Thursday, October 23, 2014

New pets

After more than a month of not seeing each other, Robot and I planned a romantic weekend away together on the Cape. We went all out. I took a day off work and we rented a cozy little room with a porch and a fireplace. There was biking involved, and long hikes along the seashore, an entire pint of Ben and Jerry's consumed by the fireside, visits to lighthouses, and stone sculptures erected on the beach.

We had a great time despite several incidents that did not quite contribute to the romantic atmosphere, including Robot coming down with a full-body rash and me sitting on a piece of chocolate on the seat of his car until it melted and, well, no longer looked like chocolate. At the end of the weekend, we stopped into a bar to have one last drink before heading back to the city. After we had finished our burgers and were slurping down the last sips of our beers, the bartender asked us a strange question.

"Do you two want some free oysters?"

The answer seemed self-evident. Moments later, we were handed a bucket full of ice and two dozen live, unshucked oysters, a gift from a fellow bar patron who had a few too many on his hands and didn't know what to do with them. Back home, wielding our butter knives awkwardly in hand, we managed to pry a few of them out of their shells and, seconds after their demise, slid them down our throats. It turns out that oysters, while always delicious, are even more so if you've shucked them yourself and therefore earned the oyster. The rest we tucked into the fridge, following the Cape men's instructions to empty all water and leave them in there for as long as we wanted -- they promised us that those little guys can live for MONTHS in there, feeding off of their own bodies when they get hungry. Which if you think about it is really creepy and also a great way to ensure that what you're consuming is very fresh.

It was fun to have new critters in the house, and Persil enjoyed the company, but we decided not to put that last assertion to the test. Two weeks later after we returned from the Cape we downed our last oysters, and they were just as delicious as they had been on day 1. But my fridge feels a little bit empty without them.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I gave him my heart and he gave me a leopard-print snuggie

Robot and I broke up this week. He tried to apply to all the jobs in Boston he could, but none of them panned out, and between his job ending, his rent being raised $700 a month, and all his friends leaving Boston, I am the only reason he had to stay. So, he's not. Instead he'll be subletting a room in New York for the next few months, and isn't sure what will come after that. He cares about me but needs time and space to figure his life out. I am settled into my life, with a job that is satisfying and a condo I love; he is in a different, much more tenuous place in his life.

All of this is very sad. I've never had a breakup quite like this before, where there was no feeling except for sadness. Usually it's a mix, a lot of sadness and a little bit of anger, or relief, or hurt, or "Well, I see now that we weren't really compatible." He's the first person I've dated who's been able to  have real, adult conversations about his feelings, and even when he's being brutally honest ("I really like you but I need more time together to be CERTAIN about us"), it's refreshing. It's hard not to feel confused and angry about the arbitrariness of it all -- why did his damn landlord have to raise his rent now?? And why couldn't we have met a year, or two, or three ago? Or even 5 or 6 years ago, when we were both living in New York?

Because Robot is moving into a tiny Brooklyn room, and will be moving again shortly thereafter, he is purging all his worldly belongings. When I arrived at his house to tell him that we needed to stop seeing each other, he had a pile of things he had picked out waiting for me. I was too overwhelmed with emotion to think clearly and took all of it (except for that giant box of Ikea tealight candles that every single person seems to have erroneously thought at one point they needed, which I refused).

When I got home, I unpacked it all. There was a body pillow, a new winter coat (white, stained and a smidge too big for me), and two scarves that he had bought as gifts for his grandma but never had a chance to give her before she died. Then there was a book about digital photography and a not-very-good one about Belle and Sebastian. A NordicTrack that he'll deliver to my house sometime soon. And last but not least, a leopard print blanket with arms that his grandma gave him a few years ago. "I never want to see this again," he told me flatly while packing it up for me.

At least I've got a new outfit for my life as a single girl, once again.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Doing it myself

There are lots of things in life that I *can* do, but that I'd rather not do. Such things include installing dryers, moving large objects, putting together furniture, and anything involving a screw driver or drill. (Hammer and nails I am bad at, but enjoy.) Therefore, as soon as I have a boyfriend, I outsource all such tasks to him and quickly forget that I am, in fact, capable of doing these tasks myself.

So far, Robot has earned himself a ton of points in this area. Two weeks ago he spent a solid two hours lying on the floor of my laundry room repairing my hot water heater (and for that he got bonus points because it's most certainly not a job I could do myself). But for the next month and change, I am on my own again since Robot, the king of do-it-yourself, is teaching a class halfway across the world. This weekend I had to overcome the urge to whine, "I can't do it! I need Robot!" in order to drag 100 pounds of deck furniture to my house on my own, install it with a little help from my friends (because somehow I've made it to my mid-thirties without owning a screw driver, so I always have to call someone to bring one over), and hang my patio lights. And it looks great! But did I enjoy myself? Absolutely not. Would I do it again? Hell, no.

Thanks to technology, I'm not totally on my own. Robot gave me a demonstration on Facetime last night, complete with props, of how to repair my computer. And I was able to text him photos of my deck for his input.

Unfortunately, there's no way for technology to help me avoid a trip to the hardware store.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Summer vacation...

Robot and I are going on a super romantic vacation this summer: hiking in the Alps. With my parents. Try to top that in the romantic department!

To prepare for the trip, I've been doing a special Alps workout when I have time, which is not very often lately what with trips to New Orleans, loads of work, and late nights hanging out with Robot. My workout involves the Stairmaster, which is surprisingly easy, and running up and down the stairs at the gym, which is surprisingly hard. The first time I did it I estimated that I'd be able to do at least 20 trips up and down. Turns out my max was 9. (Since then I've upped it to 10. Take that, Alps!)

Luckily, Robot is insanely physically fit so he won't need much Alps preparation. Every couple of weeks he mentions some new sport that he excels at or has excelled at in the past. Most recently it was pole vaulting; it turns out he's won several pole vaulting awards. He also once tried out for a sport in college that he had never before attempted, and not only made the varsity team but was awarded a scholarship.

All of this is quite foreign to me. While I enjoy a good workout, anything involving coordination is beyond me. I've never had made the varsity team of ANYTHING, because I've never tried out for any varsity teams. In elementary school, I perfected the art of moving to the back of the line every time I got toward the front during kickball games. One of my earliest memories is of being mocked during soccer practice by my crush for trying (and failing) to kick the ball with my hands in my pockets when I was five years old. How do any five year olds know how to kick?? Somehow they were all masters of the sport already. I was so confused that I spent games wandering aimlessly around the field, trying to look like I knew what I was supposed to be doing.

Robot has been attempting to make me more sporty. He took me rock climbing, and I survived. Then he tried to teach me to skip stones. He was very patient, but I was really bad at it, and it brought back too many bad memories of traumatic gym classes involving failed attempts to sink a basketball or catch a ball; I had to quit. He told me that he'd also like to teach me to surf, but when I mentioned that I took swimming lessons for six years and never managed to pass out of the beginner class, he told me that I actually might die if I try surfing without being able to swim. There is no way in hell I am darkening the door of a swim class again in this lifetime, so I think that puts surfing off-limits for me, which I'm fine with.

In any case, I am excited to for our hiking vacation. Given that our other four traveling companions will be in their 60s, hopefully I'll be able to keep up. And if not, it's a good thing Robot will be there to carry my pack.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The B word

I don't usually get this question (thankfully), but randomly, I've been asked three times in the past week if I have a boyfriend.

Conversation 1 was with an old acquaintance I ran into.

Acquaintance: Are you still dating that guy you were with a while back?

Me: Oh no. It's been ages.

Him: So you're single these days?

Me: Yes and no.

Him: What does THAT mean? Because if you're single I might have a nice guy or two to set you up with.

I explained that I am not currently taking new dates, but that my relationship is still in its first trimester so I'm not quite ready to call myself NOT single. It's a big commitment.

Conversation 2 occurred at my pottery studio while Robot was there with me. When he got up to go to the bathroom a fellow potter cornered me and asked if he's my boyfriend.

"Well, you know..." I answered (or rather failed to answer) him vaguely. Luckily he didn't press the point when Robot reappeared a few seconds later.

Finally, today at lunch my student Y was inspired by an ill-advised conversation yesterday with her birth mother that involved a promise that said birth mother would procure my 8-year-old student a boyfriend.

Y: Ms. Heathen, you got a boyfriend?

Me: Well, Y, that's a very personal question and I am not going to answer it.

Y: So what's his name?

Me: [after almost blurting out "Robot!" but catching myself just in time] Y, I told you I don't want to discuss it.

Y: [in a slightly pitying tone] Ohh, so you don't got one?

Me: Y! We're not going to talk about this anymore. Who wants to listen to some Raffi?

And this is the child who some would have labeled cognitively delayed! So I guess I'm not quite ready to use the B word yet, at least in public.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Sharing is not fun

My twin autistic four-year-old students, who we affectionately call the "wolf children" because it sometimes seems as though they were raised by wolves, continue to be a source of joy, hilarity, and frustration. Lately, we've been using a strategy called "social stories" for M, the wolfier, more theatrical of the two. The idea is that we print out a few pages about a social situation we want her to work on. For instance, when she was nervous about a field trip last week, we printed photos with accompanying sentences about things she'd see and do on the field trip -- "I will ride the bus to the field trip. On the bus ride, I will keep my voice quiet so I can hear my teachers' directions." By reading it a few times and looking at the pictures she'll start to internalize some of the ideas.

Today I brought out a different social story, "Sharing is fun!", during math center time when M started to growl at other students who were sharing some plastic animals with her. She eagerly grabbed the book from my hand and started perusing it. I thought it was a positive sign that she seemed so excited by it. Unfortunately, I noticed after a few minutes that the words had undergone a change:

"Sharing is NOT fun," she read, running her finger over the words on the cover. "I WON'T share crayons and pencils. I WON'T share blocks and toys." She looked up and glared meaningfully at the other four-year-olds in her group, who continued to play with the plastic animals obliviously, before continuing to the section about how to ask for a turn ("I WON'T ask a friend if I can have a turn").

*Sigh*. Apparently "M is going on a field trip!" got a re-write, too. You guessed it -- the new title became "M is NOT going on a field trip."

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Pink, blue & purple

It was literacy center time in first grade. Kids were participating in reading groups, correcting sentences and cutting out and illustrating a poem to glue into their poetry notebooks. 

J hates cutting. I offered him a deal: if he cut the top half, I'd do the bottom. When he was done, he handed me the half-cut poem along with a pair of purple scissors. "These are for you, because girls like purple," he explained. 

I groaned inwardly. I didn't want to take away from literacy time by launching into a long discussion about gender, but I also want to do what small part I can to send my students the message that these rigid gender rules no longer apply. I decided to address the matter quickly. 

"You know, J, some girls do like the color purple," I told him. "But girls can like any color. Some girls like green, other girls like blue, other girls like yellow. And boys can like any color, too. Red, green, purple, you name it." 

J looked at me blankly.

I tried to make one more point before wrapping things up. "J, when you talk about me, or Ms. M or Ms. C or any of your teachers, there's a better word that you can use than 'girl.' Girls are children. Am I a child? No. So do you know what a grown-up girl is called? A woman." 

The two other members of the literacy group piped in at this junction (both of them are female). 

"And women wear dresses!"

"And they get married!"

I gave up. Maybe, just maybe, J and the girls now think that some of those dresses that women wear are a different color than pink. It's doubtful, but one can always hope. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Two feet forward

If I'm honest with myself, I have had a few moments of being a little bit crazypants the past few weeks. Maybe even more than a few. For instance:
  • When Robot told me he was at a specialist doctor's office, but failed to specify what type of specialist, I decided that it was probably an oncologist. (It wasn't.)
  • There have been times when I haven't heard from him in as short a span as two hours, and become certain that he's going to break up with me. 
  • When he woke himself up from a dream by saying "Nooooo!!!" out loud, I asked if he was dreaming about me. (Fortunately, apart from that, I've mostly succeeded at hiding my crazies from him.)
  • He sent me a text that read, "You're pretty great." I thought, "Only PRETTY great?! He's clearly losing interest!"
We've been having a *lot* of fun together lately. On Sunday we drove up the coast and went exploring. He took me rock climbing for the first time, and I managed to neither injure nor humiliate myself. And one night he serenaded me on his guitar with an enchanting mix of Bob Dylan and Iron and Wine.

But really, I like Robot so much that it doesn't much matter what we do. Spending an hour shopping with him at the camera store, or going to the library to look for a book for one of his students, or even driving with him to the airport is about 1,000 times more fun than going out on a fancy date with any of the guys I've dated over the past two years.

Robot is away for a couple of weeks, and I'm ready to let go of the crazies and put both my feet in. Watch out, CVS, I might even be ready to invest $1.99 in a toothbrush.

Saturday, March 1, 2014


I get very superstitious when I have a new boyfriend. It's hard to believe, but I've never had even a SINGLE relationship work out, so you can understand my trepidation.

The other day I went to the CVS and spent a solid ten minutes in the toothbrush aisle, debating whether I should grab a toothbrush for my new boyfriend, Robot. (No, he doesn't work in IT.) I just couldn't bring myself to do it, so eventually I walked away, toothbrush-less. I was sure that if I got him one, it would end up being thrown away unused.  So until things feel more solid or my dentist gives me a free one I'm making him use mine. My dentist would not be happy about that, but so far the relationship gods seem to be smiling on me, and if my dental hygiene suffers it's a small price to pay.

This weekend, he mentioned that his birthday is in a week and a half. Like the many toothbrushes I've thrown away over the years after just a few uses, I have invested time and time again in gifts for boyfriends for birthdays, holidays, etc. that had to be returned, or that I was stuck with. I bought La Moustache yarn to knit him a sweater just before our epic breakup; with Monkeyboy, in addition to several generous gifts, I had purchased ingredients to bake him his favorite cake. Most recently, in December I bought one Christmas gift for Trusty and was about to purchase a second, non-returnable one.

I don't think that Robot is going to turn out to be another Monkeyboy, nor do I anticipate that we will be breaking up in the next ten days. I like him an awful lot, and the feeling seems to be mutual. But I'm not running any risks. I'll be buying him a birthday gift en route to his house on the day of. If the only store I can find is a gas station, so be it. Happy birthday, Robot, I got you a gas card.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Idaho datin'

"Next time you're here, I'll take you fishing," promised my cousin on my second-to-last day in Idaho. My revelation that I've never fished has been a big topic of conversation this week.

"Don't forget, we have to go hunting, too," I reminded him. "And you know what else I'd like to do? I'd really like to get up to Cousin Clide's cabin one of these days."

"You got it," he replied. "We'll take a couple of ATVs up there and drive around."

There was a pause, then, "You know, if you ever moved to Idaho, you'd be pretty popular," my uncle told me. "A girl who wants to go fishing, hunting, and four-wheeling - the guys would be into you."

"She likes beer,too," added my cousin.

Monday, February 17, 2014

He's got swag

My roommate has introduced a new term to the lexicon: swag. It turns out that swag does not mean free stuff that you get at fancy events, as I had previously thought; it means a magical combination of confidence, charm and humor that makes men attractive to women. Or, in its absence, makes a perfectly good-looking man utterly devoid of interest.

I was flattered and intrigued when my post-Kevin date started sending me a stream of texts indicating that he was interested in me and might even be thinking that I could be a Kevin. He didn't beat around the bush. But was I interested? I was on the fence; I thought he might be flaggy. When he asked if doing donuts in an empty parking lot during a snowstorm sounded fun I thought, is this guy for real?? That's so not my style.

But then I went out with him again, and then again, and he got a glowing endorsement from one of my oldest friends and brought me a photo of a rose (it'll never die) and a fancy bottle of wine on Valentine's Day, and we stayed up till 3 am watching the Olympics and it was the best Valentine's Day ever. And by the time I flew to Idaho five days after I met him I was thinking yes, I will go do donuts with you in an empty parking lot. Whatever you want to do, I am IN.

The man's got some serious swag, and it's powerful stuff.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Pottery stress

I have a pottery stress-induced injury in my neck. It's not from hunching over the wheel; it's from lying awake at night, worrying about pottery as my neck and shoulder muscles gradually tense up.

This is high stress pottery season for me. In theory, such a season should not exist, but it is actually well worth the price -- both the physical price and the hefty chunk of change missing from my bank account. I'm participating in a special firing, and the preparations for it are extensive. I am at the studio almost every night, and when I'm not there, I'm thinking about it (as evidenced by my inability to turn my neck). At some point in March, I will reap the rewards of all my hard work when all the pieces arrive at the studio, and it will be like Christmas day. For a five year old. But better.

In the meantime, to help me deal with my pottery injury, I am lucky to have a pottery teacher who is also a professional massage therapist. I don't usually take advantage of his non-clay skills, but tonight I was in dire need. And he knows me so well, I didn't even have to ask.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Looking for Kevin

During my commute from work yesterday I was listening to a podcast while heading to a cafe to meet a young man for a first date. The podcast happened to be a Planet Money podcast about dating. The woman telling her story had gone on 50 dates in a year and a half. At one point, she broke up with someone she had been dating for six weeks, and was questioning whether she had given him enough of a chance. But then, along came Kevin. When she met Kevin, she just knew. And if she had let things drag on with 6-week guy, she never would have met Kevin. And, of course, now they are married and have an adorable newborn baby, and everyone is overjoyed and thrilled, etc etc.

It's a valid point: If you're not excited about someone after a few dates, move on because otherwise you're wasting your time.

This is a point of view that I embrace wholeheartedly, which is why I have broken up with four perfectly promising, flag-less men in the past few months -- all great guys, just not quite right for me.


Going into a date thinking, "If he's the right guy, I'll know immediately," is a TERRIBLE idea. And that is exactly the mindset I was in after hearing this convincing story from Planet Money.

My inner monologue went something like this:

"Well. He's certainly handsome, in a rugged, New England-type way. He's a professional artist and he must be quite talented. And he's nice; he's asking me good questions and telling interesting stories. But I just don't think he's my Kevin. I'm not feeling that instantaneous connection."

Luckily, rather than cut the date short and duck out as I was tempted to do, I gave myself a mental slap on the cheek and told myself to stop being silly, and after that I had a lovely time.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The limitations of technology

My dad gave me an iPad a couple of weeks ago. Actually, what really happened is my dad got a new iPad, gave his old one to my mom, and she in turn gave her old iPad to me.

This thing is vintage. I started looking into apps I could get. The New York Times? Facebook? Every time I tried to download one I got versions of the same message: "This app requires operating system 6.0 or higher." I've only got OS 5; apparently, these things are obsolete after 6 months or so. Remind me not to buy one!

Suddenly it occurred to me how great it would be if I could get the New Yorker app. Would it work? It did! No error message! I couldn't wait to get started reading articles on my big, beautiful iPad screen. It would be a thousand times better than reading them on my tiny iPhone screen.

As I was downloading the app, my eye was caught by the huge stack of New Yorkers on my coffee table. Oh, right. There's another option for reading the New Yorker. And this one is lighterweight than my iPad, AND easier to carry around. Heck, five New Yorkers would still weigh less than my iPad, and it would take me weeks to get through them.

Forgot about that option for a second.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Keeping warm

My mom tends to be slightly obsessive on the subject of proper winter attire. During the colder months of the year, she can frequently be heard saying things like,

"You're wearing a v-neck??! I always wear a turtle neck in February. I can't stand to have my neck exposed when it's this cold out."

"I have to wear fingerless gloves to bed at night to keep my hands warm while I read, because the thermostat in the bedroom is set to 48 degrees."

"What's the fiber content of that sweater? Oh, it's a cotton blend? I stay away from cotton in the winter. I usually make sure to buy sweaters that are 100% wool for this time of year."

Well, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. I check my fiber contents constantly, too. I'm annoyed by the many Bostonians who think that rain boots are appropriate to wear during snow storms, or worse, sopping wet Uggs. (Those are SLIPPERS, people!) And I've noticed recently a tendency to be somewhat disdainful of suitors whose winter wardrobes are not up to my standards.

I have a tiered system of winter coats, 1 through 4. #1 is a lightweight wool coat that I don't really consider to be winter attire, and 4 is a winter parka that is rated for 50 degrees below zero; it usually makes only a couple of appearances per winter.

In the fall, as soon as the weather became slightly nippy, I noticed that many people jumped straight to a level 3, a midweight down coat. I was pleased to see that Trusty, who I was dating at the time, was one of the few people who wore a level 1, a wind-blocking fleece: points for Trusty. After all, if one starts to wear winter coats too early, your body doesn't acclimatize to the cold.

Later, in January, in the midst of the polar vortex, I found myself on a date (wearing, naturally, my level 3) with a man who was clad in a lightweight COTTON jacket. I could only imagine how my mom would react to this. He shivered as I questioned him about it, explaining that he left his winter coat at his parents house... in November. Nearly three months later, I could see no earthly reason why his coat should still be there, especially considering that he had made several trips there in the interim. And then came the kicker:

"It's really been fine so far. Like now, I don't feel cold at all."

I could tell just from looking at him that this was not true. Moreover, this is a guy who bikes just about everywhere, so he probably WAS much warmer walking with me than he usually is. I made a mental note: lacking in common sense.

When I broke up with him a few days later, he asked if it was anything he had said or done. I thought of all the possible responses, but really, what was the point? Someone else might find his cotton jacket charming.

"No," I lied, hoping to come across a down-clad, wool hat-wearing suitor soon.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Purple eyes

This week, I took a plunge and tried out a darker shade of eyeshadow. Please note: I am a creature of habit, and I wear purple eye shadow every. single. day. This was still purple, just a darker purple.

You would have that I was wearing gold Lycra pants from the reactions I got. A sampling:

"Purple eyes, purple eyes, purple eyes." (Ad nauseum.) -- From one half of what I affectionately call my wolf twins, autistic four-year-olds with extremely limited vocabularies. (They got this nickname because my principal famously described them as "seeming as if they were raised by wolves.")

"Ms. Heathen!!! What did you do?! You painted your eyes purple!" -- My favorite first grader, who I am exceedingly fond of but who drives me nuts with her attempts to steer the conversation away from whatever she is supposed to be doing and toward some aspect of my personal life.

"Look at that! That's called makeup." -- A four-year-old who started attending my school last week. I have seen him all of three times.

The next day I went back to my normal shade. I'll think long and hard before I do anything so drastic again. But at least I can't complain that no one ever pays attention to how I look.