august 2001

click here for permalink August 26, 2001

It's that time of year when I suddenly, belatedly realize that summer's almost over. The days still seem improbably long and it's hotter than ever, even at night, but at this time of year things just seem to respond to the climate of change, even people.

Nature, including human nature, has an instinctive awareness of the changing seasons which is most obvious at the beginnings of spring and fall. We've tailored our society to follow the trend of summer to fall with vacations coming to an end, school starting again, blockbuster movies giving way to the new TV season so we can be entertained as we nest at home.

Our relationships and occupations — all aspects of our daily activities — seem to want to come to rest in established patterns after the chaotic, carefree summer; our life's dramas slow down, wrap up, fall into place or fade away.

I've been thinking about relationships lately. As mine has been flourishing like a hothouse lily in a rarified climate of unemployment and true camaraderie, people around me have been experiencing all the ups and downs that come with relating to the opposite sex. Heh... I've born witness to more breakups, hook-ups and fuck ups this summer than ever before in my little circle and, because of the stability of our own household, this very living room has been ground zero for many of the pre- and post-confrontation meltdowns. We make damn fine counselors these days.

The upside to all this relationship activity is that lately we've been surrounded by new and old friends; meeting people and bonding instantly, hearing from long-lost acquaintances and reconnecting, being surprised by visits from old friends who live far away... after the solitary and reflective year that was 2000, it was certainly a welcome change.

I've never been the best at making or keeping friends, so this is uncharted territory, in a way. As a child, I moved from place to place so often — and was so ridiculously shy — that I was lucky to make one good friend at each new school. When I did, it was usually thanks to a friend of my parents' who coincidentally had a kid my age — or an unusually outgoing personality on the part of the other child.

I'll never forget one case of the latter; I was six years old and my mother and I had just "moved in" to a campground in Central Florida where we stayed for a month on our way North. I was sulking inside our camper after the first day at my new school — where a recent outbreak of [shudder] lice had prompted my mother to send me out only after soaking my waist-length hair in vegetable oil and braiding it tightly to my head.

I heard a faint knock at the door and heard my mother's surprised, "well, hello..." before the high, clear voice of a female child rang out, thick with Floridian charm and hospitality, "Hah-ay!" she said, "Mah name is Lee-ay-ann! Kin your little gir-all come out an' plaaay?"

After that, Lee-Ann and I were Best Friends, in accordance with Rule #6 of childhood, which states that any child within two years of age and a ten block radius shall be automatically considered a Friend (and, if the position happens to be open, Best Friend). Anyway, it was downhill from there as I got older but no less shy and people of my age-group became as bold as Lee-Ann only when they were after something.

For the last three years, I've admired my boyfriend's ability to talk to just about anyone and his truly enviable knack for somehow retaining deep friendships over a lifetime, regardless of the miles they live away, the years between visits or the water under the proverbial bridge (and I'm fortunate enough to have inherited many of them).

Although I've met many interesting people over the last several years (otherwise known as adulthood), most of those relationships were cut short by external factors, like my moving from Seattle to Vancouver five years ago, my last breakup, the breakup of the company I worked for and the subsequent exodus of many of my coworkers to the U.S. (for more pay and less time to email).

But, as brief as some of them have been, there's also been a depth and intensity to many of those friendships that doesn't usually come with brevity. So, I have this theory about the way we meet people "these days." In the same way that people used to have an average of two jobs in a lifetime and now we have twelve, certain factors of modern life have made our relationships more compacted as well.

When we enter into something new, we have a new set of criteria by which we judge its value. We're more critical of the jobs we take and their potential for providing us with the greatest possible happiness, advancement, compensation, sense of responsibility or moral gratification. Similarly, when we meet people, we get through the "getting to know you" stage faster than once was considered natural.

These days, we don't have the same regard for traditional boundaries that people once had — there are fewer established guidelines now for "polite" or appropriate behavior among near-strangers. If we intend to pursue friendship or romance, we arrive at that decision swiftly and act accordingly, instead of waiting until we've gotten past imaginary milestones on the way to intimacy.

A few weeks ago, left alone for an hour with the female half of a couple we'd recently met, I remarked that this must be the part where we bare some secrets from our past to create that "girl" bond that women typically make over shared adversity.

These days, we don't want to waste time on anything, be it a relationship, a career move or half-hour sitcom if it doesn't promise great things from the beginning. It's a surprise benefit to being part of the Attention Deficit Generation — we're compelled to judge each situation quickly and ruthlessly and, somehow, that sense of urgency has made it easier to forge an instant bond with people.

Of course, the downside is that this can create an illusion of intimacy with people that you wouldn't have otherwise gotten close to, and those relationships fall apart as quickly as they developed when the fact that they were based on insubstantial similarities becomes evident. It's also sometimes true that when you compact the process of growing closer — arrive at a level of intimacy and affection sooner — you compact the timeline of the entire relationship.

If the intimacy you share isn't a product of common interests and goals, but rather a product of things you're going through at the time, you exhaust the potential of the relationship that much faster. When you've worked out whatever it was that compelled you to each other, the relationship burns itself out and, when it's time to move on, it feels like it happened too soon.

I've had so many intense, life-changing experiences in the last few years; met so many amazing people who I wish I still had in my life but, for the most part, I suspect that our roles in each other's lives have come and gone. As chaotic as it feels at the time, I think this is an important part of our development as a species. It means that we're getting more in tune with our intuition and more comfortable making decisions based on our emotions.

It also helps to make us more diverse as individuals; by getting closer to more people, we discover new aspects to our own personalities and, whether those relationships last or not, we evolve by having a broader variety of experiences. It's never pleasant to lose someone you've grown close to, but it's some consolation to realize and appreciate the fact that we change and are changed by every person we allow into our lives, even for a brief period of time.

That's enough philosophizing for today... It's time to go to the ol' Home Depot and pick out a paint color for our kitchen. Everyone can wish me a happy 28th on Tuesday... this may be the last year I'm honest about my age.

click here for permalink August 24, 2001

Am I the only one who is severely disturbed by that awful singing belly button commercial? Who'da thought that the same technology that once brought us a Spanish-speaking Chihuahua could go so horribly, horribly wrong?

Last weekend, I went to a "sex toy party." Dramatic pause. It's kinda like a Tupperware party, but the host happens to be the proprietor of a local sex shop and, instead of showing a room full of housewives the latest and greatest in food-saving plastic containers, she comes prepared with boxes full of sex toys. Yes, that's right; I do have really strange friends.

As we (myself, two close friends and fifteen other women) got comfortable, the host passed out pens and paper. We were then asked to write down a full-page sexual fantasy that would be collected, nameless, and read aloud to the group. I felt the sudden urge to flee and, looking around the room, knew I wasn't alone. There were several long minutes where the sound of pen hitting paper was scarce before we all finally succumbed to the assignment.

Miraculously, we all produced something before the host collected our stories — even more remarkably, they were all pretty good... some were poetic, some trite and Hallmarky, a few straight out of Penthouse Forum and one — bless her heart because I ended up "reading" it — was an anatomically correct drawing with a five-word caption.

After that, the embarrassment factor was surprisingly low. The host passed around a variety of her best-selling products; massage oils, books, aphrodisiac bath salts and an assortment of vibrating toys in day-glo colors. The biggest hit of the party, though, was the resident cat of the house; a huge, fluffy show-off of a Himalayan who was irresistibly attracted to one of the edgier sex toys, a long rubber whip that looked like a horse-tail.

After the sex toy event wrapped, my friends and I headed to Odyssey, arguably the most flamboyantly gay club in Vancouver, to dance the rest of the night away in a thick cloud of sweaty, smoky dry ice fog. What shall I do to top that, now that it's Friday again?

click here for permalink August 13, 2001

Holy shit! August started out for me with a resounding crash; now it's almost half-over and I'm just getting a chance to update... The crash, of course, was my computer. It was mercilessly ransacked by not one but four viruses...

After my attempts to remove them failed (and rendered my computer completely useless), I was left with one option; nothing short of taking out the hard drive and handing it over, eyes downcast in shame, to my genius-programmer friend Vince, who scoured it clean and returned it days later.

Of course, my brush with virus Armageddon wasn't isolated to my patchwork quilt of a home computer — naturally, our entire "network" was effected. At that point, Mr. Pink stepped in and saved the day, digging deep into the bowels of our little home computer daisy chain and rendering every single system virus-free, virus-protected and, once again, online within a couple more days.

Background info: Just two years ago, this is the guy who would call me at work asking what that little arrow on the right side of the browser window was for. His computer savvy has since far surpassed mine... due, perhaps, to the very different nature of a guy's mind from a girl's — or a problem-solver's vs. a cry-for-helper's. At any rate, I couldn't be happier with the way it's turned out.

So, after a week of offline hell, we were back up and running. Only, I didn't have a moment to enjoy it before we were whisked away on a weekend camping trip (normally, those two words are enough to strike fear into my heart and send me into hiding). We spent two days (only one night, mercifully!) on a gorgeous lake, sun bathing, water-skiing (that was Mr. Pink), eating fire-pit-grilled steaks and drinking vodka & tonic from plastic cups.

All my time spent in the ol' tanning bed here at home was no preparation at all, it turns out, for a day or so in the "real" sun. My face is as red as a lobster claw. The thing is, thanks to my mother's side of the family's bizarre combination of fortuitous gene blending, it will be a perfectly golden tan by tomorrow, regardless of its current shocking hue.

Well, that just about brings us up to date... happy August, everyone (the month of my birthday, by the way).