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The Glitter Incident

Do you ever think about your legacy?

If part of your life will be recorded in some, even arcane, historical tome?

Well.

I think I have my answer.

Because, according to my informa…friends, my grand bon voyage to my employed life on a military installation has been recorded and dubbed by the great, delusional McNutterpants.

Sparkly accomplices

And the name attributed to it?

“The Glitter Incident.”

Seriously.

I can’t make this stuff up.

I mean, I can almost envision the poor sap who, decades into the future, is combing through files, uploading reports into some grand database lorded over by robots. Or Clint Eastwood.

And then, right before lunch (which, in typical futuristic flair, will consist of a pill stamped “Lunch”), some, since forbidden, glimmer on the next file’s heading will catch their eye.

They’ll put down the pill.

Pull the file closer, out of view of the mechanical, cycloptic eye monitoring the enslaved humans bent prostrate, thumbing through the metal file cabinet catacombs.

And there on the heading, speckled with shimmering glitter, will be printed in bold, character-devoid lettering: “The Glitter Incident, 2013.”

Furtively scanning the details, penned in crazed chicken scratch, the peon will become emboldened by the originality and quiet execution of the plan contrived by Unknown Suspect X.

And then, taking the residual glitter from the file folder and dabbing it onto their brows, the wee peon will rally their surrounding cohorts, rail against the mechanical monsters, and bring about a time of peace and tranquility.

Too much?

Perhaps.

***

Sure, maybe my penchant for a flair-filled, dramatic exit won’t be remembered for posterity. But harmless antics like mine will at least create a moderate amount of confusion among the McNutters out there.

Because, really, the more you can screw with a horrendously awful person from afar, the better. And double-plus bonus if said McNutterpants doppelganger ends up turning her paranoid delusions on those surrounding her. Because then, maybe those too willfully ignorant of her cray cray operations will be forced to acknowledge the extent of her insanity.

And offer her her own, less grand exit.

But, really, that’s not the world we live in. The McNutters of the world will keep doing what they’re doing–driving competent people away in order to lord over their tragic anthill.

And you know what?

Each McNutter can have their crumbling kingdom.

Go ahead, let them have it. Find somewhere else to be–someplace you’ll actually be valued and treated with respect.

Or, take the time to become the person you’ve wanted to be. And be happy being that person.

Because, really, being happier than you were is the best revenge.

Someone who smiles and laughs far, far away.

Someone who sparkles.

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My Fabulous Unemployment Checklist

Now, kittens.

Y’all know that I recently bid a glittery farewell to my Pit-O-Despair job.

(And y’all, they’re still trying to figure out who bestowed that shimmery fabulousness on their horrible office carpet.)

But now, I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m unemployed–floating, like a polar bear on a glacier in the open sea, wondering where in the hell that Wilson volleyball came from.

Too much?

Maybe.

Still, I’m appreciating the way my mind is compartmentalizing things–letting itself adjust to the reality of my situation, like it experienced some sort of trauma.

And, slowly, I’m making peace with the fact that (1) I’m approaching 30, and have only a haphazard collection of jobs to show for it; (2) I have some ideal notion of what I’d like my life to be, but I’m terrified that I’m going to fall flat on my face and become some sad cliche; (3) There’s no certainty in anything, especially in this economy.

So to help pull myself out of this unemployment-induced mental funk, I made a very short list of random things that have helped to make the whole process of starting over a little easier.

(1) Hoodies. While a box is preferred, it’s by no means required. These are basically the best things ever. As long as you don’t end up like cat lady Goldie Hawn in Death Becomes Her.

Box-o-hoodies=box-o-love.

(2) Plants. Feel completely useless? Water a plant. You may have just saved its life. (Especially if you’ve neglected it for weeks. Not that I’d know anything about that.)

You know who doesn't care that you're unemployed? Skeeter Plant don't care.

(3) Tea. Tea time is completely underrated. I didn’t really get into tea that much until Andy and I started having tea after dinner. It’s surprisingly calming. (And gives you a reason to buy more Fiestaware–kidding! Not.)

Tea time=mental relaxation.

(4) Books. Want to escape from updating your LinkedIn profile or Indeed.com? Pick up a book and catapult yourself to a small French town where you can grow a garden and remember that you’re an award-winning New York Times reporter who can spend two months in a small French town growing a garden. (Not that I’m bitter.)

A necessary, papery escape.

(5) Memories. We all have little boxes of keepsakes–movie stubs, old notes, XX-rated Polaroids. So what better time than now to smile and laugh and do something great with them? Make a little album. It’ll make you feel good. (Especially those photos.)

Memories help you make a better future.

Now, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that no single one of these things is going to bring employers knocking.

But they can re-center your mind.

And that’s the first step of starting over: re-tooling your mental frame to bring into focus those details of yourself that have long been blurred around the periphery. Those things that you’ve always loved to do but, until now, didn’t have time to fully explore.

So, take some time to remember those things during the quiet, retrospective moments. Then try and figure out a few ways to make a living doing something you love.

What a concept, right?

But so many of us have been trapped by what pays the bills, and have let the rest rot away. Or at least gather too much dust.

And, hey.

If it doesn’t work out, at least you dusted off those skills. Gave them another go.

And, who knows?

Maybe they’ll help give you another go, too.

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Never Underestimate the Power of a Cowl Neck Sweater

Whether fueled by a few fingers’ worth of Glenrothes scotch, or a flip through a yearbook, each of us, at some point, casts a retrospective glance to the past–seeking out some sort of rationale for how we ended up drunk, flipping through a yearbook.

No?

Well, then maybe a friend, or instructor, or belligerent heroin addict reminds us of some inherent ability we have–something we don’t readily acknowledge because we don’t really think it’s a big deal, it’s nothing to be celebrated or nurtured.

***

And it just so happened that when Andy and I got accosted by a familiar belligerent heroin addict this past weekend, my first thought–“She’s really added layers to the story about why she needs $44.01 this week”–reminded me that I remember odd details.

And that, usually, I like remembering them.

Because every weird detail is a story in and of itself.

And someone has to write it down.

So why shouldn’t that be me?

***

For whatever reason, last night I dreamt that I bumped into my favorite high school English teacher. Who, coincidentally, was on the same grocery aisle as my soon-to-be BFFs Brad Goreski and his partner Gary, a renowned sitcom writer.

And while it was amazing that none of them cared that I happened to be loading pallets of Sour Patch Kids into a tiny shopping cart–yes, it’s my dream!–seeing that shade of my former English teacher reminded me of his class and how much I’d enjoyed it.

And then, a few synaptic misfires later, my dreamy mind jumped to my college English Lit instructors–Ms. Hogan, a whip-smart nurturer, and Dr. DeFrancisco, a lanky, imposing sort whose chiseled, constantly clenched jaw rarely contorted into a smile.

While so seemingly different, each of them had pulled me aside after the first few classes to encourage me to take a higher-level Lit class–Ms. Hogan kindly suggesting, Dr. DeFrancisco directly ordering.

Each time, I’d thought about it. Then promptly decided such classes didn’t mesh well enough with my schedule to warrant their accommodation.

And, anyway, I didn’t see any reason I should.

I mean, sure, I liked to write in my spare time. But that writing and writing-for-grades were completely separate processes, ne’er to be tied together through a writerly thematic thread.

Plus, I had archaeology. It was a cool major with a whip and a fedora and a Harrison Ford. Not the ho-hum alternative with an argyle sweater and a dog-eared copy of Shakespeare’s finest works.

***

But after waking up this morning to the reality that the job I just left was the nail in my archaeology profession’s coffin, I’ve thought about a lot.

Regrets.

Mistakes.

Oh, and yeah, my past instructors’ suggestions that I cultivate my writing.

Mostly because I’m finally going to try to make this whole writing thing work. Even if it’s a long shot. Enough people have told me that I should go for it. And if I’ve learned nothing else in life, it’s that I probably should take others’ praise and advice more seriously, and stop assuming they’re just being kind.

Because maybe they’re right.

Just like they were about a particular cowI neck sweater of Andy’s, er, mine. The first few times I tried it on, it seemed oddly shaped and frizzy. So I just threw it back into the sweater pile. But then, one of those days didn’t afford me the luxury of being picky, so I threw it on and trudged to work.

Trying not to make Weezer references...

And I got compliments on it the whole day.

Not only that, but I got stopped and told how great it looked from all sorts–from soldiers to soccer moms, grandparents to hipsters. So I figured, huh, maybe I can pull this thing off.

***

And sure, while treating a cowl neck sweater like an fortune-telling eight ball isn’t the most sane way of anticipating the future, it can serve as a reminder.

To use stain remover on balsamic vinaigrette drips.

And to make myself uncomfortable.

Push my boundaries.

Use writing to explore all of the things tumbling around in my mind, even if I don’t think they’ll translate well to written word. Because, who knows, maybe that one turn of phrase, that one saying of mine will be exactly the bit to spur me forward.

It’ll be my cowl neck sweater.

Something that’ll work despite my best efforts to tell myself that it won’t.

That’ll show me that, just maybe, I’m pretty put together after all.

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Boiling Off the Fat

Oh hey, insomnia.

It’s me, Matt.

I know you like pitter-pattering around the periphery of life changes, haunting those who make them, trying to convince them that they have something to be alarmed about.

Have something to reconsider.

Have some nerve-wrapped balls of stress needing to be unwound like yarn balls.

But I also know that you, too, shall pass. And I will actually be able to get some sleep.

And will stop anthropomorphizing some state of being.

***

It’s 4:10 AM on the Saturday after my last day of work. After a carb-rich meal and two delicious drinks at my favorite restaurant. After a cathartic ear-lowering–shedding dead ends and weight like albatrosses around my neck.

Liquid comfort...and chocolate to boot

But still, here I am. Wide awake and listening to the rain pouring down outside.

I guess I’m not sweating the bags under my eyes because I’ve been here before–wondering how long it’ll take my body to detoxify from the past three intensely stressful years.

And I guess it’s sort of apropos that the last time I felt this way, I was choosing to leave graduate school. Because, in many ways, this departure is haunted by many of the same shades.

Ghosts of professions past, of passions blasted asunder.

This time, though, my archaeological palimpsest has been balled up and thrown atop a mental pyre, lit along with the contents of my office–the collapsible files bursting with pottery typologies and lithic assemblages, the dendritic diagrams of subjective interpretations of soil-caked artifacts, the military training certificates, the increasingly despicable email chains that sparked in me a more deep-seated antipathy for failed academics who wave certificates in lieu of morals: it’s everything that fits so neatly into a banker’s box, making my leave of that past life seem all the more cliche, like a scene from a movie.

Past lives...

 ***

But I know that I’ll shed this uncomfortable skin–let it slough off with every new experience that I create for myself, that gets me closer to who I really want to be.

A person unshackled to the past, making the future happen with every new step.

And while that means that I’ve got to start off green, growing bit by bit each day, I know I can do it.

Something green and growing...

Because I have so many reasons to make it work. The best of which is sleeping now, recuperating from his own weekly battles.

Because we all have wars to wage. And the endgame of each isn’t necessarily about winning. But rather, learning how to distill out the best strategies for future battles. And knowing when it’s best to direct your energies elsewhere.

It’s about skimming away the boiled-off fat, and starting with what’s left.

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Bitch Sprinkles and Glitter Bombs

With the last of the bitch sprinkles trickling onto the pavement, just shy of the compound’s barbed-wire exit fence, I twirl around to take in the rainbow trail that turns the building’s corner and stops at my Harley-Davidson boots.

Bitch Sprinkles and Glitter Bombs

The sun glances off the top of a neighboring, equally sad building, and I squint slightly, letting a wry smile inch across my face.

Then turn, and sashay away. Leaving behind a noxious emotional stew that’s been simmering for nearly three years, and letting the troglodytic characters who deserve  nothing more marinate in it for the rest of their unprofessional days in this insanitarium.

***

The whole process has been a long time coming–the downward spiral documented time after time ad nauseum.

And then, five minutes after my boots lift from the pavement into my car, it’s a memory blurring into a background bespeckled with glitter.

Glitter?

Well, yes.

Because this queen has to make an exit somehow. And leave little reminders to drive the trolls further into their madness.

***

See, my leave from my working life on a military installation isn’t just that.

It’s the final nail in my archaeology career’s coffin. Which is exactly what I told my supervisor. (Y’all remember Precious, right?)

Precious: “So, uh, can I, uh, do anything for you professionally?”

Me: “Well, Precious. When Starbucks calls and asks, just tell them that, yes, I can make a decent cup of coffee.”

*Precious laughs nervously*

Me: “Seriously.”

Precious: “Oh, er…uh. So you’re not going to do anything more with, uh…what’d you get your degree in?”

*Inward sigh*

Me: “My degrees are in Anthropology, Archaeology specifically. And no, I’m done with the whole shebang. Wiping my slate clean, starting from the ground up.”

Precious: “So you’re really done?”

Me: “Well, Precious. Ironically, graduate school zapped what interest in it that I had, and this place took the rest of it.”

Precious: *Silence*

Me: *Picks up my last venti soy no-whip mocha from base, and sips loudly*

(Did y’all really think kitty was going to retract her claws on the last day? Oh, hunties.)

Precious gives a few of his signature fake, nervous laughs and asks if I can take about five or ten minutes later in the day to speak with him privately.

But later in the day comes about 45 minutes after our riveting conversation.

***

I waltz in, letting my shit-kickers thud across his office floor as I shut the door behind me.

Precious: *Leans back in chair* “So I know we’ve talked before about plenty of stuff going on over there. But I just, uh, wanted to know what you think I could do…and I can’t fire the federal folks…to help support the others over there.”

Me: *Puts diva hand up* “Let’s back up for a minute to the whole ‘Can’t fire federal employees’ bit.” (I love not giving a shit.)

*Precious shifts nervously*

Me: “Now, you know my history over there. So I’m not going to beat that horse deader than it is already. But here’s the thing, and I’ll, um, analogize it to some sort of medical procedure. What you have over there is a malignancy…and you have to do whatever you can to mitigate it toxifying the rest of the body. You know who I’m talking about.”

*Precious nods*

Me: “But there’re some components of that body that’re already at gangrene stage, and it’s best to just lop’em off. [This is when I realize the extent to which our recent evening viewings of The Tudors are creeping into my conversation]”

Precious: “Well, uh, what can I do with what I have?”

Me: *Gives up on the medical analogy* “You can be transparent in your actions. I know no one likes a public smack-down, but I think if you went over there, gathered them up, and turned to McNutterpants and said, ‘You are not any of their bosses,’ it’d be appreciated and actually start to have an impact. You just have to be direct in what you task to particular people, and you have to bypass her at all costs.”

Precious: “But I can’t figure out how to do that. I don’t know how the information flow works over there.”

Me, in my mind: *Leaps across desk Mean Girls style*

Me, in reality: “Then you have to start learning.” (Baby’s first training wheels!)

Precious: “But there’s only so much I can do with what I have. Like, it’s just so hard to be able to put my finger on something and say, hey, you need to cut this out. It’s all intangible.”

Me: “Precious, I know we’ve discussed this whole tangible-intangible bit. But the fact that five staffers, six including me, have walked out the door and cited McNutterpants as a principal reason for our departure is tangible enough for me.”

*Silence*

Precious: “Well, wow, yeah. When you put it like that. That’s true.”

*Mental facepalm*

Precious: “Well, I really appreciate your time. I’ve always appreciated your advice and input. It’s really sound.”

I nod, get up, and thud my way out the door on my way over to the Pit of Hell for a final meeting.

But then, Precious calls from behind.

“Oh, Matt. Could you, uh, wait ten minutes after I leave for the meeting over there before coming over yourself? I don’t want them to suspect anything.”

Really?

“Sure.”

After all, I have something more fabulous planned for later in the day.

***

It should come as no surprise that, after making my leave a reality, I’ve daydreamed about the ways I could torture McNutterpants one last time.

Remind her that, while I may be gone, I’ll always be floating around, driving her even more insane.

And then it hit me: glitter.

GLITTER.

So much glitter that it’ll never come out of generic office carpeting. It’ll always be there, sparkling away.

And then I thought of how exactly to best deliver said glitter bombs.

So, after consultation with co-conspira…, er, friends who shall remain nameless, a costume was born.

With a tiara, fairy wings and wand, short red silk shorts I bought for a party several years ago (don’t ask), my “Have A Gay Day” shirt, and my Harley Davidson shit-kicker boots.

Fairy princess style, y'all.

So, with this mental image in my mind, I watch Precious skulk over to Hades, and remind myself that I’ll be spreading bits of cheer over there soon enough.

***

But as the day wears on, and I discover McNutterpants hasn’t yet defaulted to her usual 8 to 4 “ten-hour” shift, I begin to suspect the beast senses something’s amiss.

And as friends go home, and we exchange goodbyes, I realize this might not happen. McNutterpants may just foil my plot.

So, I resign myself to this annoying fact, and begin making preparations to leave, including a final epistle to Precious and his supervisor, Sir Drinks-A-Lot.

Dear Precious and Sir Drinks-A-Lot:
I hope this note finds you both well.
Given that I did not have the opportunity to participate in an exit interview, I wanted to provide my feedback to you both, if for nothing else than record’s sake.
As you both know from intra-office email exchanges and general discussion, my time with the Pit of Hell (POH) has been, for lack of better terminology, a mixed bag. While I have padded my resume with skills I had not anticipated gaining from my role, I also experienced some less than educational experiences that, nonetheless, taught me a few things about working–or participating–in a military context. Now, this is not going to be an email chocked-full of disparaging commentary; rather, it is my honest, uncensored assessment of the POH and its management. If nothing else, I hope that this will provide some context for understanding my experience and the actions I have taken in the past to preserve my professional character.
Before I begin, I would like to sincerely extend my thanks to you both for the interest and concern you have expressed directly or indirectly for my personal and professional well-being. If I have not been diligent about expressing that sentiment, I hope that you both know that I do appreciate the strides you have both taken.
At the onset of my nearly three year experience at the POH, I quickly gained insight into the program–its inner-workings, and all of the characters involved with it. And without any skewed or biased interpretations from anyone, I gleaned from staffers’ interactions with one another the ways in which the program’s operational efficacy was being undermined. Whether by mismanagement or overbearing personalities’ decisions bleeding into professional matters, the program suffered; and, by extension, POH and the installation suffered: projects were unnecessarily delayed, monies allocated for mitigations or other projects were redirected, etc. Moreover, certain staffers took it upon themselves to act as directors, program managers, and police–inserting themselves into professional matters specific to POH staff members.
Now, I like to think of myself as a mature adult, despite the fact that I have been the youngest of all of the POH staff with whom I have worked. And yet, oftentimes, I am the one who has repeatedly taken the higher ground–bitten my lip, sucked it up–to push a project through to completion, or avoid unnecessary drama. Drama has no place in my professional life; each of our personal lives is full of it. But when I have found myself constantly being the adult, and federal employees left unchecked and their actions enabled by managerial inaction, I can only maintain my resolve so long. As evidenced by the emails I sent out a few weeks back between McNutterpants, myself, and Precious, I can no longer stand the ridiculous, petty, and hurtful actions taken against me–even if they are putatively “intangible.” Certain events have transpired in the POH that are very much tangible, such as: (1) McNutterpants pulling my shirt and looking down my chest at my sternum tattoo during my first year (Did I keep quiet? Yes. Should I have? No.); (2) Despicable Gnome coming into the CRMP and talking about sociopolitical matters that directly affected me and —, and becoming belligerent to such a degree that I asked — to leave the building with me (I cried afterward. And emailed Precious. Did I hear anything about it? No. Should I have? Yes.) Now, could I have let the past emails go, let their sting subside? Sure. Have I done that time after time over the past three years? Repeatedly. Can I take it any longer? No.
Regardless of the one-on-one office time each of us–be it me, McNutterpants, etc.–spends in your office(s), it sometimes takes more. And while it is clearly more comfortable to deal with confrontation or disengagement head-on, direct action is sometimes the most appreciated, even if it is not articulated by those in the background. For me–and other former POH staffers–it was appreciated to have our concerns heard. But when there is no perceived improvement in the work environment, and the tension is still very much palpable, it feels like placation rather than resolution. For instance, I should not have had to move offices because of the tense work environment. The fact that, in the past year and a half, five other POH staffers have left with similar rationales as mine speaks to a larger problem than personality clashes.
And yes, it is easier to let incredibly competent people like me leave instead of initiating the termination process for a federal employee. But I refuse to believe that it is as impossible to terminate a federal employee as has been conveyed to me. My partner is a Human Resources Generalist for a nationally known corporation; he has to terminate people all of the time, in multiple countries, and has to initiate countless processes and follow innumerable protocols. But he gets the job done, because he knows that, if left untreated, a sore will infect the rest of the body and nothing will ever heal or be productive.
There will be no change in the POH if direct, transparent action is not taken immediately. And it will only be a matter of time before the POH fails in its duties, opening the installation to legal action in the form of ARPA, NAGPRA, or NHPA violations. This is not a dramatic, overwrought interpretation; it is fact. When unqualified individuals wave degrees in lieu of actual experience, it is only a matter of time before their incompetence is made painfully clear. In fact, the installation’s POH is the butt of many jokes on a statewide and regional level, mostly because of the long-time staffers who have driven it into the ground.
I do not presume to think that my opinion means anything to either of you, and I do not assume that anything I have written here will resonate and actually inform or effect change. But if I did not provide an honest assessment, I would have felt as though I personally failed those CRMPers whose voices are drowned out by the rabble of a few, whose heads are kept down by choice because they feel that standing up for themselves will elicit the same bullying, reactive behavior that —, —, —, —, —, and I experienced.
Even though I will soon be unemployed, I can finally hold my head up high. Because I would rather stand with those who have stood up for themselves, despite the repercussions, than remain timid and bullied.
With respect,
Matt
***
And as I sign and fold the note, placing it in an envelope with my access cards, I start to feel the weight being lifted. Still, there’s glitter to tend to.
***
After begrudgingly confirming the fact that McNutterpants still lingers in her office, I return the wings and tiara and wand, and load my bag down with glitter bombs and bitch sprinkles. If nothing else, I figure I can go out with some sparkly pizzaz. So I walk over, say my goodbyes to the few people I can still stand, and then determine the monster’s location. Hearing her high-pitched Disney voice breaking the eardrums of some poor bastard, I uncap a few vials of glitter and dance down to my old office, coat it, then sprinkle the main hallway full. Then I stop into the former McNutterpants office, dump a bit in there, then skip into the exhibition space and generously apply a little sparkle, emptying the vial on the welcome mat, and outside the door. The heavy door swings closed with its signature Tales from the Crypt squeak, and I pull out my container of bitch sprinkles, open the cap, and walk away.
***
Soon after turning out of the compound, I notice a familiar vehicle coming up behind me. Cue the Wicked Witch of the West’s entrance music. And there she is: McNutterpants, following me off post. But it just so happens I have another glitter bomb at the ready. So, as we turn onto the road away from the installation, I speed up, tip the vial out the window, and watch the glitter blow out behind me. And while I don’t know if the glitter actually makes it to her car, I like to think that it does. And that that’s why, a few seconds later, she turns off into a gas station.
***
With her car disappearing into the background, McNutterpants starts to fade from my immediate thoughts. And I delight in the bits of glitter flitting around inside my car like a fabulous tornado. So I relish the cool wind whipping my hair, the glitter funneling about, and Meredith Brooks belting out “Bitch” above it all.
A fabulous farewell...
And I raise a glittery middle finger, saying a fabulous farewell to it all.
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Mirror, Mirror On the Wall, Am I A Hipster After All?

Maybe it was because I added a bit too much Jim Beam to my muffin recipe, or that I’d washed my skinny pants at the laundromat a few hours earlier. But as I licked the potent batter off the mixing spoon, I remembered how much I despise hipsters.

And now, baking with Jim Beam!

But, more disturbingly, how similar to them I am.

After I decided that adding more bourbon to the recipe was probably an even worse idea than licking a bowl’s worth of the batter, I walked to my closet and eyed its contents suspiciously. As if the clothes themselves would whisper, “Hey, let’s go listen to a band with some single-worded name–like, Recalcitrant–the members of whom sport haphazardly maintained facial hair, wear stretched, 80s-inspired clothes, and drink PBR like it’s a fine Merlot.”

But then, as I began twirling my phantom handlebar mustache, the stove timer dinged me back to reality.

Still, that disturbing thought kept scratching around the edges of my mind like The Ring girl did all the way up that slick, moss-covered well wall.

*Shudders*

***

Naturally, any hipster-centric thought conjures up images of the quintessential skinny jean faux pas: the muffin top.

And as I tested a piping-hot muffin and stared at the gray skinny pants I’d purchased a few years ago because the bartender at the boutique was cute and I was trying to act like I had money, I couldn’t help but think about how I actually look in the pants.

Hipster deconstructed? Or a Mister Rogers wannabe?

But, really, it’s not so much the potential apparel parallels between me and hipsters, but the whole mentality that seems to go along with it.

The whole “Oh, yeah, well, it’ll all work out because I’m just, you know, being here.”

Because, lately, I’ve been channeling a lot of atypical enthusiasm and positivity to keep my mind’s eye clear, the view of the future uncluttered by daily minutiae and stressors that have the potential to crack the base of resolve I’ve buttressed over the years. And I’ve said things that smack of the default “everything will work out” hipster phraseology.

Then again, maybe I should stop badgering the hipsters, critiquing their way of dealing with the world. Because a lot of them seem happy enough. Even if they’re probably suffering from RLS.

And, really, that’s all we can be these days.

(No, not suffering from occasional leg numbness.)

Happy enough.

Until something we do, achieve, or work towards makes us truly happy. If there is such a state as that.

At the very least, a happy without caveats.

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Patina

Whether it’s the looming romanticism soon to be writ across the social media world in accordance with Valentine’s Day bollock-y “traditions,” or the injection of a little instability in my professional life, I’ve been contemplating the little things.

Like the three miniature Buddhas Andy snuck into our bedroom yesterday.

Two of which I sweetly recommended be removed from my sight. Immediately.

Kidding!

Stealthy Buddha

(Not really. But I let one stay.)

***

Actually, with my horrible job soon ending, and the great unknowns of the future looming, I’m finding that I’m embracing all things familiar and leaning on them like a crutch.

The worn.

The old.

The comforting.

All things I associate with home. Our apartment. The oasis Andy and I rush to at the conclusion of every single workday–that end point of our intensely agonizing commutes.

It’s not much, and it’s not a palace.

But I find comfort in its cracked plaster.

Cracked...the plaster, I mean.

Its worn, shiny hardwood floors and how they reflect the morning light.

Floored

Its solid doors and their glass knobs.

Solarized.

Its moldings.

Its railings.

The bits and pieces that distinguish it from the boxes-o-junk popping up mere blocks from us, and which will likely, one day, splinter it asunder.

***

And while our things add a bit of decorative boom!, it’s the space itself–enclosed by the cracking walls–that I most value.

That same sort of space (albeit a wee bit tinier) that we’re seeking as we Internet stalk California digs, salivating over apartments dripping with built-ins, amazing views, and Hollywood addresses.

The same aesthetic that our grandparents’ neighborhood blocks had–amalgamations of mortar and brick and clapboard and stone, all painstakingly nourished into sturdy, beautiful homes.

It’s the collision of the past with the present, with glints of the future in the rippling window glass.

It’s the familiar and the alien all wrapped into one.

***

And I guess I’m doing a poor job of drawing parallels between buildings and myself–that as life unhinges and shifts, I find myself gutting some of the old and trying to figure out what to fill the vacancies with.

I want to blend character and warmth with a bit of modern pizazz.

To keep my foundation and worn facade, but blow out a wall or two.

I guess I just want change.

With a little sepia curled around the edges for good measure.

Posted on

Is That Burned Flesh or A Valentine?

Right after I fully deconstructed my nightmare involving the mist from The Mist, zombies from The Walking Dead, and the My Little Pony castle, but not before poking the Keurig like a non-caffeinated Neanderthal (redundant?) and giving up and going with the French press, I thought about a blog post I read a few nights ago.

No, not the stellar drivel I post on here. (But, thanks!)

It was a hilarious one a friend re-posted on Facebook about Valentine’s Day and coupledom. And how upchuck-worthy the whole shebang pans out to be.

***

Now, I’ll be the first one to write, say, or scream that I rather loathe the overtly saccharine, heart-studded, flower-bedecked celebration that is Valentine’s Day. (Because, really, nothing says Happy Burned Alive Martyr Day than a stuffed bear holding a “Be Mine” heart.)

Until this year, I had every reason to accidentally slash the tires of deliver trucks carting said stuffed animals and rose bouquets to happy couples.

And maybe invest in Nutella stock and dust off that copy of Elizabethtown.

Not that I was ever bitter.

But this year, I actually have a cute, 5′ 11″ reason to become frantic and ensure something fantastical marks the evening.

My own sweet treat.

Or at least serve pre- pre-dinner cocktails so that he won’t mind that our V-day meal is mostly lentils, and the flowery centerpiece looks suspiciously like the blooms growing in the only nice yard on the street. (Hey, cutting costs, y’all!)

Still, neither of us is super gung-ho about V-Day (which sounds like a celebration of venereal disease). Mostly because it conjures up memories of past V-Day’s.

Valentine's Day, 2012.

*Shudders*

Or other holidays I’ve spent alone. Like New Year’s 2011, when my pajama dancing to “Raise Your Glass” was illuminated by police cruiser lights, as the authorities investigated a domestic disturbance in my sketchy neighborhood.

You know, the ‘hood where my neighbor stole half of my storm door in retribution for me not lending her high self my car to pick up her “cousin” in Greensboro. Probably the same racist cousin who wanted to kill me for giving his cousin a ride to the bar to pick up his hungover self.

Not that I’m bitter about that.

Anywho, I ADDigress.

All of these shades of V-day’s past made me appreciate Orlando Soria’s blog post all the more.

***

So, Soria highlights multiple ways couples make it unbearable (in general) for single folks, especially around the holidays.

(1) You say “we” instead of “I.”

We have no idea what you’re talking about. Kidding!

I catch myself doing this a lot, mostly because I’m southern and try to be inclusive and not leave anyone out.

(2) You make everyone else feel like a third wheel.

I have no idea what you mean. But could you be a peach and go refill our martinis?

I really hope we–er, I, er…ah!–don’t do that. But honestly, I’ve felt like the third wheel way too damn much in my life. So get the hell over it. Kisses!

(3) You were more fun when you were single.

If you mean, did I drink a lot more, stay out later, and maybe go into more adult stores? Sure. But did I do all of that in the hopes I’d find a man? Yes.

(4) Inviting you to parties is way less exciting because you’re not going to hook up with anyone.

That’s a scream. I was never cool enough to hook up with anyone at a party, much less talk about it afterward. The closest I got was when some random guy gave me and a friend a mystery shot on our way out the door from a college party, and I barely got home before the roofie kicked in (after I drove over a roundabout, destroying a flowerbed of pansies).

(5) Because the dramatic relationship you have with your boyfriend seems interesting to you, but is boring to everyone else.

I think the most drama we have is over decor or coffee. Or both. I mean, we drove across the country and back, unpacked our shit a bazillion times, and still didn’t kill each other. In fact, we only had a few tiffs. And they were usually fueled by coffee deprivation.

(6) You and your boyfriend look alike, and that’s creepy.

A 5′ 10″ curly-haired brunette with a facial scar, brown eyes, Italian nose, tattoos, and a voice that sounds like a strangled cat doesn’t really resemble the 5′ 11″ fair-skinned, blue-green-eyed blonde WASP.

(7) Because inviting you means we have to invite your totally annoying boyfriend.

I hope I’m not that annoying.

(8) You nuzzle noses. At. The. Dinner. Table.

Andy’s not a fan of PDA. So nuzzling is out. Despite my mother’s chanting of, “Kiss him, kiss him!” at the dinner table when she and my dad first met Andy.

(9) You act like you’ve been married for ten years and you’ve been dating for two weeks.

Now, I’ve written about this before, in the context of gay time vs. straight time. But that’s not to say that we don’t act like a married couple. Even if we can’t legally get married.

(10) Now that you’ve entered coupledom your only hobby is shopping flea markets to find vintage furniture for your awesome house.

Precisely. But I loved doing that before Andy and I got together. Still, it’s a lot more fun to hunt around for vintage Fiestaware with him. Plus, if someone’s going to grab the same thing, one of us can trip them. (When it comes to antiquing and snagging finds, we’re coordinated like friggin velociraptors going in for the kill.)

Our Precious. *Creepy Gollum voice*

(11) Let’s face it. Sluts are more fun.

One night-stand stories get old, though. Because everyone has them. Some are funny, but most end with, “And I tried to get out of the house, but the alarm was set.”

What?

(12) You have twice the wardrobe because you’re the same size as your boyfriend and that’s just not fair to the rest of us who have to buy all our clothes.

Andy’s wardrobe–full of cashmere and cardigans and J. Crew–is much better than mine. And I get corroboration every single time I wear something of his. Like the cowl neck sweater I wore the other day. A massively butch soldier stopped me as I walked in circles trying to remember where I parked my car, and said, “Man, that’s a nice sweater. Like, seriously. Classic.”

NO ONE HAS EVER SAID THAT ABOUT MY CONVERSE SHIRT!

(13) You save money on rent by co-habitating, and that is also not fair to the rest of us who have to pay our own damn rent.

Yes, but. When everyone else was settling down out of college, I ended up in a basement apartment with a mold problem, a drug-dealer neighbor, and a shower drain that, according to the plumber, “was full of a wookie-looking thing” from the previous tenant. Not to mention the ugly cry I had on a moving box that first night after realizing what a mistake I’d made.

(14) Because you use the phrase “Date Night.”

Bah. Never. I’m not even that gay.

(15) You post pictures of your obnoxious smarmy dates and your stupid glamorous vacations all over Facebook while constantly writing saccharine status updates professing your love.

Bah. Always. (Even if I’m the one doing it because someone else never gets on Facebook. Kidding, snookums!)

I know. We're disgusting.

(16) Because your on-again, off-again relationship is constantly forcing your friends to choose whose side they’re on.

Well, since I’m happy to report we’re always on, that’s a non-issue.

(17) You only hang out with other couples.

Ha! We don’t hang out with anybody!

Actually, our jobs are ridiculously far away, and we have approximately two hours every night before bed to actually decompress. Socializing rarely makes the cut.

Instead, we watch The Tudors.

***

So, yes. I can see why the upcoming Day of Burned Flesh may be eye roll-inducing for a lot of people. But I’m not sweating it. (Unlike St. Valentine–oh! Alright, I’m done. Really.)

Because all the social hype around it seems to reinforce that ridiculous notion that you can only be happy when you’ve found a complement to your crazy self. That anything outside of that is far from perfection.

But that’s absurd.

If everything was perfect, Andy and I could shower bon bons on one another every single day, not finalize a budget and scrimp and save where we can.

We’d both have jobs where we’re appreciated and our efforts acknowledged. Not the situation we’re preparing to enter, with me being unemployed and Andy continuing in his job until we can make something else work.

We’d be able to think every single day is Valentine’s Day–that life is always sweet, and rose petals line every path we take.

But kittens, I don’t have to tell y’all that we don’t live in that kind of world.

We live in a world where we’re each trying to find a balance–trying to sort out our lives, balancing the sweet with the bitter, the savory with the foul.

And as I skim my hand across Andy’s chest every night, instead of across an empty pillow, I’m reminded never to take him for granted.

Lucky.

Never to think that I need one day above all others to remind me that I’m ridiculously fortunate.

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Beating the Bastards to the Pink Slip

Halfway through his second sentence, my supervisor (whom we’ll call “Precious”) smiles warily.

My eye starts twitching.

And I know what’s about to pop out of my mouth like the Kool-Aid man through a brick wall.

“Matt, you’re killing me,” he laughs.

“Oh, Precious. Before I provide further comment on that issue, let me say something.”

“Oh…er, okay.”

“I’m done, Precious. I’m done. Even if Congress sorts out this mess.”

*Silence*

Thanks, Congress! I love pink.

*Precious tilts his head*

“Now, Precious. About the emails I sent.”

***

Kittens, y’all know about McNutterpants. So I’m not about to drag that toe up horse out of the barn and beat it to death. But yesterday, when she started shooting off emails lined with crazy, I lost it.

And the bitch sprinkle cap popped off.

And those sundaes got coated, y’all.

Coated.

But just so y’all have an idea, here’s a sample email I sent after I was excluded from yet another office-wide email:

Hi all,

McNutterpants, thanks again for including me. I know I’m invisible, but it’d be great to be told so directly (like this) instead of typical passive-aggressive tactics. I’ll be sure to contribute a representative (—-) photograph, too.

Best,

Matt

Which was followed by:

Matt. Please do not email me again.

McNutterpants

Because, as we’ve seen, ignoring the problem is the best way to solve it.

***

So, Precious and I chat a bit, and I try not to vomit up my lentils as he begins assuming the apologist role instead of his supervisorial mantle. And then, when the patronizing commentary starts trickling between his statements, and the subtle chastising begins, my other eye starts twitching.

And I do a complicated hand motion.

And I serve up a plate of insubordination with a side of realness.

Because I can only be professional to a degree before I start laying it out and my Italian chattery kicks into overdrive.

(This is when Precious begins faltering. Because reconciling confrontation isn’t his strongest suit.)

Nearly an hour later, the realization that I’m nearly free from this welter of madness begins to sink in. And I get tired. Really tired. Exhausted–like with imitation Luis Vuitton bags hanging under my eyes.

I think I feel a few hairs suddenly go gray.

And I go print off a two line notice, sign it, then turn right around and hand it to him.

With the warm paper between his fingers, and my signature still slightly wet, he suddenly looks like I smacked him across the face.

And he, too, looks tired.

“Oh, uh, so, uh, you’re sure? Were you planning to, uh, do this already?”

“Positive. And as you’ve well known, it’s been a long time coming.”

***

That’s how it ends.

Two lines and weary eyes.

Because as much as I’d love to rock out to “Dancing Queen” while raising my middle fingers and wearing a skin-tight pink leotard and doing cartwheels and knocking over cubicle walls, I’m just too damn tired.

It’s as though the nearly three years I’ve let this place suck from my life have suddenly been multiplied by ten, and I’m standing at the edge of a new world like Brooks in The Shawshank Redemption.

Too dramatic?

Probably.

***

But there’s no curmudgeonly crow on my shoulder, and I have no need for a noose.

Not when I have a partner reassuring me that I’ve made the right decision—that we’ll make it work.

Or when there’s a birthday to celebrate, a cupcake tower to demolish, and liquor to drink.

Cupcake carby overload!

Posted on

On Lentils and Unemployment

Do you ever have those days when you just feel like crying and watching 50/50 and eating a dozen donuts and maybe buying three pairs of shoes online?

Neither do I.

(Andy, I didn’t buy three pairs of shoes. Just two. Kidding! So there’s really no reason to look at the next bank statement.)

Maybe it’s all of the Will-I-have-a-job-in-a-week?-Oh-we’ll-be-fine-no-need-to-worry yo-yoing going on at work these days.

Or hormones.

Or cutting back on Starbucks.

Really, though, it feels like we’re so close to starting a new life chapter, but are getting papercuts right as we’re trying to turn the page. 

***

Right after The Great Cull of 2013, Andy and I felt lighter. Unburdened.

And then, while Andy was abroad on business, I got a work-related smack across the face.

And stress ate a box of Thin Mints

(Fine. And Caramel Delites.)

(FINE. And Peanut Butter Patties.)

Looming unemployment? Eat your feelings!

But then I called him in Indonesia, and we started figuring things out.

And he was wonderful.

And I felt fat.

So then, to cool the burn of looming unemployment, and the feeling that I’m a disposable cog, I made cutting our monthly expenses sort of a game.

Gym. Bubye. I can run outside.

Starbucks. Adios. I. Can. Do. Without. Coffee. *Sniff* 

(Until Andy saw me uncaffeinated. Then decided, “Maybe you going cold turkey off Starbucks isn’t the best thing right now.”)

Lentils, hello. Ridiculously overpriced Fresh Market treats, peace out.

Candy, you’re awesome but expensive. (You’re welcome, teeth.)

Monthly Greenpeace contributions, out. The orangutans are going to have to make it work for a little while. 

Credit cards, you no longer hold us in your debty grasp. To the scissory guillotine with ye!

A little here. More there.

Then, wabam!

We’re down a few hundred dollars a month in expenses.

And we’re actually financially and physically healthier than before.

(Even if lentils aren’t as appetizing as a buttery croissant and coffee. And take a little getting used to gastronomically speaking.)

***

And it’s then, when we’ve cut and culled and budgeted and saved, that I realize that we’re pretty damn fortunate to be in this position.

To have a roof over our heads.

To only have to worry about the usual bills.

To have a plan.

To have a bit of savings squirreled away to catch us if we start teetering.

***

So, we enjoy the quieter moments that much more. 

Toting tea instead of crazy-expensive coffee. Plus, it's perfect for downtime.

Celebrate our accomplishments.

 Bubye, debt!

(With Fiestaware) 

Buying Fiestaware! The best way to celebrate the end of credit card debt!

Still have a life on the weekends.

Enjoying a hot drink at a favorite haunt.

And bandage our thumbs so we can turn that stubborn page.

Even if it first takes a little sweat. 

A dollop of blood. 

A few tears.

Or three four boxes of Girl Scout Cookies.