Thursday, November 29, 2007

Twenty One Things Best Not Mentioned, Really

Okay. So, to review:

1. Live in a circle of filth
2. Have less self esteem than a small writhing self-esteemless thing
3. Totally incapable of choosing romantic partners who are literate, nice, or sane, regardless of their gender
4. Own more animals than is normal or non-pathetic
5. Am possessed of more books than most used bookstores and still have nothing to read tonight
6. Have many artistic talents which are greatly underused and probably overestimated
7. Am approaching the physical age of 39 while emotionally not quite 13
8. Am completely incompetent dog owner as 2 year old dog still barely understands rudimentary commands such as "Sit", "Come" and "Stop eating your poop, goddamnit!!!"

In addition, I

9. Am continually on the brink of financial ruin even though have "professional" "managerial" type job due to having chosen

10. World's most wildly underpaid profession which unfortunately I totally love and cannot imagine not doing, esp at current position which is absolute dream job where I float around wondering at my luck in spending my days doing what I'm doing, and loving where am doing it in spite of being paid so little that literally am half supported by parents.

11. May be going completely insane as last night dreamed that I was breastfeeding a baby all night long which on closer inspection turned out to be a pug puppy, which in the dream was a big relief as could not remember actually bearing the child/puppy and YET was producing breastmilk [dream breastmilk, not actual breast milk] which was perfectly normal [????] and somehow woke up at least relieved that it was not as disturbing as other recent dream in which I

13. Actually gave birth to 13 golden retriever puppies and felt the labor pains, which in the morning discovered were actually

14. Menstrual cramps, which also had this morning, leading me to believe that perhaps in spite of all efforts since early childhood to deny such, actually DO have a biological clock, which

15. Is ticking frantically, although, disturbingly, for wrong species as last I checked am still mostly human.

16. Should be doing nothing except sewing, knitting, and beading as Christmas is coming and have finished precisely none of the approximately 507 gifts I am planning to make, on top of the other projects I am obsessed with working on yet am

17. Not doing, because I'd rather be enumerating lists of my own shortcomings to distract myself from the fact that

18. Am still single and

19. Don't particularly want to be because

20. Am in throes of worst crush have had in a good ten years which is extremely embarassing and lame and on someone so inappropriate that must stop writing now for fear that even thinking of said crush will cause someone to guess who it is which will result in horrible things such as being laughed at, rejected, or, worst of all,

21. Liked in return.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Circle of Filth

I know that from that last entry it may sound, just a bit, as though I live in a rather chaotic environment. That’s because I do. I am physically incapable of being neat and organized, and no matter what I do, I seem to live in a continual circle of filth. Although it doesn’t actually consist of dirt--its more made up of books, yarn, beads, and okay, a lot of dog hair.

“Circle of filth” is a term coined by my sister in law, who first used it to to describe the mess that my father is capable of creating around himself in five seconds flat. He can enter a lovely room with everything in its place, sit down, and a few minutes later there are empty cups, spoons, floods of newspapers, and bits of paper towel. And, on Wednesdays, nail clippings. He gets very, very angry at the fact that we all noticed years ago that he has a specific day for nail clipping, because he hates for his OCD to be noticed. One might say, he’s almost compulsive about it. You would think someone as OCD as he is would be neater, but sadly that is not the case.

When David Sedaris described growing up with his parents as akin to “being raised by a pair of housecats”, I felt a chord resonate deep within my cluttered and dusty soul. Because that’s what growing up in our house was like. We didn’t do things like eat around the dinner table every night, and we certainly didn’t have stupid rules like other kids about bedtime and keeping our rooms clean. I like cats, and I like my parents. And actually, I guess comparing my parents to cats isn’t quite fair, because cats are very clean animals. Its just that cleaning was never a priority in our house. I don’t mean for it to sound like we lived in squalor, because we really didn’t. It’s just that my family has always had a lot of stuff, and by stuff I mean books. We vacuumed and washed the dishes and all of that, but actually putting things away was not a goal. Although every so often my OCD father would decide that he was tired of the various bookbags and shoes lying in the entryway and simply throw them into the yard.

I once toyed with the idea of putting my house up for sale, and had a realtor walk through it. Since my house is very small, this took only about four minutes, after which the poor woman had to sit down and be brought a glass of water and the smelling salts. Well, not really, but if I’d had any lying around I would have waved them at her. When she regained the ability to speak she said “PODS. We’re going to need at least three PODS just for the books!!!” I said “But why? Can’t I just kind of, you know, organize them or something? Maybe actually put them all on shelves?”
She explained to me that when you sell a house, you want the “lines” or “the bones” of the house to show, and that mine was too full of books to even designate actual rooms except by saying “that’s the room with the craft books” or “that’s the room with all the holocaust memoirs”, and that furthermore, having too many books can confuse and intimidate buyers. ??????????????????? What? Confuse and intimidate them??? But there are mostly democrats in this neighborhood! Republicans wouldn't fit in here!!!

I didn’t sell my house after all, mostly because I was going to sell it to move in with a woman who let slip during the process of making an offer on a place that the downstairs spare room would be a great place for her 75 year old ex husband to “stay in”. !!!!!!
The house hunting and the relationship ended shortly after that. It’s one thing to get involved with someone 20 years older than you are.....quite another when that person has an ex spouse who is 20 years older than HER who she’s not only still in touch with, but whom she’s thinking of caring for in his twilight years!!!! IN YOUR HOUSE!!!! See: Why I Am Still Single.

Anyway. One of the reasons I obsess about my cluttered house so much is because everyone else in the world seems to care so much about having nicely decorated homes with color coordinating throw pillows and I just cannot for the life of me understand it. I choose my homes by the amount of space they have for bookshelves. I don’t care about things like breakfast nooks and closet space and whether or not my hardwood floors are red oak [actually, they might be: don’t know, and don’t care].

I care about how much uninterrupted wall space I have for bookshelves and stacks of books. I also need room for craft supplies, but even those are secondary to the books.

This is how I was raised. I do not trust people who don’t have lots of books in their homes. I don’t think they’re normal, and I know they’re boring. And while I know there are people who read who don’t actually buy or keep books, I find those people rather suspicious as well. Because I suspect that those are people who read for a specific reason, such as spiritual growth or impressing other people, and I don’t trust them either. Reading should be done like anything else that’s truly worth doing, because you love it and because without it, you feel empty. People who read books only for specific reasons, well, they’re usually just performing a chore, like Oh, i have to pick up the dry cleaning, oh, I have to get my pelvic exam, oh, i have to read oprah’s latest pick so I can talk about it at the playground with all of the other soccer moms. Retch.

I read like a fiend as a child. I still do, but I literally always had my nose in a book for the first ten or so years of life. I brought books everywhere. We were always driving somewhere, and at that age I could still read in the car. I would take walks and read while walking, a skill which has proved particularly useful in my choice of career. I hated going out to eat, because that meant I couldn’t read at the table. Since at home we rarely ate around the table, I always read while eating, a habit that I’ve continued, much to the horror of all the weight loss experts. I read before bed, but never had to use a flashlight under the covers because as long as I was in bed, my parents didn’t care. I was the one who had to get up in the morning, and if I stayed up too late and was cranky in the morning, that was my problem.

Every room I had from the first grade on was dominated by bookshelves. The house we lived in when I was in the first and second grade had a white built in waist high bookshelf that ran the whole length of my room. I don’t remember much else about that room, but I remember that bookshelf, which was already overflowing by the time we moved.

By the time we moved to the house we lived in from the time I was 10 until I left for college, [and then returned to after college] my bedroom had two full sized bookshelves stacked sideways and double with books, and endless stacks of books on the floor. My college dorm rooms always consisted of a single mattress on the floor, as many bookshelves as I could squeeze in, and more stacks of books.

This is what my entire house looks like as an adult, except now the bookshelves are in every room except the kitchen and some rooms, like the study, have 5 or more full sized overflowing bookshelves. There’s no bookshelf in the bathroom, but there are books stacked against the wall, and the living room only has one shelf but the opposite wall is simply stacked full of books. I live alone, except for my mentally deficient dog and assorted cats, so there is no one to tell me to stop acquiring books, not that I ever really listened to those who did. And yes, some actually did and more unbelievably, I listened.

In graduate school my girlfriend made a big deal about how annoying it was that I had so many books. She owned a mattress, some clothes, and a TV tray. Our house was furnished with my furniture, my pots and pans, my washer and dryer, my dining room table, chairs, sofa, television, and computer. Since she used all of those things on a daily basis, that was fine; I could have those. But the books meant nothing to her, because she had never actually read a book for pleasure, and, as it turned out, was with me primarily because she could barely read them for school and I in fact wrote almost all of her papers for the two years we were together. Why was I with someone who didn’t read??? Well, she paid attention to me, and so far, that’s been my main requirement for a romantic partner, apparently.

I had a good friend in library school who once came over to our house, and I said something self deprecating about my messy bookshelves. This lovely young man turned to me with wide eyes and said seriously “But Zoe, this is one of the coolest things about you; I mean, your bookshelves are actually sagging under the weight of all these books, and you’ve actually READ most of them!”

I remember very few things that that girlfriend said, but I always have remembered that her reply to this was, “Ugh, I HATE all these books”. Later on, before we broke up, we went to a couples therapist [goddamit. I hate lesbian relationships] and again, she talked at length about how she hated my books. The therapist told her in no uncertain terms that if she didn’t like my books then she shouldn’t be with me, because even the therapist knew what a reader I was. the therapist also made the point that my girlfriend probably hated my books because they made her insecure, because she wasn’t as smart as I was [am]. Then she proceeded to tell my girlfriend that she was emotionally abusive and told me that I should kick her to the curb, in front of the girlfriend.

That therapist was fucking awesome.

Then, there was the crazy homophobic boyfriend. Did i forget to mention that he did not read either? i think, in the 5 years we were together, he read perhaps 5 books. To be fair, he was sort of dyslexic, but that didn’t seem to affect his ability to look at endless discussion lists on the internet during his extended unemployment. He also hated the books, and before he moved in with me he said that I had to get rid of enough books so that all the remaining ones actually fit on my bookshelves.

I am ashamed to say that I did this.

Even after the de-dyking episode which i’ve already mentioned, I still didn’t have enough room on my bookshelves for all of my books. So i did a personal weed and got rid of so many books that I got over a hundred bucks in cash from the half price bookstore. They pay about twenty five to fifty cents a book. Maybe a dollar. The load I took over there filled the back of my Subaru hatchback. [I know, I know. Straight women don’t drive Subarus. I know.]

Then, once he moved in he made a rule that I had to get rid of a book for every book I purchased. Really. Never mind that any book purchased was done so with MY money, and brought into first an apartment that I paid more for, and then into a house that was in MY NAME. Never mind that in a relationship it is not up to one person to decide what the other person can and can’t have when that person isn’t allowed to say shit about how many old cars the other person drags home and parks behind the house.

Of course all this made me do was buy books in secret and then sneak them into the house while he was at work. Never mind that all of my books stacked together in one pile would not have taken up as much room as one of the three vehicles he owned, four if you count the motorcycle. It takes a lot of books to equal a 59 fucking cadillac and a fullsized pickup truck.

His main hobby, other than criticizing me, was watching TV. He was serious about this, and spent a great deal of time honing his craft. It was not uncommon for me to leave for work, with him sprawled on the sofa watching TV, and then return home 9 hours later to find him in the exact same position, the only evidence of any interim movement being the trail of crumbs stuck in his chest hair. He would then pry his eyes away from the screen, ask me what was for dinner, neglect to ask me about my day, and then take a firmer grip on the remote in case I got any ideas. So, i would come in, change, speak to him only during commercials, prepare dinner, and then after dinner I would settle myself in a corner of the sofa and read while he watched more TV.

Anyway. My last significant other told me that she didn't see any future with me because she said that she felt there was "no room" for her in my life. Since I had given up most of my spare time, friends, personal goals, and almost my house for the two years we were together, I found this a little difficult to process. I asked her just how I could go about making more room for her.

Without batting an eye she said "Well, obviously you have to start by getting rid of a lot of your books".

I got rid of her instead. And haven't regretted it for an instant.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Day [really, an hour and a half] in the Life

Okay so I really, really like my family. As in, my parents are cool and incredibly supportive and even if they weren't my parents, I'd totally want to know them. And my siblings are awesome and I would completely be friends with them even if I weren't related to them. So. I am way, way luckier than at least 90 percent of people. Also, we are not assholes. There are some families who love each other and who are really happy to be related to each other but whom everyone else hates, because they belong to some weird religious sect, or they are obsessed with some disgusting hobby like hunting, or they're Republicans. My family, thankfully, is not like that. Pretty much every friend i've ever had has tried to figure out a way to become my parents' adopted child, and i've had more than one ex try to stay friends with my siblings. [Sorry. Not gonna happen. I know they're cool, but they're MINE.]

Still, when you live alone, you forget what its like to be part of a family, like, on a day to day basis. So when I go home for the holidays, I'm always totally excited, and I can't wait to get there, and I load up all my books and craft projects and pajamas and dog, and drive like a demon towards southern Indiana. I love my hometown. Love it. I don't think I'll ever live there permanently again, for a variety of reasons [No jobs. No bead store. Roving bands of white supremacists in the countryside, but I digress]--but I adore visiting.

So why then is it that every single time I go home, after three days, I can't WAIT to get back to my "real life"? It's not my parents. I am that rare person who wishes that my parents lived on the same street as me, so that I could see them every day. I would happily give them a key to my house [if they wanted one, which, um, they don't] and let them come and go at will. It's not their house, because it's amazing. I will never be able to afford a house like theirs, which is actually a good thing since I would set about filling it as I do every living space, with a messy hodge podge of craft supplies, books, and cats, and then end up only using maybe three rooms on a daily basis. It's not the town, although I admit, about 6 days is as long as I can stand to be in a place that has nowhere to obtain craft supplies except joann fabrics and [retch] hobby lobby. I just don't feel that creative when I have to purchase needles and thread while listening to muzak hymns.

I think the reason I get stir crazy after about three days is the fact that when you live alone, you never actually have to tell anyone what you are doing, or, more specifically, WHY you're doing it. Because I find that when I am around other people on a continual basis, they are interested in what I'm doing, what I'm going to do next, what I've already done, and then they want to know WHY. It's not that I'm usually doing something that odd. But I guess when I start narrating my normal day, it can seem kind of strange. Let's try a typical day:

7:20 Alarm goes off. Hit "snooze".
7:22 Listen to dog whine gently
7:23 Feel wracked with guilt at not jumping up immediately and feeding dog, letting her out, and playing fetch with her for 10 minutes before work
7:24 Fall back asleep so soundly that do not hear alarm for fifteen minutes
7:45 Realize it is 7:45 and must leave for work in 30 minutes.
7:45 Realize that really, 30 minutes is plenty of time when you consider I already know what am wearing [everything else dirty or ugly or lost in closet], and already took a shower yesterday, or was that the day before?
7:46 Hit snooze again
8:12 Wake up to dog barking wildly while simultaneously realizing that snooze cannot go off if alarm is already turned off. Three minute to feed dog, dress [myself, not dog], do something to hair, find a whole pair of shoes, and leave house
8:13 Trip over shoes and laundry on way to let dog out; curse; stub toe; curse more; let out dog who leaps directly onto throbbing toe, scream in agony; knock over large tub of dog food and then have to restrain wildly excited dog from eating 20 pounds of food rolling into far corners of kitchen while trying not to let her stomp on mutilated foot yet again
8:15 Throw enormous writhing mess of dog into yard. Realize absolutely no time to pick up 20 pounds of scattered dog food, so pour cup of three day old cold coffee and attempt to drink it while trying to find clothes I was going to wear
8:17 Drip large drop of coffee onto only clean shirt
8:17-8:20 More cursing
8:22 Find dress to wear as means only one piece of clothing to decide on; put on while trying to find shoes to wear with it that don't make me look like insane 80 yr old woman
8:23 Give up and put on Doc Martens. Hope they look "funky" rather than "retarded". Remember sister's insistence that the white sock/black clunky shoe thing is OVER and has been since 1997. Hope that it is at least less over than argyle kneesock/black clunky shoe thing as that is only other option besides black tights, which seem to remember have taken on curious mohair woven effect from amount of dog hair sticking to them
8:25 Go in bathroom and recoil at sight of hair. Stick head under faucet, as only way to tame it is to wet it into submission and then apply copious amounts of product marketed for african americans and labeled "FLAMMABLE: DO NOT SMOKE OR GO NEAR A SOURCE OF HEAT UNTIL HAIR HAS FULLY DRIED"
8:27 Try to get dog back in house. Since it is pouring rain, she will not come in as she loves to be wet only slightly less than being completely covered in mud. Is currently both, and only way to get her in is to go outside into the rain, and chase her until she turns and chases me, and then must make clever, weaving maneuver so that dog does not catch me but instead runs into house. This does not always work the first time. Today it takes three tries and while dog does go into house finally, it is not without first leaving two large muddy pawprints on skirt of dress. Which is also soaking wet.
8:29 Curse
8:30 Enter house to find dog nowhere in sight
8:31 Go back to bedroom to find absolute worst backup outfit only worn in cases of extreme emergency such as no clean clothes and dirty pawprints.
8:32 Find dog happily ensconced on bed, dripping rivulets of muddy water onto pillows, expensive down comforter, and [DAMMIT] library book.
8:33 Since dress is already ruined, haul dog physically back to crate, shove her in, and lock it
8:35 Officially should have been at work 5 minutes ago. Still have to find horrible back up outfit.

See, that's only one very small part of a perfectly normal day. And writing it down proves to me that not only should anyone never have to hear about it, but no one should ever, EVER have to see it. Because in person it's just that much worse.

Oh well. At least I'm home now, where I can be quietly, completely crazy all I want. Well, quietly except for the cursing.