Monthly Archives: October 2019

Things Men Have Said To Me (#32)

I¬† was watching the kids’ annual outdoor costume parade in the town center. A stranger, an older, grey-haired man, approached me and stood by my side.

HIM¬†(pleasantly): “What’s happening here?”

ME¬†(pleasantly): “It’s the children’s Halloween costume parade.”

HIM¬†(very sarcastically): “I’d have never guessed.”

ME (half-joking, half-not): “Then why did you¬†ask?!”

HIM:

A briefest of moments passed.

HIM (pointing out a costumed pet): “There’s Wonder Dog.”

ME:

Man goes away.

 

Look back (move forward)

I have a reflective nature. Sometimes I’m even more reflective than usual. I think that as I get older, I have more to look back on but curiously, I find myself returning to my earlier years in that they stand out in relief. On a timeline, they draw my attention.

It has occurred to me recently that my life was¬†front-loaded. The specific ages of 19-25 had the most significant events packed into the shortest period of time. I don’t remember thinking that as it happened but here, from a good distance, it looks that way. When I think of the events of my life from those years, I want to lay down and take a nap. As a group, it appears exhausting. Then again, maybe that is from my current perspective. At the time, what the hell did I know? It was just my life.

In part, the importance of those years is tied into a number of “firsts” which lends them a certain gravitas. That’s not the whole of it though; it wasn’t all about the emotional wallop of first-time experiences.

Certain occurrences were brought on by my own hand; others were beyond my control. I simply can’t think of another period in my life so far that had as many of both. It isn’t that nothing much happened after those years – plenty did, has – but for sheer drama and impact, those years are it. (If I can help it, I’ll never again have a set of years like those; once was enough.)

If I go ahead and include the first 19 years of my life in this equation, then the years from birth to 25 had the most intense, dramatic events. It’s no small point that the first 19 years of my life were lived with my family; my many siblings and my parents. It was a dramatic, chaotic, populated, volatile household. While I had some notion of that while I lived in it, it is increasingly with years that I see just how dramatic/chaotic/populated/volatile it was.

In some respects, I’m still working out everything that happened before I was 26. Or– maybe I’m just revisiting them, I’m not sure. Don’t get me wrong – these aren’t bad thoughts. I don’t feel stuck or unable to get out from under long-ago happenings. I just think I’m appreciating it from a different angle. I never thought of my life as¬†front-loaded before this past week and I’m rather taken with the term and the idea. I haven’t figured out everything it means yet but it gives me a fresh(er) way of looking at things.

Free clothes from the clothing swap

Last March I posted about free clothes I got at a women’s clothing¬†swap. The local yoga studio hosted it and it was welcome to anyone (not just customers/practitioners) and I had an excellent, fruitful time. I really like the idea of women gathering for a swap; the comradery is fun and it’s more personal than simply dropping your unwanted clothes off somewhere (which I still do frequently). At the time the owner said she planned to do it again in September but when September came and went I thought maybe the idea had fallen by the wayside. I’d started putting (nicer) things for another swap aside immediately after the last one and had a full bag.¬† Happily, the owner advertised on a community Facebook group that another swap was scheduled for this past Friday evening. Since I had plenty of notice, I went through my clothes again and filled another bag to share. I have come to think of my wardrobe as something I both¬†curate¬†and¬†cull.

This swap wasn’t as well-attended as the one in Spring and there weren’t quite so many clothes but I still did very nicely for myself. Here’s my group shot, including a pair of red gloves.

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Here’s a pair of New York & Company low-rise, slim jeans (a brand I’d never buy at full-price), Athleta pants (I’d never heard of the brand but that’s the fun of second-hand clothes be it at a swap, a thrift store or a rummage sale; you see things you might never otherwise), and a pair of linen pants with interesting pocket details at the top and sides.

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Here’s a trio of cover-ups. The gorgeous blue/green one is Hard Tail, yet another brand I have never heard (googling shows it to be a fairly expensive US company), the pink/salmon sweater is Banana Republic, and the I’m-not-really-sure-what-color-that-is (tan? charcoal? a shade of green?) sweater is Wind River, another unfamiliar brand.

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This little dress is made by Om Zappy, which may have been a funky little¬†store in Seattle – all I found online was Yelp reviews and a website that is no longer. I think I could wear it with tights or over leggings or jeans. I don’t typically wear collared blouses but this New York & Company 7th Avenue blouse looked good on me so I figured I’d try it – that’s the beauty of¬†free.

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Lastly, here’s athletic wear.¬† It’s easy to fall into a trap of wearing dark clothes in winter but I try to make sure I bring in bursts of color. The first is snug on me so I’ll wear it as a top. The middle one is thick and cozy. And I can always use black tank-tops.

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Inevitability

Years ago I befriended a widowed man. A couple times in my life I have met someone and knew they were going to be my friend. This was one of those. There was an¬†inevitability in play. I even held off on it – this relationship I sensed was inevitable – because I’d fairly recently had complicated emotional experiences going on in my own life that related to someone’s death – the predominant of which was sticking very close to someone else in the months after his (ex) girlfriend killed herself and devoting my energies to making sure he was okay. I was personally grieving other deaths as well and was feeling, for want of a better term, deathed out. I wasn’t ready for a widowed man and dragged my heels for awhile regaining my equilibrium. As I say, I intuited that we’d be friends. And it wasn’t that I didn’t want to be, I just wasn’t ready yet.

In time, with my propulsion, we did indeed become very good friends. I felt like, given my own experience with death/grief (and here I don’t mean the ones mentioned above but another far more significant to me), that I had something to offer, something perhaps that wasn’t really available elsewhere. This man, whose wife had died after a very long marriage, was blown open. He had that shell-shocked look many bereaved people take on in the months and sometimes years, after a death. He had family and friends but as the¬†new friend, someone who hadn’t known the couple, I was in a unique role with a different vantage. Bereavement aside, he wasn’t an¬†extroverted jocular fellow and I suspect that while the people already in his life definitely cared for him, they probably didn’t know quite what to do for him after the earliest activity and commotion following the death of his wife subsided.

This was not if you are thinking it, a romance. I didn’t see him that way and that wasn’t the point, and while one can’t always know the future, I didn’t believe it ever would be. We were quite different. He was a lot older and had been the proverbial long-time family man. He’d had a long profession. I, on the other hand, had been much more footloose and independent, having a number of shorter relationships over my life and jobs of many stripes. He later admitted he initially thought I was much younger even, than I actually was. It was, though, a meeting of intellects, a conversation-based relationship. He was introverted, reserved by nature, bookish and a talker in the one-on-one sense. His physical appearance and demeanor could be seen as stern and unemotional to those who didn’t know him; they didn’t invite familiarity. His humor, not abolished by his grief, was dry and under-stated. A person needed to be paying attention. I was paying attention and breathed life back into his world. I’m certain of it. For my part, I got an intellectual equal, someone who listened to me, a man of depth. At the time, I considered him and our friendship the most grown-up I’d known. That was a lot.

Over a period of years the friendship changed. From here, today, I’d say it ran its course and accomplished its purpose. At the time, while I’d felt he¬†had¬†deeply, genuinely appreciated me, I also felt that by having initiated, and driven the engine of the friendship, I’d established a pattern and made things easy for him (which wasn’t entirely wrong given the state he was in when I met him). However, as I saw him gaining energy and strength, I expected the relationship to become more balanced and well, it didn’t exactly.

Further, as he began to emerge from the worst throes of grief, my friend became less recognizable to me, less empathy-warranting. I believed that I’d known a¬†version of him after his traumatic loss and now the fuller picture was emerging. He had more energy, yes, and was putting it toward causes unrelated to grief. Whether it was good or bad is a loaded question and not essential to answer so much as to say that what was emerging wasn’t resonating with me. I chafed at what I was seeing. I told him, even during our friendship, that given how different we were, we’d done awfully well to have had as close and meaningful a friendship as we did. I still think that. Perhaps you could say the ending of the friendship was as inevitable as its occurrence. I know I left him better than I found him. I also knew I’d turned a corner in relationships and going forward would only have grown-up ones.¬†

 

 

“Guest post”

As a rule I don’t print anyone else’s writing on my blog; no quotes, no guest posts, but today I’m going to break from that tradition with an anonymous piece of writing. Quite a few years ago I had a work-from-home part-time job grading “practice” SAT essays for a test prep company. (Side note: I didn’t get this job because my own SAT scores had been so fabulous – they weren’t – but because I did very well in college and had a number of writing credits, primarily in local newspapers, to demonstrate my writing skill.) Most of the student writing I saw was unremarkable. I saved this short piece, part of a response to a question I no longer recall exactly (something about various individuals’ worth to society), not for its writing per se but because I thought it was a stitch, too good not to now share. I give you “Ben’s” words:

Secondly, a toy factory assembly man could be considered invaluable because he puts together a lot of toys every day, but the man could be a sleazy bachelor who goes home every night and drinks. There’s a good chance he doesn’t have kids, because he wouldn’t be able to afford them. So, in fact, the man could do nothing for nobody and still be considered full of worth because he produces a lot of toys.