Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Changing the world, one man at a time

I went away to beautiful, bucolic Martha's Vineyard this weekend for a brief getaway with my college roomie and her family. Unfortunately, my mind was filled with disappointment and chagrin after my latest unpleasant encounter, courtesy of Le Canadien, and a fruitless 6 months of dating. It's not that I expected to meet my next boyfriend in the first six months, but the rudeness and lack of communication I've encountered are disheartening, to say the least. Not all of my friends have experienced this, but lately I've been talking with a few friends about how it seems that some people believe that, when you meet someone online, the normal rules of politeness do not apply, and one can be more blasé. Of course, I've had plenty of experiences of people I didn't meet online being rude as well...

Two days of sand, sun, babies, beer, and gingerbread architecture later, I felt better, though still not excited to get back on the wagon. I did anyway, but with a new mantra: "Believe the negatives, ignore the positives." A real, professional dating guru -- though, in my opinion, no more qualified than my non-professional gurus -- recommended writing this and posting it on one's mirror.

Furthermore, I made a decision. For my sanity's sake, when people are rude from now on, I will inform them of what they did that I didn't like, and tell them how I wished they had behaved differently. I'll do it in a friendly, polite manner. Culprit #1, the Brazilian, has already received his missive. Now I'm contemplating whether it is worth my while to vent my feelings to Le Canadien or not; it's hard to even think of what I might say to him. Some of these guys are just beyond hope.

But who knows, for the ones who aren't quite beyond hope, maybe my email will help them to be more upfront with the next unsuspecting female who crosses their path.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Cost of a Canadian

Two drinks that Le Canadien generously bought me when we went out two weekends ago: Approximately $25

The wax I got for our anticipated swim together this weekend: $35, plus $5 tip

Two beers I drank with Slinky yesterday evening following Le Canadien's revelation that he decided he's looking for something casual, and would love to go for a casual swim with me, which I politely declined: $10

Clothing I bought during post-beer shopping spree to make myself feel better: $70

Dang. That's one pricey Canadian.

Friday, June 25, 2010

La Moustache Speaks

Over the past 7 months, since he took off in his Land Cruiser to travel 'round the world, my ex-boyfriend La Moustache and I have been in fairly frequent contact. However, our emails have been of the did-you-get-my-car-insurance-check, when-are-you-going-to-file-my-tax-return pragmatic variety, with the occasional p.s. I hate you (from me). Oh, and there was that one time when he offered to give me money if I would be nice to him. Last week, I felt compelled to inform him of the disappearance of Haricot, the lovebird we bought together 2 1/2 years ago, who was the apple of Moustache's eye. Shortly thereafter, his reply arrived:


Thanks for letting me know. I am so sorry and sad about it. I also imagine how
sad you must be, and that affect me even more. I am so sorry with this bad luck, in addition that I hurted you as well. You are right, best is to think that he is having good time in the forest, where all bird belongs, I imagine. He was a good friend to us, and he will stay in my heart. Life is very hard, and I am sorry I made it harder for you.

-La Moustache

Two days later he added:

I know you are pissed at me, but I would really like to know how
everything is going for you. And i can also share with my parents what happenning in your life. I know you hate me, but often I miss you.

As part of my training to become a Hospice volunteer, I watched a video recently about a young child whose parents were separated who died. Though the wife had left the family and behaved abominably, when the child passed -- and yes, the whole thing was filmed -- you could see the connection the parents shared because of their common love of their child.

I can't compare the loss of Haricot to the loss of a five-year-old child, but on some level I felt the same thing with Moustache when we lost our bird. It's been a tumultuous week, and everyone has been very understanding and empathetic; still, I can't help but feel that the one person who truly understands, because he loved Haricot as much as I did, is Moustache. My first instinct was to write back and say, "I miss you too, and I wish you were here."

Thankfully, I'm wise enough at this point to not reply to messages like this immediately. La Moustache has some sympathetic aspects to his personality, and that was a very kind condolence message he sent me. Of course he has good sides to him; otherwise I wouldn't have spent three years with him. We don't live in a fairy tale, and people aren't completely good or completely evil -- they're complicated. And in addition to being empathetic and kind at times, Moustache is also a gigantic a**hole who was utterly dishonest and left me at the worst possible moment of my life without ever being upfront about what he was doing.

After thinking about it for a couple of days, I wrote back and told him exactly what I thought: that I was completely shocked to learn that he missed me. That I had the impression that he wanted only to put as many miles between us as possible, and to burn all bridges. That any hatred I feel toward him is purely a reaction to the way he treated me. And finally, if his parents want to know how I am, they can feel free to get in touch or ask Moustache's uncle.

No response so far. Not that I'm holding my breath -- I don't think the internet connection in Ethiopia is all that great.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Waxing and waning

I received the following (excerpted) message on Tuesday from my Francophone suitor (in translation):

"Bonjour Heathen,
I would love to spend time with you this weekend if you're free. Either Saturday or Sunday would work well for me. It would be great to hang out on the weekend so we could be more relaxed -- we could go swimming somewhere if it's hot! Happy last day of school tomorrow.
À plus tard,
Le Canadien"

I had suggested a weekday date, and he was proposing we wait and have a more quality date on the weekend. All this was very nice, but the prospect of bathing with my potential suitor sent me into a tizzy. Saturday was a mere four days away, and I was busy on Sunday, therefore I needed to do some -- ahem -- personal grooming very soon. I shot off text messages to several friends asking for waxing recommendations, and within ten minutes my sister, Ms. Swamp, had procured me an appointment to join her that very afternoon.

The first time I became aware of waxing, I was fourteen and a freshman in high school, newly arrived at a private school in the big, cosmopolitan city of Portland, Maine. Everyone seemed about ten years older and ten times more sophisticated than me. One day in science class I was paired up with Pam, a shiny-haired girl who wore tight pants and black high-heeled shoes that did not make my Converse and baggy jeans look very chic by comparison. Midway through the experiment we were doing together, she mentioned casually that she'd like to take her sweater off but couldn't because her tanktop beneath would reveal her armpit hair, grown long in preparation for a waxing appointment that afternoon.

I was flabbergasted. Waxing seemed, to me, the equivalent of getting a nose job or a tummy tuck: completely out of the realm of my experience, and utterly inappropriate for a fellow 14-year-old. Not only did my mom not wax, she didn't even shave ANY of her body hair. I was vaguely aware that some women shaved their legs, but that was pretty much the extent of my knowledge, and it seemed like years before I'd be doing something like that myself. I'm sure I blushed beet red and stammered an inane reply.

I like to think I've come a long way since then, but still, I'm not crazy about the idea of waxing. However, if everyone else is doing it, I'm not going to be the lone girl who reminds everyone of Godzilla. Or maybe I will be ten years into marriage, but while I'm shopping for a mate it's probably best to just go with the flow.

At the salon, though, my sister and I were treated to a shocking revelation: 40% of our waxer's clients are now men. This is horrifying on many levels. Didn't everyone see the 40-year-old Virgin?? Remember how awful that was? And that was on his CHEST, which is apparently not where much of this male waxing is occurring. It's occurring in places that are horrifying even to my sister's waxer, who has been in the business for thirty-plus years.

It may not be the whole story, but the way she tells it it's become a battle of the sexes: Men ask their girlfriends to wax. Girlfriends respond, "I'll do it, but only if you do it too." And then the men go out and do just that.

Anybody else vote for a truce??

Rebound bird

Every time I go through the breakup of a serious relationship, I end up engaging in some foolhardy rebound activity, and then regretting it. I am a firm believer that one should take at least 6 months to get over a relationship before starting a new one, and even when I've thought I was just having fun it has often ended painfully for me.

Now I find myself in new territory, wondering: How much time do I need to recover from the loss of a pet before getting a new one? A pet isn't like a boyfriend; I can't just get rid of it if I realize it was an impulsive acquisition. Almost from the moment I lost Haricot last weekend I started wondering whether I should get a new bird if he didn't turn up. At the same time, I was thinking, "I hope if I get a new bird it's a boy, just like Haricot. I don't want to have to deal with eggs! I hope he likes bananas like Haricot. It would be great if he's not too horny, like Haricot." (Some male birds are so eager to hump anything they can get their little claws on that they end up going bald in certain parts of their bodies. Haricot did like to engage in the occasional roll in the hay with a dirty tissue, but only in moderation.)

This is quite a contrast with my boyfriend rebounds, because usually I'm eager to find someone who is completely different from my most recent breakup. If he's slender, I find someone muscular. If he's funny and outgoing, I find someone shy. Then I get really excited about these new qualities.

The difference is that Haricot was pretty much the perfect bird and never caused me any sorrow or anger, so I really just want a replacement Haricot, rather than a new bird. I've even thought about what I would call the new bird, and wondered if it would be too much to call him Haricot. Green Bean's only negative qualities were that he pooped every 15 minutes and chewed holes in paper and sometimes cloth, but my chances of finding a lovebird who doesn't do those things are slim to nil.

It's probably best for me to wait to get a new bird until I am ready to appreciate his own personality and attributes, and won't resent any differences from my missing baby. Besides, I haven't given up hope on finding Haricot yet. Nonetheless, I checked Craigslist the other day, and found someone an hour outside Boston whose lovebirds had babies recently. They won't be ready for adoption until the end of July, and if I want one then, it's mine. So, is five weeks enough time to recover? Or will it be a rebound bird?

Sunday, June 20, 2010


I loaded up the car mid-afternoon on Saturday to head north to Maine for a quick weekend visit in order to attend the wedding of an old family friend. Usually I put Haricot, my pet lovebird, in the passenger seat next to me, but I decided on the off chance I had an accident he'd be safer in the back, so I buckled his cage in behind me. That meant that I couldn't pet him and interact with him the way I normally do when I drive, but if he stood in the right spot in his cage and I craned my neck just a bit, I could see him in the rearview mirror. Every few minutes I'd glance back and say, "Haricot, you okay back there?" and he'd hop to that corner and chirp at me.

I plugged my ipod in and listened to a few podcasts as I drove, sweating in the early summer heat. One was of Irene Pepperberg, a scientist who does research with parrots, most famously an African gray named Alex. I listened to her description of how Alex helped her through her divorce, and then her devastation when Alex died, and I teared up a bit. "Are you enjoying this, too?" I asked Haricot, and he chirped, cheerful as always, but I wished there were some parrot noises in the broadcast so he would know it was a story about parrots.

After we arrived, I opened his cage and we napped in the living room -- or rather, I napped and Haricot hopped energetically around me. A few goldfinches flew by outside, and I wondered if Haricot would like to spend time with them if he could; probably, I thought. He's very social, and while I've never had the chance to see him with other birds, I bet he'd love them.

My mom and I decided eventually to go for a walk, and I left Haricot with my dad, who happily told me he'd love to spend some time with his grandbird. But when we got back Dad was waiting outside for us with a worried look on his face: "I think Haricot got out. The door blew open, and I can't find him," he reported.

For about ten minutes, I was certain he'd turn up quickly. I thought he was probably somewhere in the house, sitting quietly, waiting for me to come home. When I didn't find him, my state of mind reversed completely, and I became convinced that he was gone forever. I didn't want to keep looking, I just wanted to curl up in a ball. We kept looking anyway, all three of us, but not constantly; it felt so pointless, with the thousands of trees he could be in, and the many areas that are impenetrable by foot.

I imagine that Haricot is probably scared by himself in the forest, or wherever he is. He is probably hungry and thirsty. Still, I hope that he is enjoying himself, at least a little bit. I hope that he is making friends with the goldfinches and other birds, having conversations with them as he occasionally did from the safety of our apartment. I hope that he is finding lots of interesting leaves to chew on, and perches that are higher than anything he's ever imagined.

Last kiss...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Step it up, Americans

It's time to admit it: I have a serious weakness for foreign men. I have hemmed and hawed when people accused me of it in the past, scoffed when my college friend J joked about the "United Nations of Heathen," said it was just a coincidence that my two serious boyfriends were both European, and claimed to like American men just as much as the next girl. But I just don't.

And you know why? It's because American men are subpar, or at least the ones who are asking me out are. My French ex, La Moustache, was no prize winner, either; I'm the first to admit that. But American men are awkward and unchivalrous when it comes to wooing women, and they need to learn a lesson or two from the foreigners.

Last week,when I had nearly given up all hope on OKCupid, I had my worst experience to date: I asked a guy out who I had been corresponding with for a couple of weeks, and he responded, “You seem really great, but I'm only interested in dating scientists and engineers.” Um, excuse me? Why have you been wasting my time, in that case? And, can you imagine if I informed non-white suitors that I'm only interested in dating people of my own race? Or what if I refused to date anyone who's not a teacher? What a horrible world we would live in if people only ever spent time with people exactly like them. Thanks for sparing me the pain of a boring date with you and your small mind.

But the very next day, maybe because I had hit OKCupid rock bottom, or maybe because I had just shelled out $75 on a Match subscription, I got a short email, half in French and half in English, from a mysterious, handsome stranger. Mysterious because his profile was virtually empty. Still, I wrote back, feeling guilty because he's French and my Wise Woman forbade me to go out with European men.

Imagine my relief when I received his reply and realized that he is in fact French Canadian. Not only is it not forbidden for me to go out with him, but it is also a chance to rectify one of the great regrets of my life: that I never dated a Quebecois man despite having lived in the province of Quebec for four years.

Anyway, the point of all this is that in his three messages to me he has been flirtatious and sweet in a way that no one else in my 8 months on dating websites has been. I offered to come to his neighborhood for our date tomorrow; he said he'd be happy to come to mine, and made it sound like it would be a fun adventure for him. (You have no idea how many men cluelessly suggest a date in their neighborhood bar without thinking about my hour-long commute to get there. Or maybe they do think about it but just don't care.) Instead of saying, “Wanna grab a beer sometime?” he told me that he'd love to have the opportunity to meet me. He complimented me on my fascinating profile.

It's not that my French Canadian suitor's messages are so amazing. It's just that all the others I get are so very not amazing. Maybe American men should have a new required college seminar on the art of wooing. I usually go into first dates with low expectations and a feeling of dread in my belly, and it's nice to be excited for once. And it really didn't take that much to make me feel excited.

In other news, the universe has been throwing me a lot of random opportunities with Babe in the Woods, my young, impoverished, handsome, soon-to-be-former co-worker, and I've been passing up on them. For instance, I drove by him the other day on the street. It was raining. He was huddled miserably in his raincoat. I had no place in particular I needed to be. It was the perfect moment to offer him a lift, but instead I kept right on driving. Then yesterday, I ran into a co-worker of Babe's who I am friendly with. “I was just getting drinks with all the people I work with,” she told me. “They're all still there, across the street in that bar. I'm the only one who left.” I could have stopped by, but I didn't. Why? Babe was fun to flirt with. He was fun to write about in my blog. And I think I'd just like to keep him as a cute, flirtatious memory.

Now, if he were from Mexico or Poland it would probably be a different story...

Coulda, shoulda...

Several times recently, I've caught myself daydreaming about my would-have-been students this year, the 60 kids in three classes at three schools who I was slated to teach at different points last summer before they one by one fell through. I haven't thought about them at all for most of the year, except for a dream I had back in September that the teacher they hired to replace me at the last job didn't show up on the first day of school and I happened to be there picking stuff up, so I stepped in. I wonder why I'm thinking about them now, as the school year is drawing to a close (or, for some of them, has ended already); I imagine that earlier in the year it was just too painful to think about them, but by now I can reflect on them with regret but without heartbreak.

The 22 first graders at a fancy public school occasionally cross my mind, as do the 14 3rd graders at an even fancier private school. However, the ones who I think of most are the last group: the 24 first graders, half of them native French speakers and the other half native English speakers, in the bilingual school where the principal tearfully informed me last September 2nd that it was not to be. I never met these kids, but I had my class list, and I can picture them. They had adorable little names like Gwenaelle and Sophie, and in my imagination they have skinny, pale limbs and braids with tufts of hair sticking out, wear baggy shorts and turn their toes inward as they line up by twos. Okay, maybe I lied: it still is a little heartbreaking to think about these kids.

However, I am also enamored of my current students. In my Cambridge school, I feel like a celebrity. Everywhere I go kids excitedly call my name and wave to me, even kids who are three years old who you'd think would have trouble remembering their own name. Two days ago I walked into a class of first and second graders, and my arrival resulted in havoc: kids jumped up, others shouted “Heathen!”, and still others ran over to me and asked if I would be in their classroom all day, as though my presence were the equivalent of a new red bike. The following day, one of the kids who I was with ran over to tell me she had a present for me: she brought me chocolate. These kids are pretty damn adorable.

There are too many kids to mention, but fluffy-haired, Iranian Mohammed, who once asked me if I live in the gymnasium, is certainly one I'll remember. As are all the Haitian earthquake refugees, but especially handsome, 4th grade Jacques, his darling little brother Luc, and chubby 3rd grader McKervelline. Once in a while when I'm on recess duty they don't participate in the games Coach facilitates, but instead sit on rocks with me at the side of the playground in the sun and describe to me in heavily-accented French what the earthquake was like, the smell of dead bodies that pervaded the air, the tiny baby one of them saw dead, that a pet cat and their school were both squashed. Then they tell me how much they love Haiti, how they can't wait to go back, and how deliciously juicy the mangoes are.

Then there's tiny little Truth, barely three years old, who when I first met him held up his five fingers and exclaimed, “I'm gonna be a whole hand on my next birthday!” (Little exaggeration there.) He proudly dressed in a suit and brought in his 8th grade brother for a share on his leader day, and tells amazing stories about himself in the third person: “There was this brave boy named Truth, and he had a pet dog named Strappy, and they were best friends. One day they were walking down the street and they met a purple dragon...”

Two slightly bossy Indian girls who are competitive best friends are also memorable; each time I visit their class they try to one-up each other through their compliments: “Heathen, I like your shirt!” “Heathen, I like your shoes and your earrings!” “Heathen, I like your whole outfit!” 2nd grade Renato, the black child of two gay Italian men and, interestingly, the most Italian-looking black kid I've ever seen, makes me laugh with his intense stare and goofy questions. He looks and acts like a character straight out of a Tomie de Paola book.

I'm sad that I never got to meet Sophie, Gwenaelle and the others and be their teacher, but I'm awfully glad I got to meet these kids. I'm sure my future classes will be equally amazing.

Monday, June 7, 2010


Over the past few days I've done three things that I am feeling good about:

#1 – I joined a paid dating site (match.com) after several fruitless months on a free site (okcupid.com). I like okcupid for a number of reasons, especially how great their blog is -- I give them lots of props for writing about racism on their site. But I feel ready to say goodbye to the men I've met on there and move on to greener pastures. I have high hopes that people will be a little more serious about dating on a paid site. So,

Goodbye, annoying men who I wrote to and never wrote back to me. I expected a 50% reply rate, more or less, but it was waaay lower – I would think that men would be excited to get an email from a smart girl who doesn't look like roadkill!

Goodbye, even more annoying men who replied once or twice and then stopped responding, even after I wrote on my profile that you shouldn't bother writing to me unless you're interested in going out with me.

Goodbye, ugly doctor who I thought was nice and could be my friend until he disappeared.

Goodbye, cute guy who bought me a lot of drinks and kissed me and then never called.

Goodbye, guy I met in real life who I wasn't into but went on two non-dates with.

Goodbye, New York guy I met at a party, flirted with, decided I wasn't into, then awkwardly and accidentally clicked on him the very next morning.

Goodbye, chubby guy who liked me a lot. Sorry it wasn't mutual.

Goodbye, Brazilian. All I can say is, oof. At age 30, you should really have learned to be a better communicator.

Hello, men on Match! Now, if only I can get Slinky to join so we can compare notes and look at each others' dates...

#2 – I did the first of two training sessions to become a Hospice volunteer. My Wise Woman is a Hospice social worker, and she encouraged me to do so and told me it is never too early to begin preparations for one's own demise (dark thought, I know). I learned all about the “cocoon of denial” last weekend, which is what people are in when they haven't accepted that they are dying. You can't force someone to come out of the cocoon – they're in it because they need its protection and aren't ready to come out – but they always do before the end. It's a handy concept that I envisage using in many non-death scenarios. For instance, kid says, “Ms. Heathen, I didn't hit Anthony! He's lying.” “Okay, Anthony will be waiting for you to write him an apology note whenever you're ready to come out of your cocoon of denial and admit that you made a mistake.”

#3 – I womaned up and asked out my handsome young co-worker, Babe in the Woods, who I've been flirting with on the playground for months. Well, “ask out” might be too strong a phrase; I certainly didn't say to him, “I like your sneakers. Do you want to go out with me?” as my friend Li'l JC suggested. But I did tell him in the course of a conversation about growlers that he is welcome to join me at the Harpoon Brewery for a tasting. I'll have to follow up next time with a repeated offer that I would love to fill up my growlers with him anytime.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Lover is a Star!

I read "Oliver Button is a Sissy" by Tomie DePaola to my 1st and 2nd grade tutees last week. It's the story of a little boy who loves to dance and play with paper dolls, which leads to a lot of chagrin on the part of his parents and belittling from his classmates, who label him a sissy. Afterward, my little rapscallions and I had a very rich discussion about gender stereotypes and accepting people as they are, and I felt so proud of how wise these kids are! They were saying things like, "It's not only girls who like the color pink. I love pink!" and "It's okay to be a tomboy or a sissy. People can be anything they want to be." This is one child's response to the book:

Left side: "A lover (Oliver) is a star! I like when a lover was a star and he was got so so Happy and I like when he got so so so so so so so so Happy!"
Right side: "I like when he was Tap Danceing and he got a complent and he was so so so Happy at himself!"

I think she liked it!

Friday, June 4, 2010

On the radio

I heard an interview with Ayelet Waldman on the radio today that filled my head almost to bursting with things I wanted to blog about. I started listening mid-broadcast, and before I even knew who I was listening to, I was thinking, "I hope I have a relationship someday with the same level of emotional intimacy that she has with her husband." Also, "It's possible that none of the men I've dated in my whole history of dating have been capable of having that kind of relationship." Then I realized that I was listening to Ayelet Waldman and that not only is she wonderful and talented, but she is married to the amazing Michael Chabon, possibly my favorite author ever. (There are probably a few other people I'd say that about too, but it doesn't make it any less true.) No wonder they have a great marriage.

Waldman got in trouble a few years back by writing in the New York Times that she loves her husband more than she loves her children, which led to quite a hue and cry. She also mentioned the hot sex she has with her husband in the article, and I have to say that it kind of pissed me off back in the fall when I was recently heartbroken. Now I'm less bitter, and while I agree with her criticism of herself that she was probably oversharing when she wrote that, I find it kind of endearing. I love the fact that Chabon and Waldman are so open about their imperfections.

Other thoughts that I had during the interview:
  • Am I manic depressive? Apparently Waldman is, and she says that manic depressives are oversharers and are responsible for many of the oversharing-but-fascinating blogs and memoirs out there. I can't necessarily claim to be fascinating, but I am definitely an oversharer, or as my friend Miami Nice puts it, I'm afflicted with diarrhea of the mouth. Is it possible to be manic depressive minus the depressive part of it?
  • Am I Jewish? She mentioned spending hours worrying about things she had no control over, like which of her parents could handle being left alone if the other one died, and chalked her worrying up to being Jewish. Well, Ayelet, call me a shiksa, but I worry about things like that, too.
  • Am I going to have to have a horrible, traumatic abortion because I'm getting old and my fetus will be faulty? This happened to Ayelet when she had just turned 35, and she chalked it up to her age. It wasn't clear if the fetus would have problems, but it had a genetic defect and there was a good chance; she wanted to abort, her husband didn't. She won, and described the awful details of having an abortion at 16 weeks and then plunging into a deep depression that lasted for months. It was especially disheartening because I am turning 31 soon and will be lucky to be pregnant by 35, given the lack of a baby daddy in my life at the moment. The good news is that she went on to have two more babies, for a total of four.
  • Are there any other men out there who are as great as Michael Chabon?
She has a new book out entitled "Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace." Check it out.