Saturday, May 31, 2008

Precious Little Thing

I'm suffering from a pretty intense country music addiction this week. I normally don't consider myself much of a country music fan. I mean, I like some of it a lot, but I like it very selectively. But we've been listening to it a lot at work [as a side note, one of my jobs this week was drinking a six pack of glass bottled Coca Cola] and all of a sudden I can't get enough Dolly Parton or Johnny Cash or Alison Krauss. I also was listening to my mp3 player again recently since I had a three week period where the speakers weren't working in my car--and yes, I know it's illegal to listen to headphones while driving but YOU do an hour-plus commute twice a day and tell me how you like it with no music/talk at all whatsoever--and I remembered how much I like Carrie Rodriguez. Incidentally, I discovered recently that she and my cousin were high school classmates, which is pretty cool. At any rate, I suddenly can't get enough country. I've especially been diggin' Dolly Parton. I just listened to "Little Sparrow" about twelve times on repeat, but only after exhausting my appetite for "Jolene". And no, I'm not exaggerating.
So it turns out I do like country music. I think I've figured out my deal with country, though: I LOVE the banjo. Love it, love it, love it. I've always liked bluegrass music and thus Celtic music (the former basically coming out of the latter, I think, not that I know much about musicology) and I think the deal is that I really love the banjo or other banjo-ish instruments. And I also like the fiddle. So most pop country today just doesn't do it for me at all, but I've suddenly developed this insatiable appetite for the old school stuff. My friend Sunny who grew up in a big country music family has informed me that I am in fact not a country fan, but a country western fan. To which I say, "Okay, sure, let's listen to Folsom Prison Blues again!"
My brother is going to be proud. He's a big country guy and is always trying to convince me that I like it, so I'll have to admit that he's at least partially right. Penn is going to be pretty disappointed in me, though, since he's Mr. Hard Rock and I'm fairly certain one of the main reasons he's dating me is because of the Tool sticker on the back of my car. Haha. But I figure if he's going to play System of a Down, which makes me physically cringe, then I'm allowed to force him to share in my newfound appreciation of Dolly.

Speaking of that guy, he comes home tomorrow. Yay! It has been four weeks exactly since we've seen each other, so I'm driving to his place tomorrow night after I get out of work. He'll be jetlagged and I'm pretty sure I'll be exhausted from working a ten-hour day and then doing the drive, but I don't really care. I offered to wait and not drive up until Monday evening since I'm off work all day on Monday and don't have to come in again until late in the morning on Tuesday, but when I suggested that as an alternative he just said, "Are you kidding?! I want to see you as soon as I get home!" which is exactly what I hoped he would say. We've talked on the phone a couple of times a week while he's been gone and we've stayed in touch via e-mail, but I'm ready for us to be in the same country again. There's a lot more I want to know about Penn, and it's much easier to get to know each other when you're in the same time zone.

One last thing that has nothing to do with anything: there is a new ad campaign that is driving me crazy. I first noticed the billboard a few blocks away from my apartment a couple of months ago. It has a couple on it and she's in a wedding dress and he's in a tux and under the picture it says, "Married People Earn More Money." The first time I saw it I was like, "What the hell?!" It bugs me every time I pass it, but since it's the opposite direction from my usual commute I don't have to see it very often. But this weekend I'm dogsitting for my friend in City A and when I was getting off the metro last night near her house I saw the same stupid ad on the side of a bus stop. (Although I should point out that the version near my apartment features a black couple and the version here near my friend's house features a white couple. I doubt that this is a coincidence since my neighborhood is probably 65-70% African American and she lives in a much more yuppie, predominantly white part of the city. This division annoys me too, but it's tangential to my actual point...hence the parentheses) Here is my problem with the ad: REALLY? Do married people actually earn more money? I'd love to see the study that proves that. I can't think of a single logical distinct connection between earning power and matrimonial status. I can see how being married might cause you to have more money in the long run. For one thing, while the old adage that two can live as cheaply as one is not entirely true, it's somewhat true. I mean, my apartment could be a two-person apartment and if I shared the rent with a husband, sure, I'd have more money. I don't know much about tax laws, but isn't it true that married people get more tax breaks than single people? I could be pulling that fact out of my ass, but if I'm not, then that's maybe a factor. And obviously being a single parent is a lot more of a financial strain than being a married one. All of these are reasons why I think it's probably true that married couples have more money. But do they earn more money? I highly doubt that. Since when do you pay someone a higher rate just because they're married? It's not as catchy, but the stupid billboards probably need to say something like "Over the Course of Their Lifetimes, Married People Will Have More Money Than Single People Because of the Following Factors..."
Mainly I hate the stupid billboards for pushing a heteronormative marriage, though. Grrrr. And for setting it up as something that solves all of your financial problems. What a great reason to get married! To earn more money! The whole thing is just bashing the sanctity of marriage. Get married because you love the person and because they're your best friend and because you can't imagine growing old without them. Don't get married because it's the financially practical thing to do. How sad is that?! I'm not an idealist about many things, and I guess I'm not even really an idealist about marriage, but I would like to think that there are good, right reasons for getting married. And earning more money is NOT one of them. Not in my book.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Bright Sunshiny Day

I realized today that this week marked exactly a year since I first saw University Land. A year ago I was sitting in a hotel room at two in the morning too anxious to sleep, frantically scrolling through apartment ratings websites on my laptop and wondering how I was going to be able to afford to live somewhere that didn't involve roach infestations and armed robberies in the parking lot, which then led to the bigger worries: would I ever make friends? What if it turned out I didn't actually have the skills to handle a PhD program? What if the whole region just sucked?
Well, I know it's a cliche phrase for a reason, but what a difference a year makes! If in May of 2007 I had been able to see how nice life was going to be in May 2008, I definitely would have been sleeping soundly. Now I drive past that very same hotel almost every day. On one end of the drive is a quiet lakeside apartment where I feel safe even if I have to take the dog out in the middle of the night. On the other end is a campus where I go to interesting classes with interesting and intelligent people and where the faculty tends much more strongly toward the supportive and friendly than towards the deprecating and intimidating. 75% of the time I feel like I know what I'm doing and like I'm good at my work, which I think is a pretty good ratio. When I'm not working I get to explore University Land and the surrounding region, which it turns out I absolutely love. I never--quite seriously, never--wish that I was back in Home State. I miss certain things about it every now and then, but if you gave me the option of moving back there or staying here, I wouldn't even have to think twice before saying, "I'll stay here, thanks." Maybe that will change in the future, but for now I'm constantly thrilled by this place: the energy in the air, the strange combination of cultures and geographic regions that clash here, the seasons, the scenery, the proximity to other fun and interesting places. I have made good friends here, the type of friends that say, "Yes," when I ask, "Can you do me a favor?" before they even know what it is that I'm going to ask. The type of friends that speak eloquently about course content but then totally make me forget I'm a student at all when two hours and three beers later we're joking about, say, what song your cervix might play if there was such a thing as a musical cervix that played a song every time you opened your legs (this was an actual conversation from earlier tonight, by the way, and I would explain how we got on that topic in the first place but it's a long story; the best song suggestion was Nicole's "It's A Small World After All," which is sadly appropriate for some occasions). And as if having good friends, a good job, and a fun home isn't enough, I've somehow even managed to snag myself a guy who makes my heart leap in my chest a little bit when he calls me from six time zones away mostly just to hear my voice, a guy who doesn't feel like he's giving anything up to only be with me for a while, a guy who, even if he doesn't end up sticking around for long for some reason, has made me realize that there are actually still some really kind, fun, interesting guys out there.
I realize I've already talked before about how happy I have been this year. I also realize that it's a bit rude to write about how great my life is going, because if your life isn't going well at the moment it's no fun to read about someone that has it easier than you, and if your life is going equally well you're probably still finding all this look-at-my-awesome-life talk pretty boring. But I can't shake the feeling that I'm really lucky right now and this luck probably won't last for long so I need to document things while they're this good. Things could change at any minute, so why look for something negative to talk about when you're in a very rare moment where it's actually possible to say, "My life is perfect right now"?

Today was like a microcosm of everything that's good in my life at the moment. I didn't have to go to work today, so instead of waking up to an alarm I woke up to a phone call from Penn. It was the first time we've actually been able to talk on the phone in over a week, so I definitely didn't mind his call waking me. We didn't talk for too long since he had a tour to get to and since there's only so long that his two friends are willing to amuse themselves before they start giving him hell about wanting to call his girlfriend, but it was a nice start to the day to be able to actually hear his laugh.
Then a few hours later when I finally got out of bed I drove my dog down to City A and met my friend and her dog so that we could walk them over to the flea market/farmers market that they set up in her neighborhood every weekend. The weather was perfect, and I was actually able to wear shorts for the first time this season.
After leaving the flea market it was back towards my neighborhood for a barbecue at my friend Sunny's house. She has a giant deck and a beautiful yard, so she invited a bunch of people over to celebrate graduation, the long weekend, and the nice weather. I took the dog with me and he was very well-behaved as I mingled all night long with a really fun group of people that included almost all of my grad school friends and their significant others as well as many of my coworkers from my new job. I even managed to get in my thirty minutes of cardio today by racing my new friend Roger's four-year-old daughter around the yard. Roger kept trying to entice her back onto the patio, saying "*A*, you don't need to do that if you don't want to," but the truth is I was having a blast. I can't remember the last time I played tag or hide-and-seek, and Roger's daughter is extremely polite and sweet and just generally so adorable I could barely stand it. When she left to go home I knelt down to say goodbye to her and she threw her arms around my neck and gave me a big kiss on the cheek and said, "Thank you, *A*, I hope we can play again someday," and I was like, "Oh boy, I'm going to have to get me one of these four-year-olds!" That is, until my dog stole an entire unattended hot dog off the patio table and I realized that since I don't really have control over my hound dog I'm perhaps not entirely ready to have a human child. That, and they have to be tiny helpless slugs and then go through that whole I-have-n0-language-but-I-want-to-communicate-and-therefore-I'm-going-to-shriek-and-whine-all-the-time thing before they're four-year-olds, so I suppose I need to take that into consideration as well.
The barbecue was such a funny juxtaposition. It was full of childhood memories.* Besides the tag and hide-and-seek, Shawn brought ice pops (which took me right back to elementary school, where I used to be able to buy an Otter Pop for a quarter after school on Tuesday afternoons and then get all blue and sticky eating it on the walk home) and Ingrid brought a giant watermelon (which reminded me of sitting out on the swingset with my brother and sister on summer evenings eating watermelon in just our underwear so that it wouldn't matter if the juice got all over us, spitting the seeds at each other).
At the same time, though, there was this moment when Nicole walked up to me and said, "Isn't this such an adult party?" and I looked around and realized she was totally right. It wasn't a typical college barbecue with red plastic cups and a keg and some hot dogs. Instead, we were grilling steak and pork and vegetables, standing on a deck drinking wine or bottled beer, chatting but always keeping a watchful eye on the backyard where the kids and the dog were racing around. I may not always feel like an adult, but the fact of the matter is that I'm no longer a part of the generation rolling around in the backyard and getting grass stains on my jeans and wondering why the heck the grown-ups think it's so interesting to just stand around and TALK. Instead, I'm a part of the generation holding a glass of wine, genuinely interested as someone talks about in-laws or the state budget or the latest play to open downtown, telling a kid that is tugging on my hand, "Just one minute, let me finish my drink first and then I'll come play with you for a while."
Part of me is a bit wistful and wonders how the heck all of my growing up happened without me really noticing. But part of me is also just relieved to finally get to this point in my life, the point where no one questions whether or not you should be placed at the kids' table or the adults' table at holidays, the point where nobody wonders aloud whether you're too young to get married/move to Europe/etc., the point where you've made enough of the big decisions to really start getting a sense of where your life could potentially be heading. It's no secret that I like a lot of stability in my life. Sure, I'm all for the adventure vacation and the occasional night of staying out until five in the morning and drinking out of those stupid red plastic cups. But if most of the next twenty some-odd years of my life is going to consist of social evenings like tonight's, I'm just fine with that.
I don't so much mind being a grown-up. It may not be perfect all the time. In fact, sometimes the responsibilities of being an adult are just a bit too much to handle. There are definitely moments when it's fun to be a kid or a teenager or a college student again for a few hours at a time. I think everyone needs to do that once in a while. But overall I must say I'm finding that its a heck of a lot easier to be an adult** than it ever was to be a kid.

*Speaking of childhood memories, this afternoon I popped into the grocery store on the way to the barbecue to buy a few bags of chips and a birthday card for a friend. While I was standing in the checkout line these kids were making a bunch of noise rifling through stuff in the sales bin behind me, so I turned around to see what they were up to and lo and behold, on the top of the sales bin was a box of Good N Fruity! I couldn't believe it. I loved Good N Fruity when I was a kid, but even back then it was sort of hard to find it. Oddly enough, I seem to remember getting it in airports a lot when we were on family vacations but having a hard time finding boxes of it just at Walgreens or 7-11 or whatever. Anyway, I hadn't come across a box of Good N Fruity in years. I thought I was just crazy, but the link above proves that it was actually discontinued for a while. Anyway, when I saw them in the bin today I got so excited that I joined the kids in rifling through the whole bin, but unfortunately there was only one box left. But that box is now mine, and I got to enjoy a handful tonight. While they're not exactly the same as I remember them from my childhood, they're definitely close enough to satisfy. Sweet!
**I suppose I should clarify that this is true of my current state of adulthood. Somehow I imagine parenthood might eventually change my position on this somewhat. Not that I'll be finding that out any time soon!

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Good Recipe for Frustration

Sit in traffic. Think about how if your freakin' speakers weren't broken, you could listen to the traffic report on the radio and possibly avoid some of this mess. Think about how there's no way to fix your speakers any time soon. Then, since you're still in traffic, think about all the gas you're wasting sitting in traffic. Think about all the money you're wasting on the gas you're wasting sitting in traffic. Repeat seven hours later on the drive home.

Try to organize the two papers you still have to finish writing in the next 36 hours. Realize that you really have no freakin' idea what you're doing on one of them, and only a vague grasp on the other. Then realize that there's absolutely no way you can finish these papers on time without at least one and possibly two all-nighters.

Spend two hours listening to people talk about sex (believe it or not, as part of yet another work project). Note the palpable sexual tension in the room. Then realize that while everyone else in the room gets to go home to significant others tonight, your boyfriend is in Prague or Copenhagen or Berlin or somewhere, so you're not going to get to really relieve the sexual tension for two weeks. And you're going to have to deal with all this sex talk at least five or six more times between now and then.

It's going to be a long two days, and a much, much longer two weeks.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

My abs are sore

So to round out the list of things I learned this week for my new job, today I memorized the legal definition of "assault" in the state of Missouri. It sure has been an interesting week around here.

The one thing I have not managed to do is any of my remaining school work. I haven't done anything school-related since Thursday morning, and since I went out with coworkers after work tonight and had two Hefeweizens, I doubt I'm getting anything done tonight either. Thankfully I'm off all day tomorrow, so hopefully I'll be able to be productive.

Oh, and in other news, Maddi got engaged today!* She and her boyfriend went to look at rings months ago, so she knew he was going to propose eventually but she had no idea when and she definitely wasn't expecting it to happen today. But they're getting ready to move to a new city together so she can start a PhD program, and he got down on his knee and proposed to her as they were exploring her new campus this afternoon. I think that's pretty sweet, sort of a way for her to tie her school life and her personal life together. And I also think it's great that that was the very first thing that happened for them in what will be their new hometown. I'm really excited for her since she's been dating her boyfriend for over three years and they've been through a lot together. I think they've worked through all the issues it's smart to figure out BEFORE you get married, so I really hope things are going to work out well for them.
In other relationship news, my friend Nicole found out yesterday that her boyfriend, who currently lives in England, got the job he applied for here in City A, so he'll be moving here as soon as he can get his visa. She's thrilled that he'll finally be here and the taxing long distance stuff can end. And I'm sure they'll get engaged not long after he's here as well since they've been dating for years and are definitely moving in that direction.
I swear, another year or so from now and I'll be able to count my unmarried friends on just one hand...the balance has really started to tip in favor of the Marrieds in the past couple of years. I'm excited for Maddi and Nic, though. I have two friends here who are going through intense breakups right now (one is getting a divorce, which is a whole different level of sucky that I've never had to watch unfold for a friend before), so it's really nice to have a weekend full of happy relationship news for a change.

*Maddi has no idea when they'll get married but has already asked me to be a bridesmaid. This will be my third time. With two pretty-much-guaranteed bridesmaid positions still coming up in the future (Kiki has already informed me multiple times that she will ask me when the time comes...and it will one of these days...and I sort of assume I'll be one for my sister as well**) I'm wondering what the Guiness World Record is on this bridesmaid thing and whether I should actively start striving for it. That's an interesting Special Skill for a resume, right? "My girlfriends always ask me to be their bridesmaids, which must mean I am calm, organized, handy to have around in stressful situations, and a generally nice person. Hire me!"
**My sister has actually never mentioned wanting me to be a bridesmaid at her hypothetical wedding, but she has mentioned that she's expecting me to provide the flower girl and/or ring bearer. Frankly, I don't know what makes her think that I'm popping out kids before she does. I realize that I'm older than she is, but I'll be hugely surprised if I end up having a baby before my sister does. I wonder how she'd feel about a hound dog in a tuxedo.

Hogs and Balls

Here are some of the things I learned this week while working my new summer job:
1) How to slaughter a hog. This involved watching several videos that I could show you via YouTube, but I don't think I'll put you through the same horror that I experienced while watching them.
2) How to safely handle, load, and shoot several different types of rifles, including an M1, which is apparently considered a pretty cool gun by gun people. I wouldn't actually know, because prior to Wednesday I don't think I'd ever held a gun in my life. In fact, I know so little about guns that in my notes to myself concerning this particular project I have written the following:
"Shotgun (20 gauge), Remington, least-fancy gun." Luckily, while we spent a lot of time working with real guns, my actual job involves handling guns that have had their firing pins removed. I've been assured that there's absolutely no way they can possibly shoot anything, which is good because I'm pretty much the least-qualified person possible to be handling firearms. Also, the rifle range was pretty much the weirdest place I've ever been in my life. I am open-minded about a lot of things, but I will never, ever be able to wrap my mind around the idea of guns as a hobby. Maybe its an adrenaline thing?
3) How to make it seem like you're grabbing a guy by his balls, twisting them, and giving them a good yank, without actually doing that.
It was a pretty interesting week. And now I'm wondering, "Hmm, if someone who doesn't know me stumbles across this website and reads this description of my job, what on earth will they think I'm doing to earn a living this summer?" Haha.

Although it was an interesting week and I am really excited to finally be working on this job, it has also been an exhausting week. First of all, I'm still working on my other job (the non-paying job) and I feel bad because I've sort of been neglecting them for the past two weeks. It's just hard to bring myself to want to devote much time to a volunteer job when I have two actual contracted, paying jobs to worry about. Luckily the bulk of the volunteer job is over, but I still feel bad for not spending more time on it. Fortunately the people I'm working with don't seem to mind; they hired me knowing full well that as long as they weren't going to pay me they would be the least of my priorities and the first thing to get dropped if life got hectic.
And life did get hectic because while I have started my summer job and am now working from 11:00 until 7:00 and commuting for about an hour and a half on either side of that, I'm still not finished with school. I finished a 20-page paper on Wednesday night, and while I think that will be the hardest of my end-of-the-year projects and therefore I'm really excited to be done with it, I still have two other 20-page papers to write before next Wednesday. Luckily the two papers I still have to write are mostly regurgitation of material I learned this semester (nicely synthesized and articulated regurgitation, but still, regurgitation) and I think I should be able to churn them out easier than the paper I finished this week, which was actually original research. At least I'm hoping it will be easier, because otherwise I'm going to have a really rough four days coming up. Oh, and I still have to proctor two finals and then grade 60 final exams. Oddly, I'm not panicking about this yet. Even if it ends up being a very busy week with an all-nighter or two, if I can just get through the next week I'm completely finished with my first year of coursework. The idea of being able to say that is what is powering me through this.

I'm so ready for summer. I'm ready to read the stack of magazines that has been piling up by my bed since March. I'm ready for swimming and backyard barbecues and absolutely no obligations when I get home from work every day. Mostly I'm ready for summer because it means that Penn will be back from Europe. I miss him more than I thought I would. It's funny how quickly something becomes a routine. I realize it had only been six weeks, but I'd already gotten used to talking to him every day so I feel a tiny bit deflated now on the days when I don't hear from him. Not that I expected to hear from him every day while he was out of town. In fact, every time he e-mails me I write back things like, "What are you doing on the internet?! Go look at some ruins or drink some German beer or something!" But of course I'm also a little bit pleased that he's making time to contact me so often. He left eight days ago and already he has called me on the phone twice and I get an e-mail pretty much every other day. And they're good e-mails, too. I would quote segments, except that they're so new-relationship-cheesy and sappy that you'd probably gag. For the record, I have no idea why this guy can get away with so much romance without it overwhelming and/or annoying me, but somehow it just works coming from him. With everyone else it has always felt fake or cliched, but with him it just doesn't.
The longer he's away, though, the more I keep wondering if I made the whole thing up. It still just feels so unreal to me. I can't wrap my mind around the fact that I'm in a relationship. People say, "Your guy," and I do a doubletake. At one point earlier this week one of my new co-workers said something like, "Ooh, we can use this to test whether or not your boyfriend is a jealous guy!" and I thought, "Boyfriend? What is he talking about?" for a few seconds before I remembered, oh yeah, I am in a relationship now, aren't I? And it has nothing to do with how I feel about Penn, because I think he's really great and I'm excited to keep getting to know him better and progressing this relationship. But it's the fact that I'd formulated this entire identity around being single, and I've spent a lot of time over the past couple of years getting to the point where I was satisfied with being single. In order to do that, it meant that I had to envision an entire future for myself in which I was single...and I had actually started to like that idea. So don't get me wrong, I'm very happy to be in a relationship again. I know that my most ideal life has always involved a relationship of some sort, and I'm very happy that that's an option again now. But I liked the single me that I had developed, too. And I'm not saying that I have to give up Single *A* now, obviously I'm planning to keep and continue to use all of the discoveries I have made about myself in the years of being "alone", but fundamentally I'm having to work on shifting my identity again. When one of the main lifestyle features you use to define yourself suddenly stops being true, it takes a while to get used to it, even if you do think it has the potential to be a really good change.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

100 Things Redux

It has been a year since I started this particular blog. I was looking at my 100 Things About Me list the other day and I realized that already in just a year a lot has changed, so I thought I'd revisit my list and update it. I've left the things that are still true and made changes where appropriate (either clarifying or just changing the item entirely). So here we go, 100 Things About Me: 2008 Edition:

1. Both my first and last name are very common, but my middle name is fairly unique so I sometimes use my full name to distinguish myself in personal situations.

2. Although I use my full name for a practical reason, I worry that this makes me seem pretentious. I worry a lot about seeming pretentious, even though I know this is a mostly irrational worry.

3. I have a rule for myself that I need to work out twenty days a month.

4. I have accomplished this goal every month since January of 2004, except for February and March of 2005, when I had a sprained ankle from falling down a stairwell in a parking garage.

5. Making rules about working out is good for me because I love food and don't think I could diet if I tried.

6. Luckily, I would rather eat hummus than Cheetos anyway.

7. Speaking of food, I watch far too much Food Network.

8. I also watch far too much HGTV. And a lot of Bravo and TLC, too.

9. My college roommate is now an interior designer. She taught me that the biggest decorating mistake people make is pushing all of their furniture up against the walls.

10. When I moved to University Land I finally got back into the habit of sleeping all night in my bed like a normal person.

11. I'm currently in a relationship with a guy I call Penn.

12. I have no idea how long this relationship is going to last (at this point, he has been my boyfriend for all of a week), but either way its the first committed relationship I have been in since, oh, 2003.

13. I used to be a big fan of open relationships. I still think there is a time and a place for them and that they're a smart option when you're young, but now I sort of feel like I've been there, done that.

14. I really hate the term "boyfriend." It makes me feel like I'm fifteen. But "significant other" sounds pretentious, "partner" is misleading (it generally seems to imply a homosexual relationship nowadays, no?), and "lover" just sounds ridiculous, plus it doesn't give any sense of commitment.

15. I really did stop dating a guy because the tobacco stain on his bottom tooth annoyed the hell out of me.

16. Tobacco Guy was the shortest relationship I have ever had. It lasted about three weeks.

17. I did have a quasi-one night stand once, but I don't count that as a relationship.

18. The longest relationship I have ever had lasted three years.

19. Up until very recently, I was still talking to Phil, my ex from that relationship, on an almost-daily basis. I made a very valiant effort to stay friendly with him through a lot of really confusing and tumultuous times for both of us. But it would appear that ultimately he is unable to maintain a friendship with me when I have a boyfriend. While I have to admit that I saw this coming, I thought if I tried hard enough we could establish a strong enough friendship that it could overcome any jealousy. But his jealousy is pretty intense, apparently, which makes me sad (more sad for him than for me, frankly). I suppose I'll always worry about him a bit. But I hope one day that he's happy, too, and that he'll come around again and we'll be able to just be friends.

2o. One of the main reasons that I couldn't be with Phil is that I saw marriage and kids in my future and he didn't.

21. Even if I don't ever get married, I plan to have a child somehow. I can't remember a time when I didn't want to be a mother, and being someone's mother is a goal that is very important to me.

23. Yes, I question the sanity of wanting to bring a child into this world. At the rate we're going, I don't think any of us will be here much longer, honestly.

24. I am a feminist.

25. I'm a spiritual person who has yet to find a belief system that works for me. Yes, it's frustrating.

26. My only real hobby is reading.

27. I am certified to teach high school, but I don't know that I ever actually will.

28. I never changed my major in college.

29. I decided I wanted to go on for my Ph.D. my sophomore year of college. I no longer remember how or why I made this decision, but now I'm on that road and not planning to exit any time soon.

30. Since I started college, I have never taken a break. I went straight from college into an MA program and then into a PhD program. Most people seem to think that's a crazy choice, but I don't understand why I should take time off if I already know what I want to do.

31. I think those must be my father's genes talking, since he got into the restaurant business when he was 20, managed his own place by the time he was 22 or 23, and owned his own restaurant before he was 30.

32. I have my father's drive but my mother's tendency to worry a lot and stress out when things aren't going according to plan. It makes for an interesting combination of wanting to take the big risks but being terrified to take them.

33. Of my three siblings, I'm the most likely to burst into tears.

34. Oddly, most people outside of my family don't consider me to be a very emotional person.

35. I had a friend ask me recently, "Is your dog more like your friend or like your baby?" and I thought that was a really interesting question. The answer: like my baby.

36. My cat, on the other hand, is more like my buddy than my baby. That's probably because my cat is extremely cool. Really, he is. I can't even tell you how many times people have said, "Wow, I've never met a cat like that before." He has a very sweet, chilled out, unique personality.

37. I've spent the past two years living alone with just the dog and the cat. I LOVE living alone.

38. When I'm living with other people, it's extremely important that I have a space somewhere that is mine and mine alone. Even when I'm sharing hotel rooms for short periods of time it's important to me to have my own space where I can organize my things, even if my "space" is just the side of my bed.

39. I am a neat freak, definitely a "place for everything and everything in its place" person.

40. I take really good notes. Really. In my MA program, everyone would make copies of my notebooks before tests to make sure they had all the information that I did.

41. Nobody here teases me for the words I use in conversations. They do, however, tease me for my propensity to wear heels in situations where everyone else is wearing sneakers.

42. I overuse the words "ridiculous", "literally", and the phrase "in theory."

43. But at least I use the word "literally" correctly. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people say "literally" when they're not talking about something that has LITERALLY happened, i.e. "I literally died laughing." Uh, no. You didn't.

44. My favorite city that I have visited so far is London. Paris, on the other hand, was a huge disappointment. I'm willing to give it a second chance one of these days, though.

45. I have been to England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, The Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Italy, and Mexico. I don't consider that to be nearly enough countries.

46. I love traveling. One of my goals in life is to visit every state in the U.S. and set foot on every continent, including Antarctica. And the more countries I can visit, the better.

47. I did finally pass the halfway mark on my goal of visiting every state in the U.S. and then some. I have now visited 29 states.

48. I have to force myself to take a shower most of the time because I find showering to be a horribly boring waste of 10-15 minutes of my life every day. I have to entice myself by always having what most people would consider an insane variety of shower gel.

49. I don't eat nearly as much frozen food as I used to. I actually cook meals using pots, skillets, and things other than the microwave several times a week now. True, this is more because I have to be more cautious with my grocery budget now and TV dinners are expensive than because of any conscious choice to stop eating so much frozen food, but still, go me!

50. I am very good at making change, but most math beyond that is completely baffling to me. (So hey, now you know what I don't study.)

51. My favorite parttime job was when I worked as a valet and bartender at a performance hall. I made very good money for doing an extremely easy job, and I got to drive some fun cars that I will never, ever be able to afford.

52. In general, though, I hate driving and like living in an area of the country that has somewhat reliable public transportation. Unfortunately, I'm still driving way more than I would like to be.

53. I love thunderstorms, provided I'm in the comfort of my own home and the power doesn't go out.

54. I have recurring nightmares about tornadoes, giving birth to a baby by myself, plane crashes and driving my car off an unfinished highway overpass.

55. I still take off my shoes and jewelry first thing when I get home. I don't generally take my pants off anymore because a) I lost a few pounds and my jeans are comfortable enough to lounge around in now and b) it's generally much chillier here than it was where I was living before.

56. I sleep slightly more normal hours now: bedtime is generally sometime between 12 and 2 (unless I'm out) and unless I have to be up early for work, I get up in the mornings between 9 and 11.

57. I wouldn't say I seek out wild and adventurous experiences, but when opportunities find me I don't generally turn them down. I will try any food, love going places I've never been, etc.

58. The only thing I can't imagine myself ever doing is sky diving. With that said, I almost feel like I need to make myself do it at some point just because I'm so incredibly scared of it.

59. My favorite colors to wear are brown, green, and purple. I can't wear yellow at all, it washes me out.

60. My grandfather is a gynecologist and gives me the free birth control pills he gets from drug reps at the hospital. I still have enough pills to last me until I'm about 32 which, hey, is maybe about the time I'll want to start having babies anyway!

61. My mom's parents are both still living, and I love them very much and am very close to them. They live in my hometown.

62. My dad's parents have both passed away. I was never as close to them. My grandfather had his moments when I could tell he really loved us, but he could be a very abrasive person. And my grandmother had Parkinson's disease, so by the time I was old enough to want to have conversations with her, she wasn't able to really talk to me. That makes me sad.

63. I feel equally close to both of my parents but for different reasons. I feel very lucky to have such a great relationship with them.

64. My sister is two years younger than me, and my brother is two years younger than her. They have more in common with each other than I do with either of them, but I have a good relationship with both of them, too. We generally have a lot of fun together.

65. I am addicted to text messaging. I send and receive between 10-20 messages a day. I'm really fast at texting, too.

66. I listen to NPR whenever I'm in my car. I find it more relaxing to listen to voices than music when I'm driving, even if the voices are talking about bombings in Iraq.

67. I am addicted to the internet and reading blogs (which is why I keep my own), and I don't even want to know how many hours of my life I have spent on the internet, because I know the general waste of time would just depress me.

68. My favorite indulgences are professional massages and meals at restaurants that are normally out of my budget.

69. I like clothes shopping but never do it unless I am on vacation or need something particular. I think this trait probably saves me a lot of money.

70. I'm not a big impulse buyer in general. I go grocery shopping with a detailed list, I generally think about products for several days before I actually go out to buy them, and if I'm tempted to make an impulse purchase I usually leave the store and then come back later if I still really want the item.

71. I generally feel good about my body and don't spend much time worrying about my weight/looks. I think we should all be concerned about whether or not we're healthy, but not whether or not we're thin. In all fairness, though, I guess I need to admit that I am pretty thin and always have been, mostly thanks to good genes and not anything virtuous that I do. I sometimes wonder whether or not I'd still have this healthy of a body image if I had a different body. I'd like to think I would, but who knows?

72. I really do believe health is more important than looks, though, and on that note, I think I would be more healthy if I boosted my cardio endurance and wore sunscreen more often. (I'm doing pretty good on the sunscreen thing, actually)

73. I have been in love once.

74. My favorite TV shows are Flight of the Conchords, The Sopranos, Big Love, Lost, and Grey's Anatomy (although I feel like Grey's has been going downhill lately, unfortunately). My favorite TV show ever was Sex and the City. I have all of the DVDs and have watched the entire series probably five times.

75. For the record, I identify most strongly with Miranda.

76. I don't think I'm a very romantic person, at least not in the traditional sense. If a guy ever tried to propose to me by taking me to an expensive restaurant and putting my ring in a glass of champagne, I would say no. Anything that seems like a cliche is a huge turn off to me. But I have recently made the surprising discovery that it is possible to do romantic things while still making them feel sincere. I'm not sure how this is possible, but it's one of my favorite things about Penn.

77. I don't like to have the overhead lights on in my apartment, so I have a lot of lamps.

78. I can't sleep soundly unless I am completely covered with a blanket, from ears to toes.

79. I have a freckled face and look younger than I actually am.

80. I have mostly Swiss, German, and Dutch ancestry.

81. I would rather wear silver than gold.

82. I am more of a saver than a spender and feel uneasy unless I have a certain amount of "just in case" money in the bank.

83. I watch Waiting for Guffman at least once very six months. It never stops being funny.

84. I'm allergic to cats and dogs but have built up an immunity to my own. I rarely get allergic in my own apartment unless I go too long without vaccuuming, but if I go anywhere else with animals I have allergy attacks.

85. My favorite types of food are Mexican, Italian, and Greek. But it has to be REAL Mexican food.

86. I am an animal lover, and if I hadn't chosen my current career path I wouldn't mind doing something animal-related. I used to think I wanted to be a marine biologist and work at Sea World, for example.

87. Once I got to swim with dolphins in Florida, and it was one of the most purely happy moments of my life.

88. I also wouldn't mind having a travel-related job. I still think if this Ph.D. thing doesn't work out I may apply for jobs as a tour guide taking groups of senior citizens on tours around the world. I'm dead serious about this, there are many companies that do it. The only downside would be I wouldn't be able to take my dog.

89. I don't like making phone calls. If it weren't for the internet, I would be terrible at keeping in touch with old friends.

90. I have a bit of OCD about shaving my legs and have to do it every single time I shower. If I don't shave my legs I still feel dirty even though I have just gotten out of the water.

91. I finally kicked my daily Coca Cola habit! Now I only have a few a week.

92. I have to read for a few minutes before going to bed every night, even if I'm exhausted or have been out drinking and am too drunk to actually know what I'm reading.

93. I used to be horribly disgusted by loose strands of hair. I have gotten better about it in the past couple of years, but I still think hair is one of the most disgusting things in the world. Interestingly enough, strands of animal hair don't bother me at all.

94. I sleep with socks on my hands most nights. I put lotion on and then put the socks on to keep in the moisture. I don't use gloves because I like my fingers to be able to touch each other. If someone comes across moisturizing mittens, let me know!

95. My family has a cabin in the Rocky Mountains and it is my favorite place on earth.

96. I am a lip gloss addict and have ten(!!!) different varieties on my dresser right now (really). I will admit that it is possible that this addiction is getting out of hand.

97. I wear Estee Lauder Beyond Paradise perfume most days, even though I have several different types I could use.

98. I started taking dance lessons when I was four and was on the dance team in high school. I really miss dancing.

99. It doesn't take very much to make me happy, and it takes a lot to make me sad.

100. I've been living here for nine months now and so far, it feels like moving to University Land was the best decision I ever made.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Year-End Review

In all my disconnected babbling yesterday I forgot to mention my year-end review. The summary is that it went well, very well. In fact, not a single negative comment was made. I went in and sat at the table with the graduate faculty members and one of them said, "So, *A*, this meeting is just so we can hear how you've felt about the year and talk about how you're doing and answer any questions that you have," and I sat there for a second and then said, "Here's my question: Why don't you tell me how I'm doing? Because I know what I think about my year but I'd like to know how YOU think I'm doing." And everyone laughed at me and then basically told me that I'm doing well. I'm apparently coming up with interesting research questions (seriously?), I'm good at critical analysis of the material we deal with in our courses, blah, blah, blah. They congratulated me on my conference work but didn't say anything more about it, which I think means I hit the right balance (apparently the professors here are notorious for either pressuring people to do more conferencing or telling them that they're stretching themselves too thin, so since nobody said either of those things to me I'm guessing two to three conferences in a year is what I should keep aiming for).
Then they asked me what my plans are for courses next year and we talked about that for a bit. And then I finally got to find out what my assistantship is for next year. The conversation went something like this:
Me: I haven't registered for any classes yet, though, since I don't know what my assistantship is for next semester and I don't want to schedule a class for a time when I might have to be teaching.
Dr. AMP: Actually, you're going to have a flexible assistantship next semester, so sign up for whatever you want to take.
Me: What am I doing?
Dr. AMP: We're putting you on Special Projects.
[And then I suppose I must have made a confused/worried face because everyone immediately jumped into the conversation]
Dr. Hyper: This is in no way a reflection on your teaching!
Dr. AMP: Oh, no, no, no.
Dr. New: You're great in the classroom. Really, *A*, we're very happy with your work in the intro class.
Dr. Hyper: We'll most likely put you back in a classroom in your third year because we do want you to keep getting that experience. But this year we need you to help us out with other things.
Me: Okay...So what exactly does "Special Projects" mean? And who am I going to be working for?
Turns out that I'll actually have two 10 hour assistantships next year (as opposed to the single 20 hour one I have right now). 10 hours of it involves working the reception desk in the department office, which sounds kind of lame but is totally fine with me. One of my good friends works that job right now, and a lot of times when I stop by the office she's doing her own schoolwork. So basically I think I'll have to answer the phone and do some e-mailing and filing and stuff, but I should also have a fair amount of time to do my own reading. The only downside will be that I'll probably still have to be on campus by 9 AM a few mornings a week. The other half of the assistantship sounds more interesting. Apparently I will be assisting Dr. AMP in doing research for some new programs that the department wants to start. I'm a little unclear on what exactly this will entail, but Dr. Hyper mentioned that part of the reason they put me on the job is that I'm a strong writer and they me to help with writing grants. Which, again, sounds kind of boring, but I actually think it will be really helpful in the long run. Assuming I ever get to a point in my life where I'm not a student, I'm going to be spending a lot of time writing grants for any projects I want to do, so it will be really nice to get some hands-on experience doing this now.
So that's the basics. There are two other things that were mentioned, though, that puzzle me a little. The first is that Dr. AMP said, "Oh, and just so you know, we are also thinking of you as a back-up TA, so you need to be prepared to step into a class if something happens." I don't know what to make of this. True, we did have a situation this year where someone left in December who was supposed to be here all year, and they did have to shuffle a couple of people's jobs around and give someone on probation his job back just because they suddenly needed another instructor. So maybe they're just trying to avoid the whole "Surprise, you're teaching a class now!" situation by warning me in advance that there's a possibility that that could happen again. But it seems a bit weird to already be anticipating losing someone at some point next year, so I'm wondering who it is that's inching close to the chopping block. (Or maybe I'm being negative and they're just concerned that some of the incoming students who have TAships may not end up showing up in the fall after all) The other thing is that Dr. Hyper also mentioned that the nice thing about my not having to teach and grade is that I should have more time for doing my own work and hopefully getting some articles ready for publication. Which I think is sort of a subtle way of saying, "You need to publish something next year." And while it's flattering that they seem to think that I'm capable of creating something worthy of publication in a journal, I can't help but feel that they're overestimating my capabilities (both in terms of publishing my own work and in terms of my being able to create useful documents as part of my assistantship).
Basically, I'm happy with my assignment for next year. Assuming that I don't get put into the classroom after all (which I suppose is a pretty good possibility or they wouldn't have mentioned it), I'll have an entire year without having to do course prep or grading, which will be really, REALLY nice. And hopefully I'll learn some interesting things. But I can also see how an assignment this "flexible" could rapidly turn into a situation where a lot of work and responsibility is getting piled onto me. At least with a class there are definite times when you have to be there and a fairly set amount of work each week (unless you're grading midterms or papers, when the workload gets substantially higher for a week or so at a time). But with something like this, things could easily get out of hand. I think I'm just going to have to be really good about actually monitoring how much I'm working each week and pointing out if its turning into an unfair situation.
The nice thing, though, is that I think this assignment shows that they have a good amount of faith in my writing and research abilities. And that's really exciting. Because frankly, I already know that I'm a good teacher. Not that there aren't a lot of things I could improve on, and not that I don't have moments where I feel like I'm bumbling around in front of my students like an idiot, but in general I'm reasonably confident about my teaching skills. But this assignment gives me some affirmation about my writing and research skills as well, and that's the sort of confidence boost I need because I'm still not firmly convinced that I actually create decent research.

Anyway, I have to go clean my apartment and get ready for the concert tonight. Bye!

P.S.-My throat is feeling a lot better, but the lymph nodes are still sore. Just in case you were curious, which I highly doubt you were.

I've Been Awake for Too Many Hours

Have you ever tasted the low-fat Ben and Jerry's frozen yogurt? I ask because I'm eating it right now. It was on sale at my grocery store the last time I went shopping so I ended up buying a couple of cartons. Ben and Jerry's is normally a bit out of my grocery budget so, granted, I haven't had real Ben and Jerry's ice cream in probably over a year and therefore my memory of the ice cream may not be accurate. But I have to say that, to my taste buds at least, the frozen yogurt is just as tasty as the real stuff. I love it when the low-fat option is as good as the regular option. I have found many foods where this is the case. Then again, my mom was always into buying low-fat or fat-free when I was a kid, so it's possible that my tastes were trained from a young age and other people would disagree with me. At any rate, as my friendly tip for the day I will let you know the two items where you should always buy the regular version because the low-fat version is just gross and not worth the calorie savings: soup and cheese. There's really not much flavor to low-fat soups, and low-fat cheese is just vile. Seriously. I thought I'd give another brand of low-fat provolone a try a couple of weeks ago, and it ended up being so nasty I fed the rest of the package to my dog. So there. That's my advice for the day.

On another health-related note, my body is kind of a mess today. I woke up this morning with a sore throat and then a couple of hours later I happened to brush my hand along the side of my neck and I thought, "Hmmm, that kind of hurt," and so I did some more prodding and, well, the fact that my lymph nodes hurt when I touch them is probably not a good sign. Other than the sore throat and the painful nodes I feel completely fine, though. I'm hoping if this turns into anything it will just be a simple cold because while there's never really a good time to be sick, this would be a particularly BAD time what with having to write all of my finals AND start the first of my two summer jobs next week.
I also can't get sick right now because on Monday night I am doing a performance. A performance that involves a whole lot of raving and shouting and then later involves five people lifting me above their heads several times as I simulate swimming (I was one of the two smallest women in the room but the other one was terrified of being dropped on her head while I was like, "You want me to leap off this block into your arms? Sweet!" so I ended up being the flyer). It also includes puppets, a violin, stripping, me wearing a man's bathing suit and the man wearing my bikini, buckets of water poured over people's heads, and plenty of profanity, because for some reason directors find it uncanny when curse words come out of my sweet little innocent-looking face and this now marks the second time in my life where I have been put in a role primarily because someone thought it was funny when I said "Fuck." In case it isn't clear yet, this is very much an exploration of non-traditional performance. I actually think it's going to be really awesome and fun if we can pull it off. Once upon a time I used to spend a fair amount of time on stage (I was a dancer for fourteen years, a very mediocre actor, and an occasional singer) but it has been a long time since I got up in front of an audience to do something other than lecturing. So I'm really looking forward to it. The only problem is that I can already feel how sore my body is going to be tomorrow from three hours of leaping and getting thrown around. And I feel terrible for all of the people that had to spend all night lifting me. I'm betting a lot of people wake up with aching shoulders tomorrow and curse the fact that we were so overzealous about wanting to try it again and again and again. But it was fun for me! If anyone is ever like, "Do you feel comfortable falling backwards into our arms and letting us lift you up into the air and spin you around?" you should definitely say yes. It's pretty exhilarating, especially in the moments where you're wondering just how close you came to being dropped on your face.

It's raining so hard here right now it sounds like a waterfall crashing around my house, and I think it's supposed to be like this all day tomorrow, too. I'm supposed to go to City A to do some research at a library there tomorrow, but I'm thinking I might skip it. It's not totally imperative that I do it this week, and if it's going to be all gross and rainy I think I'd rather just stay in bed and poke my lymph nodes every ten minutes to see if they're still painful.

I definitely have to go out tomorrow night, though, because Nic and I have tickets to see Flight of the Conchords! I've been so busy that I keep forgetting all about the fact that I bought tickets to this concert last month, but it should be a fun way to spend a couple of hours. My brother and I absolutely loved the show on HBO this summer so I'm hoping they'll do an entertaining gig.

Bed time!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Two More Weeks!

This afternoon I was walking from the parking garage to my office and it was a beautiful, sunny day and I was already in a good mood because it is FINALLY warm enough for short sleeves and I'd finished this evening's paper with two hours to spare and I don't actually think it was a horrible (for once!), so I was sort of bobbing down the sidewalk still mentally singing the horribly misogynistic yet oh-so-catchy rap song I had been listening to my car and I inhaled and caught the smell of cut grass and sprinklers and suddenly it really hit me that it's going to be summer vacation two weeks from tomorrow. I could not possibly be happier about that!

With that said, do you know how freakin' insane it feels that my first year as a PhD student is already over?! In a way this is exciting: one year down, only a billion more to go! Yet it's also a little scary because the faster the time goes by, the closer I get to having to make decisions about my dissertation and then I actually have to research and write said dissertation and then try to find a job...if the first year went by this fast, I can only imagine how quickly time is going to continue to fly. And speaking of the first year being over, tomorrow is my end-of-year review. Basically, it means I have to go sit in the conference room with all of the faculty and they get fifteen minutes to tell me exactly how my progress has been all year. In other words, it is one of my worst nightmares being played out in real life. Ugh, the pressure!! Truthfully, I have no reason to believe that they're going to say anything particularly bad about me. Despite the occasional worry that I'm going to fail at this whole endeavor, I actually think I have a pretty realistic grasp of my strengths and weaknesses as a PhD student and I can say with confidence that my strengths outweigh my weaknesses. I'm pretty sure I know exactly what they're going to tell me to work on tomorrow, but I'm also pretty sure I'm mostly going to get a positive review. Of course, my fear is that because I'm not too nervous about the whole thing, I'm going to get totally blindsided by some comment and end up in tears. Frankly, I might be in tears before I even get into the meeting anyway because I think I'm going to be fragile after not sleeping much tonight and I just hate, hate, hate being in situations where it feels like people are sitting around judging me. (Um, I guess NOBODY really likes that sort of situation, do they?)

Why am I going to be up all night? Because I have a TON of grading to do. Tomorrow is the last day I see my students in discussion so I need to get all of their papers back to them so they know their grade going into their final. I should have graded several of these papers a couple of weeks ago and I let things pile up, so it's totally my own fault and I can't really complain. But I'm complaining anyway.

But it's okay! Because it's almost summer!

Sunday, May 4, 2008


Yesterday afternoon I drove up to visit Penn for the night. When I got there we took my crazy dog for a walk by the river and then when we got back to his apartment he surprised me with a dozen roses. And while the roses were awesome, I was more impressed with the look on his face as he gave them to me. He just looked so excited to surprise me. It was so freakin' endearing.
And then he surprised me (again) by taking me to Chocolate World for the Hershey's chocolate tour and the best chocolate milkshake ever in the universe. Seriously, my Hershey's syrup milkshakes come out nothing like that at home! [I'm so taking my sister there for chocolate milk the next time she comes to visit. She's a chocolate milk addict and this would be her best fix ever.]
And then we drove back to his hometown and went to a Mexican food restaurant and I was wary because I'm very picky about Mexican food and finding anything approximating authentic Mexican food has been difficult ever since I moved to University Land. But this was the real deal!
And then to temper the potentially overwhelming romance factor of roses and chocolate and a quest for my favorite food all in one night, we went out with a couple of his friends and engaged in some petty vandalism. Yes! It was like being in high school all over again [Admit it, at some point in high school or maybe early college you had nothing better to do so you stole a traffic cone or a stop sign or something. It was a right of passage.] We strolled the streets downtown until we found the sign we wanted on a long-abandoned bar with the same name as their friend whose birthday is tomorrow and who demanded that they steal the sign as a gift. So the guys used the crowbar to pry the letters off the side of the building as I stood in the alley watching for cops and chatting with all the friendly gay men making their way to a different bar across the street. As a side note, its amazing how ABSOLUTELY NOBODY batted an eye at a group of people walking down the street at midnight in a crowded bar district with a crowbar and a hammer in plain sight. Hello, can you think of a single purely innocent use for a crowbar (in the middle of the night, I mean)? I sure can't. And yet nobody said anything to us at all. Perhaps its because nobody wants to mess with the guy carrying a crowbar?
Anyway, after our illicit fun Penn and I headed home. We had planned to continue the night with some bar hopping with his friends but it was pouring rain by that point and the couch in his apartment sounded more appealing to both of us. So we were sitting on the couch watching Aqua Teen Hunger Force and laughing and out of the blue he looked at me and said, "Are you my girlfriend?" and I said, "Am I?" and he said, "I want you to be," and I said, "Then I am." And then I was joking about how I was going to make our status official by putting it on Facebook and we were laughing at all the options there are and I said, "My favorite is 'It's complicated,'" and he got this kind of stricken look on his face and said, "But I don't want this to be complicated." and I said, "Oh, I know, I know, neither do I! Don't worry." And in my head I was thinking, "Wow, how did I manage this one?" Because A#1, he brought up the whole relationship status thing without me having to do it. And B#2, he actually wants to be in a commited relationship. None of this 21st century girlfriend-not-a-girlfriend-we-just-sleep-together-but-I-don't-do-commitment stuff!

It's just so...easy. Uncomplicated! I'm still waiting for disaster to befall this whole thing of course, because that's just what I do. But for the first time in like, oh, six years I can just say, "I have a boyfriend," without having to hem and haw about how it's complicated and we are kind of together but not really but I don't really feel single but...For once I can just say "Yes, I have a boyfriend." Period. End of story.

Really, this is the icing on the cake of what has ended up being a good first year. Now if I can just make it through all of my final papers and grading and the last two and a half miserably hectic weeks of the school year without being horribly jealous that this boyfriend of mine is gallavanting around Europe without me. He'd better bring me back something Greek and awesome.

Oh, and P.S.-Remember Recorder Guy? Well, you can tell summer is on the way because he's baaaaaaack! I haven't heard him give an evening recital since sometime in September, but tonight I was sitting on the couch reading and from across the parking lot I heard the unmistakable sound of his halting version of Amazing Grace. Yes! It has been more than six months and apparently he can still only play Amazing Grace. It's going to be a long summer...

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Are You Going to Confiscate Our Snake?

I've only had this computer since September, and already the letters are starting to rub off the keyboard. Ridiculous!

Anyway, I had good intentions tonight. I was going to go to the grad party for just an hour and then I was going to come home and do some grading and some paperwork for the job I'm starting next week. But really, who did I think I was kidding? Shawn made margarita shots and the next thing I knew it was 10:00 and I'd had the world's strongest Long Island iced tea and said margarita shot and now there's no way I'm grading tonight, much less doing anything else productive. I'll just get up early tomorrow morning to get some work done before I go to City A for the night. Really.

But I AM in the mood to talk about Penn. Yes, that's going to be his pseudonym. Why? Possibly it's because he lives in Pennsylvania. Possibly its because he's a writer. Possibly its because Penn is ever-so-vaguely similar to his actual name. Possibly its because Penn Badgley is the hottest person on TV right now (and certainly the hottest guy ever to come out of Baltimore, wouldn't you say?) and I don't particularly care that he's my baby brother's age or that he's on a show geared toward fifteen year-olds or that he looks nothing at all like the guy I'm dating other than that they are both white guys with short dark hair. Possibly I'm calling him Penn for all four of those reasons. More likely, just to be difficult, I'm calling him that for none of those reasons. At any rate, that's the pseudonym I'm going with.

We met at a bar in City B five weeks ago. My aunt was in town visiting and my cousin Rae and I had taken her out to a bar where a popular local jazz band was playing. It was about 11:00, and everyone else in my party (Rae, her husband, my aunt, and my aunt's "friend and business associate", aka "married man who is in love with her") had gone out onto the patio to smoke, and since I'm not a smoker I'd agreed to stay at the bar and guard our stools. So I was sitting at the bar by myself nursing my vodka tonic and thinking that I'd head home when I finished it since I was kind of bored, when this guy walked up to the bar and struck up a conversation with me as he waited for his beer. We ended up talking for about twenty minutes and I was like, "Hmmm, he's cute, we're having a good conversation, maybe I won't go home yet after all!" But right about the time I thought that he said, "Well, I'd better go out to the patio and see if I can find my friends," and he left. I was a little bummed that he didn't ask for my phone number since I thought we'd been having a good conversation, but by that time my group had come back in from the patio so I thought, "Oh well!" and ordered one last drink. Luckily, a few minutes later Penn came back to the bar to get another beer and we started chatting again. We ended up talking for another half hour or so, and this time at the end of the conversation he asked for my number before going back outside to check in with his friends again.
About ten minutes later as I was getting ready to leave (for real this time) a girl walked into the bar and stared at me for a second and then said, "Are you talking to Penn?" I warily said, "Yes...why?", thinking that she was probably going to tell me that she was his wife or that he's a total psychopath or something. But instead she said, "Oh, good! He came outside and was telling us all about this really cool girl he just met so I had to come in here and see who he was talking about. And I'm so glad it's you, because you look so cute and normal!" It turns out the girl was his best friend's fiancee (he was third-wheeling it with the two of them for the night). So I grilled her for a minute about Penn and she reassured me that he's a really nice, good guy, and while she was obviously a little buzzed (I don't think she'd have approached me if she was totally sober) I was glad to have reassurance from someone that he was normal and not in a relationship.

So anyway, that was how we met. That was on a Friday night, and the following Sunday he called me and we ended up talking for three hours as I cleaned my house. I couldn't believe we'd talked that long, and I was convinced that we'd already used up every possible topic of conversation, but no. We exchanged AIM names the next day and have been talking on the phone, IMing, and e-mailing on a daily basis ever since. He's really good at striking the balance with communication: not so much that it feels clingy or overwhelming, enough that I know he's really interested.
Some other things I like about him so far:
-He earns a salary and he has his own apartment. (Seriously, this shouldn't even deserve a mention, but my generation of men is such a bunch of spoiled, living-at-home-for-years mama's boys who don't want to be bothered to get real jobs that I'm still a little shocked that he's not mooching off his parents or living with an ex-girlfriend or some other kind of annoying and questionable arrangement)
-He plays rugby. (Admit it, that's kind of hot)
-He's working on his MA, so he understands the academic lifestyle and all of the complications. This is HUGELY important.
-He likes my dog and let's me bring the dog to his apartment when I come up on the weekend even though he's technically risking eviction by doing so.
-He reads a lot.
-He loves to travel.
-He seems to get along well with his family. He visits his mom often enough to show he's a devoted son, not so much that it's creepy, he has pictures that his niece drew hanging on his fridge, and there's this picture of him giving his nephew a piggy-back ride that pretty much made me melt the first time I saw it.
-So far, he doesn't appear to be an alcoholic, or have a drug problem. Also, he has no children of his own yet (You'd also think that this should be a given, but it's not. Do you know how many guys have a drug/alcohol/baby mama problem? Lots of them. And the older your dating pool gets, the more of them you meet.)
-He plans good dates. So far he has taken me to an aquarium, a baseball game, and a political rally. And last weekend I got to his place too late for us to go out anywhere since I couldn't come up until after my night class, but he had made a plate of cheese sticks and potato skins and bagel bites for me because he remembered me saying at one point that I am a big fan of appetizers. Aw!
-On the first weekend that I met him, I asked him what he had done on Saturday and he told me that he'd gone by himself to visit a museum devoted to a famous writer who lived in City B in the 19th century. He went to a museum! A museum devoted to a 19th century writer! By himself! JUST BECAUSE HE THOUGHT IT WOULD BE INTERESTING! I'm getting all hot just thinking about it! Haha.
-Speaking of hot, yes. Yes, it is.

It probably goes without saying that I'm totally smitten at this point. Part of me is so nervous about this. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. I keep waiting to stumble across the huge deal breaker, the thing that makes me go, "You know, you have a lot of good qualities, but because of this problem I can't date you after all." But so far, despite five whole weeks of silently saying, "What is wrong with you? Seriously, what is your defect?!" I haven't been able to find anything that makes me want to end this. It's not utterly perfect, of course. He lives 100 miles away (No, that's not a typo. Not 10 miles, 100 miles. Totally doable, but not quite ideal, especially with gas prices being what they are). On weeknights he goes to bed at about 10:30 so I can never call him as late as I want, that's about all I can think of off the top of my head. Neither of those are big things, but tiny things like those are reasons I used to rationalize cutting off potential relationships in the past. Which is I guess how I know I really like this guy: because its not that the nitpicky perfectionist in me can't find the tiny flaws, it's that I just don't care about them because so far I really like him.
Luckily, it seems as though he really likes me, too. As I mentioned in another entry, he's leaving for Europe a week from today. If he wanted to wiggle out of this thing, there would be no better opportunity than a trip to Europe with no cell phone access. And yet yesterday he sent me his itinerary so that I can know where in the world he is for the next month. He also wrote on the bottom of it that he'll e-mail me whenever he can get internet access. This without my even hinting that I wanted him to stay in touch.
Also, on Tuesday night we were talking online and we ended up in one of those sappy, early-relationship conversations where you're trying to feel each other out and see if you're on the same page, and, well, to summarize a sweet conversation that I'd like to keep to myself, we apparently are. About midway through the conversation I got up to carry some dishes into the kitchen, and as I walked across the living room I couldn't resist doing one of those wiggly, excited shimmy dances. And even as I was doing it I had sort of a meta moment where I was like, "Oh my gosh, this guy is making me dance in my living room. This is baaaaaaad."
And not to get too excited, and not to get too hopeful, and not to ignore the fact that the odds are pretty good that this relationship will end someday, too, and knowing my luck sometime soon...but the last time I was so overwhelmed with giddiness about a guy that I did an actual, genuine, uncontrolled, unplanned happy dance was October of 2000.

And I'm scared that I'm feeling this way again because I can seriously barely remember how to function in a reasonable adult relationship that involves actual dates and calling to check in with one another and meeting parents and making important decisions together. And now that a reasonable adult relationship is suddenly an option I'm absolutely freaking out because I told myself I wouldn't do this whole commitment deal again unless I was reasonably sure it was something real, and I still don't know exactly what real is but the fact that there's something here that even has the potential to be real is really freakin' scary. And I can't help being cynical and wondering how he's going to screw it up or (more likely) how I'm going to screw it up.

But I'm also feeling happy and optimistic enough about it that I wrote an entire blog entry about it. And for me, that's saying a lot.