Sometimes Adults Need Adults

One of the big, over-arching themes of My Third-Life Crisis is that life can be hard. Well, maybe “hard” is the wrong word. “Challenging” is probably more appropriate. I’m not sure that life is ever “easy” per se. I think that it cycles between being more challenging, less challenging, and then there’s that coasting thing that happens from time to time.

Coasting is that good feeling you get, when everything seems to be going really well. You’re happy, smiling, and life feels completely effortless. Though it’s not good for the premise of my blog, I’m happy to say that I’ve been coasting on and off lately, and I have my dino hunt to thank for that.

I know that even when I have my “10” life, I’ll still have bad days. We all have colossally bad days every now and again. These are the days when from the time you wake up, until the time you go to sleep, it appears that shit is rolling down a steep hill and you’re standing at the bottom.

I had one of those downhill kinds of days this week. As I found myself (TOTALLY NOT WEEPING) in my car while parked on a side street, I remember thinking “I want to go home.”

The trouble was, I AM home. There’s nowhere to go that’s more “home” than the very town and physical house where I grew up with my family all within a reasonable driving distance.

What I think I really wanted was an adult. In a technical sense, I am an adult, but when things get challenging, I always want to look to someone a bit wiser, and a bit more put together. An adult who is an adult-ier adult than the adult I felt like I was being. In that moment, I needed to talk to someone who was feeling just a bit more grounded than I was.

It’s funny because those crumbling, shit-storm kind of days make me feel like so much less than the adult I’ve become. As an independent person, I find it hard to reach out to friends at these times and ask for help. I’m getting better at it. I’m learning in my thirties that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. Asking for help doesn’t make me any less capable as a human. It just means that I’m aware of my strengths and weaknesses- and as long as you’re not some kind of robot, self-awareness is an invaluable tool in the world.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to cry in my car on a tough day, and I’m positive I won’t be the last. But really, who cares? We all have tough days, and that’s part of being the adult-iest adults we can be. We suck it up, put our big girl panties (or superman underoos) on, and move forward.

I’m not coasting again yet, but days following the shit-storm have been tremendously better. That, my friends, is what this awesome life is made of: bouncing back.

The Hole Interview

A while back I spent some time talking about what it means to be underemployed. I didn’t really touch the most frustrating part of underemployment: the perpetual job search. I’ve been applying to career-level jobs in my field for approximately ten years now, and I’ve learned a lot about résumé and cover letter writing in that time. What I haven’t learned more about, is fashion.

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My attitude is considerably less whiny in the last 3 years.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not the best at shopping for myself. I’ve stated publicly multiple times to colleagues and friends that I would be happiest at work if I could just wear jeans, chucks, and a wife-beater or graphic tee every day. I’m aware this is unrealistic, and aside from band front-woman or stand-up comedy, this type of ensemble is highly unlikely to be acceptable work attire for most people in their thirties.

My personal fashion choices at work are very run-of-the-mill. Again and again, I couple black pants with black tops. On occasion I’ve included navy blues and deep purples. I always wear solids, and always favor the same silhouettes. This past year I embraced some patterns, and even included pink and orange once or twice. It was a big deal for me.

I was elated when I received a call for a very important interview a few months ago. In an attempt to look pressed and polished, I decided I would grab some new clothes. I purchased a pair of red pants from a chain that will remain nameless, but let’s just say they have an association with a certain branch of the clothing-retailer military. I must emphasize that when I buy clothing, I try the item on, bring it home, cut off its tags and wear it. No washing, no inspecting. You can judge me for that if you’d like.

I liked my red pants, I really did. I paired them with a nice black blouse and a pair of heels on the big day. I felt confident. I was wearing red. I don’t wear red. I had this moment, when examining my final interview ensemble in the mirror of “RED PANTS! HEY EVERYONE! COME SEE HOW GOOD I LOOK!” (Allow me to remind you here that I live alone. There is no “everyone.”)

When I hopped in my car to start the drive, I was feeling pumped and positive. NOTHING could shake me.

Except for one thing, which I noticed by chance while sitting at a red light. I looked down to admire my pants and noticed a gap. By “noticed a gap” I mean that while fully clothed and zipped up, I could see my panties.

There was a hole. In my brand-new red pants.

Just below the red zipper.

Big enough for me to put my pointer finger through…

Up to the FINAL knuckle.

My inner monologue went from confident mantras to a more profane, less professional version of “Crap! Crap, crap, crap!”

 

As the light turned green, my mind raced. How could I have possibly missed a hole? Can I go home and change? No time to change. How did I buy a pair of pants with a hole in them? I should have looked at these pants more closely. How would my interviewers feel if they see the hole? Would them assume my nude-colored seamless panties were in fact, my pale skin peeking through at them to say hello? Is there any way I can use the masking tape in my car to hold the hole together and not look like a complete lunatic?

 

The answer to that last question, was an emphatic “no.”

So hole and all, I went into that interview, standing as tall as I possibly could. I’d like to say I meant that figuratively, but I mean it literally. Standing tall got that seam to appear as though it was a seam, and not poor workmanship and a lapse in my judgment.

Naturally, I don’t own those red pants anymore.

No word on the job just yet.

I Might Be Married to Comedy

In pursuit of happiness and on my undying quest to find my dinosaur, I’ve been reflecting a lot about what makes me most joyful. Comedy is one of the themes that keeps appearing.

As far back as I can recall watching TV; I always shied away from action, adventure, horror, and drama, to good, old, sweet (or raunchy) and reliable comedy. I wasn’t picky. As a kid I watched classic sitcom reruns and SNL with my dad. Wayne’s World came out in 1992 when I was a mere 9 years old, and I watched it so often I wore out the VHS and can still recite the whole movie from memory. I got my hands on an Adam Sandler comedy tape as a kid and listened to it on my Walkman, snickering endlessly at inappropriate humor my mom wouldn’t have appreciated or approved. For my 12th birthday, I opted to have an at-home party so I could watch my favorite movie at the time, Billy Madison, with my friends. My adoration of stand-up specials began with I whatever I was allowed to watch on HBO, at the time seeing specials from the likes of Wendy Liebman, Paula Poundstone, Gallagher, and so on. That was back when I still had my parental units censoring my virgin ears from greats like George Carlin.

It’s no wonder that when I went to high school my love for theatre and performing blossomed most through exposure to great comedic plays and actors. I taught my straight-edge, well-behaved, arts-loving friends improv games I learned, not from my theatre classes, but from years of watching the original UK and US runs of Whose Line Is It Anyway? During my stint as an officer in the International Thespian Society, we even launched an improv night and gathered some of our fellow high school thespians to be players. There is no measure for the elation I felt playing a game called “New Choice” on stage with a pal and having the audience erupt into laughter. That same friend introduced me to Monty Python, and one of my absolute favorite stand-ups of all time, Eddie Izzard. (She later became one of the brilliant authors of a “little” webcomic called Darwin Carmichael is Going to Hell.)

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Circa 2001, I (left) wore fake glasses and gave a fake road test. It got big laughs.

Admittedly, I may have gone a little overboard through the years where comedy is concerned. I have more girlish crushes on stand-up comedians and SNL cast members than “mainstream” celebrities.

In college, I had delusions of writing a letter to Lorne Michaels so that I might audition for SNL with no formal comedic training. Of the 75 DVDs I own, more than 40 of them are comedy. I named my dog “Rowdy” after a stuffed dog prop from Scrubs. I can apply a quote from a sit-com, a comedian, or a comedy flick to nearly any situation I find myself in. I buried myself so deep in comedy that I undoubtedly missed some good classic films along the way. For a frame of reference, I just saw the original Star Wars Trilogy at thirty-two years of age.

Whether I went overboard or not, I have no intention of discontinuing my love of comedy. Comedy is joyful. It makes me feel free. When I feel lousy, I turn to my favorite comedies to lift my spirits. I even listen to stand-up comedy while I’m on the treadmill at the gym. I laugh out loud. I get stares. I don’t care.

You don’t care what people think when you’re with someone you love. I’m in love with comedy. I’m not speaking in hyperbole. I am in mad, passionate, never-ending love with comedy.  This is the shit that successful long-term marriages are made of.

You read correctly. I am mentally married to a genre.

Maybe I need therapy.

Everyone Has a Teacup…Pig

Long before the producers of How I Met Your Mother alienated throngs of fans with its final season, there was an episode entitled “Hooked.” For the intents and purposes of this post, the gist of the episode is Josh Radnor’s Ted and the “gang” are talking about his current dating failures, as usual. Neil Patrick Harris’ character says the perfect bait to lure a woman to your apartment is a teacup pig. NPH’s Barney actually possesses a tiny adorable, live teacup-sized swine. Ted proceeds to borrow Barney’s teacup pig, inviting a woman to see it. As Ted’s story continues the gang realizes Ted is definitely on this woman’s “hook.” They elaborate by saying she’s stringing him along because she enjoys attention from Ted. Each member of the crew discovers they have someone on their hook or that they had been on someone else’s hook. Jason Segel’s Marshall makes his wife Lily (Alyson Hannigan) use Barney’s teacup pig to practice the difficult task of releasing the heart a man from her hook.

We’ve all had a “teacup pig” or two on the hook during our dating careers. The teacup pig is lovable and nearly perfect – aside from the fact that ultimately we just don’t want the teacup pig.  I have two teacup pigs in my dating history. My issue with both of these incredibly sweet and kind men was that I just didn’t feel any chemistry: no zing, no pop, NO desire to kiss either of them. Ever. Sounds harsh, but I don’t care what age you are, if you don’t want to be wrapped up in someone’s arms after a date or two, you should not hook them.

Sometimes, when you’ve been single for what feels like eons, it’s twice as difficult to let the ol’ teacup pig off the hook because it gives us the warm fuzzies to have a teacup pig at all. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t think it feels good to receive romantic attention. It’s lovely to know that you’re wanted, desired, and you’re taking up somebody else’s headspace. Being pined for is enjoyable, provided the pining hasn’t reached the stalkery, super uncomfortable place where you’re contemplating whether a restraining order is a reasonable way to say “I’m not that into you.”

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Teacup pig, I don’t want to be with you.

Deciding you’re not attracted to someone is fairly easy. The letting go part can be a challenge. After receiving a broken heart (or five) of your own, it’s lousy to think you’re breaking someone’s heart. It’s hard when you feel you’re being terribly evil, ejecting a wonderful person from your life while they clamor to be there. It’s uncomfortable to think about what they’ll say, do, and feel when you tell them as politely as you can that you’re moving on. The specific sting of rejection felt when you want more from someone than what they can give is all too familiar. We take these rejections with us as baggage as we hustle through the dating world.

As “Hooked” winds down and the gang lets go of their little piggies, Cobie Smulders’ Robin says “Honesty is tough but in the end it is the far kinder alternative.” She’s right. As soon as you realize someone is not for you, it’s courteous to let them go. It seems hurtful to allow someone to begin feeling things that won’t be reciprocated.

Honesty is a virtue. Even though it’s uncomfortable when you hold someone’s heart and hopes in your hands, honesty is important. I have deep respect for people who honestly communicate less-than-desirable things, especially when dating is concerned. We all deserve honesty, even when we’re on the receiving end of a release and don’t like what we’re hearing.

We tend to sugar-coat honesty to spare other’s feelings. It feels exceptionally rude to tell your teacup pig you never want to be with them.

Unfortunately, I think the teacup pig may have been the origin of “It’s not you, it’s me.”

The Gray Turtleneck and Black Pencil Skirt Story

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I had a raging case of what is called “Peter Pan Syndrome.” I did NOT, under any circumstance, like the idea of growing up. Sure, I wanted adult-y things, like money and an awesome sitcom-esque apartment where all of my friends would congregate, but the idea of actually maturing into an adult human was pretty off-putting.

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Once upon a time, this was nearly my motto.

I dug my heels in hard where growing up was concerned. My mom, who I was living with at the time, was not thrilled with my attitude. I refused to look for jobs in my field of study (which I love). I sought and took jobs that seemed “silly” because they delayed the inevitable: growing up and moving on to my career.  I did this because I decided that once I got to THAT place where I had THAT job, I’d automatically become this boring, dried-up version of me. Every day, “adult” me got up, slicked her hair back in a tight, sleek bun, donned a gray turtleneck, black pencil skirt, black stockings, and black heels, like one of those girls from a Robert Palmer video. Adult me carried a black briefcase and walked into work every day with her face drawn and her old, fun life tucked inside that precious briefcase. I was convinced I would be stuck in this ritual until retirement and that adulthood meant I’d have to set childish things aside and I’d never have any fun again.

Were these expectations a bit unrealistic? Yes, definitely. But the fear of growing up after college was very real, and it ate at me like a plague.

Fast forward roughly ten years, and I’m finding more and more that I think my “Peter Pan Syndrome” was a fear of failing, rather than a resistance to growing up.

I am (technically) an adult. And (shocker!) I still know how to, and participate in, having fun, on a regular basis. I may “fail” at adult things from time to time. For example, I may eat a giant cookie for dinner when I know damn well that it’s a bad choice and I should choke down a protein, starch, and a vegetable. Or, perhaps, I may avoid the post card my dentist sent me about my yearly cleaning because I just don’t have time for his shit right now.

I’m an imperfect adult, but we’re all imperfect adults, aren’t we? I’m not the adult I thought I’d become when I was lamenting over it at twenty, and that continues to impress me nearly every day.

My adult friends are amazing. Every single one of my friends is still who they were pre-adulthood, but with a (slightly) larger bankroll and more responsibility. We’re still essentially us even though we have jobs, houses or apartments, sometimes relationships, and bills to juggle. We’re still feeling young (most days) and we still get to experience a lot of fun.

Life doesn’t suddenly end when you pass a certain age – today’s world isn’t a post-apocalyptic, dystopian, young-adult novel. If you keep chasing your dinosaur, you can let your inner Peter Pan go and enjoy the life you have.

I’m failing at adulthood from time to time. But the upside is that I’m not afraid anymore. Every day isn’t great, but many are, and I’m so happy for that. I’m learning from my mistakes and failures. I’m growing as an adult and it’s not at all what younger me thought it would be.

Full disclosure: the black pencil skirt is very real. I do own one of those.

So….Why Are You Still Single?

At times I’ve found it extremely hard to understand why I’m still single in my thirties. I certainly hadn’t planned for this. As an early twenty-something I had grandiose visions of being finished producing my desired number of original small humans by the time I was thirty.

People like to say cliche and trite things when you’re single in your thirties. Anyone who’s anyone (strangers and friends alike) becomes the leading expert in love-finding, once they’ve managed to establish a romantic relationship in their life that feels good and stable.

“It’ll happen when you least expect it!”

“There are plenty of fish in the sea!”

“There’s a hat for every head!”

“You should totally try online dating! My (friend/cousin/brother’s boss) met their spouse on eHarmony/Match/OKCupid!”

All of these sentiments are accompanied by nodding heads and smiling faces, which are met by my highly indifferent facial expression. If you’re single in your thirties, I’m positive you’ve heard these and more before, ad nauseum.

After years of pondering (and a handful of ex-boyfriends who taught me more about what I DON’T want in a partner than what I DO want in a partner) I finally reached a reasonable hypothesis as to why I am still single.

I’m a mushroom.

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It’s kind of cute and endearing, is it not?

Yes, I said I’m a mushroom. No, I don’t think I look like a mushroom. But, I’m a mushroom.

Most of my married or coupled-off lady pals strike me as flowers. Hell, even some of my remaining single girlfriends strike me as flowers. The flowers are the girls’ girls, who are and always were able to effortlessly communicate flirtatiously with the men (or women) of their dreams, while looking feminine, poised, and graceful. It’s as if their hair was gently blowing in the wind and they’ve been surrounded by a halo of light since their teens, immediately projecting their overall awesomeness out into the atmosphere.

Then, there’s me.

I’m awkward, but funny. Nerdy, weird, a little intense, quirky as hell, and I stubbornly wear Converse sneakers to as many events as I can, because nearly any life event is made infinitely better by being able to wear sneakers.

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Wedding at a castle? Sneakers seem appropriate.

I’m loud and unapologetically unpolished – I curse without flinching, and I use more innuendo in my day-to-day speech than Michael Scott could shake a stick at. (That’s what she said.)

I’m an acquired taste. I’m a mushroom. You (gentlemen) have to get past the initial shock value in order to appreciate the goodness I possess. I’m not polished and fancy, and when I stand in front of a fan my hair blows in my face instead of flapping gently behind me in the breeze, but I’m something special. Not everyone likes a mushroom, but some dudes love mushrooms, and I guess that’s who I’m holding out for. A sense of self-awareness is important and can most definitely open doors for you, even in the dating world.

Still, I probably shouldn’t lead with the “mushroom” thing if I ever get asked on a date again…

Speak Loudly and Carry a Big…Purse…Bitterly

I’ve never truly enjoyed shopping. I’m a simple kind of woman. If I had one necklace, one pair of shoes, and one pair of earrings for the rest of my life, I’d be totally happy. In fact, nearly anything I own that’s considered “cute” or “nice” by my female brethren (sistren?) was usually gifted to me by a dear friend who knows my disinterest and deficit in shopping and accessorizing.

Along with this disinterest in accessories is my contempt for large purses or bags. I carried a “wristlet” (read: glorified “wallet” on a strap) for as long as I can remember. Back in the days when I was a heavy smoker, all I felt I needed to carry was my pack of smokes, my flip phone, an ID, and some money.

Purses, in my opinion, collect crap. I had seen it happen in my mom’s bag as a little girl. Larger spaces invite more things with which to fill those spaces. Surely, you’ve seen women walking around with purses the size of overnight bags. You KNOW those bags have more than basic necessities in them. Looking for some scotch tape on the fly? Ask a woman with a big bag. Spare pair of socks? She’s got them. Gum? Which flavor would you like? Need a pen and paper to jot a quick note? She can offer you a pen, or a pencil, or a Sharpie, or maybe even a small set of colorful art pastels that found their way into that junk-collector she tosses up onto her shoulder each morning.

I had an “incident,” let’s call it, at the tail end of last summer, where I was stung by something with a stinger. I can’t be sure what it was, because it was one of the many species of stinger-ed, flower-loving things that was buzzing around what I lovingly call the “death tree” in front of my father’s house.

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My grandma planted and nurtured this tree. I stare daggers at it.

I was leaving dad’s place to head to mine, felt a sharp pinch in my back, and had what an EMT friend later told me was the beginnings of a fairly serious allergic reaction. Long story short and a doctor visit later; I’m anxiously packing EpiPens and avoiding the crap out of all things with stingers (and probably comically so).

My doctor smiled brightly as he entered the room saying, “You just became the proud owner of an EpiPen!” He proceeded to stab me with the “trainer” device midsentence, while I panicked, and he explained how to use the EpiPen on myself. When he was done, I looked at him blankly and said, “That’s not going to fit in my bag,” gesturing to my wristlet on the chair across the room.

“Sure it is!” He said, with gusto. “My wife carries tiny bags like this sometimes and I know…” he trailed off while he opened my wristlet and tried to fit my EpiPens inside. He paused for a minute. “It’s not going to fit in your bag.”

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RIP, wristlet. We had a good run.

“But you’re not to leave the house without them. Ever again. Always carry Benadryl. That’s your first line of defense. If Benadryl fails, you deploy one of these and call 9-1-1.”

I left the office, texting friends to gripe about having to buy a bigger bag (allergy gripes and concerns were saved for another day) and went to Target to purchase the most modestly-sized, non-intrusive, run-of-the-mill bag that didn’t make me want to roll my eyes at myself.

And you know what? I keep my purse pretty empty.

But my EpiPens fit in my bag.