In Her Shell
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Please take a moment from your busy blogging schedules to visit my rocktastic friend Cantankerous Consumer over at Not Made in China: A 1 Year Self Imposed Boycott
. I'm still not completely clear on why she's doing the boycott, but she's funny and wonderful and maybe if you go read her stuff you can help me figure it out.
At some point in any relationship, I am visited by my alter ego: Insane Girlfriend. I don’t like Insane Girlfriend and she doesn’t like me. I hate how needy she is and she can’t stand my self-control. For the purposes of this essay, I am going to call her IG, or Iggy. She hates that.
Sometimes Iggy has a point: she deserves a phone call when a phone call was promised. Especially when Unsuspecting Boyfriend is away for the weekend having a good time without her. But the depth and intensity of Iggy’s emotional reactions are too much for me. I scold her—'this might be inconsiderate but it does not necessarily point to an essential character flaw or the ultimate doom of the relationship'—and she ignores me. I hate being ignored.
Iggy’s primary states of mind are Anger, Panic, and Tears, in that order of priority. She is so consumed by her Anger that it is impossible for me to get anything done. Last night she would have dropped her toothbrush and darted into the other room to see if it was, indeed, her cell phone ringing, had I not through an effort of will prevented her.
And it wasn’t. My cell phone ringing.
A cell phone is a particularly bad thing for Iggy to have. As much as I hate the umbilical cord that it has become, tying me to anyone with the number at any time, Iggy cannot be without it. Sometimes I force her to leave it in another room, out of earshot, but I have not as yet convinced her to leave the house without it, or to turn it off.
I used to keep my cell phone off all the time. Then my roommates and I decided that it would be simpler and cheaper to cancel the land line, switch to cable Internet, and use the cells as our primary phones.
And that’s what they are—cells. I’m sitting in one right now, with Insane Girlfriend. She is rattling the bars and alternately shouting obscenities at UB and sighing over pictures of him. I’m over here, wishing for once that I had papers to grade or a punching bag to punch. I don’t know whose picture I want on it: his, hers, or mine.
Because as much as I try to sit over here in the opposite corner, Insane Girlfriend is me. I am the one who needs the attention, the reassurance, the time spent. I am the one who overreacts when I don’t get it. I am the one who gets angry, who panics, who cries. That Girl for whom most of her weekend plans revolve around her boyfriend? It’s me. Ouch. Last night Iggy and I called UB and left a nasty message on his voicemail. This is his own fault, we told ourselves. It helped us sleep, to get all that off of our chest. But today I’m still fighting with her, not him. It’s myself I’m angry with, for needing so much, for being so sensitive, for acting so insane.
People I Know
Two of my colleagues, both of whom just bought houses, were looking online at one of those creepy where-are-the-sex-offenders websites. Not the State one, but one of those we-say-we-are-just-a-bunch-of-concerned-parents-but-really- we-are-only-matches-away-from-a-village-and-a-shitload-of-torches.
Not that I am at all psyched about the prospect of sex offenders in my neighborhood, or anyone's neighborhood. But Megan's Law
was one of the first measures I got to vote on when I turned 18, and I voted against it. I do not know what the solution is to this problem. Most of these people are monstrous, yes. It just seems inherently dangerous to keep this kind of public tracking system after
anyone has served their time. Not to mention the fact that it apparently doesn't help. I recently read an article* about the ways that Megan's Law makes cops' jobs harder, because it encourages offenders to go underground even more than they normally would.
So my friends were looking at this website. One of them put in her address, and little dots showed up on the map. You click on them, and the registered sex offender's picture, name, and offense(s) show up in a pop-up window. My friend read aloud the name of the offender in her neighborhood.
And I know her. This woman who Endangered the Welfare of a Child was in a writing class that I TAed at a women's prison four years ago. I guess she's out now.
While I was working with the class, I did not look these women up on the State Department of Corrections website. I only knew their crimes if they wrote about them and read their work aloud. I needed it to be that way. But after it was over, I couldn't help myself. I looked up each of them. It was a maximum security unit, so I shouldn't have been surprised: I had taught, among other things, a murderer, a prostitute, several aggravated assaulters. And a child abuser.
That was the hardest one to learn. In class, she had written about the day she and her husband picked out their wedding rings in a jewelry store at the mall. She wasn't a great writer, but she read the story aloud with pride. She used lots of specific detail. It was obviously a happy memory for her.
I don't like that I know this woman, but I don't know the whole story. Many of the women in our class were there because of crimes their boyfriends or husbands committed; the murderer had killed her longtime abuser during a psychotic break. Most of the students in the class had been victims of abuse.
I don't think anyone who hurts children should get a break. I appreciate that the legal system is trying to be there for victims in a way that it was not there for many of my students in the prison. But for this to be necessary, clearly something is wrong on the sentencing end. I do not believe that the ends justify the means of this law, and maybe I have just read 1984
too many times but it seems about as effective as a wet Band-Aid and as sophisticated as a match and a bundle of sticks.
But I don't like that I know this woman. I really, really don't like that I know her.*Although I couldn't track down this exact article, here is a similar one from California, and one from NJ, about the problems with Megan's Law enforcement.
Attention Legislative and Judicial Branches
Mine. Not yours.
Maybe it's not "Happy" Roe v. Wade Day, but it sure as hell is Grateful Day, and Mindful Day.
One of my favorite rituals happens in January: the Discarding Of Last Year's Calendar.
I am inherently mistrustful of automated reminders, so before the New Year's Calendar goes up, all of the important birthdays must be recorded. This requires me to go through Last Year's Calendar in order to transfer them. In the process, I get a little review of the past year, through my various notations.
2006 looked a little like this:
The bad back acted up in January, as evidenced by three chiropractic visits.
I had planned to take the LSAT in February. I was excited, or scared, and even put a little exclamation point after the acronym. However, I chickened out, applied for their partial refund, and never took the test.
March required my attendance at a much younger relative's bridal shower. I'm not a big one for these events or their formalities, but her spoiled nature and crassness revealed themselves when she shouted "Fuck you!" repeatedly at her sister while opening gifts.
April was the month that I thought I'd get involved with the Social Responsibilities Committee at the Unitarian Church I'd been attending. I made it to a total of two meetings
before my interest waned, and I stopped going to church altogether.
May was very social, as I was in a wedding in Kentucky
and attended the aforementioned relative's wedding on Long Island. There were also several birthday parties, two lunch dates with old friends, a barbeque, and a day at the beach.
In June, I twisted my ankle
during my last wedding as a bridesmaid
, and left for Costa Rica
I came back to the US and July and immediately jumped into a summer course
and a new relationship. The two of us went to a ballgame with my mother.
August saw me desperately trying to shoehorn in the end of the summer course
, a week of curriculum planning at work, a court date
, and a week in Chicago
. We also went to a ballgame with my dad.
In September ltan
had her first gig in a long time! Here's to more, soon...
In October I started getting monthly massages, a worthwhile indulgence. The man met my best friend and I had dinner with his family. We went away together for a weekend.
November saw the production of our fall play at school, after much delay.
Then in December, there's nothing written down, except the dates of our Winter Break.
Last Year's Calendar is a sort of anthropological artifact in a way that journals and photo albums are not. I wasn't recording things the way I felt them or wanted to remember them; they are just marked in the boxes. It's quite a concise way to reminisce, and a reminder of how much happens in a year.
Sorry, One More
It's the 2008 Presidential Ticket Quiz!
As Peter Camejo, you have strong convictions that you take with you wherever you go. You
believe in peace, justice, and a very un-American way that challenges big business and the status
quo. You want to shake things to their very core, but can never seem to quite get a foothold in
your endeavors and often fall a little short. In spite of all your egalitarianism,
you live in a rather spoiled suburban environment.
You select Nan Garrett as your running mate for her Southern accent.
Take the 2008 Presidential Ticket Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.
I was carded at the liquor store last night. And for the first time, instead of feeling annoyed, I felt feel really good.
Guess that means I've started a new phase.
Some of my older friends may already be rolling their eyes, but in May I turn 30.
I am so excited I can hardly stand it.
Seriously! I have a friend who opined that turning 27 gave her voice a new weight to those around her, but I am so convinced of 30's gravitas that I have already begun borrowing it, months before it's mine.
When my landlord tried to be condescending: "Listen, I am 30 years old, I've rented many apartments, don't try to tell me..."
When my supervisor referred to me as "kiddo": "Who does he think he is? I'm 30 years old!"
When my face repeatedly breaks out: "What the hell? I thought zits would be over by now, I'm 30, for pete's sake!"
It's fun. I envision the 30s as the ideal decade in which I have shed the insecurities of my quarter-life crisis and have the income and stability to truly enjoy life. Is it possible to have your halcyon days ahead of you?
But yet, getting carded at the liquor store still gave me great satisfaction. "Ha," I thought to myself as I handed over my driver's license, "and I'm almost 30."
I got this through Lulu's
post about The Book Quiz...
You're a Mongoose!
Famous and fabled, you are well-loved by those around you, especially
those above you. You rise to many challenges, and your speed and agility allow you
to outwit those you don't like and others hate. While you don't appear vicious,
your unassuming appearance helps draw people into underestimating you. You really
like the name Rikki.
Take the Animal Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.
That's what I used to write on my notebooks in junior high, along with peace signs and deepandmeaningful quotes.
Apparently this is part of an ongoing series about my awkward(est) years.
I saw "Boredom Kills" written on someone else's notebook and adopted it. I loved it and felt like I was giving a big middle finger to all my boring teachers every time I wrote it. This may have been the closest I came to actual rebellion during this time period.
I remembered today that I used to whine to my mother, "I'm boooooooored!" She would usually reply, "Clean your room" or "Go outside and play." Childhood life seems to have operated on two levels: Fun and Boring. If I wasn't actively stimulated, things were just dull.
How annoying for my mother, I thought. Then I realized that I haven't used the word "boring" in a long time.
My job isn't boring. Meetings are, sometimes, but I don't feel bored: I feel restless, or irritated. Same goes for traffic jams or lines at the supermarket. When I come home and don't have any plans, I am fairly content to just sit, either in front of the computer or on the couch.
I kind of miss boredom. It meant that I was yearning for something, all the time. Maybe its absence points to my peace of mind or maturity, but I wonder if it means I've grown complacent, and, well, kind of dull.
My Day Of Popularity
In 5th grade I was in Mrs. H's Gifted and Talented Reading class. She was one of those wacky, couch-in-the-back-of-the-room types. Once she announced that she was not going to give us a planned vocabulary quiz, and instead give us all 100s, since "you would have all gotten 100s anyway." Dork that I was, this irritated me.
I didn't have any friends in this class. My friends were not the intense book-reading types, and had already been tracked into other things. Everyone else in Mrs. H's class was a part of the "popular" group, a title I didn't quite understand since no one else particularly liked them. I was quiet and shy and thought I got along as well as might be expected.
One day, Jaime, one of the nicer girls in the class, approached me a few minutes before the bell rang. She smiled sweetly and asked if I wanted to eat lunch with them that day. I was taken aback, but felt it would be impolite to question her or to refuse. I said OK, and they all seemed glad.
In the cafeteria I told my friends that I wouldn't be sitting with them. They were equally perplexed, and a little ticked. Why? They wanted to know. I couldn't tell them. They asked me to sit with them, I said. Why? I didn't know.
I thought maybe I wouldn't go through with it. But Jaime came and collected me, sat me down right in the center of the table, near the most popular girls and boys. Over at my usual lunch table, there were no boys. We weren't at that stage yet. The popular kids were already "going out" with each other and breaking up, dramatically.
I was happy to see Rob there, my big crush who floated in and out of the popular crowd. I wished I hadn't brought my lunch from home, the thermos full of boiled pierogis that I ate every day of 5th grade. It seemed hopelessly weird to me, but I didn't have anything else to eat, and the popular kids treated it as exotic. It seemed that each one had a friendly question to ask me.
The highlight of lunch came when one of the kids, I don't remember who, tried to open a bag of Fritos and it burst with a loud pop, sending corn chips into the air like fireworks. The table erupted in loud laughter, and everyone--everyone--
else in the cafeteria turned to look at us.
It was a strange sensation for me: to be, for once, in the center of it all. To be at the table that everyone was watching, to be a part of the joke that no one else fully understood. I saw my friends over at my usual table staring. I felt guilty, but good. I thought, maybe I could do this.
But the next day the offer was not put forth again. It was a relief to go back to my old table, though awkward to field questions such as, "What was it like?" I don't remember how I found out that Mrs. H had put them up to it, but I do remember the humiliation. I was angry with her for assuming that what she saw of me was all of me. I try to remember this, and try to avoid this arrogance now.