Friday, September 26, 2008

Dropping a line

I was expressly ignoring the suitcase explosion covering my room when I got home from work the other day.

I had just changed into yoga pants and a tank top to get down to business when I heard my cell phone ring downstairs. I think cell phone rings are like babies crying- you always know when it’s yours. There was no way I was going to make it downstairs in time, but my mom was in the kitchen and yelled up to me that it was my friend JP.

I literally dropped the cardigan and t-shirt I had just folded back into my open suitcase and bolted out of my room for the stairs. JP was one of my roommates and closest friends in college, and she got married about a year ago and now lives in San Diego with her husband. We don’t catch each other that often, so I grabbed my phone and mouthed “I’ll be down later” as I answered.

We got to chat as I halfway unpacked and then finally settled with my back against the wall so that my phone could charge after five minutes of incessant beeping. As is always the case, we fell back into conversation as easily as however long ago we last spoke, which had been a while.

I told her that I had been talking with one of our mutual friends, CC, over brunch recently, where we discussed boundaries we now have with married friends. It seems obvious, but it changes the dynamic of a friendship when one person gets married, and I’m guessing even when both are married. Topics that were freely breeched in the course of daily life in college suddenly take on new meanings and importance, and relationships with friends have to adjust accordingly.

As I told her this, I explained that I wanted both of us to be comfortable with me asking about her marriage in a noninvasive, “because I care about you and this is the most important thing in your life” kind of way. I just didn’t know how to phrase it directly, which is shocking, I know.

In the interest of privacy and the health of a marriage, there are areas that don’t need to be shared or talked about outside of a home. Marriage is like riding a bike or jumping out of a plane, you can watch someone else all day long but you’ll never know what it’s like until you experience it for yourself. As JP pointed out, it’s also a matter of trust between a husband and wife and fostering the communication between the two of you instead of taking your problems elsewhere.

I’ve come to find out that people slash girls in general have a lot of misconceptions about newlyweds. Like the rest of us, they’re trying to figure out and navigate a new path in life. “Why do we have bridesmaids and groomsmen in the first place?” JP asked, “why would I have wanted you to stand up with me on my wedding day if I didn’t want your love and prayers and support for my marriage?”

Good point.

Being a bridesmaid is more than wearing a strapless dress, holding flowers and smiling for pictures. Standing at the front of a congregation is saying that you support the people and the decision they are making and you are committing, yourself, to promoting their life together with your accountability, love and friendship.

(J & I on her wedding day. Kind of cheesy, kind of perfect.)

Some of my closest friends are such open books about everything going on in their lives, which is a quality I’ve recently come to admire. Not all of us are so naturally candid when it comes to our own lives and it’s refreshing to talk to someone who will talk openly, without second-guessing or worrying about over-sharing some part of their life.

I always seem to think that the first time I see one of my friends after they’ve gone on their honeymoon that I won’t recognize them. It’s not the case, obviously; they’ve changed their last name and have committed to living with a boy forever but that doesn't make them unrecognizable.

Life on the other side of the white picket fence is different, to be sure, but just because friends get married doesn’t mean they don’t need you anymore.

“A few years difference in the dates of our birth; the choice of one university over another; the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting. Any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, strictly speaking, there are no chances. Christ who said to his disciples, “you have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, you have not chosen one another, but I have chosen you for one another.”
-C.S. Lewis

Friday, September 19, 2008

I'm not an addict

I go to a lot of doctors. To be quite honest, it's not really a hypochondria thing; it's more of a vanity issue.

I still go to an orthodontist because I'm obsessed with keeping my teeth straight (since I've been out of braces for 12 years), and I go to the dermatologist because I am obsessed with keeping my skin clear. It's not unfounded- one day I'll tell you all about the horrors of taking Accutane, but you're not old enough yet.

So I went to the derm on Saturday, who is, by the way, probably the most beautiful woman I've ever seen, which always makes it fun to roll into her office without make up on. So we were talking and about my pores and she was telling me about an antibiotic she was considering giving me and decided to have a nurse take my blood pressure.

Apparently it was too high. Never having anyone tell me that in my life, I totally panicked. “I’m unhealthy- what have I done?!” immediately raced through my mind.

I got home and starting asking my parents about high blood pressure and the causes, etc. They both pointed out that it could have been a fluke, but of course I just needed to know what I could do immediately to fix it. The first thing my Dad mentioned was that caffeine can contribute to the problem.

Well great. I had already consumed two cups of coffee and a Diet Coke by noon. So apparently it was a fluke, but it brought like to the fact that I drink way too many caffeinated beverages. High blood pressure fluke at the derm’s office aside, I decided to make a few dietary changes, starting with cutting back on caffeine.

Easier said than done, I decided to have decaf coffee yesterday morning with breakfast. Tastes the same, looks the same, right?

I thought I was going to die around the 10:30 AM mark Thursday morning. Withdraw is a slow and painful process, which ended promptly this morning when I pushed that magic button that brews my perfect cup of creamy, rich, caffeinated Volute coffee. I'm choosing instead to cut back on diet drinks, because they're really not doing anything for me and clearly the coffee isn't going anywhere.

We also talked about the health benefits of fish, and how I am, specifically, the biggest discourager of fish-consumption in our family. So tonight my mom cooked halibut and vegetables on the grill. "Grilled Halibut Piperade" to be exact. Did you hear that? Decaf coffee and fish in the same day! What is the world coming to? I'm glad I'm still capable of surprising myself.

Tomorrow I might even consider a pet snake.

"Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts."
-Arnold Bennett

Monday, September 15, 2008

Required fields

I got online recently to register for a frequent flier account with American. I think I had one like eight months ago, but my login never worked right and I changed my address and the airline just couldn’t keep up. What else is new?

I was putting in my info and the computer popped up with red lines telling me which fields were actually mandatory. I’m sorry American Airlines, but I don’t think you need my work, cell and home phone numbers, since all you’re going to do is send me spam, call me at 8 PM on a Sunday night to tell me about flight specials to Charleston and text me when my flights get delayed.

Thanks but no thanks.

It told me to fill in “Prefix,” and before I could guess between Ms. and Miss, I found that there were no fewer than 84 prefixes to choose from. 84! Who knew there was so much to aspire to? Consul, Earl, Herr, Lady, Princess… the possibilities are endless.

What would happen if I showed up to the airport with “Duchess A.H., Esq.” on my e-ticket?

More importantly, who verifies this information?!

I might have gotten away with it, except for the irritable problem of their website being unable to verify my address. I didn’t think the monotone customer service rep on the phone would find my embellished title amusing, so I cleared it before she could revoke my advantage mile privileges... lame. I bet AH the duchess would have always gotten the window seats.

No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.
-Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My kind of wonderful

There’s nothing quite like hurricane season in Texas. I can hardly keep track of which one is “headed our way” at this point; I think it must be Ike, considering those are the three letters over the huge red blob covering Texas on the Doppler radar.

It’s been dreary most of the week, which makes everyone (or me) lethargic. I got an email from a friend the other day at work who read my mind, and we both agreed that the most ideal situation at that moment would have been to be in bed, wrapped in a down comforter, eating a grilled cheese and slumbering to the sound of rain and season one of Gossip Girl.

I know, right? Fantastic.

It also got me thinking about how much I love grilled cheeses, and how I haven’t had one in months, which may as well be years at this point. I started looking up different grilled cheese recipes, and appropriately enough, I found two interesting variations from NYC and DFW.

In New York, this is considered the best grilled cheese on the market.

In Texas, it looks like they’ll be serving up a nice fried version at the State Fair this year.

Eating a perfectly cooked grilled cheese with the right combination of cheeses and a good crunch is like seeing the stars align. It’s like when all of your laundry is clean, folded and put away, your dry cleaning is ready and your sheets and towels are fresh out of the dryer.

A girl can dream.

“You know it’s a good recipe if it starts with a stick of butter.”
-Paula Deen

Monday, September 8, 2008

The reluctant date

A strange phenomenon has occurred amongst my friends since entering into the working world. They called it “dating” in the olden days. From the relics, I know that it involved drive-ins, sodas with two straws and couples giving each other pins. Today, it involves "meet you there since I'm running late from work," possibly wine to ease the tension (no straws) and Facebook relationship status updates.

Some people might not consider dating to be “strange” nor a “phenomenon,” but those are also people who probably didn’t grow up dealing with unlimited forms of indirect communication readily available for passive aggressive conversing.

In middle school, there was Instant Messenger. In high school, everyone got cell phones and the new concept of the text message. In college we hailed the advent of Facebook. And in the real world, the have e-mail that we sit in front of day in and day-out, in addition to all of those other things. (Yes, at my job in New York everyone was on Instant Messenger.)

Dating, as my generation was raised to believe, was some fable about going out socially with another person to get to know them. In college, however, dating was largely absent and never casual. There were people in serious relationships and people who were seriously single.

Nowadays, more and more of my conversations and correspondence with friends is regarding the topic of the guys we date or go on dates with (there’s a difference.) The common denominator, though, is the reluctance of the female.

This is sounding like an exposition on the Discovery Channel.

The thing is, “dating” is very novel to my friends. There have been “guys” over the years, but when men come into the picture it’s a different ballgame. Dating is a concept we’re all struggling to define for ourselves individually and yet discuss communally. For years we’ve all dealt with the totally-wrong-for you noncommittal types, or the nice-Christian-guy noncommittal types or the random noncommittal types held over from camp or school that always seem to keep in touch. Everyone has their own breed.

But now, out of the safe haven of college and parties and thrust into a world where your marital status is suddenly different from someone your own age and girls don’t flock to them at parties, guys have evolved. They suddenly ask introspective questions and make lunch/dinner plans and are very forward about their feelings and intentions.

When people start using words like “pursue” and “intentional,” sometimes a lady starts feeling a little less like the object of affection and a little more like a deer on opening day of hunting season.

It’s all very confusing, you see. We were so used to the old ways; that the reality of someone calling and making plans, being respectful and gentlemanly and calling again with more plans and respect and yada leaves girl with a conundrum. I’ve heard some version of the same story from several of my friends over the past few months…

“Here’s a guy who has all of these x, y and z qualities, looks great on paper, I like spending time with him, but I don’t know if I’m interested.”

So there’s the truth- what women want is such a mystery to men because we don’t have it all figured out either. We’re just making this up as we go along and analyzing every step of the way, since that’s what we ladies do best. It's also great to be reminded that we don't know everything, and though we may have careers and goals and a great cameraderie amongst ourselves, we still have a long way to go.

It isn’t that we don’t want to date and are totally disinterested in suitors- we just like to take our sweet time making decisions.

“I’ve been dating since I was sixteen- I’m exhausted!”
-Charlotte from “Sex and the City”

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Much hullabaloo about nothing

One favorite pastime of my family's is to remind me of my decision to attend their rival university. The house is divided- though three against one has left me on my own side of the table during Thanksgiving weekend the past few years.

I've spent many days, weeks and months on the business-end of Aggie jokes, which is to be expected. It even came out in the course of conversation during one ATM vs. UT weekend that my father once decked a Corps member who had shoved one of his buddies after a game in College Station. Incredulous, since that's probably the most non-my-dad thing I've ever heard him mention, and casually at that, I asked why he would do such a thing, and he said it was because he was the only one not wearing cowboy boots that day. As if it were so simple.

Funny, "eye for an eye" wasn't one of the lessons I was taught as a child. After choosing to go to ATM, I quickly learned that all bets would be off on game day. It's not just my parents and my brother either. I have aunts, uncles, great aunts and uncles and cousins aplenty who swear allegiance to the dark side.

Since my parents went to UT and my brother is a senior there now, of course that meant I was spending the majority of my Labor Day weekend holding down the fort at home. Those few days leading up to the beginning of football season are always so promising- probably because nothing has gone wrong yet.

Anyway, at one point this weekend everything clicked, and I realized that my family has been slowly trying to brainwash me.

I walked out the door to go on a run, looked down and first noticed my key, which is burnt orange and black and has a longhorn on it. "The only extra key we have" as my mom described it when I moved home. Then I saw that I had on a Parent's Weekend shirt from my brother's fraternity, which also has a UT logo on it, as well as the pre-game show for their football game blaring in the background. RED FLAGS EVERYWHERE.

When I got back, I changed shirts and planted myself in front of my mom's computer downstairs, conveniently close to the kitchen and unlimited sweet tea refills, only to watch as the ESPN GameCast updates showed ATM drop their first season opener in 20 years.

Regardless of football scores, it doesn't matter, I think my family is clear on where my loyalties will remain.

"If I had to tell you about Aggie values in one sentence I would simply ask the question: How can I be of service?"
-Current Texas ATM Student