Home Sweet…Well, You Know.

I may have mentioned before that I would be moving. Well, that plan finally came to fruition this week and if nothing else, I’ve learned that I’m getting too old for this crap. Next time I move, it will be after having won the MegaMillions lottery and a team of movers will swoosh in to sort, pack, and move my stuff as I observe from the sidelines. Oh, who am I kidding? If I win the MegaMillions lottery, the only thing I’ll be packing is a suitcase as I plan my getaway across the ocean.

F___ this Sh__

So, the past couple of weeks have been tough. I lost my heart dog and I miss that sweet little face every damn day. Now, I’m in the process of moving. Yay, me. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, so they say. But what does that even mean?  As you know, my mind tends to wander off the rails quite often, so I’ve been thinking about these turns of phrase people often use. There’s a catchphrase for practically every situation.

Whoever said, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” was obviously never in a crappy relationship. Or the victim of bullying. Or, you know, ever had a job dealing with people. Guess what? Words can and do hurt. Yet we throw this phrase around like it’s the North Star guiding us to a better place.

People employ phrases, aphorisms, idioms, metaphors, and clichés like they’re a dime a dozen. (See what I did there?) Seriously, these recurring collections of words are too often used as substitutes for real, honest, valuable conversation. I’m not even sure people understand what they are saying when using some of them.

Can’t see the forest for the trees. Two in the hand is worth one in the bush. He’s a fool who cannot conceal his wisdom. Don’t count your eggs before they hatch. By the time you puzzle your way through some of these, the topic of conversation has moved on, with some people none the wiser.

If the shoe fits, wear it. Just because it fits doesn’t mean I should put it on or that I even want to. Have you seen some of the heels out there? Whether they fit or not, I’d undoubtedly break an ankle. Then we’re back to sticks and stones… and now heels.

The best is yet to come. Really? ’Cause, it certainly feels like the older I get, the more tired and run down my body grows, the less “best” I feel. Not sure I’m turning that one around. I’d prefer to go back to childhood when I didn’t have bills and my mother chose my clothes and I didn’t have to decide what to make for dinner every freakin’ day.

And now we’re back to “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  This right here. This is the phrase that people love to spout at the worst times, when you are feeling so down in the dumps that one more stupid aphorism or euphemism or whatever literary label you put on it can’t hurt. Can it? (Refer back to sticks and stones, if you really want to know).

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Does it, though?

I experienced a devastating loss last week. I had to have my dog euthanized due to ongoing health issues. He was my heart dog, and my heart is broken. I miss his funny little face and soulful brown eyes more than any words, however witty, could express. My other dog is now sick with a collapsed trachea, which is getting worse, and I’m unsure what the future holds. I never was a fan of being kicked while I’m down.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I’m moving. That would be because my landlord is selling the condo. Finding a place in the age of a pandemic is challenging, to say the least. Not to mention that landlords and management companies have jacked all the prices up by HUNDREDS of dollars. The renting world is not what it was a year ago, that’s for sure.

Crap at work just keeps getting deeper. The powers that be keep piling on and piling on because hey, why not KEEP the salary of the two people we laid off a year ago but GIVE the work to someone else, namely me, and then keep adding to that the entire year and going forward. My boss has fantastic ideas on how to grow the business and wants me involved. Oh, that’s great, you might say. You’re a marketing whiz, you might proclaim. Yet, this translates to me continually starting new projects while maintaining my already overwhelming workload. Its. Exhausting.

I’ve just recently started putting serious effort into writing a book based on summers in WV and old family stories (à la Erma Bombeck in style). You’ve read some previews here in this very blog. The problem is that I’m too tired and too broke to give it the proper attention because I’m too busy making someone else rich.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But does it? Does it really? Or is it more like whatever doesn’t kill you gives you anxiety-ridden dysfunctional coping mechanisms? You won’t be dead, and the PTSD is a hoot!

Michael Brady, a University of Glasgow Philosophy professor, claims that Nietzsche meant to suggest that one should take suffering as an opportunity to build strength. But you know what? I’m good. I’m okay with my weaknesses. If not having to grow stronger means I can have my dogs here with me, alive and healthy, I’ll take it. I’d prefer to move where I damn well want, and have more time off work, or at least be paid well for the time and effort I’m putting in. I’d like to be writing more without fear, and I’d certainly like to stop spending so much time making someone else rich.

I don’t need to be stronger. Where’s the aphorism for that? The one I keep coming up with is an unappealing metaphor and 2/3 curse words. One guess as to what it is.

Let’s Get This Over With

To be clear, I am in no way ready or willing to try the spike-laden hamster wheel that is a long-term relationship again anytime soon.  Having removed myself from a toxic vat of goo, I have no desire to wade back in. Besides, the whole friends with benefits thing isn’t a bad gig and I like having my own space.  Hanging out with someone and then saying you can go home now is just my cup of tea. And I enjoy that cup of tea in my fortress of solitude, thank you very much. Honestly, I’m not sure I’ll ever want to share my space on a full-time basis again. It would have to be a true fellow weirdo and soulmate extraordinaire for me to give up my peace and quiet.

Now and then, though, I get an itch, a feeling like I’m missing something. My monkey brain decides that perhaps a round of “dating with purpose” would do the trick. Then I have another go at Bumble or Match. A quick foray into this world is all I need to remember that I’m not missing a damn thing. Putting pen to paper, I’ve come up with some quick mostly sorta accurate stats to share with you, my dear readers… in case, you ever feel the need to venture into the online dating world hell yourselves.

95% of male profiles have some version of “no drama please!” or “no baggage!” What the hell is no baggage? How am I supposed to take those weekend trips to the wine country you’re touting as your fave thing to do if I don’t have luggage? But seriously, what is baggage? Kids? An ex? A dog? A broken washing machine? WTF? We’re in our 40s and 50s and maybe 60s. We ALL have baggage at this point in our lives. If you’ve made it this far into life without baggage… well, I don’t think we have much to talk about anyway.

And no drama? That’s a vague request. What does that even mean? Is that a Gaslighting 101 way to say they don’t want women who know their own minds? I have clear boundaries and am not afraid to use them. Does that count as drama? Opinions, passionate political views, an ability and desire to speak up for myself, is this drama? What are we talking about here? I kinda get the idea they mean more than just no As the World Turns viewers allowed.

99% of men mention their height. In their profile blurb. Right alongside their favorite holidays and unexplained dislike of baggage and drama.  They would have you think that it’s because women are interested in that particular statistic, but I’m not convinced. Admittedly, I’m still working this one out.

And the pictures they post! Okay, so this one isn’t a stat per se, but seriously, what are they trying to prove? Men are holding dead fish while wearing a ghoulish grin, kayaking, running (which makes me wonder, is something chasing them?), biking, hiking, mountain climbing, or the less-impressive alternative, indoor climbing. And, of course, the obligatory “hey, I clean up well” shot (wearing a tux or spiffy outfit). Their pictures look like stills from a Viagra commercial. I mean, I get it. They want people to know they’re active and whatnot. But, where is the photo of them bingeing Netflix or Hulu and stuffing a pizza in their face? You know, like real life? And if the Viagra-esque stills ARE their real life, then good grief. Who has that kind of energy? It’s exhausting just perusing their photos. Don’t even get me started on the dead fish. Oh, hey, here’s a stat I just made up calculated!  92% of men have a photo holding some kind of a dead fish somewhere in their online dating portfolio.

90% claim to be young at heart, but they look older than I am (I mean, we can see their photo, it’s right there). Or the poetic, old soul, young heart. Who are they trying to impress with this line? Do they think it makes them seem hip? A bit more palatable to the twenty-something age range they are secretly or not-so-secretly trying to entice? Quick question… we do still say hip, right?

You know how people will say “looking for a unicorn”? Some men call THEMSELVES a unicorn because they’re a “nice guy.” Haven’t we outgrown the tired motif that nice guys are rare? I’m not sure niceness qualifies one as a unicorn. This same unicorn is most likely a member of the 86% who are in open marriages that are doing just fine, thank you very much, looking for a side piece with no strings attached. While we’re on that topic, what about men who make a point of saying that they want a woman who gives and wants a lot of affection? Maybe it’s just me, but that just sounds like someone looking to get laid (someone should point them in the direction of Tinder).  And I swear, 93% of men say their love language is touch. Go figure. Maybe I’m cynical, but… No, you know what? I am cynical. I’m not sure they created the world of dating apps with women like me in mind.

How about an app called “let’s get this over with” designed for people who occasionally need a reminder of why they are single? A place for people who’d rather binge Netflix with their animals on the couch than have to sift through a ridiculous montage of phony, celebratory bios that don’t mention how they chew with their mouth open or smoke menthol cigarettes like it’s the mid-90s.

This app would allow only photos of people in their pajamas, the rusty bike in the bushes that they never ride, or the sketchy spaghetti dish they make every Monday. Required for the bio would be a list of recently binged shows, favorite reads, and a multiple-choice question on how well they tip servers. Then, those of us who occasionally feel like we’re missing out on the dating world could scroll through and (without having to weed through ridiculously curated dating profiles) remind ourselves of why it’s better to avoid the apps in the first place.

Although now that I think about it, I could really get on board with that kind of a dating app. Those are my kind of people. Called it! My idea. No stealing. Okay… so how do you create an app?  Anybody?

A Heart Broken

My heart is broken. Rufus the Invincible is gone. And the irony has not escaped me that the one little soul that would succeed in bringing a smile to my face in this time of indescribable sadness, is the one little soul that has caused me such anguish in its passing.  No amount of love or strength of resolve could fight Father Time or worsening health issues.  If only it were that easy.

Rufus

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Behind the Lens

Some traditional cultures believe that taking a picture of a person can capture their soul. Looking at our culture these days, I couldn’t say they are wrong. But at least we have a say in when and where our picture gets taken. Right? Wrong.

When you go out, do you expect your image to grace the lens of a stranger? Women, do you strap on your bikini and head to the beach knowing that an array of men you don’t know will be taking pictures of you? When you look in the mirror before you leave your house, do you inspect your face and body and wonder how you will be portrayed through a stranger’s camera? If not, you’d better start, because apparently, this is a thing. Now, I’m not talking about situations where people record something for the greater good, I’m speaking here of photo-stalking random women at the beach, at concerts, at the mall for God’s sake.

Some of you might argue that, hey, you’re in a public place… no expectation of privacy. Yeah, I get it.  But I imagine that the thought of a stranger taking our picture without our consent is horrifying for most of us.  Despite the public nature of the location, it’s an invasion of privacy that is just downright creepy.

In this age of camera phones and social media, it can be uncomfortable to be in a crowded public space. One never knows who is recording what. I watched a spectacular young woman on YouTube confront two older men on a beach in Florida. Florida, amirite? She caught the men taking pictures of random women in bikinis, then outed them in front of the crowd. She swiped through his photos, yelling at him to delete the images of women he didn’t know, to which he quickly complied. I think we all owe this brave young woman a round of applause!

Unfortunately, this is not a new experience, creepy men thinking they have the right to take a photo of whomever they choose. In fact, my ex used to do this very thing, especially at concerts. He and his friends would secretly take pictures of the girls there and then pass them around. Now, my ex and his friends weren’t teenagers, someone so riddled with hormones they couldn’t think their way out of a paper bag. I’m talking about grown-ass men in their 40s. Secretly taking photos of attractive young women they did not know.

I once invited my ex’s cousin to a community music festival my ex went to every year. Of course, my ex got angry with me… something he did quite often, but in this case, I couldn’t figure it out at first. I thought he liked this cousin.  Then, I realized, this cousin and his gosh darn ethical ways would inhibit my ex’s photo-stalking of young girls. I will confess that upon finding some of these photos and realizing they had been shared, I spoke with the wife of the guy who was on the other end of that text message thread.  She wasn’t happy.  When word got back to him, my ex, the gaslighter extraordinaire, berated me, telling me that I had embarrassed myself and that the wife thought I was pitiful for being offended. Because everyone takes photos of young girls at concerts, then passes them around to their friends with comments about the young girls’ bodies. Everybody does it. And everybody knows that everyone does it. Apparently, I was the only one who didn’t know. Apparently, I was the only one who would take offense or get angry at such a thing. Hey, if gaslighting were a college major, my ex would have graduated with honors. I mean, he’s my ex for a reason.

Maybe taking pictures of random young girls is common. Perhaps sharing photos with your friends of unsuspecting women out on the town or bikini-clad at the beach, or, you know, simply trying to enjoy a freakin’ neighborhood concert, is something that does occur often. But you know what? It doesn’t change the fact that it’s not okay. IT. IS. NOT. OKAY. The men taking these pictures are not typical men (and if they are, then I’ll swear off the gender for good). They are disgusting, perverted, privacy-invading creeps. There, I said it. And I’m not sorry.

Predatory behavior from men is far too common. Unsolicited catcalls, inappropriate texts, aggressive confrontations and pick-up lines, uncomfortably explicit stories with coworkers; these are the ways that men force their sexual preoccupation into our lives. Many people (primarily men, but I’m sure some women) would argue that it’s not bad behavior. It’s just a case of “boys will be boys.” Newsflash, asshole: boys will be boys is no longer an acceptable excuse for predatory behavior. Period.

I’m telling you men, you’ve gotta get your shit together, and if you want to screech “not all men” then bear the burden of your gender and call out this predatory bullshit.

Imitation is Life

There is a Mockingbird somewhere in the trees around my condo complex. Every morning I hear him calling out for a mate. His song of choice?  A car alarm. He’s got it down pretty good too. Can’t dance to it. But still. The bird’s got talent. 

Of course, the Lyrebird reigns supreme in the imitation game; their mimicry is unparalleled. In the wild, they would copy the animals around them… in a zoo, it’s construction equipment. And oddly… lasers.  The vast library of sounds in their repertoire work to create endless operatic combinations making each song utterly unique, if not unusual. I’m not sure there’s any catching up to this chart topper.

All hail the Lyrebird. Sorry Sir Mockingbird.