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Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

Honestly, truthfully, totally, the part of my job that I find most gratifying is mentoring students who are in the first generation in their families to go to college.  Yes, I love my research, and yes, I love teaching innovative courses.  But the most important and gratifying work that I do involves helping students who have no ability to navigate academic bureaucracy and academic discourse.

This matters so much to me because I had little to no help with this as a first generation college student myself.  And it also matters to me because it produces such clear and measurable results.  The students whom I’ve helped with this stuff are clearly so much better off than they would have been had I not done anything, regardless of what careers they end up pursuing or the lives that they end up leading.  I actually like advising students, writing letters of reference, and vetting students’ application materials.  It is good work, and it feels good to do it.

So The Dude’s best friend since childhood has twin daughters who are in their senior year of high school.  Note: I love The Dude’s best friend, and he is, ultimately, a good person in his heart (though kind of shitty in the execution).  But WOW is he a shitty dad.  (Which, yes, makes me love him less, and also makes me sort of angry at him.)  So one of the daughters is trying to apply to colleges and her shitty father wouldn’t take her to visit one of the colleges, but because The Dude really is generous and loving and awesome, since he had taken the week off with vacation days from work, he was like, “of course I’ll take you to visit, niece-like person.”  And then after he asked me to look over her application essay – well, he told me he was sending it to me and then I gave him shit about not asking me, but whatever.  Of course I was going to help her.

1) From her essay, she is so smart and so amazing and her life has been Such. Shit.

2) I love The Dude for taking her to a campus visit, which, frankly, is like my worst nightmare of things to do.  I mean, campus visits suck.  Especially when the weather is hell and there is a campus tour component.

3) I love The Dude for enlisting me to help her.  The fact of the matter is that his BFF could have asked me to help, and it didn’t even occur to him. Or, at the VERY least, he could have asked The Dude to ask me.  But he DIDN’T EVEN CARE, even though his daughter is so motherfucking amazing and has no support.  Why isn’t he more proud?  Why doesn’t he take more responsibility?  Why is The Dude a better fill-in dad than the BFF is an ACTUAL dad?

4) I don’t even know this girl, but my god do I want her to succeed!

5) The Dude might suck for me, but WOW do I love him as a person and a friend.  He is one of the most good-hearted people I’ve ever met.

6) I’m sort of fraternizing with a young whippersnapper from the internet.  Because as much as I love The Dude, he can’t hang, and a lady in her late 30s must sow her oats while she has oats to sow.  But god, if he would just get his shit together…. Which he probably never will.  (We’re still trying, I am just entirely cynical about everything right now.)

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Day Zero: Steve the Hot Plumber (henceforth known as StHP) contacts Dr. Crazy through the internet, expressing interest in her online dating profile.  Dr. Crazy debates about whether to respond because of her general feelings about spelling, grammar, and punctuation, but ultimately she does because, eh, whatever. So they email, they text, they talk on the phone, and they agree to meet the next evening.

Day One – Courtship: Dr. Crazy meets StHP for a beer and they hit it off (ish.  I mean, there is attraction, but there aren’t many common interests, and he’s not funny, but whatever).  It’s an enjoyable evening, which ends with hugging and a chaste kiss, and when Dr. Crazy gets home they end up talking on the phone into the wee hours.  She thinks that he is kind of dumb, but maybe she is just judgmental?  Let’s see what happens.

Day Two – Boyfriend/Girlfriend (note: this is a designation I’m only making after the fact): Dr. Crazy and StHP go out, and things progress quite swiftly.  Dr. Crazy thinks, “Well, that was unexpected, but what the heck?  You only live once.”

Day Three – “Commitment”: Dr. Crazy goes over to StHP’s house and they hang out, he cooks her a cheeseburger, and they watch a movie.  Dr. Crazy (secretly) exhibits poor, bored committed relationship behavior (though let’s note she didn’t know she was in a committed relationship) by texting with her ex-boyfriend during the movie, and then later when StHP has fallen asleep in his recliner, she checks her voicemail to find a phone message from that ex-boyfriend in which he says, “Hello, Dr. Crazy.  (Seriously, he addressed me by my professional title, which is like a pet name for me from him.) I’m just calling because I haven’t talked to you in a few days and I miss your voice.  I love you.” This makes Dr. Crazy feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Day Four – Breaking Up: Dr. Crazy had been very excited for weeks about seeing some bands play with her friends.  VERY excited.  Indeed, excited to the extent that she kept talking about it.  Indeed, when she mentioned it that afternoon to StHP, he replied, “I know.  You have told me that you’re doing this like a hundred times.”  [Unrelated, but The Dude initiated a conversation about the show I was going to, saying that I must be so stoked that the day was finally here, and asking me all about it, and then telling me to say hello from him to my friends and joking that I shouldn’t get too crazy but I should have a great time.]  So just before the show, StHP texts me to tell me that I should come over after.  I say that I’m not driving anyplace, and then he says he wants to see me on the weekend.  I said we’d figure something out.  And then my friends and I went into the show and I put away my phone.  Worth noting, once we entered the venue we were in a cell phone dead zone, so no texts went through.  I left the venue, and I texted StHP.  He didn’t respond, which I felt was strange.  Then, because I was out of the venue, additional texts came through.  1) Once again, he’d suggested I come over after. (Though I had thought that was already decided in the negative)  2) “So what do you think?”.  3) “Hello??????”.  4) “Well, I guess you’re just not interested.  Fine.  You could have told me that.”  (Worth noting, I am totally correcting grammar and spelling in this recap.)  So I wrote back once the increasingly anxious texts came through, and I was all, “I seriously wasn’t being a dick to you – I was in a cell phone dead zone!”  (which let’s note- even if it wasn’t I wouldn’t have been looking at my phone) to which he responded, “I will not stand for being blown off! My ex-wife blew me off, and I shall never be blown off aGAIN!” to which I was all, “But I wasn’t blowing you off!  I didn’t get the texts! I’d still like to see you this weekend!” and he was all “Ill be busy” (uncorrected for errors, just to give you a little taste of what he’s like).  And I thought to myself, “Dude!  I’ve been an asshole in actual ways that you could legitimately be pissed off at me for, but this is unjust!  I didn’t even do anything!”  But, alas, he is done with me, for I am a crazy bitch who had the audacity to go out with her friends (which he knew I was doing) and to be unavailable for approximately 4 hours.

First off, I’ve not had somebody break up with me with whom I didn’t know I was in a relationship since 1999.  Second off, BULLET DODGED.  Third off, what the hell?  Fourth off, how do you have a whole relationship that lasts four days?  (Apparently, now I know the answer to that.)

I am so, so glad that I never told him where I live.  What a weirdo.

Also, apparently commitmentphobic unavailable fuckwits do have their strong points: they like it when you go out with your friends because you are leaving them alone.  Indeed, they support my need for freedom!  Except, of course, they also want me to be “free” when I don’t want to be.  I’ve yet to solve that particular conundrum.

[Worth noting: Steve the Hot Plumber is not a pseudonym.  It’s just his name.  Because if you’ve only been in my life for four days, you don’t get the energy of me coming up with a pseudonym for you.]

 

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Doris Lessing

Doris Lessing, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, has died, at the age of 94.

I know that I want to write about what Lessing’s writing has meant to me, and I want to do it here, but I hardly know where to begin.  In some ways this post is much more personal to me than any of the “personal” writing I post in this space.

I never was assigned any of Lessing’s writing as a student, not even in graduate school.  I never studied her writing in a course.  I encountered Lessing because a professor suggested that given my interests The Golden Notebook would blow my mind.  And so I checked a copy out of the library, and I vividly recall reading it at 19 years old, in the top bunk in my dorm room, blowing off the work I had to do for my other courses (I wasn’t an English major yet), and just feeling… feeling like I had never experienced anything like that book.  I felt inspired, and “seen,” and excited, and fascinated.  My mind was, indeed, blown.

For a long time (far longer than I should admit), The Golden Notebook was the only thing by Lessing that I’d read, although I reread it compulsively.  And for a long time (far longer than I should admit), I didn’t really dig deeply into what that novel really had to say, but instead I picked out the parts with which I identified (and let’s note: I was identifying with a book with an ultimately unlikable protagonist who is going through a mental breakdown) and the parts that expressed my own confusion, anger, frustration, and inarticulate feminism.  But it was an important book to me, and I grew up with it.

Only later did I begin to study it, first in putting it on my list for my Ph.D. comprehensive exam, and second, once I had a tenure-track position, teaching the novel.  And then I began reading Lessing’s other works and teaching them and to learn more about Lessing herself.

I began to love Lessing for her antagonism to critics and her refusal to do what readers wanted or expected her to do.  I began to see Lessing as an author that was radically reinventing the genre of the novel, even as she resisted many of the conventions of postmodern narrative experimentation.  I discovered that Lessing’s novels, as I reread them, grew and changed with me, that I understood them in new ways as I accumulated more personal and intellectual experiences.  Not all books do that.  Not even all books that people describe as “literature” do that.

So I feel profoundly sad today, even though I recognize that Lessing lived a long life and that this was her time.  And it’s a loss for which I should have been ready, for her health has been in steady decline.

Of course, I was not ready, am not ready.  Perhaps I will spend the afternoon rereading The Golden Notebook.

 

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So, I realized today (quite unexpectedly, surprisingly) that The Dude and I have known one another for a full year, as of today.

Many things are the same, and yet there are many more things that are radically different – in part because of the relationship then break-up, but in part just because the passage of time renders change.

I am feeling nostalgic and wistful: I’ll never feel with him the anticipation that I felt then.  I’ll never be able to be excited about him again the way that I was then.

I am also feeling glad: I know him now.  I like the him that I know and I wouldn’t trade that for the anticipation and the excitement.

We aren’t together.  We may never be.  Then if felt meant; now it feels precarious.  But he’s in my life a year later.  Nothing I ever expected when we met.  Indeed, I was incredibly cynical about love and about the possibility of anybody ever sticking around, then.  He’s stuck.  Like gum on my shoe!  Ha!

But he’s apparently stuck.  For good or for bad.

And last year I willfully excluded the possibility of bad.  Now?  Let’s just say that the bad is a real possibility to me, and that makes me sad.

Whatever.  The Man-Kitty is intermittently snoring and meowing in his sleep next to me, and that is so adorable that I can’t continue feeling sorry for myself on this here blog.

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So I’ve been wicked busy, both personally and professionally, which accounts for my radio silence.  Inasmuch as it’s true that I would characterize myself as an extravert, even we people who get energy from other people reach a certain maximum after which we need to crawl into a cave and recharge.  This weekend was meant to be about that hermit-like recharging for me, and for the most part, it did work out that way.

Professional busy-ness is about what you’d expect for this time of the semester.  Meeting with students, responding carefully to student assignments, advising students, colleague-related interactions, meetings, and so forth.  I’m fairly caught up, or at least not drowning, so things are going ok.  But I need for the next couple of weeks to go quickly before I’ll truly be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, semester-wise.

Personal busy-ness in the past week to ten days has been… verging on the bizarre.  Where do I even begin?  Well, I guess I’ll say first that in terms of friend stuff everything is normal and fun and good, and all is well with my many, many friends, and that last weekend I’d gone away with my aunt and mom, so things are great on the family front, too.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, however, that when one’s general social life is in such good shape, when one is feeling content and fairly happy with what’s going on personally with family and friends, that GUYS swarm around one to throw everything into a nutso tailspin.  It’s like they get some sort of alert on their phones or something, “Hey, everything’s grand with Dr. Crazy, and she’s really busy but holding steady, so perhaps it’s time for you to make a dramatic appearance!”

To be fair, not all of the appearances have been that dramatic, but still.

Suffice it to say:

  • I heard from High School Crush, with whom I had one horrible pseudo-date in like 2010, and with whom I’ve not talked in a couple of years, though we do play Words with Friends, from totally out of the blue via a Facebook message. (I responded, and he didn’t reply, for he is a weirdo.)
  • First Love has been leaving phone messages worried that I’m “mad” at him (which, I have no reason to be mad at him!  I’m just busy!).
  • Fake Boyfriend has been calling me all the time, rocking it out like it’s 2007 when we actually were in a fake relationship.  (As I said to Medusa, it’s like when one door closes, another one opens, and what lies behind it is an ex who, phoenix-like, rises out of the ash of what you had believed was a totally dead relationship.)
  • A guy I went out with in August and then blew off with the start of the academic year reappeared, and while it was fine, it did remind me of why I blew him off.

And then, The Dude.

Because apparently all of the above needed some sort of Crescendo of Craziness.  Now, The Dude and I have been in contact over the three or four months that we’ve been broken up, but we’ve only hung out once, and he’s kind of been being a douche-nozzle for the past 6 weeks or so.  I’d kind of figured that he was seeing somebody else, but since he didn’t TELL me that, I was actually feeling hurt and like he didn’t want to be my friend.  Also I was feeling crazy for spending excessive analytical time thinking about whether he was seeing somebody, especially since I’ve gone on dates and fraternized with guys who aren’t him, so why did I care?

Well.  So the short version is as follows: He called me up last night, we talked for a couple of hours, he had been seeing somebody but thought it would “hurt” me to tell me, but now he wanted to tell me since it was over, and I was all, “you didn’t care about hurting me!  You just didn’t want to deal with how I’d react!  And I knew anyway, but you not being honest made me feel like crap, so you were hurting me anyway!” and then I stopped that line of conversation because honestly I don’t care that he went out with somebody else as he was totally within his rights to do so and I really don’t want to know any more about that than I now know, though I did lecture him about the particular category of lying that is the “Lie of Omission” about which he seemingly had never heard, being raised by wolves or something.

But so anyway, that was like only 10 minutes of the conversation, which when I stopped that topic, then took a VERY SHARP LEFT TURN in which 1) he asserted his continuous in-love feelings for me, which involve having dreams about me as well as thinking about me constantly, whether we talk or not, like every single day, which has apparently been a hardship for him, and 2) I said maybe it would be easier for him if we just stopped talking altogether, and 3) he replied that no, what really should happen is that we should be together for the rest of our lives, because he realizes all the things he did wrong and I am his One True Love and blah blah blah things about my perfectness for him and that he can’t live without me, whatever.  I was so caught off guard by all of the Passionate Emotions and Intimacy that I actually responded to his declarations as if they weren’t Totally. Fucking. Crazy.  Like, I entertained what he was suggesting.  We then got off the phone and I went to bed.

I then jolted awake at 6:30 AM in full-on panic mode, and I sent him a series of texts (they were numbered) in which the gist was, “we need a two-month trial period to figure our shit out if we are going to do this, and we don’t even know if we really want to be together because we haven’t even hung out, and I don’t trust you and I’m scared to death of trying with you again and you pulling the same commitmentphobic bullshit.”  Only (slightly) nicer than that.  Then, having articulated my panic feelings, I felt soothed, and I went back to sleep.  We talked this morning, and it was fine, and he said he’s going to get together with me this week (interesting, in that when we were going out he refused to come over during the week).

Here’s the thing.  We are in love.  Still.  Perhaps more now than we were 3 months ago.  That is true.  And yes, it is like a crazy once-in-a-lifetime sort of a deal.

I’m just not so sure that this matters, or matters enough.  And I’m not willing to just pick up where we left off (and, to be fair, nor is he, actually, which is the ONE reason I’m actually entertaining giving this a shot).  And I’m very suspicious about whether this is happening now 1) just because I really was feeling like I’d “moved on” and had given up hope and 2) because we’re coming up on what would have been the year-mark of our relationship, so maybe there is just some sort of calendar-mojo monkeying with our senses?

It’s exceptionally strange thinking about starting a relationship with a person with whom you’ve already been in a relationship.  I mean, I know it happens.  Hell, I have two different aunts – one on my dad’s side and one on my mom’s – who got divorced and then REMARRIED their ex-husbands.  But what’s strange about it is that I know exactly what’s wrong with him.  I’m not all hopped up on the anticipation and excitement and the feelings of newness.  I know what I’d be getting myself into.  That changes the dynamic considerably.  And, frankly, both of us have all our cards on the table now, in a way that you just don’t when you first get involved with somebody.  Breaking up puts the “warts and all” out front and center.  In other words, I don’t know if I actually want to be with him.  I might not.  I certainly don’t want to be with him if he’s not all in.  And I can’t be with him if I’m not all in, and I don’t know if I can be or want to be.  And, honestly, I don’t really know that he wants to be with the me that I am “warts and all,” though he claims having seen this side of me is what makes him confident that we could work.  Whatever.  In the words of Hamlet, “words, words, words.”

So, we’ll see what happens.  Regardless of all of his Declarations, what really matters is what he does.  And regardless of my declarations (for I did make some), what matters is what I do.

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Shit.

So The Dude just called and asked me if I’m available on Friday night.  I’m not.  I’ve got a date with The Electrician.  A date I’m excited about. If I weren’t excited about it, I wouldn’t have immediately said I wasn’t available on Friday night when The Dude asked me.

My initial response was “I have plans.”  He then responded, “A date?”  And I was like, “yeah.”  (Because I’m not a liar, whatever else I might be.) He then went into the anxious voice that guys go into when they are trying to play it cool, where it’s like their testicles are in their throat: “Well, I hope he’s a good guy, and I hope you have fun!” and I replied, “Look, if you want to date me, then you have to date me.  Otherwise, I’ve got to go on dates with other people,” and then he was all, “Oh no!  I was asking you out as a friend!” And then the conversation ended.

What’s sick is that I wish I could actually go out with The Dude.  But you know?  I can’t.  For obvious reasons.  Whatever.  Friday with The Electrician will be grand.  Or at least it will be a good story.

 

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Is 39 the New 24?

So, as you all know, I’ve been back at it with the dating.  Let’s note: I’ve periodically invested some energy in the dating over the past 10 years, with limited successes.  Now, I could chalk that up to my lack of commitment to doing it like a job (as I have done), or I could chalk that up to the fact that dating is not as easy in one’s 30s as in one’s 20s (as I’ve also done).  Seriously: the last time I was really a total dating machine I was 24.  And it was easy because I went to bars all the time, and I was in grad school and had comparatively few responsibilities.  And I was the skinniest I’ve ever been in my life, and my hair was fabulous (though, to be fair, my hair is sort of that hair now, only with excellent color).

But this go-around with the dating is going shockingly well, in terms of levels of interest.  Apparently, I am a delight.  This is super strange to me.  I’m 39 now.  That is shockingly close to 40.  And while I think I look just fine, I’m no spring chicken, and I’m no supermodel.  And I don’t have long, flowing hair, and I totally say that the things I like to do in my spare time are to knit and to cook, which aren’t exactly “hot” pastimes.

I mean, I know I’m delightful, but wasn’t I equally or even more delightful at 32?  Or 36?  Apparently not.

And I’m not doing anything differently than I was doing it in the months leading up to meeting The Dude.  For serious: I just slapped my old profile up on the Dating Site when I went back to it last month.  I didn’t revise what I had to say about myself, nor did I change up the pictures.  And I haven’t been investing any significant energy in contacting people or in responding to them.  And I remain choosey: I’ve totally just deleted interested dudes because something in their profile didn’t seem to fit with what I’m looking for, or because I thought they were totally disgusting looking, or because they were old, or whatever.  I’m certainly not more open-minded than I was a year ago, and I’m certainly not giving any old loser a chance.

And yet… the levels of interest are shockingly high.  (And, strangely, shockingly high with guys who are 3-5 years younger than I am, or who are just about my age.) I went out already with that one guy whom I will never see again (just not a match, which I kind of knew from the get-go, but I needed to get back on the horse), and I’ve got two dates lined up with suitors who might actually have some potential.  And another guy is waiting in the wings whom I’ve not yet bothered to really consider because just TWO guys are a LOT, I feel.  What. The. Hell.  Oh, and The Dude continues to profess his undying and yet totally stupid and unavailable love.

One theory I have about my new-found popularity with the opposite sex is analogous to how things work in real estate.  You know how a house is on the market for like 2 years straight and so nobody wants to see it because something must be wrong if it hasn’t sold yet?  I think that maybe the same thing might apply to online dating profiles.  In taking myself down during the 8 months I was with The Dude, and then “re-listing” myself at the right moment, perhaps I’ve changed how desirable I am, even though nothing about me has changed.  Perhaps I’ve changed my fortune to being a “hot new listing,” or something.

But that doesn’t explain the fact that I am now seemingly desirable to guys who are either the same age or younger than I am.  When I was in my early 30s, it seemed that all the guys from 30-45 were interested in trying to date 25-year-olds.  But I turn 39, and suddenly I’m like the coolest girl on the block?  And one of my good friends, APS, is herself 32, and she’s totally like, “all the guys want to date 25-year-olds!”  Well, it might seem that way, but apparently they also really want to date 39-year-olds.  Or at least 39-year-old me.  Bizarre.

Whatever.  The whole thing is mystifying.  Apparently I’m having some sort of dating renaissance.  It’s like I’m a girl of 24, except with a tenured faculty position and a mortgage and two cats and a serious knitting habit, who has written a book.  Oh, but actually, I do have something in common with 24-year-old me: I don’t actually care about having a boyfriend, because I think I’m great as I am.  So perhaps the secret to my success is that I’m totally cool with me on my own?  Huh.

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