Christmas makes me sad every year. I think it’s because my family tries so hard to make it a memorable, perfect holiday with dozens of material gifts and elaborate meals with dim lighting and resolute adherence to tradition. Ultimately, I end up seeing these things as attempts to hide the fact that our Christmases together are finite. God, I’m depressing. This fixation on mortality is from my mother’s side.
And this year we’re dealing with my aging grandmother. Today I realized my grandmother has seen 90 Christmases. I watched my mom rush to help her mom with the physical realities of having seen 90 Christmases. It’s disgusting and sad and I don’t want my mom to have to go through this. My mom is amazing in a crisis; she is strong and organized and I know that in about two weeks (when Grandma is safely under medical supervision) she’s going to have an emotional breakdown. What is it like to be at a point in your life where your body no longer works the way you want it to, your mind no longer works the way you want it to, and you’re just waiting to die?
And this year I’m overwhelmingly, irrationally, ecstatically in love. Out of nowhere. With someone who four years ago I despised. I’d forgotten how this feels! The smiling, the gazing, the talking about him all of the time to patient friends, the cheesy romance of waking up together, the tremendous, incautious speed with which an attachment forms. Suddenly I’m eager to do repulsive couple things like hang out with his mother and go on double dates. I’m happy all of the time and because I’m me I can’t just accept that my boyfriend is handsome, strong, funny, kind, charming, interesting, and exciting. I feel sad because it will more than likely end because of something practical and stupid like geographical distance or life goals.
As the end of another calendar year, Christmas always feels like a metaphor for all of the future ends in my life.
“You have a tendency to come across as very abrasive and demanding. I want you to work on softening yourself.”
Let’s talk about all of the ways that this comment from my (female) boss is offensive, shall we? If I were an intelligent, ambitious, young man, no one would think of implying that I need to act more “secretarial.” My “abrasiveness” would be perceived as a sign of power and efficiency — and even if it weren’t, people would treat it as a personality trait rather than something that needs improvement. It is annoying and inefficient when people spend 30 percent of an email using phrases like, “I know you’re really busy but…” For one thing, I wouldn’t presume to know how busy you are. For another, asking someone to do something directly is not rude, it’s efficient. And for another, you know who directly asks people to do things? MY FEMALE BOSS. Furthermore, I am aware that many people find these qualities off-putting, but I don’t especially care because I think that they are also qualities that make me organized and efficient, good at managing large, complex projects, and a persuasive, logical writer. (Although right now I’m ranting, not going for organization.) The world would be better if people would be direct about what they mean. This is why I am terrible at fighting. I refuse to incorporate emoticons into my work-related emails. And even though this comment probably had everything to do with my boss being stressed out about Christmas and very little to do with me, I am still pissed off. And even though my boyfriend said I’m overreacting (which I knew he would), I am still pissed off. When I run the world, we will all interact with each other like people with Aspergers. Even better, when I run the world, I will not feel like I have to make apologetic, self-deprecating jokes about how I have Aspergers. And no one will give me shit about being rude and unfeminine because they will not see those exterior qualities as negating my capacity for kindness, loyalty, and compassion. So if you are reading this blog, lucky you! You have stumbled across the moment where I take one tiny comment and turn it into a metaphor for every snide remark someone has ever made about my personality and lack of social skills. I’ve really had it! Making jokes about my demeanor: not that funny. I want to be remembered as someone who was passionate and influential, not as someone who was nice. And I don’t think that makes me a bad person, or an uncaring one. I think that makes me me, and I’m generally pretty proud of me. SO THERE.
Oh yeah, I’m also in love. Yay!
I am surprisingly perceptive and insightful about the kind of people who would make perfect mates for the people I love. This is my new party trick. Sister: Socially-skilled bio geek who, in addition to being interested in learning about the world, surprises her with his humor, is unfaltering in his loyalty, and intuitively understands her in a way that approximately zero percent of the population does. A.B.: Type A power broker who can stand up to her, offers playfulness to their relationship, and has excellent taste in jewelry. A.E.: Genuinely kind, soft spoken dreamer who charms her friends and has lots of eco-conscious domestic projects. (Basically, she’s going to marry a less obsessive, creepy version of Noah from “The Notebook.”) A.W.: High-energy, outspoken, intensely verbal women’s studies Ph.D. who gets off on intellectual debate and is pretty much the most hilarious person ever.
Tall order. No wonder we haven’t managed to meet these people in a bar in Boise, Idaho. But seriously, I’m good. I take requests. Send me an email and I’ll design your perfect mate (complete with physical attributes.) Judging by my choices lately, I’m not able to apply this insight to my own life. But I’m still very excited to meet these wonderful people who deserve my friends.
At book club tonight, I realized that my brain is actually Fox News. I spend a lot of time paying lip service to opposing viewpoints (or saying that I do) just to make it perfectly clear that I understand where my biases are coming from, that they’re subjective, and that they’re not empirical truth. But maybe I’m at a point where I should just accept that my ideas are better because I think they are, and that’s all that really matters — and maybe it’s more practical and productive to do so. Maybe I don’t need to be respectful of stupid ideas, like the burqa or the Three Gorges Dam. Maybe I should just be hypocritical at times about these things, try to enlighten people to my correct way of thinking, and not worry about being a good liberal arts-educated social sciences major.
I dread the day that I have to explain to my children that these men were once very cool. I’m sure this is on the giant list of things that will make no sense to them, like the fact that I spent a significant portion of my early 20s playing pinball in a smoke-filled bar in Boise, Idaho, and that featherlocks were a Thing. Even more concerning is the thought that I might wait long enough to have children, boy bands will become retro and a cool rejection of mainstream pop culture.
My friend recently made a very interesting comment about the friends that you’ve had so long, you don’t bother to be nice to them anymore. I’ve been thinking about this today. That’s all.
“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.
I am haunted by waters.”
— My homeboy Norman Maclean
I haven’t blogged in a while because I’ve been too busy visiting ugly places this weekend.
I know: disgusting, right? This little lake lies at the top of a low-ish drainage in the Sawtooths. I’ve hiked to it before with some residual snow, but this year, early spring is still alive and well in central Idaho. About an hour in, we discovered that the official trail had become a convenient path for melting snow to gush downhill. Five minutes later, we discovered that the entire mountain remaining between us and the lake was either underwater or under four to six feet of snowpack. Being the wide-eyed Idahoans that we are (ok, M. is technically from Michigan, but we’ll forgive him that), we agreed that the lake was “probably pretty close.” So up the drainage we went. Straight up. We managed not to fall into any buried streams and we arrived at the lake two miles later, soggy, out of breath, and cursing.
And that’s about when I had my second vivid and completely idealized fantasy that day about staying in Idaho and moving to the mountains. We were some of the first (possibly the first) people to see this lake this year. While the world back home is moving into real summer, noisily getting ready for 4th of July barbecues and bracing itself for exhilarating desert heat, this quiet mountain is just thawing out enough for arrowleaf balsam root and shooting star to bloom. I gripe plenty about backwoods Idaho politics, but I try not to take for granted the awesome natural beauty that has shaped my entire life growing up here. My most profound experiences have happened in the Idaho wilderness, like experiencing the moment that this winter snow starts its journey down the peak to join the wild Salmon River.
At the age of 14, I sat alone on a log over the headwaters of the Salmon, looked up at the jagged peaks in the distance, and realized that I was part of something so much bigger than my own trivial adolescent problems. My ethical foundation (also, amusingly, greatly influenced at an impressionable age by “The Lion King”) hasn’t changed much since. Life of all kinds — human and nonhuman; past, present, and future — is to be respected, cherished, and given consideration. It’s basically that simple, and when I find myself at the end of a day hike, completely alone at a glacial blue alpine lake, I wonder why we ever try to make it more complicated.
I’m getting out of the propaganda business, and it’s difficult to keep from screaming with elation. That’s right! I am moving to a functional (I hope) place of employment with functional people (I hope) and opportunities to use my brain and develop professional skills (I hope). No more nervously eying my desk to see if my stuff has been boxed up as I edge into the office every morning! No more coming to work to find pot crumbs and pizza stains on my keyboard! No more chair throwing! No more drunk boss taking me to a bar in the middle of the day! No more ignoring all new employees because they’ll inevitably be fired in a few weeks! No more getting paid to hide the internet evidence of the mess these people have made of their company!
And besides my upward transition into stability and adulthood, I had the opportunity to talk to my celebrity activist/academic crush on the phone this week. It’s difficult to explain just what an incredibly, unfathomably, tremendous opportunity that was, because most people don’t read a ton about the global food system, but it’s almost akin to interviewing for a job with Michael Pollan. Well, a slightly less well-known, more legitimate, more anarchist version of Michael Pollan. This was a huge freaking deal and it was so cool! After stalking my dozens of remaining competitors and uncovering the details of their Ivy League educations, graduate research, and Fulbright fellowships, I decided to view this interview simply as an opportunity to talk to someone I really admire and would never get a chance to talk to otherwise. Oh yeah, did I mention that he emailed my favorite professor and told her that he was “blown away” by my cover letter? Take THAT Boise employers who keep rejecting me.
I took the opportunity to email my former department chair to tell him how amazing said favorite professor is. (Subtext: Give her tenure!) This professor was so inspirational, I keep considering forfeiting future employment and getting a doctorate, just because I want to be like her. The fact that she thought of me for this opportunity, a year and a half after I took one class with her, is such a huge compliment. I’m adding this week to my catalogs of amazing life experiences and celebrity sightings.