Note: The "Trooper" in question is not actually in the military. It's a metaphor, people.

December 27, 2007

A Jew in Texas on Christmas

For the first time in our 8 1/2 month relationship, I can actually "see" a life with Wine Guy. We are half way through our 2 week road trip vacation and my worst fear - that we would fight constantly, break up somewhere in Texas, and I would have to fly home - has not been realized. That's not to say we didn't bicker through most of Texas (when I wasn't sleeping, much to WG's annoyance). But I've heard that anyone in their right mind would want to bite their companion's head off after 400 miles of West Texas landscape.

So why can I "see the future" with Wine Guy? Simple. I met his family. And no, it wasn't this Leave It to Beaver familial scene where everyone is happy and perfect like I always imagined"normal" families were, unlike mine. In fact, his parents were pretty much like he described, when I assumed he was just being a little hard on them. They were by no means terrible. Very sweet in fact and certainly kind and welcoming to me. But let's just say they made me very thankful I have the kind of Mom who you can actually sit down and TALK to about real things besides the weather and how you slept the night before.

But seeing WG with and in contrast to his parents, I am even more impressed with the man he is today. They were good parents who loved their kids and did the best they could. But I was able to see just how much of his character came from his own determination and soul. Yes, his parents instilled those traits in him (if not indirectly), but it was very much up to him to use and develop them -- and he did.

After two days in their small Texas town (and two terribly sleepless nights for me), we all headed into Austin for a larger family gathering at his cousin's palatial home in the 'burbs. Cue up the Christmas music because this is where it does start to get a little "perfect family" hokey. And I ate it up gladly as this was the first real "Christmas" I have ever experienced. The eager kids constantly begging to open their presents and, when they finally get their wish, the frantic, adrenaline-pumping ripfest as countless gifts are freed from their wrapping and shrieks of glee pop up across the littered living room every few minutes. And I was not excluded from this frenzy, as every branch of the family tree included me in their gift giving, which was unexpected and quite sweet. By the time I was finished unwrapping I couldn't help but exclaim, "Forget Jesus, this is awesome! I'm converting!" Thank God they are Christians with a good sense of humor.

We also went to a Christmas Eve candlelight service at a several thousand-seater super-church in town. I was expecting big hair, terrible singing, a lot of preaching and a few heartfelt eye rolls shared between WG and me. But it was actually quite lovely - basically a concert with a little Jesus thrown in. I can handle that. When WG's cousin told me that I was "a good sport" for sitting through it, I responded, "Are you kidding me? I might actually like Christmas now! I can totally respect the religious part, it's the commercial part that kills me!" Again, thank God they are Christians with a a good sense of humor.

As you can probably tell, I was the Jewish comedic relief for the two days we were there. A role I am used to playing having grown up in suburban San Diego where I was basically the only Jew I knew. All in all, they were kind generous hosts and I got the chance to let out my inner adolescent while talking boys, school and movies with WG's 13 year old niece.

Again, why can I now all of a sudden see a real future with Wine Guy? I can't really answer that. I just all of a sudden can. I'm sure part of it is seeing him interact with "his people," and liking what I saw. I also think I enjoyed seeing us as a couple through the eyes of a new group of people. As we interacted together, separately and within the large group, I felt like we just seemed "right" together. We teased each other, added to each others stories, all those things that make a couple good guests. We were a really unit, and I liked how it felt.

Now we are at the home of my good friend from high school and her husband - The Quiets- who also live in Austin. Yes, they are indeed quiet people, or at least when I'm around them I realize how NOT quite I am. Of course, that isn't the case right now since it is 4am and I am having yet another night of insomnia (likely due to my impending surgery which weighs on my mind only in the dead of night ). Our visit with them so far has been great, but I suspect WG and Mr. Quiet are just a little sick of hearing all the high school gossip and chatter. But Mrs. Quiet is one of my oldest and dearest friends and I relish every visit I get with her. Plus I absolutely adore this city and they are fantastic tour guides!

Soon we will hit the road again (hopefully the Northwest Texas landscape will be less fight instigating) and head to Albuquerque to visit WG's sister and brother-in-law. I know I will like his sister from everything I've heard so I am definitely not nervous about meeting her. And she has a dog which is a huge incentive to visit since I am very high on my dog kick at the moment after staying up late at WG's parent's to watch "The Science of Dogs" on National Geographic - a must see!.

I suppose I should try to go back to sleep now so I'll sign off. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday doing whatever it is you do. I will make sure to check in again in 2008 before the big day of surgery on January 7th. Happy New Year!


December 17, 2007

Cats Are Family Too

The envelopes are rolling in, just like they do every year. For the most part, I like getting these photo holiday cards from my married friends around the country. For many of them, it's become the only way we stay in touch as our lives diverge more and more each year. I enjoy noting the resemblances in their children, the decorated mantels in their living rooms, the choices of formal or casual poses. It's all very warm, festive and familial and I count myself lucky when I come home everyday and see my refrigerator covered with a collage photos of smiling people I've known for years.

But along with these emotions, I'm aware of something darker that simmers just beneath my supposedly cheery holiday surface. Resentment.

Just like my married, procreating friends, I too had a busy, exciting year full of adventure, mishaps and joy. I may not have a gap-toothed three year old to show off, but my life is full of things that are just as photo-worthy as their families.

The stack of cards grew each year as more of my friends had kids, and my dark side grew right along with it. Then last year I just decided enough was enough. Sitting passively by and resenting was nothing but a waste. Nobody actually ever said that I couldn't send out a holiday photo card because I wasn't married and/or had kids. This was just something I chose to believe. So why couldn't I just jump in the fray and make my statement? This is who I am. And I am worth sharing. So there.

So last year I sent out my first "family" holiday card which consisted of me and my beloved cat AppleButt (name changed to protect her anonymity) posed over the warm glow of the Hanukkah menorah. I modeled it after a photo from my childhood of me and my three older siblings watching my mom light the candles. There I stood with my thumb in my mouth, stomach and diaper jutting out, eyes transfixed on the flames. A moment frozen in time - and worth replicating.

So I asked Only Child to come over with his fancy digital camera and take some shots in front of the little Hanukkah "set" I created in my kitchen using dradel gift wrap taped to the wall and shiny silver paper under the menorah to add to the glow. I held poor AppleButt up to the flames while I pretended to light the last candle. Unlike a real child, AppleButt was not quite so entranced, but with a little help from Photoshop, it almost looked like she wasn't in total hell.

I signed it "Happy Holidays from The [Troopers]" and sent it to everyone I knew, curious to get their reaction.

I thought it was hysterical and meant it entirely as a sarcastic joke. Unfortunately, the only people who actually got the joke were my fellow Troopers. Everyone else told me it was "really cute." But I'm sure they all thought I was finally becoming the Crazy Cat Lady.

No matter what the reaction, this little act of rebellion transformed what used to be a negative time for me into something mischievously festive and I couldn't wait for the following year to top it with something even more elaborate.

When I booked my cruise to Alaska, I knew I found my theme. As I smiled for photos throughout the trip, I wondered, "Is this the one?"

It wasn't until I got home and sifted through the hundreds of photos that I found the perfect image. It was from my favorite day of the trip (and probably my life) when I hiked eight miles to a glacier where I sat on a rock, sipped hot cocoa from a thermos, ate a sandwich, and gazed at the ice all around me. Pink-cheeked, decked out in a hat and windbreaker, I'm smiling with true joy. The only thing that could have made the day better was if I could have shared it with someone special.

With a little help from Wine Guy's amazing Photoshop skills, I got my wish. And AppleButt got her first vacation.

I mailed them out on Saturday to about 50 people and the calls and emails are already starting to roll in. "You took your cat to Alaska??!" What the F*&#k!?

I can't stop giggling. I wish I could stand next to them as they absentmindedly open the envelope on the walk back from the mailbox, expecting yet another posed family photo and instead laying their eyes upon a beautiful, rocky glacier, a smiling hiker, and her startled black and white, fuzzy cat perfectly placed in her arms.

Happy Holidays!


December 13, 2007

"Let It Go"

Every New Year I come up with a motto that sets the tone for the year ahead. Or at least I hope it does. If I'm lucky, the motto/phrase/slogan just sort of naturally emerges based upon a theme that keeps rearing its head. Like last year's motto -- "Patience." Short, simple, sweet and based upon the previous year's never ending anxieties over "when will it happen for me?" And that "it" was everything - love, marriage, career, stability. It just felt like all I did was strive but never achieved a thing. That kind of attitude would wear anyone down, including me.

So I tried to stick with "Patience" all of 2007. Sometimes it helped me to stop, take a deep breathe and just accept. It also helped me to spot a relationship that wasn't working far earlier on than I would have pre-Patience (see Vain Guy), simply because I was no longer desperate to rush into love by sheer force. So I was in and out of that little erroneous fling in two months flat. No harm, no foul.

Other times, my motto hasn't been so easy. These are the years I come up with something that I quickly forget. No biggie. At least I tried.

Then there are those rare occasions when the motto becomes a Resolution that actually sticks. Such as the motto's inaugural year back in 1996. The year of "F.U.N." This stands for "Free of Unnecessary Negativity" and it was my mission to do more FUN things even though I could always come up with a million excuses why I shouldn't. At that point in my life I was living in L.A.. lazy, slightly depressed, and broke. These are three solid excuses not to go out and have fun. But I got sick of it and I finally stumbled on a group of girlfriends who seemed willing to take on F.U.N. right along with me.

We threw great theme parties at our Brentwood pad, went to Universal Studios, took over the local roller skating rink, road tripped to Grand Canyon. It was one, damn F.U.N. year. I even have a photo album that documents the whole thing, and I look through it often and smile.

I haven't had quite as an inspired motto since then - until now. This one is far simpler (a no, duh for many of you I'm sure) and easier to sustain for a lifetime, I hope. And it keeps popping up almost every day. Either someone says it to me, or I read something that makes me think of it. But mostly I'm just getting plain old tired of rehashing the same old bullshit anxieties.

That's why in 2008 I'm going to try to "Let It Go." And by "It" I mean anything that isn't immediately relevant to what I value in my life. Sure, plenty of things are irritating, but do most of them really matter? Probably not. I guess the key is to Let Go of trying to control everything. With that you Let Go of quite a lot. To sum up my humble goal, I might be ready for some sort of Inner Peace.

This all started because of my approaching surgery. The more I research what I am about to undergo, the more I realise how completely incapacitated I am going to be for months. Just going to the bathroom or getting a glass of water is going to take every ounce of my concentration and physical strength. I simply won't have the energy to stress about things that aren't immediately important. Whatever energy I have will need to be directed at one thing - healing.

I realize this is an extreme scenario - and a temporary one. But if I'm going to go through this experience, then I want to get something lasting out of it (besides a reconstructed hip). So I'm going to try to extend the metaphor of self-healing to my life as a whole and do my best to keep my focus only on my necessary, immediate needs while letting the unnecessary things fall away.

This means I really have to decide what's important to me. What I choose to be important to me. And then fight like hell to keep that. The rest can just, well, bite me.

So while I'm lying in my rented hospital bed in my mother's living room, watching episode after episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (I've never seen it and plan on watching the entire series beginning to end), I will hopefully be mending a hip and rebuilding a soul.

I've got a few weeks before I have to lock in my motto. So maybe something new and better will come along. But for now my plans are to Let It Go. Feel free to join me (and remind me of my motto if it seems like I might have forgotten).


December 11, 2007

The "Normal" Relationship

For the last few weeks I've been convinced that Wine Guy and I were going to break up. I didn't tell anyone this fear because, well, I didn't want to disappoint my friends (or blog readers) with yet another relationship letdown. I decided to keep it all inside and figure it out for myself.

Bad idea.

What happened instead was festering of worries, exaggerated fears, and bullshit errors in thinking. Nothing new for me. And neither was my clamming up. I have this whole pride issue about failure and when I suspect I'm on the road to it, the last thing I do is reach out for help from my friends. Which is funny because if/when they reach out to me, it would never occur to me to be disappointed in them. I would feel honored that they felt comfortable enough to come to me and do my best to be there for them and help.

As usual, I was under the mistaken belief that I was different than everyone else. News flash: no one is really different. Whatever insurmountable problems I was thinking Wine Guy and I were having were, well, nothing new -- and ones I would find with just about with any male that ever existed.

This all emerged after a night out last weekend with my Veteran (soon to be married) couple friends. Wine Guy had met them before but only in group/party settings - not his speciality. This was our first couple's outing and I went in to it feeling tense and irritated for the reasons stated above.

But the evening went quite the opposite of what I expected. A few glasses of wine to loosen us up and off we went to a warm, Italian restaurant where, for the first time since WG and I started dating, we had "couple banter." You know, all that semi-joking-but-not-really conversation about little fights you've had with each other, what annoys you about your partner, how men and women bicker over the silliest things, etc.

It sounds trivial here but I assure you, this seemingly inane conversation was causing me to have some sort of relationship epiphany. All the reasons why I was convinced Wine Guy and I were going to break up were the same silly fights and annoyances my couple friends were complaining about. Except when they have them, they don't think it's the end of the world.

This outing was a rare occasion of four people being wholly open (and slightly drunk) with one another - one of the reasons why I like these couple friends in the first place. As we touched on each new topic, I felt more and more reassured by their concurrence and advice. All this time I thought they were the "perfect couple" who met and fell in love within two dates (seriously), moved in together after three months, and now (to quote the detestable Dr. Laura) have "a ring and a date." Now I know that despite their sped up timeline, they are just like us. Except they don't walk around thinking every fight could mean the end of their relationship.

This is how my friends earned their new nickname - The Coracle (or Co-Oracle). For every problem we threw their way, they had an anecdote, advice, tale to tell that put me at ease and reminded me that there is no such thing as "perfect."

It was a great Friday night out that led into the first relaxing, romantic weekend Wine Guy and I have had in a while. Probably because it was the first weekend during which I wasn't rehearsing our breakup in my head (Yes, I'm a pessimist. But I've also been severely disappointed in the past. So sue me).

On Monday, I called Mrs. Coracle to tell her how profound the evening was for helping me snap out of my relationship panic. She surprised me with her response, "You know, the next day [Mr. Coracle] and I felt better too. I'm not sure why, exactly. But, you know, we have problems too sometimes, and it felt good to talk about it with other people going through similar things."

Suddenly I started to understand why my friends who have kids go to those annoying Mommy & Me classes we used to make fun of together. We need to be around people going through similar life events. It sucks to admit, but it's true. Not all the time, but just enough so that we can learn from and be around people that make us feel "normal" (at least for a little while).

I did not grow up in a home with any sort of married couple to look to (my mom was widowed when I was 5 and stayed single). So I have no idea what a "normal" relationship looks like. I'm flying blind, except for the examples being set for me by my friends and television - and I prefer my friends since I hardly think Ross and Rachel are a good example.

So, as much as I hate to admit this after so many years of proudly wearing my "single girl" badge, I will have to make room for more double dates. Hey, it's cheaper than couple's therapy.


December 6, 2007

Dwindling Milestones

I'm big on relationship milestones and Wine Guy and I just had another one - my birthday. I don't usually enjoy these "firsts." In fact, they tend to cause me more anxiety than anything else as I start building up in my head what is supposed to happen and then worry myself sick thinking I'll be let down. (This is one head game I would be happy to get rid of - if only I could figure out how.)

The good (sort of) news is that Wine Guy and I have been together long enough that we are getting close to running out of these exciting/torturous firsts. That's scary. Let's see, what do we have left?
  • Me meeting his family (coming this Christmas)
  • Christmas (we'll be at his parents' in Texas)
  • New Years Eve (overrated holiday -we'll be in New Mexico with his sister)
  • Valentine's Day (a universal day of anticipation and letdown)
  • Passover (my favorite Jewish holiday that will likely involve my brother Pat-hole)
  • Our 1 year anniversary (April 11)

Yes, I left out President's Day, St. Patrick's Day and a few others too..but these are the biggies that will likely cause me some mix of joy and anxiety.

So how did my birthday go? Very fine thank you. My pal Mendoza Line has her birthday two days before mine so a big group celebrated with an 80s inspired rollerskating bonanza at a nearby rink. I've never seen ML happier as she skated for 3 hours straight, clad in rainbows and leg warmers no less. So my b-day celebration 48 hours later was a bit of a (welcome) comedown.

Wine Guy took me to a lovely French restaurant that I've been dying to try and we ate and drank til we were almost sick. Actually, I was kind of sick - with some sort of stomach ailment that still plagues me tonight. So I spent more time in the lovely French restaurant's one-stall bathroom than I would have preferred.

After dinner we headed to a swank bar where we met Mendoza, Scotty, Gouda and her boyfriend BabyFace (he who inspired the Motorcyle Men entry that became a bit of controversy today when someone on a motorcycle chat room stumbled on to it and decided I was hateful and prejudiced towards motorcyle riders. I finally had to close down the comments section for my peace of mind, but I suggest you check it out for a good laugh).

As much as I love Wine Guy's enthusiasm for wine, I am a cocktail lover myself so I was in heaven with the bar's menu of clever drinks like mojitos with champagne, lemon drops with whipped egg whites (frothy topping!), and ginger spiced mint juleps. Yummmmm. Gouda gave me a terrific book called 4,000 Questions for Getting to Know Anyone and Everyone and we all had a blast throwing around absurd questions that elicited answers that ranged from truly heartfelt to hilariously offensive. (I recall Wine Guy, Scotty and BabyFace doing some sort of ridiculous manshake as they sang "bitches...." in response to some relationship based question. Oy.)

Despite my tummy issues, it was a wonderful night that served to remind me how lucky I am to have so many amazing people in my life. Not just those I see everyday but also friends from all over. I was surprised by how many emails, cards and phone calls I received throughout the day from busy friends who took the time to wish me a happy birthday.

Getting older is scary. VERY scary. But I'm also realizing that the older I get, the more wonderful people I get to add to my mix of friends. Some stick around, others don't. But all leave a mark on my heart. Cheezy, I know. But true.

Thanks everyone!


December 3, 2007

Issues Confessional

I have "issues." You know what I mean by that. Those certain trigger points centered around some deeply rooted psychological problem, memory or whatever. You have them too. And if you are right now insisting that you don't, then you DEFINITELY do.

There's nothing wrong with having issues. It's when you pretend that you don't have them that you become, well, a liar. I had one friend - now a former friend - who used to brag that she just "didn't have any issues." (Hmmmm....why are we not friends anymore???)

I make an effort to step outside of myself every once in a while to take a nice, long objective look at who I am. This is often done with the aid of a psychologist, although my mom (a shrink) or this blog also serve as pretty good substitutes. This kind of self inspection helps me to identify errors in my thinking that cause me to react somewhat irrationally to life events.

This kind of useful observation is exactly how I was able to identify my two (well, three) main issues. I could clearly see a consistent pattern emerge with every relationship - romantic or platonic. No matter how different the person or the circumstances around the relationship, the only thing they all had in common was simple - me.

Before I was able to calmly identify these issues as such, I often mistook them for truth. My poor, pathetic truth (can you say self-pity? Yeah, shrinks are so worth it). One painful recollection comes from my mid-20s when I first met Only Child. We hit it off when we met on a trip with mutual friends. Once we had been dating for about six months, he told me that he had asked my friend's boyfriend (now husband) about me during that trip. His response was, "[Trooper]? Yeah, she's pretty cool. But watch out, man. She's kind of crazy." We all know how that ended up. (And for the record, my friend's boyfriend admits today that he was just intentionally being an asshole with that comment. His "issue.")

That stung. But deep down I knew he was kind of right. I wasn't really crazy (no rabbits have been harmed in my dating history), but my then-unidentified issues definitely got the better of me more often than I would prefer.

Of course, my issues haven't simply disappeared. Nope, they are still there, worn with pride for just about any perceptive person to see in all their glory. But when they peek their heads out for some fresh air from time to time, I see them for what they are - feelings, not truth. (Once again, I recall my mother's quote "Just because you feel it, doesn't mean it's true." Seriously, memorize that one).

So, I'm assuming you want to know what my issues are, right? OK, I'll indulge you. But I think it's only fair that you tell me yours too (and you can be anonymous). Plus, you'll feel better once you admit to them. Here goes:

1. Diagnosis: Fear of Abandonment. I am convinced people I care about will disappear on me. Either they'll die or just decide to cut me off with no explanation. Yes, both of these traumatic things have happened to me in the past (Dad died when I was 5, Naval A-hole dumped me by disappearing). But just because you know where your issues come from doesn't mean they suck less.

2. Diagnosis: Not being listened to. I am ultra-sensitive to other people's listening skills, and I take it far too personally when I think they aren't listening to me. This is most trying with anyone I'm close to. I don't really care if acquaintances (and certainly not strangers) listen to me that closely. But when someone I trust starts fidgeting, looking over my shoulder or interrupts me for no good reason while I'm talking (or, even worse, ignores me completely), I get really upset. This is my #1, Big Issue that could very well bring about the end to any romantic relationship I manage to get myself into. Just ask Wine Guy.

3. Diagnosis: I can dish it out but I can't take it. I'm a smart ass and love teasing people. But when it gets turned back on me? Well, I've been known to cry. Yes, I'm a total hypocrite and work very hard to take teasing better. This is one of those issues that immediately got less troublesome once I admitted it out loud. It's actually so stupid it's almost funny. Sort of.

So, 'fess up people. What are your issues?


November 29, 2007

Useful Distractions

I've been having a pretty crappy week and rather than continue to depress you with more of the head games I play with myself, I thought I would finally respond to two "tags" I've received from fellow bloggers Michelle (The Squawkery) and Samantha (Bewitched in L.A.)

I've responded to one of these before that had specific questions that were pretty fun to answer so, in addition to adding 5 more random facts about me, I thought I would re-paste those below too.

Here are the Rules:
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2. Share 5 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they are TAGGED by leaving a comment on their blog.


Five random things about Dating Trooper:

1. I have never waited to finish a school assignment until the night before it was due. Ever. I am an overly organized (and ridiculously enthusiastic) student, much to the chagrin of my fellow students. This also means I have never pulled an all-nighter (this includes college and grad school). And I'm proud of it. If I could be in school forever and make a living at it, I would in a heartbeat. Yes, I'm aware I'm a dork.

2. I am totally up for getting a boob job when the time is right. Just to a nice, full B cup. That's all I ask. And it's not for male attention. I just want to fit into more cute tops!

3. When the check comes at dinner, I pretend like I'm trying to figure out the tip and how to split the check, but I'm really faking it. I refuse to do math at the dinner table.

4. I'm pretty sure my cat hates me, but I still love her with all my heart. I think this is the most dysfunctional relationship I've ever had.

5. I am having some pretty major (orthopedic) surgery in early January (just got the date today from the doctor's office) and am scared shitless. I've never been in the hospital and am terrified of the extremely long, painful recovery ahead. I'm also very concerned that I'll get fat since I won't be able to play tennis (my only real exercise) for at least six months. But mostly I'm worried about what the strain of this will do to my relationship with Wine Guy.

Here's who I'm tagging:
Everyday Goddess
Amore & Vino
The City Gal
Sher - OCD Chick
Domestic Irritation

Here's what I answered back in June when Loverville tagged me:

Four jobs I've had:
* Dorm security in college (where I learned to read Plato in between ID swipes)
* Intern for Martin Scorsese (where I learned how to type quietly, wrap celebrity Christmas presents, and pick up dry cleaning)
* D-girl for cheezy TV movie development company (where I learned how to scavenge "inspired by" true stories from the National Enquirer)
* Studio manager for NYC photographer (where I learned how to approach models on the streets of SoHo and ask if they would pose naked for free - some actually did)

Four films that I can watch repeatedly
* Groundhog Day
* Goodfellas
* Mary Poppins

Four places in which I have lived:
* Harlem
* Prospect Park, Brooklyn
* Brentwood (four blocks from scene of OJ killing)
* West Hollywood/Fairfax District

Four places I've been on vacation:
* Cuba (don't tell the authorities)
* Kauai
* Tokyo
* Cayman Islands

Four sites that I visit daily (other than blogs):
* Google
* BoingBoing
* Cuteoverload
* Cats That Look Like Hitler

Four of my favorite dishes:
* Mixed Feast Pan Fried Noodles
* Dim Sum
* Caterpillar roll
* Pork chops

November 27, 2007

Hormones and Expectations

I am a hateful person. At least this week.

I normally try to avoid throwing out the PMS excuse. But in this specific case, there can be no doubt. Sometime between 4:30 and 6:00pm yesterday I hit the PMS wall so hard that I still haven't stopped whip-lashing. Poor Wine Guy was, and continues to be, an innocent victim.

I arrived at his house yesterday afternoon in a pretty good mood, eager to go downtown with him and stroll around. After five minutes in the car we were in our separate corners. I refused to speak to him for at least 45 minutes and it was over an hour before I uncrossed my arms.

I can't go into much detail about the actual argument because they are somewhat shrouded in a hormonal haze and I can't remember exactly what happened. But I know what it centered around - my birthday.

This is where part 2 of the meltdown comes in and why I can't entirely blame the fight on hormones. With birthdays (and Valentines Day, anniversaries, New Years Eve, etc.) come what I am beginning to understand are my archenemies - Expectations.

They usually aren't my expectations that get me in trouble. I actually think I have very low expectations. Probably too low - more of the self-pitying "nobody would ever go out of their way to do something special for me" variety. So instead of my own expectations, I substitute what I think everybody else's would be for me.

This is problematic for two reasons:
1. Who am I to guess (mind read) what other people are thinking and/or expecting?
2. Who am I to think people are walking around with expectations about my life?

These are two very important points that are easy to consider now, in hindsight, sitting alone in my apartment encased in my unsexiest flannel pajamas and favorite hoody sweatshirt and slippers. Unfortunately, they are a lot more difficult to see when I'm all alone out in the wild (or in Wine Guy's car) and the subject of my birthday comes up.

OK, here is the quick rundown. In the course of the brief car ride conversation, he remembered my birthday was approaching the following week. This is what came out of his mouth in an offhanded way, "Oh shit! What am I going to do for your birthday?!"

This is what I heard, "I am so uninspired by your impending birthday that I can't and won't take the time to think of something you might like. Instead I'll put it off to the last minute and then be totally inconvenienced and annoyed when I have to come up with something in a hurry."

In my pathetic defense, my interpretation of his comment comes after a few other passing remarks he doesn't even remember making over the last week or two. Like when he asked me (yet again) , "What do you want for your birthday?" and I tell him that I had already given him a few ideas the week before he states, "You need to write them down."

Do I? I don't think my friends with dream husbands/boyfriends ever had to do that. Is this a bad sign? It must be!

See, this is exactly the point where those pesky expectations come into play. I don't really care what he actually gets me. Or that he might need me to write it down for him. But I keep thinking about what is supposed to happen according to...well, I'm not sure who it's according to. My friends, movies I've seen, what my mom would want (this last one is a biggie I suspect). The important part is that I am assuming that what is actually happening to me is, well, wrong.

As I'm writing this (and I'm thinking as I write so it's all kind of spilling out here), the patterns are becoming laughably apparent to me. If you've been reading my blog from the beginning of this relationship (early April), you can probably trace the patterns all the way through. When Wine Guy and I are supposed to kiss, have "the talk," meet the mom, say I love you. I'm constantly battling between my reality and my bullshit expectations.

Realization of the problem is one thing. And it's a good thing at that. But doing something about it is another. Any suggestions? Short of locating and suturing the nerve in my brain responsible for over thinking , I am lacking in solutions right now.

I refused to see Wine Guy tonight because I have placed my hormonal, expectation-laden self in isolation for the evening. Just me and my TV and a glass of wine. Hopefully by tomorrow I will be clearer of mind and he will still love me. After the way I've been acting lately, it feels doubtful.


November 23, 2007

Sweet Deception

It has been approximately twelve hours since I told the lie. I am a notoriously terrible liar, so I thought for sure I would be able to keep it going for only about 5 or 10 minutes tops. Big or small, white or malicious, I generally avoid all kinds of lies. Partially because I'm moral and also because I have no natural ability to be sly or subtle. I am, I guess I could say, an "obvious" person. What you see is what you get. I wear myself on my sleeve - the good, the bad, the annoying.

I had no intention of turning this little thing into a lie when it all started. All I did was get talked into baking an apple pie for Thanksgiving. Everyone else was making something, and in my typical anti-cooking fashion, I volunteered to buy crackers, cheese, etc. That involves shopping (and helpful suggestions from Whole Foods employees). I can handle shopping.

But then Wine Guy informed me there would only be pumpkin pie for dessert. I don't know about you, but I need more than one dessert choice, and preferably one that doesn't involve a vegetable. So I said I would buy a pie. Wine Guy said, "Why don't you just make one? They are so easy." I tried not to laugh this off immediately and gave it some real thought. I looked up a few recipes online, found one that sounded easy and slightly interesting, and committed to my first pie baking experience

I needed to do this in isolation, with no one looking over my shoulder correcting my peeling technique, making suggestions, etc. I get very self-conscious preparing food in front of others because I am such a novice. So I like to hide my ignorance and hope that the end result does not reveal the chaos that went into creating it.

This apple pie did not comply. I have no idea what happened since I just followed the directions, which is all baking really is anyway. And these were simple damn directions. And I used pre-made crust for God's sake! But nevertheless, it was a disgusting mess, especially the "crumble" topping that was greasy and never seemed to actually turn into something edible. I suspect it is my old, uncalibrated oven which Wine Guy refuses to use because of its unevenness. Is that a fair excuse? If so, I'm sticking to it.

I was quite opposed to making my baking debut with a disgusting pie. I shared my debacle with friends Mendoza Line and Occum on Thanksgiving morning. The three of us were participating in a 5K charity walk/run (emphasis on walking here) and we discussed my options. Mendoza seemed to think the pie was salvageable and said she would help me try to fix it when we got back. I was doubtful, but willing to give it a try.

But then came a little bit of serendipity. At the end of the walk, there was a big celebration in the park with a band, a beer garden (at 9am!) and a big tent where they were selling all kinds of freshly baked pies for Thanksgiving. As luck would have it, there was my intended - apple crumb pie.

Occum loaned me the $15 which went to charity and there I stood....with a pie of deception in my hands. At first I joked that I would try to pass it off as mine rather than just openly declare my defeat when I presented the purchased replacement. The guy selling me the pie said, "You go ahead and take all the credit!" A gaggle of ladies heard my tale and all encouraged me to "own it." After 10 minutes of this cajoling, it started to sound like kind of good the very least a humorous, short lived holiday joke.

As I mentioned earlier, I have no subtle bone in my body and Mendoza Line was concerned I would utter my falsehood and then do my typical guffaw and blurt out the truth before the joke even got off the ground. She made me promise to hold a straight face. This was going to be a test of my will power. The stage for deception was set.

That afternoon we arrived at our Thanksgiving Day location (my VERY generous friend and co-blogger Melissa of Domestic Irritation loaned us her home while she and her family were out of town since all of us unmarried folk have teeny, tiny apartments). Wine Guy was immediately in full Kitchen Dictator mode. Kind of a mix between Asshole and Genius. I was prepared for it (7 months of dating will do that) and tried very hard not to take his stern expression and impenetrable focus personally. So when he turned to me and gently said, "So baby? Let me see your pie!" I was taken aback and flattered that he remembered me enough during his culinary frenzy to set aside a few moments to acknowledge my humble feat.

I was sure I would crack. But as he took off the foil I had wrapped it in to have a look (the store box was well hidden in the recycle bin), I grew serious. There were no silly guffaws bubbling up inside me. I wanted him to be proud of me. To think I could actually do this. He inspected the crumble topping and noted that, "it did look a little greasy" (man, if he thought this pie was greasy, I was definitely going to be screwed with my pie), but that it "looked really good."

I beamed, especially when he looked and me and said, "Congratulations baby!" and gave me a gentle hug and kiss. I ate it up. And there was no turning back now.

He went back to ignoring me in order to pull off what was an amazing dinner. We had 8 people total -- all stragglers with no family nearby - and drank lots of wine, ate too much, and played an improvised game of baseball in the back yard with some little kid badminton rackets and plastic balls. A wonderful day.

When it came time for dessert, everyone helped themselves. By then I was too buzzed to care and figured no one would pay much attention. I was right. On the ride home later that night, Wine Guy declared, "Your apple pie was terrific! Great job!" I humbly accepted the compliment and immediately began beating myself up inside. I am now, after almost 35 years (my birthday is fast approaching), an official liar. Well, I guess that's a pretty good streak.

I confessed the truth to my mom this morning and she reacted with a giggle. She assured me that people lie all the time when it comes to cooking. You know, store bought cookies popped in the oven to give them the fresh-baked aroma, etc. Is this true? Do people really do this? Even if they do, should I come clean? God help me if Wine Guy asks me to duplicate the recipe!

You are probably wondering why the hell I'm confessing this here in my blog if I want to keep it a secret. I guess that should tell you something. I don't really want to. I am 99% sure Wine Guy doesn't read this thing (if he does, I guess i'll find out soon enough!). But I know a few of his friends who came to Thanksgiving do. So I guess we'll see how long it takes until the truth comes out. Is it still "funny" or has it moved into just a plain "lie?" was YOUR Thanksgiving???


November 20, 2007

Overheard in Bed #6

In the Middle of the Night Between Saturday and Sunday

"OUCH!...What the fu---?! Oh..."

Sunday Morning
Around 8:30am

"Good morning."

Yawn, "Good morning."

"Do you remember kicking me last night?"

Stunned pause.

"Really hard. Like, three times."

Embarrassed laugh, "Oh. Shit. Yeah, I remember. I was dreaming I guess. I had to kick the door down to escape. It took three hard kicks to get that thing open."

"Yeah, I know. I think I have bruises."

"Oh, gosh. I'm so sorry. But I warned you that I sleep like a maniac!"


November 19, 2007

Spicoli Meets Duckie - The Recap

I'm one of those people who anticipate the hell out of things. Then when they're over with, I don't tend to rehash. Instead it's on to the next thing to worry about. I have no idea if this is a good or bad quality, but it's just the way I am. I am somewhat reassured that I see this same quality in many of my slightly neurotic fellow bloggers. Alas, I know I will have to get over it since several of you requested a full report back from me after Wine Guy's first meeting with my brother Pat-hole (see Spicoli Meets Duckie if you missed the prelude).

I'm pretty sure WG was a little nervous since he was doing that thing where right as we're getting getting ready, he starts asking question after question after question about the details of the plan. I have to admit that drives me nuts and this little habit of his has sparked several fights. I guess it annoys me because, well, why didn't he ask these questions (or seem to care all that much) when I asked him to come two weeks ago? Well, since we've already established he's a procrastinator (see Nagging Exposed!), he must just wait until attending the event is an absolute inevitability before he starts asking questions and expressing any disapproval of the plans. Argh.

Once that was over with, we were off. We first met Pat-hole at his work, a high-end import showroom featuring fine furniture and imported wood from Indonesia. He is the showroom owner's right hand man and that night they were hosting a show of local artists. My mom and I agreed this was the perfect venue for WG and Pat-hole to meet. A place where Pat-hole could show off his knowledge yet still have to behave in a relatively civilized manner since the place was filled with artsy, rich types.

We mingled, looked at the fine art work for awhile while I downed a few too many glasses of bad chardonnay. Hey, I was nervous. With the crowd, there wasn't much opportunity for interaction beyond "Nice to meet you" and a quick tour of the showroom. So far so good.

Then we headed (in separate cars) to dinner a few miles up the coast. WG was fortuitously seated on one side of table next to my mom and across from her lovely friend, while I was next to Pat-hole, his wife and her friend who speaks approximately two words every hour. I was positioned right in the middle of the table, basically on the border between two entirely different worlds of conversation and perspective. Wine and conversation about food and art was on my right. Beer and conversation about how much freshly grated Parmesan cheese Pat-hole's wife could get the waiter to pile on her pasta so she wouldn't have to actually taste anything else was on my left. I tried my best to jump back and forth between each world, not wanting to let Pat-hole or WG feel left out. But overall, it felt like two different dinner conversations that I half participated in.

That being said, obviously WG and Pat-hole didn't really get much time to talk one-on-one. Which is fine since another more prolonged visit will most certainly follow. How do I know this? Pat-hole is already planning our trip to his place for "some killer BBQ and some beading." I know, strange combination. But then again, that's Pat-hole.

What did Wine Guy think of Pat-hole? "Well, he certainly is more intense than most people I know. But he seems OK." No fear so far. Best I could ask for.

When we got home, my cell phone rang. It was Pat-hole. I took a deep breath and answered, "Hi."

"Hey there Baby Sistahhhh!"

"Hi, what's up?"

"How long have you and [Wine Guy] been going out? Six months?"

"Yeah, about that. Why?"

"Well, we were just talking and giving our reviews. You know how it is. He seems like a pretty cool dude." Translation: I'd walk you down the aisle if you married him (something Pat-hole insists he will do when/if I ever get married).

Sigh of relief, "Yeah, he is."

"I figure I won't give him THE TALK until next time," evil laugh. I hear his wife shout in the background, "No you will NOT!"

Sigh. "OK, OK. Glad we could get together. It was fun."

"Definitely. Good night Baby Sistah."

"Good Night Pat-hole."


November 15, 2007

Spicoli Meets Duckie

This Saturday is a big day in the evolution of my relationship with Wine Guy. He meets my brother Pat -- better known by his family as Pat-hole. An appropriate name I assure you.

Pat is seven years older than me and I've had a bit of a love/hate relationship with him my whole life. As a young girl, I thought he was the coolest thing that ever lived. He protected me from the mayhem that frequently ensued between my three siblings and he always seemed to know how to ratchet up the fun to intense levels. I made every effort a five year old girl could to emulate him: I dressed like him (blue Nikes with the yellow swoosh), ate like him (pile as much as you can on your plate and scarf it down - still trying to rid myself of that habit), I even competed with him over how far we could stick out our bloated stomachs. It was pretty gross -- and totally awesome.

This infatuation lasted until I was about nine or so. Then his partying tendencies started to get a little too scary for me, especially when my friends were around. The best way I can describe him is Jeff Spicoli, but far more aggro. He regularly used words like cowabunga, bitchin', and fuckin' a. He had hidden pot plants growing in our backyard and drove his "turbo" economy car like it was a racing machine. He loved Van Halen, drank and smoked pot to excess, and had his pick of girls thanks to his good looks.

From that point until pretty damn recently, Pat-hole was the bane of my existence. Particularly when it came to him meeting my boyfriends. It wasn't much of a problem until my mid 20s since I avoided dating in high school and lived far away for college and beyond. But when I moved back to San Diego six years ago, Pat-hole reemerged as a major concern for me.

He's notorious for saying just the wrong thing to the wrong person - probably to get a reaction out of me. Quite effective I must say. With boyfriends he usually pulls them aside with a friendly yet threatening arm around the neck in an almost chokehold, "You know if you mess with my sister I'm going to have to come and kick your ass." Nice. But I usually do try to warn the guys ahead of time. (He even managed to piss my boss off in a record 3.5 seconds after meeting her by saying "So when are giving my baby sister a raise?" This during a very difficult budget crisis when no one was getting raises but everyone was asking for one.)

He's definitely toned it down over the last few years though. I suspect because he settled down and got married a couple years back. Now he seems quite determined to have me as a part of his life. He calls me every few weeks and greets me with an enthusiastic but still somewhat ominous sounding "Helllloooo Baby Sistahhh." But I'm starting to maybe, sort of, kind of like it. Sometimes I even answer the phone when he calls instead of letting it go to voicemail so I can emotionally prepare to call him back.

As much as you might want to dislike him, you just can't entirely. And I'm not alone in this. I'm continually amazed by his ever growing collection of friends from every possible walk of life: wealthy art patrons, gay hairstylists, beading fanatics (he makes amazing jewelry out of beads he collects from around the world), convicts who ride dirt bikes in the desert. He is what you would call a "character" and, as he gets older and more mellow, I'm finding myself strangely proud that he is my brother (yes mom, I did just type that).

So this weekend I am finally introducing Wine Guy to Spicoli. When I first considered how this might go, I tensed with anxiety. WG is thoughtful, hyper intelligent, philosophical, super left wing political, a former hippy/vegan. Sometimes I like to think of him as Duckie from Pretty in Pink (did anyone else have a thing for Duckie? So much better than Blane, "that's not a name, that's an appliance!"). What do you think it would be like if Spicoli and Duckie were forced to go to dinner and have civilized conversation?!

But then I started thinking about it. My brother isn't really Spicoli anymore. He's evolved into a rather interesting person. Annoying quite often, yes, but interesting nonetheless. And, now that I think about it, I bet Duckie and Spicoli would have a pretty damn good time together seeing as they are both accustomed to life on the fringes of normal. Hmmm....this might actually get pretty entertaining.

I've certainly prepared Wine Guy for just about every possible scenario. We both agreed that we should veer from our detox diet since Wine Guy is understandably reluctant to eat like a freak in front of Pat-hole. I don't blame him. Phew. Embarrassing situation averted.

Wish us luck.


P.S.Detox Diet Day #11 (cheated twice but not too badly). Only 10 more days to go!!! (yes we are cheating on Thanksgiving)
P.S. This is Post #101! Woohoo!

November 13, 2007

Nagging Exposed!

I'm a nag.

There, I said it. Acknowledging that you have a problem is the first step towards recovery. Now what the hell do I do?

I'm a do-er. I make lists (no more than one a week) and take a small amount of joy in checking each To Do item off, one by one. Don't get me wrong, I can procrastinate with the rest of 'em, but when it comes down to shit that just needs to get done, I do it.

I don't know about you, but I've found that this is just not the case with men on the whole. Perhaps it's just the type of men I'm choosing, but I don't think so. I've heard far too many of my female friends bitching about the same thing.

I guess my problem is that I can't keep my mouth shut about it like everyone else probably does. That, my friends, apparently makes me a nag.

After typing those last two sentences, I experienced the sudden, stomach churning realization that this is quite likely the reason I am not married. Sure, I can explain away Only Child's deeply rooted commitment issues , and we all say a daily prayer of thanks to God that I didn't marry that Naval A-hole. But still, I'm sure my well-intentioned reminders to "call the doctor" or "buy a replacement bulb for that burned out front porch light" probably played a part of why these guys couldn't possibly fathom spending the rest of their lives with me.

Maybe I'm just being overly defensive here, but I must take this opportunity to forcefully insist that I do not intend nor consider my reminders to be "nagging." In fact, they are meant to be sincerely helpful.

I am simply unable to come up with any reasonable rationale for not having done these simple things. I mean, seriously, I don't personally care if they go to the doctor or leave their front porch unlit. Why would I? The only reason I bother "reminding" them at all is because I can only assume they forgot. It's no big deal really. I forget things all the time. And when someone reminds me about something I forgot, I am thankful. I certainly don't turn around and say, "Get off my back. You're such a nag." Unfortunately, their rationale for not doing these chores is not as simple as forgetfulness.

Let us address this question. What is it that causes me to bring up these "nagging" requests in the first place?

The answer: I am responding to a complaint from him.

Him: "I tripped over my front step last night and sprained my ankle. It hurts! I really need to get that light fixed."

Uh, excuse me?! Who would not respond with, "Yeah, it's pretty dark out there. You should hit Home Depot on the way home from work tomorrow and get a replacement."

People, please! In that context, that is nothing but helpful and concerned. Not. Nagging.

I suppose if I were his wife, I would just do it myself and that would be that. Drive to Home Depot and while I'm in the car on the way there, call the doctor and make him a damn appointment. But as a girlfriend of only six months, I have no right to fix things around his house or access his medical records.

So, to continue with my completely hypothetical scenario...Two weeks after the sprained ankle he says, "Ah! It hurts to put this shoe on. My ankle's been a mess since I tripped on that damn porch step. Stupid light bulb."

My first thought: Buy a new bulb.

My second thought : Your ankle still hurts after two weeks? You should go to the doctor.

What I actually say: "You should call the doctor about your ankle. It shouldn't be hurting still after two weeks."

Him [dismissively]:"Yeah, yeah...... Ow!"

I sigh and walk away, knowing that his ankle won't be seeing the inside of a doctor's office any time soon.

Two weeks later.

Him [whining, late for a nice dinner with friends]: "Slow down! I can't walk that fast. My ankle's swelling up like a balloon."

Me [trying hard not to roll my eyes]: "Really?! Ouch. You should call the doctor."

"Stop nagging me."

Get it?

The point is, my suggestions are in response to his complaints. If he stops complaining about it, I'll stop nagging (er, uh, reminding) him because there would be nothing to nag about.

But this whole discussion is pointless anyway. All I've really done here is state the obvious:

Men and women are fundamentally different.
Duh. do you think I'm a nag?


P.S. The man featured in this blog entry is a composite of just about every guy I've dated. He is in no way intended to represent Wine Guy exclusively :-)

November 11, 2007

Time Heals All Fantasies

When I was a sophomore in high school I was secretly married. Well, it wasn't so secret since my best friend Gordy and I concocted the whole thing ourselves while trading notes back and forth between classes. You see, she and I were in love with two older boys -- Tad and Barry, who were seniors no less. Tad was mine, Barry was hers. They were best friends, very popular, too cute to believe, and didn't know we were alive. But in every multi-paged note Gordy and I swapped between classes that year, our relationships grew deeper, our stories more complex. We had an elaborate double wedding, spent our time hanging out as a happy foursome, and relocated to Boston (where Gordy and I were determined to move for college- neither of us did). Our lives were happy, as any good fantasy is.

This weekend, while pouring at a blowout champagne tasting in exchange for free booze, my former fantasy husband walked right up to my table. His face didn't register a bit. I filled up his glass without a second look, assuming he was just another yuppie looking to get a buzz on fine champagne. As I finished pouring he said, "You look familiar, what's your name?" I told him my first name and he immediately responded with my last. Clearly he knew who I was, but who the hell was he?

When he told me his name in return, I was stunned. Who is this person and why would he make up such a ridiculous story? Thank goodness I took that extra moment before I decided to give my instinctive reply of "Bullshit." Before I spoke, I looked him straight in the eye and I spotted it. Deep down in his eyes I could detect that glimmer, the one I'd studied so many hours in his senior year yearbook photo.

We chatted briefly a few times over the course of the evening. He was friendly and rather harmless. Turns out, he got married to a girl from our high school a year ahead of me and settled back in our old home town about 30 minutes away. A nice enough guy, but let's just say that the magic was gone. We grew apart. Suddenly those three years of age difference, which felt like an insurmountable chasm between us in high school, were now rendered irrelevant. He looked just like every other slightly bloated, balding late 30-something married dude I know.

I think he fancies himself a wine connoisseur, so when I told him I was volunteering to pour because my boyfriend knew everyone who worked at the well-known wine shop and restaurant, I could tell he was impressed. I pointed out Wine Guy down at the other table, who was frantically doling out the Cristal and fighting off the overeager posers who wanted a sip of the most expensive (and overrated) champagne on the list. Apparently, Tad had just spent some time chatting Wine Guy up about champagne and he seemed excited to know that he was my boyfriend.

It's not everyday you are so viscerally reminded of the fantasy life you maintained as an innocent 14 year old. It's pretty trippy, especially when you are buzzing pretty hard on champagne. Even though my memory of that cute 18 year old boy had clearly turned into a real-life married schlump, I apparently only needed that little kickstart for it all to come flooding back. The awkwardness, the drama, the girl talk, the lockers stuffed with elaborately folded notes, the sincere belief that I was invisible.

Even though Tad is far from this 34 year old girl's dream guy, the newly alert adolescent in me spent the rest of the night riding on the high that Tad - Tad! - recognized me. Oh my God! That means that back then he actually knew who I was! Cool! My first instinct is to write Gordy a note (in purple pen of course) and tell her all about it. But I'm sure that her duties as a wife, teacher, and mother of two probably don't give her much time for fanciful trips down memory lane, conjuring up tossed aside alternate realities covered in cobwebs and dust. Too bad. Plus, who remembers how to fold those damn notes anyway?


November 7, 2007

Clothing in Common

Something kind of scary happened the other day. I showed up at Wine Guy's place before we headed out to run some errands around town. A boring old Saturday. When I walked in he was standing in the living room and when we saw each other we both froze. Awkward pause. We were wearing the same outfit. Well, the same fleece sweatshirt from his company, jeans and sneakers. Oh my God, are we one of those couples?

It gets worse. When we went wine tasting a few weekends ago, we both ended up buying the same sweatshirt from one of the wineries too.

Are we going to have to start calling each other before every date like teenage girls, "Oh my God! What are you wearing tonight! Not the grey fleece, right? Because that's what I'm wearing!"

If you haven't figured it out yet, Wine Guy and I are a very casual couple when it comes to clothes. Two or three sweatshirts can pretty much fill out our weekend wardrobes. This could be a big problem.

I guess it makes sense since we do have similar tastes in so many things. And I guess the fault lies with me since both items of clothing are actually menswear (technically).

Don't get me wrong, I do dress feminine and cute when the situation calls for it. But doing the normal boring couple things like running errands, watching a movie on the couch, cooking dinner at home doesn't have to require an "outfit" does it? Let's put it this way, my entire outfit decision making revolves around these two questions: Do I have to wear a bra? and Do I have to wear thong underwear? If the answer is no to at least one of those questions (especially the thong one), chances are I'll wear it.

My friend Gouda relishes any opportunity to put together a cute little outfit. Even her casual wear is adorably assembled. It drives me nuts because it just doesn't come that naturally to me (friendly jealousy I guess. Sorry Gouda, but it's true). And, frankly, there are so many other things I'd rather think about than outfit coordination. It probably would interest me more if I had the money to actually buy the clothes I want, but since I don't, I'm left pretty much uninspired and under dressed.

And Wine guy's wardrobe is, well, small to say the least. I'm not sure why because he does have very particular tastes and points out nice things when we happen to pass by a clothing store. But he is a former hippie (I still can't get him to toss those damn Birkenstocks) and I suspect doesn't value the wardrobe dilemma much either. Plus, when I contrast him with his friend Kansas Cad, a devotee of "The Game" who never misses a chance to wear a Peacock Shirt to attract the ladies..well, I'd much rather have a hippie with three t-shirts in his closet than a Player with the latest embroidered button-down shirt guaranteed to get him laid. Yuck.

I hope this disturbing matching outfits thing will end at just these two sweatshirts. Trust me, there are no plans to go out and buy matching nylon jogging suits. But I can't guarantee it won't happen again. Even while I'm typing this I recalled yet another item of clothing we share - matching t-shirts from the Ani DiFranco concert we went to a few months ago. Granted, his is gray and mine is yellow. But still.


November 5, 2007

Less of Us to Love

I have never, ever successfully completed a diet. Which means I have never, ever intentionally lost weight. I say this with full (and thankful) knowledge that I haven't really ever been overweight by more than a few pounds either. Granted, I'm not the lanky, tight-bodied thing I was at 15, but I've managed to maintain the illusion of an athletic body type. I've never felt particularly "fat" in my life -- until now. But not just any kind of fat....the mixed blessing of "Happy Fat."

I did drop a great deal of unintentional weight once before, during the months after the Naval A-hole breakup ("disappearance" is a better word). I was thrown into such a pit of despair, apparently food did not cross my mind. For those of you who know me personally (or those who've read Pork Me, Please), forgetting to eat is a BIG deal. I love me some food.

I didn't even notice my weight loss until co-workers started teasing me for my droopy pants (I hate belts). Others would compliment me on my newly slender figure. With every comment, I would cringe. Every ounce of that weight loss came from pain and misery. It was nothing I was proud of and every time someone brought it up, it just served to remind me of my most humiliating life experience to date. My response to every "Wow! You look so slim!" was a terse, "I'd rather be fat and happy."

Then one day I snapped. A sweet but busybody co-worker chirpily complimented me on my slender physique. It's sort of fuzzy because I clearly had lost my mind, but I think I said something like, "Well, maybe your husband will leave you with no warning and then see how skinny you get." Yes, I apologized profusely a few minutes later. That was rock bottom for me.

When I met Wine Guy this past April, I was slim, trim and finally on an emotional upswing. So was he, apparently having dropped almost 50 pounds just prior to meeting me. Perhaps a bit of false advertising on both of our parts because once we came together and got mushy gushy, we started adding on the pounds. At first I didn't care. Like I said, I've never had much of a weight problem and figured I could exercise it off once the honeymoon phase was over. I also remembered my curt little reply, "I'd rather be fat and happy." And, damn it, it was true and I was thankful.

But Wine Guy did care, and he soon started feeling pretty awful about himself. It's really hard to eat right when your partner isn't on board so we both kept on munching. But when the many new pairs of smaller sized pants I bought for myself a few months earlier started to become too tight, I realized I had to put a stop to this immediately.

So last week, Wine Guy and I decided to do a 21-day detox diet he had done about six months earlier. Last night we planned the meals for days 1 and 2, bought our groceries and began the diet today. So far I'm tired from no caffeine and have a headache, but I hear if you get past the first 2 or 3 days, you start feeling terrific. Please, oh please let it be true.

I'm determined to successfully finish this detox diet.Not just for me, but to support Wine Guy and get him back to where he feels as positive about himself as he deserves to. If I succeed, this just might be the first time in my life where I find the happy medium between "Skinny and Depressed" and "Fat and Happy" -- let's call it "Healthy and Happy." I guess it couldn't hurt if there was just a little less of me to love.


November 1, 2007

Always the Bridesmaid.....

I stopped trick-or-treating when I was 17, but only because the people handing out the candy started looking at me funny and asking, "Aren't you a little old to be trick-or-treating?" But I still love Halloween. The hard part is finding other grown-ups who get equally excited about playing a part for one special night a year.

I'm definitely not one of those girls who uses Halloween as an excuse to dress like a tramp. You know, the the sexy angel, sexy referee, sexy devil, sexy security guard. In fact, that kind of pisses me off. Instead, I like to pick a costume that has some sort of story. Something I can sink my teeth into for a night and pretend like I'm someone else. This year, I found my willing partner -- my good buddy Mendoza Line.

A group of us originally had plans to head downtown to see David Sedaris perform. But the show was cancelled due to last week's fires (uh, if any group of people needed a laugh right now, it's San Diegans, Lame!). So our plans for Halloween went to crap and nobody seemed to want to do anything anymore. This is the first Halloween I've known ML, since we only became fast friends last December. So I was pleasantly surprised to note her insistent excitement to still get dressed up and do something.

I was up for it, though still uninspired as far as a costume. Then ML suggested we hit the thrift stores and find cheap bridal gowns and go as Bridezillas. She found a perfect $10 number, stains and all (I can picture the mid 1990s bride, sweaty underarms, spilling wine and a little cake down her skirt towards the end of the reception). I, however, was not so lucky and needed to rethink the costume. It was then I remembered the many crumpled, still un-drycleaned bridesmaid gowns on the floor of my spare closet. All those promises from my bridal friends, "Oh, you will definitely wear this bridesmaid's dress again!" came flooding back. All lies until now.

So last night was when Dating Trooper and Mendoza Line were transformed from unmarried mid-30 somethings into Bridezilla and her depressed, jealous bridesmaid. ML looked stunning in her gown and makeshift veil. But what topped off her costume was her attitude. An all too realistic one from my seven, yes seven, bridesmaid experiences.

Now, to all my Veteran friends for whom I have walked down the aisle, don't take offense. You were all wonderful, perfect, lovely, totally kind and considerate brides. But every woman is just a teeny, tiny bit of a Bridezilla on her wedding day. And by your mid-30s when you happily attended the many weddings of all of your friends, well, let's just say that "conflicting feelings" tend to build up. And that's what ML and I got to vent last night. It was freakin' awesome.

Despite ML's gown and veil, her costume was made priceless by her foot stamping, bossing around, and whining of "IT'S MY SPECIAL DAY!" Mine was accented by my running eye makeup suggesting a night of jealous tears, smeared lipstick from too many martinis at the bar, and two small signs - one pinned to my hip that said in bloody letters, "Always the bridesmaid..." and the second fastened to the ribbon on my wilting bouquet, "Never the Bride." Our duet was topped off by my repeated attempts to stab her with my plastic, bloody knife every time she turned her back. We made a lovely pair.

I will say about 1/2 the people "got" the costume, almost all of them women. (Of course, when ML went to the bathroom, I just looked plain stupid). I could tell which ones were on our side by their facial expressions - an enthusiastic nod that said to me, "hell, yeah sister. I've been there!" Everyone else probably thought we just wanted to act out our bridal fantasies and would shout at ML as we marched by "Don't do it!"

We went downtown where the streets are choked with people in an unofficial costume parade. This is the only night of the year when I willingly visit the Gaslamp district (normally a scene of tourists, half-naked bimbos, and Navy guys all trying to score). But what other time of year can you stand on a bar patio and heckle complete strangers as they pass and not get your ass kicked?! Total heaven.

There were some priceless costumes that far outshined ours, of course. My favorites were probably the upside down guy, the group of guys in male Hooters costumes (with very tight orange shorts that just about caused a riot of howls from women and homophobic shouts from the men), and the firemen - OK the firemen were actually real and I practically had to be restrained when they drove slowly down the street in their rig waving at our hoots and hollers. (Did you know about my firefighter obsession? Let's just say that I call "Rescue Me" my "fireman porn" and refuse to allow Wine Guy to watch it with me).

If you're wondering, "Where was Wine guy for all of this?" - he was at home watching television. As our Halloween plans started to ramp up, I could tell he was feigning any sort of enthusiasm. There is nothing worse than forcing someone to dress up and go out for Halloween who isn't into it. I wanted willing partners only and a lot of laughs. So I gladly left him at home and he gladly stayed there.

We did bump in to Kansas Cad as he wandered around alone, waiting for a call to meet up with his "player" friends so he could make his moves on whatever sexy cop or sexy bunny caught his eye. He was ready for action with his "Dick in a Box" costume and was eagerly awaiting any opportunity to show his oversized member nestled in the box contraption. When he first saw us, I think he was relieved to have some company. But he quickly became disillusioned with ML and me when he realized we weren't "scoping" but actually participating in the fun. When his call came for action, he was outta there.

We had a few beers, shouted our approval, disdain, and other spontaneous color commentary at the passersby (much to the entertainment of the older couple camped out next to us). ML even struck up a conversation with a stereotypically sexy-hot Italian guy in town for a few weeks for a "robot convention" (his English was weak, so who knows what that means). She got his phone number and we're supposed to all go out for dinner one night before he leaves. Score for ML! The best part was when she picked up my plastic, oversized bloody knife and with a stabbing motion asked the Italian, "Does this translate??" Classic ML maneuver.

All in all, a successful evening. By the end of the night I had a headache from laughing so hard. I think I even came up with my costume for next year. In keeping with my "phases of life" theme, I am thinking of dressing as a Maternal Clock. Whadya think?


October 29, 2007

Fermenting a Relationship

So, our first road trip is now behind us. Although it was good overall, I will have to say it probably wasn't the fairest test of our ability to travel together since I had to work for most of the trip. Hardly a romantic getaway when I spend my days dressed like a news anchor (his description) and schmoozing while he meanders around town taking long frequent breaks to read his book in various scenic locations. Yes, I was jealous.

It wasn't until later Saturday afternoon when I could flip the switch to "weekend away together," and by then I was pretty well worn out. Nevertheless we were in wine country (the "Sideways" variety) so I managed to make the best of it.

I was a bit nervous that I would be left in the dust with the wine tasting since, well, he is called Wine Guy for a reason. I've learned to appreciate wine more since we've started dating, but I just can't get quite as excited about it as he and his friends do. But give me a kiwi infused vodka martini (which I had on Thursday night, his was jalapeno infused and spicy!) and I'm in heaven.

Anyway we were visiting one of Wine Guy's friends who's working "the harvest" at a local winery. I was prepared for lots of in-the-know wine chat and thought I'd find it interesting enough, though not my first choice of a vacation. I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed the experience -and the wine. At one of her friend's wineries, we got a private tasting and tour and even got to sip partially fermented grenache right out of the tank! Pretty cool. It's amazing how much you learn without even trying. But, then again, I suppose your tongue really is doing all the work.

Enough of the travel log. I'm sure you want to know the dirt - did we get on each other's nerves or what? The answer: Sometimes. Which is about what you should expect. But there were two outstanding realizations I had that are worth sharing with the world as they further cemented in my mind just how lucky I am to have found this person. Here they are:

1) He not only doesn't hate that I sing along loudly and poorly to cheezy music in the car, but he even sings along with me. I brought my iPod, which is full of every awful song I know every word to (I admit I am anything but a music snob). With every new song I chose, I pushed the envelope a little further to see when he would draw the line. Any second I was expecting to hear, "That's it! I refuse to allow Bon Jovi!" But he indulged me, though he did request a few of his favorites which I was unable to provide. I thought for sure I would get nixed at the Carpenters. But when "Top of the World" came on he hushed me, saying, "I love this song." We arrived at the winery in mid-duet and let the car run while we sat in the parking lot belting out the song at the top of our lungs. Our friends following behind us in another car finally walked up to our car to see what was keeping us. When they opened my door and heard the 70's extravaganza coming from inside, I heard, 'you gotta be kidding me!" followed by a slammed door. We laughed but didn't miss a word til the song reached its sappy conclusion.

2) I've told you this before: when tired and undernourished, I can be quite a handful (see Dating on an Empty Stomach if you haven't already). The word is "hangry" if you recall. This happened a couple of times over the four days we travelled together. It got to the point when I'm sure Wine Guy would have been happy to pull over to the side of road and leave me there, pouting. But he didn't. He didn't let me walk all over him either, which in hindsight I appreciate. But he also didn't lose his temper and let it spiral out of control either. He just let it ride. Perfect response. Later, when my blood sugar was back to normal and I apologized (yet again) he responded, "That's OK. I actually think it's kind of funny when you get mad." Hey, whatever gets him through it (and keeps him still wanting to be with me). God bless the fates that brought me this man.

Oh, and trust me, I put up with plenty from him too. I just vowed that this blog was not going to be a bitch session about my boyfriend since that wouldn't be all that fair now, would it? Wine Guy thinks I'm painting him as too perfect and perhaps romanticized. So feel free to project whatever annoying habits you expect from a man on to Wine Guy. I'm sure he will appreciate it :-)


October 27, 2007

A Dubious Legacy

One of my favorite things to do on a slow day is visit my site tracker stats and see how people are finding my blog, including the different Google word searches that lead to my various posts. I've been doing this long enough now that I've noticed a few patterns - one inspires me and another, well, I can't decide if I should be proud or terribly embarrassed. I'll leave that up to you to decide.

We'll start with the first one. The typical keyword search is something like this:
"guy disappears after three months of dating."

I can't tell you how many variations on this I have seen so far.
"guy stops calling"
"guy blows me off"
"he won't call me back"

I know from my own experiences how common themale disappearing act is and I've shared these experiences with you before (see the Invisible Man and the terrible tale of Naval A-hole). Which is why these sad, desperate Google searches are leading women to my blog. I can so easily picture the woman sitting at her computer, tears welling up in her eyes, phone sitting silently beside her as she kills time online in search of some words of comfort. It was going so well, wasn't it? What did I do to scare him off? I know he's busy, but if he really wanted to talk to me, he'd find the time to call, right?

I know you've been there. It sucks. My friend Mendoza Line came up with the perfect term for this: The Sucking Vortex. I can just picture the guy in question desperately trying to get to the phone to call me. But he can't because he's trapped inside this beast, this sucking vortex -- where he can stay forever as far as I'm concerned. Judging from my research so far, he certainly has plenty of company in that cozy little vortex.

When I think of how these women are finding my blog, I feel somewhat inspired. Perhaps reading about my similar experiences helps them put their misery in perspective. Perhaps not, but I like to think so. Of course, every time I see another one of these search terms on my stat report, I also lose a little faith in men too.

OK, on to the second pattern that leaves me a little less inspired. The search terms go something like this:
"Dating she farted"
"my date has lactose intolerance and farts"
"farting in my sleep"

The frequency of this genre of search terms is astounding, so clearly the public outing of my humiliation (see Night of Terror) is meeting some need. In my experience, getting that awful gaseous moment out of the way in a relationship is about as significant as having "the talk." Hopefully it's a moment that inspires laughter. But I suspect for many it is mortifying. so I'm glad that my writing is helping ease some of that pain.

But really, is this my legacy?


October 24, 2007

Our First Disaster

The eerie Santa Ana winds are dying down and so is the sense of doom they seem to carry. The fires still burn, but the spread has slowed, my mom is back in her home, and the local news is actually signing off to allow for primetime network television (God forbid we miss our "So You Think You Can Dance"). I even went in to work for a few hours today, though I was the only one in the building. But don't get me wrong - things here will probably never get back to "normal" again.

Wine Guy and I are heading out of town tomorrow, making our way up to California's Central Coast. An amazing place and one that actually isn't on fire (that I know of anyway). I have to work the first 2 days but then the two of us will get to do something we've never done before as a couple - enjoy a weekend away together.

Under normal non-fire circumstances, this trip would have warranted a speculative blog entry about what we might learn about each other on this significant relationship "first." Traveling with someone for the first time is always a milestone, whether it's a friend or romantic partner. You know, those little stresses that reveal a new (usually undesirable) character trait, a partner's tendency to overpack, another's unacceptable preferences for road trip "munchies" (When I road tripped with Mendoza Line for the first time, I was deeply wounded when she forbid me from bringing beef jerky into the car. A road trip without jerky? Are you kidding me??).

I'm sure Wine Guy and I will have all of these little experiences together this weekend, but they will just seem so small compared to what what we've just experienced - our first disaster.

It was reassuring when I realized early on this week that Wine Guy was as deeply affected as I with all that has been going on. Sure, everyone is feeling this tragedy on some level, but some differently than others. Instead of being near each other during all of this, we were with each other. Does that make sense?

And not only is it nice when your partner shares your vibe during a disaster, but it doesn't hurt when he feeds you as well. Yes, the quickest way to my heart is, without a doubt, through my stomach.

The other night as Mendoza, Gouda and Scotty were arriving for an evening of blowing off some steam, Wine Guy walked through the front door weighed down with Trader Joe's grocery bags. When he went back to the car to get the next load, I peeked in to see carne asada for grilling, guacamole, pita and hummus, wine, beer and bars of dark chocolate. I popped my head up out the bag, turned to Mendoza who was standing beside me and boldly stated, "THIS is why I love him."

I hadn't "declared our love" (ugh) in front of anyone but Wine Guy yet. But this time was a no-brainer.

Hope everyone is safe, sound and eating well too.


October 22, 2007

World on Fire

I'm sure you heard that Southern California is ablaze. From where I sit here in San Diego, it might as well be the entire world.

I'm safe and my loved ones are safe, though I already know two people who've lost everything. I can't imagine how many more times I will hear this awful news in the coming days. This thing is far from over.

It's hard to believe I flew to Northern California just this morning for a work trip. It wasn't easy to leave my community behind while it burned and, by the time I arrived at the Bay Area office, the situation had worsened. My mom was evacuated (she and her house are fine) and making her way to my brother's house on the coast.

Even if there were no fires, today was promising to be a dark day for my family. My mom was supposed to take our beloved 18 year old cat to the veterinarian to be euthanized (she's been on her last legs and suffering for months). But the vet - along with everyone else - couldn't get to work, so poor skin-and-bones kitty was whisked away in my mom's car amidst the evacuation frenzy.

When word spread to my Bay Area colleagues what was going on in my home town, I was sent back to the airport. Within two hours of landing in Oakland, I was in flight and headed home to the brown-orange skies of San Diego.

I drove straight to Wine Guy's place. His office was shut down, along with everyone else's, and he was home experimenting with cookie recipes (seriously) and listening to the worsening news. We embraced and commiserated and then I started dialing.

First I made sure my mom was safe and then contacted another friend to make sure she and her family got out of Rancho Bernardo in one piece (they did and were readying themselves for a restless night in the Miramar military barracks).

After those pressing calls, I finally had time to think about my own situation. I was safe physically, but I was scared (hey, I still am). Everyone I knew was safely ensconced with their families. Now it was time to get my family together.

It didn't occur to me until later tonight, after my friends left the impromptu party at my house, that the "family" I selected in this situation happened to be my unmarried friends.

I've always said, "My friends are my family." But over the last few years, that statement started to sting a bit as many of my dearest friends got married and started growing their own families. As much as they still loved me, I simply wasn't their family anymore.

With disaster all around and the knowledge that our world here will be forever changed once this horrible week (or more?) is over, I instinctively reached out to my unmarried friends. I couldn't bear the thought of Mendoza, Gouda, Scotty -- all with immediate family far away --going through this without a familial safe zone around them.

So tonight we gathered at my place to drink, eat and watch the world burn on TV. The news grew unbearable, so we turned it off for awhile and sat on my patio sipping wine, eating tasty carne asada burritos prepared by (who else?) Wine Guy, taking self-timer pictures and loving on Mendoza's dog. For a few hours, this impromptu "family" found comfort (and many drinks) with each other. I think I even managed a few carefree giggles.

About an hour ago I popped inside for a bathroom break and made the mistake of flicking on the TV and seeing that the news had grown even worse. Evacuations at the coast. Precautionary, but still scary as hell. I even saw the words "Camp Pendleton" and "evacuation" scroll across the bottom of the screen. Not good since my mom and brother's family are in nearby Oceanside. I'll just hope that is precautionary too. Because every time I see the maps on the news with the growing number of cute little flame logos spread across all corners of the screen, I'm just start to feel, well, trapped.

Work is closed again tomorrow (and likely Wednesday), so I think I might just keep drinking. Wish us luck. Dismissed.

October 21, 2007

Mom Imposter

I'm sure many of you can relate to this. After the frenzy of everyone else's engagement parties, bridal showers and weddings in your 20s and 30s, you become inundated with baby showers, birth announcements and emails with photos of shrivelled alien frog babies attached. I've gotten used to these life passages that have passed me by and have managed to find peace with the limited time I now get with my new mom friends. We keep in touch with emails, occasional phone calls when they have a free moment in the car, and planned far in advance lunch outings. And with the rest of my free time, I went out and found new single friends.

Now I'm getting old enough to have friends with multiple children. This means they have even less time for me. The upside is, when they do manage it, they are so much less uptight as they've gotten used to the mom gig and actually appreciate a break from the kids when a friend comes to visit.

So yesterday I drove to the 'burbs of Orange County to visit two of my girlfriends from my 20-something L.A. days -- Mrs. Clever and StyleMom. Clever, who is about a year and a half younger than me, just gave birth to her fourth child, and she is the only person I know who could handle such a brood with grace and enthusiasm. I'm pretty sure she and Mr. Clever are trying to raise their own soccer team.

StyleMom has a two year old girl and, being that she works in fashion, looks as put together and serene as she did pre-child. I can't imagine her with spit-up or food stains on her wrinkle-free blouse.

And then there's me.

I admit I usually get a bit depressed after I spend time with them. Nothing personal. It's just that 90% of the conversation is about children, husbands, in-laws and new life experiences I have only dared to imagine for myself on really good days. I end up feeling, well, insignificant in these conversations, despite their good faith efforts to include me (really, there's only so many ways to answer the question, "How is your cat these days?").

But this time I didn't get depressed. Probably because I'm happy and in a relationship with some wonderful lifelong potential (shh...don't tell fate I just said that). But also because I missed Clever and Style a great deal. It feels wonderful to be with old friends again.

After a three hour lunch of catching up and way too many iced tea refills, the ladies when to the bathroom and left me with the one kid that was allowed to come along, Clever's two week old baby. There we stood just inside the front door of the busy restaurant, BabyClever quietly ensconced in her carriage while I stood looking over her - frozen. Me, the baby. Alone. Staring at each other.

There was a good deal of foot traffic as people entered and exited the restaurant. As each one brushed past us, my mind raced with questions. Would any of these people mistake me for a mom? Do I wear my inexperience like a tattoo on my forehead? I felt like a poser. But it was intriguing. Could I pass?

Two women entered the restaurant and I knew immediately they were going to test me on this.

"Awwww, what a sweet little baby!" They stopped in their tracks behind me and peered over my shoulder. I continued to stare at BabyClever.

The other one cooed, "She's so little. What a cutie!"

I was as still as a statue, my eyes locked on BabyClever who did nothing to help me. Was I supposed to say something back? Should I let them think it's mine? Would they know right away I was faking it? I broke out into a bit of a cold sweat as the pause lengthened and the women refused to budge.

I'm not one for awkward pauses. In fact, I usually make them worse. This was no exception. I blurted out, "Uh, she's not mine."


"Her mom's in there, " I said, jabbing my finger at the bathroom door.

Predictably, I rambled on. "I, uh, don't have any kids. So I don't know what to say when someone says something about the baby." I laughed like an idiot, hoping that maybe they might understand my position. They didn't.

They replied with awkward courtesy laughs and I finally forced myself to turn around to face them.

The older of the two women persisted, clearly enjoying this torture. "How old is she?"

Shit. Mom-types are always so damn specific with this kind of answer. "Oh, she's 24 days, 5 hours and twelve minutes. I had no freakin' idea. She's new goddammit - just look at her for God's sake! That's all I could remember at the moment. But this woman expected some sort of answer.
I resigned myself to failing the test and answered with a shrug, "A couple weeks?"

Judging from the older woman's look of quizzical concern, this was clearly an unacceptable answer. They mercifully decided to give up and made their way to the hostess stand. I'm sure they considered placing a surreptitious call to Child Protective Services since someone had clearly left a newborn baby with an incompetent moron.

Finally alone again with BabyClever, I exhaled with relief as I leaned over the carriage to pretend I was fussing with her blanket. When we locked eyes again something happened. I burst out laughing. I couldn't wait for Clever and Style to come out of the bathroom so I could share this interaction with them.

I guarantee if this same thing happened a few months ago, I would have kept it to myself and went home feeling sad, isolated, lonely and ashamed. Convinced there would never be a time or a place when someone out there would look at me and think, "That woman is a mother." I would always be an outsider in this world.

But this time was different. All I could do was laugh. It was just damn funny. Who I am right now is who I am. Where I am in my life is where I'm at. And there's nothing I can do but live my life, enjoy my friends, and laugh.

Clever and Style came out of the bathroom a few minutes later and I told them the story with an odd sort of pride. Even if I am an outsider, at least my own inside jokes keep me pretty damn entertained.