Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Easy There, Rider

As the only girl in my family, I'm familiar with man-toys. My dad was a hunter, so there were duck calls, blinds, guns, decoys, boats and beyond in our house at all times. Even out of season, there were decoys to carve, duck calls to tune, and shotgun shells to be reloaded. My oldest brother enjoyed most of these outdoor pursuits, and went on trips with my father and uncles. My other brother shied away from such things, focusing on the tech-toys instead. He owned the very first computer in our family - paid for with his own hard-earned cash. I distinctly remember dial-up internet that you had to pay for by the minute. My college only had 6 computers connected to the internet, and you had to book time to use them. I also remember there not being much to connect to - mostly we connected to other school's card catalogues to find journal articles to request for one of the never-ending string of papers that had to be written.  Typing term papers on the computer became a snap - if you remembered to hit "save" every few paragraphs. We've all had that gut-wrenching experience of marathon paper-writing at 3 am when the computer crashes and 10 pages of thought-provoking analysis of the different behavioral explanations of asynchronous hatching of eggs go straight down the tubes. No amount of Funyuns and Ben & Jerry's ice cream can make that any better. Don't judge - it was my go-to brain food at the time. My brother and I would hit up the local QT at ridiculous times of night to refuel and get a certified-quality fountain drink. I rated the quality of a paper with a "number of pints to complete it" scale. My senior thesis clocked-in at over 30.

That being said, nobody in my family was a gear-head. We were never the car and dirt bike types. My grandpa had an ATV. The one and only time I got to drive it, I got stuck in the asparagus patch. That was pretty much the end of my off-roading career. My uncle has a golf cart, but it has 3 wheels, which makes it impossible to avoid potholes. If you straddle it with the two wheels, you hit it dead-on with the third. If you go around it with the third wheel, you hit it dead-on with one of the two. Obviously I'm missing something there. A good friend of mine's husband has a vintage Harley named Tucker. We met him in the city for dinner one night, and it was decided I should ride back home on the back of the bike. It was a bad plan. First of all, I was in a dress. We solved that by slapping me into a pair of sweatpants dug out of the back of the car. Second, legally I had to have either sunglasses or a helmet. The only thing we could find was a pair of zebra-patterend sunglasses in the glove compartment. I was a sight to behold. And I kept leaning out of the turns. It's a miracle we didn't tip over. As a woman of a certain size, I couldn't get over the mental image of my rear end billowing over either side of the seat. It was all just too much. Upon safely dismounting, I made a solemn vow to never bulge over, I mean ride a motorcycle again.

This all becomes problematic when sifting through online profiles. I would say that 50% of the men online have a picture of their motorcycle as one of their profile pics. It sets a girl to wonder if single guys in their 40's are required to purchase a bike as soon as the ink dries on their divorce papers. It seems like a missed opportunity for dealerships - they should set up a lot outside the courthouse. Or advertise in lawyer's offices. Guys, I don't mean to be a downer, but we don't want to be your Harley-momma. Stop saying that you're looking for "A woman who is comfortable taking the back seat." I'm just brain-storming here, but maybe that mentality is the reason why you're still single.

If the single-man-over-40 stereotype ID card is a motorcycle, the single-woman-over-40 stereotype ID card must be a cat. Or 12.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Bugging Out

  I'm a person who believes in being prepared. I make lists. And then I make lists of my lists. On index cards. You will always find an index card on my desk with various things to do. And I edit my list - if an item is only  partially-done, I make notes under the item. Sometimes I put items like "go to the bathroom" or "take a deep breath" on the list just so I have something to cross off. Or I'll add items I already did and cross them off to give myself a mental high-five. There is no greater pleasure in my life than the feeling of crossing the last item off of the list. Because then I get to tear it up and throw it in the recycling bin, thus completing the cycle. I know it sounds a little OCD, but we all have our thing. Or a couple of things. I also count stairs when I walk up them. Just up. Not down. I have no idea what that's all about. I tend to get flustered when I go "off list". The online dating system is all about having a list. When assessing a potential suitor, one tends to check the boxes on the mental list when deciding if it's worth taking the time to communicate. And as the process goes forward, more boxes are checked or the name gets scratched-off the list of potential candidates. And sometimes it feels great to tear up the list and toss it in the recycling bin.

  In a former life, aka my 20's, I spent a lot of time outdoors. I had a group of friends that went camping and hiking at least a few times each year. My organizational skills came in very handy - packing lists were vital when you were carrying on your back everything you needed for several days. You do not want to be stuck in the woods with no toilet paper. Trust me. And I never bought into the tulip-poplar-leaf-as-TP philosophy. Even when I had my packing routine down to a science, I still made and double-checked the list. As my outdoorsy friends will attest, it's easy to acquire a bunch of gear. Knowing what you will need and what to take becomes an art form. The really good ones don't take anything extra. I once led a group of teenagers on a short trek along the Appalachian Trail. The co-leader cut all of the tags out of his clothes to make room and lighten his pack. When you are walking 100's of miles, every ounce counts!

  I was contacted by a guy a few years ago who called himself "outdoorsy". This is actually a box in the positive column for me, since I have positive memories of my outdoor adventures over the years, and would like an excuse to venture out again from time-to-time. We messaged the standard pleasantries back and forth a few times. And then I get the message that made me grab my cross-off pen. He asked how I feel about "survivalist/doomsday prepping". Sigh. I know I'm a little biased from watching the doomsday-prep shows on cable, and I know it's not right to judge, but most of those people are what I like to call "whack-a-doos". I should have cut the line, but I decided to let it out to see where this fish was going. I got some amazing information before deciding to just throw the pole into the water. Things like the shelf-life of different kinds of ammunition. Or that if you coat eggs in mineral oil they will stay good for years. Years. Did you know a can of Crisco will burn for up to a week as a candle? Some friends and I actually tried it, and it does work. I had the idea to get the Crisco sticks and make tapers out of them - you know, for a romantic evening. It turns out I said the wrong thing and pushed one of his buttons by insinuating he might be a conspiracy-theorist. Oopsie. He responded by telling me that I was brainwashed by "the man" and that he would be laughing at me when he survived the impending apocalypse. He ended by stating that he gained his greatest satisfaction from knowing that he could survive ANYTHING. I feel the same way about online dating.

I can just hear it now, "I'm sorry, children. You can't color any more. Mommy didn't buy enough cans of Crisco for the end of the world."

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Shades Of Gray

I'm the type of person who sees things as black and white. Something is either acceptable or not, right or wrong, good or bad - you get the idea. The first lines of A Tale Of Two Cities could be my biography. This also seems to relate to the people in my life. I have a strong, polarizing personality. People either tend to really like me, or want nothing to do with me. And the feeling is usually mutual. There are very few people who say, "Eh, she's ok" when my name is brought up in polite conversation. And this is not hearsay. When you're exceedingly blunt, people tend to talk to you the same way. It's not that I don't have a filter, it just has very large holes. A basketball could probably pass through with ease. I actually do blame this on my Catholic upbringing. We were told that the mysterious man-in-the-sky was always watching. Every action either earned you a white dot, or a black dot in the magic book. So as a child, I was constantly counting the dots I had earned throughout the day, judging everything I had done as either black-dot-worthy or white-dot-worthy. Like a spiritual balance sheet. And St. Peter was the accountant that tallied them up at the end of your life upon arriving at the pearly gates. One black dot too many, and Poof! Off to the fiery depths. I was convinced my future was red-hot.

I started looking for the gray in my 20's. Literally. I was 23-years old and found a gray hair while checking the rearview mirror in my car. While I was driving. I almost had a wreck. I've heard that gray hair runs in the family, and I don't remember a time when my mother did not have gray hair. She informed me, while I was breathing into a paper bag, that she also started finding gray hair when she was my age. Another score in the genetic jackpot. I also starting finding the figurative gray. My first few years of teaching, I was a bit of a battle-axe. The rules were the rules. Black and white. I have learned that exceptions are sometimes necessary. Knowing when to make one is an art form, and I set the goal to become the exception Picasso. My filter eventually started catching a bit more, only letting through golf-ball sized oopsies. I'm pretty sure that's about as good as it's going to get. Having to be a professional has also taught me how to work with people whom I normally wouldn't want to deal with. It's often not easy, but is always worth it. Especially when you are up-chucking at 5 am and they agree to photocopy some lesson plans for you. I guess we all grow up eventually. Although my psyche still feels acne-laden and hormonal from time-to-time.

The other day I found myself ensconced in one of those seriously in-depth conversations you can only have with a friend who knows you better than you know yourself. I was bemoaning the state of my current dating situation. Specifically wondering why the guys who you are most interested in never seem to be all that interested in you. I got the cock-eyed eyebrow look that I hate, because you know the next thing they say is going to shake you to your soul like a magnitude 8.5 earthquake. I was then informed that I tend to try to make things out to be something other than they are, instead of going with the flow. After a fair bit of denial and requests to explain it again, I finally realized it's another manifestation of the black-or-white situation. I'm either all-in or all-out. And if he's not there, I just pretend he is. And then get mad when it's not working. Totally fair, right? So I've now decided I need to start searching for the gray in relationships. Wish me luck.

I have made my peace with my gray hair. But the gray eyebrows I've been finding are another thing entirely.