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Respectfully yours

What does it mean for you?

Find out what it means to me.

I am alive! I’ve just been cramming activities into this past month and a half to try and put pages behind me, and write some new ones. It’s working, seemingly (I’ll get back to you on that). I started taking improv classes when I moved here as a lark, and eight months later I’m still in it. I even tried out for the local improv troupe, and though I didn’t get in, I felt good about my audition. I’ve been eating lunch with co-workers on a regular basis, instead of at my desk with Facebook / Reddit as my only company.

I’ve even been to a few “new to town” meetups, by myself, which is terrifying until you realize that everyone else present is in the same situation as you: they are new(ish), they don’t know anyone, and they want to make friends. Maybe even with you!

I am navigating new terrain, and – just as with Korea – it’s taking time to figure out the cultural mores of this environs. I don’t feel as though I have found my tribe here yet, or if that even exists in Baltimore. Here, I don’t have a built-in cohort with the same schedule and daily challenges over which to bond. My two work friends? They are very different from me, to the extent that though we share a common language, I have the hardest time understanding.

Today’s lesson: a musing on the word “respectful,” and what that means to people. Does it mean something different to me?

Case in point: my coworker was relating a story about walking her dog with another (male) friend with his dog at a park, when they happened upon a gorgeous (her words) jogger. The jogger noticed that her dog had been injured, and happened to be a veterinary specialist; all the while, the jogger addressed the male friend, even though my friend was the one holding that dog.

My other coworker’s reaction: “aww! How respectful!” She cooed, as though this were the most chivalrous thing.

“I know, right?” said the original coworker, and they swooned together. As is sometimes the case with this crew, I felt a bit like a Martian, or maybe Data trying to parse the emotions blowing up on the deck around him. Respectful?! Was this really swoon-worthy? If it were me, I’d maybe feel a little miffed at being ignored during ‘man talk,’ especially if the talk concerned my dog.

That got me thinking back to last week’s meetup, where I met some lovely people, including an incredibly gorgeous man who did not show any particular interest in me, which I am totally okay with as this keeps any resultant ‘crush’ firmly in the realm of the unattainable.

I had been standing around chatting with him and another couple who had recently moved to Baltimore. I asked if Gorgeous Guy would like a drink. “No thanks, I’m just sticking to water,” he said.

“Ah,” said the other guy. “How respectful!” He went off to the bar, before I had a chance to follow up with “huh? What do you mean by that?” Cause honestly, I have no idea, and am totally intrigued by his choice of words. Is it disrespectful to be drinking at a happy hour themed meetup? Should I not be drinking, if I am to seem respectable? (I guess these two hobbies are often at odds).

Now, I have long suspected that I have some catching up to do in the social department. (Case in point: I am at my sister’s house in my pajamas blogging, instead of doing whatever it is that people do to make friends). I am working on that, but crucial to social development is having, as a baseline, the same definitions of words and general standards of behavior.

Does “respectful” mean something completely different in this world? And if so, have I inadvertently disrespected people by being blissfully unaware of certain rules? Did I just bring meatloaf to a vegan potluck? Is that why nobody’s talking to me?

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Fortress of Solitude

It’s been two weeks. I’ve been reprogramming my brain, surely but slowly. I know it takes time, for that is what everyone tells me. Mornings are best. I wake up, have a cup of coffee, (caffeine is what steadies my mind, even as my hands tremble), watch the emergent sunlight stain the horizon. I focus on present, immediately observable things: the silver light upon the snow, the crunch of boots on grass. My inability to plan for the future, heretofore one of my biggest flaws, is coming in handy these days.

I’m usually a fairly happy-go-lucky person. Even through semi-traumatic events. I look back on the tumult I felt when I was younger, and you could pay me no amount of money to step in a time machine and rewind to those days. I’m generally happier and more comfortable in my own skin. I’m no longer petrified of talking to people. Going alone to places is still uncomfortable and scary, but in a weird way, sort of exhilarating.

One thing I can take away from all this: I definitely waded back into the dating pool far too soon. Something is definitely not right when you are recycling the same break-up songs you used to get over a previous ex! I never even had time to delete that playlist of self-pity.

“The license said you had to stick around until I was dead. But if you’re tired of looking at my face, I guess I already am.”

I know now that I need time to slowly build up the boundaries around myself which had, for some reason, crumbled during this mad little fling (or were they really even there in the first place? I really was too vulnerable). A “fortress of solitude” does seem resolutely spinsterish, but no, I’m not resigning myself to total catlady-dom and Healthy Choice meals for one. I’ll date some day, when I’m good and ready.

Some of the people I date may be total jerks, and some of them might run fast and far away from my asocial antics (e.g., arguing politics on the first date!). I might connect with one or two, but for whatever reason, it might not work out, and then we’ll have to part ways in sadness. My heart will be disappointed, time and time again. I’ll survive all that. I’ll still have me.

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A Field Guide to Getting Tragicomically Dumped

I am thinking about renaming this blog “The Dumpington Post,” as I appear to be gaining a lot more experience in that area (and apparently, this is the motivator for me to post again).

1. Cry ugly. Let the last image he sees of you be this Medusaic visage of matted hair, dripping mascara and burning red eyes. If you were foolish enough to date and be dumped by a coworker, make sure he has to walk past your desk to see that Medusa hell-stare you are flashing his way.

2. If possible, make a scene. If he has chosen a restaurant as the setting, sob into your napkin and be snappy to the waitresses who check up on you every five minutes to see if “you need more coffee?” or “is everything okay?”

3. Call/message every single person on your friends list. Including your previous ex who dumped you. Surprise a friend of yours whom you haven’t seen in months, and cry continuously while shoving french fries in your mouth. Don’t ask about his/her life.

4. Get in one last argument, about how you should stay together. You have tickets to a ballet! You bought a four season tent! How could he do this to you?!

5. Check the phone every hour to see if he has called or texted to change his mind, even though he told you no contact for a week.

6. Write a note letting him know how badly he wronged you, because you just have to get in the last word.

7. (Serious advice) read every word of this Ask Polly column, over and over again, when you can’t sleep at night because every molecule in your body just hurts.

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Read / Overwrite

Hello spambots! I keep meaning to post, because things have happened, both in my head and the world outside of it, but I often have trouble organizing what I want to say into words and stuff (and I spent how many credit hours and tuition dollars studying how to do this very thing?).

As the few of you who are not bots are aware, I broke up with Eli this past summer. Rather, Eli broke up with me (subject-object order is important). It was something that we had both independently agreed should probably happen. After six years, you should know whether or not you want to continue a relationship to the next “level” of commitment, whether that may be marriage, or moving in together, or whatever that looks like in your world (being able to watch each other poop?). And we had been coasting for some time, drifting along opposing tides, with no particular motivation on either part to pull back towards the other. The break-up was unequivocally a good thing.

Still, it’s awful even under the most amicable and reasonable circumstances (no screaming, no throwing bottles against a wall, and minimal ugly-crying transpired on my part). It always sucks to get dumped, even if you agree with the general results. You rewind endlessly over things that were and weren’t said, analyzing the footage. What could you have done differently to make this work?

When you’re with somebody for a long period of time, you accumulate habits, social circles, and inside jokes. It’s not just you and him/her; there’s another, living breathing thing that evolves over time and has its own consciousness and memory. Not a child but not quite nothing, either. And then it dies, abruptly. You divide up your mutual friends and whatever collected detritus, and part ways. There is no funeral. You get a mourning period of about two weeks, after which you’re expected to move on and get over it.

I think I am doing well in this respect. I actually feel genuinely happy with life, even ecstatic sometimes – over trivial things, like a little patch of sunflowers in someone’s garden on the bike ride to work, or an overly friendly toddler yelling “hi!” at me over and over again. Starting over in a new town is scary, but I am forcing myself to go do things and meet people. I’m in an improv class, I’m running a half-marathon next weekend, and my weekends are full. I keep myself far too busy to dwell on perceived failures. I don’t look and act a sobbing mess, but of course that doesn’t mean I’m a robot.

Though even robots can have feelings.

Even robots can have feelings.

There’s this museum in Croatia which displays artefacts of failed relationships. If I were to contribute, I’m not sure I would have anything tangible to put in it. All our inside jokes, which made sense only to the two of us and would just take forever to explain to someone else, wherein it would lose its humor. Stupid shit we did together. Patches of dirt and grass from all over the world. I guess a copy of Arcade Fire’s “Neon Bible” – I certainly can’t listen to it any more, as I discovered to my dismay when “Ocean of Noise” popped up on the radio one day while driving (did I say that ugly-crying incidence was minimal? Ahem).

The museum idea is cathartic. I wish it was possible to have a mental garage sale, so I could clear out space in my mind for other experiences and memories. I have met a few people, and there is this one guy I’m sorta-kinda-okay-I-really-am-crazy-about, and we went out for a beer one day after work and he is perfect, except for the minor fact that he is, oh, a full six years younger than me (oh god I am so old). I do so enjoy talking with him, but it’s a little tricky telling anecdotes and remembering to edit out instances of Eli – because nothing is sexier than hearing someone repeatedly mention an ex-boyfriend, right?

I worry that I am not ready to start the whole process of falling in love again. Despite my game face, I still feel a bit raw and not ready to be judged, and further complicating matters, I’m also a little uncertain of who it is that is currently inhabiting this body and brain. It’s a different person from she of six years past, and of course the both of us are very different from the person who started this blog about a million years ago. Maybe when I get to know the person who is here in the present day karenology, I’ll be ready to introduce her to gentleman callers. Hopefully that’ll happen before I get too much older, and they all lose interest (did I mention I am old?).

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