Monthly Archives: March 2014

Thanks, but No Thanks

I’ve had some problems with accepting compliments lately. In fairness, the problems have really been with the compliments themselves, in two separate but equally awful forms. Addressing each individually, we have the “offensive sincere compliments” filing to the back of the bus, while the front seats are reserved for the “gracious insult compliments.” From back to front:

I am cold after finishing a running event one evening here in the miserable February elements. By “cold,” I mean my snot has frozen to my face in an elaborate spiderweb, and the mudsicles that are my socks have rendered my toes completely vestigial. I’m not the only one, and in fact, I’m lucky: as a generously-padded woman, I’ve got whale-science on my side; at least I’m not the scrawny marathoner who shivers next to me. Now, by “running event,” some of you know I mean that drinking-club-with-a-running-problem that I spend an inordinate amount of my time with, so like virtually everyone else, FreezerPop is at least pleasantly sauced, if not half in the bag, as he approaches 6.0 on the Richter scale before my very eyes. Before his lips actually turn violet, I cozy on over and try to spark up some body heat to stop the seizing. We’re friendly, so this isn’t any sort of momentously relationship-altering event, although we haven’t seen each other in probably 6 months. He immediately folds his Popsicle-stick arms around my waist, with minimal improvement in his overall shake intensity. I suggest that his hands might be warmer down my drawers (I’m subtle like that, right?), and he promptly wraps the frigid flappers around my bare heiney.

At which point he says, first, completely appropriately: “Ohmygod, you are so warm. Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou.” ….. so far so good. And then:

“Wow…I like your ass way more now that there’s so much more of it.”

<<<<<<<<sccccrrreeeeeeeeeech>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

I’m sure he felt my burning ass cheeks clench mightily as I struggled to make some sound emerge from my choking throat.  I couldn’t quite muster “thanks” — ultimately I aspired to merely “giggle,” which wound up “asphyxiating gurgle,” but happily, he didn’t seem to notice any awkwardness.

Now, I legitimately, wholeheartedly, dance-on-grammy’s-grave believe that FreezerPop meant that as an unreserved compliment, with no ill judgment influenced by society’s immense pressure that thin = pretty, fat = lazy and undisciplined, and noticeable -and-impressive-weight-gain-over-six-months = serious unresolved emotional problems. I know, in my Spock brain, that FreezerPop is of the Sir Mixx-a-Lot school of lady-appreciation, and was merely expressing the actual and sincere appreciation of his man-brain (by which I mean his penis) for my newly-generous posterior. I understand this, and I want to accept the remark for what it is: a sincerely-meant compliment that is offensive through really no fault of his own, although it displays a marked obliviousness to the cultural standards, pressures, and norms of the society we inhabit. I want to be cool. I tell myself to be cool.

But I leave within minutes and cry all the way home. And after. For a long time. And almost now, while I’m thinking about it.

About 20 years ago my great-grandmother turned 80, and we all trucked down to Florida to  spend some precious time with her (she ultimately lived to be 94 – we were a little premature on the “crap! we’d better celebrate this one big because it might be her last!” birthday planning, but we couldn’t have know that then). We sat around chatting with the TV in the background, which she happened to notice was tuned to “Ellen,” and interjected into the conversation, apropos of nothing: “I am just so glad these queers are getting the respect they deserve.”

My grandmother meant well. Her heart was pure and her intentions were oriented correctly (pun totally intended), but the way she expressed her support was less-than-kind at best, downright offensive at worst. In the same way, I know that FreezerPop’s exclamation was a genuine outburst of appreciation of my ampler-than-remembered assets. But I’m not proud of my ass-enlargement; it wasn’t really something I drew into the life blueprints, and his acknowledgment of this tangible sign that I can’t control even the expansion of my own territory was too much for my ego to accept at face value as the compliment it was. But I am trying to do so, because it’s not his bullshit damage that made it hurtful — it’s all my own.

In stark opposition to the front-of-the-bus riders:  the “gracious insult compliments.” Settling into a diner counter today to have a coffee and read the paper (I may live in Portland, but I hail from the midwest, and a DINER is the place to do that), the gent on the barstool next to me and the amply-proportioned waitress are still chuckling about the feller who told her that “for a big girl, she had such tiny feet!” and seemed to expect that would be a successful pickup line (or at least be taken as a compliment).

Which reminded me of the insult-compliment that’s been slow-burning for days:  this weekend I had someone repeatedly — REPEATEDLY — tell me how attractive my friends were. (“Dude! You have the hottest friends! I mean seriously! Your friends are the two most attractive women here! OMG!I can’t believe you have such hot friends!” …repeat ad nauseum.) **Note for the peanut gallery that both friends are 5’2″ and 115# soaking wet; extremely useful for if you have to carry them home because they’ve been struck by lightening or dropsy, but about as different from “what I look like” as aesthetically possible.

Anyone want to help him with why this “compliment” is really an insult? And this part isn’t my damage. This one is just bad manners, and it’s not kind. I’m going to go take my fat ass elsewhere to get complimented for real by a whole bunch of idiot wankers whose hearts are in the right places, even if their tongues aren’t keeping up the bargain.

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No thanks, I’ve had enough children.

As a completely functional single woman, I’ve squelched every possibly-motherly urge I’ve ever had by dating children rather than producing them. Before you run to your mandatory-reporting agency, I only date biological adults…but ones who apparently drank too much Red Bull while 15 years old and got mentally stuck right about there.

Now, 15-year-old boys have a lot going for them, particularly if you cherry-pick the eagle scouts. They can build you a new deck (although that’s vastly too boring and practical; more likely they will build you a hammock arbor, or a trebouchet). They are always up to ride bikes at midnight in a hailstorm, to get to the highest point in the area and watch the lightning (safety third!!). They have the equipment and knowledge to camp in the high desert for three weeks — probably already packed and ready, just add beer. They start fires by dousing kindling with white gas when people are chilly at a barbecue. If your concept of “alpine skiing” doesn’t involve “getting lost in out-of-bounds areas and almost plummeting to your death off sheer cliff faces,” you’ve got an education coming! And they are always up for a good party (“let’s find more stuff to deep fry in the turkey fryer!!!”).

The problems really come when you become responsible for making sure they behave like an adult. I was reminded yesterday of the time when the family of the Eagle-Scout I then lived with was throwing an elaborate surprise party for his sister’s birthday. We promised to arrive at the hosting friend’s house three hours before party time, so that Scout could do things like tear out some leftover barbed wire (apparently leftover from when our friend kept pumas? why else would you need razor wire in your backyard?), fill in a five-foot-long-three-foot-deep hole in the yard (I’m starting to wonder about the reasons  she got rid of the pumas…if we find quicklime, I’m leaving…), do some mowing/cleanup, and rehang an interior door which gets fresh with unwitting guests if not properly jimmied into position.

Four hours before party time, Scout was diligently working on building a set of giant Jenga blocks. Two sets, actually — it was vital to determine whether full two-by-fours or smaller blocks cut down therefrom made for the most optimally enjoyable Jenga-playing experience. (For the science-minded, the cut-down blocks were the crowd favorite after multiple subsequent nights of strenuous field testing.) Since I do so love nagging, I gently reminded him: we have to be at friend’s in an hour to get things ready for the party.

Quelle suprise! In an hour, we were NOT at friend’s house. In fact, in THREE hours we were not at friend’s house. My phone, at this point, could’ve been an admirable substitute for a Hitachi Magic Wand, since every approximately three nanoseconds a member of his family or our friends sent me another text message bemoaning our non-appearance.

Being late makes me apoplectic, for no really great reason, possibly because my sociopathic mother drove into my impressionable child-brain that when people are late to things it is because they don’t love you. Therefore, when I run late — for whatever reason, including, however unlikely, that I am thinly veiling how much I secretly despise you — I have something that approaches an anxiety attack and any communication emanating from me sounds a lot like a banshee on methamphetamines.

So when Scout sauntered into the house to get cleaned up — at an hour which would make us fashionably late had we arrived at that very instant by teleportation — I had reached a level of anger audible only to dogs, and our interaction was less than ideal. When he asked me for help picking out clothing, I admit I lost my shit, but I hardly expected him to respond by dropping his six-foot-six, thirty-two-year-old, stark naked self into a gangly pile in the middle of the living room floor and petulantly responding that he wasn’t going anywhere until I picked out something for him to wear.

I’m not 100% sure what happened next, since the blinding anger apparently hijacked my memory function, except that I now understand how a person can kill someone in a fit of rage and am no longer completely opposed to the “temporary insanity” defense. In retrospect, I should’ve picked him out a lovely cocktail dress, or perhaps some underoos or a pirate cape, and had a sense of humor about the whole thing. In the moment, I managed to arrange some sort of sweater onto Scout’s pouty personage and get us both to the party…

…right about the time that everyone jumped out of bushes, fell from trees, and yelled “Surprise!” Unfortunately, the guest of honor was approximately two minutes behind us, and wandered in as everyone was awkwardly trying to reset themselves for a re-take of the “dramatic entrance” scene.

So after we successfully ruined as much of the party as possible, we settled in to have a cocktail, relax, and celebrate…well, he did, with total abandon. My jangly nerves weren’t doing nearly as well, so I retreated to the kitchen to drink some whiskey and do some dishes, out of the line of fire, when his mother came in to tell me that “whatever the two of us were fighting about before we got here, my continuing to be obviously upset and unhappy about it was just childish.”

It took too long to figure out, but it wasn’t too long after that incident that I happily gave that child right back to his mother, thanked the feminist revolution for easy access to birth control, and moved into a studio apartment, blissfully child-free.

What IS the going rate for my dignity these days?

Some of us have an easier time than others expressing our reticence about doing whatever unsettling thing (or person) has been proposed.

Those of you who are avid listeners of the Savage Love podcast (that should be every damn one of you, at http://www.savagelovecast.com) may have heard the recent question, paraphrased: “My online dating profile says I’m submissive, which I am as opposed to dominant [in a FetLife you sorta have to choose one or the other kinda way] but then total strangers treat me like crap and try to belittle and shame me into taking their bullshit because that would be the submissive thing to do.” To which Dan and guest host Mollena Williams, a.k.a “The Perverted Negress” (someone who is important and knowledgeable in the world of BDSM apparently) say in response: sure, you’re submissive, in a situation where everyone is a consensual and willing participant…you’re just not interested in people treating you like crap. That’s not actually part of the thing, it’s just some douche bag taking advantage of  you and exploiting your desire to please and satisfy.

I’ve never had a thing for people inflicting pain on me, partially because I have worked for a number of years in an industry where people treat each other like partially-congealed chicken fat which has gone rancid and should be scraped from one’s boot. Years ago, I went to a kickboxing class where two women instructors traded off at random: one yelled encouraging, uplifting, bafflingly nonsensical things at us (“Yeah! Kick harder! Smash that face! You can do it! You’re wonder woman! Kill that random thing dead!”) and the other hurled insults at us (“You pansies think I got out of bed for this? That grandpa in the Speedo in the pool behind you could kick higher than you. Yeah, grandpa, I’m talkin’ about you! You and these bunch of maggots wanna get together and decay?”) I went religiously for about two years before the stress got to be too much for me — if angry girl was teaching, I left the gym more histrionic than adrenaline-pumped, and since I learned they were roommates and decided at the last minute which was going to teach and I couldn’t possibly plan for the perky one, I just called it. (The only instructor who was worse, by the way, was the one who accused my friend and I of going through “the change” when we — both 24-year-olds — requested that the fans be turned on midway through a punishing cardio class. And this is why I don’t have a gym membership anymore….) ANYWAY, I stopped going because I got belittled, devalued, nitpicked, abused, and generally shit upon on as a regular-if-not-daily basis as part of my career, and I sure as shit wasn’t going to pay a gym to pile on to what my colleagues had spent 7 years and $100,000 learning to do and a lifetime thereafter perfecting. (Sidenote:  You know what’s not judgmental? RUNNING. #whatidonow)

So generally, I feel like I can stick up for my own self. Career that rewards everyone who treats each other like crap, and encourages total sociopathy? Yep, just quit for the second time. But then I take a serious and honest look back, and think of how many tattoos on my body represent ways in which I won’t let myself live for others, or get pushed around by others, or get told exactly what my limitations are by others…TO REMIND MYSELF…and, yep, that’s exactly all of them. Apparently I still have a long road to hoe, pardon the expression in light of the coming paragraph….

So I got objectified today, in a way that I’ve surprisingly and honestly never encountered: I basically got offered compensation in exchange for companionship, of a sexual-ish nature. I say sexual-ish, because we did the weird little dance where I know damn well that you are trying to convince me that you have some sort of value for which I should exchange something of my self-worth and provide you with companionship of a possibly sexual and/or naked nature which will revitalize the feelings about yourself which have long ago become dormant or are dying on the vine as we speak. And you want to feel young, and fun, and sexy, and cool, and you want me to be your entré into the world of titillating risqué walking-the-line-of-dangerousness while maintaining everyone’s professional veneer. (And introduce you to the world of french accents, apparently.)

Here’s the thing:

I’m still not a whore.

I left the job I hated (again!) because it made me feel like I did terrible things I couldn’t justify morally — treating people badly, conducting myself poorly, treating myself poorly, making sacrifices that I didn’t agree with — in order to earn a steady paycheck.

I know that you know I’ve been the lowest of the low for 8-ish years (with some breaks), so  selling my companionship would seem like, frankly, a promotion — better hours, more control of my clients, no billable hour requirement and godknows no horrible investment hour/marketing requirement.

You might suspect (and it’s really very true) that I spend lots of quality time (frequently sexual-ish) with a number of people I choose to share myself with; sometimes lots of time with lots of people, sometimes a more selective group of lucky jeopardy winners. All of whom I respect, admire, lust after and sometimes adore.

And I’m completely cool with people who sell their company, skills, assets, etc., in absolutely whatever form. But…

I’m still not a whore.

I can stick up for my self. And no part of me – not my beliefs, not my vagina, not my company – is for sale. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not turning into a prude. I will do damn near anything …if it strikes my fancy, gets me closer to ecstasy, or helps me fulfill some other dream or purpose (or, frankly, if it helps a friend). But I’m not for sale — not my heart, not my head, not my hoo-hah.

I think the biggest thing that I am learning on this little “life sabbatical” is how to stand up for that belief emphatically, positively, enthusiastically, and completely without shame or apology.

**PLEASE READ THE COMMENTS. Particularly in light of the Duke sexworker article that is making me so angry I can’t see straight (the comments on it particularly), I really, really want to emphasize that the part of this that is demeaning is absolutely not the voluntary exchange of sex for money among consenting adults but the fact that when I quit my job I was then offered money for sex as if that would of course be the reasonable alternative that springs to mind.

I owe you, you owe me…

Given the sheer volume of the responses to my roommate’s charming OK Cupid profile, we have nicknamed the gents. Some are more flattering than others — “Hot Scott” is actually in her phone that way, and most of us agree he still deserves it after a few weeks of dates. (Although it was moderately embarrassing when he noticed the phone-entry, I still don’t think he realizes that this is how he is generally referred to among our friends. No need to give him a big head.)

Admittedly our names are pretty uninspired — “the boring one,” “the Ginger” — but some have made heroic efforts to earn their bland monikers. Rude Guy, for example, committed so many atrocities that *I* very likely would have found some wolves to abandon him to:

It was snowpocalypse 2014, which for Portland, Oregon, meant a few inches of snow fell and it’s wasn’t forecasted to be above 32 degrees F for a few days, and OHMYGODWHATAREWEGONNADO. The whole city got text messages from the emergency contact system saying: “Imminent severe alert” (in red! red means important!!) – “Portland strongly urges all residents to stay indoors today & not travel due to ice.” This unsolicited text message should make clear that 1) Big Brother is absolutely watching you, 2) Big Brother has never lived in Minnesota, or anywhere else where losing your smaller children or household animals to winter storms is actually a legitimate concern. Since the messages were also accompanied by a sudden, ear-piercing honking/shrieking noise, I would venture a bet that they might have actually caused more injuries from people clamoring to make the racket stop and/or dropping dead in startled terror than they prevented. (Particularly since my response was to get together with a friend, bundle up in bib overalls, and trudge around the ice-crusted throughways, just because the City apparently has my cell number and wants to express how much I shouldn’t do just that. From the number of other people suddenly on the streets within an hour after the first text, I don’t think I’m the only one who embraced this juvenile response.)

Anyway, Roomie had been on a date — a nice, safe afternoon date, the kind you make with someone you really aren’t that interested in but who seems nice and is fairly persistent about his request to have a sandwich/coffee/kebab/soy latte/dog walk with you. And then the city FREAKED OUT. In addition to sending us the aforementioned “ohmygod the world is ending” messages, it also shut down all of its public transportation, and in a testament to how “not the real world” Portland is, most of the cab drivers apparently also took the rest of the day off to pray to the dashboard jesus or whatever other graven idol is the patron saint of livery workers asking that they be redeemed in the coming rapture rather than ratcheting up the meter-drop cost and collecting enough scratch to put four toddlers through college.

Now, when Roomie goes on first dates, she wisely sticks within walking distance of home. We live in an excellent foot traffic neighborhood, with lots of nearby bars, restaurants, and things to do, and so this plan ensures she doesn’t have to drive or rely on any other means or people to escape if this proves necessary; plus, if things do go well, there’s a comfy bed, a well-stocked liquor cabinet and a heavily-armed roommate within stumbling distance.

She’s smart, but unfortunately, she’s also quite nice. When Portland decided that everyone should remain in exactly the spot they were in circa 8 p.m., Turd Fergusen laid a Catholic-school-worthy guilt trip on Roomie to come back to her place because he would have no other option than to walk home (about 5 miles in about 5 inches of snow). Roomie texted me a heads-up, as a result of which I unsheathed the good machete and put away anything that had potential resale value on Ebay. (What?! I’m careful!)

The evening passed relatively uneventfully, and it seemed the fella redeemed himself and otherwise demonstrated his value as an overnight companion…but come the morning, as the sun started to melt the snow and the city surely began to recover from its hallucinogenic Revelation-esque fears, he made no move to depart. Eventually, we conspired a story involving a pre-existing commitment Roomie had to meet up with a family of small children for some screaming toddler fun snow time and the bloke suddenly remembered he had a macramé project to finish across town.

But that wasn’t what earned him “Rude Guy” status, because pestering a girl into a first date, badgering her into letting you spend the night and then completely failing to grasp the social cues of when you should leave in the morning is oafish, but not quite “rude.”

No, Rude Guy earned his name after he and Roomie went out to the symphony a week later. The weather had cleared, so without a pressing snowstorm he apparently couldn’t master how to convince her to bring him directly home, and they went out for drinks. At some point during a discussion of one of the eight million things you shouldn’t talk about on your second date  with someone you’re really only interested in having casual sex with, Roomie’s irritation and contempt for the Tool finally tipped the scales versus her capacity for pleasantry and her desire for sex, and she told him she was tired and going to call it a night. He made a couple more snarky comments which solidified her position, and she headed home alone.

Over the next few days, Rude Guy texted repeatedly, making a strange attempt to shame her into feeling guilty she didn’t sleep with him on the second date after the concert because somehow she owed him sex. (I’ll point out here as I did to her that if this is a straight tit-for-tat exchange, she’s easily up a couple hundred against his $29 ticket purchase if you consider the market value of the first date’s lodging and services, depending on what the going rate is for that these days. Rude Guy apparently isn’t an economist.) Somehow Rude Guy felt that because she didn’t put out on date #2, she owes him another date and the best way to get that is by texting the shit out of her and calling her names. Now, I haven’t had a ton of success with wooing women, myself, but I feel pretty confident this isn’t a strategy with proven positive results.

It’s been three or four weeks now, and for some reason, Rude Guy still thinks he’s got some kind of a chance at another sleepover party. This makes me wish so very desperately for Yelp-style reviews on OK Cupid, or maybe a full Yelp-Tinder-OKC mashup, where you can find nearby attractive singles who have 4-star-and-up peer-reviewed ratings. Until then, I suppose I’ll just keep sharpening the machete…I’m vastly less nice than Roomie.