My First Stories

This Thanksgiving, my mom and I sat at the kitchen table listening to the cassette tape she’d recorded between 1985-1988 of my brother and me saying our ABC’s, singing “Jesus Loves Me,” etc.   It’s amazing to me how early our creative loves developed – I take every opportunity to tell stories; my brother wants to sing.  I took the tape home with me and uploaded it, and so here we are.

My first story, which I have henceforth titled “MYSTERY” for reasons that will soon become obvious, was recorded when I was 4.  It’s full of twists and turns and beloved childhood characters, and it is a confusing gem, if I do say so myself.

The second story I guess should be called “Snowball and the B-B-B-B-Big Bad Wolf” and is from when I was 6 and had clearly developed my storytelling skills.

Enjoy.  And yes, my brother Christian is in the background and will later this week be embarrassed with a YouTube upload of HIS first performance.

Is My Nerd Showing?

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A common lesson of mothers everywhere is “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” This is bunk.  You ALWAYS judge a book by its cover and really should only NOT use this method in regards to people.  Failed metaphor, in my opinion.  Where was I going with this… Oh, yes – judging people.  I don’t know when it started for me, but at some point I developed a weird reaction to people’s covers.  I have a friend who admits she feels uncomfortable around rich people, and I think I’m this way with pretty people.  It’s not that I feel inferior or anything – I’m secure enough with my cover and am reminded I should be just often enough.  It’s not that I’m bitter and assume you’ve been gifted with blessings we mere mortals cannot hope to attain.  My real reason for not being crazy about pretty people is this:  I assume they will be boring.

I should clarify straight off that by “pretty people” I mean people who obviously care a great deal about their physical appearance, their projected persona, their level of cool.  Having worked with models, I’ve trained myself to look at people and figure out how much time they spend on the way they look. Tip: Shoes are always a good indicator.

Anyway, there are fortunately exceptions to this “rule.”  Some pretty people manage to be both cool and interesting.  One 6’5” model guy and I were once really good friends for about 10 minutes as we talked about his philosophy degree.  This is not, however, what I have come to expect, and I don’t find it true the majority of the time.  Take the girl I met a few summers ago who, while wearing an oversized scarf…in June, told me that she was a nerd because she had seen Star Wars.  Not liked Star Wars.  Not loved Star Wars.  Not memorized Star Wars.  Seen Star Wars.  Umm, thanks for playing; move along.

There are probably all kinds of studies on how class, schooling, genetics, success, attractiveness, etc. are all related to what a person is interested in, but “pretty people” are generally not interested in the things that interest me.  I don’t care what car you drive.  I don’t care how much your apartment costs.  I don’t care how many touchdowns you threw in college.  My eyes roll up into my head a little bit whenever I’m with a group of people who can’t talk about anything deeper than the last party they went to.  And, more often than not, when I find myself in these situations, I’m surrounded by pretty people.  So, I blanket judge the lot of them.

Hypothetically speaking (translation: not hypothetically speaking), I have no interest in that pretty guy at a party who only wants to talk about how much money he makes while eating Twizzlers and accidentally flicking spit at me as he gestures with said Twizzler. However, I am VERY interested in the conversation going on across the table about the Avengers vs. the Justice League.

These are my people.

This is my language.

I was summing up this story with a friend last weekend, and he laughed at me, “So being smart and interesting means being a nerd?”  I blinked and realized that, yes, this is exactly what I mean.  So, I guess I judge in the opposite way that most people view pretty people vs. nerds.

To be clear, I’m not saying that being ugly or socially awkward is a prerequisite for being interesting or vice versa.  And I’m not limiting being interesting to only a quality of the nerdy.  What I’m saying is that nerdy people tend not to care about exteriors.  They’re much more all-inclusive.  With pretty people, appearance is everything.  With nerdy people, interests are everything.

I think this whole dynamic is much better as adults than as teenagers, obviously.  Bridging the gap is attempted more often.  At that party, for example, the dude-bro was welcome to sit and talk about comic books – even if he did eat his Twizzlers in boredom and play on his phone.  And he did invite me to the basement where the pretty people were playing beer pong. I went as a kind of experiment, and I was at least pleased to find that they were nice. They seemed confused why I was there – sheep in wolf’s clothing that I was – but they were nice.  (Sidenote:  The dude-bro made an honest mistake in assuming I was one of them.  On the rare occasion that I go out in public, I do take the opportunity to wear the better part of my closet – i.e. nothing from the sweatpants section.  I can care, but the majority of the time I forgo makeup and end up walking around the Knapp Meijer being judged by the natives.)  Anyway, nice as the pretty people in the basement were, I just didn’t fit down there.  I wanted to get away from the discussion about their last party and back to the convo upstairs about making homemade movies.

As an author bud told me recently, “You’re unique.  You don’t have to be pretty.” …I’m really not sure how to take that, but I think I thanked him.  I guess I like not worrying about being a pretty person and instead letting my nerd show.  That is what I want people to see of me.  That’s the interesting part of me that loves connecting with other people’s interesting, nerdy bits.  I guess it feels more real to me to get to know what a person loves.  Can you be a nerd about football? Sure.  Can you be a nerd about iPhones and the GAP and breweries? Certainly.  I’m not limiting my interest in what people love – just have interests that matter to you more than how you present yourself.

So.  Maybe I do judge people by their covers.  I’m delighted when I’m wrong.  But I think maybe it’s healthier for me to focus on being unique rather than pretty, and that attitude is certainly something I gravitate towards in others.

Apologies to Twizzlers Dude.

Zombies, Halloween, and Death

On Inside the Actors Studio, James Lipton asks the question, “If Heaven exists, what do you hope God will say when you come to the pearly gates?”  Not that Lipton will ever interview me, but if he did I have my answer all prepped – I’ve always hoped God will smirk and be like, “That was interesting.” 

Of all the things I don’t take seriously, death should probably not be one of them.  But here we are.

halloween
Halloween 2011

I think about death probably a little too often.  I’m not sure when this started.  It may have something to do with wanting to be an assassin when I was little.  I also know that my “storylines” when we played as children often ended in my death(s).  Then there’s that recurring drowning dream I used to have where I would wake up choking.  I like mythologies about the undead and have enjoyed playing with the weight of immortality in my own fiction.  I really don’t know what the appeal (if that’s the right word) is, but I know that I’ve never been afraid of being dead.  This may be overconfidence that, when I wake up in whatever life is to come, God’s going to be happy with me and/or I’m not going to be reincarnated as a cow.  It may be that I have an unnatural detachment problem and am a little too curious about whatever comes when I’m gone from here.  But whatever the reason, I’m not afraid of Death.

Don’t get me wrong –  I think dying is terrible and agony is terrible and the pain it causes everyone involved is terrible.  I hate loss, grief, sorrow, sickness, despair.  When I see people cry, I cry (a reaction recently developed, as apparently my soul grew back or something, har, har).  Funerals, saying a final goodbye – all of that is awful.  It is the most painful thing to release someone from their life, our lives, and everything Known.  Suffering comes in some way with every death, and that, if nothing else, is a curse that touches us all.  I DO absolutely hate other people’s deaths.  I become semi-dysfunctional whenever someone I love dies.  I even have an odd reaction of anxiety whenever someone has an accident or goes ill or something – I become incredibly creative.  I don’t know why.  When I am anxious about someone else’s life or death, I go to a place in my head where I can’t stop myself from painting, or writing, or whatever.  It’s odd, I know, but for some reason that is my coping mechanism.

Sidenote:  I first noticed this uber-anxiety about others’ deaths when my great grandmother started fading.  I was a teenager.  Since great grandma lived alone (and there’s a wonderful story about her shooting a gun in her house to get the squirrels in the wall, btw), towards the end each member of the family took turns staying with her at night.  This usually meant my mom, my aunt, or my older cousins, but for some reason one night my mom made me do it.  Alone, with a person who could potentially die any minute, I don’t think I slept all night. It freaked me out.  When I finally got to go home, I remember sequestering myself in my room and writing for hours.

Anyway, while death is bad, I personally am okay with it, if that makes sense.  I accept that, at some point, I am going to die.  I don’t see the point in being afraid or taking it too seriously, letting it haunt this life.  It’s GOING to happen.  I don’t want to die of a long drawn out illness, a painful demise, or go screaming in flames or anything.  I certainly don’t want to leave behind my loved ones or have my life end before I’ve done and seen all I can.  But I find death a little bit fascinating.   It is the ultimate Unknown.  Death is the one thing that happens to us all that none of us can ever know about until it happens to us personally.  It’s the one thing we all have in common.  It’s what makes this life all the sweeter, because we know it’s going to end.  Death happens, and by searching to understand it as much as possible, I think we take as much of the sting away as we can.

My own faith and belief system obviously comes into play here.  That’s probably a big part of why I’m not afraid and have a kind of peaceful relationship with the idea of death.  It probably also explains some of my fascination with whatever comes next.  But the interesting thing to me of late – in this past season of Halloween especially – is that I’m clearly not alone in this curiosity about the afterlife.  I’ve been reading a LOT of zombie fiction lately, and everywhere you look these days there are books, movies, TV shows, etc. about what life would be like in a post-apocalyptic world.  (Don’t get me started on vampire fiction.) We seem really fascinated by the idea of The End and what comes after.  The thing that keeps standing out to me is that we are oddly drawn to the horror of death and kind of romanticize it.  I’m sure this says something about our culture at the moment, and that’s probably enough for a whole other blog post, so I’ll let it go for now.

I’m not saying that we should revel in the idea of death or have a blasé attitude about it.  I do think it is important to prepare for whatever you believe happens at death.  But I don’t think we should fear death or getting old – THERE’S definitely another possible blog topic – to the point that we let fear of the Unknown infect our daily, walking life.  Whatever your belief system, how you live in THIS life matters.  There is plenty to fear and worry about now.  There is plenty to make sure you get right now.  There are other, much more manageable fears to focus on and try to heal.

I know what makes me sad.

I know what makes me hurt.

I know what makes me unhealthy.

I know what makes me guilty.

I know what makes me regret.

THESE are things to fear to the point of doing something about them, if that makes sense.  These are things we have a shot of doing something about.  We’re all going to die – you can’t control that.  What you can control is how you live in this life.  The better you manage this life, I think the easier the idea of death becomes.

So, yeah.  Death happens.  But I guess the point is what we do before it hits us.  Suffering happens.  But I guess the point is how we react to it.  For me, I really do hope I can continue to see death as something that should make me appreciate life and joy all the more, death as the ultimate Unknown that reminds  me to instead focus on those things I can control.

This is what happens when I don’t filter my brain for interviews

http://massimomarinoauthor.com/2013/10/getting-personal-author-sunshine-somerville/

“Summer of Heartbreak”

My brother and I labeled this summer “The Summer of Heartbreak” because so many people we know broke up, got divorced, or just had their hearts pummeled in general.  It’s to the point that I’m so jaded about romantic relationships that even if He-Against-Whom-All-Others-Are-Compared showed up and confessed his undying love, I would probably run in the other direction.

But, on the uncharacteristically optimistic flipside of all this, I also realized, this cooling side of summer, that I have many great relationships in my life which are incredible blessings to me.

I often learn via the compare/contrast method.

I have not always had great friends.  Quite frankly, many of those from school days left me with issues which I’m realizing will probably never go away no matter how many different ways I try to stomp them down. I also seem to have a sign over my head proclaiming, “Tell me your problems.” A depressing pattern has emerged in my friendships were I try to help and end up having the emotional energy sucked out of me without getting much in return.  As my brother put it earlier this summer, “I honestly feel like a lot of it comes down to your not having a whole lot of experience bringing the ‘right’ people into your life ~shrug~  I think most of your training in relationship-building has resulted in… not entirely constructive, long-term-healthy relationships.” One close friend echoed, “How do you keep getting yourself into these friendships?” It’s at least reassuring that it’s not all in my head.

Anyway, all of these awful friendships have been a blessing, in a way.  By comparison, my good friends seem absolutely amazing.  Often when sitting/drinking/laughing/talking with my main group of friends, I find myself thinking, “Huh, I love everyone here.” Or, I’m constantly surprised when my friends do things for me. Or show concern. Or care enough to give me wise counsel.  It’s kind of pathetic but also refreshing to constantly re-remember that I have people who love me.

And not all of these relationships are the same, which is another Autumn-realized blessing.  I tend to want to know everyone as well as possible and be as close as possible to everyone in my life.  But sometimes this can be exhausting and I end up draining myself.  Sometimes I work too hard to make a friendship work – as my brother pointed out, from bad training.  I have to remember that not all relationships are created equal.  I can’t be intimately close with some, because those friendships will not work that way.  I also can’t be anything but intimate with others, because those friendships won’t work if I’m not.  I need to get different things from different people, and I need to give different things to different people.

Fortunately, a great mix of peeps have been thrown into my life:

  • I have a friend I can rely on to talk about Halloween costumes one minute and our deepest personal aches the next.
  • I have a friend who this summer was going through similar “WTF?” friend crap, and we oddly reconnected by getting outside our own situations while simultaneously empathizing with each other.
  • I have a friend who will stay up way past her bedtime and FB Chat me through my crying, knowing me well enough to end on a goofy note:

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  • I have a brother who is also a best friend who knows he can stop by at 12:30 a.m. to talk about his crap because he knows I love him.
  • I have a circle of friends who actually enjoy sports.
  • I have a friend who will text me absolutely incoherent nonsense because it’s common knowledge that I find this amusing.
  • I have a friend who, after 20+ years, will still offer to tell off someone (a stranger to her) who has hurt me.
  • I have friends who are like siblings to me even if we don’t know what’s going on in each other’s lives and we don’t see each other as often as we would like.
  • I have friends who could talk seriously but mostly enjoy comparing notes on TV, movies, and books.
  • I have somewhat-lost friends who still reach out and remind me that I have people in my life who care about me.

 SO.  In all of this, I see the hand of God gently and not so gently turning me to see – through the pain and heartache – the blessings in my life.  I will inevitably get annoyed with my friends and nitpick, but I really did, through this summer, greatly appreciate those who prove that I have relationships that save me.

Bring on Autumn.

The Curse of The Horse Poster

This summer, the topic of “Introverts vs. Extroverts” kept coming up again and again with various friends.  Now, as much as I love lists and analyzing the crap out of people, I don’t particularly like labels.  But I took every online quiz thrown at me this summer, and I am an INTJ, my deadly sin is Wrath, and of course I belong to House Gryffindor.  One of my friends found a great article (for the life of me, I can’t remember where) that basically summed up the difference as this:  Introverts get their energy from being alone, and extroverts get their energy from being with other people.  Pretty simple, but it seems to fit with what at least Meyers-Briggs has to say:

Extraversion (E) 
I like getting my energy from active involvement in events and having a lot of different activities. I’m excited when I’m around people and I like to energize other people. I like moving into action and making things happen. I generally feel at home in the world. I often understand a problem better when I can talk out loud about it and hear what others have to say.
Introversion (I)
I like getting my energy from dealing with the ideas, pictures, memories, and reactions that are inside my head, in my inner world. I often prefer doing things alone or with one or two people I feel comfortable with. I take time to reflect so that I have a clear idea of what I’ll be doing when I decide to act. Ideas are almost solid things for me. Sometimes I like the idea of something better than the real thing.

During all this debate and conversation, I once again grew a little annoyed with being categorized in a box.  I don’t think anyone is ever only one thing.  I have definite introvert characteristics, yes, but I also have extrovert tendencies.  I think everyone does, even if I have weird, bipolar extremes.

And this makes me think of the curse of the horse poster.

In elementary school, a teacher gave me a beautiful poster showing a field of flowers, a horse, and a little girl with a book.  It wasn’t so girly that, tomboy that I was, I didn’t like it, but it was pushing it.  The caption read: “ALONE WITH MY THOUGHTS, I CAN DREAM OF TOMORROW.”  I have no idea where the actual poster is now, but I have always blamed it for steering me towards being an introvert.

Writers are introverts – it’s part of the deal, as if our pre-conceived souls somehow signed up for it before we got a say.  For this analytical, introspective quietness of my being I am grateful. I like how my head works.  Being alone is when I feel the creative bubbles welling up from within.  At the deep down core of me, I am an introvert – it’s an underlying part of how I function, how I think, how I process the world around me. I have a freakish memory, and I will play over conversations and events and analyze them and pull them apart to get all the juices out.  Being an introvert is all a part of how I process the world around me.

However, it is NOT how I interact with the world.  In my outward life (the one not in my head and therefore the one most people would point to as being, ya know, real), how I interact with people leans much more towards the extroverted camp.  I DO feed off people and get energy from being around others, discussing with others, learning about others. Even if my mind likes being alone and thinking and creating, at some point I hit a wall where – and I think we all do this – I need to get out of my own head and have exposure to others.  This might just have something to do with the fact that I work at home and go through people-withdrawal, but I was people-happy even before I missed them.  As a model scout, I met 50+ new people a day, and loved it.  I found it invigorating.  (Okay, it got a bit exhausting, but that’s a whole other thing.)

I think a big part of my annoyance with being placed in one camp or the other is that it’s entirely my own fault.  Because I work at home and my hobbies of writing/reading/painting are solitary endeavors, it is easy for everyone to joke that I’m a hermit.  And I go along with it, because some twisty place inside of me always just becomes what people think rather than argue about it. (Hmm. There’s room for analysis…possibly professionally administered.) Anyway, I don’t LIKE being a hermit.  I need social interaction – it does feed me, it does energize me, and it certainly helps me be a better writer.  And, if I’m being honest, I like being clever and entertaining people.  I have a quote on my computer stand from the Office that I’m looking at right now:

“Do I need to be liked? Absolutely not.  I like to be liked.  I enjoy being liked.  I have to be liked.  But it’s not like this compulsive need to be liked.  Like my need to be praised.”

And I think that’s another quirk of writer introverts – we DO need people.  We’re emotional, vulnerable little creatures.  My brother and I have a joke that, as artists, be both often think at people (oh, if only telepathy worked) in a high-pitched, needy voice, “AFFIRM ME!” Even if our comfort zone is in our own heads, I think introverts – especially the creative types – need to be as extroverted as we can force ourselves to be.  For my part, I know I need regular social interaction not only to keep me from going crazy but also because I just genuinely feel that friends/family/acquaintances/strangers on the street energize me in ways I can’t energize myself.

So, I guess I’m an intextrovert.

30 and Florida

11/16/2011

I turn 30 in exactly one week.  Am I freaking out about this?  Yes.  Do I know why?  No.  I know that perfectly normal reasons for freaking out would center around the fact that I’m single and I have no particular career ambitions and no real goals for my life.  That all may be part of it.  I know that I should want to find a guy, get married, have kids, start a family, and have that be the rest of my life.  I think a part of me really does want to want that.  But I’m also not sure I do.  I mean, if I wanted that, wouldn’t I have done SOMETHING about it by now, before I turn 30 and my looks continue to fade?  (I say “continue to fade” because I already have 8 gray hairs…I’m not joking about this as much as I once would have been.)  I also am aware that my life goals of #1 dying alone and #2 finding a briefcase full of money as a retirement plan are not all that funny.  Nor is my backup retirement plan – to try to make money from our plagiarized movies and end up in white-collar jail. 

So, what I’m really freaking out about I think is this – I don’t have any life plan, and I’m passed the point where it is cute and youthful not to have one.  Somewhere along the road (pun sort of intended, and ooh, look, I just found direction for this post), I became a firm believer in “life is a journey, not a destination.”  I like going with the flow, being open to whatever may arise, seizing the little moments.  But, at some point, don’t you have to have some direction?  I’m not even really journeying anymore towards anything – graduating, getting a job, living in my own place.  I’ve met all those life markers.  My car is even paid off.  I’m finally living on my own in a place I love with friends I love nearby but who I don’t have to go home with.  What do I want to DO? Oh, sure, I want to do silly things like swim with sharks and travel to Dubai, but those are little adventures.  What do I want to aim for as bigger pictures?

The intensity of the looming 30 increased when, as I explained to work when I requested time off, “I have to be a bridesmaid in Florida 2 weeks before turning 30.”  How could anyone not pity that request?  At the time, I said it jokingly because turning 30 wasn’t really bothering me.  Then it came time, Miranda and I loaded up the car, and we began the 1,010 mile journey from Michigan to Florida. 

That’s where this whole “life is a journey, not a destination” thing really sunk in.  I have always preferred travelling by car rather than by plane.  I like seeing the gradual change in topography, the change in fauna and flora.  I like feeling the temperature change.  I like getting out along the way and hearing people’s accents differ from place to place.  It’s something akin to tasting your food while you eat it, or something.  I’ve always felt cheated by plane travel because you miss all the flavor of places between takeoff and touchdown.  I don’t care that it takes 10 times longer to drive than fly.  I want the experience of travelling to a place; I don’t like just hopping on a plane and stepping suddenly off into a place.  And I suppose that’s how I feel about life, too.  I want to savor things along the way, notice every moment, see my life changing as I go.  It’s been a good ride, overall.  A lot of – forgive the metaphor – potholes and storms and construction, sure, but I’ve been blessed too.  The journey is what holds interest for me, and that may be why I’ve never settled on a particular destination, a certain goal, an end game.  I like leaving my options open for the best things that come along.  Death, I guess, is all I think of as a final destination.  …But what until then?

Of course, the one big life marker that I have not reached is marriage and family.  Again I say, I know this is something that should matter by the time I’m 30.  And having just returned from being a bridesmaid in Florida, I can safely say that I’ve contemplated this marker more seriously of late.  But, as my love life has been in a coma for some time (again, a long-running joke that I know shouldn’t be funny but I also can’t force myself to take seriously), instead I chose to view my time in Florida as a detour from my journey and the ability to hitchhike in someone else’s for a while.  (Let’s face it, I needed a timeout from freaking out about turning 30.)  It IS great to witness when other people are reaching milestones and making life-altering decisions, and I am not that kind of bridesmaid who pouts because it isn’t happening to her.  Since I hadn’t seen my dear friend Gloria in a while, it was amazing to see how happy she has become and how she’s changed into this little (5’ 2”) adoring person who is completely in love and excited about life to come.  It really was a blessing, and it made me feel very warm and optimistic about life – hers, if not mine.

Here’s how it went.

Basically, it was all extremely great and surprisingly composed of fun, likeable people.  This is not, pessimistically, what M and I had anticipated.  I don’t do Girl Time very well, for starters.  Being a bridesmaid requires cooing and curling irons, neither of which I’m typically good at.  But in I dove.  Fortunately, none of the bridesmaids were girly either.  And the groomsmen were not the highly conservative Southerners we had anticipated; they were actually kinda hilarious.  All in all, it was a fantastic wedding party where everyone – even pessimistic yours truly – was happy and focused on making Gloria and J’s wedding as wonderful as possible. 

Day 1:  M and I got there Wednesday afternoon in plenty of time to relax and enjoy our awesome view of the Gulf before heading to the restaurant for G’s Bach Party.  We were the first ones there, and the hostess took us up to our private balcony/porch area so we could sit at the table and wait for the others.  The waiter (who in earlier days I would have scouted and who was clearly thrilled to be working a Bachelorette Party) showed us the drink menus and pointed out that the “Perfect Margarita” was the strongest drink they had.  I took this as a challenge.  By the time the other three girls (Becky, Mel, and Victoria) arrived, I was in a pleasant enough state to greet these strangers cheerfully.  When Gloria arrived with J’s sisters (Lana and Christa), I’m pretty sure she was only half-surprised by the party.  But she really seemed glad we were all there for her, and it was quite clear that she was really, really happy with J, so that was great to see.  It was in all a pretty nice night, I ate a great burger along with my 4-liquor drink, and we got to know the other bridesmaids at least well enough to know we weren’t going to hate this.

Day 2:  Thursday, the GPS made us late for the rehearsal.  The pastor ran through the plan, and we were herded around like sheep as per the usual prepping for the ceremony.  That’s when we met the other half of the party – the groomsmen.  This was also when we met Julie, Gloria’s other friend from Wisconsin who was quite pregnant and therefore hadn’t been at the Bach Party.  M, as it turned out, got paired up with a cool dude who was great except that he looked like Ray Romano and that was a bit distracting.  My groomsman was not there, so I rehearsed with his very cool sister (Leah).  She imitated her brother pretty well, I would later discover, and assured me that I’d gotten a “good-looking one” and that he would be smiling the whole time.  I turned to Gloria and asked, “You paired me with a peppy person?” to which she responded without a pause, “I put you with someone who could catch you if you fell.”  Not falling, as it turns out, became our biggest challenge as bridesmaids, for the walk down the aisle was entirely downhill and there was a sand-trap obstacle right when we parted from our groomsmen to walk ourselves to our positions.  Even in rehearsal, a few of us had problems.  But, the rehearsal all went pretty well, and since it was freezing (I think it was like 55 that night – thanks for nothing, Florida), we hurried to the restaurant for the rehearsal dinner, which was also lovely.  And, to cap off the evening, M and I back in our hotel appropriately watched Bridesmaids.  It had to be done.

Day 3:  Friday, we got to the park at 8am (the forecast said a high of 60, but that certainly didn’t happen until AFTER the ceremony).  There was the usual tizzy of girls getting ready, but we had over two hours and so things went pretty smoothly despite the fact that the main hair lady had had gallbladder surgery and had to limp around.  Victoria and I were the only ones responsible for our own hair, and we creatively shared a full-length mirror.  A gecko was in the room and almost crawled up Gloria’s wedding dress.  It was during this time that we got a good view into the family Gloria was marrying into, cuz J’s mom was running around helpfully, stopped to coo and kiss Gloria on the forehead as she told her she looked beautiful, and the two sisters were sweet and really helpful.  We took a few quick pics in the room, and then we headed down to sneak out the back to our places.
IT WAS FREEZING!  We northerners had all decided we would tough it out and not wear shawls during the ceremony, but this was not a brilliant move.  I made certain to check – I was not the only girl who was gooseflesh head to toe.  At least we had our respective groomsmen to shield the wind, and they were decent enough to acknowledge that we had the worst of it…even though they complained about their shoes being uncomfortable.  This is when I met my groomsman, Quinn, who turned out to be quite hilarious and kinda awesome.  M, Angel (the Ray Romano look-alike), Quinn, and I huddled for a while and talked about how brave M and I were to live in Michigan.
Finally the music from Forrest Gump (seriously) started, and it was time to hang onto our groomsmen for dear life and head down[hill] the aisle.  By the time I got into position (I was the second to last bridesmaid to arrive) all the other girls had clearly had their own troubles with the sand-trap and watched anxiously as I approached the threshold.  It was quite reassuring when Quinn whispered, “You got this,” just as we arrived, and fortunately I made it over the sand-trap and stood at my place so I could watch Gloria come down the aisle with her dad.  She nearly broke down and cried but pulled it together just as they arrived.  Then the guests were seated, the pastor prayed, yada, yada, you know the drill.  
After the ceremony came pictures.  Again, FREEZING.  But the photographer had some cute ideas, and everyone was so easy-going that it was a lot of fun.  Then we loaded into cars to go to the beach for pics, and mercifully it warmed up considerably. The beach was wonderful.  While Gloria and J had couple pictures taken, we left the boys holding our bouquets – mostly because we forgot – and headed down to the water to play a bit.  Julie and I found multiple jellyfish, and I enjoyed flipping them over and poking them with sticks.  Good times.  Then we piled back in cars and headed to the reception.

glo

Reception = maybe 50 people.  As per tradition, this part started by the DJ announcing the bridesmaid/groomsmen pairs as we exited the cabin and went out to the outside tables.  Now, this should not have been an interesting event.  However, every other pair was introduced and walked out, Quinn and I were totally on our game and prepared, and then we heard, “And now, for the first time as husband and wife…”  Gloria yelped, “No, he’s forgetting you!”  The easiest way out of it was to just step back and let Gloria and J out, so we did, the crowd outside applauded, and then Gloria and J went to dance their first dance on the porch.  Quinn and I, meanwhile, were lost sheep back in the cabin.  As I was contemplating what to do with my newfound nonexistence, Quinn muttered, “Eh, screw it,” and pushed open the doors.  We scampered out and down the stairs (as stealthily as was possible with everyone watching) and hurried over to join the other bridesmaids and groomsmen.  All of them were aware we’d been forgotten and were tittering with suppressed laughter.  Quinn and Angel quickly discussed what had happened, and Quinn turned to me and M and said, “I’m naming this guy MC Fail.”  (So that’s going to stick as an inside joke.) 
The rest of the reception was lovely and fun and slightly less cold. Finally, we did the bubbles thing as Gloria and J ran to their car, and then they were off and so were my shoes.  The energy immediately died and clearly everyone just wanted to get the hell out of there, and I mentioned to M that wherever we were going for dinner had better serve alcohol.  Pregnant Julie requested that we have a drink for her (which I later did).  We all changed back into crap clothes, hauled out stuff to the cars, and then were free. 

Day 4:  On the ride home, M and I took our time, unlike the last visit to Florida when we’d driven pretty much straight back in one day.  At one point, M was driving and pointed to the side of the road. “Ooh, look!  A falcon!”  A few seconds later, she pointed to the other side of the road, “Oh, look!  A man peeing!”  Such is Alabama.    

Having the attention span of a squirrel, during the ride home my mind wandered back to turning 30.  Even in the warm afterglow of the wedding back south, I thought forward to life back north.  It occurred to me that 2011, the year of being 29, had been really one of the greatest years of my life.  And I hadn’t planned any of it.  Didn’t that say something?  I still can’t say I have a clue what will come of life in my 30s.  I don’t know what I want to come, honestly.  Am I okay just taking what comes?  Can I trust God enough that, whatever it is, it’ll be good, fulfilling, and exactly what I never knew I wanted?  Or do I need direction and goals?  Do I need some aim?  Really, I have NEVER known what I want.  I’ve NEVER had goals.  Why should that suddenly change just because I’ve hit 30?  I’m still the same person, just evolved and farther down the road from when I was little and thought I should have everything figured out by now.  I dropped the severe Type A personality a long time ago, so why do I keep trying to find control if I know I’m happier without it?  I like the journey, I’m along for the ride, and maybe that’s all God wants me to do – trust, and let whatever happens happen.

How Do You End a Phase?

When does a phase become a rut?

Miranda and I had jokingly made a New Year’s Resolution in 2009 to “turn this douche of a life around,” but August rolled around and we hadn’t made much progress – okay, no progress except to re-title 2009 “Douche Awareness Year.”  And then came 2010.  After living in the Knapp House for four and a half years, I realized that I had gotten stuck in this idea of “Now What” and the limbo between college and the great expanse of the rest of my life.  As one of M’s coworkers once said, “What are the markers for the rest of your life once you graduate if you’re not married?”  It looked like this fairly happy, comfortable life could go on for an indeterminate period of time.

This freaked me out.

I had told myself I would use this time/phase of limbo to figure out what I wanted to do with my life; I had gotten lazy and settled for life as it was. The problem was, I simply had no good reason to change anything. I loved our house. I loved living with M for the most part (after four years of living together, anyone can get on your nerves, even a saint).  I loved my job, my environment, and the friendships I’d invested in.  There honestly wasn’t any big change I could see that would make me any happier than I already was.  But, I was way too comfortable while being unsatisfied at the same time.  Something had to change.  I barely felt like I was living; I found that I was just waiting for something new to happen, as if God would rain down answers.

So, by 2010, I realized I had to at least MENTALLY take a leap out of my limbo-phase mindset I’d become comfortably trapped in.  I had to mentally create for myself a marker of change from the “Now What” phase.  I wasn’t really in that limbo anymore.  I wasn’t married or having kids or whatever – fine – but I had progressed to some new phase of life.  I had pushed out of the wandering, figuring out phase and into the “Oh, these are the decisions I have made for my life” period.  It was time to stop waiting and embrace…something.

But, once again, there was that question – What did I want?  Even of what I had, what were the best parts I should do more with?  What could make life as good as I could make it? What would make life bigger, fuller, richer?

Thought. Thought. Thought.

Prayer. Prayer. Prayer.

I finally reached the conclusion that, in order to have my own life and do what I wanted, find what I wanted, be what I wanted, I needed to be on my own.  I was excited to branch out and start afresh, on my own – I REALLY had liked living on my own in Detroit, and I figured this would be even better since I had friends in Grand Rapids and wouldn’t feel so isolated.

But, for a variety of reasons, I stayed put.   However, God sends solace in odd ways, at least in my life.  In January 2010, for some reason our landlord decided that he would paint our entire house, and I made a fun two-week friend out of Painter Elf while they painted – surprisingly, with vibrant colors I myself would have picked.  For some reason, this simple change to my abode made me perfectly fine with continuing to live there.  It was a small change, but I’m an artist at heart and the sudden burst of color on the walls was enough for me to feel refreshed, I think.  So this got me through winter.

Then, in April 2010, I lost my job and had a rather intense week and a half of unemployment, during which I tried to decide all the more what I really wanted to be doing.  I realized that I had loved my job, to my surprise.  When I semi-miraculously had an exact replica of that job (but better!) dumped in my lap, I had to admit that maybe God had been showing me that what I wanted vocationally was exactly what I’d had.  Between the paint job and the new job, I was refreshed and surprisingly happy with where I was.  I’d made enough internal switches and mental leaps from the “Now What” that very few physical things actually needed to change.  Mind over matter, so they say, but it really did work and I felt prepared to continue onward and get better and better at contentment, if that makes sense. (This positive thinking was also oddly inspired by watching so much poker on TV.  Elizabeth Shannon, who I would not normally call anything like someone I admire, explained her whole approach to positive thinking in all areas of life, and for whatever reason that kinda stuck with me.)

In May 2010, M decided she wanted to buy a house.  And I moved with her.  This wasn’t exactly what I had planned, but it WAS a good end marker for the Knapp House, “Now What” phase.  Moving was a very physical change from all that, so maybe this was really the final thing I needed to completely snap out of my rut(s).  I was done waiting, done wallowing, done wondering.  I realized that I am not a person who needs goals or a specific list of things I want – I waste too much time trying to figure that out rather than taking what is in front of me and just going with it.  I have NEVER known what I want, so maybe that is kind of an answer in and of itself – I don’t have anything that I really want in order to be happy, so I find stuff along the journey and get contentment that way, or something.  “Let whatever happens happen” right?  Work with where you’re at.  Live in the Present.  And (like Kynacoba, my alter ego, in Book 4) I have to stop worrying and do what is best for me, because in the end, my life is up to me.

“Carpe diem.”

“Get busy living or get busy dying.”

“Nut up or shut up.”

 So… Here’s a sum-up of the last days before I moved out on my own.

Summer 2010 – the Summer of Like

I hate moving.  Not that I fear change, I just hate packing.  And starting a new job in the midst of this transfer didn’t help.  But the freedom to paint gave me enough joy to make it through – my room looked like Avatar by the time my stress was done splirting all over the walls.

room

Honestly, though, while that house was M’s home, it didn’t feel like mine.  It was not a house I ever would have bought.  But it was okay.  I liked it, but I didn’t love it.

A not-like:  MONSTER BUGS.  House centipedes have got to be the nastiest buggers in the Midwest.  They eat spiders and other vermin, sure – it would not surprise me at all to hear they’re capable of taking down small rats – but they’re welcome to do that outside.  They have no fear.   They’re smart.  They’re fast.  I had 3 run right at me while I was trying to kill them.

So you’d think that our constant insistence that these little monsters were terrifying would have kept people from ever coming over, but people still were willing to stop in from time to time.  And it was THESE houseguests who were welcome, which led me to realization about myself #576,588:  I really, really like people.

  • We met our neighbor, Marc, and began a note-writing war back and forth that started with him leaving a gift on our porch one night with a note that said “PLEASE BE QUIET!” and ended with us telling him to paint his flowers white because we didn’t like pink.
  • Shark Week 2010 was particular fun with Racie when we lay on the couch until 1:00 a.m. and refused to put our feet on the floor for fear of the Monster Bugs.
  • I randomly had a drink with Elijah after 15ish years.  Funny how people you barely knew in grade school turn out to be cool.
  • I became better friends with Marcus not only because he had access to a pool…though, that was a big part of it.
  • We had a Girls’ Night at one point where we watched Newsies and the Disney version of Robin Hood because Rachel and I have cartoon-crushes on the fox.  We ate waffle fries and Ozzies (otherwise known as Flurries unless you were watching the Red Wings/Blackhawks Stanley Cup game with Joel).  It was good.  Dressing up is something I personally never have need to do, so it was fun to slap on makeup, dresses, shoes, and go out for drinks downtown afterward.  I don’t know why I’ve never felt as comfortable around women as men (okay, Haymarsh, you’re to blame somewhat), but this night reminded me why I DO like being around strong, intelligent, fun, funny women from time to time.
  • I cannot explain how joygasmic the 2010 Camping Trip was.  A big part of it was probably my ability to take my friends on my turf – the Haymarsh.  Nothing makes me as at peace as being home, with friends, showing them my world and hoping they might come away loving it even half as much as I do.  campAnd I think that mission was accomplished.  Lying around on blankets with friends all weekend between rain bursts, swimming in the lake day and night, sitting around the campfire, playing “Haymarsh Spa” with Rachel in the mud, getting Jeff and Kyle nearly lost as they not-so-soberly followed my hike back to the campsite after a midnight swim.  It was good.

Really, this summer was so busy it was kind of a blur.  But it was really good, probably one of my favorites ever.  It’s good to be around other people to the point where I climb out of myself for a while.  I fell deeply in love with things and people in my life that were already there, strengthening my resolve to take what I had and make life better.

Fall 2010 – Oh, Fall.  Nothing, it just felt like it needed an “Oh, Fall.”

I always think Fall is a good time of reflection – everything dying, days growing shorter, and you can just feel winter coming.  Fall’s slowing down is good; summer is when you need to be busy and active so you don’t look like crap in a bikini.  Fall also, however, means I stay inside more and therefore become more likely to let little things build and bother me more.  So, my new philosophy in my age of wisdom – trick yourself.  Stay so busy (at least mentally) that you don’t have time to fester.  I suppose this is still Elizabeth Shannon’s positive thinking trick.  Or Wendell Berry’s “joyful though you have considered all the facts.” In any case, Fall in Michigan is a very brief time period, so I didn’t think much of it and just enjoyed what came as we crawled inevitably toward Winter.

  • Sundays became my favorite day of the week.  Brooke, Joel, M, and I met for almost every Lions game at the Saz for lunch and the communal self-torture of watching the Lions.  Although, we take personal responsibility for the last 4 wins of the Lions 2010 season – every time we ordered the Pizza Sub, they won.
  • Halloween.  After the previous year, we weren’t sure how to top it.  So, I went on a decorating rampage and M built a ping-pong table hal why we thought it would stay ping-pong for any length of time before becoming beer-pong, I don’t know).  It was glorious.  I bounced around from group to group so much it was dizzying, which may be partly responsible for my fall on the floor in front of everyone, after which most of the full room asked “Are you alright?” while my brother just looked at me, knowing that me falling is not a rare event.  Anyway, it was a great Halloween.  You know it’s a success when I don’t even notice it’s 3:00 a.m. before everyone leaves.
  • Admittedly, each Fall I become introspective about life at least partially because, come 11/23, I get older. And being only one year shy of 30 (though still a far cry from 35, my scary age) probably heightened the intensity of this year’s introspection.   For my birthday, a bunch of us met at the Saz for drinks.  I really need to get over being surprised that I like people and people care about me, but this was yet another good reminder.  Way more people showed up than I’d planned – Joel, Rachel, M, Christian, Amy, Phil, Jeremy, Brooke, James, Andy, Brad, Josh and Sarah, Josh and Katie, Dan, Marcus, Brian, Jeff, and Ryan.  I could have done without the Tabasco-based shot, but fortunately I was clever enough to pass it around so that it was only about half-full by the time I had to drink the evilness.   And it was kinda funny when Ryan at one point asked me, “Is that the guy you’re seeing?” and I responded with, “No. Wait, which guy? Wait, no, it doesn’t matter.  No.” 

Winter 2011 – UEF Storm

Dear friend Rachel needed to move back from Ann Arbor to Grand Rapids before going who-knew-where in the next Fall for law school.  Rachel’s presence, combined with Samson (her dragon/cat) made the usual winter hibernation much more bearable.   It was an adjustment getting used to three people in one house again, but if you haven’t picked up on my manic need for change by now…  Well, it was worth it. And with Rachel’s reappearance in our lives, the UEF (Unlikely Event Factor – from The Pigs Are Flying) rose considerably.

  • New Year’s Day – We thought it would be a great idea to have a big dinner for everyone at the house.  But, apparently we’re too old to stay up on New Year’s Eve and then be expected to be entertaining the next day.  Dinner was good, but then we all crashed on the couch.
  • Sarah Brown’s Baby Shower – As the first of our girl friends to have a baby, this was a little interesting.  Brooke, Christine, Miranda, and I sat on the floor in our own little word, planning a gauntlet-style baby shower for the next of us to get pregnant.  Then, later, we met the boys at a bar and went for dinner.  I bumped into Scott (ACS friend), who was drunk and gave me Mardi Gras beads…not sure what that was about.
  • Florida Trip – M and I had planned a road trip to go see Gloria way back when she’d first told us she was moving to Florida, floand of course doing so in winter was my idea.   Panama City, I must say, has a bit too much Alabama in its blood for my taste, but it was warm and that was really all we wanted.  Meeting Gloria’s boyfriend-and-future-fiance was great too, especially since we’d pre-stalked on Facebook.
  • Craigslist Adventure – Rachel and I should never be left to our own devices.  When bored one weekend without M’s supervision, we set up a fake Craigslist account and responded to every terrible man-seeking-woman ad we could find.  Some were nice-ish but boring, so we dropped them.  We were offered $500 for a night from “The King Door.”  Then, finally, we created an ad of our own which consisted of nerdy questions about Lost, Star Trek, and  Firefly.  We added “PS. I’m hot” at the bottom of our ad to amp up our number of responses.  Anyway, all of this led to an outing to meet one of these dudes because we were really bored and he promised free booze.  Let’s just say that the story ends with us meeting a leprechaun sex offender on St. Patrick’s Day.  (If you haven’t heard this story, feel free to ask.  It’s a gem.)
  • Fort Night – The next weekend, Rachel and I decided to limit ourselves to stalking the neighbor out the window with binoculars.  We took pictures of ourselves doing it and posted it on his Facebook wall, which led to entertaining back-and-forth commenting for the next hour or so before we got bored and built a fort in the living room.  Then we made a Meijer run to get Kool-Aid.

Spring and Summer 2011 – End Scene

  • “Super La-La  Mancha!” Making our 5th and final movie sucked up most of my time this summer, but it was kinda worth it.  Why are there not more superhero musicals?!
  • Camping 2011 was fun with the addition of Katie, Tracy, and the Browns (Sarah, Josh, Oscar, plus Carmen the dog).  
  • I watched the others enjoy their bowling league, and it was surprisingly fun to watch, especially the team of 80+ men who were awesome.

bowl

To my great pleasure, this year I lived with M at “009” turned out to be one of the best years I can remember.  When Rachel moved out for law school in Chicago, I decided that that would finally be a good time to get my own place again.  The end of this summer felt like a good…end.  And the beginning of a new phase.  I’d come to appreciate all the blessings I really had – family who get me through tense times, friends who are willing to camp, and a job that lets me make a full-length movie on the side.  I’d figured out what I wanted to hold to, what I wanted to drop, what I wanted to grow.

Onward and upward.

“Marry Me, Hunt for Free”

One of the most insulting things you can say to a single person is “We just want you to be happy.” My mental response is always, “Huh, thanks. Until you just told me I wasn’t happy, I thought I was.” Granted, I understand most 30-something women probably do want to be married.  And it certainly occurs to one – especially if that one lives in good old, conservative, family-oriented Western Michigan – that the next natural step in life after college and profession is to get married and start a family.  However, then there’s me.  I’m not saying I don’t want to get married; it’s just that I’m very, very good at being single and generally am happier when I don’t have to deal with the entire romantic realm.  However, I have to acknowledge that this is probably due to my various experiences…

Let’s catch up.

One would think that I got off to an earlier start in the romance department, what with my first kiss being when I was three and all.  I remember it perfectly.  Poised on the couch on his hands and knees, Broch (or was it Brody?) leaned down as I puckered and lifted my face to his from the floor below.  I believe we were playing Rapunzel and got our characters a bit backwards.  All this while our mothers looked on and mine took a picture that would haunt me for years.

However, it was all downhill after the age of three.  My well-practiced response to “Why aren’t you dating anyone?” is “If you knew my options, you’d understand,” and this truth started early.  In elementary and high school, the pickings were slim – like eeny, meeny, miny, oh-I-guess-you’re-the-best-I-can-do.  I have always had this thing about not settling, and even early in life I wasn’t one for wasting time – why put energy into a relationship with someone when you just know it isn’t right?  It’s not that I’ve ever been anything incredible, but none of the boys who liked me while growing up were quite…right.  Plus, I was a major tomboy, and I think my girl friends’ stupid flutterings over such characters as Chad and Kevin turned me off to the point that I never wanted to act like that.  So, I didn’t.  I maybe had a handful of crushes in my childhood, but I never acted like it – I had better things to do, I didn’t want to act girly like my friends, and my heart was never into anyone enough to give in to the whole boyfriend/girlfriend thing. (Exception: Randy Emmery in 4th grade.  Every girl in my class liked him, he liked me, so I just kinda went with it and said I would be his girlfriend.  He made me a banner printed off on a dot-matrix that said “I Love You.”  I gave into peer pressure at recess and kissed his arm.  Yep, his arm.) In high school in particular, my romantic run-ins with guy friends started my abandonment issues, so I kind of started to hate the idea of love because it always meant I ended up losing a friend when I inevitably ended things.  But these were my options, and since they were all I had, I opted out of the whole affair.  It was just easier.  And better.

By college, I was honest enough with myself to realize that I was a mess, so I figured that being alone for a while and sorting out my issues was a good idea.  And, I was once again surrounded by silly girls who fluttered over boys. My earliest roommates in college constantly bemoaned that they were single.  One roommate would constantly sigh, “I’m going to die alone,” and another friend and I mocked this by repeating “I’m going to die alone” whenever we did anything remotely dumb, such as dropping a fork on the floor.  I grew incredibly sick of hearing the campus mantra of “if it’s God’s will” – which I like to believe God hates as much as I do.  Anyway, everywhere around me, couples were blossoming in young love.

I felt absolutely nothing. It was around this time that it occurred to me I might be screwed up in the love department.  Why was I refusing to even consider the idea of liking someone?  Was it just learned behavior to protect myself from getting screwed over by people close to me – ahem, high school?  I’d refused to care for so long that I wondered if I ever would find anyone to make me care. My Aunt Sharon has a poster that had always haunted me – a woman stands, her back to the painter, looking out a window at the world, an empty room behind her.  I realized that I didn’t want to turn into that.  I was also haunted by the fact that I’m supposedly related to Emily Dickinson, whose love life was so bad that reportedly she didn’t fare a particularly cheery life.  (We covered her poetry in a Lit class once, and it didn’t help that, when I told my professor of my relation, his only response was “Why does this not surprise me?” I’m still not sure how to take that.)

Also, I’d by this time noticed a pattern in my suitors – I seemed to attract only complete losers who were convinced they were god’s gift to womankind.  As my brother quoted for me, “I wish I could attract men like crazy instead of crazy men.” I hate the whole caste system of knowing your own league, but it might be right.  (I know how arrogant that sounds, but keep in mind that I  attracted some serious weirdoes.)  I had first laughed at this pattern, but now I wondered if I was being too exclusive.  Maybe I had become the Ice Queen I’d been accused of being in high school. It was here that I developed an “inferiority complex about my superiority complex” (yes, I just quoted Buffy).  I felt bad for holding myself aloof as if no one was good enough for me.  Maybe someone would surprise me after all, and how would I know if I wouldn’t give them a chance?  So, I decided to loosen up my “I won’t waste time if he’s not quite right” stance.  I’d be more open.  I wouldn’t immediately reject guys who showed interest, not even the usual weirdoes who plagued me.

Bad move.  By trying to make something out of nothing, I only let guys get too attached to me, and I quickly realized that sometimes you do have to be cruel to be kind, even if it means I lose a friend and once again fuel the fire of my abandonment issues.  I learned the hard way that sometimes you have to nip a problem in the bud before the other person gets the wrong idea.  After one particular experience where I let things drag on for far too long before ending it, I realized that I could never, never hurt someone like that again.  And it killed me to try when I knew my heart wasn’t in it.  It was far better to be alone than to be with someone I wanted to push off a cliff…not hypothetically speaking.  I think the idea that “I can handle being alone alone, but I can’t handle being alone with someone” is pretty much what I’ve always felt.  (And there’s an Ally McBeal quote.)

As college went on, because freaks were the only type of men who were interested in me, I developed a completely anesthetized reaction to the opposite sex as a whole.  It was simply easier to turn off.  And it was easier to laugh about the fact – I hold to the truth that it was a fact – that I attracted only losers. And I wasn’t the only girl suffering this problem in college, for my roommate Gloria was also so sick of being creeped out that she also avoided the relationship issue entirely.  We weren’t sure how to fix our jadedness, but in our twisted, mildly crazy, typical way, we turned romance into a joke.  Our apartment was already known as the Protestant Nunnery, and we named our apartment door The Door of Sarcastic Girly-ness.  We taped to the door pictures of babies, “perfect” men, reasons women are stupid, and a compatibility chart with trick questions.  It was a joke, but also an open declaration that there was something warped about our view of love.

Baby steps have always been my method of healing.

Later, in Detroit, I fear my jadedness only got worse.  I certainly noticed guys more, but it was for professional purposes as a model scout, so I wasn’t any less numb.  Some of my female coworkers couldn’t work up the nerve to approach some of the prettier specimens, but I was so numb that I could have talked to…who was popular at the time, Orlando Bloom? I was basically encountering men and saying (literally), “he’s pretty,” without so much as a flutter.  Also, it was still true that my only suitors were, as my friend Carmen said, “sorry men.”

When I moved back to Grand Rapids, I realized that I should probably stop making excuses and get on with this supposed next step of life. I felt free to get over my jumbled past love life and try.  Okay, that’s a lie.  Once I moved back to Grand Rapids, I was happy with where I was and so didn’t bother.  And anyway, what were my options?  Most of my guy friends were more asexual than plants, and the thought of going out just to meet guys has always made me want to chew off my own hair.  There were random blips on the romance radar every few months or so, but I held to my standards and didn’t let things continue once I knew it wasn’t going to work for me – this is the one lesson I’ve held to that I’m absolutely sure is the right way to go.

So that about catches us up to now.  Because I like lists, I hashed out the below revelations about my love life:

    • I’m “low maintenance to the point of seeming indifferent.”
    • I like the idea of commitment, but I’m terrified of committing to the wrong thing.
    • I would murder Prince Charming.
    • One of my rather anti-girl characteristics is that, even with “The One,” I would need serious space.  I need my space and individual identity or else I feel squeezed, not known, and then freak out and panic.  I don’t like clingy.  I could never spend my life with someone who actually believed the Jerry McGuire line about “you complete me.”  I prefer to get different things from different people, and I don’t want to rely on any one person for my personal completion. I need someone with interests and hobbies and friends and work that is just his so that I know he’s a fulfilled person already and I’m just adding to the party.
    • I’m passive-aggressive about my abandonment issues.  I always do everything in my power to make sure guy friends don’t like me so that I don’t have to hurt them or lose a friend later.  This includes the use of decoys, most notably Drake Metcalf, who is a fake, Joaquin Phoenix look-a-like we created on Facebook to use as a fake boyfriend whenever one of us needs him.
    • It’s my own fault if guys get the wrong idea.  I’m very open honest, and unfortunately this gets translated as my being this way only with you.  Also, it doesn’t help that model scouting left me with raging objectivity – I am very free with compliments to men in my life, and while I really do mean them, I don’t mean them. This leads to all kinds of misunderstandings.
    • I’ve never had a “type.”  Attraction/chemistry, for me, just kind of happens based on something I can’t put my finger on. What I’m attracted to is that thing of connection that I can’t explain – a comforting, natural surprise where someone is and does what fits without having to work at it.  Something that makes me think, “THAT!”
    • I need someone who respects me but is going to stand up to me when I am being stupid or stubborn or wrong.  I need someone not intimidated by me, someone stronger, bigger, and more dominant than me – I don’t like feeling like I wear the pants in a relationship, and I lose interest immediately if I’m not challenged.
    • As Kaly once said, “I want someone who is brave enough to wake me at 3 am to tell me to look at the meteor shower.”
me
Semi-Joke: “Why do people like me?!”

While lying in bed one night, unable to sleep, I started counting sheep.  However, I don’t know any sheep.  So, instead I switched to counting what I like to call my Almosts.  These are the boys/men/mutants in my life who fall into any one of the following categories: Outright boyfriends, guys I’ve almost dated, guys who had crushes on me, etc.  Basically, anyone who was in any way a romantic prospect.  After thinking through my entire life history, I came to a total of 43…make that 44. 

 Anyway, if you’ve made it this far, you deserve a few stories/examples.

My First Nerd
As a teen, I helped out at a church camp one summer where a totally scrawny geek with Coke-bottle glasses, a mullet, and a windbreaker winked at me and blew me a kiss from across a crowded sanctuary.

Rob Stuut
In high school, some random basketball player from another team left a note for me on one of my projects that had been left in a classroom where the team had been for halftime.  The note contained his phone number and a message about how I was “lookin’ fine.” To my slight amusement and extreme embarrassment, a few of my male classmates called the guy and had a little fun with him, pretending to be my angry father and brothers.
Even funnier, years later my friend Reka from college turned out to have gone to the same school as this guy.  She remembered him well and had even had a crush on him.

“Partial to Ya”
Ever since Bob Palma’s son and I went to elementary school together, Bob had tried to fix us up.  This wasn’t so annoying in middle school, but skip forward about a decade and it will get on a girl’s nerves.  See, Bob was a member of the Haymarsh Hunt Club, and therefore I still saw him even once far removed from elementary school.
Every summer since I began working at the Hunt Club in 8th grade, Bob was in the Sporting Clays league.  This meant I saw him and his friends every Monday during the summer season.  And, every Monday, he would remind me that “Mike was partial to ya” back in elementary school.  I tried being polite for the first couple of years, but after a while being a smart ass about it seemed acceptable.
It was particular fun because the men on Bob’s league team became about as exasperated with Bob as I did.  Dan Banister was my hero and will forever bear the title Favorite Hunter in my mind.  Dan is Bob’s nephew, I think, and whenever Dan was around Bob would be on his better behavior, for some reason.  One time, Dan came directly to my aid and said, “There’s such a thing as harassment, you know.”
Another time, Bob wasn’t doing very well shooting and he yelled from the station, “If you give me a pair together, I’ll bring Mike next time!”
I shouted back, “Boy, there’s an incentive!”
The rest of the men in the group cackled with laughter.
Bob did not get a pair together.

That Damn Ad
One day during a hunters’ catered lunch, there was a man who was relatively within my age range – this was rare.  Naturally, my grandfather thought we should meet.  (It was very similar to my mother’s approach when I was young – if a person was my age, we were destined to be friends.  Hmm.  I wonder where she picked that up!) Anyway, I flat out told my grandfather that I didn’t care and wasn’t interested.  He then took a bite of his bread and said – almost jokingly – that I should put up a “Marry Me, Hunt for Free” ad on the clubhouse’s bulletin board.
I did not forget about this, but somehow everyone else managed – only, I didn’t realize they’d forgotten.  So, one Sunday before Sunday school, we were all sitting around and chatting.  My Aunt Penny happened to mention that she had run into a “gorgeous” hunter that morning who had an accent and was younger.  My brother jumped in and said what a shame it was that our then-single cousin Stefanie hadn’t been there.  (She suffered as much as I did, I must admit.  I will forever love her for it.)
Then, I did a thing I will long regret: I mentioned the “Marry Me, Hunt for Free” ad.
My Aunt looked at me and started laughing as if she’d never heard this before, and she said, “That’s the funniest thing I’ve heard all week!”
Well, the commotion caught everyone’s attention and I had to repeat the ad title to the entire Sunday school class.  One lady asked what “Marry Me, I Have a Degree” was about, and I corrected her and gave her the right line.
My brother then pitched in and said, “Yeah, like Grandpa cares if you have a degree or not? How is a degree going to help you cook or clean?”

Model Rejection
While working as a receptionist for the model management company, I regularly had to welcome people who came for their interviews.  Now, some people think they could be models for reasons that are completely lost on the rest of us.  One man, who definitely qualified as a leader in this group, came in one night after being late for his previous three interviews.  Because he was early this time and had to wait, I had to put up with him while he sat on the waiting room couch.
“Are you married?”
“No,” I answered.
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
Without blinking, I said, “Yes.” (Normally, I at least hesitate before lying, but I didn’t this time.  That should tell you how bad he was.)
“Oh,” he said disappointedly.  “I guess that ends this line of questioning, then.  Can we be friends?”
I chuckled in a non-committal way and got up from my seat to see if the person interviewing him was finished yet.  They weren’t, but I hid in a back office until they were ready to take him.  Then, the person interviewing him told the guy that he would be considered as a model, but only if he stopped hitting on the receptionist.  When he left, the guy didn’t even make eye contact with me on his way to the door.
He was rejected anyway.

Suicide Prevention
Grandpa Bud and Grandma Marie came over to tell us about a funeral they’d been to.  A young man from the community had killed himself, and it was really sad because he’d been a smart guy, everyone had liked him, and apparently he’d been a good-looking kid.  He was also a hunter who had been to the Club once or twice.
Grandpa looked at me and said without joking, “Too bad you never met him.  Then he wouldn’t have killed himself.”
I looked at Mom in amazement, but she could only stand there with that look of helplessness I know well. 

Freddie Mercury
At a bar with friends in Grand Rapids, a Freddie Mercury looking older guy came to our table and deposited a beer for me.
Brooke joked, “Don’t drink it. There’s probably a roofie in it!”
He then kept coming over to check if I was enjoying the beer and to tell me that it was much better in a glass than a bottle, so that was why he had asked for it in a glass.  Okay, great.

Denver, The Fun Period
Rachel thought she was a brilliant matchmaker, and this picture ended up on our frig.
denv

Walgreen Hookup, Aisle 4
I went to Walgreens one day and sat in my car for a moment to turn off my phone.  A guy walked by my car with a look that I interpreted as, “Oh, it’s a white girl who’s going to sit inside her car until I’ve safely walked by.”  So, I defiantly hopped out of my car and started following him to the door.
He turned and said, “Hello.”
I took this as a challenge and responded with a perky, “Hey.”
He then let me enter the store before him.  I thought that was the end of it, but then he came down my aisle and said, “I have to tell you, I think you’re beautiful.  You have the most gorgeous eyes I’ve ever seen.  I just couldn’t leave without telling you.”
I muttered thanks.  I thought that was the end of it, but I got out to my car and found Dre’s phone number in my car window. 

Why the Word “Prospect” Is Ruined for Me
In one of those instances where groups of friends converged, we in the Knapp House met a whole group of guys who were wonderful if for no other reason than that they were new and we needed new people desperately to mix things up (enter Group Yay).  One, however, decided he would like me a little too much.  Carl even invited me to India, which would not be so odd except that this would be the third random person who had told me I would like India.
Enter passive-aggressive, unlikable Sunny, but even that in all my glory didn’t stop his interest entirely.
However, after a few weeks of my girl friends laughing at me, I was slightly vindicated when it turned out he considered all of us “prospects.”  Yes, Carl told us we were “prospects” to our faces.  Talk about making a bourgeoning friendship awkward, especially when Miranda and I were both invited to India: “It would be completely platonic.  Of course, if something were to happen…”  Here he sheepishly (he may have thought he was cute) rubbed his hair.
Fortunately, Carl ended up staying a friend longer than average, and we would later go on to joke that he had become my non-gay gay best friend.  He was also the only person I ever bitch-slapped.

Giants Fan
Just when I thought maybe I wasn’t a magnet for freaks anymore, the girls and I went to a Lions football game.  The game sucked – that’s hardly a surprise – but by the fourth quarter the row of men in front of us didn’t care because they’d had 48 beers between them.  The one on the FAR END FROM ME who was sitting directly in front of Rachel at one point turned around and obviously looked the three of us over.  Seeing/sensing what was coming out of the corner of my eye, I stared down intently at the field.  The man reached OVER Rachel and Miranda’s legs and laid a hand on my knee.
“Why do you look so bored?”
(Sidenote: I get asked this way too often, not only by creepy men.  Once at a concert in a local lounge, the singer/songwriter actually stopped between songs to look at me and ask if I was bored.  It must just be a look on my natural face?)
For once, with this guy I had a reasonable excuse. “I’m watching this game, aren’t I?”
He kept blathering on for a while, and I kept obviously ignoring him.  (Did I mention the entire row of men were over 45 and looked like the average Hunt Club member? If memory serves, there was a lot of plaid involved.)
By the time the game was over, Rachel and Miranda were nearly falling out of their seats with laughter.  My new friend wished me well and left my life forever.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Stop It
Rachel is not subtle.  It got to the point where I became very wary of being near any guy whenever I saw Rachel with a camera at a party.  I also learned to make not-so-subtle faces in response to what I knew she was doing. 

boys

Maid of Honor
For Kaly’s wedding, I had the whole Maid of Honor thing pretty easy. $40 total. However, being single led to the mother of the bride (who is also like an aunt to me) thinking there must be someone to hook me up with.  I’m not entirely against the idea of being fixed up, but this wedding was in Sparta.  In a barn.  Where country music was played.  I like to think I’m not an elitist snob, but line dancing is crossing a…line.
I ended up telling people a variety of things to get away before being introduced. My excused escalated from “I’m happily single” to “I’m not interested” to at one point “I actually have a pretty severe crush on someone right now, so I don’t think I could find anyone else attractive right now if I tried” which was a complete lie.  I later realized how sad it was that I couldn’t even think of who I could have a fake crush on.  I may have dropped Drake Metcalf’s name a time or two.
Fortunately, so much booze was flowing that everyone soon forgot about trying to fix me up.  Though, the best man’s girlfriend did grind on me, and I’m still a little troubled by that one.

Pepe Le Pew (alternate title:  The Worst Valentine’s Day Ever)
I’ve developed a radar for what I term “twitterpated face.” This means that a guy clearly is starting to think I might be a good idea.  I then become more annoying, but unfortunately this sometimes gets translated as me being cute – go figure.  One Valentine’s Day, I was at a bar with some friends, and by 2:00 a.m. a new guy was aglow with “twitterpated face.”
When we finally left, I discovered that my LOST Dharma light on my key chain works as a kind alternative to Mace, because we stood in the parking lot by my car for a bit, it was clear what he wanted, and I kept flashing him in the face to keep him at least at arm’s length.  Then I SHOOK HIS HAND, went to get in my car, and suddenly a hand was on my waist.  At this point, I went to my usual place of “Oh, frak it – he’s drunk, just put up with it until he leaves.”  He kinda pinned me against my car and kept looking at me and asking, “Nothing, really?”  And I kept shaking my head and going “Ut-uh. Nope.”  Finally, he backed off and said he’d see me later.  But as I turned to my car, he pecked my cheek.  I muttered something like “Razzin’ frazzin” and got in my car, at which point hysterical laughter took hold.
The next morning, I woke up because some connection my brain had been trying to make finally clicked – Pepe le Pew!  I hopped out of bed, emailed Racie the rest of the story of what happened after she left, and got on Facebook to post a clip of Pepe le Pew on her wall. 

Last Single Granddaughter
My family means well, but…
As soon as my cousin Stefanie got engaged, all attention shifted to me.  Aunt Penny, my mother, and Gma Gummer combined their powers and intensified their matchmaking efforts on my behalf – unsolicited, I add needlessly.  When I went home to help with a Pampered Chef bridal shower, I was helping my mom with her hair when this happened:
Mom:  Your aunt thought she found a good guy for you at the concert last weekend, but then she found out he was poor and so scrapped that idea.  But it doesn’t matter anyway, because your dad and I have a better guy.
Me:  Super.  Who the _____? (I don’t remember exactly which edited expletive I used.)
Mom:  Randy’s son.  He has his own house.  And a plane, so your dad approves.
Later at the shower, Aunt Penny explained her side of this exactly as my mom had told me.
Penny: …And he likes bread!
Me: (laughing) Oh, well at least we have that in common!  A love of bread is foundational to a relationship, so I’ve heard.  (turning to Stef) Have I mentioned, thank you so much for getting married!
Later still, Aunt Penny realized what an amazing haul Stef was getting from the shower and yelled to me across the room, “Sunny, when you get married, we’re doing one of these for you!”
I fake chuckled and went on cleaning, only to hear my grandmother throw in, “Just don’t wait too long, or I won’t be around.”
Yep.

 _____

Justin, one of my wonderfully platonic friends (with the exception of one hiccup that I’m pretending never came up), is always a good sounding board for whining about my sucky love-life.  We had a conversation one night where he helped me discover that I finally had a goal for my life – to die alone.  It was a goal I felt I could accomplish, and I’ve always needed direction. (Goal #2 is to find a briefcase full of money which I will partially use to build a music studio where Justin and my brother can record music, and my payment will be that they will write a song about how much they adore me.)
Justin: “I take it you don’t want kids?”
Me: “I firmly believe that you should want to have kids with someone, and so far I haven’t found anyone to make me want to vacate the dust bunnies from my uterus.”

And that about sums it up.  Miranda and I joke that we’ll probably end up settling beyond our worst nightmares, but I don’t see this happening.  I’m not so bored with being single that I’m going to abandon my #1 life goal.

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