Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I'm Feelin' the Urge...The Urge to Purge

When my husband and I first started dating 20 years ago, I was very excited when he invited me over to his apartment for the first time for dinner. Looking around his mini one-bedroom place, which bore mostly the remnants of his college days, I quickly realized he was a minimalist. His bedroom furniture consisted of a one-man futon, a “table” that was actually an old electric cable spool and a typewriter table to hold his turtle tank. His living room held an old desk chair and arm chair from his parents’ house and his tv sat on his childhood nightstand. And in the kitchen was a two-man table from Ikea and an ironing board. “I never want to own more than I can fit into my Honda Civic because you never know where an opportunity may take you, or when,” he said. I had to laugh. By 23, I already had a storage unit, having moved from my apartment back in with my parents so I could go back to college. I thought to myself, "Well, this attitude is going to change!" And sure enough, it did.

When we moved in together, we discovered a joint love of flea marketing. He now loved to collect vintage radios and televisions (didn’t matter that none of them worked, they all looked cool). And I felt the need to recreate the comfort zone of a tortured childhood: my grandparents kitchen. As our now two-bedroom apartment filled up with my old furniture, old RCAs and every 1940s utensil we could get our hands on, it started to feel like a home…a very cluttered home. When we got married, rented a tiny house and had our first son, we felt the natural need to nest. “Nest” coming from the Latin word meaning “to collect crap.” We became very sentimental and whenever a relative was going to give away some item from our childhoods, we felt the need to become its caretakers. Dining room set, dressers, desks, paintings, books…we were doing our lineage a service by minding the mess.

When we bought our own home and had our second son, this naturally progressed. We have more rooms! Look at all the cabinet and closet space! Let’s fill ‘em! Aunt Mildred’s gone. Sure, I’ll take the bureau and sofabed. Grandma’s gone. Sure, I’ll take the dressers. Ooooo, look at that 1950s oven! It’s just like Grandma’s! Bring it on! When both of our parents downsized their houses, guess who took a lot of the overflow.

Now, something in me has either clicked or snapped (the verb depends on if you’re an optimist or a pessimist). Recently I began feeling the urge. The urge to purge. In the month since I’ve been back from my last trip to Los Angeles, I’ve purged probably half of my personal belongings. Clothes, shoes, jewelry, books…if I didn’t wear, walk in or read it in the past year, it's outta here. Same with the kids’ room. And this morning, since I’m childless for the rest of the week, I decided to tackle my “hot spot.” The kitchen. I started writing this blog in my head after I pulled my third fondue set from a cabinet. This is not 1974. There are no fondue-based key parties in my future. Bye-bye skewers and pots. Why the hell do I have seven pie plates? I have never baked more than three pies at one time, even on my biggest Thanksgiving. So long 9” Pyrexes. There are only four of us in this house. Why do I have 11 coffee mugs? Three crockpots? I have never made homemade French onion soup. And yet I have the crocks. I have the internet, I don’t need 12 cookbooks (at one time I had over 40, so only having 12 now is already impressive but I’m only keeping three). I think I now have two Honda Civic’s worth of crap to get out of this kitchen. If you’re looking for a gravy boat or vintage cake plate, better call me before my husband gets back from work!

I admit that when under stress, when I’m feeling a lack of control, I have the tendency to rearrange the proverbial deck chairs. I have arranged the furniture in this house in every possible configuration at one point or another, short of putting the only-semi-functional 1950s Norge oven in the living room. But as my next September birthday looms, I’m feeling a deep need to lighten loads, metaphorically and physically. I’m obsessed with shedding weight, shedding clutter, shedding stress. So far, I’m two-for-three.

I have a dear friend named Christina, a kindred spirit whom I’ve never actually met. She recently turned 30 and I’ve sometimes made fun of her for becoming overly reflective and worried about her life’s direction so early. And I really shouldn’t have. It’s never too early to reflect. Never too early to start sorting through your life. Whenever you’re facing transition, whether it’s a milestone age, a career change or some personal drama…it’s never too early to want to do something about it and think about where you’ve been and where you’re going. Sorry Christina. Keep on thinking and doing something about it. And let me know if you need a fondue set.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Versus Verses

  • When a man says “I’m going to bed,” he takes off his pants, (if they already haven't been off for the past three hours), turns off the light, gets into bed and falls asleep. When a woman says “I’m going to bed,” she rotates the laundry cycle, checks on the kids, makes her “to do list” for the next day, checks her emails, pays the mortgage online, washes off her makeup, gets undressed, turns off the light, gets into bed, turns the light back on, takes the medicine she forgot, turns the light back off, gets into bed, and lies there for two hours wide awake.

  • When a man says “Nothing’s wrong,” he actually means: “Nothing is wrong, why are you asking?” When a woman says “Nothing’s wrong,” She actually means: “I am so pissed off right now, and your not knowing why is half the reason I’m pissed, so you’d better figure it out for yourself because I’m not going to tell you and if you don’t figure it out soon, be prepared for no sex for a while.”

  • When a man says “I’ll be home at 6,” he actually means: “I will be home sometime between 6 and 7:30.” When a woman says “I’ll be home at 6,” she actually means: “I’ll be home between 5:58 and 6:02.”

  • When a man says “She seemed very nice,” he either actually means: “She seemed very nice” or “Oh my god, that was the best rack I’ve seen in AGES.” When a woman says “She seemed very nice,” she either actually means “I could take her or leave her” OR “Oh my god, those were SO fake! And I SAW you looking!”

  • When a man says "I bought you a present. I hope it fits," he actually means: "It may be too small because I know if I accidentally bought one too large, you'd get depressed and accuse me of thinking you're fat." When a woman says "I bought you a present, I hope it fits," she actually means : nothing. No woman has ever said that sentence. We know every size of every member of both sides of the family.

  • When a man says "That guy's really good looking, don't you think?" he actually means: nothing. No (straight) man has ever said that sentence. When a woman says "That guy's really good looking, don't you think?" she actually means: "I think you should eat more salads, dear."

  • When a man says "I'll be ready to go in five minutes," he actually means "I'll be ready to go in five minutes. I may not remember where we're going, how to get there, or to be dressed appropriately, but I'll be ready." When a woman says "I'll be ready to go in five minutes," she actually means "You may as well turn on the television and make yourself a snack."

  • When a man says “That woman’s beautiful, don’t you think?” he actually means: “I am a very brave and possibly quite stupid man who is willing to take my life into my own hands by pointing a woman I find attractive out to you.” When a woman says “That woman’s beautiful, don’t you think?” she actually means: “That woman’s beautiful. I’m feeling frumpy. I’m subliminally asking you to tell me you find me attractive. You get one shot at answering correctly. If you fail, please refer to the consequences of example #2.

Feel free to add your own below.

"Nothing’s wrong."

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Pros at Prose

I love writing.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since the 8th grade, when my jackass teacher refused to submit a short story I’d written to a contest, saying: “This must have been plagiarized from somewhere. You’re too young to write about an alcoholic matador so realistically.” What can I say? I had a vivid imagination and a decent vocabulary at 13. And a thing for drunken bullfighters apparently.

There’s just something about being able to combine words in such a fashion that you tell a story in a way someone else can’t. In a way that makes someone want to keep reading, and then talk about it after. I don’t care what the format is, I just love the process and the outcome. Even if it’s only 140 characters at a time.

This week I’ve written pages and pages about music licensors, DVD replicators, golden-haired minstrels and inbred homicidal psychotics, only three of whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. I’ve “tweeted” about tattoos and Facebooked about horny hares. And I’ve dusted off long-shelved words like “Sapphic’ and “minstrel.” This is the stuff that floats my boat. Now if only this sailor could just reap some serious booty from the wordsmithing.

The point of this entry? Well, like “minstrel” and “Sapphic” (great word, made two people run to look it up so far), I let my love of writing sit on a shelf too long. I’ve know for close to 30 years that it’s what I was meant to do. And I got paid to do it for a while, but then stopped. Now that I’ve recommitted to it wholeheartedly, I sometimes worry that it’s too late. It’s hard to compete with kids 20 years younger in any field, let alone a creative one. But I’m busting a hump (not every turn of phrase has to be poetic) to make things happen.

I see both of my sons developing talents very early, things that I can see them doing as a profession. My 13-year-old spends hours drawing everything from Fenway to a portrait of his brother. I can totally see him becoming an artist or an architect. And I can see his 7-year-old brother becoming the President of the United States...or a highly successful used car salesman…or both. One’s an illustrator, the other an orator. I just hope that when the time comes for them to decide which paths to take, that I remember my floundering years and don’t try and make them pick something “safe” instead, like I did for a while. I’d like to think that I’d encourage them to go with their gifts rather than the safe road. Because I would love to see Evan design a building one day. And I would love to see Ben get Congress to make gay marriage legal in every state. Or at least get me a really good deal on a previously owned BMW.

"Lady Writer" by Dire Straits