renice.com web


Thursday, February 26, 2004

Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet* 

Another interesting little exercise last weekend was introducing ourselves, one-on-one, to our classmates. We were instructed to use the format: "Hi, I was given the name [blank] and I expect to get [blank] from this weekend." Shortly it became clear that we would be thinking about how we'd spent our lifetimes encapsulating infinite beings into a finite package – how, for example, I've become this thing named "Renice" with all the expectations it includes.

I hated my name as a kid. I think part of the reason was that my parents were disappointed with having a girl and had no girls' names ready – they couldn't even think past "Stephen Louis". Mine was a made-up name a family friend constructed. Between 4 and 5, I wanted to rename myself "Charlie". My grandfather encouraged me, which infuriated my mother. (I felt a little cheated when the fragrance Charlie came out in 1973 and the adverts featured a gorgeous model supposedly named Charlie.)

When my daughter was 2, I enrolled her in the only preschool in Austin where all the teachers were degreed and the teacher-student ratio was 1 or 2 to 5 or 6. The catch was that it was in the middle of the worst housing projects in Austin. Her classmates pronounced her name "Joe LEE". When we moved to Illinois, she introduced herself to her new preschool classmates using the same pronunciation. I corrected her: "Jolie, your name is not Joe LEE, it's JO-lee." "No it is NOT," responded my headstrong little 3-year-old. And so we argued for a few rounds, until I finally resorted to, "Look, I named you and I know how to pronounce it!" She looked absolutely horrified, "You NAMED me?!"

Now she says that I branded her – that all the Jolies she knows are doing something fashion related. It's a little frightening that the Kabalarians might have it right: "your name creates your thinking".

* Apologies, Will


Wednesday, February 25, 2004

A Few Adjustments 

After having a rather obtrusive (in contrast with "invasive") medical procedure yesterday afternoon, I decided I needed to indulge myself with a forbidden treat. I ordered Papa Del's as I was driving west on University. (Yes, I am lactose- and gluten-intolerant: Danger! Danger Will Robinson! Stay clear of room 113 today!) The guy taking my order asked for my phone number, fine, then he asked for my name. I said, "Renice – R - E - N - I - C - E." "Is that your last name?" "No, it's my first." "Could you give me your last name?" "Do you know any other Renices?" "Uhhh, no..." "Ok then, I want a small spinach and mushroom stuffed pizza."

When I hung up I thought, "Uh oh, I'm not in New York anymore." (Sorry Iffy, I didn't get your stylish-something request in time.) When going in either direction between cornfields and The City, it usually takes me a while to adjust my sense of space, distance, time, style, and/or humor. Space didn't feel so warped this trip, but I'm going to have to work on my timing.

During the introductory first hour of last weekend's workshop, the instructor told a joke about keys. I can't remember the joke, but the second he said it I remembered that I didn't remember having my keys when I got on the plane. Sure enough, three days later I had to call a locksmith from the airport parking lot back in Indy. Freud said no accident is an accident, and in this case, I think I really didn't want to come back to the cornfields.

Ahhh... just another opportunity to practice a releasing technique.


Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Blah Blah Blah 

Fun parties Saturday night – Jol and I made short appearances and I felt no pressure. My whole weekend was all about no pressure. I registered for the workshop that I attended this past weekend because I haven't been following my own primary piece of advice: "Choose to be happy." Or maybe more accurately, I'd forgotten how it was that I'd followed the advice in the past. For the last few years, I've been flailing about trying to approximate similar conditions under which I'd been happy in the past.

This workshop was for a sort of stress-management method of releasing the emotions that bind us to unproductive habits or thought patterns. I met people who've been using the method and say it works. The premise of the method makes sense to me (obviously, since I paid for the course). For some time now, I've been trying to reconcile the idea that people who ignore their past traumas are happier than those who explore them in traditional psychotherapies (specifically as demonstrated in research on holocaust survivors that I mentioned in an earlier entry) with the popular notion that you can't heal unless you uncover old wounds. Additionally, there was the problem of not being able to ignore the past, but constantly reliving it in spite of willful intentions to the contrary.

I have plenty of conceptual problems with traditional psychotherapies: Ok, so you uncover emotional triggers from your past, then what? Your therapist says, "And how do you feel about that?" "Well, I feel like shit." Supportive nod. Great. Now what? Cognitive therapy offered some relief, but I couldn't find anyone in this wasteland of health care practitioners who had any practical notion of what that really is. I'd found some books useful, but I'd felt like I was ready to go further.

I hope this method is that next step. One of my favorite exercises this weekend was to choose an unresolved problem from our lives, then relate the problem to a class partner using only the word "blah". Afterwards our partner responded with 'advice' using only "blah". Oddly, not having to choose words was something of a relief to me, even though I was going through the entire sordid story in my head as I blah blah blah'ed along. Particularly surprising was that the sense of appreciation and helpfulness that I got from blah-blah advice wasn't any less than what I've gotten from 'real' advice. In other words, at least for me, the details are really meaningless.


Saturday, February 21, 2004

En Vogue 

My personal fashion consultant has agreed with the cashier: the jacket is me. I'm far more fashion conscious in NYC than I am in the midst of the prairie. I'm wearing pointy-toed, short stiletto heels (you know, the ones that make you wish you were a chick, Iffy), a short-sleeved black cashmere pullover, and my new ersatz Jackie O jacket – Jol and I will be going to 2 birthday parties this evening after my workshop.

For my 17th birthday, I'd gotten a subscription to Vogue magazine. In every issue, it seemed there was a story about how to transform your office attire for a night on the town. I was living and working in Naperville at the time and I couldn't really imagine not being able to go home before going out, so the stories didn't make much sense to me. Now, as I sit on a train going the wrong direction (damn! this is why I lived in Manhattan when I lived here – it's harder to get on the wrong train, and even if you do, there are 5 people who will tell you how to get where you're going – in Brooklyn, a woman just nodded that yes, I was headed to MIdtown – sure, after I see this whole blighted borough), the idea of dressing for the dressiest event in your day makes some sense.

Before my kid was 2, she was arguing with me about what she was going to wear for the day. I would throw up my hands in Jewish-mother fashion and say, "Oy! we shouldn't have these arguments for another 15 years!" At 4, when other kids were laying their coats on the floor to get them on right, Jol would look at herself in a mirror, cut a pattern from a paper bag and put it on with the holes exactly where they needed to be. She started dressing me when she was in grade school. I would come down the stairs feeling fine, and she would scowl, "You are not wearing that!"

Now she works at Vogue magazine.


Friday, February 20, 2004

My Style 

I'm sitting in a Starbucks on 7th Avenue with my grande soy no whip mocha. I'm near the garment district where I've been hunting for beads in the wholesale shops. I love New York. There are so many languages around me; I can't help listening to the ESL group at the table across from me. A woman who speaks grammatically flawless, precisely enunciated English with a heavy Chinese accent is leading the group. She's a little bossy and is clearly passionate about the topic. Her style reminds me of when I thought I could teach English to a Hungarian neighbor. She was a 20-something Zsa Zsa Gabor who'd married an American flyboy, and she graciously humored me until I realized that's what she was doing. It was 1962 and I was in grade school.

When I got in last night, the cabbie asked how long I'd lived in Brooklyn. I caught myself answering, "I don't live in Brooklyn," not unlike Miranda would have done before she moved there. I went on to explain that I was visiting my daughter, but I'd moved from Manhattan 3 years ago. He asked where I live now and when I said Champaign Illinois he said, "Ahhh, you teach at university there." "Well, no, but I work at the University." "Same thing. I know people. I been driving 17 years. I can tell you are teacher."

This afternoon I bought an H&M jacket because it looks like one my mother wore in 1962 (so Jackie O!). My daughter wears it now, and I was just looking at it on her closet door this morning. Vintage clothes are always too small for me, so it was fun to find a remake in my size. I'm not sure the retro look fits me, even though the cashier, an exotic-looking woman my age said without a prompt, "Oh! this is you!" I wonder if that means it looks like something a teacher would wear.

Cliff Walkers' Alliance 

Spalding Gray has been missing for over a month now. He'd been thinking of stepping off for a long while. He didn't leave a note this time – when he had the last time, his wife called the police. They found him on the Staten Island ferry and escorted him off. Now his family wants the Hudson searched. For at least part of the year in temperate climes, hypothermia is a convenient option.

I wrote most of this entry while in flight to NYC (and by the way, cranapple juice drink and rum are magnificent, or maybe it just feels that way at cruising altitude). Nearly 3 years ago, when I had 30 minutes to get to the airport for a similar excursion, the phone rang. An old friend on the other end said she was calling to say Good Bye – capital G, capital B – pronounced with an unmistakable tone of finality. She'd been through a divorce a couple of years earlier, and I knew what she was saying. Still, I made her say it more explicitly. "I won't be here when you get back," she said. I spent the next 30 minutes trying to ease her off the ledge. Then, exasperated, I said forcefully, "I will call you as soon as I get to LGA, and you will answer." She paused and then agreed. A few months later, she thanked me saying, "You were right" (a sentiment which now strikes me as very funny).

Fast forward a year, and I was letting her go. I had reached a point where I felt too precarious when I let her near. Her erratic behavior and broadcast emails were frightening many of her old friends, including me. By way of explanation, I told her that we are all cliff walkers – we help each other when we can, but if one of us gets too close to the edge, the others must back away for fear of being pulled over.

Aaron's comment was pretty on target: a lot of us "scare too many people" – and the consequences are not trivial.


Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Tractor Beams 

I used to try to explain to my husband how his depressive bouts affected me, and why I felt driven to wheedle and cajole him into doing something with me – often the weather was bad so it was doing things like sledding, or walking to the store, or just walking around the neighborhood. My response and drive to adjust something that he saw as separate from me was illogical to him. In my explanation, I used the image of orbiting celestial bodies, and how their gravitational pulls affect the orbits of bodies around them.

The last few days I've been trying to understand why I care that a man, to whom I once was emotionally attached, was reading what I publicly write here. It did bother me that he was doing it secretly, i.e., hiding it from his wife, but that's really his problem. Yesterday, as I whiled away the better part of an hour in an MRI machine, I realized that it's as if I feel the weight of his attention – and of course that's my problem.

Freud believed that the simple recognition of a problem of the psyche can resolve the problem. He was wrong for the most part: sometimes insight helps, but it more often doesn't. (Holocaust survivors, for example, have been shown to be more functional, and what researchers termed "successful", if they simply ignored their psychic pain from devastating experiences.) In this case, the insight is useful – I think I can stop caring about what this man is doing now.

MRI machines are a perfect place to contemplate orbiting bodies. The second the machine is turned on, I lapse into a surreal dreamlike state. 30 years ago I stopped sleeping under an electric blanket because of the similarly strange dreams I was having. A few years later, research showed that women who used electric blankets had an increased incidence of miscarriages.

As I recall my husband's puzzled reaction to my orbiting bodies metaphor, I wonder if, as in water, some people are simply more buoyant than others in these unseen currents. If so, you can't really fault them for it, any more than you can blame the negatively buoyant person for having trouble scuba diving.

[Next: Cliff walking with Spalding Gray.]


Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Karmic Costs 

Tim writes that he's having trouble sleeping because of "having to decide a person's fate." Completely reasonable to me. I've heard similar things from everyone I've ever known who's served on a jury, and though I haven't had jury duty yet, I personally understand the sentiment. I've often said that I went into design because "I can't kill anyone with it." I'm being funny when I say it, but it actually is true. I don't want to have responsibility over anyone else's life, not even as a lawyer or doctor, for example. For one thing, I believe strongly in karma.

Unfortunately, I have a lot of personal work to do to better adhere to my belief system. For instance, I am not always generous in my thoughts of others (ok, understatement), which is part of why I also have a private blog (and, by the way, even though it's not public I still would call it a blog because it's available to me from anywhere I have a net connection, and the bonus is that I'm not carrying around a less secure hardcopy). Another part of the reason is that both my private and public blogs inform each other; writing in one often leads me to post in the other. Recently, for example, I wrote here that I'd been "rudderless" the first time I married – that was something of an epiphany about my relationships in general, and I immediately had to spend some time privately exploring it.

Nevertheless, secrecy is a curious thing to me. I've spent a considerable amount of my life trying to be open, to avoid keeping secrets. Secrets have always gotten me in trouble. I was intrigued by a news article a few days ago about a Christian group reaching out to men of their faith who secretly view porn online. It seems to me that you have a problem if you're secretly viewing anything online – even something as tame as my blog (and, as Josh Cagan puts it in his blog's subtitle, "you know who you are").

[Next: The gravity of orbiting bodies.]


Monday, February 16, 2004

Old Rummy 

So much for optimism. I watched The Gin Game on PBS last night. At first I was mesmerized by seeing Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore so old. As wonderful as they were, I don't think I would have cast them in these parts. It took me the greater part of the production to stop seeing the characters as Rob and Laura, which brought back a flood of images of gathering with my very typical American family around a black & white TV after dinner. Unfortunately, the chemistry between these actors leads you to expect a little comic relief and romance, which is not at all what the story is about.

In the next couple of weeks, I have sonograms and MRIs scheduled to find out why my own body has been devolving in certain ways. On one level, it seems like even looking for these particular answers is a waste of time and resources – eventually, I'll simply be "warehoused until the body stops," as Weller says in the play. I've often had the feeling that my HMO doctors are simply applying stopgap solutions until that point.

I filled in PBS's feedback form for The Gin Game mini-site: "Please set the type on this web feature so that it is user-scalable. It's never a good idea to use absolute values for body text on web pages, and it's particularly ironic on this site."

Irony... just what I need today.


Saturday, February 14, 2004


Admittedly, at the start of my countdown I'd planned to simply fill this entry with an enormous "Z E R O" – it does actually sum up the state of my romantic life today quite nicely.

Having read my last nine entries, you might guess that I'm rather jaded about relationships and whether love ever stays. But I am surprisingly optimistic about the issue – at least as it pertains to me. As it pertains to the rest of you, well, I'm quite sure that love and pain are two sides of the same fig leaf. Eventually you'll get yours... but fortunately you'll soon forget it – after all, we humans have amazingly small capacities for remembering pain.

I've had objects of desire, and once or twice been an object of desire. Both are so intoxicating that sometimes I've settled for having or being an object of use because it seems better than nothing, zilch, zero. Not long ago, a couple of my women friends tried to convince me that it wasn't better, that I should settle for being alone, that I would in the end be happier alone. I found their arguments gratingly annoying: they're both happily married to wonderful people.

I have absolutely no intention of accepting zero without a fight. I have every intention of once more being in a partnership of mutual desire and future and support.

In a countdown, zero usually indicates a launch. New start. Fresh beginning. All that. So... here's wishing for a happy Valentine's Day and loads of love.


Friday, February 13, 2004

A Little Rae of Light* 

On the saccharine scale, expressing love for your offspring is right up there with the love of 4-legged companions.

Nevertheless, my mood immediately brightened Tuesday night when I booked a flight to La Guardia – Thursday night I'll see my daughter again. She says she's happy I'm coming too, even though I so often embarrass her. I understand: it's tough being Ms. Young Professional in the Big Apple when your mother is, well, your mother. We won't see each other all that much – I have friends there and plans, and she has work and work. But just seeing her and the life she is forging is profoundly uplifting to me.

In a somewhat similar way, I enjoy revisiting my artistic work – I sometimes don't remember the act of creation when I look at my prints or writing, and then I think, "Wow, how is it that I knew that back then?" Not so with my kid... I remember thinking at the moment of conception – I kid you not – that she would have his eyes and "Yes, I can live with those eyes for the rest of my life."

A year later, her great, great aunt told her, "When you grow up you tell people you don't just have brown eyes, you have Beautiful Brown eyes."

One of my very favorite Valentine's Days was setting up a treasure hunt for her a mere 4 years after that. We created a tangle of colored strings, each with a little gift attached, winding through our crowded 450 square foot apartment in so-called "Married Student Housing". We handed her the strings in a careful sequence, so that the best gift, a locket, was saved for last. When she finally got to it her eyes lit up, and mine misted over.

Countdown:   O N E . . .

* Thanks, Madonna


Thursday, February 12, 2004

I'm Just Crazy About You 

A few minutes ago, I saw an advertisement for Fatal Attraction on Bravo – they're calling it "the ultimate Valentine romance". And you thought I was negative about relationships.

Actually, I like the idea of a woman who is clear about the emotional value she attaches to intimacy. Women like Glen Close's character in Fatal Attraction or Cameron Diaz's character in Vanilla Sky might take it too far (ya think?), but let's face it, sex makes us crazy. Even Vulcans get The Seven-Year Itch.

We get so crazy that the most powerful cautionary tales have no effect. And warnings are a complete waste of time. I once told a guy – some time after he'd pledged undying love – that if it ended badly, he would regret it. He smiled understandingly (maybe it was 'patronizingly'?), and then he proceeded to end it very badly. So, I went a little crazy. Maybe not Vanilla Sky or Fatal Attraction crazy, but it seemed pretty damn close to the average Midwesterner.

You might argue that he couldn't help himself because, being male, he is programmed to 'get some', even to the point of being a little crazy. It strikes me that men seem to be besides themselves before getting it, while women seem to be besides themselves after having gotten it.

Major incompatibility, that.

Countdown:   T W O . . .


Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Love is (too) Sweet 

Painter Peter Bodnar told me some 18 years ago that he'd found a subject matter so engaging, he could spend the rest of his life on it. Frankly, I was not only unimpressed but a little horrified as well. True, Peter was joyously in love with his first and only wife of nearly 3 decades (of which he often reminded his captive and paying audience – his grad students) – but that he still loved having sex with her seemed far too clear to me from his paintings).

Fair enough, my opinion of Peter's life's work might have been slightly biased by the fact that he was chastising me for my "flighty" use of technique and styles, with the only B I received. Although I would once again defend my multi-subject multi-style style, he and I actually had a premise of our work in common... and I don't (necessarily) mean the subject matter of sex.

In my art, I'd gone through my Angry Young Woman period at 17, and had concluded that angst is easy, but joy is a much worthier challenge.

In fact, joy is incredibly difficult to express without seeming saccharine. And so it is in stories of the heart, even around that most acceptably saccharine of celebrations, Valentines Day. The truth is I'm joyously happy at the moment, as I sit, with laptop, on a padded and flounced island under a warm comforter with my most adoring fan snuggling against my side. But what am I going to do, write odes to my dog?

Countdown:   T H R E E . . .


Tuesday, February 10, 2004

By Job... 

Once a relationship is over, for whatever reason, how do you rise from the ashes? In a song in heavy rotation right now, Sheryl Crow sings, "The first cut is the deepest...". Unfortunately, I haven't found that to be the case and I'm wishing it were – if it were true, surely break ups would be getting easier for me.

This morning I was driving to work after a particularly good session with my physical therapist (talk about feelin' the burn). I was singing along with the Planet, truly enthralled with the snow-covered vistas of the South Farms along St. Mary's. And WHAM! There he was, coming over the rise toward me in his son's car. And just 25 hours after he'd noticed the request I'd left on my site to please stop visiting these writings. Wow. Timing that amazing just seems like it's got to be Job's G*d burning down your house.

It's been 527 days since it was over – not like I'm counting or anything – and I still had to sit at the next stop sign until the sobbing subsided. Geez, enough boils already!

Iffy asked yesterday how I was going to come up with enough "depressing love stories" to complete my countdown. I told him I wasn't trying to make them depressing, but the real answer is, it's been disturbingly easy.

Countdown:   F O U R . . .


Monday, February 09, 2004

Sweet Endings 

My father gave my mother an enormous heart-shaped box of chocolates every Valentines. He ate most of them. He divorced her after 17 years when a sweet young thing flirted with him – he'd always had insatiable and compulsive cravings for dessert.

Today I spent a considerable amount of time sitting in the county courthouse over a nasty driving issue (happily it was resolved: I'll have no legal record, but one friggin' huge ripple in my checkbook, plus 50 hours of community service to work out – fodder for future posts, no doubt). While I sat there, watching a parade of sad cases of people less financially fortunate than I (except in rare cases like mine, people who can afford to send attorneys in their stead do so – I had to appear with my attorney today because neglecting parking tickets apparently demonstrates an unconscionable disregard for authority which weighed heavily against my case), I couldn't help but be reminded of the last time I'd sat in court watching a similar parade of sad cases.

Eight years ago I sat in divorce court to end my own union. While I awaited my case, I listened to story after story of lives tragically altered by relationships gone wrong. Invariably the plaintiffs sounded confused and hurt – they'd never expected to be where they were that day. When they had once walked down the aisle with their beloveds, they'd been absolutely convinced that theirs would be the statistically rare "happily ever after." But their convictions had been torn apart by betrayals of the heart, or financial misappropriations, or physical violence, or various combinations of the three.

Not much later I added a piece of advice to my advice page: "Before you decide to get married, go sit in your local divorce court for a couple of hours..." It's still good advice and I imagine it implemented in High Schools in a way similar to Scared Straight programs.

Countdown:   F I V E . . .


Sunday, February 08, 2004

Gifts of Love 

It's Sunday, so this morning I was picking up the aftermath of the week – the shoes, outerwear, junk mail, and dirty dishes that are scattered across the living room until Sundays when I start preparing for the coming week. Today, the second scarf I put away reminded me of the man who'd given it to me.

After an affair, what do you do with gifts from a former lover? I have a friend who has kept every piece of jewelry but won't wear them. I returned earrings once, but then, I hadn't really liked them from the start. The gift giver was hurt, and that was a bonus. My first husband gave me a simple chain necklace when we were young and impoverished. I wore it every day until it broke years after the marriage had. I didn't associate the necklace with him – it was simply an object that I enjoyed wearing. Unfortunately, he noticed my wearing it whenever he saw me and thought I was using it as some sort of talisman to reunite us. That was awkward.

I still love the pearls and diamonds my second husband gave me, and every time I put them on I think of him and the occasions when he gave them to me – which I suppose is part of the point of giving jewelry, but it might help that I'm still friendly with him. On the other hand, the scarf evoked memories this morning of an unpleasant man and a painful episode in my life, yet I don't hold it against the scarf.

There's probably a rule to be written from this, but it might be easier simply to give perishables – they could be the more appropriate gift anyway, given how volatile relationships seem to be these days.

Countdown:   S I X . . .


Saturday, February 07, 2004

Love's a Bitch 

This would probably be the last day to mail gifts if you had a dearheart who was far off somewhere. If you send flowers, you can wait another few days.

Ten years and lifetimes of angst after my first happy Valentines, I sent flowers. I had them delivered to the shop where my dearheart worked. I was afraid it might embarrass him, but he was elated. He hadn't been sure how I felt, and the flowers were encouraging. At 32, I was giddy in love for the first time – how could he not have known? I was obnoxiously goofy, but then, he was nearly 1100 miles away. It was a bittersweet Valentines.

Tonight I saw the play Sylvia at the local 2-year college. A Manhattan couple contends with the new presence of a dog in their lives. In spite of a cute portrayal of a dog (not an easy thing on stage), the story was not written for children (the dog screams obscenities at a cat, for example). In fact, the storyline was a little too reasonable for me: We animals are jealous creatures. After ultimatums and compromises, the story ends bittersweetly. In real life, sometimes compromise just isn't in us.

Countdown:   S E V E N . . .


Friday, February 06, 2004

Happy First 

I had made a decision to love Patrick. I didn't feel giddy and swept off my feet or in any way like other people had described being in love. When I decided to marry him, I actually thought, "This is as close to love as I'll ever get." I was 21. Now it seems such a stupid thing to have done, but in some ways it was the best thing: We were both rudderless – with another person in the boat, we might actually get somewhere.

The first year of our marriage, I worked on a sofa manufacturing line to put him through school. I had worked as a commercial artist for a bank service company, and as a draftsman for Bell Telephone, but I made 2-3 times more putting my back into it on the line, so that's what I did. After work, he made dinner and I helped him with his coursework and balanced our checkbook. I marshaled every penny – we were on our own and money was rare enough.

I didn't expect anything for our first Valentines, but he'd done some odd job to come up with enough to take me to the nicest restaurant in Naperville. It was hard for me to relax and let him spend the money so extravagantly, until I realized that it was the first happy Valentines I'd had.

So that's my love story for the day. Not as dramatic as the couple who married after he was devastatingly burned, just the stuff of ordinary lives.

Countdown:   E I G H T . . .


Thursday, February 05, 2004


When you're in denial about aging, there's nothing like a visit to the rheumatology department to cheer you up. Not only is it a little dose of reality, but the magazines in that waiting room are pathetic.

So there I was Tuesday afternoon, thumbing through a grubby Christmas issue of Family Circle filled with stories of True Grit, or something like that. One of the stories was about a young man, engaged to be married, who had mistakenly thrown a bucket of oil on a fire. He was burned beyond recognition, blinded, and lost his legs below the knees and arms above the elbows. Only his genitals were undamaged. (Ok, if this hadn't been in Family Circle, I would have thought I was reading the concept for the next Farrelly brothers film.)

His fiancee was let off the hook by all involved, including her betrothed. But she married him in spite of the kind of care her husband would now need. Happily, they had 2 beautiful children who look like their dad had. The thing that stuck with me from the story, which I didn't finish before I was called into an examination room, was something the young man said to the reporter: "We believe that love isn't a feeling, it's a decision."

And so begins the countdown to the most obnoxious (at least to the single and the unhappily paired) day of the year: Valentines.   N I N E . . .


Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Ch Ch Ch Changes 

Only 5 posts, but already themes emerge. Age is the one I want to avoid. Ok, deny.

When I was in high school, one of my cousin's best friends, who was preoccupied with death, worked as an attendant at a nursing home. I was impressed with the affection this high school boy had for the patients he cared for. I was fascinated with the relationships he had with these people who had lived lives that I couldn't understand, and who wouldn't be bothered to consider the life that I was living. To me, old people were another species and we had no common language.

After Rob's shifts at the home, I would push for stories. He found my curiosity amusing and told me that he'd felt the same way before he'd started working there. So, he said, he asked one old guy what it was like to be old. I was shocked, "You said that?!" He said it hadn't bothered the old guy, in fact he'd thought it was funny, "They know they're old, you know." "Well, what did he say?" "That inside he felt the same as I did, it was only the outside that had changed." I was blown away, and Rob, seeing the expression on my face, said, "Yeah, amazing isn't it?"

Recently I went with 3 co-workers to look at a fitness facility. The registrar assumed we were there for the family plan. I was stunned, but then realized that I was in fact old enough to have sons as old as the 2 younger of my colleagues (and, in fact, I have a daughter their age). We corrected the registrar's misperception, and later regretted our honesty: the fee for four family members would have been considerably cheaper. But it wasn't so much honesty that kept me from using the misperception – it was pride.

I feel the same inside, and I'm constantly surprised that other people perceive me as old. As Rob said some 33 years ago, it's amazing.