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Refuge for the rational.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Antigua, a Dream, and Nervous Social Misfortune 

I’m going to Antigua this summer on an archaeological dig. I was planning to go to a mortuary site in Egypt with Penn State, but the deadline was the first of February, and it just didn’t give me enough time to get my passport renewed and letters of recommendation together. No bother, I can always go next year. And I will.

Despite being excited, there is also this undercover anxiety that wakes up to poke me in the belly every so often. I had a nightmare about going last night. I found myself in this strange hall that sort of resembled one of those medieval theme parks. It had dark stone walls that were lined with Persian-influenced doorways. Some of them had sheer curtains hanging from that were moving in the conspicuously absent wind. There were no windows and no apparent lighting, so everything had a calm dimness to it. The hall was incongruously carpeted with a solid blue-grey industrial carpet that ensured silent steps as I ran around trying to figure out where the hell everyone was.

I was dressed in a long royal blue gown, and when I found everyone else, they were sitting in a kitchen area, dirty, in their digging clothes, and clearly upset with me for some reason. I tried to talk to some of them, but they wouldn’t have it. I wanted to know where they had been digging, since I couldn’t get outside, but they didn’t like me. I hadn’t done anything wrong; they just didn’t like me because I’d had the audacity to dress up.

I left the kitchen because I was hungry and the others wouldn’t feed me. Further along in the hallway, I went through a door that opened to a take-out curry restaurant. For all intents and purposes it looked like any other take-out place, with no seating and those weird clay coloured tiles on the floor. The area in front of the counter was crowded, and I crammed myself in next to an attractive man who immediately told me that he was an Anthropologist working with my group. I knew I had to get myself into his good books somehow, because if I did, he could sponsor my inclusion with the rest of the group. Something startled me at this point and I woke up at 6 am feeling rather anxious.

It’s not hard to interpret. I’m probably the shyest person I know, despite having the ability to maintain a competent social exterior, for the most part. But, a lot of people don’t realise just how socially awkward I can be. It comes out at random times, for reasons I have yet to comprehend. For instance, the other day someone I vaguely knew came into work. For whatever reason, it made me intensely nervous, and my body reacted before my mind could by heating my face until it matched my (red) hair. I had the brilliant instinct that if I tensed my body and stood as still as possible, the people right in front of me may not be able to see me. This produced an adrenaline rush, which proceeded to make my hands shake. To make matters worse, my acquaintance was sporting a cunt disguised as a very attractive woman on his left arm. And clearly not being experienced in self-induced social marginality, she resorted to a common conclusion: well, actually, I can’t read minds, but it undoubtedly had to do with hot sex, sex, sex. She insisted on paying for their meal, and made a marked point of not tipping me (how could you really be threatened by me in that state?!)

Well, I felt really horrible for the rest of the day. Mostly, I was anxious about the fact that I had no desire for this person, and thus couldn’t explain why I’d reacted in such a fashion. And it’s frustrating to present a constantly misinterpreted front to the world. Especially when it’s that of a fourteen-year-old schoolgirl with a silly crush.

In hindsight, it probably had more to do with being caught off-guard and not knowing what constituted appropriate interaction. Which is why I often pretend I don’t recognize people. Highly neurotic, I know. I should think, however, that you could understand my commitment to avoidance when the alternative is so extreme.

So I’m nervous about sharing close living quarters with seven other people. And getting to know them. What if they already know each other? I’m bound to either find the experience rewarding, and benefit from the addition of anthropology-minded individuals to my sparse friend collection, or once again maintain my status as the shaky, red-faced, sweat monster.

My Boss and His Wife Are Legitimately and Undeniably Insane. 

The most recent example of this is evidenced in a rather peculiar event that occurred during the holiday season.

Despite having a number of children and grandchildren in the city, my boss and his wife decided to go away for the Christmas season. It was with great sorrow that they related to a co-worker, well within my earshot, that they had to have their four million year old, deaf, blind and renally incapacitated dog put down whilst they were away. The poor thing was sweet, but clearly had been technologically maintained well past his natural expiry date by the miracles of modern doggy medicine. They were of the persuasion that if they had the dog put down while they were away, it would be easier on them.

Fast-forward two weeks. I was in a cab on the way home from the aeroport (that’s right, aeroport). I called my friend and co-worker M, who had been away for over a month, to ask her whether or not the mouse poison I’d left at her house, in her absence, had managed to do its job (that’s a whole other story—there’s lots of animal killing in this here story). The conversation took a twilight zone turn when she asked me in a wavering voice whether or not I’d heard about what had happened at work.

“Greg and Rhonda’s dog”
Apprehension now, though I knew the dog must be dead at this point, and I didn’t even consider the possibility of what came next.
She continued, “they left it with a dog-sitter and she had it put down.”
“Well, yeah”
“What do you mean, she had it put down?”
“They told me that she beat it and starved it and went all over town looking for a vet who would have it put down”
“What?! M, they were planning to have it put down. They told Kim as much.”
“Oh, god, don’t tell me they’re actually that fucking crazy. I knew it, Rhonda’s back on the drugs again. She cried, she fucking cried.”

When I went to pick up my check a few days later, Rhonda just happened to be there. I had to grit my teeth and ask her how her holiday was, pretending of course, that I didn’t know about the dog fabrication already. She laid it on pretty thick—ten minutes of doggy suffering and inhumane treatment and details of lifelong companionship can sure put a dent in your day. I wanted to make sure that I had the story right so I asked her, in a sympathetic and innocent way, “you mean, you didn’t plan to have him put down?”
Her eyes and mouth got wide: “No! Of course not.”

I’m still baffled.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Hello, My Name is Skeletor 

I’ve never gotten along with other women, and that’s the only overt evidence I have supporting a theory as to why. I am, as they say…skinny. But that wouldn’t be my word.

I’ve been this way my entire life. I began having it pointed out to me in grade school where I was given the enormously culturally sensitive title of ‘Ethiopian’. In hindsight, that one is probably my favourite. Yeah, decolonialism’s a real bitch.

The thing that most bothers me about having my weight pointed out to me is that it’s clearly motivated by an insecurity on the part of the pointer. And, if that weren’t pathetic enough, most of the time the woman with the issue isn’t even large. She’s just accepted a socially defined gender role that has her loving shopping, wanting babies and hating her body.

You could get all Dr. Phil and suggest that the media has given these poor women unrealistic expectations that made them insecure. Though I think this may be partly true, I don’t think it excuses the kind of juvenile behaviour I witness at my job on a daily basis—dirty looks and snarky comments. It’s really not my problem if your husband tries to sneak a look. Maybe you should try actually having sex with him.

In fact, I think the unrealistic expectations the media endorses are more harmful to men than to women. I’m a weird kind of feminist like that. If men are raised to believe in a reality that is constantly thwarted, what kinds of relationships can they forge with women besides shallow, mediocre ones? (I mean, if they’re naïve enough to fully buy into that image to begin with, which naturally, no one reading this blog is…right?)

That being said, the media has been on quite a mission lately with regard to this weighty issue. It seems the high BMIs are taking back the power by finding ways to condemn the other side. It’s not like anorexia is a life threatening, devastating disease or anything. Now it’s a character flaw. And considering what hip hop videos have done for larger women everywhere, you’d think it were about time for them to leave me the hell alone.

For the record, I don’t have an eating disorder and never have. I like food the appropriate amount. If it’s really good food, I like it a lot. I try not to tell them that though. My genotype is apparently a real piss-off.

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