Thursday, September 30, 2004

strategic living: the finer points of peaceful coexistence

After rooming with my best friend for over 5 years now, we have ironed out the nitty gritty of roommate living and established a basic "if it needs to be done, do it...if it needs to be cleaned, clean it" approach. Like grandma says, it really does seem to come out in the wash.

But as with all good rules, there are exceptions to this one, and they are very important to know. If there's one thing I've learned about peacefully coexisting, it's that it often boils down to leverage. I don't mean keeping score, I mean strategy. Let me explain.

Exception #1: I always take out the trash.
This particular household chore does not fall under the "if it needs to be done, do it" category because Emily simply doesn't do it. She "clams up" and "doesn't know what to do" when the trash can is full. I think it's kind of like stage fright, only with garbage. Or maybe she felt a certain kinship with Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout in elementary school and decided to take her lifestyle to heart. I'm not really sure.

In any case, Emily claims to be "bad at" taking trash bags out to the dumpster. (Translation: She missed the giant 6'x15' opening once about 4 years ago when attempting to heave a big bag into it and therefore feels she lacks the skills to successfully complete this task in the future.)

Terrible excuses, right? WRONG. Please keep reading.

Exception #2: I don't do electronics.
When it comes to setting up the DVD player, the VCR, the TV, the stereo, etc. and particularly when it comes to pushing the appropriate buttons in the appropriate sequence on any number of our remote controls to operate said electronics, I am out for the count. This is Emily's domain. She is a (lovable, moderately OCD) freak and actually likes to read manuals on these kinds of things so they're all hers.

For the most part, I'm a pretty smart girl so it's no secret that if I really had to, I could figure out our household electronics. But because I really don't want to, I get to play dumb. Just like Emily and the trash.

See what I mean? Leverage.

Now, some of you might be thinking that, based on the illustration I have just provided, I'm getting the raw end of the deal. Stinky, rotten garbage vs. clean, sleek electronics may seem like a no brainer, but do not be deceived. This is where strategy comes in. Since I'm pretty indifferent about the trash removal chore, I choose to assume responsibility for it so I can strategically get off the hook from doing other things that I'd rather not do.

Without pulling out the exhaustive language from the Official Roommate Code Book, Volume I on Exceptions #3-#97, here are a few more examples to make sure you get my point:

I kill the bugs and spiders and clean up the cat barf; Emily thinks up genius things to make for dinner when we only have 6.5 items in the frige and half are moldy. I typically load and unload the dishwasher; Emily cleans out the huge stack of magazines we get each month and is responsible for building and monitoring fires in the fireplace. I do most of the grocery shopping and write the rent check; Emily writes the checks for our utility bills. I water the plants; Emily monitors our living room decor and refrigerator door to make sure they are minimalistic in nature and clutter-free, respectively.

Of course, there are exceptions to these exceptions because we often blur the lines and pick up the slack for each other when needed, but for the most part, these are our standard living procedures. Our SLP's.

We've lived together so long that all of our married friends joke we're like husband and wife. (I'm always the husband in this scenario which is very bothersome, but that's a topic for another time.) We usually laugh or roll our eyes at this joke but I'm really beginning to hope my own marriage will work this well.

And also that I can pass off the trash and bug-killing duties to my future husband in exchange for a few better ones, but that's neither here nor there.

Posted by Poka Bean at 4:29 PM 3 comments

Thursday, September 23, 2004

active imagination

When I was a kid, I had an incredibly active imagination.

I imagined I had 10 brothers and sisters (since in real life I have only one and this seemed like a great shame to me.) I gave them all names and every morning before school I would close the bathroom door and quietly recite the same speech into the mirror as though I was telling my classmates about my giant family for my day of show and tell. I made sure to include personal details about each one of them in my speech, i.e. "Colby is my oldest brother. He's 18 and he's on the soccer team and has a really pretty girlfriend." Colby is the only one I remember now. Long live imaginary cheese brother.

I imagined I was an Olympic gymnast and performed difficult vaults in my backyard using the mini, circular trampoline my mom got at Price Club to exercise on (and I don't think ever did...remember those?) as my springboard and the stucco-ed retaining wall as my vault. I nailed it every time.

I imagined that my boogie board was a horse named Misty and that the act of riding the whitewater of some awfully wimpy waves at Cardiff State Beach was actually the two of us on an epic cross-country adventure.

I imagined that all of my clothes could talk to each other and I would strategically re-hang my clean laundry in different locations in the closet so they could all get to know each other. I'd hang one piece up and say out loud "Blue Shirt, this is Red Shirt. Have you met?" (Okay, was this revealing too much?)

I imagined I had to drive the afternoon carpool to pick up my imaginary kids after school and would ride my bike all over the neighborhood stopping in front of the same houses on my carpool route and talking out loud to my "kids" as they hopped in the "car". It's a wonder so many of my neighbors later asked me to babysit for their children after witnessing such dementia.

I imagined that the giant tree in my front yard was a big, two-story house and that each of the big branches were different rooms. There was a kitchen, two bathrooms, two bedrooms, a master bedroom with it's own "exit" that I would swing out of, and, of course, a sewing room. There was also a large storage closet but it was pretty high up so I didn't use it much.

I don't know why all these memories came to me today but all of a sudden I felt so sad I don't imagine like I used to. These days, my imaginative thoughts only reach so far as dreaming that my credit cards are an unlimited source of free money and that McDonald's will start serving the Shamrock Shake year round. And also that Alias is really going to come on this Sunday night, despite all evidence to the contrary.

So I've decided to try to re-activate my imagination a little and I thought it best to warn you. If you see me driving down the freeway talking to myself, fear not. I'm not going quietly mad, I'm just talking to my "kids" in the back seat. And if you're laying at the beach this weekend while I attempt to surf and you hear me whinnying from the water, don't be alarmed. It's just me and Misty (all grown up) on another epic adventure. I think I'll not revert to introducing my clothes to each other but I make no promises about resurrecting Colby and the missing 9. I'm too young to be old, and I never did get any brothers so I figure I might as well.

Posted by Poka Bean at 4:24 PM 2 comments

Thursday, September 16, 2004

wedding rings

I was in a coffee shop today and was enjoying some good people watching while the teenage barista was steaming and frothing my latte. A middle-aged, awkward, disheveled man wearing a sloppy outfit came in while I was waiting and caught my attention. He was not self-assured, not graceful, not quite right...the kind of guy who looks odd enough to make you feel really uncomfortable for him. The kind of guy who is just off enough that you feel embarrassment for him even though he is completely oblivious to all the things he should theoretically be embarrassed about. I would call him "unapologetically dorky" but I don't think that's accurate. He was so clueless about his dorkiness that he didn't even know to be unapologetic about it.

He stepped away from the counter holding a muffin on a very small plate. The coffee shop was crowded but he managed to find a chair for himself. With no table to set his food on, he pulled his knees together sort of femininely, set the tiny plate on his lap, and proceeded to awkwardly nibble on his muffin.

Instantly, without thinking about it or consciously intending to do so, I realized my eyes were searching wildly for a good look at his left hand in hopes I'd find him wearing a wedding ring. Now, this is a pretty normal learned behavior of most single women and a habit of curiosity that's hard to break even once you're happily dating (as I am) and don't care about a stranger's marital status. But on this particular occasion, my instinctive search for a ring on this guy's hand had nothing to do with interest about his availability. On this occasion, I looked for a ring out of pure, desperate hope that there is someone out there who loves him. Someone who needs him. Someone who is as oblivious to his dorkiness as he is and who adores him and greets him affectionately at the end of a long day.

But even more than that, I looked for a ring out of the selfish hope that I wouldn't have to feel sorry for him or worry for him. Because as long as someone else out there loves and cares about him, I wouldn't have to. As long as someone else is a friend to him, I wouldn't have to feel guilty that I don't want to be one. I wouldn't have to suck up my discomfort and try to love him myself. If he's married, then he has at least one person in his life. If he's married, I'm off the hook.

Most of the time I think I really have it together. I think I'm good to people and caring and that I live by noble principles. And then the awkward guy in the coffee shop happens and the ugliness of my human nature slaps me in the face.

Today I went back to square one.

Posted by Poka Bean at 11:04 AM 1 comments

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

a little bit about me

Okay folks, let's get down to the basics. There are a few things you ought to know about me.

I am a skilled chunk hound. When it comes to ice cream (and it does every night for me), I don't believe in flavors without chunks and I am gifted at digging through cartons to make sure I get big ones in every bite. I am regularly reprimanded by my roommate for leaving our ice cream in chunk-free ruins.

I have my nose pierced. (Sorry...this is about as dangerous and rebellious as I get. Does it sound more dramatic if I also mention that I work for a church? No? I didn't think so but it was worth a shot.)

I always sleep on my side.

I have never craved a sandwich.

My boyfriend periodically calls me Evil Jungle Princess. Don’t be alarmed…I am not (usually) evil nor do I hail from a jungle or any sort of royal lineage. This distinguished title really has nothing to do with me personally, rather it is the name of a chicken dish at a local Thai restaurant that he's particularly fond of. My boyfriend isn’t too keen on doling out nicknames or terms of endearment so I have to take what I can get.

I loathe cleaning out the bathtub.

After living by the beach for 26 years, I am finally learning to surf.

I have an aggressively strong (some might call it hyperactive) conscience. Stories about the silly things it has driven me to do should be reserved for another time. Like when I'm in the mood to laugh at myself so hard that I actually shed tears. And pee a little bit. In my pants.

I’m terrible at estimating numbers, i.e. how many people are in a crowd, how much people weigh, how many miles it is between point A and point B, etc. I am also inept at determining when someone has had plastic surgery. (I rely on my roommate for this. She has a special gift.)

I fear public restrooms. Not in a germaphobe kind of way...more like in a don't-want-to-be-raped-and-killed-in-one kind of way. For crying out loud, haven't you people seen the movie Copycat?

My fingers (particularly my thumbs) are freakishly bendable. And I mean freakishly.

In my mind, each number is a different color. This would take a great deal of time to fully explain but basically, it goes like this: zero and one are white with a black outline, two is pink, three is yellow, four is red, five is blue, six is salmon, seven is green, eight is turquoise (most of the time, at least...eight is fickle for me), and nine is maroon. So you can easily understand why the number 4629 (for example) is unattractive in my head. It just doesn't go together, you know? Come to find out this whole color/number thing is a legitimate neurological phenomenon. It has a scientific name and there are books about it and everything. I have been many things in my life but never a "phenomenon" of any kind so I consider this progress. A personal advancement of sorts. Being a neurological phenomenon is definitely a good thing.

Posted by Poka Bean at 5:25 PM 0 comments

Friday, September 03, 2004

true story

True story.
In 7th grade I had to be rescued by a lifeguard while I was wearing a vegetable print bathing suit. (If that doesn’t sound like much to you, I suggest you re-read that first sentence while paying particularly close attention to the words “7th grade” and “vegetable print bathing suit.”)

It was my class’ end-of-the-year beach party. I was in need of a new bathing suit so mother dearest took me to Marshall’s the night before the party in hopes to find a bargain. Regrettably, though, my 7th grade “not a girl, not yet a woman” physique prevented any of the choice bathing suits from fitting properly so mom kept bringing me other options to try until we came across one that fit.

Yep, you guessed it…the vegetable print bathing suit. In hideous, 70s wallpaper shades of green, orange, white, and brassy reds (you know, for the tomatoes), this one-piece doozie was a far cry from the feminine look I had in mind. (Okay, so it had a couple splashes of deep purple where eggplant peaked through the bounty of onions, carrots, and broccoli, but that totally doesn’t count.) To this day, I would like to break the nose of the fool that thought to manufacture this little number in the perfect size for a junior high girl.

For some reason, this bathing suit seemed to please my mother greatly. Probably because the price was right and it made me MUCH less desirable prey for the junior high boys but neither of these reasons occurred to me at the time. All I knew was that it was my only choice and if I wanted to please my mom (a skill I learned at an early age and have spent the better part of my life perfecting) I had to get the suit. Besides, who was really going to notice anyway??

The answer to that question is quite simple: Everyone.
I went to the beach party wearing the vegetable bathing suit and went swimming with friends. When we all decided to head back in, I swam hard but didn’t seem to get anywhere. A lifeguard swam out to rescue me and pulled me to shore where I found a large gathering of classmates staring and laughing (at both my near-drowning incident AND the bathing suit, of course). The lifeguard claimed I was caught in a rip tide. I’m still not sure that was the case but was grateful for his very official proclamation since it protected me from the alternative…exposing the fact that I’m a terrible swimmer would’ve been really put my embarrassment over the edge.

Needless to say, this was a rough way to end 7th grade. So why tell this story NOW? After all these years? Well, I’ve only recently been able to confess it to my closest friends and to my mother (who, by the way, claims to have no recollection of the offending suit and acted quite wounded when I recounted all the ways it scarred me.) But finally confessing made me realize how good I really had it. While most junior highers were dealing with divorcing parents, identity crises, getting mixed up with the wrong crowd, etc., I was dealing with the vegetable bathing suit. Just me and a piece of nylon material printed with a thorough cross-section of produce from your neighborhood grocery store.

That, my friends, is the best introduction I can think to give you to my pretty, sweet life.

Posted by Poka Bean at 5:29 PM 1 comments