horizon vertigo

God made the world round so we would never be able to see too far down the road.

— Isak Dinesen

I had a bizarre experience at a recent conference I attended. As always at these out-of-town things, people kept asking me where I am from as a typical conversation starter. For the first time ever, I didn’t know what to tell them. It’s like my brain momentarily ceased to function and couldn’t comprehend English every time this happened. I wasn’t even sure what they were asking. Where do I live? What school do I attend? From whence do I originate? Worse yet, I couldn’t even think of an answer to any of those questions. It’s not as though it’s an unusual question or I’m a complete social retard. And yet, in a place where I was supposed to be a brilliant academic, simple words, names of places utterly disappeared from my blank mind. I was so disoriented that I couldn’t imagine myself ever existing in a time or place other than that very moment. All the edges around it blurred and filled with dissipating images like waking from a dream. I was suddenly an amnesiac with no history — not even the past that existed 24-48 hours prior when I was in my house in the town I’ve called home for almost four years. Nothing but the then and now existed for me in the moment that question came up. I couldn’t remember my city, my state, my school — even my own name. I just blanked out. Couldn’t fathom what was being asked of me or why. Why would anyone care? And more importantly — what was the correct answer that kept eluding me?

I grew up on the East Coast, an Easterner and Southerner to the core. I’m Virginian by birth and grace of God. Mother of Presidents, blue blood of the South, blah blah blahdy blah. Atlantic salt water and iced tea run through my veins. This made me tough. Raised me up a no-nonsense girl. A straight shooter who didn’t suffer fools at all, much less gladly. I have a dear friend who tells me I’m “too hard on people.” Ha. If she only knew. But, while she probably knows me better than anybody, she’s not really familiar with what I am or where I come from, so I get that she doesn’t get it. Doesn’t really know why I am who I am. Doesn’t realize that I come from a dog-eat-dog culture where everyone has high expectations of each other, living up to them is job one, and laughing at those who don’t is a source of humor for the rest of us. I come from a place where snark is the native tongue, every gathering is a battle to be the Smartest Person In The Room, and cynicism is a bonding ritual. Expectations are a form of symbolic interactionism — semiotics that allow us to communicate with each other through signifiers of success and failure. And you’re either one or the other. It’s a culture that bitches constantly. It’s a tough room, and I like it that way. Gotta have standards, right?

Now, I’m a perfectionist and an overachiever. A constant competitor, mostly with myself. In command of all things. The alpha. The architect. The nursemaid. The warrior. The angel. The hammer. Lord Protector. Butcher. Baker. Candlestick maker. Or, at least I used to be. I lived most of the first 40 years of my life wound tight and ready to spring. Either in constant action or coiled in anticipation of it. A bundle of nerves always ready to take action on my own or others’ behalf. Pushing things to make them happen. Reveling in self-defining competence. Getting things done and done right before anyone even knew they needed doing. Harder, better, faster, stronger. Straight A’s, top of the class, award winner, never failing at anything — at least in the perception of others. In my own mind, everything I did constantly fell short of the mark, while at the same time I never trusted anyone else do to them right. Never trusted anyone to do anything for me. Nobody took care of me but me, and I was going to take care of you and everyone else while I as at it. I got it. I got you. I’ve got it all under control. Ran myself into the ground. Made myself insane. Stubborn and invulnerable and independent and willful, I was tight and hard and all edges. Edges people, especially men, threw themselves against time and time again, getting themselves bruised and bloodied but never getting anywhere with me.

When I made the conscious decision to move out West almost four years ago, it was my intent to leave the East and the only way of life I’d ever known and broaden my experience to include other lifestyles. I wanted the change, the space to grow. I wanted to have my cage rattled a little bit. As my brother and I drove across the country, we bemoaned the fact that the landscape hadn’t changed much by the time we reached eastern Kansas. Everything around us was still crowded with familiar trees and peppered with suburbia and the occasional city. It all looked like everything Eastern we already knew. I remember him voicing his frustration at the monotony and expressing that he was gonna want his money back from American lore if he didn’t see some Great Plains action pretty soon. And then it happened: the interstate took a turn up over a small rise in the road, and the world opened up before us. The trees all fell away to reveal a rolling ocean of golds and reds and greens and black in patchwork below. A vast, empty expanse for hundreds and hundreds of miles in every direction and nothing but endless blue above. I looked to my right up into Nebraska and to my left down into Oklahoma and out into the ever-retreating horizon before me.

And then, I lost my damn mind.

To say I freaked out would put it mildly. Within ten short minutes on the plains, I went into a full-blown panic attack in the passenger seat. Agoraphobia to the nth degree. It was all too much. Too big. Too wide. Too open. My heart raced. I hyperventilated and started to giggle hysterically. Like a prey animal searching the skies for death from above, I hunched down in my seat trying to make myself as small as possible and fade into the gray upholstery as my eyes searched the blue for some phantom attack.

“What the fuck is your problem?” my brother inquired from behind the wheel.

“I’m freaking out,” I replied.

“Yeah, I can see that much. What’s going on? Are you ok?”

“No. No, I’m not ok. Don’t you feel it?”

“Feel what?”

“The dizziness. It’s like the landscape is moving. I can’t focus. I can’t make my eyes rest on anything. My heart is racing. I’m panicking. You’re not having this?!”

“Uh…no. What the hell? Why is this happening?”

“I don’t know,” I answered. “Everything is just too much. Too exposed. We’re too exposed out here. It’s too much to take in all at once.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“Pull over.”

“Pull over? And do what?”

“Find some cover. We have to find some cover. Now.”

“Are you freaking nuts? Look around. There IS no cover. Not even a tree. There’s no place to go. This is it. Hundreds and hundreds of square mile of fuck all. There’s nothing out here.”

“I know. I know. I just…God. Oh my God.”

“Are you ok? You’re seriously starting to worry me. I don’t know what to do.”

“I’ll be ok. Just….drive. Just keep driving. I’ll get past it.”

And I did. After another twenty minutes or so, the panic subsided, but the feeling of looking at the world through a fish-eye lens didn’t abate. We drove through Kansas in awe at its alien beauty. Cruised along I-70 through the dozens upon dozens of towering windmills dominating the landscape like giant invaders from a 1950’s B-budget sci-fi flick as we passed through the Smokey Hills Wind Farm. Completely taken with and, as irrational as it was, a little frightened of them as they spun lazily at different rates and different directions as the afternoon slipped by and the daylight slowly waned. We marveled at the diversity of early autumn crops that whizzed past the car, wondering what the bizarre low-growing red-tasseled plant we saw everywhere was (it was sorghum, which we learned by asking around at a truck stop, but not until after I leaned out the window of the car and shouted our question at a farmer driving a slow tractor on a dirt service road we passed at 75 miles an hour, my unheard words ripped from my mouth and hurled behind me by the wind only to be replaced by gales of laughter on both my behalf and my brother’s). Long story short, my anxiety receded, and the drive became a fond family memory — my weird prey behavior included.

The fish-eye lens feeling didn’t leave me, though. It stayed on the rest of the drive and through my first few weeks out West. Any time I spent on the open road, I felt disoriented, like I was watching the world in high definition 3D. Like I was in an stereographic projection. It was hard to get my bearing and judge distances. I felt as though everything was a mirage and that the horizon, including the huge Rocky Mountains in the distance was both constantly moving away from me and close enough to touch. I was sure there was something wrong with me, and then a native explained that what I was experiencing was a very real condition called horizon vertigo. It’s so real a condition that the U.S. military sent soldiers from places like Kansas and Nebraska and Colorado and Wyoming to fight in the North African theater during World War II, because they knew those boys wouldn’t be prone to its disorienting effect like troops from places like New York, Georgia, and Virginia would be. I could understand why. The East is a much more claustrophobic place with huge, lush trees constantly embracing you from every direction and limiting your scope of vision to a matter of yards, for the most part. A few miles at best. Back there, your perspective is smaller. You can never see to far ahead of you, so you focus intently on what is right in front of you. Your immediate environs are your entire universe. You’re not seeing states away. Not able to envision the world on a grand, macro scale of time and size in epic proportions.

My vision eventually adjusted, as did other perceptions. My first years of living and working in the West were a constant internal battle of wills with my straight-laced, buttoned-down East Coast professionalism. The office culture here was a challenge, as I was constantly stood up for appointments and forced to suffer through staff meetings where our karma was discussed. Karma. At work. Fucking hippies. I hated it. Hated them. I still do. Get a haircut, you losers. But bitterness aside, this place has slowly become my home through a process of internal compromise and negotiation. I let the freeze and thaw crumble parts of me and round off some of the sharp places, adopted a more “que sera, sera” mantra, let some laid backness creep into the cracks in my Type A personality until it was almost nothing but cracks. In the end, I’m happier, even if I don’t have the sharp focus I used to and walk around a little more often with a goofy gait and a blissed-out look on my face. Some aspects of the East and the South will never leave me. I prize intellect. I demand the use of proper grammar. I still expect people and organizations to generally have their shit together. I use my car horn with extreme prejudice and want to blink people who can’t merge on the interstate or parallel park right out of this plane of existence — if you drive like you got your license out of a fucking bubble gum machine, get out of the goddamn car. I still read the Washington Post for my news (and listen to NPR, but, given who I am, that goes without saying). I can finish the New York Times Sunday crossword in an afternoon. I would cut a bitch for proper fried chicken and a mess of greens. I love me some Patsy Cline. I will never not say “y’all.”

More has changed than has stayed the same for me, though. I sit back and wait to see what will happen rather than trying to force a result anymore — and I find that things tend to work out in my favor that way with little or no work from me now. No wonder underachievers are so happy. More of my mind power is devoted to sports than politics. I’m more about the grand scheme of things. I take long, meandering walks with no destination, no aerobic goals. The house is a bit of a mess. Sometimes, a glass of wine is dinner. Not everything always gets done perfectly, or even at all, and that’s ok. I accept and even embrace some of my flaws and those of others. I’m happy to fold up into someone else’s arms and let them take control and care for me for a change. I crave help — even ask for it. When choosing my battles, I often choose not to battle at all these days — most conflict isn’t worth it — and that’s probably the biggest change of all. I just let things slide. When I do get up in arms about something now, it means it’s something that really matters. I recently got fed up with having a certain professor hurl character assassination my way and stood up for myself and set the record straight — consequences (and they will be myriad and long-term given her pettiness and position of influence) be damned, because I’m no pushover, and I have to look at myself in the mirror. The only person more shocked than her that I finally let her have it was me, I think. I wasn’t sure I still had it in me,  but damned if I don’t. The lion is just sleeping. My choice to speak up may not have been prudent, but then, the East Coaster in me has never given a crap what others think of me, especially when it comes to speaking truth to power, and she’s not going away.

Some of her has faded, though, as I learned very acutely on a recent trip back East to visit my friends and former home after a year and a half away. I walked the streets of my neighborhood and could feel the echo of my 25 year-old self around every corner, but I couldn’t see her anymore. She was like a sneaky little cat stalking me, but always staying just out of sight. If it weren’t for the people I know there to anchor me with memories and new experiences and a constant warm welcome, the life I’d lived there would have felt like nothing more than a dream. Even so, I’m not still convinced it wasn’t all just some movie I saw once. Things I thought were once part of my DNA — driving directions, the subway map (but not the scent memory of my commute), what to order at my favorite Lebanese restaurant — had all started to fade significantly from my mind as it cleared space to make room for new information I am filling it with in my current life. My past has been archived or even possibly erased. My bond, my feeling of attachment and need for the place was eroding and disappearing. I no longer fit, and the most obvious and outward sign of what an oddball I am there now was the way people kept staring at me — I didn’t realize until days in that it was my nose ring and chunks of violet hair that drew their gaze. I don’t look that strange and certainly don’t draw a second glance most of the time out West, but in the Land of the Buttoned-Up I stood out like a sore thumb in a bright floral sundress in a city where I used to wear head-to-toe black in an effort to blend into the background. And so, while I will always have a home back East as long as my loved ones are there, I no longer think of it as my Home.

But then where do I belong? Somewhere in the past decade, I pulled up my deep roots and became a gypsy and always have one eye on the road — wondering what’s next and where. This hybridized version of me is neither fish nor foul. I don’t really fit anywhere anymore. When I mentioned the problem I was having answering the “Where are you from?” question to an old friend at the conference, she offered an insightful reason: “That’s because there are so many answers to that question.” She was right. Ten years ago, I never would have believed you if you’d told me I’d be where I am now. I would have run like hell if you’d told me what was waiting for me around the corner. I’m glad I couldn’t see it then. I’m glad the horizon keeps retreating so I can’t see what’s waiting for me over it now. Glad I don’t really have an answer to that question, because I am no longer limited and defined by a place. I am no longer afraid of being exposed out in the open. No longer searching the expansive, empty sky for death from above. I’m without shelter. Without a net. I’m from Everywhere. Nowhere. Right here. All at once. I am not who I was. I am just who I am right now. Wait five minutes, and I’m sure to change.

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to be or not to be

When I tell people I’m a Ph.D. student, the inevitable question is, “What do you plan to do with your degree?” I’m always a little astonished at this, because hey, tenure track academics. What else, right? I am so sure, so fixated on one path for me, that I forget that not everyone does the same.

And so, on Mother’s Day I find myself not wondering what I will do with my degree, but what kind of academic I will be. Seems like a strange subject for Mother’s Day, right? Not really. I have been lucky enough to be gifted not only with my incredible biological mother, but also with amazing, supportive women who have served as mentors along the way. I cannot overstate the importance and impact of a good mentor. Sadly, I lost both my professional mother and my original academic mother to untimely deaths in recent years, and for the most part, I have found myself utterly lost without them. I still don’t know what to do with myself when something amazingly good or bad happens to me. I want to pick up the phone to share the news with them or get their advice, and then I remember that I can’t. I have only their words of kindness and wisdom — and their innate trust in me and my abilities — to take with me and carry me forward. I’m out of the nest and on my own now.

The good news is that I have been lucky enough to have lightning strike a third time in the wonderful friend, adviser, and new academic mother I found almost immediately upon starting my Ph.D.. She’s very different from me, and we don’t always see eye-to-eye, but man, does she believe in me. She is my champion and protector, and she challenges me to do good work. She sees my success as a point of pride for her rather than a threat. Sees me as a legacy she is grooming with no plans to claim credit. It helps her to have her in my corner cheering me on and paving the way. The woman has my back, if nothing else. But there is something else. There’s the advocating and muscling behind the scenes on my behalf. There is the money to attend conferences. There are the chats over lunch. There are the extensive editorial notes on my work, telling it like it is when I can still fix and improve what I have written. The emails telling me that she’s proud of me. The phone calls to say hi, to check on me, to tell me a funny story, to let me know of another student’s award for his dissertation only to be followed by, “That will also be you, my girl. You’re next.” I can’t beat that, and I don’t intend to try. I know when I’m lucky, and I’m loyal to her. I don’t sneeze at people who pick up a sword and stand between me and disaster.

I am acutely aware that I am fortunate to have her. More importantly, I know that I am fortunate to have had every mentor I have had, and they are not easy to find. Most people never get one, and I’ve had three. And the result? The commitment it inspires in me to be a mentor myself. To shape myself to be the kind of academic, the kind of professor who reaches down and pulls students up. Who gathers talent and grooms it. Who values young minds and, even better, is valued by them in return. I have to say that I think deciding the kind of professor you are going to be is just as important as deciding the kind of research you are going to do. A good teacher specializes in more than just her subject area. She specializes in her students. Students are what last and live on long after you are gone. Their success and happiness are the ultimate measure of a teacher’s worth.

I went to a party for a new Ph.D. graduate last night. While there, I noticed something when the conversation turned one faculty member in particular: nobody had anything good to say about her. Despite her seniority and tenure, everyone agreed that, as a teacher and an adviser, she was someone to be avoided at worst, tolerated silently as a means to an end at best. Knowing and working with her was something you gritted your teeth and suffered through like some horrible rite of passage, constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. You can always tell she is the topic of discussion in any group of students by the rolling eyes and hushed tones as though speaking her name will incur the wrath of some black curse on all present. Like a cancer you might catch. She has a reputation for being petty, spiteful, jealous, vengeful, and wickedly capricious, particularly when it comes to other, up-and-coming female academics. She puts down the research topics and theories of others — “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” is the sentence most likely to slip from her lips like a broken record. Because she does not know how to be loyal to her students, she assumes them all disloyal to her, and so no one trusts her, much less likes her. Everyone deems her dried up — unhappy and dissatisfied in her life. Here is this woman in middle age as her career wanes, and not a single student could speak well of her or her research, much less sing her praises as a teacher, mentor, or, worse yet, a person. I feel sorry for her. I don’t think this is what who she wants to be, or even set out to be, but, the fact of the matter is, this is who she is and how she is regarded. She chose this. She made it come to pass. She is a road map for loneliness. She is a cautionary tale.

This experience frames a stark contrast to my late, great academic mother from my master’s degree program. She gathered students around her and her husband and made us a family. Regardless of age, all of her chosen were known as her “kids,” and we wore it as a badge of honor. She took care of us, and we took care of each other and her. We felt safe, secure, and supported both personally and professionally. We knew she would go out on any limb for us, and we would all do the same for her and our brothers and sisters. We still do. We worked our asses off to produce our best in research and in the classroom as a result. Our reputations were her reputation, and we took that link seriously and treated it preciously. We felt enormous pride to have a relationship with such a good heart and a brilliant mind, and her company was warm, loving, and coveted. Students lined up to take her classes and work with her. Anyone on her team broke their necks to go above and beyond on her projects. Her sense of humor was refreshing and second to none. Being her student meant being her friend, and she took the time to know us inside out. She drove us home at the end of the day, took us to dinner, had us over to her house for parties. Knew our concerns, our interests, our competing priorities, our pitfalls, our interests, and our long-term goals. There wasn’t a mean or petty bone in her body. Utterly secure in her own mind and competency, she worked overtime to smooth the way for us and see we got what we needed to succeed. She treated us as equals, as colleagues, and we all flourished under her tutelage as ardent allies and cheerleaders for each other. She was well-regarded by students, by the college, by the university and in her field. You could tell when others were discussing her, because the group would glow and laugh and smile and bond while doing it. She inspired brilliance and love and brought out the best in us all. When she passed, we were all crushed. We leaned on each other in our grief and still do. The friendships she gifted us have only grown stronger and more committed in the wake of her life. She used to say that she viewed her relationship with her students as just a beginning. We see the time we spent with her in this world the same way. As hard is it is that we cannot pick up the phone and call her, she’s still very much with us every day, giving us strength in all we do. We still work hard to do right by her reputation and make her proud. I drop her name every chance I get because I am honored to know her. While she may not have been my actual mom, she will always have had a role in birthing and mothering the woman and academic I am. She is my hero.

And so, when choosing my path as a budding academic and future professor, I am giving a great deal of thought to what kind of mentor I want to be and how I want to lead. Long story short, I want to be a mother. I want to be generous and take the high road. I want to do right by the mentors who molded me and continue their work so that they might live and teach through me. I want to throw my lot in with other brilliant, growing minds. To bask in their glow and be inspired by their ideas and theories. To lead by example. To be a mentor people — particularly young women — trust and want to have. To remain open and supple and happy and funny. To be a port in the storm. To support without ego. To hand over diplomas and put hoods over heads with a loving smile. To attend their graduation parties and be welcome. To be spoken of with love and gratitude when I am not there. To have the honor of seeing students flourish and become my colleagues, too. Not only because I see the ravages of unhappiness in the the professor who burns her bridges, but because I see the satisfying path of love in the legacy of a woman who gave of herself. And really, what are research and teaching but putting a piece of yourself out there to join with others and become something bigger and better than yourself? Sort of like parenting in a way, right? Funny, that.

how not to get into my pants

engage: lame, whiny, inelegant, ventilating rant

hey there, guy! think you might be interested in me? want to get to know me better? think it might be cool if we spent some time together socially? think we might have the makings of a good friendship? think there’s a chance in hell we might actually have sex or even a relationship some day? well, gentlemen, here’s a sure-fire, bonafide how-to guide on to make sure that none of that will ever happen with me in a million years:

  • spend months, even years fawning over me every time you see me, flirting and even touching me, hugging me, stoking my hair, trying to massage my neck, but never doing anything more about it.
  • start non-specifically “asking me out” without presenting an actual invitation to do something planned with you or even requesting my phone number.
  • finally give your phone number to me and tell me to call you if i ever “need anything.” what the fuck does that even mean? also, do this repeatedly.
  • act all mopey that i never called you the next time you see me (protip: i don’t do the calling, particularly when you can’t man-up enough to just ask for my number). i like my men confident and assertive without being dicks. mopey is a sure non-starter, as is putting the responsibility on me to get things rolling when you are the one who was interested in the first place.
  • finally ask for my phone number and get it from me on a night when i’m not feeling well (see: how good i was not feeling) and don’t have any fight in me to put up. also, i had a moment where i figured, “what the hell?” and thought i’d be nice and give something new a try.
  • begin to text me ad nauseum within two hours of getting my phone number with messages like “how are you?” “what are you doing?” “feeling better?” no, i’m not feeling better — you just saw me three hours ago and i was sick as a dog. do you think i ran into jesus giving out free miracles on a street corner on my way home or something? and this despite me telling you that i was busy with plans that night and into the weekend. why the hell would you listen to me and choose to respect my stated boundaries rather than just start sending me messages anyway, even though i had made it clear that i was otherwise engaged for the rest of the evening?
  • text to ask me if i “need anything” at midnight that night.
    a.) don’t be texting me at midnight. you don’t know me that well yet.
    b.) that’s a lame booty call, and i’m not amused.
    c.) i’m freaking sick, and you know it. don’t booty text someone who is sick.
    d.) just don’t ever booty text someone. get some game already.
    e.) even if you are legit offering to bring me something like medicine or food, i’m not going to have some dude i barely know come over to my house in the middle of the night to do that. we haven’t even met for coffee or drinks yet. you’re sure as shit not coming to my inner sanctum when i’m sick in my pjs to bring me gatorade. come on. this is just 100% disrespectful and bordering on invasive.
  • have me wake up the next morning to find that you started blowing up my phone before sunrise with several more text messages like “good morning?” “sleep well?” “feeling better?” and even “what are you doing?” what the hell do you think i’m doing at 6am?
  • never actually pick up the phone and call me. just keep texting me for days and days like you’re 14 asking me if i’m better yet. like i need that. and this in spite of the fact that i have responded more than once to tell you that:
    a.) i just came down with my viral infection, i’m not on the back end of it, and
    b.) it will probably take the better part of the week to feel better, so please stop asking me if i’m better yet. i will tell you when i’m better.
    i don’t know how to be more honest and up front with you aside from telling you to just get lost right off the bat. i was trying to be nice and give you a small chance to redeem yourself.
  • and since you couldn’t take the hint to back off when i told you i’m sick (which was both a warning to you and the hand-to-god’s honest truth), i also told you that i was going out to town to a conference in vegas for several days and having company in town when i returned so i would be off of the map for about a week. i thanked you in advance for being patient and told you that i’d be in touch when everything settled down.what’s your response? what do i get from you as i’m boarding the plane? a text from you warning me to “be a good girl in vegas.” SERIOUSLY? “be a good girl?” i mean, FUCKING SERIOUSLY?! first of all, i’ll do whatever the hell i want. we haven’t even been on a fucking date. you can’t even muster the guts to ring me up proper and use your big boy voice to ask me out, and you’re telling me to behave myself like we’re committed somehow? why the hell do guys do this? you are by no means the first to pull this shit on me, and it pisses me off to no end. fuck you. i’m not your “girl.” i don’t have to “be good.” get over your lame penis insecurity and back the hell up off of the possessive vibe, dad. you don’t have me marked as yours. telling me what to do is a sure way to burn any bridge with me, especially when you don’t even have a place in my life yet.
    moreover, this is what you send me when you know that a.) i’m sick and b.) i’m going away on business. fucking insulting on every damn level. way to treat me like some dumb hoochie and neither see nor acknowledge that i’m a grown adult professional woman with a lot of balls in the air — none of which are yours, i might add. you’re not even on the list and slip-sliding further from the edge of it with each passing text. it also doesn’t help your case that you never bothered to ask why i was going to vegas, what i would be doing there, and what my work was about. no interest in my brains or academic passions. all you were worried about was that some girl whose ten digits you just got might fuck some stranger in her sickened state because she’s a just a woman and therefore so hysterically cock crazy that she can’t be trusted not to jump on the first stiff one she sees once shes get a couple appletinis or some other fruity designer non-drink in her. none of which is the case with me — especially the part where i’d drink anything in a martini glass that wasn’t three olives in ice-cold gin with a bottle of vermouth passed over it (or maybe a manhattan…up).
  • proceed to spend all weekend texting me “hello?” repeatedly. no, i’m not kidding. that’s what you did.  just “hello?” several times a day all day saturday. i can’t even begin to grasp what was going on in your head there.
  • when i finally reply two days later to tell you that
    a.) i’m so sick that i’ve been in the hospital and
    b.) i would really appreciate it if you’d stop texting me because it’s annoying me and not something i want to deal with sick or well, but especially not sick, you fly off the handle wanting to know why i didn’t call you to take me to the hospital (WHAT?!) and then follow up with a day’s worth of passive-aggressive texts that slowly escalate to accusing me of using the sick excuse to push you away. really? i mean, seriously? what? you even SAW me sick, but that’s neither here nor there, just…WHAT?!

first of all, there is probably no behavior in the world that will make me angrier or want to be rid of you (after punching you in the face) faster than passive-aggression. i have to time or patience for childish behavior. got a problem? pony up and say so. if i wanted to be around people who pout, i’d work in day care. spill it, let’s fix it, move on with or without me. i don’t care. but if you want to bitch out and completely fail at communicating your feelings in a forthcoming, productive adult manner, fine. just do it far away from me and not involving me in any way. and this goes for everyone. and i most definitely will not tolerate this from someone who is just trying to get to know me. how is that a way to get off the ground with a new interest? explain that one to me.

i’ve got a couple other people pulling this cop-out crap with me lately, and they’re fools if the think i’m not noticing it. i’ve addressed the vibes they’re sending out directly with each of them at least once only to get denials and more of the continued passive aggression, and i’m kind of fed up. it’s more aggressive than passive, and i’m losing patience fast. i’m torn between calling them out on it once and for all or just deciding that anyone who behaves that way isn’t worth my time and just walking away. i’m every bit as over-scheduled and overwhelmed as they are, so that excuse does not fly as a reason to be rude to a friend. i’ve worked too hard to hoist myself through hell and be in the happy and healthy (well, emotionally, at least) place i’m in now to waste energy playing people’s mental guessing games. that’s not a good use of my time. passive-aggressive i can do without from everyone, but if they’re friends of mine, i love them, so i’m willing to give a little and see if their sudden mood swings pass and we work things out.

you, however, don’t get a pass. i barely know you, and  i’m thinking i don’t want to. if this is how you behave when you’re trying to start some kind of relationship with me even though you can’t manage to even begin with a simple date when i’m totally worth a decent meal and an evening’s conversation, then i’ll just thank you for showing me the crazy right up front so i don’t have to waste any time on you before i shut this down and move on. the fact that i’m taking the time to sit up and write this while i’m as sick and falling over tired as i am right now should tell you how angry i am. i just have to get this off of my chest so i can get some good sleep. something in my gut told me all along that i shouldn’t have bothered giving you a chance. once again, my intuition was spot on. note to self: must remember that.

finally, i’m a big girl who can take care of herself. i do it all the time — and i like it. a little credit, please. i’m happy to be vulnerable with those i trust. i love to let my guard down and let those i love take care of me from time to time. however, do NOT ever treat me like i’m somehow helpless. if the fact that i’m self-assured and able to handle my business is what attracted you to me in the first place, recognize that and stop trying to treat me like a damsel in distress, and don’t get hostile with me for not acting like you’re god’s gift and that i have nothing better to do than drop everything and come running because you sent me some puss-out 160-character text. i’m not going to come slobbering for the answer to all my problems you think you have in your pants. let me let you in on a little secret: you don’t.

you know what the worst part is? you’re not the first to try playing this exact game with me. it’s pathetic. gentlemen, here’s the deal: step up your game or don’t even bother. the least you can do is CALL a girl and ask her out to drinks or the movies if you think you like her. get to know a girl, for the love of mike. no one wants a text relationship. no one wants to be smothered before they even spend an evening with you (or after, for that matter). nothing about a bright, independent professional woman should give you the impression that i will go for that amateur hour crap. i would block your texts if only my phone would let me. as it is, i’m just ignoring you and hoping you’ll get the message and go away. i feel like shit right now, and your nonsense is not helping.

note: i’m no helen of troy, but i have other options. i don’t need this bullshit. and, the truth of the matter is, that i am very, very happy with my own company. thank you for doing your part to make me prefer it even more than i already did.

no. seriously. stop texting me.

end: lame, whiny, inelegant, ventilating rant