Brian spent the better part of Sunday evening watching Season 1 of MacGyver on Netflix.
Richard Dean Anderson, how many young boys did you define manhood for in the 80s?
I’ve come to realize that in the search for a decent relationship, a pet owner is an especially good bet, particularly when the pet is a dog. Ownership of any animal means that on a basic level, an individual can handle a serious commitment; it means they can remember to feed something besides themselves, and that they’re used to dealing with shit on a regular basis. But I think a dog is still a special case. A dog makes you schedule your life around its need to urinate. A dog will come at you with love in its eyes and breath that smells like a zombie’s ass. A boy who owns a dog is a boy who is not afraid to come home every day to a creature that jumps for joy and gives him a look that says, quite obviously, “I love you I need you I depend on you for my every requirement take care of me forever.” This is no small thing to face. A dog may not be a child, but it is still needy and dependent and has a knack for embarrassing you in front of people.
There is also something nice about being in a relationship with a pet owner, at least when you like the pet and the pet likes you back. It makes your duo into a nice little trio. It gives you some shared responsibilities that make you feel like a team, and that teach you how to rely on each other and work together to make sure the dog is fed and walked and bathed. These are fairly minor tasks, no doubt; you don’t have to send the dog to school or teach it table manners, and you can walk around naked in front of it. But they are responsibilities no less.
I don’t know as much about the trials and tribulations of cat ownership. I have never actually dated anyone who owned a cat. I guess this is good, because I am allergic to them. This puts a slight damper on my enthusiasm, which is further dampened by much of my interactions with cats. I tend to get along best with cats who act like pointy little dogs. In fact, I have noticed that people tend to brag about their cats by saying that they are like dogs. This to me is telling. If cats are so great, why are they even better when they act like dogs? Why not just get a dog and save yourself the disdain?
I think that’s really my main issue with cats, is that they don’t seem to care for you particularly. You call to a cat, and he just stares at you from across the room, and then turns and continues walking away. You call to a dog, and his ears perk up, and his eyes get this look like, ‘Who, ME?’ and he can’t get over to you fast enough. Granted, it’s probably because he thinks you’re going to take him outside so he can finally pee, but still. I crave that validation. I want him to want me. I need him to need me. I need therapy.
I face enough coldhearted rejection in my daily life. When I get home, I want total, complete acceptance and love. Even if it comes with breath that could flip a tank over.
Excited by the prospect of going out to dinner, I decided on a whim to do my hair last night. Twenty frustrating minutes later, I realized that I had no idea what I was doing. I apparently have a huge gap of experience in the field of hair do-ing. True, I can’t remember the last time I made my hair do anything except be in a ponytail or a bun. But just because I don’t usually do my hair, does that mean that now, at the age of twenty-seven, I can’t do it, even if I want to?
Clearly, it does.
I now regret all of the opportunities I missed out on to learn and practice this useful skill. Countless sleepovers during which I dreamily allowed friends to curl my hair and straighten it and make it do things, all while I was busy watching Teen Wolf and picking at my cuticles, and not paying the least bit of attention to style or technique.
The bizarre hairdo I ended up with that evening looked like something my four year old niece would have come up with if she’d been playing with my hair while sitting on the couch behind me watching Hannah Montana. Eventually I gave up and went back to the bun.
There are two kinds of women in the world, I realized. Those who have acquired experience in the ways of hair and are fairly competent stylists, and those like me, who are constantly asking the first kind to do their hair for them.
I realize that some skills are innate—while others must be learned and practiced. However, I am now more aware than ever that I am bad at distinguishing between the two.
Take jumping, for example. A few years ago spent a weekend in a cabin in Vermont with a bunch of people I barely knew. I was one of the youngest people there, which made me feel super cool, and perhaps a bit overeager. At one point, the guys in the cabin began competing with each other to touch the floor of the cabin’s loft bedroom, getting a running start and leaping one at a time; and mostly missing. Guys who were just barely taller than me were almost making it, but I was the only girl there who seemed to want to try it myself.
“Hold on. I don’t find jump much. Do I actually know what I am doing?” I never asked myself that crucial question; I just assumed I had the skills necessary to compete. I took a running start, jumped with all my might and made it about two inches off the ground. A dozen guys I was vaguely trying to impress roared with laughter. I now know that I have absolutely no vertical jump whatsoever—although I had clearly assumed that I did. Now everyone else knew too. This is what we call natural selection at work.
I drove to a job interview today in Brian’s Tahoe. To call his truck ‘big’ is an understatement. It feels like driving a building—a lurching, mutinous building, that doesn’t particularly care for the directions you give it, so it obeys them on its own time. Brian’s last truck was a twenty-year-old Landcruiser, so I guess he likes them that way. When I first got in the passenger’s seat of that Landcruiser, I thought it was the largest truck I’d ever ridden in. Brian’s form in the driver’s seat to my left felt like it was four feet away. Now, in the Tahoe, we sit even further apart. I never would have thought it possible, but it is even bigger.
When I am driving it, which is only when I absolutely have to, I sometimes forget how I look to other cars on the road. Since I feel small and timid behind the wheel, I assume that other drivers can sense my meekness, and are going to try and crush me. Chances are, though, that all they actually see is a monstrous blue Tahoe. When I realize this, I suddenly feel like a tiny bunny sequestered in the head of a giant rampaging killer robot. I’m sure everyone has those days.
Brian recently developed five rolls of film that had been sitting around the house for the last three years or so. About twenty percent of those photos involved the dog reluctantly wearing clothes. Mostly socks.
I think both of us might need hobbies? or children? or medication? Or all of the above. Tell me we are not alone.
When Brian and I are feeling movie watchey lately, we try to find a very random free movie to watch (thank you, cable plan that offers free movies and is affordable when split between 4 people). We have done this twice and have thus far not been disappointed. The first movie we watched in this fashion was called “They Live”. Directed by John Carpenter and starring Roddy Peeper (damn straight), it was thoughtful and engaging while still managing to be timefully 80s. The premise of the movie: Earth is gradually being taken over by skeletor-looking aliens who mask themselves as wealthy and powerful humans. You can only tell the alien from the human by looking at them through special (and hilariously dated) sunglasses. Looking through the sunglasses also reveals that every billboard, poster, newspaper and magazine in actuality has no content save the same few simple, subversive messages—“CONSUME”, “MARRY AND PROCREATE”, “STAY ASLEEP”. During the middle third of the movie, the ‘hero’ and his reluctant sidekick engage in a no-holds-barred alleyway brawl while the hero tries to get the sidekick to don the sunglasses. They beat each other brutally for over five full minutes, which felt like an hour. Every time one of them gets up and helps the other up and they start to laugh and you think they are going to stop fighting, one then sucker-punches the other. This kept happening until it was funny, and then stopped being funny, and then was funny again, and so on. Good free movie!
Yesterday Brian replaced our light bulbs with fancy new ‘Daylight’ bulbs. They are allegedly the same wattage as our old bulbs. The first time I walked in the bedroom they seared my delicate retinal membranes like tuna steaks.
“OW!” I said, and at the same time Brian said, “Isn’t it great?”
While it is true I have mourned the absence of daylight for the last few winter months, I do not miss it in my bedroom at 11pm. And this was no ordinary daylight. The aggressive, blazing blue-whiteness of these bulbs seemed to radiate from the very air molecules around me. It was the kind of nuclear glow in which you worry that you are about to see how your bones are looking these days.
I could see Brian’s fair Irish skin beginning to freckle as he lay peacefully reading in bed.
Realizing that his intentions were good, I decided to withhold judgment for a few minutes, at least until my eyes adjusted, or bled, whichever came first. I sat down on the bed and squinted around. The walls, which Brian had painted a cheerful yellow when he’d moved in a year ago, had a sudden manic intensity from the glare. Every crack and painted-over hair stood out in sharp relief.
“Hey Brian,” I mused. “These walls– did you use a base coat? They just look so patchy. I never noticed before….so many imperfections…”
I went into the bathroom, and confronted my own mug shot. I had aged twenty years. The face in the mirror looked like it had two children and three open warrants. That was it.
I got into bed with my sunglasses on. Brian pretended not to notice. Relationships are all about compromise.
This morning I awoke with a start and the unsettling realization that I’d had strange dreams. I tried to recall them before they faded and poked Brian, who was already awake. Immediately telling someone about my scary dreams tends to help dispel any lingering feelings of unease.
“I had weird dreams,” I said. “My best friend from high-school had had a daughter through artificial insemination, and the kid was somehow five. She’d named her Scotch.”
Brian said, “Strange,” and I went on.
“Then I had another dream where I was a younger member of this huge family, and I had to hide around the house, because if they found me they might hurt me. I was just scared all the time.”
“That’s upsetting,” Brian said soothingly. “Last night I dreamed we rented snowmobiles. We were snowmobiling everywhere. It was great!”
He added, “Vvvvvroooom-vroom! Weee!”
“Wow, that’s nice,” I said sourly. “My dreams are full of disturbing subtexts and free-floating anxiety, and your dream was all ‘We have snowmobiles! High-five!’ ”
“Well, the only one I could remember was.”
“Right. Probably the other ones were full of serial-killers, but you forgot them.”