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Archive for the ‘Social Ineptitude’ Category

I have always dreamed extremely vivid – and usually super violent – dreams. But it’s been a long while since I’ve remembered any. 

This past week, I’ve had two that stuck with me after the fact. 

In one, I dreamed I was in an enclosure hiding from bears. The bears WERE going to attack, and if anyone wasn’t in the enclosure, they WOULD be mauled. There were other people who kept coming into my enclosure, but no one seemed to grasp the fact that BEARS CAN OPEN DOORS, and so they were leaving all the doors unlocked, so I had to keep going around and around to all the doors, locking them and shooting meaningful, grim looks to my fellow enclosees, none of whom seemed capable of grasping the fact that MAULING WAS IMMINENT. There were a LOT of doors, and the enclosure kept expanding. At one point, I went outside into a fenced-in area. The fences had barbed wire on top of them, but they were all only about two feet tall so that a really determined bear could simply step over them. 

I think we can all deduce what particular anxiety THAT dream is about.

The other dream is less memorable, and less perilous. But no less upsetting, for me. In the dream, I dropped Carla off at someone’s house for a playdate, and the mother invited me in to join everyone for a snack. The snack was bananas (which I do not eat), but Carla hissed at me, “You have to be polite.” So I ate a piece of a banana. And the host cut off another slice of banana, so I ate that too. And another. And another. Even though I haven’t eaten a banana since… preschool? I can still feel that mushy, sickly sweetness in my mouth. 

This dream, too, has a direct source. Our lovely neighbor has invited me and Carla over for lunch. The date is still pending, but oh my goodness I wish I could get out of it! 

Eating at other people’s homes has always been a HUGE source of anxiety for me. While I do eat a large variety of foods, I have a lot of super picky aversions. It’s not as easy as saying, “Oh, I have an allergy to X” and then the host just doesn’t cook with X. The list is so long I could not even hope to cover it all.

I remember, as a kid, DREADING going over to other people’s houses to eat. Just absolutely finding it awful. I have a vivid memory of sitting at a friend’s dining table with her whole family as they ate what was, I’m sure, a perfectly lovely meal, and I was just choked with anxiety because I did not want to eat any of it. And I tried to eat things here and there – the bread, maybe – and my friend’s mother was scolding me to clean my plate. It was awful. I don’t think I ever ate at that friend’s house again. In fact, unless someone was clearly and definitely serving pizza or tacos, I don’t think I ever ate at ANYONE’s house again.

I will never do the ”clean your plate” thing to Carla and I will never force one of her friends in my care to eat something she doesn’t want to. But that’s children. I am a grown adult. I should be able to go to someone’s house and eat the food. And yet. It is very anxiety producing, because I am equally afraid that a) I will have to eat something I dislike or b) I will offend the host by rejecting something I do not want to eat. 

I would say that my husband and I only rarely eat at other people’s houses. We have two sets of friends with whom we dine occasionally, and I feel like they are close enough friends that I can say, “No, I don’t eat lamb” when they ask, in advance of the dinner, if we eat lamb chops. (I say it regretfully, and embarrassedly, but with great relief.) But with the vast majority of people, you just show up! And eat the food they serve! I remember going to a new friend’s house and they served an absolutely beautiful meal of which the main course was chicken parmesan. Each breast was just smothered in tomatoes, which is probably my Number One Most Reviled Food. I cannot eat tomatoes; I have tried. I think I tried to be surreptitious in how I scraped them off the chicken, and then I helped wash the dishes, and I am SO hopeful that the host didn’t notice. (I am guessing the host noticed; I would notice. I would then, as host, fret that the food was bad or that I’d made something unpalatable to one of the guests.) Another time, we went to a friend’s house and she served chili with chunks of tomatoes in it. I ate around the tomatoes, but it’s so hard to do that in an unnoticeable way, and yet I cannot eat the tomatoes. I WISH I COULD. If I had access to a genie, and could only make selfish and self-serving wishes, I am pretty sure “make it so I love tomatoes” would be one of them.  

All this talk about tomatoes is making me queasy.

Along the same lines: Carla eats nothing. She is FAR more picky than I am and has not developed the techniques I have honed over the years for eating things she doesn’t like but can stand, or taking (as my mother-in-law calls it) a no-thank-you portion of something she doesn’t want, or trying something that doesn’t look appealing, or swiftly moving an item to her husband’s plate for him to eat instead.  

So now, this lovely, wonderful woman has extended this lovely invitation… to two people who eat NOTHING… and I not only have to somehow overcome my own anxieties about eating but also model good guest behavior to my child. Ugh ugh ugh. (What if she serves egg salad, a food I do not think I could force myself to eat??? Or some kind of lunch meat??? Or almost any normal lunch food????????)

Is there any way, after I have already said, “Oh that sounds lovely” to the neighbor, to now go back and say something like, “Carla and I have a bunch of really fussy food aversions – would it be possible to come have a glass of lemonade instead?” Is there any way?????? There isn’t, is there. I can almost picture her face falling as we reject her LOVELY invitation. Which is almost – but not quite – as bad as facing the Unknown Food. 

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I don’t know how to categorize the subject of this post. Maybe it is Things People Say Without Thinking? Or Things You Should and Shouldn’t Say? We Live in a Society? Interactions with People You Know But Not Well Enough to Know the Right Thing to Say?

Also, keep in mind that it’s possible the two halves of this topic are not as connected in real life as they are in my brain. 

Recently, I’ve been communicating with a couple of women about a volunteer project. Up until yesterday, we’d only spoken via email or phone or text, never in person. But we got together for coffee to hammer out the details of something that was cumbersome over the phone. 

One of the women arrived a little bit late, and when she came in, the other woman and I introduced ourselves. The late woman said, cheerily, and with no rancor, “Oh! It’s so funny! I thought YOU would be taller [this to our companion] and YOU would be shorter [this to me]!”

It was an innocuous enough comment, although it struck me as relatable (I tend to think everyone is my age/height until I meet them in person – seriously, everyone reading this right now is 41 and 5’6” unless you have expressly stated otherwise) but also a slightly odd thing to say out loud. 

(It also made me wonder, in what way am I giving off a short vibe, and what would a “short vibe” consist of, anyway?)

It reminded me of a very similar experience I had nearly twenty years ago. I was working remotely and had never met any of the people I interacted with daily. And there was no Zoom back then, and I don’t even know if iPhones had been invented (I am ancient), so I had no idea what anyone looked like and they had no idea what I looked like either. 

When I flew out to the home office, I got to meet everyone in person. And one of the women I worked with said to me, “Wow, you look so different from how I pictured you. I thought you would be fat and ugly.”

I mean. WHAT. Who says that, a), and secondforth why, WHY would you say that to anyone? 

Fat, fine – maybe I talked a lot about food (unsurprising) or maybe I had a jolly persona, I don’t know, whatever. People come in all different sizes, and I know fat people and skinny people and medium people and their sizes don’t have any particular value for me. But juxtaposing it with “ugly” makes it clear that, to this person, “fat” was a negative rather than a neutral attribute. 

And, okay, giving off a “short vibe” or a “blond vibe” or a “nerdy vibe” or a “freckly vibe” is puzzling… but giving off a “fat, ugly” vibe just seems clearly negative, right? What the hell does that MEAN, and why do I need to KNOW THAT?

Anyway, I was 25 or whatever and I laughed about it and moved on – the colleague was someone with whom I worked very well for many years, and she either didn’t know how rude her comment was or meant it to cause pain but didn’t get any reaction. But I have remembered it, and puzzled over it once in awhile. 

I think, a lot of times, we feel like we SHOULD say something, but aren’t quite sure WHAT to say, and so we end up putting our foot in it. 

Personally, I think the old tried and true, “It’s so nice to finally meet you!” is plenty, but I can fully understand how someone might want to be more specific/original. Plus, if I met you in person and you were 21 and 6’3”, I just might be surprised enough that I would blurt out something bizarre. 

This brings me to the topic that * I * feel is related, but may not actually be related. Maybe third cousins twice removed.

It is also about Things You Should Say When Saying Something Is Required. More specifically, what do you say to someone when societal rules require you to comment on a situation but don’t know how the recipient feels about the situation?

Here are some examples: 

Example 1: A coworker’s parent has died, and you know about the death, and know the coworker well enough that it would be rude/noticeable NOT to say something, but you don’t know the coworker well enough to know what their relationship was like with the parent. So many people have such fraught relationships with their parents, and death can bring up complicated feelings already, whether the relationship was happy or strained.

“I’m so sorry for your loss” is the standard statement when someone has died, and maybe it’s fine in this instance, even if this particular parent’s death may not feel like a loss to this particular child. “May your parent’s memory be a blessing” is more geared toward the mourner, and therefore might not be appropriate if the relationship between child and parent wasn’t a happy one. “May your parent rest in peace” might be a good neutral statement that doesn’t convey the expectation that all parent/child relationships are full of love and respect. Maybe “I’m so sorry.” is all you need in this instance. It’s short, it’s simple. It covers a wide range of possibilities. 

Example 2: A parent you see regularly but aren’t close to is pregnant. You happen to know this parent is pregnant. You also happen to know, from a mutual acquaintance, that the pregnancy was unplanned and that there are issues in the marriage (infidelity, serious illness, abuse) or in the pregnant person’s life (job insecurity, desire to be done having children, illness) or with the pregnancy itself (known complication or disease) that mean the pregnancy might not be happy or desirable. But if you don’t know the parent well enough to KNOW these things yourself, how do you acknowledge the news?

“Congratulations!” is simple, but implies happiness. “You look wonderful” might be okay. I… can’t think of any neutral statements about pregnancy that don’t imply either “babies are wonderful and you should be happy about this one!” or “OMG I heard that you don’t want this kid, what a crap situation.” 

Example 3: Someone you know, but not well, is getting a divorce. You have no idea if this is a happy relief for the couple or a devastating sadness. 

If this was truly someone I didn’t know, I might just not say anything at all. And yet… it’s a major life change, and it might feel weird to say nothing. But I would want to say the right thing! 

I’m guessing that people in ALL of these situations and more get ALL SORTS of comments, and that they just learn to grit their teeth and get through the ones that are totally off base. But I can imagine that each new comment could cause additional pain for a person going through an already painful experience. It would be nice to be able to just be neutral, at least at first. And then, once the person says, “Oh! I’m actually quite glad my stepmother died – she was locking me in the attic every day and making me scrub the castle floor and refused to pay for an exterminator!” you can say, “Well, good riddance!” or “May she meet the appropriate judgment in the hereafter” or whatever. 

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My hands are still shaking from a horrendously embarrassing experience, so I am trying to distract myself with some fun and fluff. 

Oh, you want to share in my humiliation first? Okay. 

I texted the owner of The Kitten to see if Carla could come visit him (“him” meaning the kitten; the owner is a woman). I had recently put her number in my phone, at Carla’s request. She’d (the kitten owner, not Carla) texted me so I would have her number, and I’d added her to my contacts. I tend to add people to my phone as “FirstName LastName,” and then never include any other identifying details… and you are well aware that I have a terrible memory… so there are multiple people in my phone who are now complete mysteries to me. One of these days I should really go through my phone and delete those people. 

I clicked on the kitten owner’s name – noting briefly that there was no prior text from her; I must have deleted it – and texted her: Hi, this is Carla’s mom. Is there a good time for Carla to come visit The Kitten?

A few minutes later I got back a series of question marks. 

As you may have intuited from my expert foreshadowing, I texted THE WRONG PERSON. Apparently, I have two people with the same first name in my phone. A fact which I have long since forgotten. The one whose name popped up when I started the text was the wrong one. 

And I have NO IDEA WHO SHE IS. 

Is this an old work contact? Is this someone for whom I’ve done freelance work? Is she a fellow parent from Carla’s school? Is she a board member I’ve interviewed for a writing project? Is she someone I went to grad school with? Is she a friend of a friend I’d connected with at some point? Is she some sort of service provider I have employed at some point? ZERO IDEA. 

I typed back, So sorry! I must have the wrong number!

But what I REALLY should have typed back was, So sorry! I must have typed the wrong FirstName!

Because if she is in my phone, there is a real likelihood that we know each other, and have interacted via phone before. Which means that there is a real possibility that she is sitting there wondering a) why I am contacting her about a kitten she doesn’t know and b) why I am pretending it was a wrong number and c) why I haven’t asked her how her work/family/life is. 

But I have no idea who this person is, or why she is a contact in my phone. I even googled her and I swear I have never seen her before in my life. But she was in my phone. So we must have known each other at some point! 

All I can do is hope that this person has as terrible a memory as I do, and has long since removed me from her phone, and isn’t feeling hurt/miffed/weirded out by my faux pas. 

LET’S MOVE ON TO LESS HORRIFYING TOPICS.

I have some questions for you. 

Weigh In #1: What food do you hate, but wish you didn’t? While I am a very choosy eater, I don’t feel particularly bad about it most of the time. I eat enough of a variety of foods that I’m pretty confident I can go to any restaurant or any friend’s house and find something to eat. I’ve never once thought, “I wish I enjoyed lamb. Or beets.” But there are a few foods I hate that I really wish I didn’t. 

Tomatoes. I hate tomatoes so very, very much. But they are one of those wildly ubiquitous foods that show up all the time, in places expected and not. (I cannot tell you how frequently I have encountered tomatoes on a Caesar salad, when they have no place in a Caesar salad.) Life would be so much easier and more pleasant if I just liked tomatoes! Or could at least tolerate them! Even friends who kindly ask about food preferences before they invite us over sometimes have tomatoes in their offerings, and I am just so very weary of being that picky person who doesn’t like tomatoes. 

Oatmeal. I cannot bring myself to enjoy oatmeal. Outside of oatmeal cookies, which are the sole exception. But lots of people genuinely enjoy oatmeal, and it seems like such a hearty, healthful food. I really wish I liked it. 

Eggs. Outside of scrambled eggs – which, even then, I only like a specific way – I avidly dislike eggs in ALL FORMS. But they are versatile and easy and full of protein. I want to like them. 

Weigh In #2: What is the best seat on an airplane? I prefer the window, myself. I like being tucked in next to the wall, I like being able to look out during turbulence to reassure myself that we are not in fact falling out of the sky, I like being able to lean my head against a solid surface. But when I fly with my family, my husband is the one who gets the window (although sometimes he swaps with Carla) and I get the aisle. I do not care for the aisle, because it puts me in close proximity to people, and those people tend to be very oblivious to the boundary between their space in the aisle and my space in my actual seat. The only benefit to the aisle seat is easy access to bathroom breaks. But then again, you have to be the one to pop up and down while the middle- or window-seater squeezes past you to the bathroom. I still remember the time I flew and a woman in front of me refused to swap seats with her row-mate’s spouse, because the spouse was in a window seat. “I have a bum leg, and I prefer the aisle so I can stretch out my leg,” she said. But… you aren’t supposed to stretch your leg into the aisle, right??!?! Isn’t that a tripping hazard? Isn’t that begging for a new leg injury when the drinks cart slams into your shin? 

Weigh In #3: What is your worst time-wasting habit? I am already terrible about spending too much time on social media. But more recently, I have found new depths to my time wasting online, which is that I have gotten sucked into watching gender reveals on Instagram. There is literally nothing beneficial about this habit – except that I derive occasional joy from the rare parent that shows true, unbridled joy at the result. Okay, and usually only if that unbridled joy is coming from the male parent, and in response to a pink result. These videos are fascinating, though. There are a bunch that feature the same bearded guy, who must run some sort of company that offers and records these sorts of reveals. There are a bunch where the timing is off. There are a bunch where the couple have other children, some of whom seem very disaffected by the whole event. 

The worst – and most fascinating – ones are the ones where one parent is CLEARLY disappointed by the result. I am not faulting someone for being disappointed: when I was pregnant, I was SURE I was having a boy, and I pictured a tiny blond copy of my husband. I got very attached to this fantasy. When we found out that Carla was a girl, I was disappointed. I hope you know that not a single cell of my body is disappointed NOW, now that Carla is a real wonderful human and it has become clear to me that everything I love about her is completely unrelated to her sex. But I get the disappointment. What I find perplexing is recording that disappointment and then posting it for the world to see. Perplexing and fascinating.  

Anyway. That is how I have been wasting far too many minutes of my one wild and precious life lately. I blame spring break. 

Now it’s your turn. Please weigh in. 

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Carla had a playdate this past snow day with a friend. “Just be warned,” Friend’s mom texted me, “We haven’t shoveled the driveway!” Neither had I, and the snow had fallen fast and furious the night before, so I could definitely relate. 

I plugged Friend’s address into my navigator and drove there, very, very slowly. I’d been to Friend’s house once before, and as we got close, I noticed Friend’s dad outside shoveling the driveway, all bundled up against the cold. I felt a little panicky – like maybe he was doing it on my behalf? But I’d texted Friend’s Mom that it was no big deal, I could pause on the street and send Carla to fetch Friend from the house. 

But no. He had completely shoveled the driveway. As I pulled up, he turned away from the street, getting out of the way so I could drive up the driveway to the house. 

He turned and looked at me as I pulled up. His hat was pulled down so low, and his gaiter was pulled up so high, all you could see was a narrow band of flesh around his eyes. I couldn’t tell if he was smiling, and instantly fretted that he was annoyed he’d had to interrupt his work day to  clear the driveway for me. 

I rolled down my window. The snow and cold swirled in, fogging my glasses. “Hi! How are you?”

“Good. How are you?”

“Great! You did a great job on the driveway!” Why did I say that? He didn’t need my praise. I just felt awkward that I was the cause of the shoveling. Although, probably not everything is about me, and maybe he needed some exercise/a break from work/to shovel the driveway anyway.

He wasn’t making any moves toward the house, so I figured his wife hadn’t told him we were coming to pick up his daughter. Maybe he didn’t recognize me; I’d put on a mask because we were going to have Friend in the car with us. I pulled down my mask and smiled at him.

Still nothing. Several long seconds of nothing.

“Well, we’re just here to pick up Friend!” 

That’s when he told me, in a very amused voice, that Friend lives next door. 

“Haha!” I giggled in semi-hysteria, the blowing snow melting instantly on my shame-fired cheeks. “You are so bundled up, I couldn’t tell you weren’t Friend’s dad!”

I backed down the driveway. Carla was APPALLED. “That wasn’t Friend’s HOUSE, Mommy!” she said in a low, horrorstruck voice. 

“Haha!” I said. “I know! Whoops! No harm done!”

Except that as I backed into the street, there was Friend’s dad, at the bottom of the very next driveway, holding a shovel and trying valiantly not to laugh at me. 

So I think you and I both need a good dose of kitten, today. Don’t you agree?

Carla, as you know, likes to make friends with the neighbors for the sole purpose of getting access to their pets. 

Apparently – and if I’ve told you this story before, I apologize; I did search through my blog but couldn’t find it, which, alas, doesn’t mean it isn’t there – Carla had spotted one neighbor’s kitten through the neighbor’s glass door several months ago, and had asked the neighbor about it. I swear I’ve told you this: I spent an excruciating half hour in this neighbor’s foyer once, because she’d invited Carla to come play with the kitten and I’d never met her before and that sounded pretty murdery. 

She is NOT a murderer, she is a lovely woman. And she had a short work trip that would take her out of town overnight. So she asked Carla to cat sit the kitten. 

I mean. Carla almost passed out from joy. This is her goal, you know. To be a pet sitter. 

When it came time to pet sit, Carla lost a little bit of her nerve. She had all her instructions and a key and a code to the garage. But she was a little anxious about doing it alone, so she asked me to come with her. I had been planning to walk her to the neighbor’s house anyway – our street is positively choked with snow, and all the plows have made the sidewalks inaccessible and backing out of driveways very treacherous. So I didn’t want her to walk down the street by herself. 

But then I went in – and stood respectfully in the entryway – while Carla fed and watered the kitten and played with him.

He is SO CUTE. So. Cute. And he was a little bit lonely, so he came right over to me and let me give him lots of scritches. 

He purred. A LOT. And he was extremely playful, which was cause for endless delight on Carla’s part (and mine, too). 

I wish I had more photos for you. But kittens are (un)surprisingly difficult to photograph, much in the way that eight-and-a-half-year-old future pet sitters are difficult to capture being still.

I have still not recovered from the Mistaken House Incident, but the kitten helps soothe the inflamed psyche. 

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I have been having a hard* time getting into the Christmas Spirit, this year. We finally put up our tree this weekend, did some wrapping. Maybe that will help? I have been applying Christmas music – but sparingly, more of a gently waft of spirit in my general direction without further vexing the inner grump. I haven’t done any holiday baking at all – nothing for Hanukkah, nothing at all so far for Christmas. I am letting that slide because even thinking about it drives me further toward the grinch side of the spectrum. But maybe a nice batch of cranberry crumble bars would do a body good. I painted my nails in holiday colors, but they look like perhaps Carla did it. When she was three. With her left hand. My efforts leave a lot to be desired, it seems.

Well. Either the spirit will come or it won’t. 

In the meantime, I have been steeped in self-loathing. I have had three (3) Super Awkward Social Encounters this past week alone, and I cannot stop thinking about any of them, and cannot stop berating myself for being a mere simulacrum of a human person, and not even a passable simulacrum at that, and cannot stop feeling like I should really never leave the house, and yet also I have two/possibly three social encounters planned for this week and am having to do Deep Breathing and Soothing Talk-Downs to prevent myself from canceling. (They involve Carla, otherwise I might give in.) 

Encounter 1: Carla made personalized bookmarks for most members of her family. (Somehow we forgot two people, and I feel TERRIBLE about that, but I already shipped their gifts so I told Carla that she can make the bookmarks over her winter break from school and hand deliver them to the left-out family members when we see them this spring.) We took the first two to a local office supply store that rhymes with a group of syrup-providing trees to be laminated. And the lovely staff person who did the laminating refused to charge us for it. 

We were properly grateful, I think, and mentally I figured that we would make it up somehow by coming back and laminating the rest of the group. Maybe two bookmarks isn’t worth a whole lot in terms of time or laminating supplies. But the rest of them, I reasoned, would require more, and we would insist up front on paying. 

You know where this is leading, surely. The same staff person was there when we went back, and not only did she remember us but she asked cheerfully if we were back to laminate more bookmarks. And I said yes, and as she handed us the final product, I asked her what we owed her and she said, “No, I can’t charge that little girl for this.” 

Well, A. The little girl in question was not paying. And B, I wanted to pay, so I insisted a little and she insisted back and then walked back behind the counter to help another person in the growing line. 

When we got home, I called the store and asked for her name, assuring the person who answered the phone that I wanted to let her manager know that we’d received special service. And I called the number I found online and went through a tiny bit of rigamarole to talk to someone in customer service so I could leave a compliment. Here is where I assure you that I never told anyone that she’d given us something for free. As kind as it was, and as much as it endeared me to her, I think that her employer might frown upon it. I simply gushed about how kind she was, and how she treated my daughter’s art project with respect and reverence, and how she was prompt and efficient and friendly. 

But I have been WORRYING about the whole thing ever since. First, that I accepted this service for free – not once but TWICE. I mean, I shouldn’t have gone back there, right? Did she think, when she saw us again, that we assumed we’d get another freebie?

And what if her colleague told her that someone called and asked for her name, and now she is worrying that I tattled to her corporate office about giving us something for free? What if she pre-emptively owned up to it and got into trouble? What if I totally ruined a very nice gesture that she made the first time and have soured her on doing anything nice ever again?

Encounter 2: Carla, as you know, makes the rounds of our neighborhood to see everyone’s dogs. Well, unbeknownst to me, she had been chatting with one neighbor about her cat, who sometimes sits in front of the glass door and looks out upon his domain and stranger children riding their bikes in search of his enemy. So Carla came back to me the other day, breathless with excitement: the neighbor had invited her inside to see the cat! It had to be inside, because the cat was an indoor cat. Could she go inside?

I mean, you KNOW that mind goes instantly to murderers. So I accompanied Carla to the neighbor’s house and then stood Extremely Awkwardly in her front hall while Carla played with the cat. 

The neighbor was very gracious and lovely, but OMG. It was the absolute EPITOME of discomfort, because I felt that a) I had invited myself into her home, even though she nicely asked me to come in when I walked Carla over and b) I needed to make pleasant small talk, enough to allay some of the discomfort but also confirm to myself that she wasn’t a murderer. The thing is that I am terrible at small talk, and so there were long stretches of silence where we could both FEEL me evaluating her for murdery tendencies and where her desire for me to leave was EMANATING off of her. I got Carla out of there as quickly as possible, but she didn’t want to leave, and there was that thing — SURELY other parents deal with this dilemma? — wherein she was Acutely Aware that I was in nice mom mode, and I was incredibly reluctant to use a Mean Mom voice, and I wasn’t going to go deeper into the neighbor’s home to physically remove my child, which is of course nowhere near as easy as it was when she was two or three, so I had to wheedle and exercise patience much longer than any of us wanted.

It was horrific. 

And then, because I have never met this woman before – or, at least, I have no memory of meeting her before – I asked how long she’s lived on our street… and she’s lived here longer than I have, and I have lived her for A DECADE. So I felt awkward for being so antisocial and unaware of my surroundings in addition to feeling awkward about standing just inside her door.

She is never going to talk to Carla again, so reluctant will she be at the prospect of having me join them. And poor Carla is going to ask and ask and ask about the cat and it will be my fault that she is catless, both at home (I am allergic) and with our neighbor. Ugh ugh ugh.

Encounter 3: Carla and I went to an after-school event put on by several moms, and they mentioned something and (I apologize for being vague) I responded in a way that was both blunt and also kind of passive aggressive. It was not a well-thought out response: it just flumped out of my mouth and onto the floor without thought or plan, and I could have been much more tactful about what I said, and also – the thing that really burns my muffins – is that I didn’t even MEAN to be passive aggressive. I was simply surprised that a thing I had thought wasn’t happening was in fact going to happen, and I expressed my surprise in a way that sounded like I thought it was A Very Bad Idea Indeed, when really I do not. 

But the thing is, I said it the way I said it, and I said it in front of other parents who were not part of the immediate conversation, which of course makes everything worse. Once I had collected Carla, and come home, and sat down in silence for a few minutes, I was able to gather my thoughts and I emailed the organizers and apologized and spelled out my actual intention and apologized again. They were very nice and I think they understood and were fine with it. But of course I feel like an ASS. And then to put a nice juicy cherry on top of the whipped cream pile of my blunder, one of the other parents sent out an email to everyone who attended, praising the organizers and taking the position completely opposite to what I had. So not only was I an absolute jerk of a human, but people took note of my jerkery, and needed to Take A Stand against it – which is a kind, compassionate response! I am not faulting this person for publicly backing the organizers! – and it all just makes me feel awful. 

WHY must I be the way that I am. HOW have I so completely forgotten how to have normal interactions with other humans. WHAT can I do to be less awkward, aside from holing up in my house and never communicating with people beyond my immediate family. WHEN will I figure it out, because it seems to be getting FAR WORSE with time rather than getting better. WHERE can I move because that seems like the best and only solution.

Well. I can’t say that spelling it all out has made anything better. But I’m hoping that, at the very least, these encounters will stop playing over and over in my masochistic brain. 


* Listen, I know that it sounds so petty and dumb to be complaining about something so small when there is so much going on in our country and around the world that is Really and Actually Devastating. Please know that I am in no way trying to put my own tiny, lucky complaints up against anyone else’s. I am just blogging on my blog, about trivial and meaningless things, as I do. I think most people who stop here know that, and possibly – like I do – enjoy reading about the everyday ups and downs of people’s lives, and find it comforting and even a respite from The News, but I have been scrolling endless photos of neighborhoods and city centers flattened by this weekend’s tornadoes and I feel like I need to occasionally acknowledge that I fully understand my “worries” are nothing in the grand scheme.

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I don’t have any new shortages to report, although Lunchables, which seemed to recover briefly, are once again non-existent and frozen pancakes remain highly elusive. But I had to rush here immediately to alert you that iceberg lettuce at my grocery store is currently selling for $3.50. That’s U.S. dollars. THREE DOLLARS FIFTY CENTS. Iceberg lettuce

I am well aware that prices of many items are creeping ever upward, but this seems like a GIANT LEAP. Usually, a head of iceberg lettuce is somewhere between $0.99 and $1.50. So the increase feels rather dramatic. 

It wasn’t even a particularly large head of lettuce, either. Smaller than usual. 

I find it so curious that the label says “2 for $7” instead of “$3.50 apiece.” Does 2 for $7 sound BETTER? Because it doesn’t sound better to ME. When did ICEBERG LETTUCE become such a hot commodity?!?!

Well. The other types of lettuce seem to be holding steady at their normal egregious pricing, so I’ll just forego my beloved iceberg for something more nutritious and less delightfully crunchy, like romaine. 

I was so gobsmacked that I mentioned the price increase to the checker. He commiserated and said that the shock waves of the pandemic were causing very strange cracks in the system. Even though I haven’t noticed a big difference in staffing – I see the regular staff members I’ve come to know over the past decade – he said they are really struggling with understaffing issues. 

He was the only checker open – which didn’t strike me as too strange; it was eight in the morning after all. But there was a guy behind me with two items to my full cart, so I let him go ahead of me. Then a woman got in line behind me, also with two items. What was I to do in that situation? Let her go ahead of me, too? It would have taken five seconds but then what if the next person showed up and only had two items? Or five items? I told myself that I had done the nice thing, letting the one person jump ahead of me in line, and that I didn’t have to do it again. But she had SEEN him go ahead of me, and I didn’t want her to think I was a jerk. So I told her I thought that the customer service desk would check her out, since she had so few items. She thanked me and headed off to buy her muffin and juice at the customer service desk. 

The whole interaction was super awkward already, but then it became doubly so when I realized she was my old hairdresser. 

I swear to you that I blogged about breaking up with this hairdresser, but I rummaged around in my archives a bit and couldn’t find the post, so you will get a small recap: I went to this hairdresser for several years and liked her. But then she started outsourcing things to others so she could work on other clients. Not just the shampooing. But like… “Oh, I’m going to send you over to Dean to do your color while I cut this other person’s hair.” Or… “Kelly’s going to trim your ends and then I’ll be back to do your color.” I did not care for this. First, it was a salon that charges more based on your stylist’s level of expertise, so I felt a little miffed that I was paying for HER level but getting half of my hair done by Dean or Kelly, and who knows WHAT level they were… plus, I wanted to see HER because a hairdresser/hair-haver relationship is very intimate and based largely on trust. So after this happened a few times, I went elsewhere for my haircare needs. 

It’s so AWKWARD, though, to dump a service provider. I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine having an end-of-relationship conversation with a hairdresser. “It’s not you, it’s me” sounds even more insincere when it’s directed at your stylist, right? So I just… ghosted her. (I did the same to the next hairdresser, too, which is even MORE awkward because she remains my husband’s hairdresser.) (Then my next hairdresser ghosted me, but that was because she didn’t return to work after the pandemic and who can blame her.) I have seen the old hairdresser out in the wild a couple of times, but on those occasions I spotted her from a distance and I think I was able to slip away before she saw me. Or if she saw me, it was as I walked speedily away, head down, eyes averted. Yes, I am very mature.  

But this was the first time I have seen her face to face. Not only that, but I SPOKE to her. I was wearing a mask and glasses, and I am several years older by now. Sure, I remember her name and her daughter’s name, and the type of books she likes to read, but I was one of many clients that she’s had over the years. So I’m hoping she didn’t recognize or remember me. 

There’s nothing to be DONE about this very small, very fleetingly awkward interaction. Even if she did recognize me. Even if she did think, “Wow, there’s that person who ghosted me half a decade ago.” Even if she reacted with anger or hurt feelings. I can’t change any of it. It will likely be years before I run into her again in public. And yet I AM STILL THINKING ABOUT IT, and may continue to do so for hours/days, twirling and twirling the interaction around itself, trying to reshape it or make it less awkward by perseverating on it. Why is being a human so rife with these little inescapable twinges and pains? 

Let us now change subjects abruptly to meal planning.

I went to the grocery store with one meal in mind, and while I was there I came up with several possibilities. So now I have a full fridge and a nice list of dinners to make for my family this week.

Dinners for the Week of November 15 to November 22

WAIT A SECOND IS THANKSGIVING NEXT WEEK WHAT HAPPENED TO THE TIME WHERE HAS IT GONE?

  • Fire Fry: We haven’t had this in a long while, and I am craving crunchy veggies in a fiery sauce. My husband made me promise to drastically reduce the amount of spices I add to the yogurt though. He is no fun at all. 
  • Chicken Paprikas: Another meal we haven’t had in far too long. And I have a bunch of cooked, shredded rotisserie chicken in the freezer just waiting to be added to a rich, creamy, potato laced sauce and poured over noodles. 
  • Asian Chicken Salad: I think my husband will appreciate this meal, as it is neither tacos nor chicken/zucchini stir fry, both of which he is tired of. I will probably make some teriyaki dressing as well since I don’t care for the peanut dressing listed in the recipe.
  • Chicken/Zucchini Stir Fry: Oh yes, I love this stir fry. It’s so easy and so tasty and all the zucchini makes me feel so virtuous. And despite my husband feeling like we have it all the time, we do NOT and it has been many weeks since we’ve eaten it and it is time once again. 
  • Thai Red Chicken Curry: Am I in a stir fry mood or what? 
  • Red Wine Braised Short Ribs with Polenta: Why yes, this has been a recurring bullet on my dinner posts since October 25. I STILL have not made this meal, but the short ribs are in the freezer waiting to be immersed in red wine until they collapse in drunken ecstasy and the polenta is very calmly waiting on the shelf and I have a nice package of inexpensive-compared-to-iceberg-lettuce romaine waiting in the crisper, so perhaps THIS is the week it will all come together.

What are you eating this week, the last week before THANKSGIVING, which is somehow nearly upon us?

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I have a case of the grumps, and I can trace each grump directly to its source, and they are all very mundane and so silly that my inner critic is standing there with her hands on her hips and her head tilted condescendingly saying, “Perhaps you should be grateful that you aren’t an Afghan refugee instead of whining about your perfectly lovely life, ever think about that, hmmm?” Well. She can eat a bee. Sometimes the only way to escape a particularly irksome grump is to share it, so here we go.

  • I am living in filth. My lovely, creative, crafty daughter has crafted our house into a trash heap. (I trust that you will understand I mean “likes to make crafts” here rather than “deceitful and cunning.”) Her gorgeous brain is constantly coming up with things to make and build and decorate, and I love it. I do. I am astonished by the things she thinks up and astounded by how she can bring them to life with scraps of plastic and bits of cardboard and copious amount of glue. And yet despite my pride and delight in her crafty pursuits, I have begun to feel like I am living in an actual garbage dump. Carla has an entire designated craft cabinet in which to stow her materials, but the results of her work end up everywhere. Little tiny seashells made into crabs. Skewers turned into swingsets and chopsticks and the legs of little clay beings. Cardboard shelving units and apartment blocks. Toys wearing clothing made of paper and string. Purses made out of plastic and cloth and clay. Little bits of paper that now represent dog food, toilet paper rolls, confetti, Barbie workbooks. There is no place to PUT these creations, and of course each one is rare and precious, so we have designated a section of the dining room (which is never, ever used for dining) as the Craft Waiting Area. But do the crafts wait quietly in their area, until such time as Carla deems them ready for the great Outdoor Craft Storage Compartment? No they do not. They migrate. And, with them, creative detritus piles up. Sheets of foam that have been cut into jagged lace. Broken bits of pottery. Plastic baggies. Pencils. Scissors. Sequins. Stickers. Chunks of clay. Slabs of dried glue. Q-tips. Empty play-doh containers. Rocks. Fluffy rainbow pom poms. Barettes. Three sets of needle nose pliers. Pencils, markers, paintbrushes, and pens. Corners and slips and strips of paper. Plastic baggies filled with scraps of paper and broken crayons and tiny rubber bands and bits of yarn. IT IS A GARBAGE DUMP. And, have I mentioned, every single scrap of anything is PRECIOUS and USEFUL and NECESSARY. If ever I suggest moving any of these items into the trash, Carla collapses in tears of betrayal and shock.
This is a photo I took several weeks ago, and it isn’t anywhere near as bad as things were this morning. Picture this doubled.
More detailed look at all the bits and bobs. Note the scrap of masking tape on the wall, there for no reason at all.
  • My family and I continue to require sustenance. Dinner continues to seem like an alien concept. I continue to suffer from meal-amnesia. Since Monday, my family and I have eaten tacos three times: I went to the grocery store with literally only the single idea for a meal this week (tacos), hoping that the shelves would shove meal ideas at me (they did not) (except, I guess, in the case I am about to describe), and when I walked in, there was a display of everything a human could need to make fish tacos, so I bought those things and we ate fish tacos Monday, leftover fish tacos Wednesday, ground beef tacos Thursday, and, on Tuesday, the chicken shawarma that I had planned and purchased for the first week of October. Yes, the broccoli managed to survive that long in my crisper. I have absolutely NO IDEA what to make for dinner tonight. My in laws are back next week (for two weeks), and I doubt that they will be as amenable to Tacos Every Day as my husband and child are, and yet I have no ideas. Food is a mystery. And even though I have catalogued my own meal planning here for several years now, and have multitudes of recipes both in my online files and in the files in my kitchen… and despite having access to both dozens of cookbooks AND the internet, I have no ideas. None. If you were to press a recipe into my hands and say “Make this,” it would surely gradually dissolve into gas and float away on the air.  

  • My husband is giving me guff about holiday cards. It is no secret, either here or in my marriage, that holiday cards are MY FAVORITE PART OF THE HOLIDAYS. I love to send them, I love to receive them. I love them. I thought this was well-established. I thought that my husband, who doesn’t give a goat’s beard about any of it, had nonetheless fallen in line. AND YET. I requested that we go somewhere pretty this weekend to take a family photo for holiday cards, and he grumbled that he doesn’t WANT to do holiday cards. They are stupid and a waste of time and money. While he is entitled to his own grumps, of course, I am feeling CRANKY AND STUBBORN. This is My Thing. Why is he objecting? It will take an hour, maybe, to find a spot and take a serviceable photo. I will do the card-options-narrowing-down work, and offer him a few to choose from. I will send them out. It is not a big drain on him, time-wise. Money-wise, sure, it’s not super expensive. But it’s not going to break the bank. Why can’t he just bend to my will? Why can’t he just fall in line? WHY????? (We have taken exactly two (2) photos of the three of us since summer of 2020. Neither is holiday card worthy, you will just have to trust me. And I would slap a bunch of photos from throughout the year on a card and call it a day in a frosty second, but my husband always, always hates those kinds of cards when I mock them up, and despite the fact that he is making the whole thing harder than it needs to be, he and I still feel he gets a say in a card representing/featuring him that goes to all our friends and family.)

  • Our health insurance is being downgraded. Oh, excuse me: “improved” and “enhanced.” I get that my husband’s company is a business, and they need to find ways to keep costs down, blah blah blah. And I get that I am very fortunate to have access to health insurance at all, and the means to pay for it. But I am still DEEPLY ANNOYED. Mainly because my husband’s hospital system is trying to spin it as a benefit when it clearly is NOT. They sent out this piece of direct mail giving us a heads-up about one of the changes to the insurance plan, which is that they are going to now “leverage” the hospital system’s own pharmacy system. Isn’t that great?!?! Aren’t we so happy?!?! They alluded to benefits from this change: We are now going to “get the best medication outcomes.” What the fluff does that mean? We will now have the “convenience” of using hospital pharmacies (NOT convenient, unless you are at one of the FOUR ON-SITE PHARMACIES in a 100-mile radius) or mail-order (NOT convenient if you have a necessary daily medication that happens to be a controlled substance and may not be available via mail order). And we will have “one card” for pharmacy and medical insurance coverage. Wowee, what a benefit! (Eye roll.) I suppose they do also allude to lower costs. There is also a black box notifying us that we need to stock up on medications so that the switch to the new plan doesn’t affect our prescriptions. Is this even possible with the medications we have? WHO KNOWS. And then it says to go to the website of the new company for more details. But the website does not have ANY USEFUL DETAILS for non-members. This does not feel like they are “expanding and enhancing” my healthcare benefits, that’s for sure.

  • We still have not completed my gallery wall dream. I have been saying for years that I want to have a gallery wall of photos/paintings in our living room. And my husband keeps jumping on and off board. The artwork and empty frames that I had chosen for the gallery wall have been pushed up against the dining room wall (see above) for months and months now, and I think I may have to admit defeat. It is not going to happen in this house. My husband has no interest in helping me plan, but I will need his help to execute the whole thing, and I just don’t know if I can summon enough umph to see it through. So I am summoning grump instead.

To help counteract the Grumps, I will share two goods:

  • The other day I went to a Work Event. I was very anxious about a) being around a bunch of people at a restaurant and b) feeling self-conscious about all the weight I’ve gained since I last saw these people and c) worrying that my much-increased social anxiety would make me panicky and weird. I went out and bought an entire new outfit; I haven’t had to don Office Wear regularly since 2016, and I have since been hard at work “expanding and enhancing” my size, so I had nothing remotely appropriate to wear. I got a pair of black dress pants and a burgundy sweater at Talbots (for 30% off! plus 10% off for joining their rewards program! plus $10 off for joining their mobile mailing list!), which helped tremendously. I felt like I looked put together and appropriate, and like someone who would be totally competent at doing freelance work in the future. But, even better, the event was GREAT. It was outdoors, everyone was vaccinated, and I hadn’t seen most of the attendees in five years. People gave me hugs and seemed genuinely excited to see me and we had comfortable, easy conversations and the whole thing was super, super lovely.

  • I have hacked away at some of the trash heap. Just now, I got a surge of Living In Garbage-related energy and tackled both the Dining Room Trash Heap and Carla’s craft cabinet, and threw a LOT of stuff away, but also organized everything. It doesn’t look good, but it looks significantly better, and now feel much less Strangled By Junk. Hopefully I can persuade Carla that I kept most of her things and simply organized them all in a way that looks like I threw most of it in the trash (I did throw a lot of things in the trash – but really, WHO NEEDS ten plastic baggies filled with tiny bits of paper and string and the cottony ends of Q-tips? The garbage bin, is who.) I need to take a similar approach to her desk in her bedroom, and then we’ll really be rocking and rolling.
At least it is all contained to the giant slab of cardboard now. If I move the artwork and frames down to the basement, it will look even better.

Tell me your grumps, if you’ve got em.

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Well, I am sitting here waiting for the exterminator to come do our quarterly bug roundup (I like to picture him ushering a bunch of creepy-crawlies down the stairs and out into the street and off into some buggy wonderland, Pied Piper style), and I neither feel like emptying the dishwasher nor trying to plan our meals for the week, so randomosity it is!

  • Speaking of our bug guy: I am mad at our pest control service. They are constantly bothering us to sign up for this quarterly “deal,” wherein you get a discount per service. And my husband and I had figured that we were calling the pest control on an as-needed basis about three times per year, so the math didn’t work out for us to do the quarterly plan. But, for some reason, we decided to sign up the last time they made their sales pitch. I don’t remember why, but it must have involved math. ANYWAY, we signed up in June, for the quarterly plan. They sent the bug guy, invoiced us… And the amount was DOUBLE what he’d quoted me. I emailed him back and said, “I thought the quarterly plan cost $X. Or is this invoice for the entire year in advance?” And he CALLED ME. I could not answer at the time, so emailed him back, reiterated my question, and said that email is much better than calling. He called me AGAIN. I remember I picked up the phone because I was waiting for another call, but there was some incredibly stressful thing going on, and he was being super confusing and not answering my questions directly, so I started frustration-crying on the phone. It was awful. The upshoot was that he didn’t want to submit a specific quote in writing, because “their rates change based on unpredictable factors.” *Picture me right now, sitting at my desk, blinking slowly and taking multiple deep breaths.* Anyway, because I cried at him, he emailed me this: “as discussed on the phone. The current charge is your initial charge with a discounted rate. 3 months after your initial treatment we offer a discounted quarterly rate ~$X + tax on a regular quarterly basis.” Which, I have to say, STILL MAKES NO SENSE. Does that mean that the quarterly discount only kicks in… later??? And also, I want to know what we are going to pay, every quarter!!!!! “~$X” is not specific enough!!!!! I immediately started asking my neighbors who they use, even though we have used this particular service multiple times per year for over a decade. The only reason I have decided not to switch services is that I adore the man who does the actual spraying of the bugs. He is a lovely, kind, gentle man who asks about my kid and is always super flexible about timing and is very efficient. He is the kind of guy you could call to come over IMMEDIATELY and take care of any issue. Plus, he is getting up there, age-wise, and I just picture us canceling our service and him being out of a job. (This is ridiculous; they have other customers.) So we are, for now, keeping our service. But I am STILL MAD. In fact, I feel riled up enough that I am once again thinking of finding a new service. EDITED TO ADD: I asked our bug guy if he knew what today’s appointment was going to cost me, and he said he didn’t; he leaves that to the other guy, who will send me an invoice. So I still have no idea how much it cost. I DO NOT LIKE THIS.
  • It is a good time for the bug guy to come, because it is Spider Season. And I know that spiders are good and lovely and take care of other bugs, but during this time of year they get very bold and decide to break the Spider Covenant of out of sight, out of mind. Do they think they add to the Halloween ambiance? There was a spider in Carla’s room the other day, and she came shrieking into the living room to have one of us rescue her from its clutches, but then my husband couldn’t locate the spider to remove it. (I would have squished it. Am mean.) Carla KNOWS that the spider is still there, probably on her bed, maybe building a little web inside her pillowcase. She does not believe us that the spider has likely moved on. She has been sleeping in our room ever since.
  • Oh, speaking of stupid things that make no sense (yes, I am still exercised about the bug service situation): Do you remember I told you, a long while ago, about this absolutely RIDICULOUS bank situation? In short (or, as short as I can very wordily go), we have a loan through a bank, and the bank is holding a big chunk of our money as collateral against the loan. This bank has a policy stating that you (we) need to add some nominal amount of money to the account annually, or you (we) are charged an inactive fee. Even though I don’t WANT to add money, not even $5, to that account because we cannot touch it until the loan is paid. And even though I don’t have any sort of bank card that would allow me to do so without going, in person, to the bank. And even though the bank is nowhere near my house or any place I ever go. So every year I get a statement charging us an inactive fee, and every year I call the bank and ask them to remove it, and they give me a spiel about how easy it would be to avoid the fee, just by making a single annual transaction! And how it could just be $5! And how they have all these branches! (None nearer than a 30 minute drive.) I persist, getting louder and more strident, and finally they agree to remove the fee, and I ask that they make a note for next year, and they say they can’t. Remember when I whined at great length about that? Well! Last year, we got a statement that showed the inactive fee… and then showed an instant refund!!!! I did not have to call! SOMEONE MADE A NOTE! That is my hope, at least. I suppose it could have been a Pandemic Nicety. Anyway, I’m waiting for the statement to show up this year, just to see what happens. I know you are on the edge of your seat.
  • I got myself a jump rope. Carla has one and it seems fun. Plus, it reminds me of middle school gym class, and how Jump Rope for Heart! was a big health movement back then. It IS good exercise, I think. I don’t know for sure because I have yet to try it. I’m… nervous? Afraid of hitting myself in the face? Or… enduring excessive boob-flop pain? Or… having a heart attack? I don’t know. Also, I am pretty sure this is an Outdoor Activity, so that’s another hurdle. The jump rope is currently on the floor of my office. Do you jump rope? And if so, how do I begin my jump rope journey? Perhaps I shall begin by taking it with me to Goodwill and leaving it there?
  • Listen, I KNOW it’s only October, but I also know that you are aware – as are we all – that shipping and supply chain issues are causing delays and snarl-ups all over the place. So I am thinking about Christmas. Fretting is a more accurate word than thinking, except there is also a lot of inertia because it is sooooo far away and I am just coming out of a four-family-members-have-birthdays period over the last six weeks, with the fifth still to come. I persuaded my husband to order a couple of things for Carla already (thank you, Target, for having a “buy $50 in toys, get $10” promotion at the exact right time). (We got her a carnotaurus and an LOL OMG doll that she requested.) But literally no one else in my family is thinking about the holidays right now, except maybe my parents whom I have already bothered on the topic. And lord knows WHAT I will get my husband; I just had to buy presents for his birthday and it was rough. I ended up buying him a couple of things I’d purchased previously, that’s how out of ideas I am. Well. At least Santa Claus will have something to deliver to Carla. If the rest of us get nothing, that’s fine. We need nothing anyway.
  • This Christmas situation illuminates one of the Major Differences between my family of origin and my husband’s. I emailed my mom and asked her to start thinking about Christmas, and she happily complied. In fact, I had received an email previously from my dad, asking what we want to eat for Christmas dinner. They are Plan Ahead People. They have everything planned out for the next… nine months, I’d say. While I am not (always) that much of a planner, I do prefer to know what’s coming down the pike. My in-laws, on the other hand, are Spontaneous People. (This is why I end up wrapping so many gifts that they send us at the last minute grumble grumble.) They are also Christmas List People, who prefer that we all submit and choose from a list of specific items. (My parents are Money Gifters, who then also usually wrap something small to accompany the money.) My in-laws also live in a different state, so we have to ship all gifts to them. (And I prefer to buy them and wrap them before shipping them.) This is a bad combination, even in years without shipping and supply chain issues (not to mention all the health issues that are obviously and justifiably requiring significant attention). But this year it may be that everyone gets a Suzanne Hopes You Will Like This But Maybe You Won’t present.
  • Do you have a go-to gift that you send to people who have everything/people who are difficult to shop for? There has to be a Good General Gift that most people enjoy, right? Except I can’t think of one, outside of consumables like chocolate/wine/cheese.
  • And also, what would YOU, personally, like to receive as a gift? Like, right now, what is the thing that you are coveting most? For me, it is a citrus squeezer. Mine broke, and I use a citrus squeezer ALL the time, so I have been mourning its loss near-daily. Okay, after writing that, I just ordered one – it’s stainless steel, so the paint won’t wear off and it’s dishwasher safe! It will arrive on Friday. SORRY, PEOPLE WHO BUY ME GIFTS.
  • I really, reallllllllly wish that we could alllll agree that we are grown ups and do not need gifts anymore. Seriously. We can get the kids presents, if we want, but no one else needs anything. I just don’t know how to broach that topic. Like, it seems like one thing to say, “I would like you to stop buying me gifts; I have everything I need” but a whole different thing to say, “I would like to stop purchasing gifts for you.” Yeah. Makes me sound like a dick. *Resigned sigh of gift anxiety forever and ever amen.* 
  • At least I don’t have to worry about Thanksgiving! My in-laws are hosting Thanksgiving at their house, in a different state, despite the fact that it is their year with us, and despite the fact that my husband and I established nearly a decade ago that we will not travel on holidays, and despite the fact that there is still an ongoing global pandemic that makes travel – especially crowded holiday travel – unideal. (And lest you think I am being heartless, they made these plans before all the health turmoil.) (I am still being a little heartless, but the whole thing irks me.) So! It will just be the three of us, here at home! My IDEAL! I suspect I will still need to make turkey and stuffing, since my husband likes those things. (Bleh.) I can probably get away with a small turkey breast, though, which will be nice. And I am delighted that I get to make a big vat of garlic goat cheese mashed potatoes to slowly coat myself in.
  • OMG I usually tip our bug guy but I FORGOT to get tip money and had none. He said goodbye at the front door, but then his shoes were at the back door, so we trekked through the kitchen, saying things like “keep safe!” and “see you next quarter!” But then at the back door, I had to wait as he put on his shoes and tied them and tried to make small talk about the weather while I was very blatantly NOT giving him a tip. And then he got his shoes on and walked through the garage and reminded me to close the garage door and we must have said goodbye/take care to each other at least four times all while I was not giving him a tip OMG it was so awkward. I hope he knows I will get him next time.

That’s it from me, Internet. After that grueling interaction, not to mention the anticipation thereof, I need to lie down for the rest of the day. (Kidding. Mainly.)

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I just got off of back-to-back phone calls and am feeling drained and relieved and, as always, a little self-scoldy because making a phone call is rarely quite as bad as I think it will be. Honestly, even if a phone call IS as bad as I imagined (issue remains unresolved, I have to talk to someone unpleasant, I feel like I have no idea what I’m talking about), it is usually over fairly quickly. Much more quickly than justifies the days/weeks/months of procrastinating, resisting, and fretting before I make the phone call. 

One of the calls was for a dermatology appointment – I have a mole that’s being constantly irritated by non-negotiable clothing, and I would like to have it removed. Plus, I would like to get a skin check. The scheduler seemed to think I could just go for a skin check, and have the dermatologist look at the mole then; I suppose that makes sense, to have him check it out first before he commits to scraping it from my body or whatever mole-removal procedure he uses. I had been delaying this call because I have only been to a dermatologist once before, and I could NOT for the LIFE of me remember her name. So I blurted that out right at the beginning, and the scheduler was very lovely and said she could look it up, and it turned out that my previous dermatologist was no longer with this health system so I will be going to a new one entirely. 

To continue telling you overly personal and yet somehow deeply boring things about me, I figured that as long as I was on the phone ALREADY, I would try to do something that I have wanted to do since January: find a new gynecologist. I had SUCH a bad experience this past time – more than an hour’s wait, with no updates from the staff, in an increasingly crowded waiting room during a pandemic – that I was ready to leave. But I had made no progress toward finding someone new. This is the sort of thing that works best with a referral, but all of my friends see doctors in a different health system, not covered by health insurance. So! I simply asked the scheduler if she could get me in with a new gynecologist. Since I don’t need an appointment until next January, I figured I had a good chance of finding someone. And lo! the scheduler DID find me a new gynecologist and I got an appointment and PHEW. Cross two items off my list. 

The second phone call was with a company that provides entertainment for children’s parties. Specifically, they bring dinosaurs to your event and play dinosaur-themed versions of Red Light Green Light etc, and bring out fossils and talk about dinosaur facts. The dinosaurs are adult-human sized and seem to be half robot, half puppet. Carla is obsessed with dinosaurs, so I think she would love it… but I am a leeetle bit concerned that it will be too babyish for her. Like… maybe it would be ideal for the 3- to 5-year-old set. The woman I spoke to said that eight is on the upper range of the ages they serve – any older, and the kids get a little scoff-y. That was… only slightly reassuring. I mean, maybe CARLA would love it – I really think she would – but maybe her six-months-older friends would find it babyish and lame. And I think having your friends think your party is babyish and lame would be absolutely crushing at this age. Anyway, I am still mulling it. NOTE: If you would like to watch some brief Instagram videos of this company in action and weigh in on the babyishness factor, please email me and I will send you the link. 

Just as bad as the concern over how babyish it might be is the fact that the party would need to take place in my backyard. Please believe me when I say that having a party in my backyard fills me with utter dread. I am pre-stressed by even the IDEA of it. I want to go somewhere that is in the business of kids’ parties, where all I need to do is show up with a cake and some decorations, and they do everything else. And then at the end I can leave. I promise you that I will be stressed enough just doing that. 

(Last week, I did call just such a place! I had a couple of questions that didn’t have answers on their website – in fact, one question was about an add-on that was mentioned on the website, with no further details than price – so I wanted to speak to a human. I waited on hold for a long time just to leave a message. And then got an email last Friday that listed the exact same details that were on the website, and no more. I responded via email immediately, with no response; and emailed again today, only to get an out-of-office reply.)

Sadly, this is going to be a phone-call heavy week. Not only do I have a school meeting via Zoom that I have been fretting about, but I also need to call U-Haul to ask about getting a trailer hitch installed on my car. THAT is the type of phone call I hate the most, because I have no idea what I’m talking about. They will ask questions and I will have no answers. 

I also need to schedule a dentist appointment; I think I need another crown. No need to speculate on why I am dragging my feet on that one.

You know how I mentioned above that I felt a little reproachful of myself for wasting so much energy agonizing over the phone calls when really they weren’t that bad? Yeah, well, that feeling didn’t linger. 

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