samedi, juin 05, 2010

The humili-date

Have you ever had an after-date headache? One that settles into the back of your neck, and wends it way around your teeth?

I've had one since last night. And even trying not to think about the dinner, which I am avoiding by means of reading and ice cream and running, doesn't seem to take the pain away.

I have learned, in the course of more than a few years of dating in the interstices of raising children, not to let my guard down.

That is because, in general, I haven't talked to a lot of guys who have encouraged me to want to be that open with them. I've found, sadly, that wry is the best mode of analysis for the ongoing thrum of emails, telephone conversations, and now and then meetings.

But over the past few weeks, I found that there was a chink in my worldlywise armor. When I checked his profile out after he looked at mine, I liked what I saw. He lived a state over from me. He was also a writer -- and he makes his kid his first priority, as I do.

The two hitches? He was a good deal younger -- and he lives more than two hours from Glenmoore. Two issues that I kept bringing up.

Our telephone conversations went well -- he told me that he was comparing the other women he met to me. Flattering. Kind of sweet. Although I didn't talk about him to my friends, I allowed myself, wonder. Be uncynical.

I won't even describe what happened last night, when we finally met up on neutral territory. Let's just say that it was one of the more profoundly humiliating moments of my dating career -- and a moment for him, when he figured out that he doesn't want to date significantly older women who live more than a few hours away.

Only the way he did it reminded me of the rhyme my kids would hurl at one another: "U-g-l-y, you ain't got no alibi, you ugly!" And, I'm ashamed to say, it hurt. It doesn't matter what the truth is when revulsion is looking out in someone else's eyes.

I thought that I could avoid such scenarios by being scrupulously honest in the way I present myself online. Recent pictures. My real age. The family complexities that keep me where I am, and happy most of the time.

But apparently even those measures aren't enough to stave off the humili-date. And the headache. And the brick to the castle walls that I add -- to protect myself, just a wee bit better, the next time.

And not unhappy, today, to be solitary - except for the headache, the pain and the memory.

jeudi, juin 03, 2010

From scratch

I'm not a "from scratch" kind of person.

I have friends who find creation relaxing -- and many of them are really quite good at it.

Some knit blankets for older folks and babies.

Some needlepoint, their suburban homes decorated with exquisite tapestries.

Others come home from draining days at the office and enter happily into the alchemy of the kitchen, transforming yeast and flour into bread, carrots and broth into soup, their dining rooms fragrant with cumin and ginger and garlic.

Give me a container garden, and the odds are pretty good I won't kill it. My sauteed pak choy, however, was greeted by my son with the announcement that he had terrible stomach pains.

And I can't recall ever actually using anything that I needled.

But now that our house is a wink and a nod away from being sold, we may have to start from scratch.

I hadn't thought about working with an architect to build a sustainable home until a couple of days ago.

But we haven't found the house that we want at this point -- and the young couple who is probably buying our home want to settle in August.

I have to be honest. It's a scary prospect, starting from scratch.

It means temporary housing, probably an apartment, so that the children can attend the same schools. Packing, unpacking and then doing it once more. More stress. Contractors.

And yet the possibility to be a part of constructing a home that won't have a negative effect on our environment is tremendously appealing. A home that has our fingerprints on it. A home that reflects our ideals.

Maybe, as we gather our belongings and get ready to be gypsies again, the close to perfect house will present itself...but in the meantime....I'm excited.

And scared.Did I mention scared?

lundi, mai 31, 2010

One great lie

This past weekend I spent part of Saturday swimming in the past -- a past more than ninety years gone. Wrestling with the right tone for a Memorial Day homily, I took a time capsule back to read the World War I poets.

Start out with Rupert Brooke's "The Great Lover" -- and you may end up in some pretty sad places. Wilfrid Owen, maybe the finest of the British World War I poets, dead seven days before the war ended. The gorgeous poet Brooke died earlier, of an infected mosquito bite, in 1915. And then there was Siegfried Sassoon, who survived to write about the horrors of war, as did his fellow countryman Robert Graves.

But let's not even talk of poets. Let's try to remember a whole generation of young men and many women lost in England, France -- and Germany. Hatred sowed in the Balkans and bitter fruits in places like Italy.

As a teen who read the writing of novelists like R.F. Delderfield, and saw the BBC adaption of the life of the anti-war activist Vera Brittain (adapted from her book "Testament of Youth"), I became intrigued and horrified by the context in which War War I took place.

But it doesn't have to be that war -- choose your war.

It seems a bit traitrous to say that, in this nation in which so many glorify the patriotism of the hand-folded over the shirt, the pledge recited as it has been since childhood, that I am anti-war.

That dooesn't mean I'm a total pacifist.

In my judgment, which does not need to be yours, there have been, with the recent exception of World War II, very few where the potential for evil on the other side outweighed the terrible cost in terms of human lives.

Even now, in Iraq, families are torn asunder because a citizen with an incendiary device decides to blow themselves up and take as many innocent lives with them as possible.

And yet we continue, those of us who have never experienced it, to exalt it -- the brother and sisterhood of the trenches. Patriotism is cheap unless and until one is truly ready and able to serve -- not to send others.

But do we give the same honor to our veterans once they are back with wounds that show -- and wounds the naked eye can't see? Do we give them counseling and access to medicine and the good care they need to readjust to civilian life?

When we talk about the ecstasy of combat, it might be well to recall the words with which Owen ends one of his most famous poems, titled Dulce and Et Decorum Est:

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, My friend, you would not tell with such high zest1 To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori.

It is no honor to our veterans to tell ourselves that terrible untruth.

Let us tell the truth about how awful war can be -- and then weigh whether the fighting is worth the agony.