not me

I really did want to use the word “torus” for this entry. It’s a very cool word and I’m happy to know that there is another word in the English language for “things shaped like doughnuts.” Other than “doughnut-shaped things,” I mean.

torus: n. : a doughnut-shaped surface generated by a circle rotated about an axis in its plane that does not intersect the circle; broadly : TOROID

There’s your lesson for the day. And now, onto me, me, me …
or rather,
not me, not me, not me.

I don’t like talking about myself very much, which makes it peculiar that I’d want to write a journal on the web. Maybe I like forcing myself to write about myself, or something along those lines; maybe I just like writing with Kite, so she’s writing about herself, and I don’t have to feel so … self-conscious, so *responsible* … about my words. About myself.

On the phone, I can’t accurately depict “me” and it upsets me. I would rather talk with someone online; there, I have a chance at some sketchy outline of me, as opposed to the hastily-drawn caricature of me that phone conversations must provide. I am less than articulate unless impassioned, and even then, I am utterly diplomatic.

Too diplomatic. I’ve been sitting on the fence so long that I’ve forgotten how to stand up.

There are some things I am more willing to talk about than others. One of the things I am less willing to talk about is other people. I despise talking about other people, although I do it sometimes. And not gossiping; I mean, talking about other people *at all*.

So, here I am, not really enjoying talking about myself, but liking it a hell of a lot better than talking about anyone else, and I’m writing a journal and sticking it up on the web, and expecting someone (myself? others?) to get something out of it.


I don’t like talking about other people for the same reason I don’t like talking about anything I haven’t researched thoroughly: I don’t know enough yet to make half the statements that constructive conversation insists I make.

The longest I’ve ever kept a secret is ten years and counting.

I don’t remember my mother saying, “If you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything at all,” but I must have had that imprinted in golden-embossed letters across my brain from C.C.D. or some other brainwashing experience in my young life. Whenever I talk about someone, I feel this need to qualify it with an unreasonable number of statements to bring the character sketch into some sort of balance.

I use “seem” and “may” a lot. I try not to make assumptions. I keep quiet instead of speaking my mind. I generally cower in heated arguments, although I pretend to look like I’m participating.

Everything I say has a disclaimer, spoken or not.

I’m tired of being so … *fair*.

There are lots of people who just have opinions, and feel comfortable about sharing them, in any context. I don’t. I don’t know if that’s ever going to change, or if I want it to.

The more I tell about myself, the less of myself I have to rethink. If I give an opinion Monday and through intensive thinking and reconsidering I’ve changed my mind by Friday, I’ll look … inconsistent. Hypocritical. Foolish.

The truth is, I like changing my mind. I’ve always gotten negative reactions to it, but it remains, and I’m glad. If I can change my mind, that means it’s still active, right? It means I have the potential to accumulate new information and make new observations and theories.

“Women are always changing their minds.” I hate that stereotype (like most stereotypes of females) but if you think of it in the active-mind light, it’s not that awful after all. Always rethinking, always considering new data. That might just be a positive stereotype after all.

If in our society we were rewarded for considering new data.

Privacy, to me, has become more important within the past year; not just important to keep, but important to know when to break through. I’m still thinking about what it means, but more and more I’m learning that it is essential to figuring out what makes me uncomfortable with certain people, and/or in certain situations.

An example:
Karawynn writes her email journal in an extremely candid way; luckily, because she’s a good writer, too, her candor translates to poignant, thought-provoking entries that can be read and reread without losing any of their original interest. I appreciate her entries — not only because I sometimes figure into them — but because they are fairly accurate depictions of *her*; she has captured some essential Karawynn-ness within them, and so they are interesting.

I have never tried to write extensively about my day-to-day goings-on, because I am afraid they’ll come off a bit like this:

Woke up. Stared at the clock for ten minutes while the alarm peeped at me. Yes, *peeped* — this alarm does not do anything so hearty as a beep. Got up, shuffled into the study, logged on. Received email from Rebecca that I didn’t respond to right away. Received email from Dad that I haven’t yet responded to. Received a weather bulletin, even though I’m not leaving the house today to do anything more than stand just outside the front door and have a cigarette. Good to know it will be raining later, though.

Stared at webdesign stuff I’m supposed to be working on. Worked on it for about two hours, and gave up due to growing restlessness. Self-esteem check: about 2 on ye olde scale of 10.

Checked email on and off all day for a response to the strange letter I sent Jeremy. I don’t really expect him to reply, but it’d be nice if he did, since he seems interesting and I’m going to lose Shae‘s companionship in a few short months when he moves to Seattle. Of course, no one could replace Shae and how much a part of my life he’s become, but maybe having another friend could prevent some of the inevitable depression and regret that’s going to arrive in the emptiness of March.

I should not have underestimated how much it’s going to hurt.

I should call Steph sometime and make another concerted effort to be social with her again.

I should not be so scared all the time.

Ate a bowl of Cinnamon Grahams — tiny octagons of sugared cardboard, yum — and praised Zen a lot for scratching in her basket instead of on the sofa or chairs or table legs. Read more of Riven Rock by T.C. Boyle, who is fast becoming my second-favourite novelist. Played MineHunt on my PalmPilot (which is odd only because I’ve never played Minesweeper on my PC) and then went back to bed at 9:30 a.m.

Slept till 3:30 p.m.

More reading, checking to see if Jeremy has responded — still no — and Chad comes home. And promptly naps. I sort through some email and set an obnoxious .wav on the Jeremy-filter in Eudora Pro. Chat just a little with Karawynn and Shae over ICQ, until my head feels too heavy to hold up anymore, even though I’m wide awake. I get up from the ‘puter and I’m dizzy again. Great. Let’s add “blacking out at odd times” to the list of physical defects, shall we?

I do respond to Rebecca’s email, so she doesn’t think I’m “miffed” at her (her word). I don’t respond to Dad’s email, although I don’t want him to think I’m miffed at him, either, but I can’t seem to summon the energy to do so. I think about calling him instead. I end up showering and then forgetting all about calling Dad until it’s too late. No Boardgamers meeting for me tonight; I can barely walk without falling over.

The rest of the evening is consumed by upgrading to Windows98 and figuring out how to partition my new hard drive. (Note to Microsoft-bashers: please spare me. I’ve heard it all.) And chatting lazily at DruidMUCK, and writing this entry. Kite has encouraged me to toss out the outlines and just *write* and here I am. I feel very skewed and random and not at all interesting. I come all undone when I don’t have a goal in mind for writing these. Looking back and seeing all the sentences that begin with “I” is so annoying, but I don’t know how to edit this so that doesn’t happen. It is about “I” after all.

And that just bothers me to no end.


In less than two days, Karawynn will be arriving for her holiday visit to the balmy South, and I am behind on cleaning. Not because I’ve been particularly diligent; I really haven’t been. Not because I can’t break larger tasks into smaller tasks; I’ve done that already — I even have a list. I can’t actually *do* the smaller tasks once they’ve been listed.

Some of them have gotten done as incidentals. The bookshelf in the study gleams now, its proud inhabitants tucked neatly into size-coordinated rows. I dusted and reorganized the bookshelf while I was on the phone with Karawynn one night and actually had some motivation. Motivation. I can’t remember what it was like to be consistently motivated to get anything accomplished; I don’t think I’ve ever been that way. Only recently has it started to affect my capacity to function.

I want to keep goals in mind: getting to grad school, going to Europe for our much-belated honeymoon, publishing more poetry. I want to keep this in mind always, and to a certain extent, I do … only as signposts marked “Missed Deadline” and “Can’t Do This Until That Other Thing Is Finished”. It sickens me to think of how many experiences I have missed out on due to lack of motivation. How many people I have not met as a result of it all, really interesting people I would be the better for meeting.

Fear of failure, someone once prescribed to my lack of motivation. Fear you won’t be up to the task, fear that even the mere attempt will brand you as “not good enough” or worse.

I know I am up to it. I do; I’m not afraid. I just don’t know what I’ll do when I get there.

Goals, or any other fanciful notions to me these days, are endings of things. Endings of phases I struggled, cried, and cursed through. Phases I won’t get back. More years spent, and gone, and faded into spotty memory. Pieces of myself I won’t remember when they’re done.

In high school, I was part of the drama club/team called Forensics (having nothing to do with dead people at all, except their plays or poems). I competed in many events, but my favourite was Dramatic Duet Acting. In this event, two people performed a clipping of a scene or scenes from a previously-published play, within a seven-minute time limit, with only a table and two chairs as set. No props, no lights, no music. I still regard this kind of competition as dramatic competition in its purest form, and hope that all students of theatre have a chance to participate.

I was good. My partners were good. Our scenes were good. We did well at almost all of the events we competed in, and I still have some medals and trophies and plaques from that time. But I can’t remember them. I remember the dress I most frequently wore during one season when my partner and I were performing a scene from “Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean” — a plain, rayon number in some inconspicuous floral pattern on a black background. I remember yelping and hugging her as we placed second overall at one of the competitions. Pieces, pieces. Someone’s gone into my brain with an aluminum baseball bat and trashed the place. The pieces are as small as the fragments of dreams I wake from; watching them slip into the cracks in the floor, I wish over and over again I could have something to keep.

My memory has never been terrific, but it’s getting worse, and I’m afraid I will never be able to hold onto the bigger pieces.

Pieces of paper cover two-thirds of my desk. Old envelopes from paid bills, a flock of post-it notes, taped up funnies, printed pages I’ve never filed, photos, misplaced dustjackets of books. I can’t focus on anything other than the monitor and keyboard long enough to straighten it. If I’m at the desk, I’m typing or scrolling. My hands can’t fathom tidying up.

Junk mail bulges from a small trash can by the front door, so we don’t just drop it on the floor anymore. It is filled with useless pieces of paper that people send us. Coupons laze about the counters in the kitchen. More pieces we won’t trade in for other pieces. Mismatched socks inhabit a special corner of my closet, inside a teal milk-crate; I no longer wear socks.

I can’t turn my head without seeing more pieces I don’t need, and I can only see the pieces I want out of the corners of my eyes.

intimacy and a modern invention

BellSouth should try harder to sell me things. I would buy caller ID in a heartbeat. The only reason I haven’t so far is that Chad doesn’t believe in any phone toys that exist outside his computer. That answering machine has never worked, but telling him this only serves to encourage him working on it (read: downloading hundreds of sound-card patches, swearing profusely) and it doesn’t get fixed. So, that’s that.

Why caller ID? Because I am notoriously bad with phones. I don’t like talking on the phone to 99% of the people who call me. Unfortunately for me and for the people who call me or expect me to call them, I have only recently pinpointed *why* I am so bad with phones. A normal day at home before work is like this:

Halsted sits at her computer, typing away on some email/poem/icq conversation/muck conversation.
{phone rings}
Halsted winces — not just her face, her entire *body* actually shrinks from the phone. She stares at it.
{phone rings}
Halsted continues to stare at it, then gets up and goes downstairs. Paces a bit. Goes back upstairs. Stares at the phone some more.
{this repeats for about twenty rings until the caller gets the idea}
Halsted breathes a huge sigh of relief and goes back to her ‘puter.

It’s a shame when I get an unexpected call from someone I really do want to talk to. Nine times out of ten, I won’t pick up the phone at all when I’m at home; the other one is when I’m feeling unusually generous, or if I’m expecting a call, or if Chad’s home. Because you just don’t use the phone like that, in his mind. It’s weird.

Well, yes. It’s an idiosyncrasy I’m not proud of, but it’s one I’m at least dealing with these days. Especially since I have come to the understanding of *why* I do this.

Talking on the phone is an incredibly intimate act.

My parents separated when I was 11 years old. During the school year, when I lived with my mom in Chicago, I would get a phone call once a week from my dad, still back in Pennsylvania. I wish I could say that I remembered those conversations; I don’t. I remember feelings from them, and the safety and warmth they coated me with that would last for hours, sometimes days, sometimes nearly until the next call. These were pieces of Dad that I could have, just for me, and just at this specific time. As the phone call was our ritual, the phone itself became a ritual tool, and one I never got in the habit of using casually.

Later on, I would realize just how intimate the phone conversations themselves could become. As I started to meet people online, and we emailed a few times back and forth, phone conversations were the next step. In the early 90’s, I spoke with at least twenty people I will never meet “face-to-face.”

And I spoke to some I did meet, too. A few I more than met. Two I was engaged to. One I married.

Mac — the one I didn’t marry — had and still has, to my knowledge, an absolutely entrancing voice: soft and deep, articulate and lush in its Canadian accent. The first time we talked on the phone was the closest I’d ever come to a real-life swoon. Our conversations were a bridge between the vagaries of online interaction and the tangibles of “real life.” They were more than words exchanged; they were pieces of day-to-day things we couldn’t immediately share. I fell in love with his words, first, and then him. Even though words weren’t strong enough to make our relationship work, they were strong enough to help me through some incredibly difficult times. Without the phone, I’d have been … lost.

Nowadays, I spend more time on the phone than I have in several years, since Chad and I started living in the same place. But these are almost always prearranged calls with a few, very close friends — this group including my dad and my mom. Without realizing it, I’ve created solid levels of intimacy in my life, and if someone doesn’t fit into the ‘phone call intimacy’ bracket … well, chances are I won’t call them, and I’ll be pretty weirded out if they call me. I couldn’t begin to explain how certain people end up in the different levels. Just today, I ended up telling someone I really like that he was in a less-intimate level than we both had originally thought. Suppose the levels will be subjects for entries all their own, someday.

In the meantime, I’ll be in touch.

{taking the phone off the hook}

honesty with friends

At the time this topic was “assigned,” I had a dilemma. The way I saw it, I could either be honest with one of my closest friends, or I could go on hating who I was around her, and feeling awful about our friendship in general. You see, I had lost the ability to be honest with her. Due to some major problems she’s been having in her own life, I’ve been supportive and caring of her to a fault; meanwhile, my own needs in the friendship have been largely overlooked. And I’m not being honest with her about it.

One could say, “Well, if you can’t be honest with your friends, who can you be honest with?” (Now that I look at that, it seems like a blanket statement: “Well, if you can’t ____ your friends, who can you ____ with?”) I don’t know, I don’t know. I wanted to be, but … I was terrified of hurting her feelings.

I’m still terrified. But not terrified enough to live like this anymore. I wrote her a long letter, describing in detail how I have been feeling, what I think about her present situation, and why I’m distant from her these days. It didn’t feel good to write it. It didn’t feel good to “come clean,” to be honest. It felt like shit. I feel like shit. I feel like I’ve let her down by being this honest; like if I could just hang on one more week, things would improve on their own and this all would be unnecessary.

Yet I know they won’t improve on their own. I know it took my complete, uncensored honesty to make the first step towards fixing what’s been broken. That letter was the most honest I’ve been with her in … well, years. I’m glad I wrote it, but it was the worst letter I’ve ever had to write, and it churned my gut to send it. After all, that honesty may prove the end of our friendship.

My honesty with Chad is a sacred thing. We’ve been doing a lot of talking the past few weeks, and we’ve been more open than ever. This is not to say we’re not usually honest with each other; rather, we joke around a lot and test the waters, try to see if the other person is amenable to a topic, and then slide into it. These days, we’re trusting each other a lot more, and the communication has been wonderful. I tend to measure all my friendships against my relationship with Chad. I’m not sure if that’s good or not.

I want to be completely honest with my friends. I don’t want to censor anything at all from them. But the insecure, paranoid part of me is always calculating the repercussions of everything I say. The fear of hurting someone I care about outweighs the need to be honest.

I sent that letter. I’ve taken this risk. Whether or not the friendship improves, I know now that I need this openness and trust with each of my closest friends. Otherwise, I’m miserable, and not myself at all. I hope what I’ve learned from this can soothe some of the pain to come.


I’m going to reveal my Definite Uncoolness with this entry, I can already tell. I don’t like what the word feminism has come to mean. I don’t consider myself a feminist, by what the word means in everyday usage. I’m more of a humanist.

First off, I don’t believe in defeminizing (is that a word?) women in order for women and men to be equal in society. Androgyny, while an interesting concept, is not an ideal I strive towards. I don’t strive towards femininity, either; there should be a balance, rather than a neutralizing, of genders in each human being. I perceive the defeminization of women to be sexism of a sort. Women should be able to be as feminine or as masculine as they want to be, and still be considered female.

My thoughts are unclear on this issue, so this will be a jumbled entry at best. I don’t like the stereotype of a butch lesbian who hates men, or even the stereotype of the heterosexual female who refuses to shave her legs in protest of male oppression. Certainly we live in a lookist society, and certainly there are double-standards that women must strive to … what? Strive to cope with, eradicate, what? Not shaving my legs isn’t going to change anyone’s view of strong females. I actually enjoy shaving my legs, if I can remember to do it. Then again, I don’t hate myself when my leg-hair gets really long. Maybe that’s the difference.

When I was younger, I played with Barbies and I played with Matchbox cars; I collected Glamor Gal dolls and I collected baseball and football cards. My parents never encouraged me to do one over the other; they encouraged both equally. I grew up and was supposed to learn how to shave my legs and to wear a bra. Instead, my mom forbid me from shaving and she bought me a camibra. These things bothered me because I didn’t want to look dumb in front of the other girls, but it didn’t make me a feminist later on. It just made me less worried about body hair and boobs later on. Although I still admit to suffering the self-image woes from time to time.

I don’t know. I know I’m female, and I know females are equal to males, and that’s about it. I hate that Spice Girls “girl power” crap, because it’s just that: crap. That is anti-feminism, to me, just as bad as Rush Limbaugh and his feminazi idiocy. Male-bashing isn’t feminism either. I suppose I won’t be happy until I can be dealt with as a person first, and a woman second. My gender is important to me, and I’m proud to be female, but when I define myself, it’s as a human first, and then a female.


The Library Smell: what an incredible invention. There is something so innately comforting to me about the smell of an established library. New libraries smell funny, smell wrong yet. A library that’s been around, oh, let’s say ten years … now that’s a smell.

Of course my attraction to libraries is more than just an affection for a good, musty book-scent. It’s the calmness of a library, the lack of sudden movements (even moreso in the South, living up to that stereotype), the peace. I’ve loved libraries ever since my parents used to take me to the little Cambridge Springs library on the corner of the street we lived on. Libraries meant books, and I’ve never been able to get enough of those.

Since I started working in a library, they aren’t peaceful anymore. I can’t study in one, and I don’t linger in them. The irony of this entry is that the police were at my library today (police always meaning to me the disruption of peace, “disturbing the peace”) and I’m still boggling over it.

A man was jacking off upstairs today. One of the patrons came to the circulation desk to report it, but he had already left. In fact, I saw him leave. I remembered seeing him leave because I thought his shoes were funny-looking; he was wearing sandals with a jogging-suit type of top and shorts. Really nice brown leather sandals, too. It was very odd, so I looked, and remembered. And then a few minutes later, I found out that Sandal Man had been having a lovely old time on the second floor, much to the chagrin of the med students trying to immerse themselves in gastrointestinal disorders and the like. I thought I was going to experience my own gastrointestinal disorder when I found out about Sandal Man.

But I didn’t. That’s what is truly disturbing to me. Libraries are no longer peaceful places, and I was made fully aware of this when I failed to react to the news of Sandal Man’s exploits. Now, libraries are just places like any other places, any other places that can house bizarre situations like today’s. Well, jacking off isn’t so bizarre, I suppose, but in a public place it still is beyond the norm.

The library I work in is not beautiful. It’s not even austere and efficient. It’s just serviceable, and boring, and plain. It has a lobby on the ground floor that serves no purpose; you can’t get into or out of the actual building from the ground floor lobby. The library has really loud doors, and sounds carry horridly through the low rooms. The air conditioning is permanently stuck at 45 degrees.

And yet there was something endearing about the place. I know how to find things in it. I know where the back doors are, and how to open the basement door with one hand. But every day I work there, it makes all libraries seem less like magical places and more like … buildings. Barnes and Noble is more exciting than libraries are to me, these days.

Maybe that’s why I buy more books than I could ever possibly read. I’m making my own library, at home, where it always smells good and no one’s jacking off (inappropriately, anyway). There’s also a cat. If libraries exist in the future, they must all be equipped with cats. It might cut down on the Sandal Men, too. No one I know can get off with a cat staring them down.

slumber parties

I wish I could say that slumber parties taught me about life, or friendship, or sex, or even ouija boards. When it comes right down to it, I never liked slumber parties. During the course of the evening, something would always happen that would mark me as a party-pooper or as an uglier-than-(insert cutest girl in fifth grade here). The era of slambooks, those hideous little notebooks with “anonymous” entries about who you most despised or who was the most annoying person in the school, brought about more humiliation than I could stand. It was apparent I would always be “Nicest Girl.”

But I didn’t want to be nice. I wanted to be pretty, or funny, or scary, even. Anything but nice . Nice was the curse of boring people who always lent you a pencil or who didn’t complain when you traded them a sucky sandwich for their wonderful salami on Italian bread one. Nice was terrible. It was the worst fate my fifth-grade mind could conjure up.

The girls I hung out with in grade school were always trying to freeze each other’s bras. I was safe from this particularly weird punishment because I wore a camibra. A camibra is a cut-off undershirt with a scrawny lace flower sewn on it. It is the 90-pound weakling version of a training bra. I hated my camibra, but it was better than still wearing an undershirt. I think.

Anyway, I would always be the one who said, “Hey, that isn’t very nice,” when the other girls would start rifling through someone’s Cabbage Patch backpack. I would always be the one who was too afraid to kiss a classmate’s older brother on a dare. I never chose dare. I always told the truth, too.

Slumber parties were reminders of how uncool I was, and they continued to be until college. I can’t consider a bunch of drunken co-eds passing out in a 12′ by 12′ dorm room a real slumber party, but at least during those I wasn’t so obviously uncool. Then again, it’s nigh impossible to be obvious to an unconscious person.

My friend Kasey used to have me over to her house overnight a lot, in grade school. I can’t call it a slumber party, since it was just the two of us, but we really did have fun. We would put on talent shows, ride her horse, eat macaroni and cheese, stay up late, watch scary movies, tell ghost stories … those were some great times. With her, I was always cool, even though she wasn’t uncool. I was just comfortable, I suppose. She never dared me to do things I didn’t want to do, and she never called me “nice.”

I think every group of kids needs a nice one, a smart one, a cute one, a funny one, and so on. Slumber parties are tiny social paradigms, and to work properly, all the roles must be involved. I would have enjoyed them more if I hadn’t been the nice one. The nice one must fulfill her nice duties and must live up to her nice image. I just couldn’t freeze someone’s bra nicely.


Odd that I should procrastinate while writing about procrastination. I suspect this was tied up with feelings of inadequacy after the trend of lame entries I’ve been writing, but still … I waited until the last possible moment to write this one. For shame.

I procrastinate to the point of utter, all-encompassing guilt, and then because I feel so guilty, I don’t want to think about it any more so I don’t just do the thing, I procrastinate further. Then it becomes this monumental task that can Never Be Completed because I’ve put it off so long. Why?

With writing, it is different. I don’t intentionally, consciously procrastinate writing. When I have something to write, I do it. Except for this journal entry, of course. I believe this has to do with not wanting to think about how much I procrastinate. I do it often. Embarrassed of that.

Chad often wonders, “Why don’t you just do it and get it over with?” He has the full-contact, mow-’em-and-show-’em philosophy of social interaction and personal achievement. I admire this. I cannot do this. I am truly incapable of getting things done the first time around. I’ve tried. Repeatedly.

It’s not that I’m incompetent, or lazy. I just create difficulties for myself. I put up obstacles because failing is so much easier than succeeding. Success scares me. I want to be really good at what I do, not just kind-of good. So it’s easier to be bad at things. Isn’t that pathetic? On the screen, it looks hopelessly pitiful.

And it is, dammit, I rally against myself. It makes no sense to procrastinate; things you have to do will still be there even if you don’t do them right away, so get them done. Things you don’t have to do but would like to do eventually will NEVER get done unless you do the things you have to do, right away. So it doesn’t even make sense to procrastinate.

I am easily distracted by sparklethings. Sparklethings are any objects, concepts, people, or places that emanate newness and spirit. The new TV card in Chad’s ‘puter distracts me. Distractions make it very easy for me to procrastinate. I can attack my to-do list with such excuses as, “Well, what if I get up from my chair to go clean the tub, trip and fall, crack my skull open on the bookcase, and die? I would have died for a stupid thing, cleaning the tub; instead I will sit here a while longer and enjoy my time with my friends and my toys.” Pathetic, isn’t it? Mm-hm.

It doesn’t help that I always have fifty or so projects going at any given time. I can’t stand to be only halfway busy. I must procrastinate on three, four different levels instead of just one. More productive that way (??).

[Author’s Note: I lost the rest of this entry due to an editor bug. If I ever get caught up, I might come back and write what I remember from that lost part. Otherwise, just assume it was startling and brilliant.]

maternal instinct

An acquaintance of mine, a med student, asks me, “Do you have any kids?” I laugh and say, no, no, not me, ha ha ha, very funny there, move along. Then he points to my wedding ring. “Well, that kind of goes to say you’ll be having them at some point, right?” I become self-righteous — or not self-righteous, but somebody-else-righteous — “No,” I explain carefully, “I didn’t get married to have children.”

But I want them. This terrifies me on a regular basis. Probably about three years ago I started noticing babies in that MUST HAVE BABY sense I had always heard about, always feared of. The all-powerful Biological Clock had started ticking for me. Only mine doesn’t seem to tick down; it’s ticking up, accumulating seconds and minutes and hours that I’ve felt this need, until finally my still-punkish twentysomething persona will give way to Donna Reed.

Or not. Maybe I can still be cool and be a mom. After all, my mom did it. She’s the coolest woman I know, and she had ME to deal with. Major points in her favour. Maybe I won’t have to succumb to the phases of annoying I see mothers going through on a regular basis: the “oh look, Johnny made a poopoo” phase, the “don’t touch that, don’t say that” phase, the “over my dead body, young lady” phase. No, I won’t. I will have to suffer through them all; that’s what mothers do, in the name of motherhood, and of propagation of the species.

I don’t want to propagate. I want an adventure. I want to experience the immense, jarring love for a child. Even the pain and the worry. I want it all. Sometimes I hate saying I want it; mostly, I’ve come to terms with it. It took a while. For a long time, I didn’t even think about it, since I would obviously never find anyone who would (a) be decent enough to brew genes with, and (b) stick around that long. Now that I’m married (still adjusting to this concept) and supposedly do have an automagic built-in sticker-arounder, and one whose genes are mighty fine indeed, the motherhood thing seems pretty okay. Someday. I mean, it’s a great idea right now, but I don’t want to do it yet.

“I still have a lot of growing up to do,” I grin at Mr. Med Student. He laughs and nods, “Yeah, I hear that. But are you ever ready, are you ever grown up enough to handle being a parent?” His face gets serious. I shrug, and smile, “I guess not, but someday I’ll definitely be less not-ready than I am right now.” And I will be. I hope we’ll have taken our honeymoon by then.


“Why do you and Chad need separate computers?” my friend asked me the other day. “We wouldn’t be together without them,” I glibly replied. “But why?” Why indeed. The first thing that came to mind was competition. We are very, very competitive sometimes. This is also my answer to other questions, such as: “Why don’t you two play cards against each other?” and the like. We get along quite well, but there has always been an element of competition in our relationship, and frankly, I like it.

I compete with other people in my own mind, as well. I seem to be constantly striving towards “most interesting person so-and-so knows,” now that I don’t care to be the best dressed or the cutest. I don’t know if I would be crushed to find out that I am not the most interesting person someone knows; I’d probably (egocentrically) consider it a clerical error in the great ledger of the universe, and move on. I don’t compete to be the best darn liberry grrl at work anymore; I think my work ethic has gone on sabbatical. I don’t have many, if any, competitive feelings within my family; my parents always instilled in me a sense of uniqueness and importance, and they always seem to be proud of me no matter what I do.

I’ll be driving along, pretending to be a spy (as I’ve done since childhood) and peering at all the unsuspecting humans, and I don’t need to compete with them, either. I know I’m human, so that’s not it. So why Chad, my best friend, husband, and all-around companion and confidante? I think it has to do with admiration. I really admire many things about Chad: his charisma, his sense of humour, his talent, his way of dealing with random salespeople without going freakin’ nanners like I do. So many things. Things that I want to work on in myself.

Then there’s Kite. I compete with her regularly, although I pretend not to. When I first read her poetry, I was blown away. I read a lot of poetry, some published and some not, and most of it doesn’t do much for me. But hers — and her prose, as well — I was shaken after I read it. We had some friends in common when we first started talking regularly, and I sometimes had pangs of jealousy: did they think she was cooler, more interesting, funnier than I was? For a while I was angry. I didn’t want to hang out with those friends anymore, since they liked her too; I didn’t understand how they could like both of us at the same time, since I had made it into a “one or the other” issue in my own mind. I’m not sure when I realized that we were different people, with different strengths, different styles of poetry, and we didn’t have to compete. Maybe it was when she told me she thought I was a good writer. That also floored me. Anyway, something changed between us, and now the only competition left behind is the good kind, the kind I like in my relationship with Chad, the you-challenge-me-and-I-like-that kind. I’m often self-conscious about writing alongside her in this journal because her depth of emotion and experience seem so far beyond mine. So that, I compete with, and I know it makes me a better person.

And then, perhaps competition to me has to do with “not knowing where I stand” with someone. I had no idea where I stood with Kite for a long, long time, and it bothered me. We seemed to like each other in tides: one day, we were almost friends, and the next, we were cool and indifferent towards each other. I always wanted to ask her what she thought of me; instead of doing that, I hung out and did the best I could to “keep up” as I saw it. I have to compete with my friends so they’ll show me where I am on their personal coolness scale. Good, then it’s all tied up with self-affirmation and ego and all these things I already know about myself.

But maybe it’s not. Maybe I’m competing with other people, people I like a lot, so I really will try and be better than they are at something. I mean, if it’s something I absolutely cannot do, like swim, then I’m not going to try to be an Olympic swimmer. I don’t even feel bad when someone’s a good swimmer. But if it’s something that I can somewhat do, like write, then I’m in automatic competitive mode (at least with the writers I respect).

And being a woman — heh. I compete with just about every woman I know. I don’t mean competing with glossy airbrushed pictures in a magazine; I mean real women. And that’s not bad, either. It encourages self-examination, and pride. I don’t mean competing so far as attractiveness, either. The older I get, the less I worry about that. No time. No, competing with other women has to do with who’s more down-to-earth, or fun, or intelligent. Back to the traits I admire thing again. Well, this all makes sense. I’m glad.

I was beginning to think I was less rational than — er. Nevermind.