Saturday, May 7, 2011

glad you see it my way.

the women in my family could teach a master class on the black art of manipulation. some of us (me included, i hope) understand that skill, along with the dark power it gives us, and act accordingly. we respect the dangerous nature we have. others, on the other hand, have honed that blade to a deadly razor sharpness, swinging it wildly to ward off danger and mold the world around them into the shape they most desire. and as much as i believe in the equality of the genders, i find a special difference between men and women when it comes to twisting people. i've known some bad men in my life. these guys have been evil, criminally and morally. they've done some low-down, snake-like things. i've met men who can persuade people very well. but the very best manipulators i've ever known in my life have been women. these women weave tapestries to get what they need, what they want.

in to kill a mockingbird, scout says, again, as i had often met it in my own church, i was confronted with the impurity of women doctrine that seemed to preoccupy all clergymen. it's a common theme in many religions: women as temptresses, sirens, seductive and dangerous. hell, it's why a lot of backward tribal cultures force women into body-covering draperies. they don't think their men are tough enough to resist the inherent power of a woman to draw a man into the ways of sin. it's completely, twistedly paradoxical: women are so powerful that they have to be subjugated for the good of the culture.

but there's a tiny grain of truth to the idea that many women have special skill in convincing people - regardless of gender - to come around to their way of thinking. and i've never seen a better set of connivers than the ones with whom i share a bloodline. to watch the poison cast between these women, given with the sweetest of smiles, is a sickeningly fascinating sight to behold. it's glorious in its horror. you admire the skill as you loathe the result. and it's my goal to walk the razor edge between using the good aspects of our family business to my advantage and eschewing the dark, twisted side of that talent.

i could wreak so much havoc with this. it's a damn good thing that i don't want to.

Friday, May 6, 2011

battle of the bulge

kim pointed out to me that is, in fact, international no-diet day. i happen to adore this idea. basically, the goal of the day is to stop freaking the hell out about how your body doesn't resemble [insert impossibly skinny/buxom/etc. starlet here]'s body, relax and have a freaking cookie if you want to. and i fully support that. i am someone who once allowed my weight to get radically out of control for all the wrong reasons, then managed to get myself to a happy place that is far from kate moss territory (is that a dated reference?). but i like how i look. i'm curvy. i can walk from capitol hill to far-northwest DC without praying for death. i'm pretty healthy.

but by this culture's standards of beauty? this size-6 skirt wearer is still looked at as fat. and that, my dear friends, is about the stupidest fucking thing on the planet. that thought bears repeating, in bold, because it's so true: the fact that someone with my body type is considered "fat" is totally fucking stupid. really. what's wrong with us? stars' lives are too important to us. if someone paid you hundreds of thousands of dollars to work out all day long, you'd be impossibly skinny, too. you'd also be miserable as hell.

but that's not even the real point. not even close. the point is that our national obsession with body image is another symptom of what i like to call "mind your own damn business" disease. we care just way too damn much as a society about what other people are doing. we are a nation of nosy, bossy busybodies who can't resist passing judgment on others as if the way we individually live is so all-fired sainted that we have that kind of moral authority. here's a news flash: no we don't. no one person has the right to make another person feel small, stupid or unworthy over the superficial. the fact that we've made it a national civic religion is the height of disgusting.

the side effects of this affliction are absurd at best and unspeakably harmful at worst. there are practical deficiencies. for example, i went to buy t-shirts at a nationally renowned upscale casual clothing chain associated with preppy people. i bought smalls, as that has been my shirt size of late. strikes me as weird; not to overshare, but i wear a 34D brassiere. small is not something that seems to go along with that. but when i put the first shirt on the next day, it hung off me like it belonged to the man. turns out that this chain has created new sizes. they now run from extra-large at the top... to DOUBLE-EXTRA-SMALL at the bottom. this new "xx-small" size is the rough equivalent of the same chain's small from three years ago. vanity writ large. not to mention extreme inconvenience. all in service of being as "small" as you can be.

and that's anodyne as hell compared to the side effects to people's emotional health. eating disorders. public ridicule. scorn and derision. big people being shown on the news from the neck down like they're cattle being led to slaughter. (this is something that never used to bug me, but on further reflection, horrifies me as insanely cruel and juvenile.) plastic surgeries that are closer to ritualized mutilation of people's bodies, all in the service of being "perfect." it infects ALL of us, no matter what we actually look like. so many beautiful, smart and amazing women look in the mirror and see things that make them sad, depressed, and worse, all because some preening OTHER in the world says, nope, you're just not good enough.

well, no more. it's hard enough as it is to be a woman in the world these days, as TKOG reminded us today. we need to stop letting venal, small, mean people make us feel bad for NO REASON. love your body. do what you need to do to be healthy, but do NOT make yourself a slave to vanity standards that have no bearing in reality. you're beautiful. ALL OF YOU. trust that, and follow what you want for yourself to live YOUR best life.

and if you want that damn cookie? eat it, relish it and love it. 100% guilt-free. you're so worth it.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

taking my talents to...

gaah. sorry. i swore i wouldn't make the lebron joke, but i did. yes, kids, as i mentioned yesterday, your humble blog proprietor is on a business trip to south beach. i'm tax-credit-geek-ing it up at the fanciest hotel i've ever set foot inside of in my life, and at the end of day two, with tomorrow morning left to go, i have a few little observations about the town, the hotel, and life in general. (gee, i know it's just shocking that something like this would trigger musings in me, eh?)

first of all, south beach is... well. the beach is beautiful. the water is crystal-clear and this really amazing blue color. this time of year, even though it's the atlantic, the water's not even ice-freaking-cold like it is up in virginia and points north. after yesterday's session, i spent some time wandering on the sand. i must've looked hilarious: dress skirt, blouse and bare feet. the sun soothed my nerves and did me good. but the town? oh boy. basically, all of south beach that's not fancy hotels or snotty clubs is tacky shopping. it's a slew of beat-up art deco buildings that have been tricked out to sell ed hardy and affliction. in fact, the miami beach city buses are all, without exception, covered in ads for affliction t-shirts. south beach: where even the buses wear affliction. that says it all. the whole town's covered in a light layer of sleaze. ick. i was glad to get back to our family condo 25 miles north.

the hotel is beautiful. but i would never, ever, no matter how rich i ever get, stay here. why? two reasons. first off, the staff has all been instructed to address guests in that weird overbearing pseudo-formal friendliness. i don't expect working adults to treat me like they're my hired help and i'm lady of the freaking manor. just be the valet guy/dude who brings pastries/concierge lady. we're all grown here, and i don't need (or, honestly, want) you to suck up to me. but the other guests clearly do, and corporate expects it of them. it's uncomfortable. additionally, the hotel has its own "security staff," designed to keep the icky people out. this in and of itself wouldn't be an issue... except that they station their people BLOCKS off the premises, and they have these bruiser dudes just harass people off the property. off-putting in the highest. i'm sure famous and important people stay here all the time. great. but if i ever get to the point in my life where my wealth and/or status lead me to think i need defending from reality, i give anyone reading this permission to smack me upside the head. it's deplorable.

so what has this experience taught me? first and foremost, i cannot WAIT to start work again! this conference is sponsored by my old/new employers, and even though i don't start for another 18 days, i feel at home again. hell, the managing principal of my old/new office just stopped me in the hall and told me, and i quote, welcome home; we missed you. hell. yes. but i think more importantly, doing these fancy things reminds me that i don't do what i do because i seek material riches. (i mean, don't get me wrong; material riches are nice, and if that happens, so freaking be it.) i'm here because i love my work. i want to be the best damn tax lawyer out there, give my clients and my employer my absolute best, and completely immerse myself in my chosen industry. and i want to do all of this while staying the teacher's kid from the gulf coast.

the louisiana lawyers i met while in school had the right idea about their attitudes towards practice and life. the most important thing in that clique is to do your job well while maintaining your, for lack of a better term, niceness. no one likes a rich jackass, gallivanting around like he owns the world and demanding that everyone kiss his ring. that's what this hotel attracts: over-moneyed and under-classed jerk-offs in tacky t-shirts, acting rude. i prefer to be humble, be modest, be graceful. oh, i will work my tail off, and i will take pride in my accomplishments. but my talents will speak for themselves, and i will not EVER allow the confidence i have to turn me into a monster.

now, if you'll excuse me, there's a cocktail party that requires my presence. time to go get my tax-credit-geek drink on.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

how do you tell someone?

well. that happened.

being still kinda new to this whole divorced-woman thing, i have no idea how to handle certain situations. for example: how do you react when your ex, in the middle of a business conversation, suddenly asks you who your boyfriend is?

uh, whoops. see, turns out, genius mags responded to something related to the tornado on a friend's facebook page with a reference to the man's family. this friend is one of the people i got in the mags-ex mutual-friend draft, but she didn't cut the ex off. (not that i expect her, or anyone else, to; who people are friends with is their business and their business alone.) he read that, and, well, hilarity ensued. oh, and did i mention i was walking down massachusetts avenue at the time, between union station and school, on my way to take an exam at the time?

to call me gobsmacked by this is an understatement. my first response was, do you really want to do this now? i mean, it was 10:00 AM. he was at work. i didn't really want to deal. but yeah, he did. and since i make it a point to be as direct as possible with him these days, i flat-out told him, yeah, [the man] and i are dating. and then i answered his questions as briefly, directly and succinctly as possible. to reference nada surf again, i told him honestly, simply, kindly but firmly. i didn't make a big production, and i avoided a big tear-jerking scene. we finished our business and got off the phone without incident.

at least, until i got to school, when i shut myself in a bathroom stall and cried for a solid 10 minutes.

i'm traveling today, at a three-day conference in glorious south beach. (meditations on that are forthcoming.) i don't really want to relive the emotion. but somehow, telling the ex that i a) have a man and b) he's, well, the man, someone who was a huge part of my life through my entire relationship with the ex, was thoroughly shattering. i mean, why should it? it's not his business. he even said as much as he asked. i guess that was the last step in severing the emotional ties between us, inasmuch as they were there in the first place. but good GOD, how hard. i can't even get into how hard that was. anyone else out there been through this before? what did y'all do? what CAN you do?

i just hope i did that right.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

big man on campus

this isn't a history lesson post because it's not the history of me, per se. it's really a bit of history on the man. (good thing he doesn't read this. he'd get all embarrassed at me telling stories on him like this.) now, my man is quite handsome, brilliant, scathingly hilarious, and in his way a classically-trained southern gentleman under all the profanity. but he's also the master of self-deprecation, so when you compliment him, he gets all squirmy and scoffs it off with an eh, no i'm not.

but while that's all true now, not that i'm biased or anything, it was also kinda true when we were kids together. even as early as eleventh grade, he was a bit of a rock star among my gaggle of girlfriends. i can't think of a single girl we knew back then who didn't at least have a passing crush on him at some point over the years. i can recall one night when we were all at officers' training for our mock legislature program (nerd club! nerd club! the man's roommate would say here). the man was running for youth governor of the whole state, and for the speech he gave at that event, i gave his introduction. the night before the speech, the girls i roomed with and i stayed up late giggling over boys. topic A-number-one? the man. i can't believe you get to introduce him! jealous. seriously. it was like that.

i had the biggest unrequited crush on the planet on him back then. even as i set him up with a friend of mine, telling her how great he was and how much she'd be into him, i secretly wished he'd rebuff her and take up with me instead. but of course, he didn't. we wound our separate roads romantically, taking huge stumbles along the way, and all the while, i would think sometimes, i wonder what would've happened if he'd picked me instead of her? i knew the whole time that there would never be a girl on this earth who would care for him the way i did. 

'course, he didn't know any of this at the time, he says. teenage boys are oblivious! you have to make things clear or they just miss them. i think about our younger years these days sometimes, usually when he's sleeping and i'm not quite there yet. part of me is still that teenage girl, wondering how he passed me up back then. i mean, even though he (unbeknownst to him, apparently) had his choice of us, and he chose a few of us, there was always me, standing there beside him no matter what. i mean, i know what would've happened if we'd gotten together at seventeen. we'd have broken up and probably never spoken again. the way things went is so, so much better.

sometimes at night, i look at him there, arms wrapped around me, and i think about how i'm the luckiest girl in school to have landed the big man on campus. i know it's silly, and it's a spectacularly juvenile way to feel, but it's also such a thrill. all i ever wanted when i was fifteen was to be on his arm. lo and behold, here we are. wish fulfillment never felt so good.

Monday, May 2, 2011


ok, so remember how i said the other day that i wouldn't tell my 9/11 story? well, i feel the need to do it in light of last night's news, because it has a lot to do with my opinion of last night.

i waited tables in newport news, virginia then, as well as going to school. i got home monday night, showered and laid down in time for letterman. but i fell asleep with the TV on, and weirdly, i awoke to the dulcet tones of bryant gumbel on the CBS early show. he was interviewing a guy named stewart, who was a waiter at a cafe by the world trade center. stewart had a comically excessive lisp, and he was dramatically recounting the story of the idiot who crashed into the tower with his plane. i got out of bed, got some cereal and sat down in the living room with my roommate. we switched to ABC, which had brought out peter jennings. we ate breakfast and marveled at how stupid you'd have to be to crash into the biggest damn thing in the country. hell, couldn't you see it coming?

then, as they focused on the tower, a second plane entered the shot. peter jennings said, oh, my good god. the second plane hit. my roommate dropped her spoon into the bowl. clank. there was a moment of dead silence all around us. things got very real very fast. she dashed to the phone to call her husband, on duty on his ship. they were, as she spoke to him, sending the fleet out to sea. they were fine, but he'd be on the ship for the foreseeable future. as we talked, the crazy stories started flying about attacks everywhere. i called the man, who was still just my best friend at the time, who was living up here in DC and on his way to class when it happened. as we talked, the plane hit the pentagon.

the roommate and i did what any twenty-year-old would do in that situation: we panicked. we threw changes of clothes into the trunk of my car, called our parents to check in (i called my daddy out of his eighth-grade class to tell him, and ended up being the one to inform his middle school that the shit was going down) and sped across the commonwealth of virginia to my erstwhile tiny mountain college town. we knew no one was bombing that place. we were safe there. we got there before my boyfriend got back from class, so we went up to his room to drop our stuff. his buddy came into the room, stricken. did you hear about [our friend]? oh, god. we had a friend, two years ahead of us, who worked at cantor fitzgerald. no one had heard from him. that's all the guy said; he turned and left the room.

we went to dinner that night with a collection of people, including someone's dad. that man was already, less than 12 hours after the initial impact, screaming about turning the middle east into a glass parking lot. i could not listen to it; we left. on the car radio, someone at the college radio station found a recording of marvin gaye's rendition of the national anthem. we got my roommate settled with another friend with a spare bed, then the boyfriend and i went to bed.

that's when i cried.

so when president obama took that lectern (and i'll share my observations about the media treatment another time; that was fun for me too) and told me that the mastermind who made all that horror happen, murdering so many people and triggering all manner of repercussions for the living left behind, the reaction was immediate: yes. absolutely yes. i had the bloodthirsty instinctual moment of that's right, you fucking bastard; you'll never hurt us again. i had the moment of grief blended with relief for my dead friend and his family. there was so much else.

this is not the definitive answer to the war on those who hate modernity, egalitarianism and freedom, because let's be honest, that's what this is. but my god, what a milestone, and it feels damn good. the triggermen of this mission, those insanely brave servicemen who stared the bastard down as he cowered behind his teenage wife and pulled the trigger to end his life, are owed our undying thanks, as are all those who have served and will serve to defend us. the people who planned this maneuver to go down as they did are amazing.

we've earned a victory lap as a country. we did the world a service by taking that bastard down. mark the occasion however you feel appropriate: joy, peaceful reflection, meditation, whatever. what an unbelievable milestone. but tomorrow? back to work.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

stuck with you

[soundtrack. warning: unabashed mushy to follow.]

if there ever was a so-called honeymoon period between me and the man, we've flown past it, gone careening through the middle stage and crash-landed hard into stereotypical old-married-couple-style territory. that can be demonstrated in a lot of ways - our propensity for being total homebodies comes to mind, for example. but perhaps the clearest way it shows is that, for the first time in our lives together, we get snippy with each other. yep, we argue now, and not always in the debate way. we bicker over little things from time to time.

the other night, for example, i had to run an errand at my dear ol' nutball daddy's house, so we headed over there after we left the baseball game. it was going to be a quick thing, but daddy had food, served drinks, and we ended up passing a few hours we hadn't planned on at the parents' place. i didn't think anything of it, but he was... grouchy, i guess. so i pressed the point. we had one of those tetchy little back and forths that anyone in a long-term relationship knows well. it didn't last long, and it got resolved, but it was still, like, the fourth one of those in the last few weeks.

so i said, you know, it's funny; we've fought more in the last six months than we had in the previous fifteen years.
what's your point?
don't really have one. just think it's funny.
he smiled, that kinda crooked little smile he has when he's about to be clever, and kissed me on the forehead. well, that's what happens when we're stuck with each other.

stuck with each other. yeah, guess we are. and i couldn't think of anything more fun. i said at one point last night, we are well past the point where we feel the need to out-polite each other. you know, when you're in a new relationship, and you're both so interested in making the other one happy that you do all that, what do you want to do? oh, no, i insist, you pick the movie. no, i don't mind that you just did [little thing that bugs the all-holy hell out of me and would ordinarily make me launch a temper fit of biblical proportions but for the fact that i think you're nice and i like dating you]; it's fine. yeah, we left that territory a long time ago, if we were ever there at all. so now, out come the times when we call each other on our annoyances, stand for our preferences a little harder. and with that comes a little bit of rough water. but the rough stuff always ends with a smile, a joke, a kiss and a mutually acceptable outcome.

yes, it's true, my dear; i'm so happy to be stuck with you. now, and always.