No Sex in the City

Like many chicks my age, I powered through my 20s inspired by that New York fantasySEX-AND-THE-CITY-3-PLEASE-NO of cosmos, heels and relationships, Sex In the City. I never went so far as to call myself ‘a Miranda’ or quote lines from the show, I do credit Sarah Jessica Parker for introducing me to the beauty of Manolo Blahniks. Kim Cattrall agreed with me on matters of sex, and Cynthia Nixon made it ok for me to be a bit obsessed with work. Kristen Davis was everyone I ever hated from high school…but hey, no show is perfect.

But when a friend of mine mentioned she was in a sort of ‘Sex in the City’ dysfunctional relationship.. it got me thinking about my oh-so SNTC life as singleton in Denver Colorado.

Cut to…

Clear blue Colorado sky, musings out of the window and she poses the question ‘what’s up with men over 40?’. She then realizes that’s stupid question, and she’s got better things to think about, and goes to the dry cleaner.

Passing a shop window, she stops dead and squeals at the shoes in the window. ‘Meee likey’, pivoting into the store while pronouncing loudly ‘don’t let me buy anything’. Everyone pointedly ignores her. She leaves with yet another pair of sensible heeled black boots.

Its Saturday night and she’s standing in front of her closet wondering which outfit to wear that says ‘I’m available.. but not too available’ and ‘I’m sexy.. but not in a cougarish, desperate kind of way’. She spins around clutching her favorite sweat pant/ hoodie combination and wonders what’s new on Netflix.

She’s on a date and it seems to be going well. She tries to remember which bra she’s wearing and wonders what he looks like naked. The anticipation is incredible and she’s looking forward to some R-rated fun. He tells her he has dinner at 8 with friends. She never hears from him again.

The guy she’s still half in love with from 2 years ago appears in her email inbox. Her heart beats wildly. Does he want to start something up? Has he realized how shitty he was and wants to apologize? Am I really ready to go through all that again? God I miss him. She opens the email to see a link to a Bruce Springsteen interview and the immortal words ‘thought you’d like this’. He never emails again.

She gets a great opportunity to improve her finances, working for a world-renowned company in an incredibly glamorous role. She takes the job and its hard work. No one gives her shoes.

Sarah Jessica Parker and HBO… you owe me money bitches. Or at least a pity fuck.

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.

My news vacation

disney birdsI recently went on vacation. My first real ‘away from home, the dog and my laptop, sleeping in a hotel, eating out every day’ vacation in 4 years. To build on the relief of having no schedule, no must dos, laundry or dying veg in the fridge, I decided to also take a vacation from the news.

Nothing. No newsletters, no social media posts, no hitting refresh on CNN, BBC, The Guardian or even the tv. In fact, I didn’t watch tv for 7 days.

The bliss of no Trump for 168 hours. I highly recommend it to anyone feeling ragged, angry, frustrated, furious or just terrified. Its like sitting in a warm bath of innocence while fairies sing songs and fat suddenly melts off your thighs for no reason. I actually felt lighter. I heard birds again. I learned to hike without a annoying ping of texts or emails. I actually did.one.thing.at.a.time. It was like 1994 all over again.

Of course I returned to find out that we’re heading steadily towards some kind of nightmare scenario with the only leader with worse hair than ours, Houston had a Katrina (but the First Lady looked fabulous because fashion matters when dealing with immeasurable loss), and Dreamers will now be deported (or not be able to stay as citizens). Landing back in reality felt more like a car crash than even I expected and my shoulders are once more up by my ears. This shit ain’t going away.

You can argue that having the luxury to ignore the news is a sign of my privilege that millions can’t afford to do. That turning off the news and social media is sticking your head in the sand and if everyone did it… blah blah blah.

But no one can be angry and frustrated and fighting all the damn time. And I found new time in my day by not hitting refresh, liking posts, adding snarky comments or reading sites, that gave me the chance to actually breathe. I returned to the news with more energy, and a clearer idea of what is important to read vs. the piling on vs digging a deeper hole. How my time is better spent doing, instead of posting. Finding ways to create and contribute instead of wallowing in despair.

I’m back in the real world now. The fairies may have left and the weight has returned, but for now, I can still hear the birds. And I’m hanging onto that for as along as I can.

 

 

 

 

I Am Rooted

rootedIts back to school time and for many of us, that means a mini ‘new term’. Whether its new challenges, future plans or simply a fabulous pair of new boots, September signals the end of the summer fug and the chance to start the next chapter.

Looking back, September has always been a time of big decisions and moves in my life. If its September, chances are I’m taping boxes or working out my notice. But not this year.

This year, I am rooted.

Its taken 27 years (I apparently try EVERYTHING once) but I’m finally where I want to be. I live in a state I love, at a job I love, with friends who I adore, and a dog who’s the best. I’m medicated up to the eyeballs but I’m home.

Sounds as annoying as fuck, doesn’t it?

Lemme tell you.. to get to ‘rooted’ (aka, not planning the next escape), a sampler of the random, costly, ill-thought out decisions and events that took up those 27 years.

38 house moves, 6 house purchases (all conveniently sold in the midst of market downturns, at a loss), 5 rear end collisions, one near bankruptcy, one near deportation, marriage and divorce, moves to cities I didn’t really like, for jobs I absolutely hated, career progressions and regressions, hospitalizations, 2 botched surgeries,  at least 100 terrible haircut/ dye combinations and a lot.. more than a enough for one lifetime…of really horrible online dates.

I think I’ve tried every trick in the book, plus several in the Bible, the Ikea Catalog and The Breakfast Club. I’ve failed spectacularly at an extremely wide range of normal things and I’ve got permanent scars on my knees to prove it. The only thing holding up my optimism is Botox and idiocy.

September has always been my month to charge forward… before falling promptly flat on my face. So this year it will be different. I am rooted. I am changing nothing.

Except maybe my footwear.

 

 

Drowning not waving

Image result for drowning in the poolI’m terrified of deep water. If I can’t stand up in it then I’m a) clinging to the nearest stationary and solid object b) peeing in terror and c) screaming.

I’d like to think that it’s this which made me such a great sailor for all those years; abject fear of ending up in the water is a fantastic motivator to staying upright.  I learned how to capsize and right a boat only getting my feet wet.. mainly because I swim like a stone.

The signs weren’t good from the get go. Early swimming lessons at the local pool with my sister kicked off with a lesson in floating. As my body sank to the bottom of the pool and my very very short life flashed before my eyes, it was only the shouting of my mother from the balcony “Grab your sister NOW” that assured my existence. Needless to say, I didn’t take my feet off the bottom of the pool for the next 20 years.

Fast forward to 40 something and in the midst of a life crisis it came to me. I needed to learn how to be comfortable in the pool. Maybe..if I could swim with ease… I’d have one less thing to be terrified of  and live happily ever after. (with a pool)

As I now embark on my 4th set of private lessons I’m still terrified in any pool over 4ft deep. I have my strokes down pat but as soon I see the bottom of the pool deepening I’m heading to the bottom await my drowning. And this time, my sister’s hand is 4,200 miles away.

I’ve tried chanting, wearing fins, closing my eyes, looking ahead instead of down and even Valium. Nothing. Choking, panic, snorting and inhalation of an awful lot of water and once, a lifeguard actually ran to help me..  and still.. nothing makes it less horrid.

So maybe I’ll see you at the pool. I’ll be the one looking for the life lesson wearing horse blinkers and a noodle.   Be sure to look for my wave.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Time goes by pretty fast if you don’t take the time to look around.

(Time also goes by Clichepretty fast after 40.. how is it almost July??? And where are my glasses).

Grey hair, sore knees, sad eyes and that’s just the dog. Its true I’m starting to resemble him these days, but I refuse to resort to spending my days lying on the sofa farting and snoring… no matter what I feel like.

A few data points from the last year or so to catch you up:

  • 3 new bosses, 13 keynotes, 6 conferences, 18 town halls, 300+ powerpoints and 1TB of new content created.
  • 2 heads of state, 2 ambassadors, 6 tech icons and many of the Fortune 100 CEOs. (Favorite was the Dutch Prime minister who was delicious, weird and still lives with his mother. Wonderful manners).
  • $$$$$ earned. I mean ridiculous.

And in non work life;

  • 11 procedures via 2 shoulder surgeries, 32 weeks of PT, knee cartilage busted
  • 7 glorious weekends in St. Helena, CA
  • 3 dates with men who turned out to be married.
  • 3 apartment moves
  • 1 old flame
  • And I finally saw BRUCE in concert (Springsteen not Hornby and the Range)

And the best thing of all?

I realized I prefer working with and being around nice people over most everything else.

Life is just too short to run behind Mr.Big in 4 inch heels hoping that you’re having some positive impact on someone somewhere. No matter the astonishing people you meet, the innovation you’re absorbed in, the resources available and the learning you do… nothing beats working with a team of people who have your back, who treat you well and who share your values. Seeing the impact of your work. Having a team who knows you and doesn’t think its weird when you lend a hand, offer or ask for help. It makes all the difference.

I’m sure this reads like every cliché in the book.. but its been an eye-opening, life changing 18 months for me.  I’ve always been independent, up for an adventure and embracing of change.. and this time might be the ultimate challenge. Putting my values first and building the life I want around them.

Now.. does anyone have a use for some slightly used high heels?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How not to get a tattoo

catbuttFollow these simple rules and avoid scarring your body with some unintelligible, stupid or downright embarrassing ink forever!!!!

  1. Do not awake from a dream with an idea that having this THING inked on you will bring you insight and joy for the remainder of your days. This is why it is called a dream. It belongs in clouds and your subconscious.. not anywhere anyone can see it while you are naked.
  2. Do not get a tattoo if you think it will make you cool. Tattoos do not make you cool. No one with the words ‘Mum’ on their bicep ever looked cool. Except maybe Johnny Cash and his said ‘Mom’. And, well .. Johnny Cash.
  3. Do not get a tattoo if it has taken you more than a year or two to think about it. People buys houses, get married and pregnant in that time. You’re clearly not an ink person if you’d consider having a baby easier than deciding where to get your death’s head or Mark Twain quote.
  4. Do not get a tattoo because it seems like ‘fun’. Hobby’s are fun. Tattoos are not a hobby. Unless you want to be covered head to toe by the time you’re 25, then its more of a lifestyle.
  5. If the idea for your tattoo came from the following sources, please exit the shop: Pinterest, the wall of the tattoo shop, a server/waitress/stripper, your friends leg, a dream, your computer logo, a video game. Buy a Sharpie and go to town. You won’t regret it half as much.
  6. Do not choose your tattoo shop by it proximity to the bar. This is not a selection criteria. Cleanliness, prior work, reputation, Instagram/Yelp/other artists recommendations are good criteria. Your ability to duck out for another shot while waiting is not a criteria.
  7. ‘Walk in’ tattoo shops are a dying breed. There is a reason for this. Artists do not like to draw and ink 73 Broncos logos every game day. Artists like to draw, create and ink something they’re proud of. It does not occur – generally at midnight on a Saturday in 60 minute intervals. You may luck out on an undiscovered speedy Picasso but its unlikely. Appointments people. Unless you want a Broncos tattoo of course.
  8. If you must, absolutely have to, right now, you will die without it – get inked immediately, read some online reviews.  Check out portfolios online. When entering the shop, find the artists portfolios and look at prior work. If it looks ugly, messy, blurry, jacked or downright terrible.. leave. Artists books are the work they are ‘proud of‘. Yes, that rose which looks like a cats butt is ‘the best’ Joe can do.. he’s not saving his best work in some secret drawer.
  9. If when waiting for the tattoo you change your mind, tell them you are going to leave.  You do not HAVE to be inked. It is your choice. There are no handcuffs (unless your shop is also a dungeon or you are in prison). Offering to pay for your tattoo even without getting it will save you from much laughter when your ‘Trump for President’ hits the beach.
  10. Finally, when the artist presses the stencil on your body and removes it … look at it hard. Look in the mirror. Move your arms and legs. If there is anything about that stencil that you do not like, open your mouth. Too big? Too small? Popeye seems to have feet bigger than his head? Open your mouth. Don’t assume ‘it will look better once its tattooed’. NO. It will look exactly the same once tattooed. Only permanent.

So there you have it. How not to get tattooed. Next up.. ‘How to Cover Up That Tattoo You Really Regret When You Ignored Your Own Advice’

Small Talk

small talk 2I spent my first 26 years in the UK, so I always thought I was pretty good at meeting new people. Easy entry points included the weather (past, present and future), the journey to the event (roads, Tube, parking) and of course, if desperate, hope that the Rugby or Big Brother is underway.  Sure, I was a bit clunky, but by time we reached the bottom of the glass or cup, I could breathe out and cruise along nicely.

Then I moved to the US.

Here small talk is an art. Something Americans seem to acquire at birth along with self confidence, perfect teeth and a love of crap beer. And therefore a complete and utter mystery to me. 24 hours in the US and I moved from ‘slightly awkward but warms up quick’, to a nervous, twitchy weirdo who needed to find the restroom every 30 seconds.

I tried. Oh boy I tried. I asked my friends for topics, questions, entry points and guidelines for small talk. I watched and listened. I even YouTubed it. I’ve feigned interest in all manner of idiocy (the price of diapers at Target vs. Costco, how the local sports team’s manager sucks) and asked every banal question I can think of (how do you know so and so, home location, career, family trees, whether it will be a good ski season, parking restrictions, the price of milk), but still… crickets.

I don’t think  its all on me though. I also think that the people I meet bear some of the blame. Once they’ve gotten through their small talk standards, ‘are you married?’ ‘ how old are your kids?’ ‘where go to school?’ ‘what do you do?’ seem to result in a vacuum in almost every conversation. Once people have asked me ‘do you like America?’ and established that without a husband, family or a familiar background they have nothing in common with me,  I can guarantee my ‘new friend’ will need to find a drink/his or her partner/ the Tardis within 37 seconds.

But since I am an adult and small talk is a requirement for survival (and on a date ESSENTIAL), I’ve developed a few strategies to avoid being left staring at my shoes while trying climb inside my own intestines:

Men

  •  Ask about ‘the team’. I’ve never watched an American football game but asking ’bout the local team seems to have a 99% hit rate with men. I’ve found a lot of smiling, head shaking and ‘for sure’ comments can get us through the first few minutes of awkwardness. If asked about a specific game or player, I always bounce the question back immediately. Men love sharing their knowledge of the intricacies of a sport. And they assume that their opinion is valued.. so I value it. A lot. Just don’t be too enthusiastic or you might wind up roped into a viewing party. Which is basically small talk x 1000 with a specialist vocabulary.
  • Find his hobby or ‘used to be his hobby before the kids/house’. Ask about it. Express awe. You might luck out and find an overlap (men seem to manage to maintain hobbies after kids)… and who knows.. you could wind up with a activity buddy. Don’t be too enthusiastic though or you might wind up with angry and suspicious woman stalking you.
  • Weekend plans. Grown ups don’t just wake up on Saturday and wonder ‘what should I do with my day’, they have plans. Things already on the calendar. Ask about them. Just don’t admit that your weekend plans typically consist of ‘walk dog’ and then winging it.  That doesn’t seem to go down well.

Women

  • Ask about the family. 99.99% of women have families and love to share so it’s a surefire winner. Sure, hearing about how stressed she is about whether Jimmy is going to get into a specific daycare/kindergarten/school isn’t as scintillating to you as to her, but hey.. stress is stress. Joy is joy. Her husband/ partner is probably sick to death of the conversation, but women need to process… so be there for her. No woman has ever complained about someone expressing interest in her worries. EVER.
  • Complement her hair/makeup/shoes. I’m a sucker for this one so I KNOW it works. And if I luck out and its shoes.. the branches are endless. Foot pain. What to wear on a night out after 40. How you’re considering opting out of heels. Remember that women don’t like to make each other uncomfortable, so likely she’s trying as much as you are to find a connection point. And everyone wears shoes… the rest.. well you can wing it.

If all else fails…

  • Play the foreigner card. Turn up the accent. Laugh at your homeland. Applaud their version of your accent. Tell stories of your incompetence in the US. Your bad dates. Mention a blog…. hang on… is this just a very extended bout of small talk???????

…..Um. Do you happen to know where the bathroom is?  I really do need to get a refill. Actually I think I need to go feed the meter. I’ll be right back.

California – 3 months in

FroggerMy move to this weird and wackadoo state has been nothing if not eye-opening. I thought after 18+ years in the US, living in multiple states, I was accustomed to the ways and means of the American and its environs.  Apparently no-one told California it’s part of ‘Merica.

California is a state where people still throw things from car windows with abandon, but will scowl if you so much as inch towards letting your dog off leash. Where people will walk a 1/2 mile from the nearest house, office, mall, building etc.. to ensure their cigarette smoke doesn’t offend anyone, but will gaily drive across pedestrian crossings at 40mph while you’re in mid transit with a smile on their face.

I’m still learning the social norms of the place – and since I’m mid way between Googleville (aka San Francisco) and Hemptown (aka Santa Cruz), I’m constantly torn between what’s socially acceptable and what’s completely verboten.

For example, it’s totally fine to wear your work out gear 100% of the time in Santa Cruz… but in San Francisco, workout wear is strictly from 9-11am on a Sat or Sunday morning and only to coffee, (NOT brunch). Oh, and it MUST be black.

Santa Cruz is a ‘whatever’ town. San Francisco cares too deeply about everything to even comprehend that phrase. Living mid way between, my shoulders are basically partially shrugged at all times.

But I have picked up some new skills from this weird place.

– Frogger Driving. With 6-7 lanes, no one obeying any normal rules and even the CA motoring code says ‘pick the lane appropriate for your speed’, getting from A to B is like one big video game of ‘accelerate, signal, dodge, accelerate’. As long as you put aside certain death and anyone with an out-of-state license plate.. its kinda fun.

– Cheap milk location. With organic skim at $7.99 per gallon (yes, a gallon), milk is double the price of gas. Hence, I’ve turned into the person who will actually drive across town JUST to buy my gallons from that weird ‘Rotten Robbies’ store to save $2. Yes it’s called Rotten Robbies. And its a liquor store. But hey, they’re open 24 hrs and their organic skim is $5.99. Crushing it.

– Mountain Bike Trail exhibitionist. Apparently everyone is too busy polishing their Telsa’s or wine tasting because the trails here are EMPTY. Beautiful, single track, shady and as technical as you so desire.. they are boundless and silent. I’ve ridden alongside the ocean, through thick forests and across acres of empty fields. Up 30% grade ridges and down some way gnarly rock gardens. But with no-one around to hear me yelping or whooping, panting as I creep ever-so-slowly-up-22%-grade or shrieking as I pop a squat on some poison ivy.. my riding has become completely lacking in inhibition. I yelp, I squeal, I swear extremely loudly and I sound most of the time like a 90 yr old smoker trying to climb Everest. Except for the lack of chica friends …it’s really never been better. After all, if noone is there to see you suck, do you really actually suck? Nope. In my head I’m now a most excellent mountain biker. Even if I still fall off a lot.

So 3 months into CA and its been a whirlwind, weird and wonderful experience. I still haven’t found my peeps, but I have picked up some new skills, found some amazing places, gathered some stories and heck, I haven’t even started dating yet.

Can’t wait to see what the next 3 months brings…

 

 

 

Next up.. a plague of locusts

FloodSo the move to CA hasn’t exactly been what one could term ‘smooth’. Not unless smooth comes with pointy sharp bits, lots of water, electrical shockage and way too much time spent at Walgreens. On the plus side, they’re clearly putting crack in the water because I AM LOVING IT.

Read on.

I arrived after 19 hours of stare-it-tude (lord, Nevada looks like one long post-apocalyptic aftermath) and not a small amount of rain. Surprising since my research on South bay indicated low rainfall and extreme sun at all times. In fact, it was one of the reasons I decided to make the move. Lots of lovely dry warm sun.

Ha.

It’s not stopped since I arrived.

But I digress. My first night, I unrolled my air mattress, my sleeping bag, brewed up some tea and toasted my new citizenship with a disgruntled and somewhat damp dog at my feet.

‘Tomorrow, we’ll take a long walk, get in some food, chill out and just be mellow’. The dog looked at me sadly,  clearly hoping that non of the above involved any more driving.

We woke to more rain, but hey, being outside and not freezing my butt off was awesome. An hour later, we headed home for a big breakfast and to get a start on the day.

As I turned the corner of my apartment I heard rushing water and thought ‘oh how lovely, they have a water feature’.. Which they did. It was my apartment.

Due to a faulty mains pipe, while I’d been out with the dog wallowing in a balmy 58 degrees, the pipe had burst and my possessions were currently floating around in 6 inches of water. As I opened my door, my air mattress, now serving as water float, carried my sleeping bag onto the sidewalk. I watched my prescription bottles bobbing around, along with last nights underwear and my balled up pjs. Quelle horror.

My neighbors were similar afflicted. Dodging the large chunks of ceiling that were now raining down on our heads, we ran in and out of each others apartments, grabbing anything not ruined or waterlogged in hope of saving anything. Thankfully my laptop, my gun and one pair of underwear were dry. What more could one need?

My neighbor was crying at the loss of her wedding pictures while all I could think was ‘what a GREAT way to meet your neighbors’. Glass half full…? Or maybe just good medication? Needless to say, after a few nips of Oban whiskey (survived unscathed), she seemed less fazed by the whole thing too.

Within a day we were relocated to new apartments, slightly PTSD scarred and on high alert for anything sounding like running water. Which is when CA decided to really give some fun.

Day 1 – Apartment floods

Day 2 – Dishwasher decides that it no longer needs water to operate and commences cleaning via just heat. Handyman fixes dishwasher. Dishwasher then floods the new apartment. Everything recently dry near the floor, now wet again.

Day 3 – Fridge making sounds like the Tardis. Handyman turns off fridge for the day. All food ruined. Handyman finds a piece of tape in fan… source of noise… and turns fridge back on with joy. I dine on Shotbloks for the second night in a row as I’m not sure whether I can manage to eat 4lbs of unfrozen fish. Start drying out process again.

Day 4 – Washing machine decides it does not need water to operate but instead generates burning odor. Handyman fixes washing machine. Machine then floods the apartment. I receive electrical shock from new Rocku which I daringly left sitting on the ground. I develop slight tick at the sound of any running water.

Day 4b – Nothing floods. Take CA driving test and motorcycle test. Pass first time and only spend 45 mins in the DMV – SCORE!!!!!!

So as you can see I’m not yet a week in to my move and its been quite the experience. On one hand, everything I own is slightly damp (my work colleagues have been very understanding of my new unique style) but on the other hand it’s NOT SNOWING and I ROCKED my driving test.

I love California.

See… clearly crack in the water.

Signs you’re succeeding at life (even if it doesn’t feel like it)

01 success-babyI read this blog post the other day after a weekend spent feeling like failure. Examining your financial affairs will do that to a person, and I needed cheering up. Google delivered ‘Signs that you’re succeeding at life’.  According to the list I’m actually ‘succeeding’ across the board, but the list was dreadfully earnest so I thought I’d take a crack at one myself. Something a little less earnest, a little more realistic, something we can all aspire to.

“Signs you’re succeeding at life, even if it doesn’t feel like it”

1. You have a box of tissues in your house.

A box of tissues signals to visitors, friends and family that you have elevated the process of nose blowing to the next level. No wad of toilet paper, piece of kitchen towel or shower drain for you! Owning a box of tissues signals a level of maturity, a level of concern for the sensitivity of the nose tissue itself, and an acknowledgement that the sweating the small stuff can be amended with a quick wipe from a peach colored Kleenex. NOTE: if you disguise your tissue box with a knitted, sewn or felted cover you’ve overreached and probably need a new hobby. It’s just a fucking cardboard box of snot rags after all.

2. You no longer believe that those jeans from 1992 are worth hanging on to

Sure, you were 2 sizes smaller back then and yes, if you did happen to catch Ebola you might, just might be able to get them on, but a little known fact is that hips continue to grow well into your 40s so those bad boys are never getting anywhere near closed. Even if your innards are leaking out your butt. And you’ve accepted that. Plus does Pepe even exist any more? and girl, you wouldn’t be seen dead with a boot cut any ways.

3. You only hit the snooze button once

I know, I know, not everyone is a morning person and we all wake up differently. But a person who only hits the snooze button once is demonstrating that ‘yes’ they will be up in 6-8 minutes, and no matter how boring that conference call is at 8am, goddamn it, they’re not going to be late and yes, they’ll even have showered. Not for them 30 minutes of extra sleep metered out in 6-8 minute increments. No Sir, they have willpower. They’re succeeding at life.

 4. You have enough room to leave things off your resume

Remember when you tried to stretch and pad your resume to make it onto a second page? Citing your interest and hobbies as ‘legitimate’ employer ‘need to know’ information? How about the bogus ‘cert’ you added ( ‘typing speed’ anyone?) in lue of business school or anything to put under ‘Other Achievements’. These days you’re deleting years  and previous roles all over the place as your wealth of experience (and years), mean you no longer need to cite your time at the Cheesecake Factory as evidence of ‘customer service focus’ or your temp job as ‘a flexible, ‘can do’ attitude. In fact, trying to get it onto 2 pages is an exercise in ruthless editing and that includes summarising 2 years in one role as ‘Project management’ which mostly involved emailing your friends and checking out the cute new guy in Marketing.

5.  A house move no longer means bribing friends to help during happy hour the night before

Now one can be successful at life by celebrating the bonds of friendship during team activities, but moving is not one of them. As an adult, you’ve recognized that asking people you like to give up their Saturday and carry your sofa across town is testing the limits of anyone’s patience. Unless you’re committed to a minimalist buddhist lifestyle or your move involves walking across the street, you know to hire a truck, suck up the cost and get your own damn self moved. You know to invite friends over after you’ve moved to celebrate with drinks you’ve provided.

6. You remember to bring a reusable bag to the grocery store

You’re a sensitive soul. You care about the planet. You recycle your milk cartons and shit. But you know you’re succeeding at life when you remember to bring that $0.99 reusable bag you bought last time, with you on your grocery run. Bringing that bag says ‘I care’ and ‘I’m responsible’ signally to all those plastic and paper squanderers your obvious ‘winning-ness’ at life in general. Goddamn you’re cool. That bag is totally saving the plant yo..

 7. You know what to order in the bar, and it’s not Coors Light

Remember your first few trips to a bar? The nervous approach, the frantic search for an idea of what would make you seem a) older b) sophisticated and c) fuck you up. These days you chuckle at someone who orders Southern Comfort and coke, the poor sod who waves a $10 note for anything ‘Lite’ or the chick who simpers for ‘a nice glass of white wine’ from across the sticky bar. You know that a bar calls for a specific order, and you have your favorites. You can order a few cocktails without uttering the phrase ‘furry nipple’, your beer actually has calories in it and yes, you’ve sunk some tequila or vodka just because its Tuesday. Your days of ‘anything’ are long gone. You have tastes and damn it, what comes in your glass is an expression of who you are. Even if it has a cherry in it.

8. You order a salad, not because you should, because it sounds good

Remember when salad was what you ordered because you didn’t want your date to think you were a Neanderthal. Or because your mothers reminder to ‘eat your vegetables’ hadn’t quite dissipated from your head.. or maybe because your pants were feeling just a tad bit tight? You know you’re succeeding at life when you actually choose a salad because its something you want. No, not for you the greasy, juicy cheeseburger will chilli fries that will satiate all desire for the next 12 hours.. no, you like the sound of the spinach and walnuts and that goat cheese stuff. Wow, it even comes with raspberry balsamic dressing? Winning my friend. Winning.

 9. You said no to that second date even though you totally could have

One clear sign of success is being able to express your desires and evaluate whether they’re likely to be met by the pale, wan, bespectacled loser who’s mumbling across the table at you right now. Sure, you might not have been laid in 8 months and you’ve not had a signficant other since Bush was in office but you say ‘no’ to that second date because, hey… you have standards.  So as you’re driving home wondering whether you’ll ever remember what it feels like to go on vacation with a person of the opposite sex ever again, remember that you’re succeeding at life. (if not at dating). Go you!

10. You totally can fit in that spot.

You can see those people in life who aren’t quite succeeding at life as they approach a parallel parking challenge. They slow down. They evaluate. They chew their lip and maybe try to drive forward into the spot. They can’t remember where the front of their car ends and despite turning the steering around like a 45, they’re still 4 ft from the curb. They decide to suck it up and head to the pay parking where spots are the size of duplexes and no skill is required. But not you my friend. You see every and any gap as a potential parking spot. You deftly evaluate and challenge the laws of physics as you pilot your 3500lb beast into a space no larger than your old dorm room bed.  Your wheels are the requisite 2 inches parallel to the curbside and wouldn’t you know it, you’re right outside the restaurant. You sir, madam.. are succeeding at life.

We bow before you.

Reevaluating my choices

01 debtI’ve been plagued with poor judgement in many facets of life – love, friendship, housing, bike jerseys, ordering curry on a first date – and I’ve focused on improving the decision process around  these over the last few years with the help of my trusty shrink lady.

Ok, maybe just the love and friendship ones.. but I’m been working on them really hard.

NOTE: for none therapy types, “work” generally means discussing something until you realize why you’re doing what you’re doing, and then cry a lot. It takes a long time and generally retails at $120 per hour. Tissues are free.

As a result, these days, I know when I’m making a bad decision (as oppose to blindly stumbling around assuming the best case scenario), and can now choose to forge ahead  (and suffer the UTI), or go do something less destructive. My friendships are more authentic, my romances and crushes less all-encompassing, and overall, I think my shrink has earned that condo in Aspen I’ve bought for her. She’s pretty darn good.

But one thing continues to evade me despite nearly 18 months of discussion.

My relationship to money.

Two words. It SUCKS.

I’m not a blood sucking consumer whore. I don’t want to be rich, I don’t desire a big house or a fast car, and I could care less about swanning around the Med on a yacht a la Beyoncé. But I do like nice things, and I don’t make enough money to keep me in the style to which I imagine I am accustomed.

Easy fix? Stop buying shit. Stop doing shit that you can’t afford.

I did that.

I buckled down. I sold my house. I sold all of my shit. I followed a budget. I stopped buying shit. I stopped doing anything that wasn’t essential to my professional life or personal sanity (sorry, but I need to eat raw fish now and again or life isn’t worth living).

The result after a year? I dug myself a little ways out of a hole. But it took a looong time to not get very far, and there’s only so long you can convince yourself that ‘stay-cationing’ is your choice and that another layer of NikWax will fix your rain jacket. Especially if you’ve got 30 odd years of bad financial choices whispering in your ear and a friend who really needs a cocktail.

If you’ve never been in substantial debt, you can read all the articles, follow all the rules: consolidate, prioritize, budget and monitor, but still wind up with 5 red zeros after your credit card balance for a really long time.

But I did make progress… right up until life happened. I didn’t plan on that fender bender, or that vet bill, or that unexpected medical bill or the IRS bill (for 2011?) with 3 years of fines that landed on my door in the space of a month. It was as though the universe saw I was trying to get the money thing locked down and wanted to send a message about who really was in charge. And as I headed into my second year of ‘financial awareness’ I found that for every step forward, life handed me a bottle of oil and a slip n’ slide just for fun.

I just couldn’t get ahead… which – embarrassingly – led to me giving up entirely.  I decided ‘fuck it’ and put my fiscal conservation on the back burner for a few months.

Fuck it that I’m in debt.

Fuck it that I’m not getting out of debt any time soon

Fuck it that I can’t afford things.. whats an extra $32 on top of my mountain?

Fuck it ..I can’t control this shit anyway.. no matter how hard I try.

Stupid? – of course. Did I know it? – of course. What did it cost me? Basically the last 18 months of saving and skimping…. all down the drain in 3 months. Did I mention stupid?

Do I now own a yacht? A Porsche? Have I traveled to China? Am I writing this on a gold iMac from a downtown loft?

Nope. Nothing more substantial than a new purse, a few dinners out and a new bike.  But I’m now, almost 2 years into my ‘financial freedom’, EXACTLY where I started.

Yes, I want to slap me too.

It’s been the biggest failure of my life, right up there with my marriage. In fact, at this point, it’s going to take an awful lot longer than my marriage to fix.

Ms. Shrinky lady says that we buy things to make us feel worthy. To elevate our status to other or even just to ourselves. To console or even replace something that’s missing.  I know why I said fuck it. I know why I make the decisions I do. I’ve done my crying and gone through those tissues faster than I go through my paycheck.

“I am not my things” she makes me say.

I know I’m not, but things help me go mountain biking, buy my dog more pain medication and keep the IRS off my back.

“Things will not make me happy” she also intones.

I know, but dinner with friends does. A trip back to the UK to see my nieces for the first time in 3 years will.

“Things are just things” she sagely advises.

I agree. I really do agree.

I live in 770 sq feet of rented apartment with no dishwasher or AC and I’ve never been happier.  And the only thing which intrudes on my contentment (other than my snoring but pain-free dog), is the nagging thought of all those dollars in the red. Which currently will turn black sometime around 2019. Yes, 5 years.

From one poor decision to the next over a period of 15 years I’ve accumulated enough red ink to see me through to almost the next decade. I’ve been incredibly lucky; surprise bonus’ and running my own business for while kept my head above water when by all rights I should have drowned, but these days those surprises seem to have all dried up. The only thing between me and instant salvation is a dead rich aunt in Australia suddenly emerging or my boss having an aneurysm and giving me a pay increase.

Since neither are likely, I’m firmly back on the budget path for the foreseeable. Resigned to a longer term rental life than I planned, and a ‘fly on a plane and stay in a hotel’ vacation once every 3-4 years if I can save for it (and nothing goes horribly askew with my car).

On the positive side I’ve got plenty of time to plan it (I’m thinking Brazil or China), and in the meantime my cooking ability is coming on gangbusters.  And yes, that even includes a killer curry for any first dates I might have.

Apparently I can only make smart decisions in one area at a time..

 

 

Lies I’ve been told: The Beauty Edition

pink-bad-haircutContinuing on the theme of lying, this week I found myself besieged by people wanting to add to my list of lies.. with the people responsible for making you pretty – hairdressers, dentists, manicurists and ‘beauticians’ named as the most skillful of liars.

Not surprising. If your mortgage was dependent on convincing some poor schmo that a product, service or treatment could turn them from Honey Boo Boo’s mom to Jennifer Aniston.. well I guess even I’d start fibbing a bit. Plus women, bombarded by images of airbrushed perfection via every newstand, gossip site or tv show, well we’re eager for anything which will make us look a little less blotchy, more youthful and less, well, poochy. You never know.. maybe this thing – cream, facial, makeup or procedure – just might make our next Facebook photo something we won’t rush to untag. So here are the some of the lies we listen to and nod along with.. all in the name of hope and ‘beauty’.

Waxing.. it gets easier and less painful overtime

Bullshit. I’ve been waxing my lip since I was 22 and it still brings tears to my eyes with every strip, leaving me red and puffy for the rest of the day. I used to get bikini waxes, but after my third Brazilian, when I wailed like a newborn and brought the shop owner running, it was suggested that maybe, just maybe, Brazilians weren’t for me.  As for that hogwash about your hair growing in thinner when you wax regularly – forget that lie. Lets just say Phil Spector’s fro has nothing on what’s between my thighs these days. I think waxing prompted some kind of challenge mentality down there and its winning.

We can dye your hair from black to blond

Yes. Yes you can. Should you? No. No no no no no. Anything that takes over 4 hours in  a hairdressing salon isn’t to be recommended as ‘a good thing’. And no-one, not even your bimbo-est LA vanity case needs to spend 4 hours with bleach on her scalp. I seriously think my IQ was permanently damaged from that experience and my hair… well….lets just say the experience unsurprisingly led to the next lie I’ve been told….

“You can totally ‘get away with’ short hair”

Just because you’re bored doing blond highlights and 1/4 inch trims day after day, does not give you – my hairdresser – license to lie to me. Because while I am instantly morphing my self image into Andrey Hepburn, my hairdressing is just thrilled at the opportunity to try out a new style they saw at some trade show in Cleveland. Whether this microfringe/mullet combination will actually suit me (and make me appealing to the opposite sex) isn’t a consideration when your hairdresser starts lying. No, I cannot get away with short hair – unless ‘get away with’ actually means ‘resemble Dorothy Hamill’.

Long lasting lipstick/eyeliner/mascara

This one is usually one of two lies. The first is where long lasting actually translates to ‘it will remain on your face until you the leave the bathroom’ .. at which point the makeup will instantly move from where you originally put it to a brand new location of its own choosing. My eyeliner has never even made it out of the house on my actual eyes.. never mind to a date or evening out. It migrates under my eyes as soon as I breath out, rendering me an exact double for Uncle Fester and that face powder I applied so liberally? I’m shining like a freshly waxed shoe before I’ve even made it downstairs. The only times I’ve ever actually found an actual ‘long lasting’ make up product it apparently needs to be lasered off because no soap and water, cream or even pure alcohol seems to work. That ‘waterproof mascara’ I applied in 2005? Well its still there. I’m just waiting for my lashes to slowly fall out… it seems to be the only way I’m getting rid of it.

They’ll stretch out really fast/ shrink in the wash

Oh boy, have I fallen for this lie. See that chick walking tentatively, as wobbly as a newborn foal? Yes, that’s me.. waiting for my patent boots to ‘stretch out’ as promised. I’ve had those suckers for 8 years, worn them with ski socks, stuffed them with wet newspaper and taken them to at least 3 cobblers and nada. Still function as my own personal foot binding machine.  Meanwhile, those cashmere leggings I paid an arm and a leg for (mimosas + shopping = bad decisions galore) and which the assistant assured me ‘would shrink to nothing’ in the wash.. well to this day, I’ve boiled those suckers at 140 degrees and the crotch is still sitting somewhere mid thigh. I’m in danger of losing them entirely every time I stand up and the only way I can wear them is safety pinned to an extremely large pair of granny panties. Which, I assure you, makes for a very interesting conversation if you ever get lucky. Which you won’t..  because saggy, baggy, beigy wool leggings aren’t attractive to anyone, no matter how ‘awesome’ the sales assistant said they were.

Which leads us to the biggest lie of all…

That dress/skirt/jeans/cashmere leggings totally work

Yes, they probably do… just only in the dressing room. As you’re standing in front of the mirror marveling at your skinny legs and tiny waist, check your arms in the mirror. Amazing isn’t it – how skinny and long they look. And wow.. are you sporting new hollows where your cheeks used to be? And damn.. have you noticed how long your neck suddenly looks? Yes.. we all look amazing in the changing room (Neimans, Saks, Nordstroms we’re on to you). Just wait until you get home to your non tilted mirror and plain old lighting before you take those tags off.  I’ve gained about 15lbs between the mall and my home some days… but until you leave the store..hey, you’re totally making those skinny jeans work girlfriend!

Wondering if where you’re going to wear that gingham shirtdress,  if faux leather jeans are really you or whether that turtleneck  makes you look a little squat.. don’t worry. You’re totally making that look work. That 60’s large print mini-dress – just too cute. Platform boots – amaze-balls! And PVC jerkin? Cray-cray how good it looks.

Ladies, if your sales assistant is using words you don’t understand, if you know your mother would approve of it -or your hairdresser-step away from the rack. You’re not rocking it. You’re rocking her commission. Now go buy some sensible black pants like the rest of us.

There’s ‘news’ and then there’s News

cotton-candy2Every morning I follow pretty much the same routine. I wake up, make myself a cup of tea, turn on my laptop and catch up on the ‘news’.

“Jennifer Aniston is still postponing her wedding but claiming everything is wonderful. Miley is twerking while prepping for her inevitable mental collapse/OD. Lilo is rehabbed but hanging out with a rather nasty married junkie and oh.my.god. look at little Nori (North).. soooo cute.”

1,200 people gassed in Syria.

“Robert Patterson is stepping out with someone new. Bradley Cooper is lying in a park reading Lolita to some model. Wow, Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas split!    Check out Jessica Simpson and her kids in US Weekly. Oh Kardashians please go away”

US to bomb Syria in response to gassing of 1,200 citizens

Next up, Facebook.

“Oh fun, my sister ran 3 miles today. And my buddy turns 40-something – got to remember to post something on this wall. Oh look, Jeannie is looking forward to that show tonight and cool, Pete finally got out of hospital after his surgery. Must remember to post that video of Jon Stewarts monologue from last night.. so funny.”

Russia bans homosexuality support or expression.

Time for some Huffpo.
“50 years since MLK speech. I wonder what Obama will say tonight? Cool.. there’s a new iPhone coming out in a few weeks. 10 Best Small Towns to live in America – oh look, Colorado has one. Gay rumors around Cory Booker? Who cares?”

At which point my ‘news’ catch up for the day is done. 30 -45 minutes of reading and I’ve pretty much soaked up about 100 ‘news’ headlines pertaining to famous people being photographed in cute or not cute outfits, people having babies, cute animal videos and a scandal or two.  Maybe later I’ll catch up on my favorite blogs, check in on Jezebel and update my own blog.

Meanwhile actual news is going on. Little of which has registered in my world.

(In fact, the only reason I knew about Russia and the whole homosexuality ban was because there was a photo of a famous actress (Tilda Swinton) holding a rainbow flag in front of the Kremlin.  A photo which made me wonder ‘why is she supporting Prop 8 in Russia?’ before I clicked elsewhere…yes, I am cringing).

And I know I’m not alone. We’re all guilty. After all, who has the time, energy and emotional wherewithall to learn about other people suffering in other places? To care that Russians are now banned from admitting or supporting homosexuality. Doesn’t impact me. Plus, have you seen the size of my AMEX bill? Do you know how much work I have to get done today? And don’t get me started on the Bachelor.  You see, all my worrying is tied up for now. I’m kind of too busy to worry about Russia, or Syria, or starving people or womens rights or… or….anything that actually matters.

Except I’m not too busy… to check out Jennifer Aniston’s newest purse, or see what ridiculous thing Gwyneth just said. I just prefer that ‘news’ (the light fluffy cotton candy that most of us register),  to actual news. You know, the stuff which impacts the world and the people who live in it.

News…Its such a downer.

I’m not sure where this acceptance of world ignorance started. I used to walk a mile or two every day to pick up a newspaper when I was in school. I religiously devoured the Independent and the Guardian every day and spurned my Dad’s daily read as tabloid trash.  I read the newspaper cover to cover – politics, world news, editorials, business news.. the only thing I allowed myself to skip was Sports. News was vital – it made me feel connected to the world and I enjoyed trying to figure it out – how would the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland ever be resolved? Would Israel and Palestine ever reach agreement? Could North Korea build a nuclear bomb? Were those crazy Americans really going to impeach their president over a blow job? And campaign finance reform? Bring it on!

Stories about celebrities -babies, clothes, idiotic surveys, videos of kittens or puppies- were like dessert or chocolate after the entree (the actual News). A treat. A throwaway nothing to remove the bitter taste of the reality that was ‘stuff going on in the world’. We knew that celebrity marriages and ‘oops’ moments weren’t News.. they were just a bit of sugar to help the rest go down.

Today, with the proliferation of media options, no-one is forcing us to eat our greens any more and we get to eat dessert for every meal.. every day. Why bother reading about stuff which doesn’t impact us, is far away and really.. just kind of depressing? After all.. reading about it doesn’t change anything, and what change could we affect anyway? Its much more fun to escape reality and wind down the day with some Kardashian crap, right?

Except… except… ignorance isn’t acceptable. And while you might not be able to change something over in another country (or even within your own), don’t you want to at least know about it? How can anything change if you’re not even aware that something is going on? And while I’m one of the worst offenders (my browsing history reads like a 13 yr old teenage girls magazine).. I can’t help but feel that maybe I’m overdosing on sugar these days. That I need some greens. If nothing else, if the world is about to end.. I sure want to know how it came about and who’s firing the missile. And if Texas decides to close the last 5 abortion clinics, I know as sure as hell, its not popping up on US Weekly.  And if someone decides to spy on everything I do and say, my extensive knowledge of Justin Beiber and Selena Gomez sure isn’t going to be very helpful in figuring out my rights as a citizen.

So today I’m going to stop treating Jennifer Aniston’s non pregnancy as news and start actually reading the ‘News’. Its not as sweet and mindless as what I’ve become used to but I can’t excuse my ignorance of the world around me any more. I don’t want to wake up one day and find myself wondering if ‘Chicken of the Sea’ is really chicken. And to be honest, I can’t laugh at the stupidity of those Kardashians if I don’t know any better myself.

Before and After

hiding

As those of us who actively date know, the days after something has ended is often more fraught and emotionally charged that when you were actually dating. But not a good way.

Before you were excited to see his number pop up on your phone screen and curious as to what he had to say, now you cringe and hit delete (while feeling somehow ‘invaded’) and pray that he doesn’t resort to text. Before you spent time thinking about the time you’d spend together and the things you’d do, now you pray that Denver is big enough that you’ll never run into each other again.

And the biggest ‘before’… before you didn’t give a thought to what type of an ex he’d make, because he was lovely enough for you to date. ‘After’ ..well all of those things you noticed and appreciated about him.. frankly, now creep and annoy the heck out of you.

In my mid twenties I dated one of my neighbors. It was easy, heck it felt like we’d created a kind of ‘Threes Company’ featuring me, him and his cat. He was just a flight of stairs away and we saw each other all the time. We drank wine on his patio, ate breakfast on mine. He played piano as I read the Sunday papers, and I sometimes felt like I was living in a movie – it was just so lovely.  He was easy going, funny and warm, he liked taking care of things for me and I felt adored. Traits I loved about him. Right up until the relationship ran its course. At which point he became all of those things x 100.

Well he didn’t, but the need to disentangle from him brought all of these personality traits to the fore. And loving and warm, kind of becomes claustrophobic and creepy when you’ve just dumped someone.  I’d have dealt better if he’d have cut off contact like any normal guy.. instead he was just the same, but more eager to prove himself on the off-chance that I might change my mind.

Did I need help carrying my groceries? How was my day? Did I want to check out his new jazz CD? How about I come over for a glass of wine? Was I sure I didn’t need help carrying that from my car?

I had to move.

Did I need help packing my boxes? Did I need him to arrange a moving truck? Was I ok?

ARGH… GO AWAY.

To be honest, he was just being nice and trying to make it easy, but within a few weeks every single thing about him made my skin crawl and the air suck out of my lungs. Thankfully once I moved, he adopted the usual post-relationship model of ‘see you around’ and I never heard from him again.

(sorry people who stay friends with their ex’s… but I think you’re really weird)

My neighbor currently finds herself in a similar situation. Before she thrilled at the sight of her new boyfriend across the courtyard.. now he’s an ‘ex’, she skulks around unless she’s looking her best. Before she was warmed by the sight of him through his window.. now she has to watch him date other women though the very same window.  We don’t ever think of the ‘after’ when we’re in the ‘before’ stages, but I’m betting she’ll give it a thought before she dates again.. and I sure will after the latest foray.

What once was intensity and focus has become obsessive and weird. The traits which advertised him as a good catch – consistency, rigor and thoughtfulness – have resulted in text after text, email after email looking for explanation, throwing accusations and character assassinations every which way. This morning I am apparently ‘mentally ill’ and ‘a complete nutter’ and that was just the text I read.

Before I was smitten.. two weeks later, I’m frankly, quite scared.

Which leads to today’s advice. Always spare a thought for the ‘after’ before you start. All those characteristics and personality traits which you find so charming today.. spare a thought for what they’d look like turned against you. Because while you’re hopeful and sure that this one is going to work.. likelihood says that it might not. Whether you dated for 2 weeks or 2 years, one day you could be ducking and dodging, screening and blocking at some point in the future.  And while we might wish that they’d just ‘go away’ once we’ve pressed delete on their number.. not everyone does.

Letting the small stuff go… no Chicken Soup involved

Letting go of the small stuff

I hate those books. All of them. Chicken Soup for the Soul, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, The Secret… Ugh. Oprah should be strung up for popularizing that pap. They’re trite and clearly written by people on extremely large doses of Prozac.

But as I dived back into the dating pool earlier this summer, I have had to remind myself that at 41, perfect doesn’t exist and everyone comes with some shit I don’t like. No, not crabs. Small stuff. (again, not crabs).
I mean, the small stuff. The stuff which isn’t sexy or fun or cool or even particularly interesting. And while I know I come with my own bundle of annoyances, after 7 years on my own.. I tend to forget that dudes can be as annoying as shit.
But if I’m ever going to find someone who I can tolerate for more than 11 weeks (my current record for dating since 2007).. then I’m going to have to let some small stuff go.  I’ve thought about this really hard and below are some of the ‘stuff’ I’m prepared to not sweat.  

1. Crudity

“Crude” means to lack a polish, in a raw, unprepared state, lacking in intellectual judgment or perspective.. and I’m sort of ok with that. I’m English and we’re kind of overly proper anyway. Dudes who were captured in the wild at an early age (i.e. married in their twenties), seem to have had all crudity trained out of them as part of the ‘I Do’ process, but a lot of the wilder dudes (those still roaming the forest today) are kind of overtly crude. And I can be too.  But I’m also a hypocrite and there seems to be an invisible line I’ve defined between acceptable and unacceptable crudity. Around me, feel free to swear, fart, make off color jokes and talk about how amazing my breasts are. But no, I don’t need to know about your bowel movements, your masturbatory or ejaculatory habits, the smell of your farts or the kind of porn you found in your dad’s VCR collection. That’s what your dude friends are for.

2. Crunching

Since I’m not dating octogenarians (yet),  and I like to eat out, its fairly likely at some point that I’m going to encounter my nemesis. The loud cruncher. You know the one. Who can make eating an apple a stereophonic experience for an entire room. Who can tell you exactly how hard that Butterfinger is without saying a word or guide you mentally through every kernel of their afternoon popcorn. No, this isn’t intolerance born of age, I’ve been working on this one since birth.

Blessed with a father who can actively break teeth on cereal, every salad, piece of toast or chip was a cacophony of crunching, grinding, chomping and cracking. What can I say, the man is gifted – he can generate loud noise while eating pie. Which, as an adult, makes me able to hear an apple being picked up from a 500yd radius and can cause me to exit a room faster than Usain Bolt.

Yes, I know everyone makes noise when they eat, but please, I beg of you, keep your apple eating to times when I’m not around and I’ll grit my teeth through everything else. Even cereal. Maybe.

3. Underwear

Regular readers will know my thoughts on underwear for women.. suffice to say I think its a blessing for your self confidence and a gift we can give to the dudes in our life every single day (no-one  in history ever got annoyed by a stocking). But I’ve noticed through experience that men’s view of underwear can be somewhat… lackadaisical.

I once lived with a guy who proudly wore his underwear until the waist band and rest-of-pants were completely separated (I actively had to stop him from using the waist band as a  belt to keep the things together). He considered them still functional and therefore part of the rotation. He also had a pair of boxers which had worn two special ‘ball holes’. I assumed this design aspect was pleasurable as I had to forceably chuck them out twice (yes, he pulled them out of the bin the first time). Really.

Wear your underwear two days running? Totally normal dude behavior.  (women do the same thing = beyond disgusting). And don’t get me started on stains.  I’ve been married and all I can say is blurg….So dudes, I won’t highlight the contrast between my corset and thigh highs with your grey saggy Calvins, or roll my eyes at the Star Wars boxers your mom bought you in 2001. But please keep them clean and switch them out on a daily basis. We’ll do the same ok?

4. Piles

No, get your head out of his ass. Not hemorrhoids. I’m talking about piles of stuff. Men seem to love to amass them wherever they go. Not for them the drawer, the closet or the cupboard. No.. their stuff is important. Too important to be ‘put away’. No, men stuff needs to be close at hand. In a pile of stuff. Next to another pile of stuff. I’ve noticed this tendency in some women, but it seems to be men who really indulge this with a passion. Not just the obvious stuff like shoes, bills, magazines or clothes, but piles of random shit spring up wherever men pass by.

Cyclist in your life? Likely you have a pile of cycling related equipment somewhere annoying like the dining room table, the kitchen counter or your bedroom dresser. Maybe its a pile of ‘drying’ chamois? Or old editions of Cycling magazines that were read 5 months ago.
Car enthusiast? Watch out for that pile of old washers, screws and rubber flanges… he needs that stuff to hand ok? Especially in the kitchen. Where the car isn’t. 
And every guy has his pile of important shit to do (that should have been done about 3 months ago). Don’t you dare even think about moving that pile. He’ll never find that shit if you so much as move it a millimeter.

As a neat freak, piles drive me nuts. Even more than dirt. In fact I can happily exist in tumbleweeds of dog hair as long as there are no piles of stuff. But piles are a fact of life, so I hereby decree you can have as many piles as you want… they’re just all going to be in your room. In your house. Where I don’t live.

5. The Grocery Fairies

I don’t think there’s a coupled guy out there who doesn’t in some small way think that fairies stock the fridge. Its amazing how there is always milk, and eggs and cheese and, wow, lots of yummy stuff to eat all. the. time. Now us singletons, and those coupled but living separately, know the truth that the grocery fairy gets shafted at Whole Foods every week and requires our car, wallet and time. Not much magic involved, especially at the weekends. But to many men, (and I’ve known a few), they honestly seem to think that the cupboards, freezer and fridge are magically stocked overnight. Especially when they’ve finished the milk or the OJ, ate the last of the cereal or that those last 2 pieces of bread. Because magically when they next get hungry, all that shit will have magically refreshed itself.
Why dudes do this, or believe in the grocery fairy is beyond me, but I blame women. Mothers, wives, girlfriends. We perpetuate the myth by noticing the gaps and immediately adding it to our daily to do list. And by taking it on, we also encourage guys to think that – this kills me –  women enjoy all forms of shopping, even the the weekly journey into the aisles of Tesco or Safeway.  Find me a man who likes to grocery shop and I’ll show you a gay man who entertains. Or someone on Top Chef.

I’ve now fed myself for some 20 odd years and I can’t ever recall meeting a grocery fairy or finding something in the fridge I didn’t buy myself. And I don’t mind you feeding yourself Mr. Man.
Just know that if you drink the last of my milk or you snag that Peppermint patty I’ve been saving, I will kill you.

That’s not small stuff. That shit is personal.

What I learned over 265 miles

What I learned over 265 miles

Yesterday was my first long distance ride on my Guzzi and the first scary thing I’ve done since starting Crossfit and lifting 135lbs (I fully expected my arms to rip off at the shoulders). Despite an inauspicious start (flat battery), I managed to ride for 7 hours and in doing so, had plenty of time to think, and learn a few things. Now I’m not saying that this accumulated wisdom is necessarily useful.. but hey, I’m a sharer…

1. Know roughly where you’re going.  Especially the next junction.
Checking your directions at 65 miles an hour in a car is a breeze. Hell, you might be reading this blog post and drinking a cup of coffee while driving on the highway. No problemo. On a bike, whole different story.

I found this out when I took one hand off the handlebars and un-tucked my directions from my back pocket.. only to watch them shoot off over my shoulder. I think they’re probably in Arizona by now. Never mind.. I always have my iPhone right? Except you can’t check your iPhone at 65mph unless you have a death wish. And to check the phone means pulling off to the side of the road (if there is a shoulder), and trying to check Google maps while trucks hurtle by you at high speed. And thats if you can find a signal…About 4 hours into the ride I had my directions written on my arm, a mental chant of ‘turn left at Hwy 24’ and a tank bag added to my shopping list.

Life lesson: You don’t need to know exactly every turn of your journey, but having a vague idea really helps. Oh, and don’t rely on an iPhone. That.

2. Always have some gas in your tank.  Or at least know how far you’ve come.
Well duh right? Except you don’t really think about this in your average day in Denver where gas stations abound and your car counts down miles left in your tank.  You’re never really far from refueling and if you, for some reason, manage to ignore your gas low warning, you’re only a mile or two walk to the next station. Outside the main towns in Colorado is a whole lot of nothing. Mountains, plains and nothing. Miles and miles of it. Which I realized when I pulled into a gas station in South Park (Cartman not in evidence), to find out that the gas station was ‘out’. Yep, no gas. Next town with a gas station… 47 miles. Across a whole lot of nothing. And because my bike doesn’t have a fancy count down and I forgot to set the trip, I had no idea how much gas I had left. Lets just say it was a very tense 47 miles.

Life lesson: Don’t be so focused on moving forward that you forget to remember how far you’ve come. Oh, and never pass up a chance to refuel in the middle of nowhere.

3. Things get less scary with time.. but that doesn’t mean autopilot.
The first time I rode a motorcycle, my instructor actually held his sides as he howled with laughter. He officially christened me ‘Mouse’ since my approach to the bike was one of absolute terror.  Over two days, my fear became his constant touchpoint, and since I barely made it into 3rd gear (and 25mph), he kind of had a point. I’m not a daredevil unless I’m comfortable.. and motorcycles were completely alien to me. Unlike a bicycle, I didn’t feel in control, I didn’t feel safe and I certainly didn’t want to go as fast as possible. In fact, if it hadn’t been sheer bloody mindedness, I’d never had ridden a bike again. But I love proving people (and myself), wrong and I get a perverse kick out of scaring myself.

Fast forward to my Guzzi. It took me about 2 months to get up to 60mph and I celebrated with a Munchian scream inside my helmet and white knuckles that had to be peeled off my grips, finger by finger. Over the months of riding, I’ve gotten more comfortable and I’m a happy 55mph chick. I love the feeling of freedom and there’s something about just riding that’s totally addictive. But I want to explore and at 55mph, that’s is a very slow exploration. So I decide to ovary up and do a long ride. Time to get used to my bike and use the back-roads of Colorado to open her up without fear of a stoplight.  And it worked. After 3 hours I was happily cruising at 65, even 70mph and my hands weren’t glued to my grips. I think I might even have taken a hand off to relax at one point. But weirdly, unlike driving, it didn’t make me tune out. Without music or company I got even more focused on the environment. The road, the wind, the incline of the road, the death wish prairie dogs, the surprised deer, the feel of my bike on a curve.. I don’t think I’ve ever been more present. Riding certainly isn’t about autopilot.

Life lesson: If you want to get from A to B as fast as possible, tuning out is the easiest way to get there. If you want to experience A to B.. be present. And of course, everything gets less scary the more you do it (except dating. That remains scary no matter how long or how fast you do it).

4. The world is very very big. And I am pretty insignificant. 
Again, not exactly world shattering news for anyone with eyes, but it really hit me yesterday as I crossed the South Park Plains to Fairplay, just how small and insignificant I am.  Looking across at the snow covered slopes of Breckenridge, Vail and even Leadville – mountains as far as the eye could see- I felt ridiculously small and insignificant. Just a dot on the landscape, moving not that fast. With nothing between me and the elements except some armored Cordura, a helmet and a pair of Levis, I’ve never felt so exposed. And without the ‘safety’ of a car for protection you can’t help me have moments when you think ‘holy shit, it’s all on me’. I can’t hide from the hail or the cold, and only I am going to get me home. As the temps dropped to the 50s and I got caught in a hailstorm, as the winds gusted up and I got bounced around over Kenosha pass (10,000 ft).. I certainly felt a very long way from anywhere and very very insignificant. Its not bad to feel overwhelmed, and I think it made coming home to my small apartment, my enormous sofa and a very hot shower so very much appreciated. But wow.. once you get out there.. the world is pretty damn big and on a bike, it feels so much bigger. Its easy to forget in the safety and relative security of your apartment, hanging out with friends or walking down the street but you don’t actually matter in the big scheme of things. You’re just a tiny part of a much bigger scene. And its good to remember awe. It keeps ‘you’ in perspective.

Life Lesson: Ego doesn’t help you when things get hard. Pack a thermal and hunker down.

So there you have it. 265 miles of grins, clenched teeth, ‘wow’s and ‘holy shit’s. Riding a bike is scary, dangerous and might sometimes seem kind of pointless. But its never boring and sometimes, just sometimes, it can blow you away.

Adulthood defined by real estate

I was, until very recently a home owner. A serial home owner and bonefide navigator of Home Depot, the paint store and even Angies List (aka training pants for renovators without a clue who don’t trust anyone).
I bought my first apartment when I was 28, high on a $7,000 bonus and eager to become an adult by owning something. My car was leased, my outfit was still on my AMEX card but I thought I needed to own a place in order to declare my adulthood. So I wasn’t in a relationship, I sure as hell wasn’t going to be having a family any time soon and owning a house seemed the reasonable ‘next step’ as I headed towards 30. Fast forward 10 years and I notice now that people who buy a place not because they want to but because they don’t have  reason not to, generally are doing it through a lack of imagination and societies subtle social cues. ‘Oh, you STILL rent?’ was a conversation I’d been party to on several occasions and as couples paired off, it seemed that the first house payment was made before the rice was washed out of the wedding underwear.

So in the absence of a mate, a bought a place. Then sold it to move in with a guy. Then we got married and we bought a place (because that’s what you do), and then we sold it to move for work. Then we bought another place (because the marriage was falling apart and that’s what you do), and then I sold it (he having long scooted off). I bought a singleton palace of practicality – the duplex. But after a few years of furnishing, finishing and listening to my neighbors arguing on the other side of the wall, I decided to bite the bullet and buy a ‘grown up house’ all on my own. Two floors, 2200 sq ft of 1898 Victorian decrepitude. Buy it and he will come. Thank you Kevin Costner.
No he didn’t.
Which is a pity because I could have used someone with some heft, a spare power drill and any knowledge of landscaping, irrigation, drainage, roofing, insulation, heating AND cooling, plumbing or wasps nests. And that was in less than a year. I had dinner with a friend who had flipped a few houses and asked for an honest assessment. ‘Fish or cut bait?’
He laughed and said ‘ if you’re asking, you already need to sell’
I drank more wine and privately thought he didn’t understand my passionate desire not to fail. I would make the damn thing work. Even if I had to spend my entire 401K to do it.

Then, $38,000 in, drowning in debt, sweating buckets because my cooler broke and yet eerily smelling moldy due to the drainage issues in the basement, I met a guy. A handy guy. A farmer no less. Not that he was going to help me fix anything, but he sure gave me a reason to reconsider my home ownership plan. We rapidly fell in love, he invited me to move to be with him, we planned our Christmas vacation and our marriage ceremony. I finally had the push I needed to get rid of the money pit so I listed the house and sold in 2 days.

2 days.

Even he seemed surprised and a little concerned. But we pressed on. I started rationalizing furniture and we measured and mapped out our future living room during one of my visits. 7 days later he was gone. The following day my house closed. I wasn’t a home owner any more.

Today I live in a third floor walk up 1 bedroom rental apartment. Its not adult by any stretch. I have a whiteboard on the wall and a bike in the living room. With the addition of a Dali poster I’d be all but back in college. I don’t own a dining room table any more (I eat off my knees) and
I should be embarrassed, humiliated even at the poor decisions which led me here. At 40 I have nothing to show for it. I have scars and stories but no real estate. My single friends shrug and say ‘no biggie’, my married friends are horrified and embarrassed for me. My American dream is looking decidedly shabby. No house, no husband, no kids, (and not even an Porsche to compensate).

But if being a grown up is really just about real estate, do I really need to be ‘grown up’? If being an adult means spending every weekend at Home Depot and lying awake at 2am worried about whether my shingles will make it through the night.. then I’m happy not to be. I sleep just fine these days and I can finally afford to eat out again. Good thing now that I don’t have a dining table.

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.