jeudi, mars 03, 2011

Heartbreak House

It's happened so many times that I should be used to it by now. Whether it's food, or clothes, books, or music, I make my offering -- hoping that it will be acceptable, will alleviate the wrath of this angry goddess, with her red-tinted hair and deep blue eyes.

Far more often than not, she rejects my gift, an edge of adolescent contempt in her voice.

And I take a firm grip on my lower lip, willing myself not to return flames with flames -- sometimes.

My daughter, all of 15, lives close to the edge.

Gifted with superior intellect, but grappling with a lagging memory and lack of focus, she is capable of racking up high test scores while "forgetting" to do her homework. Homework detention has become an ongoing fact of life in our household.

She's a self-avowed atheist in a family of believers, won't ever borrow her mom's "girly" clothes, and has allied herself with the "rage rock" followers of the Insane Clown Posse. Then there are a succession of "boyfriends" (we won't allow her to date yet).

With the exception of a few friends who are either childless or have sons, I rarely talk about her challenges. Too many times, I have had other mothers either suggest that somehow I am responsible for her travails, or sleekly congratulate themselves that their own daughters are doing just fine in school, thank you for asking.

When I'm not royally pissed by her tantrums, my heart breaks for this child, with so many gifts, who cannot yet see her own inner beauty. Lately she has been leaving a succession of emails, notes and computer messages around the house -- not meant for me, but not exorcised, either.

She is pleading, she is hurt, she is worried she's going to lose.

My vigilance has not protected her from risky behavior. My love and tenderness hasn't touched her spirit, seeking affirmation solely from her friends. Too often, I lose my temper. But I stay the course.

It seems I cannot do anything else.

mardi, mars 01, 2011

The curse of the egghead woman

As an online dating veteran, I'm used to it by now.

Again and again, some guy will peruse my profile and say, either directly or cryptically -- you intimidate me. I admire the fellows who have the guts to write and tell me this to my virtual face -- I can only imagine that some just mentally push the "reject" button and move on.

I'm not exactly sure why I have this effect on on some men. Maybe it is my vocabulary. Maybe it's my education. Possibly I just come off as an egghead.

I hasten to say that it is my ex who is currently reading "The Brothers Karamazov" (for fun, he's reading it for fun!), not me. And my mother's cousin Robert who, very possibly, read it in the original.

It ain't me, babe.

If I were that intelligent, I'd probably be teaching at a university in Nebraska right now -- which is pretty much why my dad told me not to pursue a doctorate after graduate school. Not that there is anything wrong with the Midwest -- but we Northeasterners are a parochial lot. Take us too far from a coast, and we start to go a little crazy. Better to be nuts with others of our kind.

I can't even pretend that I'm an academic superstar. Ask my high school math teachers. That's why, as I pursue my counseling degree, I need to take a few extra math classes, to fill in for the ones that I didn't take in college.

But I know that my background follows me. I am, I fear, a private-schooled, liberal arts, New York Times-reading member of the East Coast intelligentsia. And no matter what I do ('fess up to buying trashy novels, watch HBO series three years after they were hot, munch on cheap Valentine's Day chocolates) it appears that I am a marked female.

If I think about it too closely, the idea that I scare some guys begins to weird me out (there you go -- how many truly clever or witty writers use THAT locution?)

It has long been my suspicion that men prefer their women smart -- but not too smart. A few indie movies, maybe. A taste for ethnic cuisine - well, who wants to eat at Ruby Tuesdays every night? Keeping up with the late night comedians is just necessary to be a pop culture citizen. But you better have some street cred, a taste for hockey, baseball or football, to balance out the intellectual pursuits.

I don't mind working on that aspect of my education, a happy moron among the faithful.

But I can't pretend I'm a natural.

Kudos to the guys who see the honkytonk heart, the common sense, the stubborn independence beneath the East Coast veneer. I could pass for someone from Minnesota -- until I open my mouth.

I'm really not that scary when you get to know me.

Just don't let me drive.