Tuesday, March 25, 2008

mini splurges

Ira Glass is coming! He who in my head looks like the nice nerdy guy from the Verizon commericals will be speaking at NYU and I will be there looking on adoringly. Although I don't usually manage to listen to the show on WNYC, the podcasts make for diversion at work. (As do, by the way, the Lovecasts. Dan Savage is so much more gentle with people on the phone than you'd expect.)

This makes for a great pop-media live troika for me this spring, since I'm also seeing Nellie McKay at Joe's Pub and Shalom Auslander at BAM. Have you read SA? You should! Unless you're my father, in which case, Dad, I apologize again. He bought the memoir Foreskin's Lament after I raved about it and he couldn't get through the first chapter; he ended up exchanging the book for two Klezmer CDs. (Oy.)

Mr. Ben and I are living in a construction site, or so it seems. We're moving this weekend and prep makes a mess: empty boxes from the liquor stores, half-filled suitcases, stuffed full bags of clothes to be donated. To add an extra frisson of tension, while I was cooking on Sunday night the gas went off. We called Con Ed yesterday and they informed us that they don't provide our gas.

Neither does our building, as further probing discovered.

So who does? Why have we been enjoying free gas for three years and why is it abruptly stopping now, a week before we move out? These and other stressful questions answered when we return.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

i am what's wrong with this economy

Today I'm wearing a pair of jeans that fits. This may not mean much to many of you, but I have this problem with money where I feel guilty if I spend it. Money, to my mind, loooooooooves to live in the safety of the bank. If I separate it from my checking account, in my head I hear the screams of a chimpanzee being torn apart by a hyena. And if I separate it from my savings account? You don't even want to know.

But I managed to pass my debit card (no credit card for me!) over the counter of an actual, retail store this past weekend and in exchange I have a NEW PAIR OF JEANS. It's weird cuz I can feel them, which I can't with my jeans, since they are usually at least a size too big.

I've tried to talk to my older brother about my problems with money when he calls me from his iPhone on one of his weekly snowboarding jaunts. For some reason, he can't relate.

Now that I have been spared the opportunity to deliver my money to Brooklyn College like so much frankincense and myrrh, though, I'm thinking I can spend it on other things that might make me happy. My brainstorming has produced pitiful results, from lack of practice, I think:

- increase Netflix subscription from one movie at a time to TWO
- get cable (??)
- yoga
- acupressure/massage
- more jeans that fit. And maybe skirts!
- help keep this guy from getting elected

And here I begin to flail and sputter, my imagination overloading. What splurges have greatly increased your happiness?

Monday, March 17, 2008

a little ball of ester

A chronicle of death foretold:

Having gotten tired of sitting passive waiting for the phone to ring, I called the school. An automated message reported that it was very sorry, but the admissions staff hadn't shown up for work.

The admissions staff showed up! But they could tell me nothing. Could they transfer me to the English department? Certainly. But the English department knew nothing. Who would know something? The MFA people -- and they don't come in Thursdays and Fridays.

The MFA people don't get in til 12:30. (Wow, it must be nice to be an MFA person.)

MONDAY 12:30
Yes, we can tell you over the phone if you like. We're going to stutter and sound apologetic. No, you have not been accepted.

Now I am sad and would like to curl up in a corner. Unfortunately I am at work where corners are wanting and anyway are in full view of everyone; everyone would be rather curious. Being as it is St. Patrick's day, I should go off to a corner in a bar and get drunk. I will not, though. I will go home and, as I promised myself I would a few weeks ago, when I realized I wasn't going to get to rub shoulders with Michael Cunningham and Myla Goldberg after all, I will do some writing.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

the art of sitting still

Goddammandblastit, I'm gonna go crazy at some point from the waiting. Brooklyn College did a round of notification by phone in late February during which I was *not* called; they have emitted not a peep since. I know because, so help me, I've started reading the frequently and frantically updated 2008 Admissions Blogs.

I am trying to remind myself of the following details, all of which are only Lightly to Moderately True:
- I don't care whether or not I get in (light)
- Whether or not I get in I am a worthwhile person (moderate)
- I can still be a writer without an MFA (moderate)
- An MFA program can't teach you persistence and dedication, which are the fundamental building blocks for an actual writing career (moderate)

What is very true is that I cared a lot less, and was a lot less nervous, before I did some rudimentary wandering around the internet two weeks ago and discovered the actual acceptance rate. Friends, why did I do this to myself, apply to only one really good really selective program with no back-up plan to help soothe the savage ego-beast?

It's enough to make a person consider finding peace in a $5,000, life-ruining embrace. (Mr. Spitzer, I vomit on you from a distance. You have THREE DAUGHTERS, you arrogant, irritating, disappointing, testosterone-driven douchebag. I hope your relevant sexual organs shrivel up like old carrots, not that I wish you any harm.)

I am also worried for friends who are hearing from other programs. Oh, March, what a blustery and frustrating month you are.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

reader: marry him

It is make or break day for Hillary Clinton! Even Bill says she needs to win both Texas and Ohio to stay in the race; carrying Rhode Island (little ol' Rhode Island) won't be enough. New Hampshire seems so long ago now, and though I distinctly remember how much I wanted her to win under those circumstances, I have fallen out of touch with my intense sympathy for her. At this point I would like her to bow out gracefully. If only such a thing were possible. However, I am also glad that retains certain supporters -- Tina Fey, for one -- because I don't think, for example, that she's been such an utter embarrassment, such a miserable mistake, that she alone has set women back fifty years.

That article, by the way, turned me into a cartoon: my jaw dropped and my eyes bugged out as ten alarm clocks jangled loudly in the background. In that, I wasn't alone. As of right now "How Dumb Can We Get?" has generated over a thousand comments on the Post website. Its author, Charlotte Allen, exemplifies what I don't trust about women who don't have female friends, women who, like Maureen Dowd and Ann Coulter, are disdainful of "women" as a whole and get to think of themselves as "brilliant outliers." Isn't that convenient for them? And mustn't their mothers be proud?

As long as I have my Outraged Feminist hat on (and I'm hoping my hair looks okay when I take it off), I may as well mention an Atlantic Monthly article Marry Him. This has been around long enough for the controversy to simmer, boil over, and then fade to quiet, occasional snufflings of anger already but it's worth checking out if you haven't subjected yourself to its mind-boggling leaps of logic. In short, Lori Gottleib argues that because she, as a 40-something, never found the perfect man and had to proceed to the Plan B of single motherhood, anyone who is still single should settle, and ideally they should do so while they are hot (read: young) enough to command a high price on the open market.

Gottleib's use of the word "settling" is what makes her argument hard to take seriously, but I don't think her overall point -- that some women are led by our Disney-fied American culture to have unrealistic expectations of perfect romantic love with a perfect tall, rich, handsome man that will last forever -- is entirely wrong. I do think everyone learns at some point to adjust expectations to reality. When I was 16, I wanted either Rhett Butler or Noel Airman to rescue me from the doldrums of teenage virginity, depending on the day. Did I hold out for that? Clearly not. And I am extremely happy that I didn't. But if someone had described my going out with a guy who was not dapper, older, cruelly brilliant and forceful as settling, I would have bought a really mean incontinent dog just so the dog could piss all over the idiot's new shoes.

Gottleib gets on the Assumption Train and waves at us as it drives her straight into Crazytown. All women want children, she declares; all women must want what her, Gottleib's, friends want; and being married to a man you don't love is better than being alone, as long as you have a family. It's perplexing that she didn't consider why, if she's right and no married woman would trade places with a single one, the divorce rate is so high in this country. The truth is that people aren't willing, as a general rule, to be unhappy anymore. Women who aren't crazy about a man know that they're not going to be a happy chained to him for eternity, and why should they pretend otherwise? They'll just end up leaving those lackluster husbands for the handsome fiftysomething divorcees they meet and have a smoldering affair with at age 47.

Also, who says that these men want to marry women who are settling? Has anyone asked them? I thought American men these days, in the popular imagination, were the world's happiest bachelors.

Don't you think these ladies should have a picnic? Coulter can bring the salad, Gottleib the alcohol, and Allen the tart of self-hatred, and they can help themselves while gossiping about how they alone have it all figured out. Woody Allen can drop by about midway through the meal so that they can make eyes at him; then he'll catch a glimpse of Scarlet Johannson and go scurrying after her. They will murmur and nod and call this only natural.