12.29.2009

I Don't Hoe-Down.

I told you it would be another post.

You thought I was lying.

Jerk.

Have a little faith in me.

For years my friend Jen tried to get me to go hoe-downing with her.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept of a hoe-down, it is basically a social activity where people either pair up (sometimes with people they know, sometimes with strangers) and attempt not to trip over each other, or stand in large groups and perform awkwardly synchronized movements involving, but not limited to, foot stamping and/or hand clapping and/or hip swinging and/or grapevines in a large room, all while country music plays loudly.

I have a lot of problems with this.
  • Problem #1 - Social Activity
  • Problem #2 - Groups of People
  • Problem #3 - Pairing up with Strangers
  • Problem #4 - Strangers with Sweaty Hands Touching My Body
  • Problem #5 - Performing Awkwardly Synchronized Movements
  • Problem #6 - Foot Stamping
  • Problem #7 - Hand Clapping
  • Problem #8 - Strangers' Sweat Flicking Into My Face During the Foot Stamping and/or Hand Clapping
  • Problem #9 - Grapevines
  • Problem #10 - Country Music
Jen, because she has been brainwashed by the lights of the single disco ball that hangs disrespectfully close to the loudspeakers at such events, would implore me to attend one of these hoe-downs with her, which she referred to as "Country Swing Dances."

Jen: "Do you want to hang out with Mandy and me tonight?"

Me: "Depends.  What are you doing?"

Jen: "Well, there's a Country Sw-"

Me: "I don't hoe-down."

Jen: "It's not a hoe-down."

Me: "Will there be at least 5 people there wearing cowboy boots?"

Jen: "Probably."

Me: "That's a hoe-down."

I spent my first two college years in a tiny town in central Utah.  It was in the middle of nowhere.  The closest Wendy's was a 45 minute drive away, by which time it was only another 15 minutes to a real restaurant so it seemed pointless to stop at Wendy's anyway.  I actually quite liked the fact that there was nothing to do - it lent itself perfectly to my I'd-rather-stay-in-and-watch-a-movie lifestyle.

But every Wednesday, the whole town would gather at the dance hall above the pizza parlour for its weekly hoe-down.  And, as that was the only source of entertainment if the three movie screens in town weren't hosting any new features, I attended a couple of times.

I even took a class that taught you how to do some of the turns and things.

Don't judge me.

I needed the PE credit.

So the six class sessions and the two or three times I went "just for fun" have all been filed away in my brain in the drawer marked, "Time I Will Never Get Back."

We all have our regrets.

Several years after I graduated from that school and moved out of that town, I ran into an old friend I'd met there.  His name was Stumpy Joe.

He'd picked that nickname for himself.

Seriously.

Stumpy and I didn't have a lot of time to catch up right then, so we exchanged email addresses.  A few days later I had an email from him that told me a bit about what he had been up to the last few years.  At the bottom there was a post script that left me completely confused.

p.s. Remember that time at country swing when I dropped you on your head? I still feel bad about it.

I remembered the hoe-down where I danced with Stumpy.  I remembered how awkwardly he tried to lead me, and I remembered how we discovered two people with unnaturally short arms (hence the "Stumpy" moniker - what did you think it meant?) will have a hard time with a pretzel turn.

BUT I DID NOT REMEMBER BEING DROPPED ON MY HEAD.

This worried me.

Had he dropped me so hard that I had amnesia?!
  • Problem #11 - Hoe-downs cause amnesia.
Eventually, Jen stopped asking me to attend hoe-downs with her.  But every now and then, when we're hanging out, she'll mention in passing how much fun she had at the last one, how many cute boys there were, how they played this song that she's sure I'll like because even though it's a country song it's not really country.

One of these days I'm going to say to her, "Jen, don't tell lies.  There were no cute boys there."

And Jen will say, "How would you know?  You weren't there."

And I'll say, "Of course I was there.  Did you forget?"

And when I explain to her that hoe-downs cause amnesia, she'll finally give up trying to get me to go.  And then I'll tell her that she owes me twenty bucks.

12.28.2009

Art, or Something Like It (Part 2)


A Toast, Jedidiah.

I was just catching up on reading through some friends' blogs, and this post by Sean really struck me.  Take a minute to read it, and then come back.

I'll wait.

As I am dreadfully far behind on blogstalking people, Sean's post is rather old.  According to the rules of internet etiquette I have arbitrarily created for myself, it is well beyond the acceptable time frame for me to leave a comment.

Also, I have no ideas for my own blog today.

Two birds, one stone.

If you knew me personally, you would know that Sean's post describes me almost perfectly.

Almost.

You know that feeling you get when you hear a song or read a book for the first time, and it's so disturbingly familiar it's as if it were written about you?  Do you ever think to yourself, 'That's exactly like me, but I would never think to put it in those words?'  That is the feeling I got and the thought I had when I read Sean's blog.

Let's break it down, shall we?

Sean says, "I can’t imagine being in a relationship because I do everything by myself. Almost literally everything. I sleep by myself, shop by myself, go to movies by myself, go out to eat by myself, watch TV by myself, crack jokes by myself... cook by myself, etc., etc."

Kristen says, "Ditto."

Sean says, "It’s not that I mind doing stuff with other people; it’s simply not part of my routine. And frankly, deviating from my routine annoys me. Hear that, friends? Quit asking me to do things with you. It cuts into my Farscape-watching time, goddammit."

Kristen says, "What's Farscape?  If it takes you more than two words to answer, I won't care anymore."

Sean says, "This is making me sound like a self-centered bastard, and of course I totally am, but really I just don’t know how to have friends. And if I don’t know how to have friends—if the decidedly less onerous responsibilities of sustaining and maintaining a friendship are completely lost on me—how on earth am I going to be able to sustain and maintain a more intimate relationship?"

Kristen says, "Ditto."

Sean says, "When I imagine being in a romantic, committed relationship with someone, my mind simply boggles. The idea of constantly having to check in with someone else, having to coordinate every activity and outing, to sometimes/often do what someone else wants to do instead of what I want to do…"

Kristen says, "Almost."

You see, the truth is that I would rather enjoy having a relationship.  I would enjoy having someone that wanted to know what I was up to, that wanted to include me in their day, that I could make coordinate activities with.  Just so long as I had complete control.

Not in a Dominatrix-y kind of way.

Well....

Okay, I decided.  Definitely not a Dominatrix-y kind of way.

Probably.

There's a scene in Citizen Kane where Jedidiah Leland (Joseph Cotten) accuses Kane of manipulating people's affection for him so he could get exactly what he wanted out of them.  Kane lifts his glass and responds, "A toast, Jedediah, to love on my terms. Those are the only terms anybody ever knows - his own."

That line was another one of those 'this was written about me' moments.

"To love on my terms."

I would love the idea of having a boyfriend, as long as he was around only when I wanted him to be and always when I wanted him to be.  I would love a boyfriend, as long as he acted affectionate when I wanted to be touched and distant when I wanted my space.  I want a boyfriend that tells me how much he needs and appreciates me when I crave an ego boost and leaves me the hell alone the rest of the time.

Also, he should have dark hair and a British accent.

Is that too much to ask for?

Maybe I'm just selfish.  Maybe I'm just immature.  Maybe I'm just living in some kind of fantasy land, perpetuated by all those romantic movies I've seen, where relationships are just two people who fit together like two perfect puzzle pieces without any adjustment from either party.  But at least we know I'm not crazy, because a friend recently told me that although he realized I was highly anti-social, he didn't believe that meant I was mentally ill.

Words of comfort.

12.22.2009

Really?

I watched a bemused smirk settle on Dan's face as Jim studied him carefully.

"You're never going to guess," Dan said.

"Yes, I will."  Jim cocked his head slightly to the side, as if looking at Dan from that angle might help him solve the puzzle.  "You're... not an atheist."

Dan refused to reveal any sign of confirmation or contradiction.  Not a single muscle in his face gave way to even the slightest twitch.  He was enjoying this.

As was I.

I don't know if it was actual curiosity or just boredom that led Jim to start his little game, but as the members of our screenwriting class gathered around the table a few minutes before class was to start, he had blurted out, "I want to try something."  Then he proceeded to go around the room and try to guess everyone's religion.

A couple of them were easy - Chris, for example, was writing his screenplay for the class about his experience with Judaism in the valley of the Great SL,UT.  Everyone knew that Amir was Muslim.  A lot of the other students in the class weren't religious at all.  But Jim was stuck on Dan, and understandably so.

Mostly because Dan was being purposefully difficult, and Jim knew it.  It wasn't a matter of figuring out Dan's belief system so much as figuring out what Dan would claim as his belief system.  And, as Dan was a highly creative individual with a deeply twisted sense of humor, the possibilities were endless.

Time was running out, and a big part of me hoped that Jim wouldn't be able to crack Dan before our teacher decided to start class.  I was up next, and I didn't want my religion brought to the attention of everyone else in the room.

It's not that I was afraid of being judged by the other students, not at all.  I knew that not one of them would care one way or the other.  But part of me had always felt kind of ashamed to admit that I was a Mormon.

And then I was ashamed to feel ashamed, and ashamed that I felt ashamed that I was ashamed, and it was a vicious cycle.

Growing up in the SLC suburbs, most people I encountered just assumed I was Mormon.  After all, I was a "good" kid.  I didn't drink or sleep around, or have weird piercings.  In the Morridor, it's often assumed that anyone who appears to have high morals must be a Mormon, and that those poor non-members stuck out like sore thumbs.  I was guilty of that attitude myself - I remember being surprised to learn that my high school friend was not a member after knowing her for several months.

"I give up," Jim conceded.  "What are you?"

Dan smiled.  "I worship the Great Sun God Balthu'ul.  Every morning I drink copious amounts of wine and sacrifice small animals in his name.  Praise Balthu'ul!"

Everyone laughed.  Jim rolled his eyes and then turned his attention on me.

"Well, at least Kristen's easy," he said.

"Spread that around, won't you?" I replied.

Jim looked me in the eye, pointed to me, and declared, "ATHIEST!"

I was shocked.  I had thought that my Mormon roots were as clear as day.  I mean, the most sinful thing I had ever done in front of any of my classmates was swear a bit.  I didn't think it could be any more obvious if I was wearing a sweater with flashing lights that read CTR!

"No."

Jim looked surprised.  "Really?"

"Really."

"Agnostic, then."

"Well... no, not really."

At this point, Jennifer caught my eye and smiled.  She was the only openly Mormon student in the class, and often brought up her religious beliefs in our discussions.  When she gave me that smile, I knew that she knew.  I felt marked.

Dan opted to help Jim with his query.  "Are you a Buddhist?"

"What?  No."

"Presbyterian?" Chris joined in.

"Baptist?"

"Lutheran?"

People!, I thought. We live in SALT LAKE CITY. Come ON.

Finally I admitted, "I'm... Mormon."

"Really?" Jim asked.

"Really."

"Yeah, but... are you really?"

I thought about that on the way home that night.  Was I really a Mormon?  I felt so proud of the fact that my peers had been surprised, even shocked by my admission.  They hadn't known, hadn't pigeonholed me, and I felt a great sense of relief about that.  If I was so pleased by the fact that people thought I wasn't LDS, rather than proud of the fact that I was, than was I?  Really?

That was the start of a journey that would take me a couple of years to finish, where I made it a goal to find out what, if anything, I believed about the church.  It was the start of my quest to figure out: was I really a Mormon?

Comic #4


12.15.2009

Comic #3


OH. MY. GOD.

I love learning random things.  Which is why I have wasted spent countless hours perusing cracked.com and all of its spectacularly random and unnecessary articles.

Every now and then I read something that literally makes me gasp.

Like this.

When the Japanese robots take over, don't say I didn't warn you.

12.14.2009

Humans Are Awesome

I once had a friend who was dating a guy I didn't like very much.  I tried not to let on how annoying I thought he was.  After all, she was a big girl, a smart girl, and if she wanted to date the douchebag that was her prerogative.  So I never came right out and told her that I thought her boyfriend was a tool.

But I told a few other people.

A lot of people, actually.

Pretty much anyone who would listen.

One day, a few months after she'd started seeing him, she told me that he had instigated a DTR.  He started it off by telling her that if she wanted to date other people he was okay with it, but that he was only going to date her.

I know.

Seriously.

I know.

"Was I supposed to say that I didn't want to date other people?" she asked me.  "Because I didn't say that.  I said he should date other people, too."

"How did he take that?" I asked.

"I don't know.  He kept saying things that didn't make sense.  Things I think he thought were profound or something but they really just weren't applicable.  And I was really tired."

"Weren't applicable?  Like what?  'Hey, you know how the polar ice caps are melting?  Also, I think you're swell'?"

"Almost that random," she said. "Just stuff about humans and stuff."

She gave me a minute to pick myself up off the ground, wipe the tears of mirth from my eyes, and regain my breath before moving on.  Oh, God, please bless that one day I'll be dating a guy who feels it necessary to supplement our deep, meaningful conversations with tidbits like, "You know what's really cool about human beings?  They have thumbs!"

So now this friend of mine has decided that it's high time to end things with this guy who talks about humans and stuff.  And it takes every ounce of self control I have to not say to her, "I told you so!"

Or, rather, "I totally would have told you so except I didn't want to offend you by telling you what a weird loser your boyfriend was, but if I hadn't had such high regard for your feelings I totally would have told you so!"

Maybe next time she'll listen.

12.09.2009

What Was I Saying?

My mind tends to wander when I'm leaving voicemails for people.  After talking for a few minutes I'll often realize that I'm not entirely sure what I've been saying or if it even makes sense.  As a result, I'm pretty sure at least 72% of the people I call and leave messages for while at work hear something like this:


I wonder if, when people listen to these voicemails, they can easily recognize the exact moment in time when I realized that I was, in fact, leaving a message.  Usually, as soon as that light bulb clicks on, I hurry up and say something like, "Yeah, so, give me a call please."

I wonder if I've ever interrupted a really cool story I was telling someone's voicemail and they were disappointed and wanted to hear the end.

12.08.2009

12.07.2009

Introductions

I don't small talk.

I also don't hoe-down, but that's another post.

There's nothing I hate more than being forced into mundane conversation with people I don't know.  I hate when clerks at grocery stores go beyond the "hello, how are you today?" pleasantries and make comments about my purchases or what my plans are for the weekend.

Especially when my purchases are my plans for the weekend.

Why else would I be buying a package of Double-Stuf Oreos on a Friday night?

Social situations are not much better.  It takes me a long time to warm up to people.  In the meantime, I'm not very good at chatting with them.  I never know what to say or what questions to ask, and I feel awkward and stupid.  I hate being forced into these stiff conversations.  This is why I rarely attend parties.

Oh, parties.

I'm not much of a surround-myself-with-lots-of-superficial-friends kind of person.  I'm much more of a hang-out-with-one-or-two-people-that-get-me-and-that-I-feel-comfortable-with kind of person.  But I go to parties occasionally because it's important for me to be a human being and not a hermit crab.

Or a hermit human, rather.

Whatever.

Potato, potato.

My favorite friendships - not necessarily my most meaningful, but my favorite - have been with people who have skipped the small-talk altogether.  I have one friend from high school, Jaz, that I still see on rare occasions at baby showers and things like that.  I love seeing Jaz, because every few years when we run into each other we don't play the "and what's new with you?" game.

Catch-up talk is just small talk with a different hat.

Jaz and I don't bother with asking each other about our jobs, where we're living, or what we've been up to for the last couple years.  Instead we usually launch right into some topical conversation as if we were picking up where we'd left off last time we met.

I've had a few other people who, within minutes of meeting them, I've found myself having a discussion about whether a tiger or an alligator would win in a fight.

Tiger, by the way.

I would much rather get to know somebody by learning about their preferred chip-to-cheese ratio in nachos or what Disney character they would want to bring to life than by learning about their job or their family or their school work.

I figure if I get to be actual friends with somebody, I'll learn all that stuff organically and in due time.  But for starters, let's make it a little more interesting and talk about that special on TLC where the guy had the bugs growing in his brain or if we'd rather have hands for feet or feet for hands.

Because if that's not the kind of random stuff you're thinking about anyway, we probably won't be very good friends at all.

Unless you bring me Oreos.

12.05.2009

Foul Play

My very first real job was with the SL County Parks and Recreation department as a referee for their junior soccer league.  I was 15, and had never played soccer aside from playground pickup games.

I did not then, nor do I now, know the rules of soccer.

That's not entirely accurate.  I know some of the rules.  For example, I know that the ball has to stay within the lines on the outside of the field or it's out of bounds.  And I know that when the ball goes in the net it's a goal.

But that's about it.

It was easy enough to fake it when I was reffing for the three-year-olds.  Every thirteen seconds I'd have to blow the whistle because the ball went out of bounds.  They almost never scored goals, and at that age they didn't keep track of points, anyway.  I spent a lot of my time on the field tying the kids' shoes.

The seven-year-olds, however, were a different breed.  The kids themselves still didn't quite understand the game and were just in it for the fun of running around on grass and kicking a ball.  But the parents... the parents were out for blood.

It usually took them until about two minutes into the game to realize that I had no idea what I was doing.

"Come on, ref! What're you doing?" they'd scream from the sidelines, fists clenched, faces red.

"I wish I knew!" I'd think.

"Stay off the field!" I'd say.

I'm pretty sure that's a rule.

One day, one parent was particularly upset.  I can hardly blame her.

I mean, I've seen Jurassic Park.  I know that a butterfly flaps its wings in Peking and in Central Park you get rain instead of sunshine.  Seemingly tiny, insignificant events can create absolute catastrophe.

So when I, a poorly-trained teenager with a plastic whistle, carelessly called a foul on her precious little child when he merely kicked an opponent in the back of the knee, I must have opened Pandora's box.  Because that child had a foul called against him, because the other team got a penalty kick, because that penalty kick was missed and the game resumed, that woman's kid would not grow up to become President of the United States.

Also, that woman would not be able to see the end of her son's soccer game, because I kicked her off the field for rushing out me and screaming.

It's all my fault.  I can see that now.

I'm sorry, America.

When soccer season ended and the Parks and Rec department released the work schedule for basketball referees, I wasn't on it.  I still don't know if I was fired or just overlooked.

12.04.2009

Phones

What is wrong with people?

I just answered a phone call at work.  It went a little something like this:

Me: "Good afternoon, this is Kristen."

Caller: [in a demanding tone] "Bob or Joe."

That's it.  No "hello," no "may I speak to," no "please."  Just "Bob or Joe."  Would it have been that difficult to actually ask for either of them rather than just blurt out their names?  If the caller had added a simple "please" at the end, or an even simpler "hi" at the beginning, or had even spoken to me in a tone that didn't sound like he was accusing me of dipping his cats in boiling oil, it probably wouldn't have bothered me so much.

Who am I kidding?

Yes, it would.

I hate answering the phone.  This is mostly because approximately 137% of the people I have to talk to have exceptionally poor phone etiquette.

I often blogstalk a friend of mine who works at a public library and writes highly amusing posts about his phone conversations with socially retarded patrons.  A former roommate of mine often shares stories of crazy phone stories from her job at an architecture firm.  While it should make me feel better to know that I'm not alone in having to deal with these people, it doesn't.  It just makes me more upset.

If I am on the phone with stupid people all day, and my friends are on their phones with stupid people all day, and we all have such different jobs that the chances that all of our stupid people are overlapping each other is practically non-existent, then it only makes sense that most people who are on the phone all day are having to deal with stupid people.

And if there are so many stupid people making these stupid phone calls, then I must assume that some of the people who are on the phone with stupid people are day are, in fact, themselves stupid people.

Based on highly advanced mathematics I calculated in my head as I was typing this sentence, I'm fairly convinced that, worldwide, there are only 27 people who I could talk to on the phone without wanting to punch them in the face.

Unfortunately, none of these 27 people ever seem to be the ones calling my office.

In Which Our Heroine is the Girl All the Boys Want... to Talk To About Their Feelings

In the seventh grade I had a crush on a boy.  Let's call him Tim.

Tim and I were buddies.  I think we went bowling together once.  Not on a 'date', of course, because dating before your sixteenth birthday is essentially like taking a hawksaw to your Corral of Mor-al.

But that's another post.

So Tim and I were friends, which was Step 2 in the Kristen Crush Creator 2000.  The KCC has adapted and changed a bit as I've gotten older.  It's become a bit more specific, new boundaries have been established.  But during my early tween years, when boys were exciting or something, there was very little to the KCC2000:

Step 1: be male.
Step 2: be my friend.
Step 3: be funny.
Step 4: be more attractive than a used sock.

Step 4 was optional.

Tim flew through all four steps fairly early in the school year.  And I was pretty convinced that I had also passed through the Tim Crush Creator Beta.  He talked to me, he smiled at me; he was obviously under my spell.

Then one day I got an email from Tim.

kristen - hey.  random questoin for you.  do you thikn if i ask marie out she'l say yes?

And so it began.  My transformation into....

BEST FRIEND GIRL!!!



See my super awesome eye mask that keeps my feelings for you artfully disguised?

See my wicked cool defensive cape that I can use to protect me from all the hurtful things you unknowingly say?

See the mega-fast rocket boots that help me rush to your aid every time you have a problem with some other girl you like?!

Tim was the first boy I liked who asked me to help him get another girl.  But he would not be the last.  I could never predict when the calls would come.  On cold nights in cars, around my kitchen table eating nachos, on the way home from a date - suddenly the boy I was with would blurt out, "Can I talk to you about something?" and I knew.

Oh, yes, I knew.

Though I have participated in many of these conversations, and they all vary slightly, every single one follows this basic script.

Boy: "You're great, you know that?"

Me: "Oh, I know." (thinking, "And so it begins.")

Boy: "I mean, seriously.  You're awesome.  You're a good friend."

Me: "Pass the salsa, please."

Boy: "Can I ask you something?"

Me: "Sure."

Boy: (hesitates) "It's... well... I know I can talk to you because you're not like a girl.  I mean, you're a girl-"

Me: "Very observant of you."

Boy: "But you know what I mean.  You're like a girl who's a guy.  I mean, I don't think of you like a girl.  I think of you like a friend.  But you are a girl, so you can probably help me.  You know [insert girl's name here]?"

Me: "The girl from your [English class/apartment building/softball team/other]?  What about her?"

But I knew what about her. 

Oh, yes, I knew what.

I have helped guys I liked come up with pickup lines for other girls, plan fun date ideas for other girls, even pick out engagement rings for other girls.  I have listened to guys I liked bitch about how much girls suck, whine about how much girls confuse them, natter lovingly on and on about the adorable things girls did.  The things they were too afraid to say to other girls and too proud to say to other boys, they said to me.  Because I am Best Friend Girl, and my powers are unrivaled.

Also, because I'm a ginormous wimp.

When Tim emailed me about Marie, I replied with some bullshit answer about how I thought she had a big crush on this other guy named Matthew, but I'd totally ask her if she thought Tim was cute.  Then I pressed hard return.  A lot.

A lot.

When I finally felt like I had left a sufficient space, I typed up a post script.

p.s. Tim, I like you.  I've liked you all year.

What I didn't realize was that when Tim replied to my email assuring him that I'd find out if he was cuter than Matthew, all those hundreds of hard returns I pressed would turn into these:

>

These stupid little >s had it out for me.  A long line of them led Tim to the confession I thought I'd hidden.

>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
p.s. Tim, I like you.  I've liked you all year.

My friendship with Tim was essentially destroyed.  Years later, when it was becoming hard for me to remember why we weren't friends, I'd bump into him out in public somewhere and Tim would mutter a quiet "hey" and shuffle away without making eye contact.

Maybe he thought I hadn't ever gotten over that seventh grade crush.  In which case he is a moron.

But regardless, I didn't want what happened with Tim to happen again.  So in later years, whenever I was with a boy I liked and he started hemming and hawing and asking if he could talk to me about something, I knew that I wouldn't let on how I felt.

After all, Clark Kent doesn't exactly go around all willy-nilly telling everyone he meets that he's Superman, now does he?

12.01.2009

Comic #1


Art, Or Something Like It (Part One)

I am not an artist.

But I like to doodle.  And I like to mess around in MS Paint when I'm bored.

So I'll occasionally post my creations here.  Like this one.

Enjoy.