Blog That’s So Sorry–Baby, Won’t You Take This Blog Back?

Blog That’s So Sorry–Baby, Won’t You Take This Blog Back?

It’s been two months since posting, a fact which has not gone unnoticed by a coterie of my fans who frequent the Valero gas station near my gym. They’re all like Hey baby! Nice shake! Also, I really enjoy your feminist take on the inevitable descent into middle age! Watchu think bout this male gaze? Etc.

I have a penpal in Brooklyn who I’m bad at getting back to and so begin every email with a quick rendering of how busy I’ve been, which is really just a windy way of saying sorry, a word that flies out of my mouth with a kind of humiliating frequency and which I’m trying to eliminate, even when I am actually sorry. I have no doubt there are men, some of whom I’m related to, who have never said the word outside of quoting some Goodfellas scene where someone says it, and probably then only mocking someone they’re about to kill who’s all I’m sorry, Tony. I didn’t know she was your broad or whatever they say. I have, of course, seen Goodfellas, but only in the company of Men I Was Kind of Dating, such as one fellow who put it on nearly every night of our two-week relationship and then proceeded to put the moves on me. This is not the weirdest thing that, back in my roving days, men used to put on as the background to awkward seduction, a list which includes but is not limited to: Nine Inch Nails, Carl Sagan PBS specials, Eraserhead, covers of Bob Marley songs by white women, and Rain Man. Guh. Which is all to say I’m trying to embrace the obstinate cluelessness of the modern American male (straight Gen-X version, at least) and neither apologize nor explain what I’ve been up to instead of writing here.

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Man, this puts me in the mood.

Instead, what I want to talk about is how we find ways to keep doing what we love when no one we love gives a shit about it. For me, that is obviously both poetry and fast food worker cosplay. You can check out my work on the latter on the blog FrenchFryFetishist, so for this blog, I’ll talk about the former: poetry.

Wait! Come back! You won’t have to read any poetry, I swear.

I get it, the not getting it. I understand the panic induced in most Americans when someone brings up “poetry” in conversation. What I most often notice is a stiffening of the limbs and a total stoppage in blinking, as if by going camouflage and pretending to be a tree, they will have tricked the speaker into thinking Huh, I could have sworn Pedro was just here but all I see is this tree so I guess I’ll stop talking about poetry. This is what my mother does. She’ll ask what I’ve been doing and so I mention I’ve got some poems in a journal, and upon hearing the word poems, she goes catatonic, refusing to breathe or make eye contact until I change the subject.

Again–I get that poetry infuses many people with the feeling of having to take a pop quiz, probably because most of our exposure to poetry is in school and is usually taught in such a way as to make us hate poetry. As a college prof who has a lot of education majors in her literature class, I know now that one of the reasons for this is that a healthy number of those teaching English in middle/high schools are afraid of poetry, and they pass this on to their students, focusing on identifying rhyme schemes and teaching symbolism as an equation, wherein reading a poem becomes breaking a code, when if you do it right, everything clicks into place and there are no more questions. Of course, this is not all teachers, and maybe it’s changed since my generation was in school diagramming sentences and using a spell check called a fucking dictionary, but it does seem that, outside of poets, no one I know likes poetry.

I’m raising more questions than I will answer now because at this point I don’t want to talk about the nature of poetry or the American readership–I just want to talk about me. My first real exposure to poetry (outside of memorizing “Casey at the Bat” in the fifth grade) was decoding Robert Frost’s “Fire and Ice” in Mrs. Smith’s eighth grade honors English class. She used an overhead projector and spent two full class periods asking us to decipher the poem’s techniques, with no discussion of how we connected to or understood the poem’s themes of mortality and self-destruction which, given our age, we maybe didn’t have much to say about anyway. It was this experience, burned into my brain for almost 30 years, that made me realize poetry, with its rigid structures and refusal to say the thing it wants to say, was the fucking worst.

Years of high school and college did nothing to counter that conclusion. I did not grow up in a place or in a community where there were poetry readings or really just reading, and so unlike many poets who declare that they knew at age 11 what they were meant to do, it wasn’t until I was 21 that I understood poetry to be a thing that made life better. I was an English major and “got” poetry in the sense that I was assigned poems by dead people to write about and I did and got an “A,” but I did not get poetry. It wasn’t until, cliche though it may sound, I took a semester-long graduate seminar on Sylvia Plath that a poem crawled into my brain and whispered this is the thing you’ve been searching for how to say. Though it would be another 17 years until I could take myself seriously as a poet, that’s when the seed was planted: by the lyrical genius of Plath, one of the  greatest, and most misunderstood, American poets in history.

That I left college at all with a passion for poetry was a lucky confluence of scheduling and intellectual readiness, and I’m beginning to understand how much an appreciation of poetry has to do with privilege, particularly class, educational, and geographic privilege. How can you know if you’re supposed to be a poet if no one you’ve ever known talks about, reads, thinks about poetry? Certainly there are some rare geniuses who find a collection of Emily Dickinson in the school library and are thunderstruck into self-realization, but for most of us, it’s not possible to imagine a life if we haven’t seen it lived by someone else. At least, it wasn’t for me, and a life of poetry is not really imaginable to anyone I love, and I’m too early in my professional career as a poet (who just made a sweet $67 from publishing two poems in Boulevard, y’all!) to make it seem real to them.

What this means in a practical sense is that it’s often hard to keep pushing through all the rejections and hard work of writing (which often looks like staring out the window but is in fact me deleting scores of bad lines and images in my brain). I think it’s hard for any writer, but if you write fiction or nonfiction, there’s a good chance your loved ones understand what a novel or a memoir are. When someone asks you what your book’s about, you can give them an answer like It’s about a woman who finds a fish in her purse that turns out to be her husband in a former life and they open a detective agency and they will nod their heads and get it. But when a non-poetry reader asks a poet what her book is about and she says It’s a rumination on the development of a female/woman self in reaction and resistance to 20th century America’s enforcement of gender roles, exploring these ideas through narrative lyrics on childbirth, postpartum depression, abuse, and poverty then NO ONE WILL EVER ASK YOU AGAIN ABOUT ANY WRITING, EVER. So you say: poems.  And they say: oh.

Which, again, I get. I’m even a little grossed out by how to talk about poems. Poets can be a bit much.

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Gunter Grass’ School of Looking Like a Poet. C’est ne pas un pipe, naturellement.

I’m hoping this isn’t whinging (which is British for either whining or fucking a crumpet) but rather a way of asking a genuine question: what to do when the Venn circles of What You Love and Whom You Love don’t overlap? When What You Love isn’t just a hobby (see: middle-aged softball leagues) but one of the primary ways in which you identify yourself. So if how you see yourself is by being X, and the people who love you don’t want to talk about X, where do you go?

Traditionally people go to a community of like-minded souls outside of their families for this support. The sticky point here is that the small city where I live (rhymes with Schmalbuquerque) isn’t a big town for poets. No–let me refine that: it is a YUGE town for slam poets. If you are a slam poet, stop driving and pull up some dirt, cuz this here is your open mic oasis. But if you are a poet (and I’m using that to refer to someone who uses the limitations of the page and not performance to drive and develop meaning), then this is not such a great place. There are no reading serieses (series? seriei?), and most events feature approximately the same four slam poets, with no real demand to change that formula.

I’m truly glad there’s a place for these writers here, for those stories and perceptions and performances to be shared, but I want that for the rest of us, too. I want events that diversify and complicate people’s expectations and understanding of the power of poetry. I want a place to go to in order to hear kickass writers that’s worth getting a babysitter for the evening.

So, this is all a long way of saying that I, along with the fabulously talented poet Rebecca Aronson, am starting something we hope will do this: the Bad Mouth Reading Series, and I will tell you more about it later. But in our minds, there is wine and high quality literary shit and some music and it’s for grownups who have a bunch of shit to do and so will not fuck around with amateur hour. We’ll highlight women (yay!) and also whoever’s not a woman (that’s cool too!) and people from diverse backgrounds and outlooks. And maybe, because it’s Burque and this place makes everything hard, we’ll have to give up in six months, but GODDAMNIT LET’S TRY!

And maybe I will get my mom to go. Maybe I can get her to like it.

 

(Stay tuned for Bad Mouth–more info later in May!)

 

 

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Blog That’s Really a Cigarette Butt I Found on the Floor of My Car the Morning After Someone Broke Into It, Rifled Through the Glove Compartment, and Possibly Leafed Through A Library Book on Allosaurus

I know what you thought–that I’d ghosted you, as the youth say. An Irish Goodbye, if you will. One minute here, regaling you with tales of burrito selfies and de-sebumed pores, then–POOF! In the wind, on the lam, a dame with no regard for the heart of a sap like you.

It’s not that, though. It’s not you, and it’s not me. It’s This Modern Life. I’m Virginia Slim, come a long way, baby, but now I’m out of breath and de-passe. What I’m trying to squeeze through the 1980’s advertising slush pile that is moonlighting as my brain is that I am fucking tired. And I am also so, so grown-up, in all of the un-fun ways that word means.

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A candid of me in the office.

But first, let me say that while I did not abandon my project of trying to do a new thing every day, I amended it to “try to do some new or special things sometimes.” Every day, even as part of a one-time countdown to Liver Spot Lane in lovely Oldsville, Cronesylvania, is just too much. So, what I did instead was, whenever something came up that I kind of wanted to do but usually say no to because it takes too much coordination and/or furtive soul exchanges on a dirt lane outside a German village, I said let me see if I can make that happen, and sometimes, I did. That has led to me enjoying or participating in the following:

  • a manicure
  • a haircut (I have what can be euphemistically described as “complicated” hair and should get these frequently, but see previous entries for why not)
  • a Sunday run with Runners Borrachos, a gang of smart types who get together and do a 5K then drink beer. I never go because of child care issues, but this time I did, and while I enjoy neither running outside in weather or the spirit of athletic competition, I did like the beer and talking at the end.
  • babysitting my niece for no damn reason other than I volunteered because I think I need to make a deposit in the Karma Bank. Also, I looooooooove her.
  • making dinner for my mom on a weeknight like I just entertain or something
  • wearing yoga pants out of the house as actual pants
  • buying a cake mix my son picked out for his school cupcakes instead of making them from scratch as I usually do. This actually works out because 5-year-olds don’t give a shit about my ginger lemon buttercream. Children have the palate of Las Vegas manhole cover.

I feel like it should be more, but one thing I didn’t like about this project was how any failure to fulfill the dictates led me to feel guilty and shitty about my life. And I am already on top of that, project I made up.

Another issue possibly interfering with my whole-hearted embrace of the countdown to, well, you know, is that I am not at all excited about this. I tried to trick myself, tried to see the transition as a positive, largely out of a sort of guilty adherence to some perversion of feminism I must have glommed onto when I was young and felt totally comfortable making pronouncements about how I wouldn’t freak out about aging because women are worth more than our appearances and whatever happened to valuing the wisdom of older women and my self-worth isn’t centered on society’s estimation of my beauty blah blah blah. I thought I was so smart. I knew nothing.

It’s the physical deterioration, of course, that bums me out, but even more so it’s the feeling that I’ve simply transitioned beyond getting to have certain kinds of experiences. It’s being treated as irrelevant by people who are younger and invisible by most everyone. It’s being an “emerging” writer only now achieving some small success alongside people born in the late 1980’s while writers my age are firmly mid-career. It’s wishing I could have overcome a lack of both economic privilege and self-worth to try this all sooner. It’s aging out of eligibility for writing contests. It’s needing to take an author photo but finding the image of how I think I look crashing up against the reality of the older woman I’m becoming. Perfectly attractive in a firm 6.8 out of 10 kind of way (number subject to fluctuate depending on the city), but with a face that is lined and dulling and yet still at the beginning of so much.

To which you may say, no shit. What did you think was going to happen? That the ravages of aging wouldn’t apply to you?  But that’s the crazy thing about this that you cannot know until you’re in it–you know it’s coming, and it’s still a fucking surprise. Maybe if I was somewhere more satisfying professionally and artistically, I’d greet 40 with a sense of triumph. I’ve had several women in their 60’s and 70’s tell me that their 40’s were the best decade of their lives, but to a person these women had children much, much younger than I did, so being in their 40’s meant they were free, free of kids at home and first husbands and the constant pull of others’ need. That won’t be the case for me at all, and that’s okay. Maybe it’s that this seems to be such a pivotal time in most women’s lives, and I just can’t figure out what it will look like for me. I fear I’ll exit it with things much in the same place, that I will have spent the time buying increasingly expensive dolphin sperm face creams and in a job I care about but which offers exactly zero opportunity for advancement or raises. (Bounty hunting is adventure-heavy but not for the upwardly mobile.)

I’m not alone, I know, in these fears, but what do we do with them? How do I talk about planning to for my parents while also shopping for kindergartens? Can I say that the specter of menopause freaks me out? Can I say that I’m sad I don’t have the chance to have another child, even though I don’t think I want one? There’s an inevitability that 40 connotes for women but not for men–a kind of ending. See what Gloria Steinem recently said about aging women–we lose power in so, so many ways, even if we didn’t have that much to begin with.

But as I’m posting this on the day my son turns five, the night before I turn 40, I want to end with, if not positivity, then appreciation. I have loved people who didn’t make it this far, who fell sick in the body or the head or just had shit luck and didn’t get to bemoan the sags and crags of aging. I don’t believe in sucking it up and shutting up (obviously), as it’s the unsaid which wields a shadow power in our lives. I think it’s okay to say this thing we’re doing is hard because then we can help each other out, help each other move on. And I am moving, in the immortal words of whoever sang the theme song to “The Jeffersons,” on up. To 40. I hope to see y’all there.

Blog In Which I Consider the Puritans and the Morality of Facials

This project has problems. I worry that its emphasis on doing things for one’s self is selfishness in the guise of self-care, a justification for indulgence. That I haven’t been able to fully go for it is ultimately less important than that I’m now suddenly thinking about it all of the time; in fact, my inability to do one new or rarely done thing each day has fostered disappointment, which (because I’m me and part of the Ethos of Erin is making everyday slights or setbacks indicative of fundamental and existential flaws in myself and in the justice of the universe) has led on some days to a frustration I just don’t have room in my emotional schedule to deal with.

But as I said earlier, being a hero isn’t all glamour and sandwiches named in your honor. A bumper sticker once told me that John Wayne said that bravery is wanting to give up on a project you told the internet about but still riding your horse anyway. And so, I ride.

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You know you’re a Burqueñ@ if seeing this makes you want a breakfast burrito.

After taking a run in the foothills last Monday, on Tuesday I made cookies. But I always make cookies, so I decided to use the last round to make not several regular-sized cookies but one giant fucking cookie. Perhaps my disregard for the social contract and even the laws of physics has you worried for the well-being of not only myself but also those I love, but fear not, dear reader: the cookie maintained its structural integrity and harmed no one in either its conception or its execution. I cannot vouch for its flavor because it’s so big I was too scared to eat it and I’m kind of trying to drop five pounds because I think my body has heard me talk so much about aging that it felt like it needed to accelerate the death of my metabolism.

On Wednesday, though, I got to indulge in a more traditional self-care activity: I got a facial. Don’t be concerned that I’ve suddenly abandoned the Midwestern Protestant Great Depression mindset that is apparently a part of my genetic code—it was free. A friend of mine, or more accurately the long-ago ex-girlfriend of a friend, is opening a new day spa in Albuquerque: The Remedy Day Spa. As part of prepping to open in the UNM area, the owner generously offered to a group of friends and associates the opportunity to receive a gratis service in order to provide staff with the chance to work out the kinks that arise in a business’ first few weeks. But I initially ignored this offer, or rather, my default mindset is yeah, I don’t get to do that, so I pushed it aside. This isn’t an attitude that’s new to me since becoming a mother, though that’s exacerbated it significantly. There’s a cult of martyrdom in the discourse of motherhood, with self-abnegation held as the primary indicator of someone being a good mother. It should be pretty obvious that the same is not true, has never been true, of how we view fathers. No doy, right?

My mother modeled this trope to her bones. At no point during my childhood do I remember her doing something she wanted to do, and the few times she made moves to try (like go to night school to finish her degree), she was guilted into stopping. Even now, she colors these moments less as lost opportunities than as decisions she made to put her children first. This drives me bonkers because implicit in this is that if she’d done more for herself, it would have been at our expense. If I wanted to, I think I could make this even more about me, think that in there is a judgment about my own life and choices, such as raising a child while having a demanding career. As a bounty hunter.

But I know that’s not what she’s doing. My mom did not finish college and had me young, and while she loves her children, she would never wish for us to mimic her path. What I grew up seeing was a very loving mother who had made a choice to live almost entirely for her children, and I wanted nothing to do with that. As a child, I embraced a certain kind of selfishness as a refutation of this sort of life. I would never so totally sacrifice my own well-being for others, which meant that I was pretty certain I did not want to have kids. I was scared by the idea that making someone required losing yourself.

Here I have to note that I don’t think this is how my mom would characterize it, the all of it, were she to write her story. And I wish she would, write it, to show me all the ways I’ve been wrong. She’d once harbored small fantasies of writing, maybe journalism. Who I am is not without precedent.

Her influence can be seen also in this reluctance I have toward pampering, one of the few socially acceptable ways for women to slow down and pay attention to themselves. it’s not just my current lack of time or money that disallows for this but also the spectre of Puritan ancestors haunting my choices, whispering slut when I buy the face cream over $10.

But if it’s free, then my morals get a bit, let’s say, loose. Because of this project, I changed my mindset just enough to schedule the time to let a stranger rub lotion on my face.

To sum up: I got a facial and it was pretty terrific. My aesthetician was really lovely and afterwards, I must be honest–I glowed.

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Skin selfie. Not at all weird and gross.

I think now that I’m adding new facial crevices every year (joining the already existing “A Few Lines Composed While Laughing at Inappropriate Things” and the one in the middle of my brow I like to call the “WHAT IN THE HOLY FUCK, JUST MERGE ALREADY” wrinkle), I should take care of the skin I’ll most likely be stuck in for the next 50 or so years because I come from a long line of cheap, mean people who stick around waaaaaay after the party’s done.

*****

Note: As bounty hunting season progresses, it’s getting harder and harder for me to write. Let me just say that after this facial last Wednesday, here’s a list of the “ooooh, neat” that followed:

Thursday: I watched two episodes of “The Good Wife”

Friday: I went to the mall and had people put makeup on my face and watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the second time

Saturday: Not a goddamn thing

Sunday: Went to Acoma Pueblo to watch the dances, on invitation from a student

Monday: Umm….I made an elephant out of Legos?

Tuesday: Nothing…Oh, this isn’t really novel but I did watch the latest “Downton Abbey” and was thinking it was actually a really funny one and then BOY DID THAT TAKE A TURN.

Which one of these should I write a blog on? Legos, right? Wrong answer! It’s “The Good Wife!” It’s ALWAYS “The Good Wife.”

 

Baby We Were Blog to Run (Sorry)

Growing up, I played lots of sports: soccer, swimming, softball, tennis, and even cheerleading (that season of my life having been written by network-approved show runners before being handed back to the eccentric creator with both a vision and hoarding problem). Or maybe I didn’t so much “play” as “show up to most practices and bring oranges for meets/games.” I was hopeless at soccer–in my small town in the 1980’s, there were no girls’ teams, so the eight or so young women interested in playing were divided on the league’s different teams, making it significantly easier for coaches and teammates to ignore us. This I did for six years, mostly because I got trophies and pizza parties out of it.  In this much different America, one did not just go get pizza any time one felt like it. Pizza, and specifically Pizza Hut, was a special occasion deal, and its faux-stained glass pendant lamps with pepperoni bring back feelings of feeling warm and safe and full. Shitty pizza is my madeleine.

In swimming, softball, and tennis, I showed more promise, initially. In each of these, I was the strongest beginner, a bit of a natural at backstroke and fielding and serving, though in maybe nothing else about each sport, and it’s possible that this lack of well-rounded athleticism was my downfall. Or it could have been my total lack of work ethic. While in my adulthood I’ve somehow morphed into a hard-working, task oriented, on schedule kind of person, I lacked this drive as a kid. I did everything I was supposed to (I was a good girl and Jesus was my boyfriend), but I just didn’t really try. Mostly, I didn’t have to. The one thing I’ve ever been very good at is reading–I started early and strong–and since school is pretty much just reading then proving you understood what you read, school was easy. It was too easy, so easy that I started to get into trouble because I had too much free time and had begun, in all seriousness, a revenge business. (I maybe hadn’t yet read the part of the Bible that forbids running a vengeance agency out of your bedroom.) The main lesson I learned from childhood was that minimum effort was all that was necessary to do well. That and banana clips are for whores (long story).

The problem with this philosophy was that whenever I encountered a scenario in which my half-assed effort failed to yield full-assed results, I quit rather than try harder. This approach was modeled to me in part by the character of my hometown, whose motto was Hoc Futurum Amet, or in English, Is This Going To Be On the Test? It’s an attitude I’ve worked hard to move beyond, and I’ve been so successful that it now only seems to emerge in faculty meetings. Bounty hunter meetings. Bounty hunter=me. Not at all employed by a university and fearful of professional blowback.

But it wasn’t just my attitude toward athletics that was rotten–my body was, too. Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I had problems running. I’d start just fine, but at some point, usually a few minutes in, I’d double-over in pain with what most people call a “stitch” but felt more like a stick being shoved repeatedly and with apparent glee into my side. The pain was always shocking and ultimately frustrating because the only way to stop it was to stop running. That meant that most practices for soccer, softball, tennis, cheerleading, and rugby (I played a semester in college because I have no idea) found me walking far behind my teammates, clutching my side and considering faking a sudden mountain lion attack just to get the fuck out of there. In a life clogged with moments of embarrassment and self-loathing, those are some of the juiciest.

Whenever I’d get these pains, the advice of my teachers and coaches was to run it out, the idea being that I was in pain from running because I wasn’t good at running so I should run more to not be in pain but first run through the pain. But it never worked–I never stopped getting the stitches, and I began to work out a simple math: running=pain. It’s nice to have a few things we can cling to as absolute, immutable in their truth, and for me, this became holy doctrine.

And then I made a human.

As I’ve said earlier, for me, having a child seriously fucked with my life, and mostly in some really amazing positive ways if you’re good with having someone constantly shove notes to you under the door while you’re going to the bathroom. (I should mention that, at almost 5, his “notes” are a series of squiggly lines that he later tells me is a song about butts.) His birth was something akin to a glitter bomb: it made most everything prettier but also got in the gears of some things and now they don’t work so good. I gave birth to my tiny overlord three hours before my own birthday. That’s one of the things that doesn’t work that well anymore.

The birthday he was nearly born on was my 35th, and in the three months of healing and nursing and also working full-time (because U-S-A! U-S-A!), I began to think about the fact that he would be growing strong and healthy and crazy just as my body would begin to slow down, starting its slow decline to bone-dom. I worried that as he began to kick down the door to the world, running toward adventure and newness and probably the road, I’d be too slow to keep up, to play or keep him safe.

But if I’m being fully honest, I also became overwhelmed by the fact of my mortalness. I had never really cared about staying alive before because what was I? Just another bone bag, one of billions of blips. The world would be fine without me, which is not to say I courted death, but I also didn’t swerve out of its way. And yet now, I knew that the world would not be okay if I left early, or at least his world wouldn’t. I was an older parent, and when I made the choice to have him, I accepted the responsibility of sticking around as long as I could.

So I started running.

Well, I started trying to run.

It started with Facebook, which for future generations reading this is what we used to call The Mind-Mother, Blessed May We Be In Her Ubiquitous Sight. An ex-boyfriend of a friend whose life I got to peek into (because seriously, what the fuck are we all doing to each other?) posted that after going through a program called Couch-to-5K, he was successfully running three miles several times a week. I got curious and found out that it’s a running schedule designed to make non-runners runners. It starts with alternating walking and running (the latter mostly in bursts of 30 to 60 seconds to begin with), leading over nine weeks to the successful completion of five km (or just over three miles for those in the U-S-A! U-S-A!). Running for one minute, I thought? I can do that.

I could not do that. At the end of the minute-cycles, I was overcome with less a sense of physical stress than a deep and dark existential gloom. Our bodies are our prisons. We are all doomed to decay. Why am I sweating there? But I pressed on, and reader–I did it. I completed the nine-week Couch-to-5K  program in just 16 weeks. I became, despite all odds, a runner. A very, very slow and awkward runner.

But what of the cramps, you ask. What of the debilitating pains that had earlier kept you from achieving the athletic greatness that surely had been your destiny? Well, I still got them, in fact, I still get them now, despite running over nine miles a week. After consulting two physical therapists, I found out that some people are just prone to these kinds of cramps, that something about our physiology makes them more likely than in other people and is not related, in these cases, solely to being in-shape. And while people who get them may always get them, there are techniques one can employ in preventing and treating these pains. And to that I say: THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN FUCKING NICE TO KNOW IN 1987, P.E. TEACHERS! What the fuck did you study in college, y’all? Your best advice to a child in pain is to run it out?! A pox on you! A POX ON YOU ALL!!!

But anywho, I run now and I’m slow and it’s sometimes still painful, but I feel great and have nicer legs. The challenge comes in, naturally, finding time to run. Mostly I go the gym, conveniently located between home and work which also has a kids room staffed by one of my former bounty hunter clients. I actually enjoy running on a treadmill because it’s the 21st century, which means every piece of equipment comes with its own television, and as someone without cable, this is my opportunity to catch up on “Law and Order: SVU” and home improvement/real estate shows set primarily, and inexplicably, in Canada.

But I often wish I had the time and stamina to go a bit further out, to run in the foothills of the Sandia mountains which border Albuquerque to the east. Albuquerque, and really all of New Mexico, may have its problems, many of which are detailed in a little-known documentary series called “Breaking Bad.” This place is stubbornly unlike anywhere else in America, which is something to both celebrate and bemoan, but one thing we have going for us are the number and accessibility of some pretty amazing trails, something I never realized when I was younger and refused to own sensible shoes on principle. Usually I have pretty legitimate excuses for not going to run up there, but the point of this long, long, long blog is that, on Monday, I went there.

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I went running in a screen shot from a Western.

Yes, it meant that all day I played catch-up at work and was a tad behind even two days later, but it also means that I can sometimes do this, provided my tracking skills are not needed to hunt down scofflaws that day.

So, as of day 5 (I think? God, this project is stupid), I finally did something I actually wanted to do. Feels like success, or at least the palpable absence of abject failure.

 

 

Blog of Bones

This weekend was a failure. Not by every metric, of course—I survived, was not imprisoned, did not fall victim to a gang of old timey grifters—so in some ways it was a win. But in the sense that I would do something on each of the two days in line with my attempt to live by doing things I wanted to but normally didn’t, there was, as we say in Nuevo Mexico, mucho nope. [1]

I’ll speak of what I did do in a moment, but what kept me from fulfilling the spirit of the challenge (to, in the less than thirty days I have in my thirties, engage daily in an activity my life usually precludes me from doing) was what I referred to earlier: a paucity of both time and money. I’ve never had money, and so that feeling isn’t entirely new, but having a full-time job and small child has changed how I understand time on a fundamental level, Star Trek wormhole-style, like my son was a tiny Q beamed here to fuck with all of my established notions of reality and truth. [2]

Part of what I hoped for in committing to this mini-project was that, when pressed by a public airing of my intentions, I’d find that it wasn’t so much that I didn’t have time or money, but rather I’d ceased to see the full potential for experience in each day and through intentional living, I’d see these openings once again.

That is, so far, bullshit.

It is possible for me to spend some money, but only if it’s taken from somewhere else, like bills or groceries or wine, and there’d be a heavy price to pay for skimping on any of those. It is sometimes possible for me to devote time to what I want to do, but again, only if it’s taken from elsewhere. Something, and someone, must suffer. I can not fulfill my job commitments (like I said earlier, as a bounty hunter I’ve got a lot on my plate) or I can not fulfill my family duties. The second is the really the only one with enough wiggle room, but in order for me to check out of what I need to do with my son, someone else has to take over. My freedom, the fulfillment of my desires, requires a person I love to take on extra burdens. This is a rough math, and it’s kept me in a pattern that both stifles and supports me.

Example: Saturday. My day with my son, solo-style. His interest in dinosaurs has recently been renewed with the kind of fervency particular to the under-9 set. Five year olds aren’t casually interested in anything—they’re snake-dancing, tongue-talking converts, howling on street corners the gospel of the pink pony/princess/power ranger dinosaur they love. For days, he’d been pressing me to take him hunting for dinosaur bones. Current selections from the local library had told him of many different kinds of dinosaur bones discovered here in New Mexico: tyrranosaurus rex, quetzalcoatlus, whatever the duckbilled ones are called. As Saturday was the first day we’d have to try our hand at digging, I promised him a trip to the volcanoes on the west side of the city that day. And here’s the downside of teaching your kids things like days of the week or talking—they learn, and they remember. All industries reliant on selling advertising space should employ legions of preschoolers because those fuckers will not take no for an answer.

And so we planned to look for bones after nap. He’d need a nap not to be a jerk, and I’d need his nap to not be a jerk. But it’s also the time I use for writing, and I had concocted a plan (my live-it-up plan) to work on a piece to send to a fancy place I’m ascared of. [3] And yet, as sometimes happens when you develop plans around the behavior of a tiny tyrant, things went awry. He did not nap, there was no writing, and so my accomplishment of the day was hiking for 90 minutes with my son and dog, taking breaks to dig in the path while making sounds to indicate possible groundbreaking scientific discoveries.

If you’re thinking that this all actually sounds like a lot of fun, you’re right since you agree with me. It was a beautiful winter day—our layers kept us warm and our noses were chilled enough for the day to feel seasonal. I am a lucky person to get to have moments of such uncomplicated wonder. I get to have a lot of that in my life; I just don’t get to choose how a lot of it happens.

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A tiny paleontologist who is, sometimes, also the dinosaur he is hunting for.

Almost all of my life is about what I must do, and I frequently get grumpy at that. But I’m also prone to deep and corrosive levels of guilt (one of my most favorite things to do when trying to go to sleep at night is to think about all of the shitty things I’ve done and all the people with whom I’m no longer friends, undoubtedly because of my selfishness or sadness or stench), and it’s this proclivity that keeps me from asking too much of others so that I can eke out space for myself. It’s not that I’m selfless, but I’m so selfish that when I get a little, I want more, but don’t want to pay the necessary emotional cost. I want my cake / I want to eat it / I want it to be free.

If you’re wondering how I’m able to write this blog if I have so little time, it’s because I have not been doing some bounty hunter-related stuff and now I’m pretty behind. I’ve got a lot of bounty hunter spreadsheets and emails to get to. Why would some entity want an Excel document accounting for every minute of my bounty hunter time for the next four months? Man—what you don’t know about bounty hunters. This gig seems glamorous, but at least half of it is directing students, I mean, clients to read the syllabus. Contract—the contract. I’m a bounty hunter, after all. Now I’ve got to track down a little lady goes by the name of Starla, last seen hummin’ around an Allsup’s in Truth or Consequences. She got a real soft spot for those day-old chimichangas, likes em like she likes her men: half-price, withered, and full of beans.

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Behold the Allsup’s chimichanga, the sixth wonder of New Mexico.

[1] No one actually says this.

[2] Nerrrrrrrrrrrd

[3] New Mexicans for real say “ascared”

Blog of the Bicentennial Baby

I am a fire dragon, or so says the Chinese zodiac. Born in 1976, I am also a Bicentennial Baby (as evidence, please note my white skin, blue eyes, and red hair–starred with freckles, I’m a walking American flag). This means that most visits to thrift stores yield some kind of tsotchke celebrating the year of my birth, enforcing my suspicions about my inherent specialness. (Sorry, millennials–no one got that jazzed about 1987.) But this also means that in just under a month, I will be forty years old.

This is significant because I’m the first person to ever go through it, so as you can imagine there’s a lot of pressure to do it right. I’m cognizant of the heavy responsibility I have to guide future generations in making this transition with grace, raging against the dying of the light but also, you know, getting the fuck out of the way.

Really, though, I don’t care for what’s happening and it gives me tummy aches, but that could be menopause. I’m glad that, despite the many ways in which I flirted with other conclusions, I’m still alive. I’m healthier than I’ve ever been and working a kind of middle-aged hotness in which I don’t “look good” but rather “look good for…” I have a lovely family and a frequently infuriating job that still allows me to do what I enjoy and am moderately talented at: Bounty hunting. It’s not for everyone, but I look good in leather and own lots of jewelry with feathers, so it was a natural career move.

But I don’t really want to talk about turning shorty. (I have trouble saying the word sometimes.) Instead, I am focusing on that I am in my thirties, and a woman’s thirties are a time of infinite possibilities, or so the tampon box says. Therefore, I have decided to spend my final month as a thirtysomething not dreading what’s next but celebrating what’s now. For the last 30 days of my thirties, I’m aiming to do something that I’ve either never done or rarely do as a way to push myself and live in a more conscious, thoughtful way.

Yesterday, the first day of this, I started a blog. I get how brave that is, and while I feel the word hero is overused, I won’t argue against it being applicable here; after all, it’s not every day that a middle-class white American woman starts a blog to talk about herself.

But the thing about this project is that it turns out there’s a reason I do the same things all the time. Apparently, having no time or money, while also living in New Mexico, kind of limits one’s options in newness. But I’m not a quitter. Yes, I’ve quit almost everything I’ve ever committed to, but if you call that being a quitter, I think you need to reevaluate your quitter criteria. Unless you don’t want to, then that’s fine I totally get it.

While in-between meetings held on opposite sides of the city, I settled on today’s new task: take selfies. I don’t get selfies. Looking at images of myself is a deeply painful experience, one that is not ameliorated by sharing those images with dozens or hundreds of others. I don’t understand what drives someone to take a picture of themselves and think, you know–I bet a lot of people want to check this shit out. If you like selfies, that’s awesome and I actually envy you for being able to look at yourself without cueing a chorus of self-loathing. Anyway, I hate selfies so here are a bunch of selfies I took today:

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I took this in front of an air-conditioning unit in a stairway at work and some kid caught me doing it, so I told him I was “looking for reception” and he said, “um-hmmmm.”
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Does this count as a selfie? Was Lee Friedlander taking selfies all those years? Am I basically a great American photographer? Are we all? Can any selfie be said to be of the true self when none can be candid? Is a photograph less a window than a wall against which we project what we wish to be perceived as? Does this shadow make my butt look fat?
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That’s the top of my head in front of a skylight. 
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I am eating the fuck out of a burrito in my car parked in the library parking lot and listening to This American Life and a dude walking by picked a wedgie out of his butt so there was a moment where I thought, “Do I just keep eating this while watching a dude go to town on that situation?” And I did. 

DAY TWO: SELFIES! CHECK!

 

 

Blog in Which I Consider the Humanity of Joyce Summers

During each winter holiday break, I shift from high-powered education cyclone to apron-wearing cookie carybdis. I am the holiday cookie, the holiday cookie is me. I am propelled by some primeval force to fill my hands with nuts and fruit and offer them up to the white gods of flour, of sugar, of baking soda, salt. I spend the days in what feels like a marzipan haze but is in fact the crust of sugar over my eyes. I bake until I am worn, but then there are jam thumbprints, gingersnaps, peppermint bark, and the exhaustion is delicious and makes people love me.

This past break, I decided to begin rewatching “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” as a way to fill the time in-between rolling and baking and crying over charred batches. This is the fifth time I’ve undertaken watching the whole series, the first just over 10 years ago right as I was beginning grad school and just after the show had ended. I had resisted watching the show because of a deep-seated antipathy towards grown people making monster noises. I’m not buying it, Steve, I want to say. You fool no one. I had been uncharitable toward the genres of fantasy and sci-fi since I was a kid and searching for what to lose myself in. I’ve often gravitated toward books and media that I could picture myself in, create a part for me to play. I was a child and then an adult unsatisfied with the reality of my life, but my solution wasn’t to then enter into a radically different world but instead one pretty much like this but tweaked—a little thinness here, a scoop more love there.

But “Buffy” was different. A bit younger than most of the actors but a bit older than the parts they played, I could see myself inserted into this world of monsters and star-crossed love. The pull of “Buffy,” as has been well-documented, is that the vampires and witches and werewolves and vengeance demons are window dressing for a compelling tale about what it is to grow up. The conflicts stem from what it is to love and lose and learn to try again. For a show about monsters, it is deeply human.

But in watching it again over the past seven weeks, I’ve noticed something disturbing. I no longer identify with Buffy or even Willow, whose awkward smartness is much closer to who I am than the perky blonde slayer. I no longer get where Xander is coming from or even find Oz enigmatic and cool. Instead, the character with whom I most identify and want to know more about is Joyce, Buffy’s mom, because I am now old.

To be fair, Joyce, as portrayed by the stunning Kristine Sutherland, is not exactly old. The first season of “Buffy” was filmed in 1996, making the actress about 41, a year older than I am now. However, the costumers do a terrific job of dressing Joyce in the very best of mid-90s mom drag. She owns just so many turtlenecks. This, along with Sutherland’s dead-on mix of parental exasperation and concern, renders the character of Joyce as every inch a Mom. People passing her on the street see her and feel certain that she’s used her own saliva to clean chocolate off of a small human’s face. Joyce is a woman who carries extra tissue in the pockets of her tapestry vest.

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The mom hair is strong with this one.

To the end that Joyce must be believable as Buffy’s mom, the character is a raving success, but what I’m noticing this watch-through is that she is not much else. What do we get to know about Joyce? She is a divorced art gallery owner with a bottomless capacity for denial. She likes a flowy blouse and has bad luck with men. This has also been written about by others, but until now, it’s never bothered me. From a plotting point, the choices make some sense—she’s the only parent we really get to know and her role serves as both a support and a foil for the main character. But suddenly, that’s not enough for me. I want more for Joyce than one maniacal robot boyfriend and a passive aggressive book club friend who gets killed by zombies then becomes a zombie ultimately possessed by a Nigerian demon spirit before getting a shovel to the eyes courtesy of Buffy. Is that so wrong? As an aging woman increasingly invisible to much of the world, I want her to have more than that final date before her unacceptably ordinary death. I want her to be a woman and not just a mom.

Therefore I propose a supplementary series to flesh out and fulfill the promise of this loving and kind character. I propose “Joyce!” No, not the right title—close, but too ‘70s, ala Rhoda! or Maude!

Maybe “Re-Joyce!”

Nailed it.

And what would we see on “Re-Joyce!”? Well, what do you think she was doing all those weekends Buffy went to go see her dad in L.A. before the series decided that a slayer with daddy issues was more compelling than a slayer with a caring if geographically distant father? The way Joyce is depicted in the show (outside of the occasional Schnaaps drinking) would have you believe that Joyce spent those weekends using the bath salts she’d saved up special and drinking tea from giant mugs painted with flowers the colors of a Southwestern sunset. And while that doesn’t sound horrible to these aging ears, as a mother myself I know that when you get some time away from your child, you are going to use the chance to tear shit up. Maybe Joyce is an early noise music enthusiast and spends her weekends going to Iron, the Bronze’s scuzzy rival bar. She could do roller derby, work as a part-time private eye, haunt karaoke bars with her husky rendition of “The Monster Mash.” The possible antics from these scenarios are rich and endless.

But we also have the chance, in “Re-Joyce!” to see that this title heroine is also a badass at work, a legend among art dealers. Others try to top her, but the joke is that there can only be one. Speaking of jokes, turns out Joyce is a card, though she only uses that term in jest—she’s self-aware and wry, this one. She’s great at impressions and nurses a powerful hatred for Albert, the haberdasher next door who is always parking six inches into her space! What does she do about it? What doesn’t she do, is more like it. She is fucking unpredictable.

Since “Buffy” is told through that protagonist’s perspective, it makes sense that we don’t see what else fills her mom’s life. After all, how many of us as young people were capable of seeing our parents as fully formed people, full of lust and envy and heartbreaks? The Joyce we get in “Buffy” is the Joyce that Buffy saw—her mom. But I’m a mom and don’t want my story to be only of that relationship, so I don’t want it for Joyce, either.

Joss Whedon—since you’re probably not busy—give me a call. I’ve never written for t.v. so therefore have no evidence that I’m not awesome at it. Let’s talk, let’s plan. Let’s Rejoyce!