Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Terrible Twos

On June 11, I failed to draw attention to a significant milestone: this blog is now two years old!

Isn't that an awesome Hot Wheels cake? I'm pretty sure that's not the kind of cake I got when I turned two. Mine probably had some My Little Pony bullshit on it.

One parenting website describes two-year-old behavior as "characterized by being negative about most things and often saying 'no.' The terrible twos may also find your toddler having frequent mood changes and temper tantrums."

Huh. I feel like that also describes my 20s. "No, I don't want to work at a real job! I want to stay in college FOREVER. WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"

The Sesame Street website has some helpful visual aids. At age two, it becomes increasingly important to start enforcing/building good eating habits. My favorite Sesame Street character, Cookie Monster, has an important song about this:

I find it interesting that the video has good stuff to say about nutrition, but delivers it through a Muppet who uses terrible grammar and broken English ("Hey, what that? That look like bunch of fruit!"). Learning to speak correctly is apparently not a priority for two-year-olds.

I'm not trying to hate on Cookie Monster, though. He's the best. I own a Tickle-Me-Cookie-Monster. He hangs out with my other strange stuffed items, which include Maurice (a stuffed mustache) and the infamous Catbread.

Yes, I still sleep with stuffed animals. DON'T JUDGE ME. If you do, I might have to throw a temper tantrum.

Happy (belated) birthday, Vagnino Monologues!

Friday, June 11, 2010

So You Think You Don't Like Poetry

I thought for this week it would be interesting to post two poems on the same subject: learning. One is by
Brendan Constantine; it's called "1981" and was published last year in the journal Luvina. The other is by (gasp!) me. It's called "Learning Curve" and I wrote it last year. It was just published in Waterways.

(Note: For some reason, Blogger is not letting me format this the way I want -- so some of the line breaks are off. To read it correctly formatted, click here)


I learned the word disaster meant against the stars,
learned it did not apply to this world; the sky intended
every cruelty.
I watched the boy with no legs
pictures of feet for an hour in Study Hall. .........................................................In the hall
of my uncle’s rest home I heard the paper voice of a man
so old he’d forgotten he was blind. When a nurse passed

his door, he’d ask “Turn the lights on, would you?”

I learned sadness like a way home from school. I got in

later and later. Some nights I didn’t come back at all

but sat up waiting for myself.
I passed Geography,

History, & Spanish for the last time. My cat died.

My dog turned grey. My physics teacher was hit

by an ambulance.

But I read a book & understood it.

A woman asked me to touch her body. I did.
I wrote

my first poem. It said people were like moons. I believed

what I wrote, believed I had done all my writing, wouldn’t

do anymore.
Then I believed a book that said the oleanders
behind our house were poison. All summer I dreamed

of meeting someone I could feed one brutal flower.

Learning Curve

I don’t remember learning how to wrap
a gift, who taught me how with steady hands

to tie the string around my fingers, curl

the ends. Tying shoelaces I’ll credit to Dad,

along with telling time and jokes, balancing

a checkbook, chopping onions without crying.

In fifth grade, Val showed me the way to run
a razor over my legs, said Watch out
around the ankles. French kissing: the honor

goes to a wiry boy whose name was James

or John. He slid his timid tongue across

my gums, placed his hand on my hairless knee.

You can break a promise and be forgiven

I learned from my mother, as well as how
to flirt while knotting a necktie around
your lover’s throat. Lying I picked up myself,

first small things like I’ve never felt this way

before, then bigger, hungrier untruths:

This glass will be my last; sex means nothing;

bruises are beautiful; I am not a poet.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Happiness hit her like a train on a track
Coming towards her, stuck still, no turning back
She hid around corners and she hid under beds
She killed it with kisses and from it she fled
With every bubble she sank with a drink
And washed it away down the kitchen sink.
-- "Dog Days Are Over" (Florence & The Machine)

The subject of this post is happiness; or more specifically, my recent happiness. And even more specifically, the odd feelings (guilt, suspicion, terror) that have accompanied my realization that I'm happier now than I have been in years.

Happiness is an elusive notion. The pursuit of it, according to the Constitution, is one of our unalienable rights. Obviously, happiness means different things to different people, which perhaps accounts for the 17,529 books on Amazon that either have the word in the title or listed as the subject.

Generally, I think of myself as a positive person, with a fairly optimistic outlook on life. But that doesn't mean I've always been happy. Living in Boston (as opposed to New York) definitely has made me a happier person, but still, it has taken nearly two years for me to feel genuinely happy with my life here.

What has changed? In the last few months, it's like everything has just clicked into alignment. Usually, when one aspect of my life is going well, another is, pardon the expression, in the shitter. If my personal life is on the upswing, I'll be stressed about money/career and vice versa. But right now, everything is going pretty freakin' well. And it's freaking me out.

Job-wise, I'm very content. I love being a server at Lineage: love the food, love my co-workers, and the money is good. It's the first restaurant job I've had that I've found satisfying and not frustrating. And in the fall, I'll be teaching a college class, which is something I've always wanted to do. Very exciting.

I've also finally figured out who my friends are in Boston. This can be a tough town in terms of meeting people and my first year here was pretty lonely. But now, I feel confident that the circle of people I spend my time with are good, caring individuals that have my back and enjoy my company. This is a good feeling.

And finally, last but certainly not least, there is a new and thrilling romance, with someone I met on My very first Match date turned out to be a winner -- we've been seeing each other for about 6 weeks now and it gets better every day. All the cliched, eye-rolling emotions have turned out to be true: he makes my heart race, gives me butterflies, and I miss him as soon as he's gone. And I think he feels the same way -- if not, he is a master manipulator, not to mention a superb actor.

But who goes on ONE internet date and meets someone great? What are the odds of that happening? How did I get so lucky?

The answer is, I don't know. For the first time in a long time, there is nothing in my life causing me anxiety. And for those of you who know me, that is bizarre. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the shit to hit the fan...I mean, any day now, I'm going to get fired or get my heart broken, right? It can't be correct that I'm allowed all this good fortune.

Of course, when I told all this to my new guy, his response was "Are you sure you're not Irish Catholic?"

So I'm what?

Friday, June 4, 2010

The truth about cats and dogs and me

I'm just going to come out and say it: I am not a huge fan of dogs.

I know, I KNOW. Go ahead -- gasp, guffaw, look thoroughly disgusted. It's because of these reactions that I've had to qualify this statement somewhat and follow it up with "I mean, I don't hate dogs or anything. They're ok."

Which is close to the truth. The real truth is that very few dogs have made their way into my esteem. Did I grow up around dogs? To some extent -- on my 12th birthday, our dog Frisco took it upon himself to eat/shred half of my new presents when we went out for a celebratory dinner. This possibly soured me to the species. The vast majority of dogs I've encountered barked too much, jumped up on me too much and just generally showed a lack of intelligence that I found to be distasteful. But saying you don't like dogs is like saying you're against cancer research or that maybe Hitler had the right idea. Not liking dogs is un-American, it's suspicious, it's downright unnatural.

Cats, on the other hand? I love cats. They don't bark. You don't have to take them out. They seem smarter than dogs, even if that's not true. They are selective with their affection, like me. But people love to hate on cats. "Cats are snobby," they say. "They don't love you like dogs do." Unconditional, unqualified love that I don't have to do anything to earn, however, is not something I look for in pets or people.

So I'm a cat lady. And proud of it. Don't get me wrong -- not all cats are awesome. As a kid, I had a high-strung cat named Thelma who loved to pee on my dad's dry cleaning. Thelma had some emotional problems -- she was even taking kitty antidepressants for a while. But her distress and subsequent urinary acting out, I think, was due to the fact that she had to hold her own against not one, not two, but THREE large dogs that joined our household when my dad remarried a dog lover. Can you blame her?

Cats currently (or recently) in my life:

Happy, my youngest brother's cat. For some time, Happy's sex was disputed. Now we are 99% sure he is male. Fortunately, the name is gender-neutral.

Maude. This pose makes it clear why one of her nicknames is "furry little whale."

This is Natasha, my ex-boyfriend's cat. She might be autistic, but she's sweet and I felt like giving her a shout-out.

Sparky, my mom's little-old-man cat. In his humiliating Christmas collar.

I've saved the weirdest for last:

My mom's other cat, Nicky. Who looks half-kangaroo, half-alien. This cat is WEIRD.

Anyway, that's probably enough feline love for one day.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

CrystalPhoenix vs. Kittencat3

This was sent to me this morning by a friend who enjoys reading the comment tirades posted in response to articles on, the Boston Globe's website. To preface the comment conversation, he wrote: "For the most part (as one might expect) people who tend to comment on internet articles are generally bitter, misanthropic, prejudiced, etc. Favorite targets for disdain include 'liberals'; the ACLU; immigrants;'pinky ring union thugs' who take advantage of 'taxpayers'; women; 'Barry' Hussein Obama; etc. (and et al.)"

The inciting article in this case is about the sudden disintegration of seemingly stable marriages:

and it led to this incredible internet exchange:

Well, I walked away from my wife at age 40.

But no warning?

We went through counseling, twice. My wife had several stints in counseling. There were vicious, nasty fights for the entirety of the marriage. She wasn't interested in intimacy any more five years before I left, and booted me out of the bedroom entirely (I snored more than she liked, you see) three years before.

Indeed, there was another woman by the end. Someone who shared the hobbies that my wife disparaged. Someone who wanted me in her bed. Someone whose idea of interaction wasn't screaming. Someone who genuinely did want children. Someone who didn't feel that poking me awake at 8 AM on the weekends (1st wife was a morning lark, I was an insomniac who liked to sleep in on the weekends) was very fair. Someone who liked camping, diners, down to earth entertainments.

Ten years later, I'm married to that woman, quite happily. Funny thing: she finds my snoring quite comforting.

Kittencat3 wrote:
CrystalPhoenix is my husband, and he's lying.

Why is he lying?

Let's see…

- We engaged in exactly three counseling sessions, during which he refused to yield an inch.

- The "vicious, nasty fights" were over him lying about money (once to the tune of over $4,000), having affairs (one of which gave ME an STD, another of which sent him to California ostensibly on business), and refusal to have sex.

- Far from refusing to have sex, I literally begged him, on hands on knees, for sex, touching and intimacy. He shoved me out of his bed on a vacation because he wanted to watch wrestling.

- Far from refusing to have children, I went on prenatal vitamins, lost thirty pounds, and again, begged him for sex and intimacy. His response: faking impotence, to the point of faking appointments at an endocrinologist and monthly testosterone shots.

- His sleep apnea was so bad I couldn't sleep. And since he wasn't employed, I needed to sleep so I'd keep my job and we could eat. Again, I begged him to go to a doctor so he wouldn't drop dead in his forties, especially since he's an insomniac. His response? Whining about how mean and cruel I was for asking him to get up at 9:00 or 10:00 or 11:00 so we could actually do something on Saturday.

- I enjoyed camping and go myself on the weekends. What I didn't enjoy was the LARP he was in, where his girlfriends treated me like dirt and I had nothing to do.

- I like diners, just the way he does.

- I don't know what he means by "down to earth entertainments," but if he means professional wrestling, *I* was the one who asked him if he wanted to watch with me…after he'd spent weeks playing computer games (one of which included his mistress) and ignoring me completely.

- The only hobby of his that I "disparaged" was the live action roleplaying game where he spent 20 weekends a year pretending to be a wizard while I stayed home. He, on the other hand, called me going to graduate school "meaningless bibble" and told me he'd divorce me if I went on to study for the ministry. I backed off from school to save my marriage, and two years later he left anyway for a woman half his age.

- He was engaged to his second wife before he left me…which he did by taking $11,000 that I'd inherited, the living room furniture, his clothes, his cat, his books, some furniture that had been mine as a child, and leaving me a two page bullet point memo which addressed NONE of the problems he's aired in public. He also threatened to cut off contact with his own mother if she gave me his address or phone number.

The best thing he ever did was leaving me. At least now I don't have to worry that the bills aren't paid, the house won't be seized for back taxes, and the jealous husband of one his girlfriends won't show up with a gun.


Wow. Does it get any worse than admitting that you begged for sex from a snoring, philandering wannabe wizard? I think the lesson here is that shared love of diners and pro-wrestling does not a lasting union make.