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

July 27, 2009

Bare Fingers

A confession. Well, I didn't realize that this was something worthy of confession until I accidentally mentioned it while paddling around the swimming pool with Mendoza Line and Bubbles the other day.

See, Bubbles was telling us about her adventure one Saturday night trying to help a drunken married couple find the large diamond that had fallen out of the wife's engagement ring earlier in the evening. This involved desperate searching throughout the rented limo they were in, backtracking to several drop off points along their way home, and finally miraculously locating the stone in a far corner of the bar they had been at - after it had been cleaned. Amazing and damn lucky for them. Apparently it was not insured. Bad idea.

Anyway, that led into engagement ring conversation. Mendoza Line and Bubbles (both single) made it clear they were not the obnoxious diamond engagement ring kind of girls. So I chime in that having a beautiful engagement ring (not obnoxiously huge, thank you) has long been something I've wanted. But these days, it does seem ridiculous to spend what could go towards a down payment on a home (something that Wine Guy and I would both love to be able to scrape up somehow) on a piece of jewelry.

I should add that Wine Guy - forever one to buck the establishment - is quite opposed to dropping major cash on an engagement ring. When I first learned this - long before we were close to actually considering getting married - I was disappointed. But with the economy and the American debt-laden lifestyle thrown into disarray, investing so much month in The Ring all of a sudden seems extravagantly wasteful.

But that doesn't mean I don't want one. Just something far simpler than I used to desire. As I expressed to Wine Guy with a wink and smile that pretty much shut him up one day, "You know, a ring that costs about what you spent on the Wii and all of its accessories a few months ago."

But I didn't use to think like this. I'm not a huge jewelry/accessories kind of girl, but my whole life I've always like rings. And I used to wear them all the time. My mom even bought me a "princessy" sapphire and diamond-chip ring in high school, and I wore it constantly - at track practice, tennis, soccer, the beach.....

When I was faux-engaged to Only Child, I was finally able to indulge my ring fantasies and began browsing jewelry shops and online stores in earnest, researching diamond cuts, metals, and settings. I had the thing all picked out and priced - even knew the damn jeweler by name - before I figured out that Only Child was never really going to follow through on his bullshit proposal.

So, yeah, I have some ring baggage. That's why this newfound realization that I'd rather be married to Wine Guy than show the world that I have a beautiful engagement ring - well, that came as a huge relief actually. (Not that we are engaged yet!)

Back to the pool. Once I tell Mendoza Line and Bubbles about my new perspective, I keep talking. When will I learn?! I tell them about how, during my faux-engagement and subsequent waiting for the ring, I became concerned (at my mother's suggestion) about my fingernails. Yes, my nails. See, I bite them. Always have, always will. Bite, pick, mess with...whatever. I just can't not do it. Terrible, I know.

So my mom somehow gets it into my head that my hands should look beautiful for when I get the ring. I believe her. Since I know I can't stop my bad habit (nor do I have time because, well, the ring is coming soon after all), I go and get gel nails with tips. I can't even believe I'm doing it. Even walking into the manicurist I'm mortified to show her my short stubs and ask her to stick falsies on them.

But I do it - and I get them short. Just barely over my fingertips and nice and blunt. Nothing long and spiky. As short as they are, I can still barely manage to button my jeans and am sticker-shocked by the cost of it all, along with the frequent fillings and repairs of broken tips. But I admit that my hands look pretty damn good. Engagement ring-ready good.

Needless to say, when Only Child confessed that the ring wasn't coming, I tore those nails off in a frenzied fit of tears. And to this day I associate nicely manicured hands with the thing that has so cruelly eluded me in the past.

After I tell Mendoza Line and Bubbles a brief version of this story, they both just floated there, staring at me in what seemed to be amused horror. I did what? Why? That is so ridiculous?!

Yes, I felt like a complete idiot. For doing it, yes. But also for confessing it to them. But as I write out the story here - with all the background that goes along with it (which they didn't really get) - I have more compassion for myself. And I feel a whole lot better about my "position" on The Ring these days. Because, well, you have to have position on such things, right?


July 16, 2009

Portland Purge

Whenever I travel alone, I think about him. Especially when I get off of the plane and walk into the terminal where my fellow passengers meet and greet their awaiting companions. That's where he would be. And I would see him from far down the corridor, his buzzed blonde hair a few inches above everyone else's, bobbing up and down as he jumped with excitement to see me and sweep me up in his arms. This remains one of the most romantic memories of my life, so far.

It's been three years since he smashed my already bruised heart into pieces. Or is it four? I'm not sure and for some reason I have a mental block that won't let me do the math to trace back my failed relationships. It makes me feel old and I think it would hurt too much to face the cold, hard, clear facts. So I settle for a hazy timeline of heartbreak instead.

I don't want to think about him. And I've come a long way over the years in shaving down the amount of times he crosses my mind. From every minute, to every hour, to every other day and, for the last year, every month or so. Or whenever I get off of a plane alone.

But this trip - and the anticipation leading up to it -- has shoved my progress back. He's been on my mind every day, several times a day. And it's not a longing I'm feeling. Or sadness. Or self pity. It's anger. Still, after all this time, anger.

Why is this trip having such a strong affect? Well, first of all I'm in Portland, Oregon. It's not Seattle, the city where I flew every other weekend for almost a year to visit him - right up until he literally vanished from my life with no explanation. But it's the Pacific Northwest and I can't help but associate the entire region with him. The deep green trees, the rivers, the flannel.

I'm here for work but Wine Guy and I decided to transition my business trip into a mini vacation for the two of us. He arrives tonight and we will enjoy the city for the weekend, then head out to the Oregon coast for a few more days. Wine Guy and I haven't traveled together all that often so I've kind of built this trip up in my head, convinced that it will be a romantic little getaway - bed and breakfast and all.

Traveling. Boyfriend. Pacific Northwest. Romance.
This all adds up to painful memories of Naval A-hole.

Being typically self-destructive, I revived my stalkerish Google searching habit to see if I could find out where he might be. A few years ago I discovered that he was in Norfolk, probably gearing up to deploy on an aircraft carrier to the Middle East. I liked to think of him stuck on a cramped, gray ship with nothing to do but run on a treadmill and get teased by his fellow shipmates. Of course, that's the part of it he enjoyed, but to me it sounds like hell. And that's where I want him - in hell.

Up until this trip with Wine Guy popped up on the calendar, I hadn't Googled him in quite some time. So I was surprised when his name got a solid hit. It wasn't much, only a few words from a tiny local newspaper - and not even a complete sentence. But the impact of those few words was huge.

The headline: Marriage Licenses, January 11, 2009
Then a list of names, ages and hometowns. The end of the list included his - Naval A-hole, 34 - and hers - SmallTown Girl, 26.

There it was. He was back in bumfuck Washington state. He was married. To a 26 year old local girl.

At first I wanted to cry and throw my computer across the room."He's happy! He's married! He found a young, little chippy who'll go along with anything he says! Noooooooo!!!!!!"

But I tried not to let these thoughts escalate. Instead I sat on them, analyzed them. Tried to figure out what they were really about and, to quote annoying Dr. Phil, evaluate if they were "working for me."

Of course they weren't. On the surface, I was experiencing a petty, stupid jealousy, tinged by the fact that I remain unmarried. Wah, wah, wah. Look deeper.

Let's begin with my relationship with Wine Guy. We are happy. We have a future together - and a present that's doing great. He knows what I want and I trust that we will get there. And, of course, life is not a race. (I do finally believe that, but it took awhile).

Now let us examine Naval A-hole and try to picture what life would be like if he never dumped me and I got exactly what I wanted at the time. I would be the wife of a Naval Flight Officer, living in a shithole Navy town in the middle of a sunless nowhere, watching a bunch of straight-laced, testosterone heavy men play video games and drink beer every weekend. Or sit home alone while he was deployed far away on a ship.

No fucking way.

I'm thankful that I didn't get what I wanted. But still pissed off that he discarded me like a meaningless piece of trash.

So here I am in Portland, wandering the town in between conference sessions, still kind of stewing and not knowing exactly why.

If anyone can claim they were as wounded as I was by Naval A-hole's actions, it's my mom. I was nervous to tell her about this latest news and actually sat on the information for a few weeks, probably because I hate to see her upset when A-hole comes up. But when I keep things from my mom it feels like there is something "bad" about it all, so I decided I should tell her and hope that once I aired it out I might feel better. I called her on a break and left a message saying I have some gossip about Naval A-hole. She called back eager to hear the news.

She didn't react too strongly, probably terrified that she'd say something to upset me. (Yes, we walk on eggshells often when we speak to each other - gotta love the mother/daughter dynamic). But when I told her how I felt grateful for not being with him when I envision my life as his wife, she said something that nailed it down.
First she disregarded the notion that I missed out on anything not being with him, and then she said, "I just don't want him to be happy!"

I couldn't agree more. But here he is, married to a 26 year old and living in a little town that I know he kind of liked (a few miles away from crappy Navy town).

And then I remembered something I've been saying for years -- and even said to Naval A-hole a few times. Men have so much less to worry about when it comes to marriage. They can relax and wait as long as they want because there will always be a 26 year old girl for them to marry.

I'm sad to say that Naval A-hole proved my point. But who is this girl? From what little I could find about her on Google, I learned that she works for a small boat charter company and very likely has never left her hometown. I imagine (hope) that she's slightly docile, gullible, and won't challenge A-hole's existence in any way. Like I probably did (especially when I expressed that I wasn't eager to live the Navy wife life).

Whether he's happy or not with this kind of girl...well, I guess I can't concern myself with that. I could hope and pray that karma actually exists and that a person like A-hole will pay the price for the poor choices he's made. But what I really want to do is Stop. Thinking. About. Him. Forever.

That's why I'm writing about this today, hoping for some sort of purge. Especially before Wine Guy arrives tonight. He deserves all of my heartfelt attention. And I can't let Naval A-hole rob me of happiness for one more second.

I'm considering myself purged. Fuck him.

July 2, 2009

Everything in its Place

It's a tension that has slowly built up over the year that Wine Guy and I have lived together. Every day we bring more of it into the house - mail, brochures, coupons, greeting cards, invitations, receipts. Basically, crap. And it never ends.

I'm no neat freak. In fact, I'm kind of messy. But I am big on knowing where things are and putting them in their properly dedicated place. This means I rarely spend ten minutes tearing the house apart looking for the receipt I need to return something. I generally know where my keys are and my bills get paid on time because they are placed right next to my computer so they can't be missed.

Because Wine Guy and I are new to both living together and the townhouse where we reside, the organizational routine that carried me through six years living alone is all screwed up. I attempted to get a handle on the clutter during the first few months of cohabitation, but I quickly realized that the disorganization I noticed at Wine Guy's previous apartment was no fluke, and that this struggle was just turning me into a nag.

I would just organize it all myself, except that I have no idea what stuff of his is important and what isn't. Trust me, I've tried in the past and gotten rebuked for throwing away some crumpled up piece of paper that was apparently necessary to him. Do you see my rock and hard place now?

So I gave up and tried to mind my own business and continue filing my own stuff away, while his piled up. But it's not like being organized is easy for me, and after awhile - especially once his piles started taking over - I think I just threw in the towel with the sentiment "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." And the piles continued to grow.

But every day when I came home and opened that front door, I could feel a little anxiety tickle the back of my throat. Too. Much. Shit. Everywhere. Where do I put the new shit I'm bringing in? Deep breathes, deep breaths.

This is not working for me.

Rather than tell Wine Guy that he "needs to clean up" his stuff, I thought I might try creatively shuffling it around in a way that would cause me less anxiety and still preserve the sanctity of his crap pile. So I hit Pier 1 during their big summer sale and found two baskets that looked promising - one for all the new Wii video game paraphernalia scattered about the living room, and another to help organize (and filter) the mail.

When I came home from knitting group Tuesday night, I brought in the baskets and just started putting things in them, nicely stacked. He didn't seem to mind since I wasn't really asking him to do anything. I started with the video game stuff, then hit the mountain of papers on the dining room and buffet tables.

Inevitably, I had to start asking him, "Do you need this?" and "Is this important?" But instead of getting annoyed with all the questions, he actually seemed kind of interested and soon came over and started sorting through the piles himself. Perhaps they were getting to him too.

The next two hours were quite unexpected. We became cleaning, sorting, organizing machines. And it was beautiful. No longer was it me tentatively butting in to whatever he was doing to see if I could throw something away. No longer was it him rolling his eyes at me when I tell him that his piles are causing me stress. No longer was it me smugly watching as he rips through the piles trying to find that car insurance bill he just realized he forgot to pay.

No, this was pure organizational teamwork. Now that we finally have a feel for the awkward layout of our place, we could finally make informed decisions about how to organize to suit how we live. Mail sorting happens here. Magazines go here. Fun tidbits go here. The vitamins, nail clippers and deodorant that he insists on keeping in the dining area are hidden here.

We were brainstorming, laughing, thinking, improving. This was especially satisfying for someone who craves organization like me. I mean, my favorite place to go as a kid was the local office supply store where I would browse the aisles looking at folders, notepads and post-its, thinking of ways I could improve my organizational system for the next school year. Yes, I was (and am) a dork.

I came up with a term to describe just how damn happy that evening made me. Yes, this was my very first "Organigasm."

Here's to many more (but I'm not holding my breath).