Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Fun Identity Crisis

The other day, I was talking with one of my new co-workers who is 32, outgoing and seemingly a lot of fun.

We had a laugh-filled conversation about dating, going out and crazy-wild nights out. At the end of our chat, she said something enthusiastic, yet non-committal, like:

“I never go out like that any more. But maybe we should do it sometime!”

I’m pretty sure I agreed with her every (uncertain) word.

A few years ago – alright, last year -- if a potentially new friend said that to me, I would’ve invited her to join me and my girlfriends for drinks, which inevitably would have led to a night of dancing, and then maybe some late-night karaoke or hot dogs.

But today, I’ll admit there’s probably a 50/50 percent chance that would happen. Maybe we would go out and party like we are 26 again in cute tops and high heels. Or maybe we’d just meet at a trendy restaurant for dinner and go home.

When in the world did this shift happen? And how?

I can answer the second part of my question with a few simple explanations: In the past year, I’ve moved away from my hard-core going out crew, gotten into a serious relationship and relocated to a city that is much more spread out than Brewtown.

Yet, judging from my co-worker’s similar sentiments, I think it’s actually less about my specifics and more about our shared generalities.

We’re 32. We’ve done the crazy nights out many, many times. Inevitably, the day was going to come when the fun was going to wear out.

I’m not really apologetic about being at this point in my life. In two weeks I'll be 33, I think it would be more weird – if not troubling -- if I were still partying with a gusto and hooking up with randoms.

It does leave me in a precarious position, though. Nowadays, while I know that I don’t want to hang out at clubs where the 22-year-old girls look naked and I feel like a Grandma, I’m not really sure where I do want to hang out.

These days, I find myself wondering: what is fun?

I’d like to say it’s just hanging out with my man at home, cooking dinner and watching baseball. And no doubt, that's where I'm happiest. But you should have seen the way I bit his head off last Friday when he called us “boring.” He swears he was only kidding, but I'm so paranoid about giving up my reputation as a Fun Girl, I couldn't let the comment go.

The other end of the spectrum isn’t ideal either. I still adore getting together with my girlfriends and will never quit maintaining those relationships. But as early 30-somethings, most of us have serious jobs, boyfriends, husbands, kids and other responsibilities, so we’re not exactly on a mission to drink and dance with no regard for tomorrow.

It’s such a weird middle place to be in, the 30-something, post-crazy-day, but pre-children era. A transition period when the idea of moving to the suburbs is just as foreign as an entire night in stilettos.

Thankfully, I've since had another conversation with my new work-friend, who agrees with me completely about things being a little different now.

We still have tentative plans to hang out some night outside of work. We just have to figure out the particulars.

Y'know, something fun.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Me and My Big Mouth

I probably should never have opened my mouth. But I just couldn’t help it.

For months, I’d listened to my friend Monique complain, cry and obsess about her new boyfriend.

First she worried that with his tattoos, nipple rings, revoked driver’s license and crass sense of humor, he wouldn’t fit in with people she hung out with. (I told her if he made her happy and treated her well, real friends would overlook differences).

Then she was offended when he didn’t ask her to be his date to a friend’s wedding. (I gave him the benefit of the doubt. He was standing up in the wedding, maybe he just didn’t want her to get stuck alone for the evening).

Then he wasn’t available for things that were important to her… meeting her parents, hanging out with her friends, going out on normal dates. (I told her to start making a mental note of these disappointments and decide whether or not this relationship was worth all her yearning).

So by the time she called Sunday, I just couldn’t take it anymore.

She was crying – said this guy had basically blown her off all week. When she tried to talk to him about it, he took hours to respond and got defensive -- as if SHE was being annoying. She went on and on about how he’s going through a bad time in life because of his issues and tragic background. She said she just wanted him to talk to her and tell her what the problem was so she could understand why he was being this way.

I probably should never have opened my mouth. But I just couldn’t help it.

“What exactly are you waiting for him to say?,” I went off. “There is absolutely nothing that can come out of his mouth that can excuse what’s going on here. Bottom line, he’s just not making you happy. Why do you need him to explain that to you? Isn’t it fairly obvious?”

I told her she was amazing, and beautiful, and the life of a party, and successful, with a masters degree and a great job and her own condo and car. But she was putting up with a loser who was acting like SHE was the loser. And the longer she did that the longer it was going to take for her to find a GOOD guy, someone who would NEVER blow her off for a week, ALWAYS want to meet her family and friends, someone who would feel LUCKY to get her phone calls, not burdened.

Monique and I have always been bluntly honest with each other. But I’m sure she wasn’t prepared for my tirade. I told her I was sorry to be so harsh – I’ve never even met the guy (don’t get me started).

But she was epitomizing the line my friend Felice’s ex-boyfriend articulated so well for her when she kept giving him more chances.

“Women spend too much time letting assholes explain why they’re assholes.”

By the end of the conversation, Monique said she was so thankful that I was being honest and that I was giving her the strength to stand up for herself and not put up with crap. She said she was going to confront him that night and tell her that she didn’t want any part of what he was doing.

I told her I’d be on call if she needed to drive straight to my place after the confrontation.

I texted her a reminder of what a great girl she was and how she could have better if she just sought it for herself.

I called her the next morning to make sure she was o.k.

Six hours later, I finally heard back. Knowing exactly what had happened, I let it go to voicemail.

In her message, she said her talk went well. She told him she doesn’t want to be treated badly. He told her all about these issues he’s been having. She said she was glad they had the talk because she feels badly for him because she cares about him.

“It was good,” she said, going on and on about how she’s going to try to be better from now on about not obsessing and blowing off her friends to accommodate his schedule. Somehow, in her mind, things are now just peachy.

And I just don’t have the energy to call her back.

Women spend too much time letting assholes explain why they’re assholes.

Best friends' words are a waste of breath.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Olympic Dreams

Yesterday afternoon, I read online that Shawn Johnson finally won her gold medal. But that didn’t stop me from tearing up last night when I watched the re-airing of her win on NBC.

Which got me thinking.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could watch all of life like the Olympics on TV?

Think about the advantages. We’d know what’s going to happen, but still have the joy of experiencing it for ourselves to get details. We’d invest all the anticipation, nervousness and build-up into our activities, but let go of all the fear that things aren’t going to turn out ok.

I can think of a few different situations where the Olympic delay would be really helpful in getting through some of my current worries.

WORK: People in my line of work are feeling so defeated these days. We’re watching dozens of our friends leave the business, many involuntarily. It would be so nice to just get a quick peek at how it’s all going to turn out. Just a teeny flash forward to a time where journalists know what they’re supposed to be doing and things feel steady. Then we could go back to the present with gusto, knowing the bad stuff does go away eventually.

FRIENDS: I don’t think any of my friends would object to a preview of the people they’re going to end up with someday. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy look. Just a flash that could help my friend Monique figure out whether or not the guy who keeps disappointing her will be worth it in the end. Or a glimpse at the woman who will someday make my friend Michael understand why the heartbreak on the way to her was necessary.

FAMILY: This one’s a little too personal to go into detail about, but it’s my deepest fear of all. What I wouldn’t give for the slightest snapshot of the future to assure me that my Dad will be able to walk me down the aisle, my mom will be around to teach me how to raise my kids, and that my siblings will be around to share the lake house that we’ve always dreamed of sharing.

I know I’m asking for the impossible. And yeah, I get the whole argument that there’s something wonderful about not knowing.

Every once in while I just think we could all use a little cheat sheet to the future.

I’d promise not to abuse it. I don’t even really watch that much T.V.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Tale of Two Games

On Saturday, I joined three girlfriends at Wrigley Field for the Cubs vs. Cardinals game. Twenty-four hours later I was at U.S. Cellular Field with my boyfriend watching the White Sox take on the Red Sox.

They were two totally different experiences for reasons I’m about to list. It's a toss-up which one I adored more.

Game with the Girls: What’s not to love?


The game started at 2:55, but the ladies weren’t mad when I was still on the train at 3:15. They waited patiently by the iconic statue outside Gate D -- a statue Felice identified as “Larry Caray.”

When a photographer from Cubsfan.com approached and asked for a picture, the girls were speechless.
FELICE (finally speaking up for the group): Uh, we’re not really Cubs fans.
PHOTOG: Oh, are you Cardinals’ fans?
FELICE: Um, we’re not really fans.


The upside: Sitting in our primo seats 10 rows back from the first base line – courtesy of McConnell’s dad -- we briefed each other on new love interests, new living situations and other topics. Three-plus hours is a delightfully long amount of time to catch up.

The downside: The lady sitting next to me had to tap me on the shoulder and ask me to lean back. In chatting with my girlfriends, I was blocking her $66 view of the game. Whoops. I apologized.


Being the only one dating an avid baseball fan, my girlfriends looked to me regularly for play explanations, which was an honor. I taught them that Derrick Lee is the one player we have to know to sound respectable. And they were horrified to learn about the ignorant Cubs fans who wore FUKUDOME shirts depicting a cubby bear with slanted eyes and other racist sayings. We smirked in disgust when we passed the T-shirt stands selling the shirts. “Horry Cow” later became our sarcastic catch phrase for the rest of our evening.


The Cubs got their butts kicked, 12 to 3. But me and the girls had a grand ole time sipping back beers, cracking each other up and stuffing our faces with hot dogs.

Game with the Boy: What’s not to love?


The game started at 1:05, and we got off the train at 12:55. “Perfect,” said my Baseball Boyfriend, a season ticket holder who admitted he would have been annoyed if we missed the first pitch. He claimed we could walk the 5 or so blocks and be in our seats in time for the start. I was skeptical, but damned if we weren’t there exactly when he said.

Granted, being there on time required me to skimp on the pre-game primping. I threw on a Brewers cap, slapped on some mascara and ran out the door. In my haste, I apparently smudged a big black line of makeup across my right eye, which Baseball Boyfriend pointed out, then sweetly wiped away by licking his finger and using his shirt to wipe away the smudge. Who said sporting events can’t have tender moments?


Upside: In taking the place of my Baseball Boyfriend’s usual season ticket partner on the third base line, I inherited a great view from which I could ask my most pressing questions.

Me: What’s that black thing that A.J. Pierzynski just threw down before running to first base?
B.B: That’s his shin guard. Sometimes batters follow their swing down and it hits their shins really hard.
Me: (feeling very proud for asking a good question) Interesting.

Downside: It’s hard to always sound like a smart student of baseball.

Me: What’s that white thing behind the pitcher’s mound?
B.B.: I think it’s a hot dog wrapper.


B.B. admits that I make him notice/think about things he would otherwise notice at games. On Sunday, he didn't notice that many people around us had Bobble heads. I wondered where ours were. During a bathroom break, I investigated the situation and learned we missed Sunday's giveaway but could get them mailed to us by calling the Sox corporate office. I am a proactive baseball watcher.


In the end, the Sox beat Boston, 6 to 5, which made my B.B. extremely happy, and in turn made me happy as well. No beers necessary for this organically fun date. But I did stuff my face with a loaded Kosher dog.

All in all, it was two very fun days at the park, for reasons all their own. Maybe I don't need to pick which one I liked better.

For me, it's the combination of both that defines good, old fashioned fun.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Single/Serving Platter War

I was feeling all proud of myself this morning for packing a lunch. It was a fabulous salad, with croutons and grape tomatoes and other goodies all sealed tight in this great Tupperware container I had in my kitchen cabinet…

Until I realized I’m a hypocrite.

That Tupperware was not mine at all. It belonged to my friend Tori, who baked cookies for a party months ago and left it to me to return it. Which, gasp, I obviously didn’t. I’m a horrible person. A terrible person who deserves no lunch at all!

I know you think I’m being ridiculous. It’s a stinkin Tupperware, for god’s sake. I’m sure she has many others, right?

WRONG! With this one packed lunch, I’ve contributed to a gripe I’ve long had about the way single people get screwed when it comes to serving ware and other kitchen tools.

Married people have all the fancy dishes, pans and storage containers. People literally shower them with the stuff before they get married, leaving them with cluttered cupboards chock full of pot-luck serving tray options. Fondue sets. Pyrex with matching travel bags.

But for single people, these are supplies we have to accumulate slowly from hand-me-downs or our own trips to IKEA. Often, we only have ONE pizza pan, ONE covered 9-by-13 cake pan, ONE salad-sized Tupperware.

So we need you to give them back!

Most of the time, however, married people forget this. They’ll take your party offering, serve it on the table, then let the emptied container join a stack of their dirty dishes by the sink at the end of the night.

Which leaves us single people in an embarrassing quandary. Do we ask for the tray and appear uptight and stingy?

Or do we just let it go, thereby letting married people steal from the ones who have so little to begin with?

I say we fight! We must not let those who have registered hurt us just because we’ve never held the Target gun. We must not give up the things we have worked hard for – even though it’s not quite Celphalon!

I shouldn’t say all married people are guilty of this theft. I did have one positive experience at a married co-worker’s cook-out last summer. I brought a bowl of cherries – get it? – with my only fruit bowl.

Although I didn’t ask for it, the bowl was washed, wrapped in a bag and sitting on my desk the next work day.

A non-hostile victory.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Type

My friend Felice has been on a few dates with a guy who seems obviously interested in her based on their interactions thus far.

He calls. He takes her out. He follows up and asks to take her out again.

Still, my friend Felice questions his interest based on a small admission he made during one of their dates.

His last serious girlfriend was an all-american blonde. (Felice is an ethnic brunette.)

During a recent conversation, Felice asked me the question I’m not sure how to answer any more.

How much do "types" matter in relationships?

I used to think "types" mattered a lot. If a guy at a bar had a thing for Asian or "exotic" (Ugh, I hate that term) girls, I could count on him to approach me. Likewise, my friends who were attracted to tall, dark and handsome types generally ended up with them on the dance floor.

But over the years, I’ve watched friends fall for people who don’t fit their "types" at all. Guy friends ending up with women I would’ve never pictured them with. Girlfriends ending up with guys shorter or bigger or more ethnic or whatever than they’d ever described in our young girltalks.

So you’d think based on all that, the simple, evolved answer, would be that types don’t matter. After a certain level of maturity, people look beyond hair, eye, skin, height, weight, etc. to fall in love with what lies beneath.


Initially, I told Felice not to worry, that types don’t matter at our age.

Unfortunately, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if it’s really that simple.

I mean, don’t we have "types" because it’s a natural, almost animalistic thing – to be drawn to a certain look of a human being that causes a chemical reaction in ourselves?

So as much as you may feel – or want to feel – satisfied by the nice, funny, gold-hearted person who happens to be the opposite of your type, isn’t it just simple fact that you’d be a lot more excited if those qualities were packaged in the "type" that makes you feel all tingly inside?

Thankfully, I think Felice’s new man has also dated non-Blondes, so my theory doesn’t have to
apply to her potentially budding relationship.

The asterisk in all this seems to be that some people truly don’t have types.

Which, at the end of the day, leaves hope for us all.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Vince Lombardi and Love

For years, I’ve taken issue with the famous Vince Lombardi quote: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

“What a terrible thing to say!” I’ve argued.

What about the game itself? Is there no value in the mere idea of playing? Is Lombardi’s message that we should only feel happy when we come out on top on the end?

Well, Packer fans, I think I’ve had an epiphany based on a situation I heard about recently.

Carlie was dating a guy with cute, single friends. So she hooked her friend Jen up with one of them. Fortunately, Jen and the guy’s friend hit it off. Unfortunately, Carlie’s guy ended up being a dud. So now she has to hear all about the great budding relationship she instigated, even though her own relationship is tanking. It makes her really mad.

It’s a scenario we all take a gamble on when we bring friends together. There’s always a chance they’ll score the most, even though you invited them to the field.

Carlie has been ignoring Jen ever since she started calling to gush about the new relationship. She isn’t proud of her behavior, but she just can’t bring herself to listen to the romantic babble she wanted for herself.

So I think I finally see what Vince – I can call him that, right? – may have been saying. Maybe sometimes, it isn’t enough to just be in the game. You invite people to play, but ultimately you want to win.

When it comes to relationships, winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.