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Archive for January, 2009

Facebook

Have you seen this article in the NYTimes?  It’s about defriending, or unfriending, on Facebook.  I find the article – from the Whopper thing to the philosophical debate of unfriending – to be exhausting and ridiculous.

To be honest, I hate Facebook.  Like HATE.  After my experience this summer with AG and his posting of a non-sanctioned photo of me when I was in the fourth grade – the year my mother and her friend conspired to cut off all my hair – I’ve been leery of this whole Facebook thing.  But I stay on… you know, with the least amount of effort possible.  For example, I (almost) never list a status update.  (I will explain later how ALJ punked me on this one.)  I never write on my wall or the wall of another.  (Did you know other people can read that crap?!)  And I refuse to have a photo of myself on my page.  I don’t care if this makes some uneasy, especially when that pseudo-Mr.T-mohawk man appears as my picture, or if it makes some question whether I’m hiding from the po-lice… because maybe I am.

But are people really thinking so hard about their Facebook friendships – or, more accurately described, their Facebook non-friendships – that they are contemplating the hows and whys of unfriending someone?  I’ve gotten friend requests from people who I love and people I’d be okay to never see EVER again.  Regardless, unless an absolute stranger or a totally reprehensible human being, I confirm the friend request.  I mean, it’s not like I put anything personal on Facebook.  (You know what?  There is one piece of personal information on my Facebook profile that recently fucked me up a little bit.  But I will save that for another post.)  It’s not like I layout my woes or my joys for all of Facebook to read… you know, like I do here.  So what’s the big fucking deal? In any event, to call your Facebook friends “friends” – or to think of them as such – seems crazy to me… unless, by “friend,” they actually mean someone I met at age five and haven’t spoken to since age 10-ish.  Cause then “friend” would apply.

Seriously, the only thing that Facebook does to help me maintain friendships is to 1) keep flipping through photos in that rotating friend-photo thingy, so as to remind me that I have a friend out there who I really should send an email to, and 2) make sure that gmail-ers have another way to find me when my hotmail account decides that it hates a particular gmail account.  But otherwise, we may be overthinking this one.  And I know a thing or two about that.

So with the exception of a major meltdown in a relationship, be it a friendship or a sexual relationship, which may actually require unfriending someone just to save yourself from the torture of their stupid status updates and the super-easy cyber-stalking that would inevitably go on, especially in an effort to view the relationship-status field, and to prevent the other person from knowing any details of your life via wall-to-wall convos or photo albums, why would anyone go through the whole rigmarole to unfriend someone?  Maybe it’s easier to find the courage/nerve/chutzpah to tell someone that something is wrong in a relationship by blasting it across Facebook.

[Sidebar:  This reminds me of a friend of a friend who, just mere hours after an argument with her boyfriend, learned that her boyfriend broke up with her by receiving multiple posts to her wall from various people noting how sorry they were that she and her idiot (my word) boyfriend had broken up.  Puzzled, she looked at his profile and noticed that he changed his relationship status from saying that he was dating her to “looking for a relationship” or “single” or something similar.  Somehow, these two are still dating.  I’m trying not to judge.]

But that act – of outing a problem in a relationship by doing something childish on Facebook – is more akin to acting out, being dramatic, stirring the pot, etc, than anything else.  It doesn’t really seem to be about friendships.  High drama?  Yes.  Friendship?  Not so much.

Well, I can go on but I won’t.  Instead, I will leave you with this.  Friendship – real friendship, not cyber pseudo-friendship – is hard.  Really hard, in fact.  Friendship takes time and effort.  It takes communication and honesty.  It takes compassion and forgiveness.  If we’re lucky, we find a handful of people over the course of lifetime, who truly know us and who we truly know, who enrich our lives in ways that we didn’t think possible.  Relationships that, when predicated on trust and honesty, can materially change us for the better.  The flip side, of course, is that friendships can break our hearts in unique and profound ways that sexual relationships simply can’t.

But whatever friendship is or isn’t, it can’t be found on Facebook.  Because true friendship is found in the present.  In the now.  In the small things that make up our everyday lives.  In real time and face-to-face.  Not in a wall-to-wall post wishing someone a happy birthday.

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I am in Los Angeles for a few days visiting a friend from college and I just have one question:  why the fuck do I not live here?

Seriously, why?  December in DC was a dark, dark month… not only because of my mood, but also because there was no sun in the nation’s capital.  Then January, which I maintain has be much better than the preceding two months (and it’s not just because of all the birthday cake I ate), was freezing.  Like absurdly cold for our little pseudo-southern city. I mean, I was delayed more than two hours yesterday because they had to de-ice the plane.

[Sidebar:  De-ice the plane?!  Great.  I’m not a good flyer as it is.  Hearing that we need to de-ice or we will surely die is not a great way to start out a long flight.  And the prospect of having to spend the night in St. Louis because of all the delays and cancellations wasn’t thrilling either.]

So the question remains:  why the fuck do I not live in the sunny, 80-plus-degrees-in-January, super-delicious-produce, you-can-have-a-citrus-tree-in-your-yard southern California?

This might be a little too much like the old chicken-or-the-egg dilemma to answer, so I’ll stop.  But I am loving LA.  I woke up to birds chirping, which I usually don’t care for (can go into this at a later date), and the sun shining.  When I stepped outside to get the paper, it was super warm in the sun.  Then we did a little grocery shopping and found loads of fruits and vegetables that were super cheap and incredibly fresh.  (Like SUPER cheap and SUPER fresh.)  I made myself a limeade from the limes growing on the tree in my friend’s yard.  I mean, why would anyone want to leave this place?

Maybe I will remember why it is that I don’t like LA.  But for now, I’m just loving being outside.  In the warm sun.  Eating fruit.  And thinking about which newly released movie we are going to watch later.  (Revolutionary Road?  The Reader?  The Wrestler?  Margot at the Wedding?)  Cuz they have all of them.

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One of my favorite shows on TV is CBS Sunday Morning News.  There are so many wonderful aspects to this 90-minute news program – the longer segments, the constant recapping, Charles Osgood, the way they can make i-Pods and the internet seem like new inventions, a la Ted Stevens.

This past Sunday, however, I thought the show tackled some racy (for the show) and thought-provoking topics.

  • Surrogacy

Since Baby M hit the scene in the mid-80’s, I’ve been fascinated with the idea of surrogacy.  Surrogacy, a sci-fi idea in my mind, coming true in the State of New Jersey?  Amazing and riveting television, even in the mid-1980’s, what with Reagan, the Russians, and HIV.  So when I saw that CBS-SMN was doing a piece on surrogacy, I was hooked.

Addressing changes in the law over the last 20-plus years, as well as the strides other states have taken through the years to make surrogacy less risky for the donors of genetic material, the piece sought to balance the value of giving a person or a couple the ultimate gift, on the one hand, and whether this is just a uterus-for-hire scenario similar to a sex-for-hire scenario, on the other.

I’m not sure I see this issue as cut and dry as either of these positions, but it sure does seem complicated.  First, there is the general set of questions:  What does this mean for the way we define families in the law?  In our minds?  In our hearts?

The next set of questions in my mind are these:  Is it the “stranger”/contractual part that makes the concept of surrogacy harder?  If the story was about a sister or a best friend acting as a surrogate, would we accept that the act was more altruistic?  Less?  In the stranger scenario, is it a strict contract deal with a stranger who provides you a service like any other service?  If so, is this service more like hiring a carpenter than a sex worker?  Or is it like hiring a sex worker?  Or is it not like hiring a sex worker at all because, often, there’s no sex between the donors of genetic material in a surrogacy scenario?  Either way, is it really that problematic for someone to “rent” their uterus for this purpose?

I can understand prostitution, working in the porn industry, posing nude, etc, on some level.  In many ways I feel like, hey, you gotta eat.  It’s the being forced into this work because of a lack of options that can make it tragic.  In the piece, they talked to a woman who was a surrogate once before who has now decided to be a surrogate again because her husband needs a costly medical procedure.  So in these tough economic times, will we see more women going this route to feed, clothe, care for their families?  Does that make this scenario any more or less altruistic?  Meaningful?  Tragic?

The next tranche of questions, in my mind, deals with surrogacy versus adoption.  Okay, so adoption can be either a beautiful thing or a shady thing.  But is there something different about the inevitability of a preexisting pregnancy and the fact that a baby will be arriving on the scene who will need a home not with the birth mother that somehow makes it different from surrogacy where a person/couple has contracted for the creation of a child?

Finally (I think), is what does this mean for the women who act as surrogates? I’ve seen other documentaries and read articles about the psychology of women who act as surrogates for strangers.  These women seem to run the gamut from incredibly broken, lonely women to fairly grounded women with their own families who truly believe they are merely helping another family experience that joy.  But what is the toll for these women?  We know there is a physical component, clearly.  And then there’s the joy that comes from giving of yourself for another person, be it a stranger or a friend/family member.  But is there some other emotion toll that might go on that we haven’t been able to study yet?  Maybe, maybe not.  Either way, if a competent adult decides to engage in this type of contracting, for whatever the reasons, why should anyone care?  She’s being compensated.  She knows what she’s getting into.  Why not respect those decisions?  Just as we should respect a woman’s decision to continue a pregnancy or terminate a pregnancy, why shouldn’t we respect a woman’s decision to enter into a pregnancy for the benefit of another party?

I don’t have any answers here, but this piece was interesting.

  • Flight of the Conchords

A total surprise on the relatively sleepy CBS-SMN.  This is a wacky show on HBO that just started its second season.  HC L-O-V-E-S this show.  I thoroughly enjoy it, but I don’t think I can find it as funny as HC does.  Tune in and decide for yourself.  And below is a little taste of what you can expect from the show.

  • Augusten Burroughs

Then there was a piece on Augusten Burroughs and his memoirs.  Specifically, they focused on Running with Scissors, which I read, and explored the reliability of recollections in memoirs.

First, Running with Scissors.  There are very few things that GT and I disagree about.  He loved this book and demanded I read it.  I did and all I could think was, so what.  Yeah, it was totally crazy at times – especially with the filth level and the housing situation and the dog-snack-eating caregiver – but I wasn’t blown away by his experience.  That’s not to say that I didn’t think it was interesting; I just didn’t think it was as shocking as some others around me at the time did.  It was reading this book that I realized that, if I wanted to, I could write some fairly shocking tales myself, be it from my own childhood or the early lives of some of my cousins.  It was also the first time that I understood how one of my cousins – one of my mother’s contemporaries – could watch Mommie Dearest, the no-wire-hangers bit and all, and think, “I don’t think that kid had it so bad.”

[Sidebar:  That movie, Mommie Dearest, messed me up.  I saw it as a little kid and was messed up.  I didn’t use wire hangers for years.  Went so far as to change the hangers on the dry cleaning.  HC refused to comply with this and so I don’t do it anymore.  Still, to this day, I get uncomfortable when I use wire hangers or see them in a closet.]

Second, recollections.  With the explosion of the very dark memoirs and the realization that the James Frey’s of the world may be blurring the lines between fact and fiction for the sake of a good story, the question of recollections has become interesting to me.  We know that two people can experience the same event and have varying accounts, emotions, physical/emotional harms, and the like.  So why is it so shocking to learn that some of these memoirs push the lines of reality?

On another level, I don’t find it all that hard to believe that someone could write something in good faith and someone else who was present at that same time could read that account and think, HELL NO!  I’m not talking about the basic fact stuff like we had a dog or we didn’t.  But recollections are just that – an individual’s memory of an event that might have happened decades ago.  How those memories root themselves into one person’s memory versus another’s seems completely subjective.  Maybe there is science out there on this, I don’t know.  What I do know is that, with the prevalence of misinterpretations and miscommunications in my life, I don’t think someone has to be duplicitous to walk away from a shared experience with a completely different point of view or recollection from another person person.

Surely this doesn’t mean that I condone lying.  Frey could have easily said that his book was based on true events, something that he and Burroughs ultimately had to do because of lawsuits and subsequent backlash.  But I’m just not as outraged by the whole thing.  Maybe this goes back to my shoddy memory issue.  I don’t know.  Or maybe it’s because AM has told me never to let the truth get in the way of a good story.  Either way, I think most people are drama mamas who, at the very least, exaggerate.  But I’m willing to be proved wrong here.

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Roller Derby

Ever since I saw the A&E series Rollergirls, I’ve been intrigued by roller derby.  So when HC told me that a friend of his has a friend who is on the DC roller derby team, Scare Force One, I knew I had to go to a bout.

By coincidence (I swear!), AEF was in town this past weekend – the weekend of the bout.  AEF, who is always willing to do something wacky at my request, was in.  As was AM, her boyfriend, ALJ and her family, and ALJ’s friend and her kids.  I have to say, it was wacky and fun and silly.  I would absolutely go back.  And not just for the derby.  No.  You see, there is this women’s drumming group, which was thoroughly enjoyable, AND there were children tumblers.  They were the highlight of the night.

Imagine your middle school standard-issued gym clothes.  Now imagine the gym show you attended or participated in while in middle school in said standard-issued gym clothes.  Now add a unicycle and some juggling.  Seriously, this was the most hilarious thing I’ve seen in a long time.  Well, hold on – the most hilarious thing I’ve seen in a long time was AM trying to convince her boyfriend MB to do some of the routine with her.  More specifically, each time she yelled out – “No, I want you to get on top one me!  You know, in a non-sexual way.  No, I want to be on top!  You have to be the bottom!  You know, in a non-sexual way.” – I could barely control myself.

So I’m in for the roller derby again.  Only question now is what my derby name should be.  HC keeps coming up with ridiculous and lame names like “Curly Killer.”  But I think I need something better.  I’m working on it… and taking suggestions.

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ALJ has been on maternity leave since mid-November.  While I was in my own private Idaho for much of November and December, January has been a different story.  By different story I mean, I’m not giving into the blues as much this month.  Part of the whole resolution thing.

Anyway, because of this, ALJ, her sweet son JLJ, and I have been all about town this month.  We started off with an at-home visit where ALJ cooked for us.  It was fabulous as always.  And I knew that that JLJ and I would be BFF.  He just hung out in his swing and slept while ALJ and I were laughing and carrying on a few feet away.

And JLJ has continued to impress.  When we dragged him to Baltimore on our first attempt to pick up my car from the auto body shop, he was a dream.  We had a great day in Charm City, and ALJ and I fell in love with Baltimore and especially the Fells Point area.  [Note:  I have loved Balitmore since seeing the first episode of The Wire.  But our outing was slightly different from a Wire episode.]  So cute, delicious food, quaint shops, fun bars, and an amazing gelato shop.  Only on the drive home did JLJ lose his mind a little bit.  But ALJ, accustomed to dealing with infants, couldn’t have been more poised throughout the hysteria.  And she managed to keep me calm too, which is a feat in and of itself.

When we had Charm City Take Two last week, JLJ was equally sweet.  And, more importantly, ALJ found us a bona fide NJ-style diner in Baltimore.  It’s on Eastern Ave and it just off the highway – which is very NJ.  But more amazing – when we walked in, ALJ was like “Whoa, this place looks like the Tick-Tock!  No, seriously, doesn’t this look like the Tick-Tock?”

Now for you non-New Jerseyians, the Tick-Tock (oh, and enjoy the music) is a diner in Clifton, NJ.  If you travel Route 3 at all, you know this place.  And chances are, you’ve been to this place.  The Tick-Tock is a true diner.  And the Broadway Diner is as well.  You can get a delicious omlette or a perfect Greek salad 24-hours a day – you know, the way G-d intended.

So if you find yourself on 95 near Baltimore, check out the Broadway Diner.  Who knows – you might find ALJ, JLJ, and me there.

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[Okay, so the title is somewhat disingenuous.  I don’t date, at least in part, because HC doesn’t think it’s a good idea.]

Well, the day finally arrived.  On Tuesday, Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States.  And HC got us tickets to the ceremony.  Not sure who he had to sleep with to make that dream a reality, but I couldn’t have been more proud.

Now, don’t get too excited.  In many ways, Tuesday was a comedy of errors.  Don’t get me wrong.  It was great to be there.  The moment really did feel historic.  Standing with people who traveled from Georgia and Minnesota and California and all around the country to witness this momentous event was, in and of its self, remarkable, moving, and inspiring.

But this shindig did happen in the District of Columbia, a town not known for its efficiency and ability to deal with crowds well.  So… shit was fucked up.

Early AM Shenanigans: I’ve had some troubling sleeping the last few months.  But January has brought full nights of sleep back.  But the one morning I had to be up before 9am, I could not sleep.  When I woke up at 4am, that was it.  Until, of course, 6:25am – 5 minutes before the alarm went off.  Great!  The day was not starting off well.  .

My people weren’t meant for cold weather: Every person I talked to about going to the inauguration made it a point to tell me that I had to layer.  “Don’t forget to layer.”  “You know, you really need to layer.”  “You are wearing gloves and a hat, right?  Oh, and don’t forget to layer.”  Christ!  Yeah, I get it.  I need to layer.  And, for those folks who know me well, you know that I fucking hate to layer.  I fucking hate wearing gloves or a hat or anything on my ears.  Fucking hate!

But I think I did a good job layering.  To the shock of many, I own, and wore on Tuesday, long johns, some super-warm gloves, this earmuff contraption, and a super-warm scarf.  Then I made one crucial mistake – I wore sneakers with just one pair of socks.  This would come back to bite me later.

Tourists + Metro = Hot Mess: DC deals with tourists, who seemingly can’t cross the street without assistance, all the time.  Generally, for me, this means that I steer clear of any spot that could be even remotely thought of as a tourist location.  This includes avoiding the metro unless absolutely necessary.  So for me, the inauguration forced me to walk straight into the lions’ den.  Not only did I have to commingle with tourists at every turn, I had to take the metro – with said tourists.  And good G-d, there were a lot of them.

After having to let 3 trains go, a near breakdown by me – and a threat that I would leave him at the metro station – convinced HC that we had to just push our way onto the next train, regardless of how packed it was.  Great success!

Purple Gate Entrance: We had tickets to the purple north standing section.  This section, it would turn out, was the worst section to have tickets to.  Everything about gaining access to the ticketed sections of the Mall was fucked up.  No one – and I mean NO ONE – had any idea where anything was.  Nothing was roped off.  There were no signs that were worth a damn.  One would think that, if you are standing beneath the “Purple Gate Entrance” sign that you would be somewhere near the purple gate entrance.  But no, this would be way too easy.  So we just stood next to some folks with purple tickets and hoped for the best.  Shockingly, we got into the purple standing area before 9am.

We’re in!  Now what?: Standing around in the cold with strangers might be fun for some, but this is not enjoyable for me.  Even with beer, this would not be fun for me.  I think this is why I don’t care for football.  But there was this feeling of excitement in the air.  So there was that.

Where’s the Podium?: While we were pretty darn close to the podium (comparatively speaking, that is), we could not for the life of us find the damn thing.  We had a great view of the teleprompter or jumbo-tron or whatever it is you call that thing.  But even that had a tree in front of it.  We thought that maybe HC could see the podium because of his great height.  But alas, no.  Still, this didn’t bother me at all.  I just didn’t care.  Being there and seeing 2/3 of the jumbo-tron seemed like more than enough.  I mean, Barack Obama was about to be sworn in up there!

Christ, it’s colder than I thought: My failure to wear insulated shoes and/or a second pair of socks was a huge mistake.  HUGE.  My feet, which were well planted in the cold, wet grass, were like blocks of ice.

O-ba-ma!: Even with Chief Justice Roberts’ attempt to sabotage this historic moment, being there for the oath and the speech made every ounce of cold worth it.

Shit, not again: The exit from the purple section was way more orderly than the way in.  But it was clear that our only option was to walk home… again.  Whatever, we have a new president and I feel great.  Even as a bird shit on my head (not lying), I felt good.  There’s no raining – or shitting – on this parade.  Though I did not go to the parade.  I desperately needed to warm up and eat something.

My mother wants to know how my balls were: HC and I had tickets to two unofficial balls.  One was the NJ Society ball.  It was a little cheesy, what with the “It’s a Shore Thing” signs and the green felt card tables section and the E Street cover band.  But the party was sponsored by Ketel One, my vodka of choice, so once again, NJ rocks it out.  The second ball, cleverly named the Blue Ball, was a different story.  Due to the extreme cold, the closed roads, a tragically clueless cab driver, and the fact that I was in basically a nightgown, we didn’t make it.

[Sidebar:  I’d like someone to pass a law making it a requirement that cab drivers’ pass some sort of district geography test before giving them their credentials.  I mean, some of these folks have no idea where anything is.  Worst still, they have no idea what the quickest route to anything is.  With the zone, it didn’t really matter.  But with those outrageously expensive meters now, oh it matters.  The New Yorker in me can’t stay contained.]

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HC and I looked at houses on the Hill on Monday.  We should have known that this was less than a stellar idea, but you know, we don’t think ahead.  And probably a good thing we don’t think ahead because we found a house we love (or maybe it’s just me who loves it) and want to bid on.  So that’s good.

But this little jaunt onto the Hill brought more inauguration drama.

If Disney World is the happiest place on earth (which I still contend is just not true – I mean, have you been to that place?!), Union Station was the unhappiest place on earth this week.  (Okay, clearly there are other places in the running, but just go with it.)

In its infinite wisdom, the powers that be here in DC decided to make it absolutely impossible to get into the Union Station metro stop.  At every turn, some official looking person with a weapon of mass destruction (I still am not clear what those large guns are supposed to do other than intimidate), told us to go this way or go that way – each time contradicting each other.  It was sorta like we were Dorothy asking the Scarecrow for directions.  If I only had a brain….

So after walking in a gigantic circle at Union Station – with a gazillion tourists who had less of an idea of what was going on then we did, who felt it necessary to just stop still to take in the sites like Auntie Anne’s and Sbarro’s – we decided to walk.  Trust that I was less than thrilled at the prospect of walking to Dupont – again – in two days.  Again, it’s not the distance.  The walk itself is not so bad.  But with the newly-earned blisters, I was really worried.

Luckily, with the use of a BlackBerry and google maps, we were able to find an alternate metro route home.  But it’s clear that things are a hot mess in this town.

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