Friday, September 20, 2013

My New Blog Is Coming - SOON!


Cue the fanfare! I've got big news.

My new blog, GreatestEscapist.com, will launch this week, & I could not be more thrilled about it. Rest assured that the content I post will largely remain the same, & all archives will remain intact. The only things that will change will be the layout, designed by the fabulous Bobbi at Ready to Blog Designs, &, of course, the name.

Oh... & the URL. Unfortunately, due to some issues with Google being the worst ever when it comes to domain management, the URL SuburbanSweetheart.com is going to disappear entirely - no redirect, nothing. That means that you should plan to update your readers ASAP to start following me at GreatestEscapist.com. This is a bit tricky, because there's currently nothing at GreatestEscapist.com, but basically, as soon as that page starts working, this one will stop working.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, I'll be reminding you a few times in the coming weeks so that you can update your reader accordingly - especially when the new blog actually launches. If you don't follow me there, though, & you want to keep reading my blog? Well, you're just going to have to remember the make the switch whenever SuburbanSweetheart.com stops working. Again, that's going to happen sometime this week. Don't say I didn't warn you!

I know, I know, the URL stuff sort of sucks. But you know what doesn't suck? Launching an awesome new blog. I'm really excited about it, & I hope you are, too, & I hope you'll keep following along, commenting, engaging, & being a part of this six-year blogging adventure with me. See you at GreatestEscapist.com!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

It's All Coming Back To Me Now: The Thing I Hate About the City I Love


I’ve been in D.C. for a few days now, for nearly a week. I came because I had to be here for a bat mitzvah & then for a wedding, & I still have an office here & friends here & a million wish-I-coulds here, so I figured I’d turn my visit into an extended, reality-based vacation. Time to myself, time with people I love, time to reacquaint myself with this city I sometimes wish I’d never left.

When I left D.C. in 2010 - nearly three years ago now - it was because that was what was right for me at the time. I’d just taken a job that was all wrong for me, & I didn’t see any other way out, & I thought I was dying for suburbia, for a life where you can leave your gym bag in your car for the day instead of shlepping it with you to work & to happy hour first. City life was weighing on me, sort of literally. It was right of me to go, & I won’t say it wasn’t just because I sometimes (OK, oftentimes) wish I lived here now.

Truly, though, it was never really the city itself that I was done with - it was that I thought I was meant for the Midwest, that suburbia was burning in my blood, that I was destined for elsewhereness. I missed D.C. immediately, but the move didn’t feel like a mistake. I pretty quickly realized that Ohio has lost a bit of its allure, & I changed courses, turned toward elsewheres I hadn’t foreseen. And the longer I spent elsewhere, the more I realized that city life was calling me back.

It still is. We all know that, right? We all know I’m desperate to be here again. But less than a week into my visit, & I’ve come to remember the one thing I always hated about D.C., the one trait that makes this city different from others, the one way the District continues to get me down. I tell myself it’s not real, that I’m imagining things, but then I remember that “of course it is happening inside [my] head...but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

If that is in fact the case, if mental insistence gives birth to reality, then this frustration is very real indeed: D.C. makes me feel stupid.

I spent my whole life being the smart kid. I started full-day kindergarten at age 5 & took all the advanced classes & participated in a winning Odyssey of the Mind team & devoured dozens of books for my library’s summer reading program & graduated in the top 10 percent of my high school class. Though I wasn’t as close to the top as I would’ve liked, I balanced it out by being well-rounded & hyper-involved, serving on class executive board & as secretary of the student council, singing in show choir & foregoing study halls to edit the student newspaper & whatever else I thought would look good on a resume. I didn’t go to a particularly reputable or “good” college, but I got an education I was proud of at the time, one I thought prepared me for the real world, & I left with a portfolio of published writing samples that I felt convinced would propel me to journalistic success. I was selected for a prestigious post-collegiate internship, one of the six, chosen out of 60 applicants.

In other words, when I came to D.C., I had never failed. It had never, ever occurred to me to feel anything less than bright & capable. I was infallible, sure of my intelligence, positive that I could compete. And then I met… everyone. I made friends who’d gone to Harvard & Yale, friends who loved learning about the inner workings of the government & who read about politics because they liked it. Friends who watched The West Wing & could complete - heck, could begin - the New York Times crossword puzzles. Friends who thought I talked funny & was adorably clueless about all the things that mattered most to them.

And I was. I couldn’t carry on conversations, couldn’t hold my own, couldn’t provide anything of value aside from humor & the occasional, reliable "different perspective." In my first week of work, when I quietly confessed to my supervisor that I wasn't at all clear on the basics of the legislative process, she handed me a high school government book to catch me up to speed; I spent every day on the train, back & forth from Glenmont to Dupont for a full month, reading that book & trying to figure out what I was doing. Though I learned to fake it well enough to do my job, I was always the weakest link, the one who didn’t understand until someone else explained. I became fond of joking that my boss didn’t think I was smart, but at least he thought I was funny - except secretly, I was sure my friends felt the same way about me. Being funny became my redeeming quality. You have to be smart to be funny, right? And so I tried to convey, through tone & jokes & well-timed sarcasm, that I was on their level, even if I wasn’t always, well, at the same level.

Look, I love my friends, & I know they love me back. I know that if you asked any of my friends, “Who is the biggest idiot you know?” they almost surely wouldn’t give you my name. My friends are pretty nice, too, so they probably wouldn’t give you any name at all, but that’s not the point. The point is not whether they think I’m smart; it’s not even whether my boss thinks I’m smart. The point is that when I’m here, I don’t feel smart. I never have, & when I think about the possibility of moving back here, I fear that maybe I never will, & that alone may be enough to halt any future return.

Please don’t attend this pity party; I swear I never meant to throw one, anyway. I know I’m not the biggest idiot - or any idiot at all, really. I know that comparable to much of the American population, I’m doing just fine, intelligence-wise, & I know that it says something about me, too, that I read that Government 101 book every day for a month. I know that I’m a better communicator than many, a stronger writer than most, & still usually funnier, too. I'm good at being a leader, good at working under pressure, good at connecting with other people, good at telling stories. But in an age when every yuppie wants to believe she’s the most special of all the yuppies, the way that D.C. makes me feel matters. This city doesn’t necessarily value the sort of intelligence that I do possess - which could make me feel like that special, different, rise-above-the-rest yuppie but instead just makes me feel like the stupid one.

It’s all in my head, & it’s all real, & I just don’t know how to reconcile my love for this city with the way it makes me loathe myself sometimes.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Teach Me to Make Meth (Metaphorically Speaking)

 

I don't really watch Breaking Bad, but I'm told it's excellent, or whatever. Sometimes, when I can't sleep, I ask my boyfriend to explain to me the plot of some TV show he's watching or book he's reading, to help me fall asleep (which is not to say that he's boring but rather than his voice is soothing). Recently he chose Breaking Bad as my slightly twisted bedtime story, & as I drifted off, he explained to me as much as he could remember of the show's storylines, start to finish.

There's a lot of meth in Breaking Bad, obviously, because the show is about meth, & apparently at one point - or multiple points? - some people give some other people a tutorial on how to make the really good meth themselves, & then there are more meth-making people in the world, which is exactly what the world needs, really. I guess that if you're going to make meth, though, you want someone with that existing skill set to teach you to do it correctly, because if you do it wrong, you're not just gonna make bad street drugs; you're also gonna blow up your whole block. It's best to have a meth mentor to show you how to make the good stuff.

Recently, I found myself in a situation like this, but there was no meth involved.

Just pie.

Let me explain.

Last week, Nathan & I went to his coworker's apartment to watch the Redskins vs. Eagles game. We brought beer, his coworker's girlfriend made chicken parm (which I'd never had?) & other such Italian-American delicacies, & another coworker brought dessert: tiny chocolate haupia pies. Now, I actively proclaim to dislike pie, & I don't much care for chocolate, & I've never been one of those people who hates coconut, but I don't necessary like it, either.

But this pie? This pie was meth.

Like, I've never done meth, obviously (for proof, please note my not horrific teeth & the whole looking-my-age thing), but I feel like consuming this pie was the closest I've ever come to doing hard drugs because Oh my God, you guys, this pie is drugs.

I talked about the pie for a long time. I think I freaked out Nathan's coworker, who made it. I also took two tiny pies home with me to eat over the next two days, & when the pie was gone, I waxed poetic about it, mourned its absence from my taste buds, wondered if I'd ever get to have it again.

Then, on Thursday, Nathan came home with a chocolate haupia pie. His coworker made us a whole one! I was going out of town the next day, so obviously I consumed two pieces of pie that night to make up for the fact that I might never have it again.

Except I will! Because his coworker gave us the recipe, which you can find here, & he also told us his secrets alterations to improve the final product, which you can't find anywhere because I'm not sharing classified information. So now I can make meth pie on my own, & every day will be a day filled with chocolate haupia happiness, or at least until my body gets pissed at me for it. That's how drugs work, you know.

That's all, I guess. I just wanted to tell you about how much I apparently love pie now & how delicious addiction can be & how I convinced my drug dealer to teach me to make drugs.

JUST CALL ME WALTER WHITE.

Carry on.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

On Not Having Any Friends, Still


Sometimes you find yourself suddenly sobbing into the mirror while brushing your teeth at noon on a Tuesday & listening to a Top 40 song by, oh, God, Train. Now, I know that's not quite what they call "rock bottom," but it sure doesn't feel like the top, either.

I've been hesitant to write about my struggles to make friends because the last time I did, I got half a dozen anonymous comments lambasting me for being a whiner, for not trying hard enough, for not taking hold of my own destiny, or whatever. Since then, I've kept it to myself, because I'm smart enough not to invite people to kick me while I'm down. But the truth is that I'm still struggling, hard, & if I can't talk about it here, where can I?

Here's my truth right now: I've lived in Red Bank for 14 months now. In that time, I've made exactly zero friends - & it's taking its toll on me. 

I've tried, of course, but I'm just not sure how to find people. Friends have told me that to find like-minded people, I should "do what [I] love" (I think they mean things like volunteering, yoga, etc.), but with all due respect to those people, I loathe this advice because what I love to do is blog & watch TV - two activities that don't exactly lend themselves to fun after-school activities. What else do I love? Being in cities, spending time with friends. And oh, wait, those don't really apply here, either.

Originally, I adopted a mindset that if I traveled all the time - to places where I do have friends - I'd never have to cultivate one. That worked for awhile, but now it's sort of backfired: I never want to be here because I have no life here.

And it's ruining everything. I've come to resent my boyfriend & my cat for all the time we spend together, for the total dearth of other human connection in my life. I'm picking fights, inventing drama. I'm extraordinarily, alarmingly sad, to the point that, apparently, Train songs make me cry. I feel like I'm on the verge of a mental/emotional breakdown all the damn time, & while some of it can be attributed to other issues, most of it, I suspect, is related to all this goddamn loneliness.

It's not like I'm not trying. I am! I am trying!

I joined Meetup.com before I even moved here, & I check it a few times a week for possibilities. So far I've been to exactly no events. Most of them haven't interested me, or I see that all the other attendees are much older than me, so I decide not to go. I even joined a lesbian book club meetup, for crying out loud.

I keep an eye out for things like classes at the library & community centers & stuff, but nothing has caught my eye. I don't want to learn to knit & I don't have kids & I don't run 5Ks.

I joined a gym, went to a couple of classes, even got a personal trainer. Who are you supposed to talk to at the gym, though? I can't work out & talk at the same time, & I don't want to. Nobody wants to be chatted up while they're getting their sweat on. This option is ludicrous.

I work from different locations a few days a week, & I try to make small talk with people when the time is right. I've had some good small talk chats with folks I've met there - like Raoul, who another regular referred to as "the mayor of Starbucks" - but nothing worth pursuing. I even looked into coworking space, but it's $20 a day, & if I wanted to spend that much, I'd commute into my office in the city .

I meet people at bars sometimes, set my sights on befriending somebody like I'm trying to take them home. I've exchanged numbers with two girls, Abby & Meredith, though neither went anywhere - presumably because once sober, they think it's weird to be "hit on" by a potential friend. I suspect I come out of these exchanges looking desperate &/or creepy.

I emailed the local roller derby about joining, thinking I could adopt a sweet name like KATEASTROPE & check bitches on the track & become really fierce, or something. They practice every Wednesday & Sunday; given my frequent travel schedule, though, I can't commit to Sundays, so that's out.

I made plans with two people I met on Twitter, & both were really nice but nothing came of them, no big friendship sparks or mutual interest in making future plans. And now? Now both of those women are pregnant, so all hope is basically lost on that front. 

Maybe I'm not trying hard enough. Am I doing everything humanly possible to meet people & make friends of them? Well, no. But that's only because it's really hard, & not just to find people. It's hard in that it's emotionally exhausting, & there's so little pay-off, & it just... becomes really awful really quickly. It's embarrassing & awkward & consistently disheartening, & frankly, it sucks. Remember when you were a teenager & your mom would insist that you not use that word? Well, sorry, Mom, but this sucks. It sucks my energy & my motivation & my hopefulness out of me. It sucks my positivity away. It sucks. So if I'm not trying hard enough, it's only because it's really hard. Oh, I already said that? Because it's true.

So you tell me: What am I supposed to I do?* I'm thisclose to moving out of this town & back into a city, to someplace where I know people or at least know how to find people. I'm trying my damndest not to see that as my only option, but two & a half years into this no-friends-on-the-premises life & I don't know if I see any other solution.

Goddamn, I'm lonely.

*Disclaimer: I don't actually want you to tell me what to do unless you can do it without making me feel terrible, because I already feel terrible. If you want to tell me I'm not trying hard enough, please STFU.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Dumps Like a Truck: Things That Go Bump in the Morning

 

I used to be such a good sleeper that in college, I was frequently guilty of snoozing until 1 or 2pm. I never ate breakfast because I always woke up after lunch; in fact, I once managed to stay asleep until 4pm (though if memory serves, that one was due in part to a particularly late night & a particularly large quantity of booze).

In keeping with my love of shut-eye, I used to be one of those people who could sleep through anything. My childhood home is less than a block from highly trafficked railroad tracks, which meant a lot of late-night choo-chooing past my window; as a result, I became adept at remaining deeply asleep throughout absolutely any noise. I could fall asleep anywhere & stay asleep through anything. It became a bizarre point of pride.

Alas, those are days are gone. I don't know exactly when the change occurred, but in my old age, I've become one of those people who, like my mother, spends most of my nights thisclose to waking up, hearing every little sound like it's happening inside my ear canal. Any time my cat finds a hair tie or a penny or a piece of tinfoil to play with in the night, I wake up grumbling & shooing him out of the room. Every morning at 5:30am when Nathan wakes up for work, I angrily awaken, tossing & turning until he walks out the door & leaves the apartment silent again. One night, while I was staying at a friend's apartment in Queens, I woke up at 2am to his upstairs neighbor loudly (& badly) singing the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Under the Bridge" - & again at 3:30am, this time to Kelly Clarkson.

I could deal with all of these things. I would be happy to wake up every single time my cat let out a mere peep if it meant that I could just sleep through the godforsaken dump truck that taunts me around 6:15am anywhere from one to three times per week.

Let me tell you about this dump truck, which is unlike all other dump trucks before it. This dump truck is louder than every other dump truck in the world, such that I have considered recording its arrival just so you'll believe me. I never know when it will arrive, because this dump truck seems not to follow any sort of schedule, but whenever it arrives, this dump truck is so loud that I may as well be sleeping inside the dumpster. To add insult to proverbial injury, the presence of this dump truck is typically accompanied by loud, crude garbagemen who engage in broey chit-chat at top volume. Did I mention that this dumpster is right below my bedroom window?

This dump truck used to come on Tuesdays, but now it comes whenever it damn well pleases or according to some actual metric that I've yet to determine. As such, there's no way to brace myself against the dump truck's noisy wrath, short of waking up at 6am every day to beat it to the punch. This is clearly not an option, so I've instead adopted a very Clint Eastwood-inspired approach to its irregular arrival, often rising against my will at 6:16 to scream out my window, "SHUT UP!" before slamming my window shut with as much force as I can muster for only having been awake for 30 seconds. Of course, I always try to yell it a little bit sideways so that the origin of the sound will be unidentifiable, & always while I'm crouched down just out of sight so my neighbors cannot identify me.

Look, there's really no point to this post at all. I just wanted to tell you that some mornings, the presence of this dump truck & the prolonged period of noisiness that accompanies it have reduced me to angry tears prior to the crack of dawn.

Get off my goddamn lawn, dump truck.
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