Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Death By A Thousand Paper Cuts: My Confused Ego

Two seemingly unrelated stories before Wednesday, during which I have promised not to whine. Or at least promised to try not to whine (this is so not going to work, Lainey).


A few years ago, we went to a picnic for one of M's co-workers. The usual group was there and I enjoyed all of them, although honestly it is hard to not feel stupid when you're sitting with a bunch of scientists and have nothing to contribute to the conversation. So we unpack our contributions to the picnic, and I kept trying to keep the topics away from neurodegenerative diseases and contaminated cell cultures. At some point, we're all sitting on the blanket, looking out at the ocean and I was telling a story of how difficult it was for us while M was finishing his doctoral thesis. After all, we were two graduate students in a relatively new relationship, on two different continents, separated by time zones, low budgets, family obligations and demanding schedules. I get to the part where I would feel guilty calling him before I went to bed (morning his time), afraid that I'd be distracting him as he reviewed notes and transcripts.

This is when the only other non-scientists in the group (who really is a nice guy) jumps in and says, "YOU?! Distract HIM?! You couldn't distract him if you tried!"

To his credit, he was trying to compliment M's dedication and focus. To my credit, I just gasped for air and didn't punch him. It's one thing to know your shortcomings, it's another thing for a stranger to point at them and laugh.

I remember this story tonight because we were going to a concert at the beach with most of the same group of people. For the past couple of days I was in a twisty knot, reminding myself to ignore his poorly executed jokes and compliments--thinking that if it came down to it, I could distract someone, somehow.

AARP Hotness

I was trying to put the AARP membership card debacle behind me. I really was. Until I went to Costco, I was doing fine. There I was thinking of ways to use a two gallon jar of artichokes and putting my items on the belt, when I noticed the very old, feeble man behind me. He was almost falling into his cart reaching for a giant box of something or another. He was short, the box was big and heavy. I had an opportunity to get my good deed of the day out of the way. So I offered to help him place his items on the conveyor belt behind my own. He looked at me for a minute and accepted the offer. As I was moving his things out of the cart, he looked at me and said, "I'm not as young as I used to be."

I laughed at his understatement and said, "None of us are. I just got an invitation to join AARP."

He looked at me again and nodded, "You still look pretty decent. You have a good..."

I cannot repeat what he said. I was so shocked I turned beet red and dropped his tuna cans. When I saw the optimistic look on his face, I turned even redder. I'm amazed there was any blood left in my body that hadn't shot to my head.

I could not pay for my stuff and get out of there fast enough.

I think the moral of these two stories are, while I may not be able to get the attention of young, intelligent men; almost blind, dirty old men will still give me a look if I wave a membership card in their face. Burn the AARP card.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Card Carrying Member of AARP

I was going through my mountain of mail this afternoon. I don't like doing this because nothing good is ever found in this mountain. Today, I got insult added to my weekly injury. I got an invitation to join AARP, also known as the American Association of Retired Persons which accepts member 50 and older. I am not 50 or older. As a matter of fact, I still have a few years before I can blame my bad attitude on a mid-life crisis. Yet, I have been invited to join. They must have heard of my sparkling personality and just couldn't wait to get me.

After fuming for a while--a long,long while--I forced myself to think positively about what this could mean. Think of the discounts. In this economy, I need all the help I can get. Avis, retail, legal services, pharacies...The possibilities are endless.

Also, with proof of membership, I can demand respect. FINALLY! I will shake my fist in the air and yell, "Respect your elders!" and "Don't speak until you're spoken to!" This will be especially handy in some of my meetings. I look forward to this particular perk. I especially look forward to my Tuesday meetings.

I did a little research and discovered there is a Ms. Senior America competition. I bet I could enter as an AARP member. It's not like they mail out membership cards to just anybody. No, sir. It's a very exclusive group. Armed with my membership, I can compete and say I have maintained my youthful glow without exaggerating one bit. Not to brag or anything, but I think I might have a chance at winning. That would be a nice change of pace for me.

Finally, for once I will be a part of a much larger, growing group. I will be able to bond with my peers over our mutual experiences and past adventures. Talk about the crazy kids and their loud music. Lobby our government for a better benefits. It could work.

So now I'm a little less depressed. Until I remember the fact that someone thinks I'm a senior citizen. Then I want to cry.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Death By A Thousand Paper Cuts: Opting Out

As I drove home from work today, I changed the radio station just as Trent Reznor's 'Hurt' started. By the time I heard, "Everyone I know goes away in the end" I was crying. It was the wrong song to be listening to at the wrong time.

There has been a steady flow of people leaving my life lately and it is killing me. I have walked away from friendships in the past, and it was never easy. Even when I did the walking, it hurt and I hated it. What kind of a person walks away from a friendship? What kind of a person builds and nurtures something and finally gives up when maintaining it becomes too exhausting?

And yet, people are walking away from me slowly and surely. People who have known me best and longest are leaving me, without a word or goodbye. It seems I don't even deserve that. I don't know what that says about me.

It started in February with Tall Lanky Guy. One day he was here celebrating my brother's birthday with us and introducing us to his boyfriend, asking me what I thought--insisting I tell him. Next day he was gone, not responding to my emails or phone calls. At first I thought he was busy catching up after his trip or getting ready for Persian New Year. But then my birthday/New Year rolled around and for the first time 16 years, he didn't call to wish me a happy birthday or a Happy New Year. At the time, it was icing on my unhappy birthday cake. I figured I must have said something--been too direct with my opinion when we last saw each other--so I called. And called and called. I left funny messages, sad messages and apologetic messages--I finally realized he really didn't want to talk to me. I couldn't tell one of my oldest friends that one of my newest friends had passed away. I couldn't joke about New Year parties and visits. I couldn't listen to his stories or make stupid jokes that he'd laugh at.

I didn't have my friend.

Since then at least two more have left me. People I loved have walked away; more are on their way out. I can't stop them. The hole in my chest is growing to the point it's making me numb. Sometimes at work I'll daydream of a different life that I tried to build for so long--a life shared with friends who had become my adoptive family; those in my life by choice and not by accident of birth. Then I'd be faced with the unpleasant reality that the only people left standing will be those who can't change me (fast) enough. Either way, the only thing I am left to believe is that I am unacceptable as I am.

And I couldn't censor myself for another day because of a song I was listening to during rush hour.