That time Ben Affleck led me on an introspective adventure

I am occasionally prone to grand, definitive statements, and once I reach a conclusion, I tend to stick to it steadfastly.

It took a summer season of eggplant in my CSA box for me to finally denounce eggplant as the asshole vegetable that it is and I haven’t looked back since. I declared my hatred for it, and that was that. I haven’t touched the stuff in at least two years and I can’t help but scowl at the mere mention of eggplant, such is my deep-rooted hatred for it.

At 25, I proclaimed my favorite color as green. It was a turning point for me, really, a symbol that I was finally shedding the indecisiveness of my early 20s and teens and was turning into someone with an opinion. And so there it was. Green is my favorite color and no matter how much coral keeps popping up in my wardrobe and no matter how many blue things I acquire, green is still my favorite color because I declared it so four years and surely, it must still be true.

Change is something I’m generally pretty shitty at and I tend to have a really tough time changing my mind on hard-spoken pronouncements and so, while watching Argo last night, I found myself conflicted and confused.

See, I hate Ben Affleck. I’m said it half a million times. Declared it, loudly, at the mere mention of him or one of his films and I’ve doggedly avoided his movies because my loathing for him is a serious and often-announced sort of thing.

My life is, and has been, a no Ben Affleck, no Tom Cruise and no Kevin Bacon zone for something like five years now and there I was, willing watching Argo, which I assumed I’d hate because of THE AFFLECK, but no – there I was, totally enjoying the fuck out that movie and actually even enjoying Ben’s performance and then for a minute I felt like everything in my life was a lie because there was Ben Affleck on my screen not being a TOTAL AND COMPLETE SHIT and if that was the case then maybe my favorite color isn’t actually green and what if eggplant can be amazing?!?

And so that’s the story of how Ben Affleck led me to an epiphany about life being in constant evolution and how sometimes who we are changes while we’re busy living and discovering and being and that yesterday’s proclamations aren’t always today’s proclamations, which seems like a really important lesson, just not one I thought I’d get from Ben Affleck.

I realized today, driving to work, that I’m happy, and it’s not just because tomorrow I get on a plane and fly to Vegas for the last ever Bloggers in Sin City (although let’s be clear, I AM OVER THE MOON EXCITED FOR THIS ADVENTURE). It’s more than that. My life has changed so, so much in the last year and there were some serious and wretched bumps in the road, but I feel stronger and better than I have in a long, long time, something I mostly owe to all the shifts that have taken place in my life these past many months and because I’ve allowed my self to change the way I think about limitations and the things I can and cannot do.

So, thanks Ben Affleck, for the epiphany and for being kind of amazing in Argo.

Unsolicited name changes, my feminist soapbox & how it’s ok to be YOU and it’s ok to be ME.

Yesterday I came into work, tried to set myself up with the new email system work just migrated to and realized my name was wrong. My new email address was not for someone with my last name, but rather, for someone with my husband’s last name. I’ve got nothing against my husband’s last name, really. It’s quite a nice last name and it suits him well, but it’s not my last name. My last name is the same as it ever was. I never changed it, partly because it would have been confusing at work to have two staff sergeants with the same name working in the same section, but also because I really like my last name. It is, literally, part of my identity. It is who I am, that last name, and the thought of giving it up, even in the name of love, is not something I want to do. Further, I’m enough of a crazy-eyed feminist to have mildy mixed feelings about the whole name changing thing, and while I fully and completely support a woman’s right to change or not change her last name upon betrothal, for whatever good, bad or silly reasons she might list, giving up my name would feel a lot like giving up one of my favorite parts of me, so I didn’t, and I won’t.

The plus side, I suppose, is that my last name wasn’t suddenly changed to some random last name, that at least the last name the system had decided to bestow upon me was my husband’s, and not some random creation. The question though, upon learning of this new name assignment, was how did it happen? At no time had I ever initiated a name change, nor had I recently filled out any paperwork that might lead someone to believe I’d like to change my name and so I started to wonder if maybe, while Andrew has been down in Alabama going through administrative adventures he accidentally changed something or that maybe, while he was filling out various forms to ensure that all his personnel records are current and correct, some well-meaning, but ultimately misguided, person took it upon themselves to implement a name change.

As it turns out, the most likely explanation is that the system – this crazy-ass military personnel system- just took it upon itself to change my name when Andrew, after five years of marriage, added me as a dependent, which, as his spouse, I am, just as he’s mine. The best part, which is really the worst part, is that to fix this issue I have to go to an office 30-60 minutes away with my Virginia driver’s license, military ID card and social security card and declare myself as me, because in the Army it’s apparently very easy to change your last name to your husband’s  last name and takes, in fact, absolutely no effort on your part but to change it back to the name that is ACTUALLY, LEGALLY CORRECT is, like many things Army-related, a big goddamn headache.

Mostly, I’m annoyed. And angry. It astounds me that my identity can be changed in an official military system without any consent from me. Can you smell the stench of patriarchy? Of a system that goes off of assumptions and eliminates a wife’s ability to select her own identity, opting instead to simply assign her to her husband, whether she likes it or not?

Me? Bitter? I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Here the bottom line: It’s 20 fucking 12. Sometimes women don’t want to have children. Sometimes people are gay, or straight, or somewhere in between. Sometimes women change their names. Sometimes couples make up their own names and sometimes husbands take their wives name and sometimes no one takes anyone’s name. Sometimes people want to live their own lives by their own standards and sometimes that means not doing things the exact same way we did them last year, or five years ago, or fifty years ago and you know what? So long as whatever freaky shit you’re into, whether it’s keeping your maiden name or dressing up like a stuffed animal, dousing yourself in green jello and getting your freak on in a kiddie pool of chocolate pudding, so long as you’re not hurting another individual, who gives a fuck?

Tradition is great and all, really, but so is change. So is evolution. We’re not all supposed to make the same choices or be the same people or live the same lives because if we did and if we were what the fuck would we find to talk about?

General Rules for Air Travel: How not to be a dick at the airport.

I’ve been flying a lot lately. This year alone I’ve set foot in 15 airports, traveling outside of my state every month this year, except during February and April. I’ve been to Paris and Las Vegas, Chicago and Denver, had layovers at two different Texas airports. I’ve flown into international, national, and regional airports this year. All this travel has given me a lot of time to get annoyed at the airport behavior of my fellow travelers, and, instead of cursing silently under my breath at a recent layover in Atlanta, I wrote down a list of dumb shit people do at airports that they should probably stop doing before I lose my shit I start throwing things at them.

Stop clustering like a bunch of dumb shit sheep. And what I mean by that, really, is that I’m sick and fucking tired of thinking that I’m standing in line to board the damn airplane, only to realize I’m behind a hoard of idiots who are in boarding zone eleventy billion and who seem to think that if they don’t stand IMMEDIATELY BEHIND the line now forming for zone one, the plane will leave without them and they will be doomed to spend their entire lives in the airport, forever and ever, amen.

So, when the nice lady at the desk announces the airline is going to start boarding our flight? Don’t be a fucking sheep. Don’t immediately get up and race toward the gate like your life depends on it, ESPECIALLY if you’re assigned so some god forsaken boarding zone that you know won’t be boarding for another 25 minutes. Don’t stand right next to the line of people cleared for boarding, who are in zones far ahead of yours, and don’t stand BEHIND that line either because they it looks like you’re in that line, and for the love of all that’s holy, DON’T form, with your fellow sheep-eyed travelers, an impenetrable semi-circle of cluster fuckery around the boarding area.

Just keep your seats. Wait your turn. Stay out of the way, lest I run over your toes with the wheels of my carry-on bag.

Obey traffic laws. And I don’t mean the ones of the road, I mean the rules of foot traffic. I mean don’t stop and stare at your boarding pass in the middle of a busy walkway – you wouldn’t stop your car in the middle of a busy interstate, right? So why would your stop your body in the middle of a sea of swiftly moving air travelers? Just like on the interstate , if you’ve got to check your boarding pass, dig through your bag or do ANYTHING that doesn’t involve moving yourself forward, pull yourself over. Move to the side of the busy foot traffic interstate, just like you would on the regular interstate.

Also, while we’re talking about the rules of foot traffic, don’t stand in the middle of moving walkways yapping away to whatever companion you’ve roped into your DOING IT WRONG festival. Stand to the right, walk to the left. It’s that easy.

Don’t strike up conversations with people wearing headphones or reading. They’re busy. They don’t want to talk to you. They’ve got shit to do and they don’t have time for your bullshit.

Don’t hog leg room and armrest space that doesn’t belong to you.Generally, it’s men who do this shit. Not large men who take up a lot of space, but all men. Men tend to think they have this claim to all the space in all the land, especially when it’s occupied by a smallish woman. Chances are, if I’m on a flight seated next to a man, his elbow will encroach past the armrest (that oh, by the way, I have an equal claim to) and he’ll make it his personal mission to take up as much space that isn’t his to take as he possibly can, hogging both the armrests and sticking his feet into the aisle to trip the flight attendants. A man on a recent flight consumed the empty seat between us, spreading out what I can only assume were most of the contents of his office across the seat and the floor between us, encroaching further into my space than a human assigned to that seat could have, resting his computer bag against my arm and making it nearly impossible for me to reach my bag under the seat in front of me, for fear of disturbing his scattered bits of office debris.

Air travel is about sharing. Share the space in you’re in, and don’t steal the bits of space assigned to others.

Don’t line jump.It happens almost every flight. You’ve just landed and some crazy fucker with a back row seat and a ponytail comes barreling up the aisle literal seconds after the fasten seat belt sign goes off, pushing past the passengers in rows in front of him as they gather their belongings. This is wrong. You wait your damn turn. Seated at the back of the plane? That means you’re getting off last. Sorry. Sucks to be you, but trust me, I want to get off this metal bird just as badly as you do and, chance are, I’ve got shit to do and places to be today too and I’m not above “accidentally” dropping my bag in front of you just to slow your progression out the door. If you’ve got a gate change and flight to catch in 25 minutes and are in a hurry, let me know, I’ll let you go in front of me, but DO NOT think you can line jump getting off the airplane with so much as a mumbled “excuse me.”

Bottom line: Don’t be a dick at the airport or on airplanes. Follow the rules of kindergarten: Don’t cluster fuck around, don’t take shit that’s not yours and wait your damn turn.


Why I Wish My Friends Wouldn’t Date.

On Saturday, at work, I ran into a girl who used to be one of my best friends. It was more awkward than expected, with her completely unable to make eye contact with me, even after I extended an olive branch, said hello and asked how she was.

Most of our Richmond friendships were formed when we lived in the Old Apartment, and this one is no different. There was a balcony where all the smokers converged and we’d often spend nights out there drinking, smoking, sharing stories and engaging in general shenaniganry. There were five of us, two girls, three guys, and we formed a tight pack. We spent days at the river, illegally drinking beers and letting our dogs splash in the water. We visited the Outer Banks together a few times, carpooling in two or three cars and spending a weekend in debauchery, throwing beers at one another, getting burrs stuck in our feet and soaking up whatever sun we could get from the October sky.

Looking back on it, it almost seems surreal. Rare have been the times I’ve had a group of friends like that and the memories from that year or so, when we were at our closest and most ridiculous, are some of my favorites.

After some wild changes, this girl friend of mine starting dating one of the guys in the group. I was for it, initially, but then things just went all crazy, they broke up in a horrible traumatic fashion and the next day she unfriended us all on facebook and that, minus a few random encounters at work events, is the last we saw of her.

I’ve written about it before, about how angry I was and how frustrated. It’s been years since then, and now I’m just confused and maybe even still a little hurt.

I sent her a message once, after it all went down. It was a really big olive branch, especially considering I’m not the one who did anything wrong. I asked how she was and said we should get together for drinks sometime, she said sure, that she’d let me know and there was a spark of hope. All I really wanted was her side of the story, to give her a chance to explain it her way. She never wrote back.

I’ve spotted her at other events, but I’ve always given a wide berth, doing my best to avoid her and trying my hardest to smash down the feelings of awkwardness and annoyance and frustration. This weekend was different. There was no escaping, no option to give her a wide berth.

We were in the same group for our annual Army check-up. She surprised me at first. I walked into the waiting room, sat in the second row, pulled out some papers to start reviewing for yet another research paper that’s due. I was completely oblivious to everything around me and then I looked up, noticed her profile in the row in front of me and immediately felt a rush of dread. It was just one more thing, one more painful reminder that the people you love are sometimes not the people you think they are, that no matter how much you give to some people, all they’ll do is take and squash and mush and then, as they’re walking about the door, throw fireballs at your chest, just for good measure.

No, I’m not bitter at all.

During the first part of the physical, the dental part, she refused to make eye contact. I kept trying, determined to offer a smile, to make the best of an uncomfortable situation, but she carefully kept her eyes cast down, doing some serious research on the carpet pattern.

At the second part, the medical part, I spoke to her when she entered the waiting area. I asked her how she was, she said fine, but still didn’t look at me, and then picked a spot against the wall behind me to wait. She still kept the eyes locked on the linoleum. And from there, what could I do? That’s it. Point taken.

But I guess the point isn’t taken, because here I am, Monday morning, still frustrated. I still don’t get it. I still don’t understand how you walk away from the only friend group you’ve got in the entire state, how you unceremoniously end a great friendship with a facebook unfriending all because you broke up with another one of my friends.

I don’t know where to go from here. I’ve contemplated shooting her a message, but how? And what could I possibly say at this point?

PS – Thank you all for the kind words and support on my last post. The light is starting to get back in and I feel surprisingly okay after a long weekend of work and friend related stress and anguish. I tend to ignore emotions, to stuff them into a duffel of shit I don’t want to deal with and then there’s the inevitable explosion of suckiness and tearfulness.

Oh what a night, ghetto-living where the summer is smashtastic & thieves.

The evening started out quite well. Sushi and beers with Stacey and Andrew. Home to read some Infinite Jest and watch Big Brother (BEST EPISODE EVER). To bed, early.

I was out almost immediately. I’ve been working out, with renewed vigor, six days a week for the past five or six weeks and one benefit of regular and frequent exercise is indeed better sleeping patterns. I’ve never been one to struggle with the whole staying asleep thing, but the going to sleep has, on occasion, been a bit of an endeavor. My head hits the pillow and my brain is all LIGHTS! CAMERA! FUCKING  ACTION, BITCH! and I spend an hour or so trolling through to do lists, what if scenarios and decorating schemes for various rooms in my house. But the exercise has eradicated the falling asleep issue, I’ve also lost five pounds, my stomach is flat and I can actually see muscle in my arms for the first time ever. They just might be on to something with this whole exercise thing…

Midnight strikes, I’m deep asleep in a dream that involved bloggers and little tiny yearbook photos when I hear, from my slumber, “YES, I’D LIKE TO REPORT A FIGHT HAPPENING OUTSIDE RIGHT NOW.” You know that split second between waking and sleeping when everything real and imagined is blended together? I was right there in that and between the loud booming voice and the dream bloggers, I got all worried and freaked out that the bloggers were fighting and I was SO WORRIED because no, peace and love and harmony, bloggers! But then I realized that no, the bloggers weren’t fighting – thank goodness – and that the loud voice was Andrew, standing in front of our window, peering through the blinds, reporting a fight in progress to our local police dispatch. From his end of the conversation there was a fight happening in the street, right in front of our house, that there were both males and females at the scene, all African American and predominately teenagers.

Basically, same old story. This shit has happened before. There’s a problem house caddy corner to ours that seems filled with teenagers and children, that lacks adult supervision and where toddlers often spend time crying in the front yard by themselves. There’s screaming and door slamming and teen pregnancy and basically this house is the bane of our fucking existence. People move out, it goes for rent, then assholes move back in. Always with hoards of children. So really, we weren’t that surprised. This summer has been notably quiet and we can’t remember having to call the police at all. We’d hoped that our fervent reporting of illicit behavior over the first two summers we lived here had sent a strong message that WE AIN’T GONNA TAKE NO SHIT.

We headed back to sleep after we saw  police cars come down the street, figuring their presence would chill out any bullshit that was going on in the area.

A few hours pass, 3 AM hits and there’s a loud, powerful knock at the door. The dogs, naturally, go fucking berserk. Andrew looks out the window, I can tell there’s a police car outside based on the flashing lights I can see through the blinds and I haul myself out of bed and peek outside as Andrew goes downstairs to answer the door. I squint out onto to the street through the blinds thinking I see Andrew’s car door open. I keep squinting at it, turning my head side to side like a confused dog, hoping I’ll recognize it as something else when I see Andrew and two police officers leave the porch and head toward the car and, sure enough, his car had been broken into.

I went downstairs, talked to the cops. I was hoping it was just Andrew’s car, but then one of the officers motioned to mine and said we should probably check to see if anything was taken because, sure enough, they’d busted out the back window of my car as well, rifled through my glove box as well.

The officers told us we were the only ones on the whole entire block to suffer any sort of vehicle vandalism, even though they’d walked down the street looking at other cars and noticed a bass guitar and an amplifier in plain view sitting in a car just up the road from ours. There’s wasn’t anything valuable in our cars, so nothing was taken, except for maybe, possibly, some pocket change I had in my car. They didn’t even take our photo chargers and the police said they were probably looking for money or guns, neither of which we’re dumb enough to leave in a car sitting on the street.

What freaks me out the most is that we were the only ones hit. We were it. And honestly, I can’t help but wonder if this was some sort of targeted event, as in, maybe they broke in to our cars because we’re one of the few white couples on the block or maybe just because they’ve finally figured out we’re the ones who always call the police or maybe I’m totally off-base and it’s an isolated, totally random event that has nothing to do with race or our frequent calls to the police.

Either way, it makes me uneasy. In November we had an attempted break-in while we were in Iowa that happened in broad daylight on a fucking Sunday morning and I can’t help but feel like maybe they felt they could get away with breaking in to the white folks’ home in the middle of the day since we live in a predominately black neighborhood. Honestly, I could write a whole damn post about it all and really, I probably should.

Glass from the window.

After the police left Andrew patched up our windows with cardboard. While he was out there, he saw a guy trying to open up car doors further up our street. So, he called the cops again. And the cops came again and we gave them the hammer we found in Andrew’s car that the thieves apparently forgot when they fled the scene.

We tried to sleep, but couldn’t. We were too full of adrenaline and then some asshole started racing his Acura up our street and through the alley across from us, basically doing laps through our neighborhood. So Andrew called the cops. Again.

While peeking out the windows and seeing if the cops came back down our street again, Andrew spotted the guy he’d seen trying to open car doors a little while earlier. So Andrew called the cops. Again. This time he called the dispatcher by name, telling her he was sorry for calling so much.

We didn’t sleep until the sun came up. We just couldn’t. We were too ramped up, too on alert, too tuned in to any and all bumps in the night that we didn’t end up going back to sleep until after 6 AM, at which point we basically took a nap until the cats started stealing things out of the jewelry bowl next to my bed and batting them around the room, as if we hadn’t enough trouble with thieves for one fucking night.

To answer a few questions you might be having:

– No, insurance won’t cover it because our deductible is higher than the cost of the glass.

– Yes, we have car alarms but for some reason they didn’t go off. Andrew tested his after the incident and it went off just fine so I’m not really sure what the fuck that mess is about.

And then this morning I had another dentist appointment and really, I’m just so over today that I’m seriously considering just going back to sleep until it’s tomorrow and I can start fresh and new and hopefully in less of a foul mood than I’m in right this minute.

So, that was my night. How was yours?