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Archive for June, 2011

People who live in major cities are toads, right?  Rude and obstinately sullen, urban folk would rather jam their elbows into the guts of tourists walking the streets at a snail’s pace than offer anyone a hello.  Slow down a New Yorker long enough to ask directions and chances are you’ll receive an annoyed groan instead.  Accidentally step on the wrong Bostonian’s foot and you may hit a nearby brick wall with your face.  And just try practicing your crap French in Paris.  City dwellers aren’t always big meanies, of course, but enough to give themselves a bad rep.

Today, I figured out why.

I should confess I’m no city mouse by blood.  I grew up in Ohio where a trip to the bank can turn into an hour-long convo about the cashier’s bunions and how fast his kids are growing up.  People are ridiculously friendly in the Midwest and for the first couple decades of my life, I was, too; chatting up strangers, acknowledging when I bumped into people on the sidewalk, smiling.  But at nineteen, I moved to a major city for college and since then have lived in big cities all over the world.  I’m still a kind, generous person.  But I need the sound of cars passing outside my window to sleep at night.  I must see at least ten restaurants and an independent movie theater to consider a neighborhood livable.  I wear heels on camping trips.  Who am I kidding, I don’t go on camping trips.  There are bears out there, you know.  Bugs and dirt.

In other words, I’m a city person.  Fortunately, I’m not a complete jerk city person who finds no reason to live anywhere else.  One day, I’d like to return to a quieter place.  But right now, I need the noise.

So, today I was on the subway headed to the Greyhound station.  This friendly out-of-towner sees my bags and asks where I’m going.  I think, ‘buddy, you’re getting two responses out of me then this conversation is over.’  When he asks why I’m going where I’m going, I lie because the truth would only beg more questions.  Then I open my book and start reading.

On the Greyhound, this lovely woman asks the time and I give her a curt answer to avoid engagement.  She compliments my hair, so I offer a genuine smile then quickly turn back to my book to deflect further questioning.  Then during a stopover, some old Brit starts talking to me because he’s seen the book I’m reading and wants to know what it’s about.  And I’m thinking, ‘dag blast it, why do these people keep talking to me?’

I know why.  Because they’re nice.  And at heart, I’m nice and they probably sense it.  But there’s a reason I don’t want to talk to them, and it’s the same reason city folk don’t always want to talk to people they don’t know.

When you live in a city, nearly every second of every day is filled with relentless interaction, constant dialogue and unremitting intellectual stimuli fueled by friends, family, people in meetings, people in grocery store lines, people on the street.  You are always stuck in traffic or smelling the armpit of some stranger on a crammed subway.  You are always impressing your boss, your date or neighbors, always marketing yourself and networking, always busy and late.  You are always “on.”

Consequently, when you have ten minutes on a subway with a foot of empty personal space around you, when you have twenty seconds until you have to get off the elevator, when you have four hours on a bus alone, you relish them.  Here’s an opportunity to turn off.  Decompress.  Have your thoughts to yourself.  Breathe.  Some dude in a giant cowboy hat asking if there’s a Denny’s in the area can be seen as a bit of an intrusion.

Perhaps this is no comfort to tourists who visit our nation’s cities only to get pushed and shoved on the sidewalk by grumpy natives.  But maybe with understanding, our guests can show some sensitivity, be patient with us…

And get the hell out of the way.

[Image from http://www.helpimasoutherner.blogspot.com]

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The girl sitting across from me on the subway was an exact replica of me at fourteen years old: chubby face, disobediently curly hair, a slim body struggling to develop and a slightly rowdy innocence that would one day cause some trouble. She looked so much like me I had to do a double take, convinced a miniaturized version of me was within arm’s reach.

I may have gone on without giving the matter much thought, except that there was something even more me-ish about the girl than her plump cheeks. She was pining away over a boy who apparently was giving her the run around. Moreover, she was testing the limits of friendship by giving the pal next to her every minute detail of their last conversation.

Me much?

The boy had told the girl to stop calling him. He didn’t want to talk to anyone right now. He wasn’t replying to any of her texts or returning her calls. Every so often, she’d call late, sometimes after midnight, and was surprised when he wasn’t home.

Fourteen-Year-Old Me was confused. Older Me knew there were only a few causes for such behavior and they all revolved around other girls, lack of interest and overall jerkiness.

“He says he can’t handle a relationship right now,” the girl told her friend. “He’s worried about his mom and he has to get a job.”

The girl lifted her chest and proudly said, “And I was like, ‘you expect me to wait for you?’”

Older Me hoped either the guy fell to her feet in tears or she gave him the grand heave ho.

“’He told me, ‘no.’ So I asked, ‘do you want me to?’”

It took everything in me not to take the girl by the shoulders and shake her senseless. “Get some strength in those knees and stiffen that spine. You cave to this creep and you’ve got years of male crap to put up with. Get out now!”

“Honestly, Mary, I don’t know,” the girl continued. “I was like, ‘I can be your girlfriend and support you through this.’”

No, you can’t, I thought, trying to use mental telepathy to communicate with her. You can’t because he doesn’t want you to. Or someone else is his support. Or he doesn’t have a problem, he’s just making up bull malarkey because he’s afraid to cut the cord.

“I was like, ‘I’ll be waiting for your call.’ He didn’t call me, so I called him.”

You just earned another year of lessons from the Relationship School from Hell.

“He was on the phone with his cousin.”

Yeah, right.

“He kept crying and crying and I was like, ‘I’m right here for you.’”

Man, was this girl tugging at my heart strings. How many times have I begged some big wounded boy to let me love him? In fact, nearly every female I know has blubbered to me about some damaged soul who won’t let her heal his pain. Few things are as confusing to women as men who turn away love and support.

I wasn’t angry at the apple of Fourteen-Year-Old Me’s eye. Sure, guys like him can be selfish and plain mean. But they’re just snot-nosed little boys and it’s up to the women who adore them to cut their losses when the writing’s on the wall.

Unfortunately, it can take decades before a woman learns to stop hanging on to dead end love. I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me, but will confess to making tons of stupid decisions, dating scads of nincompoops and coming face to face with lots of not so pretty truths about my own inner workings. Most importantly, it took the real love of a couple good men to show me true connection isn’t something you have to beg someone to share with you.

I wanted to tell Fourteen-Year-Old Me to let this cad go and avoid love she has to wrestle to the ground. Spare her the agony of heartbreak or an on/off affair with someone who only kinda likes her. But like every hard lesson, you’ve got to learn it on your own.

All I could do was give her a smile that said, ‘you’ve got a long, hard journey ahead. But you’ll get there.’

She probably didn’t grasp my message. But maybe she will in twenty years, when her own Mini Me sits across from her on a train.

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I can’t wait for summer!  Dazzling beams of sunlight will shine across the land as the scent of barbecues, sun block and chlorinated pools waft through the air.  My pasty, winterized complexion will glow like polished copper as I revel in the freedom of halter-tops and linen skirts rather than being confined by bulky sweaters.

Summer is perfect.  Except for one thing: the radio.

Radio stations seem to condense their playlists to a handful of records come summertime.  Once you’ve heard Buster Poindexter’s Hot, Hot, Hot for the fifteenth time in a week, you may start longing for the season of snowballs being hurled at your head.

Thus, I’m offering a partial list of summer’s most grating tunes.  With any luck, the great DJ in the sky will command his minions to spare us these don’ts.

Don’t: Hot in the City, Billy Idol

To a pubescent Midwestern gal, Billy Idol was like the wrong-side-of-the-tracks hunk all the girls avoided in class but secretly liked.  His badass snarl was almost enough to lure me away from the sleeker, more pristine desires stirred by Duran Duran.  White Wedding was creepily sexy while Rebel Yell had me crying, “more, more, more” even though I was too young to have any idea what I wanted more of.  But this Hot in the City baloney?  Sounds like the banal workings of Neil Diamond being played by a Springsteen cover band.  Barf.

Don’t: Kokomo, Beach Boys

I’m no Beach Boys fan.  However, I do find myself wanting to strap on a bikini and sip Sunkist whenever I hear their faux tropical sounds.  But Kokomo blows.  With its slothy, cheesily flirtatious chorus, it’s the musical incarnation of a creepy, pina colada sipping grandpa sliming around a cruise ship hitting on barely legals.  I bet the Beach Boys don’t even like this tune.

Don’t: Summertime, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince

After the phenomenally goofy yet funky Parents Just Don’t Understand, Will Smith and his buddy had a tough act to follow.  To this day, whenever someone starts a sentence with, “okay, here’s the situation,” I always reply, “your parents went away on a week’s vacation?”  Summertime definitely has a lazy day vibe and didn’t bother me the first sixteen thousand times I heard it.  But the song lacks pizzazz.  When I hear it, I don’t want to sit back and unwind.  I want to hear Parents Just Don’t Understand.  Plus, the song just reminds us of how much it must suck to be DJ Jazzy Jeff watching the Fresh Prince become the megastar that is Will Smith.   

Don’t: Cruel Summer, Bananarama

I must admit to having had Bananarama records in my youth and can tell you Cruel Summer was one of their least interesting hits, especially when you consider they had a tune called Robert DeNiro’s Waiting.  But that song was about a victim of abuse escaping her fate by watching the actor’s films.  Meanwhile, Cruel Summer is about a gal being abandoned for the summer by her best pals and boyfriend.  For cripe’s sake, the word “cruel” is in the title.  Not exactly what I call summertime fun.      

Looking for some truly sunny tunes to beat the heat?

Do: (Love Is Like a) Heat Wave, Martha and the Vandellas

I dare you to listen to this song any time of year and not start waving your hands in the air like the lost member of the Supremes.  Besides, I’d rather suffer a heat wave than cruelty during summer.

Do: Hot Fun in the Summertime – Sly and the Family Stone

Hot Fun in the Summertime is balmy and mellow the way a good summertime song should be.  All you wanna do is drink iced tea, party with pals on the beach then slide out of your flip flops and fall asleep in a hammock.  Man, is there better fun than “hot fun?”

Do: Boys of Summer, Don Henley

This tune gets more airplay than Hot, Hot, Hot during the warm months, but to me it screams summer.  Maybe it’s because of images like, “your brown skin shining in the sun.”  Plenty sluggish summer nights back in Ohio were spent eating hot dogs between slices of Wonder Bread and wading through creeks with friends.  Seems Henley’s rustic tunes always made up the soundtrack.  I doubt those wieners would’ve tasted so good if Kokomo was playing.

What summer tunes are your do’s and don’ts?

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On the Move

Wow!  I forgot how crazy life gets when you move house.  I’d write a blog post this week, if I could find my computer under all these boxes.

See you next week!

[Image from www.epicself.com]

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