Monthly Archives: September 2013

3 Strange Encounters with Guys

It’s hard trying to be an adult for the first time at age 34. I’m slowly teaching myself to cook, learning how to live alone… basically doing for the first time many things that most people learn in their 20s, and that make them secure, stable people in their 30s. As you all know, one of those things is dating. My interactions with guys are therefore in flux. So, here are three recent situations:

1. T.
T has been clingy since we first started seeing each other. He described himself as 焼きもち, a jealous type. Unused to my weird sleeping habits (I don’t sleep well, so I tend to be in bed for many, many hours trying to feel rested), he told me my claims of having “just woken up” or “having gone to bed at 11 last night” were 怪しい (suspicious), when I finally got around to texting him in the mornings. If I’d been more secure, and more experienced with guys I’d have told him this was unacceptable and broken it off. But I didn’t.

One night I wrote him that I was exhausted and needed to turn in early, to sleep in my own bed where it was quiet. (Longer term readers of my blog will recall T’s epic snoring.) Well, he showed up at my place to see if I was really alone, fell asleep on my single bed, began snoring like a chain saw, and left me to curl up on the floor, sleepless. I vowed to break it off with him. But I didn’t.

He would freak out when I hung out with male friends and there was any kind of lapse in my texting, and just this Friday when I was out late and then conked out when I got home without texting, he became cranky, suspicious, and jealous.

None of this is good. If he and I were in the same country, we’d be having a talk and perhaps breaking up. But as it stands, in my current state o’ mental-health, I’m just ignoring the bad behavior and putting off dealing with it.

2. OkCupidWith my short hair and nerdy, vaguely dykey appearance, I imagine I’m not prone to receiving the same kinds of messages as most women. I tried using OkCupid for a bit in Tokyo, but it was almost all men who were in town on business and wanted to cheat on their wives. I still remember one OkCupid “date” that I didn’t realize was a date, wherein I said goodnight and began to walk home, while the guy stood behind me slack-jawed, clearly shocked. I only realized later after reevaluating our conversation that he assumed we were going to have a hookup that night. And he’d made it obvious. But I am that clueless about these things.

So, I’ve gotten some fun messages lately on OKC:

“Is it weird that I want a girl to pretend I’m Superman and weaken me with kryptonite and play a sexy seductive villain and lead me into a trap like use green glowsticks as the kryptonite rocks?”

Yes… yes that is weird. At least as an opener. And I’ve re-read some of my openers. I’m pretty weird too so, y’know, weird on.

And from a man who listed his age as 95:

Hi,
“Like you, I am looking for chemistry and companionship as well, very insightful and have a high emotional intelligence; good at conversation and yes, I am older. Someone who, she and I will complementary each other. I have MONEY!!!!! One will lift the other and be a joy to be around. Looking more than just the out side. my cell phone is xxxxxxx. Text me give the best time to call back. I would like to meet for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine ASAP.”

I won’t write– because I think it might be horrible– what popped into my head when I read that “ASAP” bit. His profile claimed that he is looking for a Hugh Hefner type of situation. I… yeah. My boobs are NOT fake enough for that.

3. The co-worker

So a girl goes to a bar, with her entire department. Everyone sits around and drinks merrily. The girl (oh whatever, switching back to first-person)… I am trying the delicious but $9 house cocktails, while most everyone else is pounding $2 can of PBRs. (Because even though we’re all broke graduate students, I’m a yuppie. I’m also still living on J’s income so, there’s that.)

Around 12, most everyone decides that they’re tired, including me, and we rise en masse to head out. But one of the guys, a fellow whose bipolar disorder* has trended to the manic lately, and who is clearly completely wired at the moment, begs a few of us to stay. I acquiesced even though I tend to hate staying out late. “One more weak drink and I can still be home early.” I thought. And really, I was lonely. And I didn’t want to go home to my empty house.

Well, one more weak drink turned into a couple, but I wasn’t really drunk or even buzzed. Still fit to drive, in other words. The cocktails were tiny, in addition to expensive. But of the three of us that were hanging around, two were clearly feeling their booze. As I sat on the porch in the sultry Houston night air, watching the lightning flicker behind the trees, I talked to one of these guys about the loss of my marriage and how hard I am struggling these days to just exist.

I remember confiding how difficult a time I am having with the idea of dating, letting down my guard, etc.

All of a sudden he was on me, kissing me in a big wet slobbery way. I was shocked. I felt violated. I was shocked.

Clearly he regretted it the moment he was done; he retreated into his hooded sweatshirt and began apologizing. I didn’t know what to say, so I said it was okay. I sat back. I blinked.

Do you sense a trend here?

Is this what happens to single girls?

As an academic, he should know better. We talk about power and privilege and gender dynamics for a living. He should know better, but we’re all a bit mentally deranged in academia, so he still could ambush me like that.

There is another apology from him in my Facebook inbox that I haven’t replied to yet. I don’t know what to say. The next day I was actively traumatized, because I was already traumatized before that happened and I NEED to feel safe these days.

Thank god my mom is coming to visit tomorrow.

*Not making light of. Completely serious and trying to be accurate.

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Supaidaa Paatei (It’s a Spider Party at my House, and You’re Invited)

(スパイダー・パーティー)

Nature is out to get me. No, no, the universe is out to get me. The whole universe. Especially the barista who gave me that sour milk latte the other day. But I digress.

Like so many Neurotic-Americans I blog am absolutely terrified of spiders. Just thinking about them hard enough can make me cry, and I do so every so often in front of someone, just to prove the point. I hate them. I find myself wondering why, if there is a Divine Creator, S/he thought it was okay to make something so sinister looking, or to allow it to evolve. So, the other day I saw a Really Big Spider outside, and nearly lost my shit, but I thought this was a one-off. Fast forward to last night…

I was washing my face when I caught a glimpse of something in the tub. Another random dust-bunny, I thought. My face dripping, I peeked over to check, because it kind of seemed to be moving on its own.

“Oh.. my… god…”

I said that out loud.

“Nooooooo, sir.”

That too.

In my (no longer) lovely and welcoming jacuzzi tub a spider the size of a silver dollar was gleefully sauntering along. I’m not kidding you. At the time, I took a photo because I thought perhaps people would think I was exaggerating The Size of The Horror, and I’d benefit from some validation about how traumatic it must have been to battle such a beast alone. But I punked myself. Because once I took that photo, I couldn’t look at my iPhone photos again. I knew that spider photo was in there, and I was petrified of seeing it, let alone waving it in the face of a friend. (I still haven’t accessed the photo album).

I stood in the bathroom flapping my arms like a duck for another full minute before deciding I’d better wash the thing down the tub drain. I dumped water on the thing. A lot of water. And then I noticed the drain was closed. The beast just bobbled along lazy-river style while I flapped and flailed some more, trying to figure out how I’d get the drain open.

I won’t tell you how long that took me.

When the beast drifted to the far side of the tub I pulled the drain open with a device I’ll call “the end of a mop”, and encouraged the spider to enjoy my theme park’s water slide by pouring a bit more water into the lazy-river.

The bastard was too big to fit down the drain.

It actually sat there on top of the drain with its arm flailing about as I stared at it in terror, saying:

“Oh…. heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelllll no.”

I thought about putting one of the dogs in the tub to see if he’d eat the spider, but I’d never be able to hug the dog again if that happened.

I finally got it to go down the drain, but before I tell you how I want to give any sensitive readers a chance to go visit another blog.

Ok.. we good?

I boiled some water in the kettle and poured boiling water on it.

Guiltily catching my breath, I LINE messaged T about the whole thing.

Horrified, he told me “You know spiders are guardian spirits sent to watch over your house, right?”

Oy… well, that explains the seemingly bad karma I have this week.

**** Part 2, The SMOKE ALARM

On Wednesday night I was shocked awake by the smoke alarm running tests at 3 A.M. Our my house has smoke detectors in every room, all wired to the ceiling. One had been chirping for a new battery the other day, and I couldn’t seem to get it to STFU because I hadn’t ever dealt with a smoke detector before.  I thought just changing the battery would be sufficient, but it wasn’t; I had to disconnect the thing from the ceiling wires.

Anyway, at 3AM it didn’t occur to me that there might be a fire. Rather, I assumed I’d done something wonky to the detector. But try as I might, it kept going off. I was near tears, hysterically/sleepily stumbling to the garage to get a ladder, trying to coax Mei out from under the car, trying to get London outside before he stress-pooed (things literally “scare the shit” out of that dog).

Sigh.

When I finally got the SD to stop periodically wailing, I was absolutely convinced it would come back on, so I spent most of the rest of the night tensely lying in bed, waiting…

Neither of these things happened when J lived in the house. Thanks, universe!

I wasn’t gone that long!

My mind doesn’t handle transitions well. Or maybe it’s no different from anyone else’s? I’ve been back for three weeks, and I still feel out of place. I want to go fleeing back to Japan. I keep having these moments in conversation, where the Japanese words appropriate to the occasion catch in my throat. Even though the social setting is English, I’d gotten used to people who understand at least basic phrases…

It’s happened three times already: someone has been blocking my way in an aisle or doorway, and I open my mouth to say “sumimasen…” or “iie iie daijoubu” or.. or anything in Japanese. But as I open my mouth I remember that it is wrong; my automatic verbal reaction stops just before I utter it. But then, then I stand frozen, not knowing what the words are in English. By the time my mind catches up, the moment is gone. I’ve awkwardly stared at a stranger in bewilderment and silence.

Tonight I just wanted to say “ganbatte” to a woman who had organized a big event, and was painstakingly making sure everyone had name tags. Then I started to say “kanpai” when I got my beer… Nothing complicated, nothing a casual visitor to Japan couldn’t pick up. But wrong nonetheless.

I often missed things about the U.S. while in Japan.. but there were a ton of English-speaking ex-pats in Tokyo, so there were people I could relate to. In Houston I don’t have “people who have spent a ton of time in Japan and who get it” to meet up with. The group I had dinner with tonight were fussing over my having even been to Japan and that made me so sad, for some reason. Having a place I think of as my second home (my first being a vague amalgam of “the U.S. in general but mostly the East Coast”) exoticized like that made me feel lonely. It makes me feel like something about me has shifted and is caught between two worlds, belonging fully to neither.

If I went back and read my entries in this blog from the spring, I’d have to laugh at myself. I was burned out, and I so badly needed a break in the U.S. Really, I needed some time with my dogs, away from T’s snoring and bed-antics. But now that I’ve had them I “want to go home” to Tokyo. Practically speaking, I can’t. I have no money. I am living off of the kindness of my parents, and J (although that’s a combination of kindness and obligation, legal and otherwise). I have too many things that I don’t want to sell off, two dogs, and a slew of student loan debt weighing me down. I think I’m stuck here for a while.

Maybe my alienation is a combination of a lot of things, and reverse-culture shock is just part of it.

The people that you meet

It wasn’t a good day, so I needed yoga class all the more. I signed up for a 7:30PM class with live music, the kind of thing that my solitary self has the luxury of doing at the moment. I’ve been oddly early to everything lately- oddly, that is, for me, as I tend(ed) to be chronically late even to important appointments, and have to constantly fight my urge to putter around my home just as I’m supposed to be heading out the door. No joke, I suddenly decided it’d be a good time to organize my scarves right before a shrink appointment this week. That was the old me rearing her head… or maybe the mentally healthy me.

Anyway, I arrived at this yoga class among the first three– one of whom was a handsome, tanned, and muscled tattoo instructor from the same school who was going through his own routine as he waited for class to start. The other was a lean, lithe woman with tangled dirty blonde hair, a white tank-top that hugged her frame, and silver bracelets galore. She planted herself less than a foot from my face as I walked in.

“Hi. I need to know. What that means.” She pointed to the tattoo on my right arm.

“Oh, um, it’s a Biblical verse.”

“What does it say?” She leaned closer, peering at me intently.

There are two kinds of people who ask about my tattoos– the ones who perceptively read into my clipped answer that I’m not in the mood to explain (when I’m not), and those who will not be satisfied until they extract a full explanation from me. I won’t slow down the narrative for you by explaining which kind she was.

“Oh, um, it’s about angels. And love.”

Her eyes widened. “See. I knew that,” she said manically. “I knew that. You. Like. I totally needed to hear that right now. Like. God, or um, whomever put you in my path so I could hear the words of love on your arm right now. Y’know?”

I couldn’t stop thinking that I was having a moment of failure as a human being. What if she ended up inviting me to a bar? What if she’s a fascinating (ex-drug addict, or my radar is broken) person, and all I want is to close off into my space and ignore her, even when I’m so lonely these days that it seems the only thing I can feel or think? She and I could sit in a dusty Houston bar, painted yellow and red with rusty silver stars on the wall, drinking bottles of beer and talking about dreams.

But no, if she invited me I’d probably think for a moment about how I’d rather go to Starbucks and go home to my dogs, and end up making excuses as I so often do. I’m just not good at spontaneity. Or people.

While I was thinking all of this I was nodding along with her.

“Um, so you want to know what it says?”

“Please. I feel like YOU. Were put in my path tonight. For a reason.”

“It simply says ‘If I should speak in the tongues of man and angels but have not love, I am but a clanging gong or resounding bell,’ I recited in my usual monotone.

Her eyes widened: “Beautiful” she breathed.

I demured: “Well, it’s fairly commonly used in weddings. Not really all that creative of me, actually.”

She wasn’t listening to me. She rambled along, in the same clipped, rapid fire manner : “So it means you need to. You need to have love. Love is everything. Or nothing you say. Is important. If it doesn’t come from Love. That’s so important.”

My eyes wandered to the front of the beautiful, rounded corner room with its enormous windows overlooking the Houston skyline. I made a move to put my mat down, and in this nearly empty room, she placed hers a mere foot from mine. I closed my eyes and lay down.

This class was beautiful, the live guitar and the drums complementing the yoga done in a dimming room, the sun dropping behind the skyscrapers as we moved through poses. The instructor did have an odd habit of saying “That’s niiiiiice” repeatedly, sometimes more than once in a sentence… i.e.: “Drop into downward dog… that’s niiiice… leg up…. ‘s niiiiice.”

But she ran a good class so I decided to stop counting the nice’s and gloating about my superior crow pose, and just… relax into it.

Also, the blonde woman cornered her at the end to explain the “Real meaning of yoga”, so all is forgiven. The instructor’s probably still in that studio.

Sitting in my parked car and e-mapping my route home, I found myself looking up and over to the white van parked next to my little car. Inside sat six women in black burqas, with only their eyes peeking back at me. I suddenly felt self-conscious in my exercise tank top with my short shaved hair and tattoos. But as I glanced away and then back, I found myself smiling at the woman closest to me. And then, much to my surprise, she lifted the front of her face covering so I could see her own smile, before letting it drop again. I actually giggled out loud in my car.

I’m trying to put on a brave front in public, but I feel like crying is my full-time job these days. Crying, wondering how I’m going to get through the day, and trying frantically to argue with the negative voices in my head.

(Digression- I wondered why the dogs were so quiet… as with children (I imagine), this is rarely a good sign. I’d left the closet open and they’d found their toy box, taken one out at a time, and had assembled themselves a nice little buffet of furry toys, squeakers long since destroyed.)

Project “No Lonely”: Steps to a Better Me?

Image

I’m trying to tackle the problem of my loneliness in the same way I tackle academic work~ by turning in it into a project, by applying my organization and research skills, making myself things-to-do lists, and the like. Project “New me” was going well until the weekend hit… Saturdays are by far the hardest day of the week, for me as for so many depressed/isolated people.

Anyway, here’s what I’m trying. I have a daily routine:

1. I got a new “solar” alarm clock. So far it’s actually getting my ass out of bed. I like the light and the chirping birds. So I’ve been rising much more easily than I ever have before, and that’s a big deal in my life.

2. Upon rising, I drink glass of room-temperature water with fresh squeezed lemon.
Why? I’ve been reading about the benefits of this one for a while, and I tend to drink a glass of water in the morning anyway, so why not?

3. 10 minute walk with the dogs. Why? Because my new Jawbone UP told me a walk upon rising helps kickstart the metabolism for the day, my dogs need the exercise, my pasty ass needs the vitamin D… but I won’t pretend I’m sucking in any fresh air considering the constant air quality advisories in Houston (humidity + car culture = smoooooooggg)

4. Self-help books. Why? They help me, they light a fire under my butt, they help me to keep my chin up. I finished Getting Past Your Breakup, and am now moving on to The Happiness Project

5. Affirmations Why? They’re part of the whole cognitive behavioral therapy thing. After reading the newest round of studies that show we are what we think, and that repeated negative thoughts wear grooves into our minds, I thought I might try to wear some positive grooves for a change. I use the bloom app to prompt me to do affirmations 3x a day, using photos I’ve taken myself.

6. Journaling. I hate physically writing… been using the computer for too many years now and hand-writing feels slow. But I’ve been writing letters to J, venting my spleen, babbling on paper, etc. It’s a combo of advice from three sources: this study on clearing negative thoughts, advice from the above-mention breakup book, and a bastardization of “Morning Pages” a cool technique from The Artist’s Way and explained well in this article.

7. Yoga. Why? (Well, I’ve been doing yoga for 18 years but…) I bought an unlimited yoga class pass (cheap on Groupon)  for the month of September, and I’m determined to get my $20 worth. Also, I need the social contact. Thanks to my friend K’s sending me the info, I’m also joining this 40 day challenge come Sept. 30. How cool is that? 40 days of yoga, meditation, study, and support!

8. Meditation. I’m trying. Why? Oodles upon zoodles of research showing the benefits for stress-reduction, focus, etc.

9. Gratitude. I am writing down three good things about every day. Why? it helps me to remember that even the darkest, most horrible days have something in them that is joyous. Even if it’s just “I made matcha and drank it”. (I am using the Lift app to manage this and all of the above items)

10. Tangentially related… am Pomodoro Techniquing my work routine. But that’s work.

I’m not actually sure trying to become okay with being alone is a good thing. I mean, humans are social creatures, right? I am definitely comfortable with quite a bit of alone time and keep myself very busy (see above, heh!) but…  I think on the contrary I need to try to get better at making plans with people. Spontaneity is very difficult for me, so… baby steps, man.

Maybe a week in advance I can try to schedule a coffee date with someone or something? And I am still turning over in  my mind whether to get a roommate. This house is too big for just crazy dysfunctional girl and her crazy, dysfunctional dogs. And if I’d had a roommate we all might have avoided today’s scene wherein I found myself sobbing at the top of a step-ladder, unable to get the smoke detector to stop chirping, as the dogs grew increasingly hysterical. I eventually got it together and google-solved my problem, but not without approximately 95% more freakout than was, strictly speaking, necessary.

Okay, I’m sick, I’m sleepy, and my front door is actually locked tonight so it’s bed time.

Ed note: I know, few of these ostensibly have much to do with loneliness- here’s the rub: wellness, is for me the first step to being able to socialize.