I have many skills and abilities. Some are useful and some not so much. I’m a good cook, for instance. There’s a useful ability. I can also give a decent blowjob, also a useful skill, especially after several years of marriage. I can edit the hell out of anything in print, sometimes useful (sometimes just an annoying voice in my head because most people don’t concern themselves with using correct object pronouns and active voice and such). I can plan and deliver a pretty good lesson, especially if it involves grammar!
Among my less than useful skills are my keen knowledge of nearly obsolete Office programs; my ability to see a vehicle from a distance and know the exact make, model, and ballpark year of assembly; and my keen introspection, which does nothing for me at the moment but bring on waves and waves of guilt.
Here’s what I know about myself today (because, like the subtitle of an old blog of mine once read, I’ve been psychoanalyzing myself since the seventies):
My alcoholism has indeed progressed to a new stage. My cousin’s method of “following skinny bitches on Instagram,” i.e., using women who look hot for inspiration to lose those extra pounds, ain’t working anymore. I don’t even fit into the fat clothes I bought at a thrift store last month to tide me over until I lost my extra weight. That was during a blissful week of sobriety, when I had almost reached that “how could I have done this to myself for so long?” stage. Almost. Then came the concert, always my undoing.
Anyway, my introspection makes me aware of this problem. My alcoholism doesn’t care. And my intelligence can’t ignore my alcoholism. We’re a strange trinity.
Today I thought about some of the infamous drunks I’ve known in my lifetime. There was the friend who, after a night of drinking with me and my ex, ate a whole pizza in our half bathroom. We woke up to no leftovers and crumbs all over the bathroom floor and thought, “What the fuck?” I display that kind of behavior now—the double-binge—when I drink too much and feel like I need to put something else in my stomach and that something else becomes everything I can get my hands on. That’s new.
I also thought about the two friends my ex and I drove five hours to visit one weekend. Infamous drinkers, they were. I had been drinking with one of them since I was twenty-two (a year of firsts in debauchery and experimentation, by the way). We knocked at their door, and knocked and knocked. Finally, one of them answered the door in his underwear, bleary and vaguely coherent. They’d been drinking all day, knowing that we were coming to visit. That truth didn’t stop them. Because, eventually, nothing does.
Am I there yet? God, I really judged all those reprobates that my ex-husband loved so much. Now, I’m secretly one of them. Secretly. I can still call some shots and avoid mimicking the behaviors of people I have respected least in my lifetime.
Oh, my goodness gracious–what are these HGTV house hunters thinking when they turn down a perfectly good property because the kitchen isn’t white or the bathroom doesn’t feature a bidet? You know what they are thinking? Nothing. Nothing of any substance, that is.
I’ll admit that I couldn’t criticize your average HGTV house hunter if I weren’t watching the show. And I watch the show religiously, like my Catholic friend never misses a mass. It’s a guilty pleasure that also provides for my edification. For instance, I know that someday none of this will matter.
But for now there’s something very compelling about watching your fellow Americans search for their dream house. They have their little wishes–a fish pond or a white kitchen or a Japanese toilet. Whether they know it or not, they have been made the fools in this network drama.
Times are changing, and owning the sizable walk-in closet to house your shoes isn’t gonna fly if this country puts itself on the chopping block. We gotta think about our place in the world.
… but the news is terrifying, so let’s talk about the state of mental health treatment in the United States instead:
I gave it a shot. I dutifully called up a recommended treatment center, I filled out a stack of papers and answered hundreds of questions about my personal habits. I gave them everything except my social security number, which they asked for, but which I declined to give. And what did I get in return? A bad, bad feeling in my gut.
That’s how it began anyway, with a bad feeling in my gut. Since this brief encounter with a profit-motivated addiction treatment facility, my feelings have evolved.
Have you ever felt that mixture of sadness, foolishness, and indignation after you’ve realized that someone is just trying to sell you the Kool Aid?
(It stings much worse when the peddler is a friend—For instance, I have a very good friend who started getting weird about a year ago, seemed to be trying too hard to make me happy. I attended one of her life coaching sessions, mainly to show my support for her newfound bliss, and I thought it was quite useful. Fast forward about six months, and I’m on the phone with her, trying to explain my need for peace, and she offers me a special private life coaching series, taught by hers truly, for the low price of $3000. Enter bad, bad feeling in the my gut—but I digress…)
I think the majority of mental health professionals in the U.S. mean well, but they’re just little people in a much bigger, much more powerful system. I think this judgey humorless robot doctor who now possesses a lengthy checklist that vaguely represents a lifetime of my impulsive behavior and alcohol and even sometimes drug use probably means well, but to put this whole stream-of-consciousness post into simpler terms, “She don’t know me.”
After getting steamrolled through her reductive questionnaire, which now, unfortunately, will become a part of my permanent record—there to fuck me if I want to buy life insurance or join the police force or what-have-you in the future—I waited in a very calming room on a very cushy couch while she scuttled off down the hall to consult with some other “professionals” with administrative-type titles about a recommended treatment plan for me. I never actually saw these people who attempted to decide my fate, and now I wonder if they existed at all. Perhaps, my charmless robot doctor just took a trip to the loo and read a magazine for a half an hour while I wondered about gravity of my “condition.”
When she recommended a treatment plan, a very expensive and time-consuming plan that would require me to spend every day of the next five weeks attending group therapy and doing yoga at the center—this is after I explicitly told her that if she recommended such a plan, I would not do it, that if she couldn’t offer a less-intrusive outpatient program, then we were just wasting our time (and my money)—I told her I needed time to think about it and discuss it with my husband.
Dr. Robot then handed me another stack of papers and told me I could discuss my decision with some other professional (whom I had never met and whose phone number I never received) when I came back next morning for “processing.” Man, this bitch was itching for my signature.
As you probably already figured out, I didn’t sign and I never went back. Like the time I slipped out of that weird job interview in the nondescript office building, but unlike the time I bought the timeshare, I didn’t drink the Kool Aid.
Sadly, I think that if this doctor had been more charming (or possessed any people skills at all), I might be sitting in a costly treatment center right now, costing my family so much more money than just insurance deductibles for child care and animal boarding, losing a potential new job, and losing and the job I already have because I’d be scheduled to do yoga at same time I was scheduled to teach. Since my stepkids’ mom is in charge of the neighborhood social committee, everyone I know would also know I was in rehab. NOPE, nope, nope. I’ll explore other options.
Even AA is starting to look good to me right now. Those people might be trying to sell me an ideology that I don’t entirely agree with, but they’re not asking for my money. I’d rather join a cult for free than join a group therapy treatment that costs thousands of dollars.
Ah, the things in this country that should be a part of our basic rights as human beings—basic health care, mental health care, addiction treatment—are all treats for the wealthy… But I digress again, and if you’d read this far, I’ve already taken too much of your precious time. Thank you, and Namaste.
I run. I do situps, weights, and planks almost every day. I eat a lot of protein and fresh vegetables and grains. I hike beastly trails. I kayak when I can. And I always take the stairs. I wear all the accoutrements of a fit, healthy person—physically and mentally. I smile in all my pictures.
And I drink.
Sixteen years ago was the first time I can remember openly addressing my alcoholism. I told my then husband that I wanted to keep beer out of our apartment. We were consuming about a case of cheap lite beer a night, and I was exhausted.
“Why should I have to change my lifestyle because you have a problem?” He replied. And that was the end of that.
I knew I had a problem before that evening, though. I was a drinker long before my twenty-first birthday; but it was after, when I found my people in bar culture, that I disguised my own habits by surrounding myself with those who drank more and who behaved worse.
That tactic succeeded—more or less—until my thirties, when I started to become the person who drank more, and who behaved worse, than her peers. It became harder for me to root out the foils. Those who did make me appear relatively sober by comparison were one or two blackouts short of falling down the well. Some, by now, have lost their jobs, some have committed suicide. Some have done even worse things.
Now I’m in my forties. Throughout my life I’ve had a few good years of sobriety—my longest stint was two. But those years are so few in a lifetime.
Yesterday, I started seeing a therapist, mainly because my psychiatrist refused to allow me to experiment with “anti-drinking” medications until I proved to him that I was making some kind of real effort to sort out this problem. I even found an addiction specialist, and she told me what I already knew—alcoholism is progressive.
“Your methods for quitting in the past,” she said, “might not work anymore.” And they don’t. I can’t wait around for another inspiring catalyst—a hangover to end all hangovers, or a friend’s going down in flames—to make an effort to address this progressive problem. And oh, how it has progressed! How my habits and state of mind have slowly, but progressively, shifted from too many beers at the bar to too many little bottles of something stronger hidden behind the couch and in the pantry and dresser drawers.
Beer doesn’t do it for me anymore. I might as well drink cola. Both just make me feel fat and bloated and not drunk enough. I like wine now, and gin, and vodka. The buzz is faster, so I can drink them on the sly. I pretend I’m not a drinker now. That way, those who are concerned about me don’t need to worry. Unfortunately, my father can see the real me, one of the people I care the most about not disappointing. A former drinker himself, he knows the signs—the weight gain, the erratic sleep schedule and random outbursts. He gives me my space by pretending he doesn’t see, but he does. He can read me like I can read him, and I read worry and annoyance in his tone and on his face. And I’m an asshole.
But aren’t all us addicts? Don’t we all disappoint? My own sense of morality can’t accept that.
So long story short—I think I’m on my way to the big “R.” Since I am high-functioning, and since I don’t yet show signs of physical withdrawal, my new therapist thinks I can manage to make a change in an outpatient program. Yoga and art therapy with the other drunks three days a week. I can do that. My schedule permits it. My insurance pays for it. It’s time for the big “R.” I can’t even say it. I’ll whisper it… rehaaaab…
Well, it’s Easter, so I’m seeing a lot of pastels and other awful Sunday best. Some of the neighbors are hosting the obligatory ham dinner I can see from the number of cars parked out on the street in front of their houses. Other driveways and streets are empty, their occupants eating their ham at someone else’s house. I wonder if anybody’s feeling particularly restored this year, rejoicing in their lord arisen and their souls buoyant. I’m not. Personally, I find Easter to be the most depressing of Christian holidays. When I think of Easter, I think of pastels, again, (never been a fan), and the moldy smell of a church basement where kids gathered to color creepy pictures of Jesus with his arms upraised and his hair all combed and neat. I think of quiet, nervous little ladies trying to teach us something, but with a bit of edge in their voices, like they just knew how many of us would never return after the age of ten. God, I hate church.
I think my church was always the blue sky and the sound of wind through the leaves of the trees around my childhood house. My psalms are the sounds of the doves outside my window that woke me up with their cooing in the springtime. When I first read William Cullen Bryant’s “Thanatopsis,” I felt like I had come home. It’s about death, “Thanatopsis,” and it makes no apologies for it. Resurrection, to the American Romantic like Cullen Bryant, was in the form of a new molecular structure—ashes to ashes, dust to dust. This poem told me that there could be nothing more beautiful than returning to the earth, feeding it like all of our forefathers did. Will I be worm food? Yes. But I like worms. Jesus avoided that fate. Hadn’t his flesh disappeared from the tomb after the crucifixion? If that’s the case, then he never really returned to the earth, did he? Had he rotted in the ground, fed the next season’s crops with his decomposed flesh, then he’d really be a part of this, a part of my church.
To him who in the love of Nature holds
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
A various language; for his gayer hours
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile
And eloquence of beauty, and she glides
Into his darker musings, with a mild
And healing sympathy, that steals away
Their sharpness, ere he is aware. When thoughts
Of the last bitter hour come like a blight
Over thy spirit, and sad images
Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,
And breathless darkness, and the narrow house,
Make thee to shudder, and grow sick at heart;—
Go forth, under the open sky, and list
To Nature’s teachings, while from all around—
Earth and her waters, and the depths of air—
Comes a still voice—
Yet a few days, and thee
The all-beholding sun shall see no more
In all his course; nor yet in the cold ground,
Where thy pale form was laid, with many tears,
Nor in the embrace of ocean, shall exist
Thy image. Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim
Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again,
And, lost each human trace, surrendering up
Thine individual being, shalt thou go
To mix for ever with the elements,
To be a brother to the insensible rock
And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain
Turns with his share, and treads upon. The oak
Shall send his roots abroad, and pierce thy mould.
Yet not to thine eternal resting-place
Shalt thou retire alone, nor couldst thou wish
Couch more magnificent. Thou shalt lie down
With patriarchs of the infant world—with kings,
The powerful of the earth—the wise, the good,
Fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past,
All in one mighty sepulchre. The hills
Rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun,—the vales
Stretching in pensive quietness between;
The venerable woods—rivers that move
In majesty, and the complaining brooks
That make the meadows green; and, poured round all,
Old Ocean’s gray and melancholy waste,—
Are but the solemn decorations all
Of the great tomb of man. The golden sun,
The planets, all the infinite host of heaven,
Are shining on the sad abodes of death,
Through the still lapse of ages. All that tread
The globe are but a handful to the tribes
That slumber in its bosom.—Take the wings
Of morning, pierce the Barcan wilderness,
Or lose thyself in the continuous woods
Where rolls the Oregon, and hears no sound,
Save his own dashings—yet the dead are there:
And millions in those solitudes, since first
The flight of years began, have laid them down
In their last sleep—the dead reign there alone.
So shalt thou rest, and what if thou withdraw
In silence from the living, and no friend
Take note of thy departure? All that breathe
Will share thy destiny. The gay will laugh
When thou art gone, the solemn brood of care
Plod on, and each one as before will chase
His favorite phantom; yet all these shall leave
Their mirth and their employments, and shall come
And make their bed with thee. As the long train
Of ages glide away, the sons of men,
The youth in life’s green spring, and he who goes
In the full strength of years, matron and maid,
The speechless babe, and the gray-headed man—
Shall one by one be gathered to thy side,
By those, who in their turn shall follow them.
So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan, which moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.
My mornings are always filled with grand promises to myself: I’m going to start a healthy diet; I’m going to stop drinking; I’m going to get up earlier; I’m going to write and read more and watch TV less. Yup. It’s 10:04 as I write this, and I’m still processing my second of two routine cups of coffee, hours past my early morning wakeup goal. My coffee ritual in the morning, that nothing can officially begin until I’ve processed those two cups, is about the only routine in my life that I’ve built and haven’t strayed from since I was sixteen. It only takes a few weeks to build a habit. I’ve built quite a few and even managed to make some of them healthy habits. But the scales tip more to side of unhealthy in my world, and my success rate at kicking is much lower than my success rate at starting. I think coffee is the only habit I haven’t tried to kick at some stage or another. I mean, why, you know? Why kick coffee? I do much worse things to my body in the course of a day.
And speaking of those other habits, I’m going to kick them now! The diet starts TODAY. The detox starts TODAY. The munchies after 11:00 pm end TODAY. Blah blah blah. Now I really sound like a middle-aged woman.
I remember, decades ago, listening to my mother talk about the exercise routine that she was going to start any-day-now. She was going to start walking and riding her bike. Yup. She’s 75, and I think she’s ridden a bike ten times in the past three decades. Her get-up-and-go got up and went before she even tried to start that habit. Am I gonna be like my mom and talk about what I need to do for the rest of my life? Or my mother-in-law, who has been talking about starting a diet since the eighties? I heard one time she actually did stick to a diet and lost like forty pounds. I think my husband might have been in middle school or something—it was that long ago. But it was a triumph she still talks about. She has plans to return to that svelte woman who looked so good in a red dress at her 40-something year-old son’s Bar Mitzvah. Ahhhhhh! I can’t do this to myself. I can’t become these women who I am so eerily resembling at the moment.
Well, then I guess I have to cultivate and maintain some good behaviors for at least three weeks, the minimum amount of time it takes for a behavior to become a habit. Let’s start today. Why not, right? Tomorrow’s not gonna hold any more promise than today for getting my life back. It’s April 14th. I must maintain my good behaviors until at least May 5. I can do that. I can do that, right? Yeah, I can do that.
I should know by now that when all the women in my family are passing a book around and even becoming irate when it isn’t returned fast enough, something’s up with that book. With the 50 Shades of Grey series, their attraction was obvious. The marketing makes it hard to avoid the 50 Shades pervasive theme—fucking, and so the matrons of my kin red-facedly admitted that they were reading sex simply by owning copies. They didn’t share with me what would have been horrifying details coming from, say, my mother or my aunt, but the ladies acknowledged what they had to acknowledge—they were all reading erotica.
After the 50 Shades of Grey and its attendant shades craze, which—incidentally—I still refuse to read, I should have known that The Outlander was a much-better disguised (and written) bit of porn itself. My mother has been recommending the series for years, but it was my latest interest in edible weeds and other information on basic survivalism that led me, finally, to crack it open (pardon the pun). Before I even knew Outlander was historical porn, I was quite satisfied with what I got—I didn’t drift off after every few pages, I started visualizing landscapes, and I even began highlighting points of interest. For the first hundred pages of The Outlander, I was perfectly content to learn about pagan traditions, the Scottish countryside, healing herbs, and eighteenth-century fashion.
Then—WHAMMO—the leading lady gets force-married to the hunkiest outlaw Highlander in the gang, who plows her and/or beats her into unconsciousness every twenty pages or so. Then the plot becomes a distraction!
Of course, I am exaggerating a little. Claire doesn’t explicitly say she was unconscious on those occasions… she might have just been playing dead… OK, seriously, there are the tender moments, too; and entertaining dialogue and bizarre vocabulary for objects that no one has used in two-hundred years. Basically, it’s a learny kind of text, the kind that I will annotate. And it’s also erotica. So I am reading it with gusto, like all the other women in my family read it. Interestingly, none of these women ever said a single word about the copious sex scenes. I actually got lured into joining their porny book club by the assurance that I would learn a whole lot about how people lived in the eighteenth century. I really am a nerd, aren’t I?
Since my family appears to be too prudish to admit that there’s a heck of a lot more to this series than the rich descriptions of the stars in the sky and the blue lochs of Scotland in the eighteenth-century, I’ll go ahead and introduce the series on their behalf—there’s lots of sex. Tender sex, grimy sex, violent sex, any kind of sex. It’s there. But, oh boy, is it ever providing me with so much historical information. If you’ll excuse me, I have studying to do…
I have a delicious morning routine that I have indulged to the fullest since I quit teaching in public schools. Twelve years of getting up before daylight, rushing out the door, and trying to map out the day ahead as I exited the highway with the sun’s just creeping up over the dead industrial horizon taught me how to really enjoy a slower morning.
Anyway, my morning routine goes something like this:
- I hit the snooze on my smartphone (the alarm is always set for a reasonable, productive hour) for an hour to an hour-and-a-half.
- I think about my dreams. I always have dreams.
- I talk to the animals that wander into the room and that finally inspire me to get up and let them out (I know I sound like lonely pet lady here, but I swear I have a husband. He just operates on an entirely different schedule.).
- I get up, let the dogs out, pour a cup of coffee, let the dogs in.
- I feed the dogs.
- I drink my coffee, pour another cup, and drink that while I skim headlines of various news apps on my Kindle.
- I choose the stories that interest me most, and I read them.
- I stop reading when I can no longer stand being stared at by two dogs that expect me to take them for a walk the minute I wake up, yet never do.
- I take the dogs for a walk.
After that, anything goes. Often, if it’s a weekday, I spend a good chunk of that day preparing for my night classes—grading or tweaking lessons or creating ancillary materials or just generally staying ahead of the students. It’s what teaching should be. All teachers should be able to think during some point in the day and thoughtfully plan during others. Having that time allows us to connect with students and properly differentiate our instruction. It wasn’t until I had this kind of time to live my life AND teach that I realized that I’m a fairly effective instructor—student-centered, with progressive yet research-based methods that drive learning. How about that? It’s all about time.
Lack of time is the elephant in the room that American educators rarely talk about above the grassroots levels, the “trenches,” if you will. It’s one of those things that just about every other developed country on this earth (and many developing countries) including China provide for their teachers. Not every country provides the kind of time off for students and teachers that the U.S. does, but believe me, Uncle Sam and his league of state legislators have found a way to make teachers pay and pay for those extra weeks in the winter and summer. Given the average quite shitty teacher pay rates that rarely keep up with inflation or rising insurance costs, those two months in the summer, if you can afford to take them (and most younger teachers don’t because they need to make extra money), feel more like rehab than a vacation.
I will go back to public schools, I will do it all over again if I can just show up at a reasonable hour and teach a reasonable number of classes a day with a reasonable number of students in them, and attend a reasonable number of meetings and spend a reasonable amount of time planning instead of whatever bullshit the administration needs me to do to keep the school running on a skeleton crew. My last school (and this wasn’t where I spent the bulk of my career, but a place where I dipped my toes after taking a significant amount of time out of the public school arena. As soon as I saw the writing on the wall, during the first week of my tenure, I officially resigned) had teachers doing the jobs of the custodial crew.
I will do it all over again, I suppose, when pigs fly. Maybe when hell freezes over… ok, that’s enough clichés. Six and counting (Can you find the other three?!).
The sad thing is, when I left that last school, the one I mentioned above—where, incidentally, I ended up spending a month-and-a-half because my principal, literally, wouldn’t let me leave—the friends I’d made on the faculty and staff didn’t hide their envy of me or their dissatisfaction with the way things were. More than one single or widowed mother told me, “I don’t blame you. I could do it, if I would.” The way they looked at me when I said I was leaving might have resembled how a prisoner looks at her cellmate when she’s about to be released, or like a soldier might look at his fellow who is about to finish a tour. Probably shouldn’t be that way.
There are other jobs that teachers can do, depending on the subjects they teach. English teachers have the flexibility to get into writing and publishing fields or to pursue a higher degree and transition into law or project management or something. Math and science teachers have a wider range of possibilities. I’ve seen young teachers transition out of the field rather smoothly. The older you get, though, the harder it is to make that transition into an entry-level field where you have no experience. I have all my eggs in one basket (Cliché number six, POW!), so I’m staying in this field, albeit part-time. My colleagues above who envied my escape are staying in this field, full-time. Our lives are very different from one another’s.
I could say so much more. The English teacher always can. Honestly, I don’t want every teacher to transition out of the field. Who does? We’re needed. We’re just not loved.
This has been a heck of a 40something week. A friend sent me a thank-you letter for driving six hours to attend her mother’s funeral a year ago this Monday; one of my mom’s closest frenemies passed away the day my mother got back to town from her month-long visit to relatives’ houses. Mom had her knock-off Michael Kors on her arm and the car keys in her hand when she checked her email for the hospice address and found a follow-up: “Don’t bother.”
What else happened this week? Well, I realized that my self-prescribed 40mg. dose of Flouxetine is a bit much in sobriety. On 40mg. of Flu, I don’t sleep the very rewarding-because-I-gotta-get-something-out-of-this deep sleep of the non-drinker. Instead, I wake up 100 times and stare at the ceiling fan or rearrange my arms and legs around my blankets and pillows, just like I used to do when I’d wake up at 4 in the morning with a sugar high after a long night of designer beer with high alcohol content.
(And not to be tangential, but remember when designer beer first started appearing on the shelves? Prior to those years, I had thought that Molsen Golden was a beer as fine as a seven-and-a-half dollar glass of some local microbrew. Now the shelves are glutted with choices, and consumers are bored, so they’re making it themselves.)
Which brings me back to my week—friends, death, sleeping, friends. These are the worries of this 40something woman. Oh, and then there’s the kids’ growing up and roaming aimlessly after school and not calling you to tell you where they are and then, after you finally track them down right before calling the police, having to have “that talk” about trust and responsibility. Fuuuuuuuuck.
I didn’t sign up for that part (well, I actually did.), but it’s a hoot compared to my Mom’s stage in her life. I sent her a sympathy card for her friend, too, because why should only the family mourn the loss of someone they care about? Even if those friends were co-dependently bonded and sometimes hung up on the other and bitched about the other and then turned around and stepped up for each other, they were still friends. Some of my earliest living memories include this woman’s children, who are all forty-somethings like me now. My mother’s and this woman’s friendship has existed as long as we have.
So, friends… I’m still not done with the week. My dog had a seizure for the first time ever, on a hiking trail. That’s the first time I realized that if something happened to an 87 pound dog on my watch then I would have to be the one to carry him to the car. I’m gonna start lifting weights for real. Luckily, the dog recovered, and I got him to the vet. His declining health is not the subject of the story, though, but the fact that I used his declining health as an excuse to cancel plans with a friend.
My husband and I are the lord and lady of canceling plans. We’re building up quite a rep these days. I know why we do it, though. We’re NOT in our thirties anymore, and I don’t mean for that to sound like we’ve become geriatric. We just understand the benefit-cost ratio of honoring certain plans and canceling others. We want to be active participants in all of them, but when it comes time to accept what participating means—driving forever to someone’s place, not being able to find a parking spot, wandering the Saturday streets full of loud drunks, and then driving home—we recognize the moments ahead of us are finite and decide it isn’t worth the aggravation. Plus, I’m not drinking, so why go to a bar? The benefit-cost-ratio is very high in favor of staying home.
And that’s my week, my unedited, written version of my heavily-edited week. Somehow, I suspect I’m not the only one of my peers to have weeks like this from time-to-time.
So, I opened up my one of my news apps this morning to find a caricature of GOP dreamboat Paul Ryan in a flannel shirt with a classic Misfits skull button over the pocket. The headline: “Smells Like Middle-Aged Spirit: We thought Gen X were slackers. New they are the suits.” Um, ok, ew? What does that mean? It means that my generation means something, and writers like Lavanya Ramanathan, author of the piece, are going to figure out what.
Ramanathan (I immediately Googled her to find out how old she was—and… she’s an Xer.), describes the stereotypical member of the Gen X tribe in the early nineties—ambivalent, underemployed, individualistic, nihilistic, anti-government, and (my favorite term of all) “slacker.” Not only does that about sum up my state of mind circa 1994, but that about sums up my state of mind as of November of last year, all but the anti-government part, and that’s a really big chunk of the writer’s claim—that the middle-aged corps of the GOP is a reflection of my formative adult years, anti-big-government and all. Also that my politician crush, the vague and ambivalent, but very nice-to-look-at Paul Ryan, has the Beastie Boys in his Spotify playlist.
Other than our both being devastatingly good-looking, I didn’t think I had that much in common with Paul Ryan. Apparently, I do. Apparently, I have A LOT in common with the Gen X crowd in the Republican Party—note every adjective I used above to describe us in our twenties, but also note how those adjectives can shape and mold a person as she ages. Nihilism becomes natural skepticism; ambivalence becomes a purer form of individualism, or (perish the thought) self-righteousness; and anti-government sentiment can become a mistrust of anything government, which is where I derail from the Republican, the Libertarian, and the Tea Parties. I want to keep a lot of (most of, actually) federal programs that our present administration deems unnecessary. I dread the thought of another Cold-War-style arms race. I’m no hippie, and I’m no hawk. Is that a Gen X, trait? Maybe I should ask the experts.
Maybe, no. Maybe I shouldn’t. After reading this article, I wonder how many of my former Nirvana-listening, flannel-shirt-wearing, slacker peers are right now grappling with their conservative sides. I’m not. Over the years I’ve sided with a few planks in the GOP platform, and some in the other parties I mentioned above; but on the whole, they don’t reflect my way of thinking. Ramanathan contends that we will be the wild card in this country’s next election, all 66 million of us, so I guess it’s time to start planting the seeds. I’d say, “Don’t believe everything you read,” but isn’t that a given these days?