Guilty Pleasures? No Guilt Here

Recently a guy friend of mine asked me about my guilty pleasures. I’m not sure if he wasguilty-pleasures fishing for grubby details, but after giving it a few minutes the only thought I came up with was.. well nothing. If its pleasurable, I tend to not feel guilty about doing it.

Mostly I feel guilty about things I don’t do. Oh boy is THAT list long. Not going to the gym, not giving that document one last edit, not eating any vegetables that day, not calling my dearest friend (sorry FF! you know how I get), not putting more into my retirement account. I spend hours, days, years even feeling guilty about shit I didn’t do. Its basically 90% of what’s in my brain at any one time.. even as I drift off to sleep. My brain is so full of guilty, I don’t think I have room left to start feeling guilty about the stuff I enjoy doing, and then actually do. So in response to my friend, here’s a few of my ‘I don’t feel the slightest bit guilty about’ pleasures.

  • Loving Megan Trainor. I may be 45 but I still like to dance in the kitchen to unabashed girl anthems. I blame a 50 yr old dad for my obsession… apparently, they’re into chick anthems too. And hey, at least I’m not a Bieber-Believer.
  • Liberally using the word ‘fuck’. I know it’s a sign of low wit, but it’s a flourish I developed aged 12 and I just love the feel and sound of it coming out of my mouth.
  • Researching the latest high fashion trends for hours before buying the same tee shirt, jeans, boots wardrobe I’ve been wearing since 21. Its awesome knowing velvet shoes, baggy pants and high collared shirts are the thing… even better to know I’ll not be wearing them.
  • Going to bed at 8.30pm. I’m sure, in fact I know, I’m missing out but in return I gain 10 solid hours of sleep and the face of a 35 yr old.. well until gravity kicks back in.
  • Not having kids. I hear they’re delicious but like roasting lamb or snorting coke, just not really something I ever wanted to do.
  • Buying $80 bras online the moment I get paid. With boobs this size, it’s not underwear, its fucking architecture and who cares about a rich retirement if my boobs have to drag on the floor to get there?
  • Never reading ‘motivational’ slogans or articles about self-improvement. I have obsessive compulsion disorder so motivation and drive is something I have to medicate just to be able to relax. I click for ‘do nothing’ ‘change nothing’ and ‘think less’.
  • Screwing the laundry, the cleaning and errands to go for a long hike or ride instead. Dust doesn’t age but I am.. so I’m doing fun stuff as long as I can. I’ll clean when I’m 80.

What are your ‘not guilty about’ pleasures? If you don’t have any, I sincerely advise you get some post haste.

Doing it alone

tendDoing it alone. No, this isn’t a post about masturbation…but if I had to draw parallels yes this about doing something on your own, and big yes, its about having a really good time doing it.

But no. This one isn’t sexy. Not sexy at all.

You see I’ve been on vacation for a week and using the time off to ignore Outlook, remember what its like to not sit with a headset on for 10 hours and generally enjoy myself. Part of which meant tackling a big of a fear of mine.. that is, to pitch a tent in the middle of nowhere and not wind up in a mental institution after 48 hours. aka Camping.. on my own.

I love to camp. Love it. It was the glue that attached me to my ex husband, and many of my best adventures in life have come by way of a smokey campfire, a ‘wet wipe’ shower and the joy of hitting the hay at dusk because you’re completely wiped. Camping gives you freedom from everything as life suddenly boils down to having something over your head to sleep in and preparing food to eat. Plus with the invention of really good coolers.. the beer stays cold for days now.

However since I’ve been single, I’ve rarely found a trustworthy camping buddy. I’ve tried. (and the stories are here if you want them), but I generally end up frustrated, exasperated and longing for my ex (the only time I ever miss him). You’d think in a state of 3 million self confessed ‘outdoorsy’ people, there would be a least few hundred dudes in my age range who’d enjoy slinging on a backpack, or packing up the truck with their dog, their bike and a cute chick… sadly, I’ve yet to locate this dude.

Now camping on my own isn’t something I won’t do. In fact I’ve tried it a couple of times.

The first time I drove up to Steamboat, pitched the tent, brewed up some tea and sat wondering what to do next. The sense of space, the complete silence, the aloneness and solitude. Just beautiful. How to savour it? The answer… apparently unpitch the tent, drive 4 hours home and decide camping alone wasn’t for me. Wayyyy too much time to think and realize how far I was from the nearest other person who could wrestle the bear who was bound to come along.

The second time I tried, I made it through the night, but only after the dog and I had clung to each other for 10 hours, jumping (me) and barking (him) at every snapped twig or rustle of a tree. By morning even he thought going home seemed like a less stressful idea than camping with me. I’m not sure what I was most frightened of.. bears? mountain lions? homecidal maniacs? weekend country rapists? All of the above apparently.

But as the summer cracks into high gear and the temps hit the 90s, I can either dedicate my next few months to loitering around REI in the hope that an outdoorsey dude picks me up or finally grab my ovaries in hand and just go camping on my own.

So at the age of 42 and with oodles of time on my hand I decided – fuck it.  I’m going, I’m staying and if I pee my pants when a deer starts nosing around camp or I hear a voice in the distance with an Appalacian twang or some banjo music.. well, so be it. Armed with about 16 pairs of pants, my new bike and an empty Beretta (I don’t want to actually shoot anyone), I headed across the state line into Wyoming.

For a few nights of starry skies and days of mountain biking, I figured Wyoming was a good locale. Fewer bears, fewer people and I figured packing my Beretta would scare off anyone who thought a midnight raid on my tent a good idea. Plus there’s some good riding and I don’t mind falling off so much when there’s noone within a 5 mile vacinity to observe it.

The outcome? Well I think I’ve cracked the code to camping alone. Be active as fuck during the day so by the time night falls, you can’t help but pass out without a care in the world. I rode like a maniac (i.e. a mentally challenged person), fell off a bunch, road alongside creeks and up the sides of mountains. I rode through something called ‘Pinball’ which bounced me off a rock every other pedal stoke, and laughed my ass off when I almost rode into a deer in the middle of the trail. Finally something more terrified of ‘wild things’ than me.

Sure, I’m now brusied, scarred and I look like an extra from Fight Club, but I put some miles on my bike, I only needed a few pairs of pants and I even managed to lull myself into a relaxed state of being. It was amazing to be away from wifi, from tv, people and noise. I lay in my tent listening to the wind, owls and yes, rustling trees.. but no bears or midnight cowboys intruded on my buclolic evenings.

I was relaxed, at peace and totally utterly alone.

Why I decided to start reading the new Stephen King book right at that moment I don’t quite know. I guess I brought those extra pants for something.

 

 

The Grown Up Girls Guide to Bugs

C67-153729I’ve been a single chick for a while now, and like all singletons I’ve encountered more than my fair share of terrifying things in my bathroom. No, not the latest ‘Kevin’ off Match.com or OkCupid, I’m talking about bugs. Creepy crawlers. Things with more legs than the Rockettes. Shit that frankly, well, I’m glad my eyesight ain’t all that cos their blurry outlines are terrifying enough. But as with all grown ups, you have to deal with that shit.. and unless you’ve got a handy neighborhood entomologist or a man friend who’s eager to prove his worthiness via his ability to squish things.. well, its just you and me Sista.

Below, my handy guide for grown up girls dealing with lifes creepy crawlies. (and no, we’re excluding Kevin or whatever his name is).

Spiders

No-one likes spiders (with the exception of comic book geeks who keep looking for radioactive ones in the hope of bagging Emma Stone). They have way too many legs, they seem kind of hairy (based on my dubious eyesight) and they’re completely unpredictable. They might be willing to hang out in your bathtub for 7 weeks.. but then they also might just want to take a stroll up your bedroom wall and check you out while you’re sleeping. Thats what freaks me out about spiders.. one minute you’ve got the bastard checked out, safely dozing in his corner the next he’s gone. Where? You didn’t see him move! Who knows where he went… except you can guarantee he’s showing up when its dark, you’re trying to sleep and you suddenly feel something on your face/arm/leg/foot. At which point you’re 3 foot above the bed, and developing a serious phobia towards darkness. I should know. I had a spider land on my face while I was sleeping and in my Ambien stupor, punched myself in the face. I woke up the next morning with a black eye and the remains of a fairly large spider legs pasted to my cheek. I’m still in therapy and have to check the walls and ceilings before I turn off my light.

Remedy:  I won’t have truck with any of your vegan/ vegetarian/karma infused relocation practices. A) Who has the time? and B) You know he’s coming right back into the house because he’s a bastard.  I say if you can see that sucka, you can kill that sucka. You won’t win any brownie points by telling me ‘he’s more scared of you than you are of him’. Prove it shithead. Until then, that bastard is a smear on my Bounty wrapped hand of doom. Bamn. Dealt with. Just make sure you get all of the legs as those suckers are a bitch to get rid of once they’ve welded themself to the floor.

 

Wasps

I like a bee. You know, the rounded flying furry Mounds bar who trundle past your head while you’re reading in the garden or bounces off your helmet when you’re descending at speed? Bees are cool. They pollinate, they’re natures pacifists (unless suicidal), and you’ve got to relate to their truculent fatness. How they fly is as mysterious to me as the 787 Dreamliner getting off the ground. Unfeasible… but apparently possible.

But wasps? Wasps are natures asshole. They’re the insect equivalent of the guy in the douchmobile, flipping you off because you needed to get into his lane without a written request and some form of payment. He cuts in line because he’s busy (and you’re not), he drinks Bud Lite while riding a jetski and thinks that Kardashian chick is ‘all that’. Yep, your average wasp is an ass-hooooooole. He makes a shit ton of noise, he can’t find his way out of a window, but wants to make it your problem when you try to coax him out with a copy of the New Yorker. Suddenly his stupidity is your fault and -fuck you- he’s gonna sting you cos you deserve it. In fact, he’s gonna sting you no matter what… you know.. just ‘cuz. No wasp ever looked at a dog, a cute baby or a sleeping adult and thought ‘ you know what.. I’m just going to keep on heading where I was going’. Nope, encounter the wasp and he’s on a death mission and he’s keeping going until there’s nothing left. In fact, he’ll even sting you past death. Suck it people.

Remedy: You, like me, might find wasps a little intimidating. After all they make a lot of noise, they’re irrational in their desire to push through glass (ignore the open window or door nearby), and they turn on anyone offering assistance.  The only answer is death however it’s a two stage process with these suckas. First you need to stun. A rolled up New Yorker, an old copy of a book you’ll never read again or even the sole of a flip-flop can be used to stun the shithead off the glass and onto a hard surface. Once stunned, act fast. Blunt force trauma usually works – a shoe, an extremely hard ‘whaap’ with the aforementioned Bounty clothed fist of death or simply a crushing under any flat surface will suffice. Still worried that he might be breathing? The ‘smear’ tends to render any remaining fears about the wasps longevity – its a bitch to clean but once you’ve confirmed wasp guts on your book/ shoe/ magazine/ fist… you can relax and get back to focusing on your other bugs.

Ants

Now these little suckers are annoying but if you’re anything but life’s biggest puss, you’ll not waste anytime trying to relocate or ‘live and let live’ with ants. Once ants move in, you’ve basically been branded a dirty sloth by the insect community, and only murder is going to keep all of their friends away. Its like inheriting a cabin on the lake.. once one of those guys shows up, they’re coming back with all of their relatives. Murder it is.

Remedy: After foreswearing not to leave food or anything containing sugar in the vicinity of your kitchen  (maybe now it time to go on that ‘no sugar’ diet) I recommend any spray which comes in industrial quantities. And no, don’t both looking for ‘kid safe’ or ‘pet safe’. If its safe for them, you just added hot sauce to the ant feast and put out the ‘Free buffet’ sign. Nope.. select something with ‘Killer’ in the title and go to town. Boiling hot water is an instant way to send a message (and avoids trying to reenact The Godfather on a micro scale), and following up with some poisonous nuclear strength murder juice tends to get the message across. I killed an ant colony in a house 3 years ago and I guess my name still sends shock waves amongst the ant community, cos I’ve not seen one since. Don’t underestimate a well-timed and targeted hit.

 

Moths

A sign of the devil. Furry and soft yet terrifyingly flappy, moths are my nemesis. I will suffer through a hot night, sweating profusely rather than open a screened window because of moths. I know no matter how well protected I am.. one of those hairy black flappers is making it inside, right inside my bedlight to scare the bejesus out of me late at night. I have no idea why moths love me, except to say I must have an illuminating personality, because I can attract them in droves. And not content with just sitting on a light bulb or heading towards the light, moths seem to think that more flapping equals progress… which makes them horrific house guests for the easily scared (aka me).

Remedy. Since you can’t spray poison into the air and your ability to hit a moth requires the aim of a Yankee with the patience of Yoda, I can only suggest you move house until winter. Moths don’t like the cold so hopefully they will self combust with the first frost and you can breathe easily for another 6 months. But do beware. I’ve had a moth fly out of my sweaters in March and land me in the ER for a panic attack, so don’t ever let down your guard. I’ve been in a stand-off with a huge moth that flew into my apartment 8 days ago and I don’t know where he is but I’m ready to move at this point.

Yep.. I’m just going to house and call it good. The moth can take the apartment until fall. Hey that Kevin guy isn’t that bad …maybe he’ll put me up for a few months until fall…..failing that I can always sleep in my car. No bugs there.

 

 

 

 

3am ideas

If, like most 40 somethings, you fall prey to the occasional (every night) insomnia, you know all about the 3.07am time frame. You’ve still got time to fall back to sleep and get in a solid few more hours.. or, like me, you can lie awake worrying about getting back to sleep for a few hours, only to conk out at 5.59am just as the alarm clicks on. I much prefer this plan.. I can get it so much quality thinking time.

What keeps me spinning at 3am? It used to be my money pit house.. I’d lie awake wondering which bits I could hear dropping off, leaking, rotting away. Thinking about all the things I couldn’t afford to fix and the increasing list of ‘must do’s that I somehow would need to fund. Drainage issues, sinking foundations, cracks in the roof and yes, even the girl I once found asleep in my garage. You know, the usual adult stuff.

But these days, cosy in a rental and steadily reclaiming my grip on my Visa, you’d think I’d be sleeping like a baby. No kids to worry about, no leaking roof and no immediate lay offs in the future. Surely this should be positively vacation time for my brain.

Not so much.

Apparently my psyche likes to stay busy and these days its poking me away at 2-3am every morning to remind me that I don’t have a career, that I’ve been single for 6 years and oh yes, one day my dog will die. I know..I can’t help it. First world problems. Other unimportant questions which will be bugging me at 3am tomorrow morning include;

  • Did that British guy not call me back because I mentioned on this blog that he was a douche (which he sounded, but who knows maybe he is lovely even though he does talk about himself in the third person)? Or was he just rude?
  • Was it rude of me to call him douchey?
  • Is my blog too rude?
  • Is my blog making me undateable?
  • Come to think of it, I’ve had a lot less dates since starting this blog.. maybe I need to start blogging about something else I know about like medical ailments
  • Can I still get away with wearing shorts given my terrible varicose veins or is it too revolting for others?
  • Are my varicose veins the reason I’m single?
  • When I discussed becoming the Golden Girls with Hope, did we actually set some weird predictive spell that means I’m just counting down my days to house coats and violet hair?
  • And is that such as bad thing?
  • Is it true that if you don’t use it, you lose it? And if so, how do I find it again?
  • …And why are vibrators so damn expensive?No wonder I’ve lost it.. I can’t afford it.
  • If I moved to another city, would I be found in 3 yrs eaten by dogs because of my hermit like tendencies?
  • And would anyone come to my funeral?
  • And if you’re not religious, where do you have a funeral? Would Gary Lees be open to it.. I’ve always felt comfortable there..
  • Why do I crave friends and then get all claustrophobic as soon as I have plans?And how does everyone else manage to have zillions of friends, and kids, and a job and still stay sane when I’m struggling to feed myself?
  • Could I make money reading bedtime stories to kids.. because I’d really like to (no creepiness intended, I just like good stories)?
  • I wish they had bedtime stories for adults.. 
  • Read by Ryan Gosling preferably
  • If I’ve ever going to write a book, shouldn’t I have an idea of something by now?
  • If I’m not going to be write something, should I buy a sewing machine?
  • If I had a sewing machine I could make all my own clothes and lost of bedding
  • Would that make me thrifty and creative or sad and cat woman-ish?

And that gets me to 4:07am.  So if you’re up at 3am anytime.. give me a call. I can talk you out of buying that Insanity DVD and you can reassure me about my vein situation.

The right decision

Those who know me, or based on this blog have a vague sense of me, know I’m insanely impulsive. I have put more thought into whether I should go with black or white underwear than whether to move and I’ve spent more time returning things to the store than actually buying stuff.

I moved to the US after about 30 seconds of thought (and several adult beverages), drove to Montana on a whim to go on a date with my then boyfriend and I’ve moved 24 times since I was 18 (yes, I’ve moved house twice in one year on more than one occasion).
I’ve always prided myself on not getting too hung up on any decision, but recently the downside is outweighing the up.You can only roll with the wrong choices for so long.

Over the holidays, a trusted girlfriend and I were reminiscing about the comedy of errors that was the past 5 years of our friendship. The Albino boyfriend who made love like a woodpecker, the dog breeder who threatened to sue me for not showing my dog, the $4,000 sofa, buying a house I’d seen once, selling the house 10 months later to move in with a boyfriend and getting dumped the same day. Some decisions were just bad luck, but most were bad judgement and poor choices.

In hindsight I wondered if I’d been drunk or high for the last 25 years. I’m sure I wasn’t.  

I respect my friend and I knew the comments came with love… but just it didn’t feel so funny in the cold light of being a 41 yr old single woman. I mean I’m a grown up. I have no urge to shop at Ann Taylor or buy curtains, but I don’t want to find myself homeless and pushing a shopping cart in Manolo Blanhiks and a thong either.

After some long conversations about my messy finances, my slightly barren love life and a year of sleepless nights, my girlfriend suggested therapy.
I’d tried budget spreadsheets and programs, ‘cooling off periods’ and morning after vows, yet I still found myself energized by the process of making a decision, making something happen, even when it was ill informed, badly timed or clearly ‘not the best idea’. Note – don’t be thinking about divorce the day you get married. Sitting on my hands kills me, but lately I wish I had a heavier butt.
I sure might have a healthier 401K and a less bruised heart.

Why did it take so long to wise up? Well bad decision making is cumulative. You make a bad decision, and then a worse decision to try and fix the first. And so on. Marry an even worse decision maker and you’re so busy trying to climb out of 2 sets of crap that you don’t notice how deep the hole is getting. My divorce left with a $3000 a month mortgage, and the hole got bigger.  And so on and so on. Being on your own means that there isn’t a second income to rescue you when things get tough. With a trust fund consisting of recipe books and some insanely warm socks, I was on my own when the roof started leaking and my swamp cooler exploded.

It wasn’t until things finally bottomed out and I slowed down long enough to notice that ‘things.are.not.good.at.all’ that I realized that shopping cart was going to become a reality before I reached 41 unless something changed.

Today I’m 4 months into the therapy and progress is slow but steady. I no longer make decisions the day the situation arises and ‘I’ll get back to you’ has become a new mantra where all things economic are concerned. I’m making rationale, well reasoned decisions and I’ve not moved house for 6 months (I’m aiming for 18 to declare victory). I no longer listen to words but look at actions to determine if someone is being real and the majority of the things I’ve ‘chosen’ lately have been rational and beneficial – juicing, daily 5 mile walks, smiling. Other than giving my dog a haircut, nothing has been injurious (he looked very sad to lose his mow hawk). As a result my mental health and finances are returning to a less alien craziness and I no longer lie awake worrying about whether I really want to move to Montana (I don’t) or whether I can afford gas. In fact, this grown up reasonable life is quite appealing for its frugality and evenness (even if I do have to wrestle with not buying a corset on a weekly basis).

Now if only I could apply these lessons to my love life…That could definitely use some therapy.

Professional distance

My pharmacist thinks we’re friends. I mean, I visit him several times a month, I’ve been getting my drugs from him for 15 years and he now shouts ‘Heeeey!’ when I’m next in line. With a new prescription added to the roster every month or two, I fear he’s starting to question whether a) I’ve got a crush on him and am faking medical issues to keep visiting him, or b) I am dying. No matter which, he thinks we’re buddies.

He actually asked me yesterday when I went to pick up the latest $100 worth of pills.

‘So… steriods now eh?… phew! You’re in for some fun!’

Can pharmacists actually acknowledge the drugs you’re taking? I thought it was one of those codes of ethics things where they couldn’t smirk or wink, or god forbid, mention what the drugs were or why you might be taking them. I really don’t need my pharmacist judging my health, I’ve got 8 professionals already doing that and frankly, I don’t need any more internal exams this year.

He, my pharmacist, has also taken to calling me ‘Rach’.

Rach.

I’ve never used this name, never answered to this name in my life, never actually spoken my first name out loud to him in 15 years. But he’s decided that, on my 15th anniversary of ‘visiting’ Rite Aid, I’m now ‘Rach’ to him. What’s next? Secret handshakes and birthday cards?

Isn’t there such a thing as professional distance? I know the Brits are known for having a stick up our ass, but its for good reason. You don’t want or need to be buddies with your doctor, your dentist or your pharmacist. We all need some distance from those who see you naked, know your history of rashes or could tell others about your sporadic flossing. They don’t dive into your life and you, by courtesy, don’t dive into theirs. I’d no more think of calling my doctor ‘Chrissy!’ or my gastroenterologist ‘Jon’ (though I do call him another name when I’m having a moment).. they’re Dr. So and So and I’m Ms. Thomas. Starting to become ‘friends’ with your ‘people’ is a slippery slope. I’ve done it before and fond I’m standing in front of my house listening to my lawn guy blub about his divorce or offering on line dating advice to my endocrinologist. I like my professionals .. well.. professional. And wearing a white coat and gloves if possible.

So today I’m seriously rethinking my pharmacy allegiance and moving to a more anonymous place where I’m just a slightly familiar face with no name. My only concern is that my pharmacist would think I’ve finally OD’d or died. I don’t think my mother needs a call asking where to send flowers.

Kathleen Turner’s kind of sexy right?

As many of my friends would tell you, I’ve been walking around now for 5 weeks talking like Kathleen Turner. Not ‘Romancing the Stone’ Kathleen, but ‘smokes 60 a day, 2012’ Kathleen.
Its been an interesting time. My voice has been ranging from sexy gravel (my favorite), through raspy Marlboro man talking through a hole in his neck (less cute), to a high pitched screech that makes my dog run out of the room. If I’m lucky, sometimes nothing comes out at all.

My coworkers have been asking me if I’m sick, and on more than one occasion have messaged me (‘are you crying?’), my boss thinks I’m putting on the most elaborate fake ever (though since I’ve not taken any sick days I’m not sure what he thinks I’m getting out of this), and every time I yell for my dog to come, I sound like Barry White wrestling a Bee Gee. Up, down, up, down. Staying Aliiiiiiive.

My primary doctor looked down my throat and shrugged ‘no idea’ (reassuring that I pay $270 a month for that, isn’t it?), and I had to sit around for 2 weeks waiting for an ENT appointment.
I spent the previous weekend convincing myself that I had throat cancer (‘no pain? YES! raspy? YES! large lump in neck? YES!..If I push down hard enough to choke me..actually.. maybe that’s my tongue?). I called my girlfriend;

‘I have cancer’

‘what?’

‘Or maybe a large nodule like ‘The Thing’ growing in my vocal chords’

‘….’

‘no…Its definitely cancer’

‘you sound like you have laryngitis girl’

‘nooo.. definitely cancer’

‘Go WebMD it. Now. L-A-R-..’

‘Oh… you might be right…that sounds kind of familiar’

The only way I managed to sleep was with my friend Lunesta, who whispered ‘chemo’ to me as I drifted off every night.

The day finally arrived for my diagnosis and despite 12 inches of snow, I was early my appointment. Ready for my terminal news.

After spraying my nose with local antheastic, the doctor pulled what looked like a sewer snake out of a drawer and approached me with a smile.Whaaaa????

“Just relax.. its easier if you don’t fight it…’

‘that’s what my gastroenterologist said …’

‘this is totally different.. you’ll just feel it going down your throat’

Well I finally found a procedure I hate more than a rectal. Yep, sign me up for 100 rectal exams over this. You can even skip the lube next time…Just not this … ever… again..
I could feel the scope ‘snake’ go up my nose, down my throat and it felt like, into my chest cavity. Just when I thought he was heading for my fallopian tubes, I grabbed his hand and snorted at him with wide eyes and a I can only assume, a look of ‘I am about to kill you’. He thoughtfully decided he’d seen enough.

At which point he yanked the thing out.

Along with part of my lung and I think, one of my tonsils.

Jesus! I’d better have a cancer diagnosis after this. I leaned over retching nothing onto the floor.

‘You’re swollen and red and I can’t see anything’

‘….’ (I am going to kill you, once I can stop retching)

‘.. but no weird stuff or cancer.’

‘great’ (you are not off the hook Mr)

‘So I’m going to give you a whole lot of drugs try to reduce the inflammation and then we can have another look’

‘Nhhhh….'(Not if I can help it Buster)

So here I sit, another heap of pills to crunch through for the next month. 5 of these, 3 of these, 1 of these. On an empty stomach, a full stomach and not around grapefruit. Oh and some of them are steroids, so if I’m lucky, I’ll resemble Rambo when I’m done. Goddamn genes. Who gets inflamed vocal chords other than Adele? I can’t even sing for gods sake…

Kathleen Turner sounds kind of sexy, right??? Maybe I just…. ?

Sluts and Spinsters

As a single girl in my 20’s I was confused. In my mid 30’s I became single and somewhat deranged. My 40s, well I’m still trying to figure that one out. According to the media I have two options as single woman these days – slut or spinster.
Watching TV the other night I noticed that all of the shows indicated that its cute and fun to be single in your 20s or early 30s (unless you’re turning up as a dead body on CSI) but at 40, if you’re single, you’re no longer ‘fun’ – you’re a slut or a spinster.

Think about any show on TV these days. Now locate the single woman. Slut or spinster? Weirdo or nymphomaniac?  (and yes, detectives who live for their work are still spinsters, especially as we watch them microwaving their Lean Cuisine). Seriously, I couldn’t find one who didn’t fall into either category who was single (though there was some chick who slit her own throat on ‘The Following’ which I think fell into the ‘psycho’ category) Slut, spinster or psycho?  Is my only role model on tv today the TMobile chick on the motorcycle? Jesus.

But everyone knows that tv is crap.. maybe I should be watching more movies. Yes, must be more role models in the movies right?

Lets look at some of the latest big movies and see if I can find some positive role models for single women over ..ahem….40:
Rust and Bone.. Single women in her later 30s? Check! Feisty and opinionated? Check! No legs? Fuccck. Ok, now I’ve got Slut, Spinster, Psycho or Legless.

Silver Linings Playbook?
Nope. The only single woman might be psycho, but definitely still falls into the cute and fun category.

The Sessions?
Nope. The chick is single, but f-ks disabled dudes for therapy. Kind of slut, kind of spinster, kind of psycho. And I have dated enough retards to know I’ve done my bit for the disabled community.

Life of Pi?
All dudes… (even the tiger)

Lincoln?
Old dudes and one old feisty married spinster type. And no, I’m not adopting Mary Todd as my role model, noble as she may be. The chick looked like she drank vinegar on regular basis.. and she was married. (Hmm might need to rethink the married = good archetype next week)

Les Miserables?
Well miserable is in the title, so its not boding well. But there are a few chicks… who die… so probably not.

Zero Dark Thirty
Finally! Feisty chick who might be 40 (in bad lighting and war zone type of way).. ok I can stretch it. Bold, strong, doing whats right? Check! Slut? No! Spinster? Didn’t see a Lean Cuisine anywhere.. Psycho? Hmmm questionable… she was chasing Osama Bin Laden. Ok, maybe I have a role model there… (and wouldn’t you know it, made by a woman).

So maybe I’m reading too much into tv and the movies but it the mantra of slut or spinster does seem to be backed up by real life. As a former ‘sluttess‘ I’ve dined out on my stories for quite some time and I’ve had more than one concerned conversation with a friend who is worried about my dating habits. I’ve had fun. But sluttess over 40 starts to feel like ‘cougar’, and I honestly don’t want to spend my salary on the plastic surgery and mini skirts that seems to require. So as I date less and spend more time hanging out with friends or just myself, the comments over dinner focus less on counseling bad behavior, and more on reassuring me that my spinsterhood isn’t forever and that someone will come along. When I mention riding my bike or afternoons at the movies, I hear that its ‘good to have hobbies’ to keep me ‘busy’. At this point I fully expect to receive a tea pot and some yarn for my next birthday so I can knit myself a spinster blanket. Frankly I’d prefer to live in the slut category but I fear my friends are much more comfortable with me spending weekends on the sofa, knees covered by a tartan throw as I listen to NPR. Hell to the no (sorry Ira).

So today I’m lobbying for a new category. Chick. Chicks ride bikes, travel on their own, take risks and wear what they like. They spend their weekends at the movies, hiking, eating brunch or reading a book. They garden. They write. They’re up for last minute suggestions to drive to Wyoming. They might be a little bit psycho and they probably drink too much vodka, but they’re not out to steal your man or your baby, work isn’t their defining characteristic and they’d doing just fine.

Somewhere between the slut, the spinster and the psycho. Here’s to chicks.

Questions we’re still asking at 40ish…Does he like me?

 Interestingly if you Google this phrase, the number of responses is about 70 trillion, mostly aimed at 13 year olds whose gummy smiles and braces are locked up wondering if the reason their lab partner set them on fire is because they ‘like’ them. Sadly, I’m apparently still that girl since I Googled this phrase this afternoon actually looking for an answer.

For those of us over 40 who still haven’t figured it out, there’s not really much guidance on answering this question when it comes to romance. The married friends just roll their eyes with faux sympathy and coo about ‘Oh I remember worrying about that’ as they still look for reassurance from the husband of 10 yrs. The singletons can analyze the crap out of text message, but do you really want guidance from someone who’s as clueless as yourself?  (after all, you are all single). Which leaves your own judgement (or a very very patient therapist). Wondering if he was really interested in your tattoo or just trying to touch you? Was he really concerned about walking me home, or just working up the courage to ask for another date? Do his repeated text messages mean anything other than ‘I’m bored and I know you’re sitting at your desk Googling ‘how to meet men”). Who’s to know. I guess if you have to ask, the answers probably no. But then the evidence is kind of blurry on all fronts.

The last guy I enjoyed a first date with apparently died (or so I like to think), since 3 months into dating he asked me my ring size, my wedding ceremony preference and then disappeared from this earth. He seemed interested right up to his apparent death (hopefully slow and painfully).

The guy before that charmer waited 262 days between date 1 and asking for date 2 (yes, you can wait too long) but when, after abject apologies and no small amount of begging, we went out.. yep..he disappeared again. Its been 2 years now so I’m guessing we’re about due for date 3.  Was he interested? He sure seemed interested during those 121 emails he sent before the date. But apparently not that much.

The same goes for a guy who lived in my neighborhood. Over the course of 3 or 4 years he engaged in flirtatious conversations, sent me late night drunken Facebook messages and even offered the odd invitation for drinks.. and yet it never quite happened. Because he only did those things when he was dating someone. Once he was single he disappeared. So apparently not that interested.

Am I missing something? Do I have ‘interim romantic interest’ tattooed on my forehead or am I just the least effective booty call in history? Because maybe its my advancing age, but these days I just can’t tell. I’m not repulsive and I do date.. but why do the guys I date, act so strange? Is it just me or are they all like that? I’m sure chicks are just as bad.. but lord, I didn’t expect to be Googling this question 25 years after I first asked it.

And the answer? Well Google talks a lot about eye dilation, sweating and raised pulse rates, but unless I can whip out my torch, a magnifying glass and a stethoscope every time I meet a guy.. I guess I’ll just have to keep guessing.

The indignities of getting older


Nothing revels the nature of your nature like a rectal exam.

After wondering what my belly was growing (in the absence of food or a baby), I visited with my gastroenterologist recently.

Yes, not only do I have a hematologist, an endocrinologist, a gynecologist and a pharmacist.. I have a gastroenterologist. Sadly, all are warranted due to my crap genes (and the need for Aetna to make money off my $50 co pays)…. Seriously folks, I’m working my health plan like a mule. Bring on anything Obama can offer cos mine is about to croak.

Back to my watermelon stomach.

I’m sitting in the office answering the new-ARRAfunded-electronic health record questionnaire..(8 pages). I never realize how sick I actually am, nor how f**ked my genes are until I started this thing.

Please tick all those that apply:

  • Dizziness? (I’m a chick)
  • Weight gain? (heeellooooo.. I live for candy)
  • Weight loss? (hmmm… once when I had my jaw wired shut for 6 weeks)
  • Bloating? (…meet the virgin born baby Thomas. He’s due tomorrow)
  • Vision problems? (…do cataracts count?)
  • Unexplained bruising? (.. only after 4 martinis) 
  • Fatigue? (….seriously is anyone over 13 NOT fatigued?)

Family history (tick all that apply for siblings, parents and grandparents)

  • Breast Cancer (yep)
  • Stroke (yep, yep)
  • High cholesterol (its a christening present)
  • High Blood pressure (its everyone’s 13th birthday present along with anxiety disorder.. yes, we’re all stressed about how unhealthy we all are)
  • Bowel cancer (yes, gluten is our cryptonite)
  • Diabetes (I prefer to refer to it as ‘chocolate appreciation par excellence‘)
  • Early unexpected death (well hopefully not before I finish this damn questionnaire)

I’ve not even seen a doctor and I’m already wondering where they should scatter my ashes. The number of check marks is alarming to say the least. Wow am I unhealthy!

The doctor walks into the waiting room. Devastatinglyhandsome. DAMN, 2 years since I saw him last (when I propositioned him while under general anesthetic).. and he still gives me the sweats. “Come on through” … I bite my tongue to avoid asking him to marry me.

5 mins later, he has his finger up my ass without even a compliment.
 

WTF?

But don’t worry, he thinks that now is great time to discuss my dating status..

Soooooooits been 2 years since I saw you last. You were dating some guy.. how’s that going?”

What, you think now is a good time to unpack the details of my dating life???? While your finger is trying to find god knows what while tickling my sphincter…?

I hmmm and haaaaa then reach for the stars when he hits what can only be my nasal cavity. Enough! My new shoes don’t deserved the amount of sweat which is poring off my feet.

“are you experiencing pain because you’re not used to this?”

“…”
ahhh well I guess it would be weird if you were used to this”
“…”

Yep, now is not the time to be talking about any proclivities I might or might not have. (and this, certainly wouldn’t be one of them.. for god sake, I didn’t even get to take my shoes off or have a glass of wine).

Apparently I reached his decibel tolerance and he withdrew his hand with a snappy snap of the glove.

5 mins later I’m leaving his office with my evening project.

Fecal sample. Not just a sample, but a sample of a sample. Yes, I’ve been asking to spend my evening pooping and then cutting it into slices to select ‘ the right’ poop.

Being single has never been such an asset.

Life at 40… plenty of new ‘hobbies’

3 reasons it sucks to be a woman (and no it doesn’t involve the word ‘period’)

 Now I’m no self hating woman. I revel in my ‘twin peaks’ and I, along with all women, know that we’re smarter, more focused and more efficient at getting most things done that most guys.But even the bigger ‘go women’ cheerleader can’t negate that there are some challenges to being a woman. And sometimes it just sucks. Now I wouldn’t trade in my hairless forearms or size 7’s for a mans.. (for one, it would look really really weird), but sometimes… just sometimes… you gotta wonder.

1. Being ill
Next time you’re at the doctor look around you. Who makes up 75% of the waiting room? Yep – women. No we’re not hypochondriacs (well, most of the time we’re not, especially now we’ve got WebMD), we just have a lot of moving parts. And quite often they seem to not work right. Your average guy visits a doctor when he suffers a heart attack or his leg swells up to the size of a tree due to gout. The rest of the time, guys seem to be ridiculously hardy. Women on the other hand can’t seem to make it through the month without something weird going on. Something itching, burning, stinging, aching or throbbing. And that’s just our throats.  The other 99% isn’t much hardier. Until the age of 65, my dad had maybe gone to the doctor… ooo… twice. My mother on the other hand seems to think that she gets air miles for her visits. And the killer is.. there always IS something wrong with her. Why? Do our slender bones and joints just wear out faster? Is our ‘weaker sex’ label actually true? I personally put it down to rage. We’re not good at letting anything out so we suck it down and it makes us sick. If we spent more time pushed some people around a football field or basketball court, flipping off other drivers or yelling at work colleagues.. maybe we’d spend less time at the doctors office. Or maybe its somehow related to Diet Coke?

2. Crying
Shout at us, bump our car, scowl at our dog and we bawl like infants. We can’t help it. Put us in front of any movie involving parental relationships, someone dying or Meryl Streep doing…well..anything and we’re weeping like a civil war bride.  Women do cry a lot. I’m not a crier, but I do notice if a month goes by and my eyes haven’t dribbled over something. Is this a bad thing? Apparently not, since we’re encouraging dudes to do it, but honestly.. when is crying ever awesome? Yes, yes, its good to have a sob when someone dumped you or when Bradley Cooper gets Jennifer Lawrence, but crying in daylight? in public? I cry during fights, during annual reviews at work, at car accidents and at the end of Love Actually. All of which frustrates me no end. (I mean, I’ve seen that movie 100 times and it STILL kills me). Women regularly cry at work (who hasn’t encountered the notorious bathroom red eye removal?) and its never something we can control. My girlfriend put it down to anger (again, that rage thing), and not knowing what to do with it. The only thing we know what to do when we get bad feelings is sob. So ridiculous. Imagine Peyton Manning on the field weeping? Ali sobbing his heart out in the ring? Of course punching your date during ‘Love Story’ isn’t advisable but I think you get what I mean.

3. Nurturing
Ugh. I hate this word. It conjures up images of breast feeding and cotton balls. Sorry moms out there, and yes, I know care-taking is part of our genetic make up but our innate tendency to nurture the crap out of everyone without even trying is annoying as all get out to me. Why is this a bad thing? Because you can’t turn it off. Sure, being a caring human being is appropriate when you’re raising a kid, a puppy or a tomato plant (well I know about 2 out of 3). But why did we get this thing that makes us ‘look after’ and ‘care about’ people who don’t need it? People we don’t even like. Case in point, a coworker I wasn’t particularly fond of was laid off this week. She has provided negative feedback to my boss about  me year after year, openly expressed disdain for my abilities and delighted in pointing out my grammar errors on more than one occasion. (seriously girl? do you have nothing better to do?) And yet, as I heard about her situation I couldn’t help but lie in bed worrying about her. Whether she has a nest egg to cover her mortgage. How she took the news. Whether she was angry or hurt, scared or relieved. This woman hates me, but I can’t help but care about her. Want to reach out and see if she’s ok. And she hates me. But I couldn’t turn it off.  Its just in there. Would a guy be lying awake at 3am feeling bad about the situation? Worrying for her? Hell no. So while I know that its not causing me discomfort, I do wish I had an off switch for the nurturing thing. After all, I’ve already helped too many ex’s find dates as it is. 

Where’s my plan?

Like many people growing up in the 70’s I was indoctrinated from an early age. Once you stopped climbing trees and got interested in the opposite sex, then the path was pretty clear. School, college (maybe), a job (not a career), then the person of your dreams arrived, you got married, bought a house, had kids, etc etc. Happily ever after in a romantic script ‘The End’.
You knew there were such things as single people (“crazy Uncle Peter” or ‘scary lady who lives alone with a lot of cats’) and you knew that not everyone had kids (‘lovely couple (hushed tone) ‘but they can’t have kids’), but you didn’t ever expect that you’d be one of them. Those people were ‘different’.
Fast forward through twenty years of rom-coms and I’ve learned that single people are obsessed with their careers (and tend to wear killer suits while living in Manhattan, LA or SF), suffered the death of a spouse (for whom they pine, but get over with the assistance of the heroine), or are just plain losers (drunks, debauched, socially isolated or overweight are some of my favorites). Those without kids are selfish, career obsessed, health challenged or just haven’t gotten to minute 85 of the movie yet.

I know its just fantasy, but its a pretty drab future, especially if you’re not morning a dead spouse, you’re not a habitual drunk and your career doesn’t involve rushing around in cabs and wearing killer heels.  The visible role model for a single women in her late 30s/early 40s who’s NOT solely motivated by her career, who’s not morning the death of anyone and who’s not living in her parents basement.. well .. they just don’t exist on screen.

In reality they’re also harder to spot. They’re not advertising their single status (no, ‘I’m single’ ring, or red heart flag parade), and they’re largely just going about their lives, working, socializing, exploring and occasionally loving in complete anonymity. They’re the spare at the Thanksgiving table, the extra seat at the dinner party or increasingly the 5 women meeting for happy hour, a meet up group or a writing seminar. Because it seems that single people, while they seem to be invisible, also seem to be highly engaged in life.  Largely because they have to be (if they don’t want to be found dead, eaten by their cats at 80).But according to the smug marrieds and every TV/ movie, we don’t actually exist. And there doesn’t seem to be a plan laid out of us. What is our plan if it doesn’t involved a highly evolved career, a drinking problem or an accidental pregnancy (which amazingly takes us immediately into safe movie territory)? 

I guess we’re making it up as we go along. Forming communities with shared interests, pursuing passions we discover at random regardless of age, indulging, supporting, contributing and sometimes just not acting our age. We might be invisible but we’re doing it -life- anyway. The plan gets made every single day.

No one told me my career was over

When you’re 21 and still have that ‘new car’ college smell about you, the world is yours. There is no ceiling on your future, your wool suits are a scratchy size 4 and you only need 5 hours of sleep a night. You are a missile on a path to success.
Entry level positions suck no matter what school you went to, or who your father is. However your enthusiasm is fed by the excitement of learning how things work, who ‘you’ are at work and feeling like you’re achieving something. As the years pass, you’re promoted alongside your peers (male and female) and the notion that people just have ‘a job’ is something you internally look down upon. Why have a job when you can have a ‘career’? People with jobs have given up. They don’t care and simply seem content to ‘do work’ and go home.
Myself, I was my job.
From 7 in the morning until 9 most nights, throughout the weekend and even on my birthday eve, I worked. Striving for approval, acceptance and the next rung up. I knew I wasn’t going to be a NASA employee, but I did think that the term VP or Partner wasn’t excluded from my future. I was as good as my peers, sometimes smarter, even if my sense of humor got me into trouble a few times.
A move to the US and I kept on working. Now I was flying every week to churn out my 12-14 hour days in Minneapolis, Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas and Miami and loving it. Sure my dating life was whistling in the wind (I once dated a guy who lived in Vancouver – yes Canada- because it was on my way home from a project). No reasonable guy wants to date someone who’s gone 5 days a week and mentally distant the other 2.
On the eve of my 30th birthday I realized that I knew no one – really- in the city in which I owned an apartment, and that nothing would change unless I de-prioritized work. Guys seemed to be able to make it work, but then women always seemed to be more flexible and I wasn’t about to embrace lesbianism just for professional ease. No, I needed to actually put down roots and slow down. Put my career on hold. Grow some friends. Maybe find a mate.
So I refused to fly.
And was summarily fired.
Nothing like losing your job – your life and whole identity- to make you reconsider the role of work in your life. I felt invisible. Embarrassed. A loser.
I returned to work but without my fire or any real passion. After being kicked to the curb so easily by the only company I’d ever worked for, I didn’t really take the next step that seriously. I couldn’t give of myself like that again –  I couldn’t give my heart away a second time. Sure I worked hard, I  delivered every day and was praised for my efforts, but my drive was gone and my days ended promptly at 6pm. I moved jobs a few times, increasing my responsibility with every increase in salary, but the look I saw in my bosses eyes wasn’t one of recognition – a fellow road warrior, a herculean slavish worker bear- but one of dismissal. I was just someone in a job. Someone who left at 6pm.

‘Good, but you know, not really committed’

I once tried to get back in the game, moving to Seattle and handing over my soul for a PC and a corporate t shirt. Soldiering with the very big wigs and back on the 24/7 schedule. My smartphone never stopped beeping, day or night. But this time my body wouldn’t cooperate. Anxiety attacks, allergic reactions, thyroid and gastrointestinal issues  all signaled that we wanted out, even if mentally I was never more challenged or excited. However once my blood pressure hit the 260’s and I couldn’t stop my hands from shaking, I decided had to leave.. or consider my own personal longevity.

I don’t recall ever saying to anyone that I didn’t care about my career, that I didn’t take my work seriously. I love what I do, and I’ve been told I’m good at it. I will work weekends when asked, and I’ll sit on email at 8 or 9pm if I need to. But will I do it willingly and consistently? No. My days of coming into work on a Sunday morning, to ‘get ahead’, or staying late to make something perfect? No – life is too short and I am, when it comes down to it, just a number. The impact on my life of those hours is far greater than they would be on any company’s bottom line.
As a result my career has stalled, permanently it seems. I’ve not been promoted in title for over 5 years. My responsibilities have increased three fold and I’ve the trust of senior level executives.. but I remain in the same role, doing the same solid job. I watch with a smile as I see my peers and now my juniors promoted three or four times ahead of me. Of course many, if not most, are men. All have families. And all work like dogs. They never lost their drive and as a result, their careers continue to skyrocket.
I never decided to stop progressing and I’ve never lost my ambition. I’ve not stopped trying, growing or learning. I’m eager to take on new challenges and learn new things.  I’m thrilled at my small successes and even though I choose life over work, work is still a big part of who I am for 8 or 9 hours every day.
No one told me my career was over. but I guess the decision was made for me based on some intangible assessment of my personality, skills or ability. I will not rage, I will not moan but I will keep trying. The world is still mine. I am still that missile on a path to success. It just might not look like I thought it would. And hopefully the clothes are more comfortable this time around.

I don’t have to worry about retirement until at least….oh shit.

I used to be a really great saver. My first saving account involved writing ridiculously small numbers into a paper book which somehow was done at the Post Office. Not sure that the Post Office was ever a bank, but in 1970’s UK.. who knows. Maybe it was all part of an elaborate IRA scam, but I don’t think my pounds really would have funded much  beyond the occasional packet of cookies.
Once I started working (paper round at 10, washing dishes at 13, washing dishes at 16, 17, … well you see the career potential already).. the world was my savings account. Until I discovered the more gratifying and instant life long obsession… spending. Money meant you could buy things. Candy. Comic books. McDonald’s (hey I was 10). Soon I was depositing my Saturday dish washing salary into my savings account only to remove it the following day. The only thing better than seeing those numbers on my statement climb was seeing the cash poking out of the new machine know as the ‘ATM’ (or to me, a metallic Fantasy Island)

Fast forward 20 years and I notice that I’ve not really changed. I’ve saved enormous amounts, only to be followed by speedy withdrawals to fund essentials like houses, cars, bills, broken roofs..em… Burberry coats. I’m not a shopaholic but retirement always seemed like such a long way off, the numbers in my IRA always seemed high enough for a surreptitious withdrawal here and there. So I rationalized my spending. Then rationalized ceasing to save. And now I’m hungrily Googling any article which tells me how to simultaneously pay off my debts while piling up my savings and stabilizing my fast fading retirement plans.

How did I manage to hold down relatively high paying jobs for the last 20 years, pay into retirement accounts since the age of 23 and STILL be panicking about whether I’ll ever be able to retire? When did retirement even become something to worry about? I mean that’s like worrying about your burial.. isn’t it? Except its not. With no partner and certainly no white knight with a trust fund anywhere in my future, it suddenly IS something I worry about. Right up there with cancer and whether I can ru off that chocolate cupcake in the morning.

My girlfriend has the answer. She calls it the Golden Girls Plan and while it doesn’t involve Florida – per se- it does involve the reality that we (and quite a few of our friends) are likely to be single and 60 in the bizarrely close future. At which time we become the Golden Girls. Shacked up together in some largish house, somewhere warm, pooling our funds and continuing our slightly unfathomable lives. While no-one is required to Bea Arthur their future, the plan does make a strange kind of sense. Most people are able to retire because they’ve paid off their house, they’ve pooled their funds with spouses and they rely on each other in those times of need. The Golden Girls plan involves mirroring that relationship, except with women friends not spouses. A new version of the worlds oldest sorority.
As much as I’ve laughed at it, I have to hand it to her – it increasingly makes sense. So while I continue to try and save, be the responsible adult (say no to the motorcycle, yes to the CD), I am reassured that like me, there are hundreds of women out there facing the same future whether they know it or not. And me, I’ll have my Golden Girls.