Monday, November 22, 2010


ra-prōsh-man. n. Derives from the French word rapprocher, "to bring together".

1) Establishment of or state of having cordial relations.
2) A human developmental milestone usually occurring between 15 to 24 months. The child moves away from and then returns to the mother for reassurance.

Definition #2 might be a bit of a stretch, but taken down a notch, it could possibly describe what is happening recently between me and my ex-boyfriend, l'Artista. He was such an important figure in my life that in some ways he was almost like a parent. Somehow, La Moustache managed to be such a douchebag during our breakup that he made l'Artista look good by comparison and changed the way I've been thinking about that relationship since it ended a few years ago. I realize that the fact that he's not quite as horrible as your other ex doesn't really constitute a good reason to be friends, but I thought about it a lot and felt there might be some value for me in trying to establish a relationship.

Still, each time he emails me it somehow takes me weeks before I feel ready to write back. I'm not really sure why. It's not just that I'm busy, although that is part of it. When I read his emails I feel strongly that I need to close them and not reply to them for a while.

So when I received an email in early November, in which he told me that he'd like to talk on the phone and specifically he'd like to discuss our breakup, which he's always felt bad about, I mentally put it in the category of "things to think about later." I finally turned my thoughts back to it yesterday afternoon. L'Artista didn't say why he felt bad about our breakup, but I suspected that he thought it was unfair of me to cut him off so completely. When we broke up, I refused to take his calls, read his emails, or give him any way to contact me. I put a block on my email and hung up when he figured out how to call me so I couldn't see who it was. Of course this was very, very hard for both of us. But I had to do it because after months and months of trying to break up I realized this was the only way it was going to happen.

I carefully constructed my reply, telling him I would be happy to discuss the breakup, but reminding him that as we both know my memory is much better than his. "I don't know how you remember our breakup," I said diplomatically, "but in case you remember it differently from how I remember it, I hope you are able to listen to what I have to say about it. Of course, I will listen to you, too. Feel free to give me a call."

A scant 40 minutes later, I was in the car driving to dinner with my sister. We had just pulled over so she could hop out and buy a sixpack when my phone rang. My sister rooted around in my bag to find my phone, and my heart sank a little when she reported that the number was unlisted. When I answered and heard l'Artista's voice, I had a sudden, irrational urge to hide the fact that he was calling from my sister, who still hadn't exited the car. (As it turns out, this was utterly useless since she told me later that she had recognized his voice the moment I answered.) "Oh, hi!" I said casually when I heard his voice, still as familiar as the back of my hand even though I haven't heard it in over four years, "hold on a sec." I tried to make it sound as normal as possible, as though I were actually talking with someone who speaks English.

I hoped Ms. Swamp would disappear quickly, but she was looking for her purse. "Who is it?" she asked, her curiosity obviously piqued.

"Get out of the car!" I hissed back, abandoning any pretense that it was a normal phone call. She threw me a quizzical look, grabbed her purse and left, at which point I told l'Artista that I was with my sister and couldn't talk. We made plans to talk another time.

We finally talked this evening, and it turns out my fears about his memories of our breakup were utterly unfounded. He feels awful about it, and says he feels that he went out of his way to create problems that he then couldn't face. I think he's right, and that it was a very weak, bad moment for a person who is overall decent and caring.

It was pleasant, if a bit surreal, to hear his voice. Mostly it felt as though no time at all has passed since we spoke last, whereas in reality my entire life has changed since then. It feels as though he knows me so well, but in fact there are so many things he doesn't know about me, since in many ways I'm not the same person I was when we broke up. Whether or not I know him is hard to say.

I may have the chance to explore this further soon. When we said goodbye, I told him to feel free to call again if he wants to. But we also might do more than talk on the phone soon, since I received the astonishing news a few weeks ago that my parents participated in a raffle and WON A WEEKLONG VACATION IN A VILLA IN TUSCANY. Crazy, right?? And actually it's not one villa but two, and it's on a vineyard, and there is a pool. In the photos it looks absolutely gorgeous. It's probable that we'll be going next July, if the dates work out.

Still not sure how I feel about actually seeing l'Artista, but if there's one thing I'm certain I'm excited about it's eating one of his amazing meals. My stomach is growling in anticipation already.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Warm fuzzies (& a few sharp bities)

Since I moved into my new apartment three weeks ago, my life has felt insanely busy, but also pretty great. I've been taking lots of baths, spending time decorating, dropping hundreds of dollars at Ikea, and cooking my farm share veggies in my new, beautifully tiled kitchen.

The most unexpected change to occur was my bird's complete personality transformation. As I've written before, little Persil -- who I acquired in late July when he was six weeks old to replace my beloved bird Haricot, who flew off into the Maine woods in June and was never seen again -- has been a bit standoffish at times. I don't know if it's that there's more light here, or more space, or that he doesn't have to live in fear of being eaten by my roommate's copious pets, but he has now become extremely cuddly and sweet with me, as evidenced by the photos I've been taking:

The new, improved Persil nibbles lovingly on my nostril

There have been times when I've wondered if I rushed into buying Persil, and if he'll ever be able to fill the huge void left on Haricot's heated perch. It looks like I don't have to worry about that anymore. My worries these days are more along the lines of how I should best deal with the copious amount of bird poop falling under my computer keys and if Persil might misjudge the force of his beak and rip a hole in my nostril, or lip, or earlobe, or whatever part of my body he's currently focused on. (I'm not sure if he is a bit bitey because he still feels insecure with me or because he doesn't realize how strong his beak is, but I'm confident it will taper off eventually. It did with Haricot.)

No sharp bities whatsoever were around on Wednesday, when I had a long, seven hour afternoon/evening of parent teacher conferences. I was a little nervous going into them, as other teachers had warned me that the parents can be a bit demanding. But my experience was the exact opposite. Parent after parent showered me with praise, told me that their kids love me and talk about me all the time, that they're amazed by how quickly their children are learning, and asked what they can do to support me. It may never happen again that I'll get such an amazing class and have such unanimous support, but I'm enjoying every minute of it while it lasts.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The art of seduction

Getting hit on in public can be hit or miss (no pun intended). I was not a fan of the guy in the car next to me tonight who motioned to me to roll down my window like he wanted to ask for directions, then said, "Hey baby, lookin' good. You headed to a party?" (I was headed home to take a bath and then go to bed circa 8:30. Was it my gray wool winter hat that shouted "party girl" to him??) On the other hand, the two rasta guys who followed me down the street in Brooklyn a few years ago and did a duet of "Pretty Woman" were awesome. The Korean man on the subway a few months ago who said in broken English, "Hello, my name Kim. What your name and can I put number in phone?" made me feel sad for him, but it was also sweet and funny. He deserves points for having the guts to give it a shot even though he had to know the chances of success were slim.

Less gutsy, perhaps, was the homeless man who approached me and Dreamy in the bookstore circa 11 a.m. last Saturday. He looked to be in his mid-twenties and I say that he was less gutsy because he reeked of beer, although I suppose Irish courage could be considered to be a form of courage by some. He walked up to us and proclaimed in slurred tones, "You are gorgeous. I wanted you to know that I think you are very beautiful, and I love your hat." He paused, then added the incongruously old-fashioned phrase, "It looks like the two of you are going together. I guess I might be interrupting." I smiled politely and Dreamy and I started to move past him. As we walked away he called after us, "You should really check out the neuroscience section. The books there are amazing."

Thanks for the suggestion, weird drunk homeless guy! Will do.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Weak in the knees

"Est-ce que tu vas faire la piqure cet après-midi?" my co-worker asked me casually as I walked by her after saying goodbye to the last of my kids yesterday. Sometimes after a long day I really wish my colleagues would speak English.

"What shot?" I inquired, and she explained that across the street they were giving free flu shots. Having suffered through H1N1 a year and a half ago as well as myriad more minor illnesses, I decided to go for it, and headed across the street in the drizzle. Five minutes later, my first ever flu shot was all over.

Toward the end of book club a few hours later, I started to cough. The coughing increased throughout the night, and I started sucking cough drops in order to sleep. After each one melted, I'd start to cough again, wake up, and pop another one in. It wasn't until midway through the night that I finally connected my coughing with the flu shot.

The coughing subsided a bit by morning, and I went to school feeling relatively normal. I did my morning preparations before my kids arrived, and when the bell rang they all filtered in as usual and sat in their spots on the rug. Suddenly, as I started taking attendance, my head began to feel light. I kept going, but my mind was racing: what should I do? Should I call the office? Call another teacher? Wait until it got worse? But what if by the time it got worse I wasn't capable of making a phone call, or was actually passed out? It was a very bizarre moment.

Midway through the attendance, I realized two things. One, I needed to stop taking attendance and breathe deeply. I told my kids to talk to each other in whispers. I put my head down while they chatted quietly with their neighbors.

But I also realized that, if I were to actually pass out while taking the attendance in front of my kids, nothing terrible would happen. They would be scared, and they'd probably go find an adult to help them. But it would be fine. These kids are supremely responsible.

Still, I will think twice next time about getting the flu shot. After all, I might not be so lucky with my kids next year! And I can only shudder to think what would have happened two years ago if I had passed out in my classroom.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Works in progress

The day of my big move was last Saturday, with the help of the Sensitive Bostonian, the Sensitive Bostonian's Brother, and of course my sister Ms. Swamp. A little more than 24 hours later, when Dreamy called to check in, all but 8 of my boxes had been unpacked and I was hanging paintings on my wall. Now, 9 days in, I've bought the missing furnishings and kitchen and bath implements during an epic Ikea visit, unpacked all but 4 of my boxes, and assembled my futon. It's beginning to look pretty good in here.

When Dreamy first saw my house, he exclaimed, "Wow, this is like a real, grown-up place to live." I am gradually coming to realize that, while I am a fully formed adult, Dreamy is in some ways lagging behind. Just like my house, he needs a bit of fixing up and assembling. And luckily, I have just enough energy to work on my house and dedicate some to working on Dreamy, too. Moreover, he seems more than happy to have me do it; in fact, he almost begged me this weekend to become his life coach.

I have been living independently for about 13 years, cooking for myself, doing my own shopping, paying my bills. Even as an undergrad, I lived for only 4 months in a dorm, and the rest of the time my lifestyle wasn't so different from what it is now. Dreamy, in the meantime, has spent most of those years as a student living in a dorm, and still eats his meals in a dining hall. He spent the first year after college living abroad and teaching at an international school, where he lived on campus. In total, he's only lived independently for a couple of years. And sometimes it strikes me that his life is a bit too similar to that of an undergrad's.

For instance, take Friday night. Dreamy passed an important professional test, and we went out with his friends to celebrate. After a few beers, Dreamy had the brilliant idea of ordering two gigantic drinks that came in bowls that were meant to be shared by several people. The cost came to $60 for the two of them, and these things were REVOLTING. One of them was gummy worm flavored; I don't even want to know what the other one was. They were stomach-churningly awful, and something an 18-year old would no doubt down happily. Being well past the age of 18, I was only able to down a couple of sips. I mean, seriously, what kind of a 30-year-old orders these drinks? In my normal life, I don't even go anywhere near bars that SERVE drinks like that, let alone actually order them.

Then, on Saturday, I was getting out some winter clothes from my boxes and casually asked Dreamy if he does the summer-to-winter changeover, or if he's the kind of person who doesn't have a lot of clothes and keeps them all out year-round. (I am most definitely NOT that kind of person. Even with the changeover my drawers are overflowing, and I have a lot of drawers.) In my mind, this was a perfectly normal question, but Dreamy looked at me like a child who just saw a television for the first time. "Wow, that's an amazing idea!" he exclaimed. "You mean I should take out all those t-shirts that I never wear in the wintertime and put them in my closet?"

So, Dreamy needs a bit of work -- a little painting here, some sanding there. Really, very few men come ready for use. My first suggestion as his life coach was that he get a murse. I know what you're thinking; he'll look ridiculous, kind of like this guy (the one at the top). But I firmly believe that there are manly, messenger-style murses out there to be found, and if Dreamy got used to carrying one around, he would be far less likely to forget the myriad necessities he is constantly leaving behind -- his keys, his wallet, his Tylenol, etc. To that end, we went to the bookstore this weekend and I bought Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon so that I could direct him to the chapter, "I feel good about my murse."

After we get Dreamy a murse, I'll have to figure out where to turn my attention to next. I suspect there will be plenty more work to come. Stay tuned for updates.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Decider

Dreamy came over a couple of nights ago to check out my new place. He felt bad about not being able to help me move, so he asked if he could help me put together my new futon, and he also brought over a movie for us to watch. I was tired, though, and I suggested we put off work on the futon until the weekend and go straight to the movie.

"You're the boss," Dreamy replied. "Whatever you want to do is fine."

"Really?? I'm the boss?" I asked, half-jokingly.

"Of course," Dreamy said. "You're the woman, so you make the decisions. That's how it is. That's how it always has been."

It's nice to be the Decider, and frankly, that's how I think things should be. That's certainly the way it is in my family, and I was glad to note that Dreamy, too, believes that women should make the decisions. Not always, of course, but usually in a couple there is one person who makes more of the decisions than the other person -- kind of like a benevolent dictator.

This reminded me of a long-ago conversation with my Italian ex, l'Artista. We were in Maine, making plans with my parents for some getaway -- possibly a sailing trip, or a drive up the coast, or some such outing. In any case, we were trying to ascertain what my parents' plans were, and l'Artista suggested we discuss it with my dad.

"Hmm, interesting strategy," I said. "We could certainly do that. I'm not sure we'll get much information, though."

L'Artista, unlike Dreamy, did not come from a culture where women are the deciders. "What do you mean, we won't get much information?" he asked confusedly. "Where else would we go to find out what your parents' plans are?"

"Well, my mom would be the one to ask if we really want to get answers," I explained. "Let's try Dad, though. I've never tried before."

We went and talked to Dad, and he said exactly what I thought he'd say: "I'm not sure. Ask your mom what she thinks." Dad is really not the Decider. I don't think he wants to be the Decider; he'd much rather leave the decisions up to Mom. The whole process, however, was a bit mystifying to l'Artista.

So in my role as the Decider, I told Dreamy I didn't want to work on the futon, and I'd rather wait and do it on the weekend. Then he asked what other decisions I wanted to make, and I told him that I also want us to go to Ikea this weekend. Not very creative, I know, but I didn't realize until then that I was the Decider. I'll have to do some more thinking about it.