Failed Beatrice

ImageOur mothers gave us names that were impossible to live up to, heavy with silent letters and les accents graves, names that had already been claimed and fulfilled by greater women who came before us. Anaïs and Siobhan and Calliope and Vivienne: we would never match the elegance of our first names. That much was obvious in our first colicky years, in our perpetually skinned knees and tomato allergies and lazy eyes, and by the time our classmates thought to call us Fatty or Too-Tall or Lump, our disappointing destinies were confirmed.  We were unworthy Marguerites and Rosalinds, ugly Stellas, clumsy Astrids. We were failed Beatrices.

All I wished for, back in the days before I met you, was to be called Jessica.

Night Vision

She was useless at dusk, a squinting mole of a woman, unable to drive, unable to distinguish faces or fonts or numbers of fingers being held up until they were inches in front of her—and by then, too late to react properly. This was genetic. Like her mother’s mother’s mother’s mother (and so on and on, she imagined, back to the Neanderthalic foremother, who died when she  stumbled  into the open maw of an unseen twilight predator), she sighed and put her book aside each day when the sun set.

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Schlub Life

– eat cold black beans from a can 40% of the time
– listen to mediocre bands from your glory days: Air is a good place to start
– gain a little more weight each Christmas, lose a little less each spring
– engage in internet disputes with your ex-boyfriends over grammatical minutiae; win by stamina
– hang out with your Mom on weekends
– curate subtle grease stains on the thighs of all your pants
– wear white sweat socks on all occasions
– keep your apartment more or less picked up but DO NOT ever vacuum
– gather Kleenexes in your purse
– read the first few chapters of self help books
– skip the smartphone trend altogether
– do not wash your hands after peeing if no one is around and/or if no actual urine touched your skin
– throw dirty clothes and papers in bedroom closet when visitors visit
– Googling options:

  • “greasy hair baby powder”
  • “how to make waffles if you’re out of milk and eggs”
  • “who sings i knew you were trouble when you walked in”

– cut your hair shorter than is prudent considering your jawline so you can go at least nine months without making another appointment
– sleep on the couch some nights because why not
– turn down a friend by saying you have to stay home and write; use that time to follow internet beefs about Lena Dunham’s body

Congrats! Schlubhood is yours!

Polar Vortex Reducing Diet(TM): The Quickest Way to Accidental Health…Guaranteed!

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If you’ve looked at any weather radar maps lately, you will have noticed the vast blue blob that’s gobbled up all of the North and most of the Midwest. You’ll notice a spattering of seasonally appropriate numbers, but then you’ll squint at the screen and notice that there are minus signs before each of them. It’s not 22 degrees. Nope! It’s MINUS 22 DEGREES. The high today in my corner of Missouri was expressed by the laughable digit “3,” and it occurred at 12:05 a.m., which basically means it was part of yesterday.

But enough of my personal woes… let’s get to the feature I know my faithful multitudes (Tara, Jordan) are waiting for!

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Lose Weight Effortlessly During the Polar Vortex Times! Now, that lean, starved look can be yours in three easy steps!

How to do it:

1. Watch blue blob of frigidity approach your state on the evening news; laugh at reports of empty grocery shelves and people fighting over bread in the Dillon’s parking lot and feel smug, like perhaps you are a more evolved version of the common species, the kind of advanced mammal that wasn’t into Beanie Babies in the 90s, wasn’t into Y2K in 1999, and certainly was not into the planking craze of June 24, 2012.

2. Be so busy making fun of these poor, simple alarmists that you forget to go grocery shopping yourself.

3. Eat nothing but canned beans, wilted lettuce, and Ezekiel bread the whole time you are snowed in, which is four days.

WATCH THE HOLIDAY FAT MELT AWAY!

Bonus tips: Watch yourself do increasingly horrible things as supplies grow thin, like lick your finger and dip it in a bag of pure cane sugar. Realize you have sugar addiction. Do absolutely nothing to change. In fact, drink rum with Juicy Juice because rum and Juicy Juice both are forms of sugar and you NEED sugar and it’s been seven hours since you’ve had any.
Try to find Sherlock episodes for free online. Fail. Venture out to coffee shop for human interaction, wearing produce bags for snow boots.  Deride yourself for being 30 and not owning snowboots.
It’s so cold the snot freezes in your nostrils when you breath in; proceed to mouth breath. Trudge home. Try spitting on sidewalk to see if it’s true your spit will freeze before it hits ground; it’s not.
Refresh email forty times to see if work is cancelled tomorrow like it was today. It is not.

The Big 3-0

In the end, it came not with a bang but with a store-bought sheet cake and 30 trick candles, and a skate party, a bottle of very-shaken champagne (NOT Andre, for once), a large cluster of zits on the bottom left serif of a stubbornly persistent T zone (still?! I have crow’s feet! Crow’s feet and pimples were never meant to coexist on the same face at the same time! It ain’t natural!), and two greasy, barely-remembered slices of downtown pizza. The twenties ended not with a bang but with a two-day hangover.  

Thus your intrepid blogger entered the beginning of the fourth decade of her life, and it was good. Well, it was alright. It did feel a little weird punching in 3-0 when the elliptical machine at the YMCA asked for her age the next afternoon. It felt a little sad being drunk and awake and raccoon-eyed at 2 a.m. — not the glorious adulthood she had imagined as a child, at least. Weren’t there supposed to be babies, mortgages, shoulder pads?

For the most part, I like the idea of being a Woman In Her Thirties. I’m one of those people who’s felt 30 since she was nine, though I know everyone says that about themselves. Everyone likes to think they’re more mature than their gangly, goofy peers, more deserving of being the protagonist of a novel instead of the supporting character put there for comic relief. But I *have* always felt more serious than a lot of people my age, and now my body has finally caught up. My eyes have that tired, knowing look. When people look at me now they will know I am someone they can trust to pet sit, to keep secrets, to hold babies, to fix a collapsed meringue 35 minutes before the party starts.  

Ways In Which I’m Still Immature
– get nervous when people bring drugs out at parties
– tendency to overdrink (occasionally)
– seeming inability to pay bills on time, even when the money is in the bank
– internal motor that prevents me from sitting in a chair like a normal adult, i.e. not crouching in chair, but sitting in chair / i.e. not rolling on the floor with any pets that may be present, but sitting in chair 

Let 2014, the year I am 30, be my renaissance. It’s probably a good idea to get re-born every 30 years or so, anyway. I’m going to go into hibernation a bit to recover from the holidays, and then watch me emerge, Madonna-like, from my chrysalis of fudge and wrapping paper, a wholly new and improved Ingrid. A kinder, more thoughtful Ingrid. An Ingrid who, if nothing else, pays her utilities bill on time. 

 

I Was a Teenage Binge Eater

Tonight a friend dropped by to give me a bag o’ treats since I watched her cats last week. As I’m attempting to right the wrongs of Thanksgiving by eating only fresh, clean foods (“Better Living Through Celery Juice!”), I was desperately hoping those treats might be gross.

Treats are never gross, dear Reader. Never.

Thirty minutes later, the deed was done — all six homemade pumpkin donuts, co-mingling awkwardly in my belly with the other assorted sins of the day (spoiler alert: not celery juice). I lay or laid or lie (I’m an English major and never know which) on my back on the living room carpet, staring corpse-like into the middle distance — hating myself, hating life, hating my friend, hating her cats, hating the chemical magic that occurs every time sugar combines with fat in the warmth of an oven. Damn it. SIX DONUTS.

Six.
Donuts.

I’ll be 30 in less than three weeks. Is this how I want to spend the last few days of my 20s, frumpy and pot-bellied, unable to muster the basic self-discipline needed to stop at a reasonable, I dunno, THREE donuts, wasting 90% of my time slumped over a glowing screen reading about how I Know I’m a 90s Kid When?! Oh god, please do not get me started on Buzzfeed lists and the time I’ve wasted there.

You know those “Garfield without Garfield” comics someone made a while back? You take Garfield’s thought bubbles away [edit: apparently you take Garfield away completely. Well, this post makes more sense if you pretend Garfield is left in but his thought bubbles are taken out.] and you’re left with the saddest, loneliest man in the world. Jon the Bachelor, Jon the Perpetually Alone, Jon talking to no one at all, blissfully unaware of the tragedy his small life has become (blissful only because unaware!), spending his meager paychecks on novelty lapel flowers that squirt water, replacement drapes, lasagna ingredients, nothing! Bleak nothingness! Cat and dopey-tongued dog staring back uncomprehendingly! Oh, Jon!

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I had this thought the other day that the motions of our daily lives are oddly limited and contained and mostly focused around the little glowing screens of our phones, computers, tablets, and TVs (why am I writing so much anti-technology stuff lately? I don’t know. I honestly am not a Luddite in most areas of life. Long live Facebook!). If you don’t count the bigger motions that get us from home to work, from work to the gym, thirty minutes on the elliptical, fifteen on weights, etc., think about the movements we spend most of our days making: the tiny motions of fingers typing, wrist moving mouse, eyeballs following the line of text from one side to the next. How much of our lives do we spend engaged in these small, repetitive movements?

Then, considering this, I started thinking about what our lives would look like if we mapped them out in a comic panel and deleted all of our screens. Our lives are suddenly very empty-seeming: poor schmucks slouching over and staring into and talking and laughing and crying at nothing, only very rarely making a motion larger than a ctrl+alt+delete. We are hardly any less sad than Garfield without Garfield, if we’re being honest with ourselves; a bunch of Jons spending the panels of our lives loving something that will never love us back.

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Where did that Garfield-themed tangent come from?! I was just going to talk about how fat I’m becoming but took a wrong turn somewhere back at SIX DONUTS.

30. Eek.

Various Thoughts on the Night of the First Deep Freeze

heminway
how do writers drink? all the authors i admire have notorious wine habits or tendencies to go on legendary drug benders (even Stephen King had his coke) (more importantly, do people who go on drug benders call it “going on drug benders”? this sounds somehow wrong), and here i sit, unable to make it through a half-glass of Two Buck Chuck (TBC) without my already loosely tied-together thoughts scattering like balloons on a windy day — balloons filled with important sentences and paragraphs and character motivations from what might’ve been a pretty decent novel. i’m jealous of people who can drink and write. it would be nice to be not fully present for the process, which is 10% joyous charge forward, 90% depressing, sulking backspace.

today the libraries were closed for veterans day, but i had to work anyway, helping with a big project at my branch switching the fiction and non-fiction. do you know how hard it is to move every single book in a library? you would think it would happen in a cheery Mary Poppins sort of way, but this is not how it went, to my dismay. instead it went like this: load every single book in the library onto carts, put every single book in the library on a new shelf, when three quarters done realize there was a horrible miscalculation somewhere, remove every single book in the library from the new shelf and replace on carts, move the entire collection of biographies to another portion of the library, replace every single book in the library on new old shelf. my wrists! my knees!

it’s finally cold here. tonight is the first deep freeze.

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deep thought (or maybe not — will re-read tomorrow and assess whether thought actually deep or not): everyone’s always freaking out about what will happen to these young people growing up in front of screens, posting photos of themselves on facebook, talking lewdly to 43 yr old algebra teachers via chat, etcetera, but i learned in a library meeting that teens are already turning away from facebook in droves, and it occurred to me that we need to worry about ourselves more than the young people. the young people will rebel from all these bad habits we’ve inadvertently (or advertently, one might argue) raised them with — just as the children born to conservatives in the 1950s rebelled and went back to the land as soon as they could (yes, and eventually became conservative stuffed shirts themselves, but that doesn’t fit in with my point, so moving on). the kids will move past it. it’s you and i who are tied to our screens for life, having been there at the renaissance of screens, at the start of it all. it’s you and i who will die with a phone pressed to our ears, texting even as loved ones gather around to say goodbye, making a final status update with palsied hands, that last clever thing we want to be known for saying before drifting off to the Great Beyond.

the kids will be fine.