve been enough of a leader in high school, college, and now in my career that people accept that I’m a little goofy, but largely a good person to like and to know.  For the most part, I’ve been able to ignore those who don’t care for me and am able to coexist nicely.

In sixth grade, we had a new girl who moved to town, who was quickly absorbed by the Populars – sat near them in classes, had companions during recess and lunch, guaranteed dates to middle school dances – someone to be a part of the clique.  Her popularity itself didn’t surprise me too much, she really was of the “type” (wealthy and vapid); but what unsettle me was how readily-accepted she was.

Then again, I had established myself as weird pretty early in the game.

At any rate, I cornered one of the Populars in the bathroom one afternoon (my only real stand against the status quo through those long years of grade school) and I asked her, “Why does [New Girl] get to sit with you at lunch, hang with you at recess? How do I get to be a part of your group? How do you let people in?”

I think the Popular I cornered was pretty shocked that I had even bothered to talk to her, much less ask a question of great importance.  After floundering for words for a moment, replied coolly, “You can talk to us.  You can sit with us at lunch.  You can talk to us on the phone.”

Even then I knew it was all bullshit.  Effectively, I would have to skin a sheep, wear it on my back into the flock, and hope no one noticed my salivating-for-popularity chops until I was accepted.  I had no intention of putting myself out there for their approval and acceptance; they already had enough made-up ammunition in their persecution of me, why give them anything concrete?

And just like that, the exchange was over.  The Populars never had anything to fear, thinking and waiting for me to try and wedge myself into their clique.  And I returned to my books and my occasional friend, ultimately shaping myself into who I am today.

I think of that incident today because I’m thinking of cliques as they exist in the adult world.  I just realize that not everyone gets to be readily-accepted to every social group that they float through in life.  This realization might crush some people.  I still sleep relatively well at night, because the people who do let me in to their group are the ones I really want to be with.

I just don’t have time to wonder how much cooler it would be to be a part of a group that clearly doesn’t need me.

Project 365

Your year-long photo album will be an amazing way to document your travels and accomplishments, your haircuts and relationships. Time moves surprisingly fast.

An age that I have been really looking forward to – for whatever reason – is 26. I just feel as though I will actually feel as old as I am; that I will really feel like an adult. In some way, that’s true: I will have been able to drive for ten years, smoke for eight, drink for five and rent a luxury car for one. I will be out of the early 20’s I was still considered too young to know any better, but I’m still young enough that I can be “upwardly mobile youth” with fresh ideas and energy to spare.

But, I have an entire year to wait for my perceived “golden age”, and I feel as though I were having a quarter-life (if I can be so lucky that I’m only now reaching a quarter-life) crisis. This isn’t where I thought I would be in my life. In the immortal words of Val-Kilmer-cum-Doc-Holliday, “There is no such thing as a ‘normal life’, there’s just life. You get on with it.”

So, am I disappointed? In some ways – frankly – yes, I’m very disappointed; but at the same time, all of a sudden, I’m coming into my own, I am finding the confidence in myself do the things that make me happy, and cultivate relationships that are important, nurturing, and fun. Options for where I want to take my life have been presenting themselves. These are options that may not have even come to be without the unsaid events that have been my disappointments.

Even though I’m going to be only 25, in some ways, I just feel very, very old: I feel like I’m too old to go back to school, I’m too old to start on a “career path”, I’m too old to like certain things, I’m too old to get into really decent physical shape. I’m panicking, because I’m too young to feel this “left behind”.

In an effort to face my fears, to confront these issues, I have decided that I need to capture the “year I feel ‘old’” up until “the age I can’t wait to be”; so for an entire year, I’m going to participate in Project 365 and capture an entire year in pictures.

StyckyWycket Project 365

NaBloPoMo’08, Day 11: Travel America

The Boy and I, ages 18 and 21.
The Boy and I (ages 21 and 18 respectively) when we first started dating.

Back when I started college, Ashland was a different place than it is today.  It had not yet seen the growth that you would see now.  In the fall of 2002, if you got off US 250, you would not have seen a Goasis loaded with FlexFuel gas pumps, a Starbucks, a Popeyes, and a Pizza Hut.  You would have seen an old Travel America, set back a little from the road, potholes through the parking lot, sketchy looking hillbillies rambling in and out, and usually three to five semis parked in the back.

Open all night, the TA was a good place for a trucker to get a good meal, talk with his boss on a phone at the table, take a shower, pick up a carton of smokes for the road, and maybe even get some stuff for the cab.  My favorite staple of the truck stop is the mirrored glass case showcasing the standard glass art fair: roses, dragons, fairies, cats, swords, etc.  Despite the blessing of its existence for the road-weary traveler, this TA was a total hole, but maybe that’s what made it perfect for The Boy’s and my early courtship.

He and I were talking tonight, and during lulls in the conversation, I use the idle filler, “Tell me a story” in the hopes that somehow, we’ll get the conversation going again.

He’s always been good at telling me stories, I think that’s part of the reason why he and I fell in love – I’m a sucker for a story.  I may have mentioned this before, but The Boy went to the brother high school of mine, but he was a senior the year I was a freshman, and I was a transfer-in student when I was a sophomore.  So, by the time I even got to Beaumont, The Boy had already gotten to Ashland, and any chance of him and I running into each other in high school had been quashed.  At any rate, The Boy (and the Twins) have a lot of stories to share about the time they spent at Benedictine.

In December of 2002, the anti-smoking law in Ohio hadn’t passed yet, and I was a kid fresh from the watchful eye of parents, so finding a place to sit and smoke was the most appealing option.  This TA was apparently an old hangout of some of the band and KKY kids, and The Boy followed suit.  The waitress was usually kind, and kept the ashtray empty and the coffee cup full.

He and I would roll into TA at about 10 at night, order food, coffee and Diet Coke and sit for hours telling each other stories.  He told me all of the hijinks he’d gotten into with JohnBoy during high school, and eventually the stories about him in college.  I heard a those stories for the first time on those nights; and they are stories I love to hear over and over again, because every time I hear them, I remember those cold nights when we first started dating and I wanted to imbibe everything he had to offer.  He was the first guy I’d met who had interests other than of himself, much less interests at all.  He was charming, sweet, attentive, smart, and chivalrous enough to buy my food and Diet Coke on his meager $44/pay period income from lifeguarding at the university’s gym.

I do appreciate the economic growth and change of Ashland.  There’s a part of me that finds it heartening that there is a Super Wal-Mart and a Starbucks on the main highway into Ashland.  But at the same time, I get sad when I look at the Goasis, and in my mind, I can faintly see a shadow of the TA that was – I see the place where The Boy and I first began to fall in love.  That’s what makes me the most sad about the advent of change – the seemingly sterile erasure of an entire history.  The only upside that I have to show for that entire part of my history is I still have the person I shared it with.