Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Filler. Cream Cheese Filler.

Oh, desserts full of cream cheese filling. I wish I could quit you.

This week over on Twenties Hacker, I present you with a recipe for red velvet cream cheese cupcakes. Admittedly, I'm kind of over red velvet already. I've already started on my March recipes, which, SNEAK PEEK for my lovely loyal readers over here, is going to be a chocolate-mint themed month. (You knowwww, because it's green? And St. Patrick's Day is in March? Work with me, here.) I love chocolate mint. As evidenced by my ability to inhale an entire tube of thin mints within the hour of receiving my first box of Girl Scout cookies of the season.

What? Don't judge me.

Relatedly (maybe? It was in the midst of a baking session so it's a legit segue) I had posted this gem of a tweet:

(HyVee is our regional grocery store chain, FYI)

And my friend Keith responded and told me that I should write a book. I couldn't figure out if he was making fun of me or not (he usually is), so I responded in seriousness, and then I think he compared me to Tina Fey and I was like "life = made" and so I'm feeling pretty awesome about that. I totally want to be Tina Fey when I grow up. Or, like, a reasonable knockoff thereof. If I can be even a fraction of the awesomeness of Tina Fey, I'll consider my life a raging success.

It was a nice boost, anyway, and made me want to pick back up with writing a pile of essays that maybe could be turned into something resembling a book. Because my long-format writing is a big fat fail these days (see: my three-day attempt at NaNoWriMo) so I think I want to start with something shorter.

Oh God, did I just tell you a GOAL, out loud? Fuck. Now it's out there. And people will either (a) make fun of me for thinking I'm interesting enough to be able to do it or (b) hold me to actually doing it.

Well you know what, people from option A? Fuck you. People from option B? I love you and please keep after me. My motivation takes a hit every time something triggers any insecurity about anything. ("I've gained three pounds! I will never be a writer!") (Yes, this is about how logical my thought process is sometimes.) This is likely why I never get anything done. And it's why the CIY column is good for me. It forces me to write every week and hit a deadline.

*cough* anyway. Did I mention that there are cupcakes with a swirl of cream cheese in them? Because you should maybe go focus on those instead.

Also, speaking of my friend Keith, he is a very talented musician and here is a clip of him performing the acoustic version of one of my favorite songs of his. I've been harassing him for a recording of this for years (actual, literal YEARS) and he finally did. YAY.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hey Girl. Have a recipe and some shirtless dudes. You're welcome.

I... wow. Hi guys. I had an insanely busy weekend - it was a great weekend, mind you, but it was so full that I barely had a minute to catch my breath. As such, my Twenties Hacker post was a bit late (it seriously took me all afternoon on Saturday to make, not helped by the fact that I ran out of red food coloring in the middle and at this point, I was committed, so I ran to the grocery store where, amongst the thirty bottles of yellow, green, and blue - ALL OF THE RED WAS SOLD OUT. Clearly, the entire town is reading my food column and has decided to try my red velvet recipes. Or it's some sort of conspiracy meant to keep me from finishing my fabulous desserts. Either way. GRR-face was made) and so YAY HERE IT IS NOW WOOOO.

Also, it occurs to me that I am not really giving the people what they want, because, while my #2 blog search term is actually "insert clever title here" which means that people are (presumably) actually looking for me, it's still flanked by "shirtless Ryan Reynolds" and "shirtless Josh Duhamel." You people are relentless.

Coincidentally, I saw this movie this weekend, and it was pretty good. I mean, I'm far from being an expert movie critic, but I enjoyed it:

It was kind of gritty and realistic (which is something a lot of action movies aren't) and my future husband was excellent in it and also where the hell has Denzel Washington BEEN?! I haven't seen him in anything for ages. He was good too. Obviously. He's Denzel Fucking Washington. Enough said.

So, in honor of one of my two favorite Ryans, here are some pictures of shirtless Ryan Reynolds (hey, gotta increase traffic somehow.)

The other Ryan? Is of course Ryan Gosling. I don't know he's stayed off the blog this long and I know he's sort of becoming a walking meme, but I do rather enjoy him as well. I'm promoting him into the Top 5, which probably is overdue for an update anyway. Eh. Let's face it, if I were to end up in a situation with, say, number 7, and things happen, I'll hit that shit and ask forgiveness later. Who could really blame me? (And really, at this point, who really cares? My cat doesn't give a shit and neither do I.)

Wait, where was I?

Oh yeah, shirtless Ryan Gosling.

Yeah. He's totally eating his shirt. Whatevs.

I'm content to let the traffic stats battle it out now. FOR SCIENCE.

That said, I'm long overdue for another roundup. Stay tuned, kittens. I'll get to work on it. I'm going to gaze at my computer screen for a while, first, though.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hogging the Hedges, Part I

Look at this.

Ok, now look at this.

That string of images of a little baby hedgehog pretty much overdosed me on cute and I pinned it to Pinterest with some sort of shouty capslock OMG I NEED ONE sentiment, and... people commented that YOU CAN GET HEDGEHOGS AS PETS.

I about went all Kristen Bell at that point.

I've been kind of obsessed with them since then. (YES, WE KNOW, says everyone who follows me on Pinterest) I have done some preliminary research on hedgehogs (also known as "hedgies," which kept eliciting little  involuntary squeals of delight) as pets, which I will share in another post because I know that I've sparked the interest of a couple other people as well.

This post? I'm going to just fill up with pictures.

Sadly, I will probably have to put the idea of adopting a hedgie (squee!) on hold until I can move into a bigger place. But so help me, I AM going to have one someday. I shall call him Sir Hedgington. And I shall love him and squeeze him (metaphorically) and he shall be the subject of many a photo.

Also, apparently you can put them in things and they're totally chill about it. It's going to be the new Putting Clothes On My Cat. It's going to be awesome, y'all.

Best of all, apparently you can put hats on them.

NOTE: I'd credit the source of these images but they've been posted and reposted so many times over the Internet that I have no idea where they came from.

OTHER VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: I had this written like a week ago and it got pre-empted by V-Day angst and now all of a sudden it's super relevant because my friend found one for sale on Craigslist and I am having A CRISIS because I want it sooo bad... I could probably make it work in this apartment, she'd just have to share my bedroom with me, but I'm kind of worried about how my cat will react. I mean, I plan to keep them separated, and the quills make the hedgie pretty cat-proof, but... I don't know if she'll freak out just KNOWING the hedgie is there, even if she can't see her or get to her. I've expressed interest to the seller, now.... I just need to figure out how this is all going to work. EEEEEK!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Love May be a Battlefield, But Being Single is a Minefield.


I was determined to be a good sport for Valentine’s Day this year. I even wore pink.

(Okay, I wear pink a lot anyway. But I wore it specifically knowing that it was a holiday where pink & red were the colors of the day.)

Of the 27 years I have been around for V-Day, 26 of those have been spent without a significant other. My senior year of high school I was dating (“dating”) a guy over the dreaded Day of Love and I think I got a plush teddy bear or something. I don’t remember. It was almost ten years ago. My point is, I’ve grown accustomed to flying solo and I’ve gone through all of the stages of grief – denial (“this doesn’t bother me, it’s not a real holiday anyway”), anger/bitterness (self-explanatory and probably the phase I stayed in the longest), bargaining (“I’ll stop condemning this day if I can have a valentine too!”), depression (“fuck this, nobody will ever love me”) and finally, acceptance. I still greatly enjoy snarky memes and jokes that float around the Internet, but I was completely fine with it this year. Let people have their romance and fancy dinners and bonus gift-giving holiday. I would curl up with a bottle of wine and watch a movie with my cat. I was ALL GOOD.

Or so I thought.

I had my brilliant mixtape idea (hey, have you suggested a song yet? GO DO IT) and I shared it with the Regulars in our Turntable.fm room and as people are wont to do on such a holiday, we started playing a string of love songs. Love songs, crush songs, breakup songs, heartbreak songs, angry anti-love songs. Anything that moved us. It was largely songs of heart-wrenching sadness. It was like playing a game of emotional chicken. I stared down each song in defiance, daring it to affect me. Song after song and finally, finally, around 4:00, I managed to break myself. I played REM’s “At My Most Beautiful” – then politely excused myself from the DJ table, took off my headphones, pushed my chair away from my desk, locked myself into the downstairs bathroom, and cried as quietly as I could for about ten minutes.

Then I came back and someone played Dashboard Confessional and I was all, OH GOD WHYYYYY.

You know the one. HERE LET ME SHOW YOU.

As for now I'm gonna hear the saddest songs
And sit alone and wonder
How you're making out
But as for me, I wish that I was anywhere with anyone
Making out.

I'm missing your laugh

How did it break?
And when did your eyes begin to look fake?
I hope you're as happy as you're pretending.

I'm cuddling close to blankets and sheets

I am alone, in my defeat
I wish I knew you were safely at home

Cause that's totally the song you want to hear when you're alone and can't help but be reminded of your last relationship/fling/whatever it was. Maybe I DO miss their laugh! I wonder who they're with - are they at home? Maybe they're home pining over me. Or maybe they are with some other girl that's a hundred and fifty times better than me. I guess I'll sit at home with sad songs and wonder.

Maybe it’s that I’m more acutely aware of my loneliness these days, in general, than anything to do with any past whatevers. I'm better off without them all, or I'd still be with them. Right?

Maybe it’s that I’m getting more emotional and sappy in my old age (guys, I am turning into such a GIRL. I never used to cry at anything. I’m noticing it more with movies. Those sad scenes that are just baiting you, begging you to expel some saline from your eye-holes… yeah, they get me every time. FUCK YOU, MOVIE PEOPLE.) At any rate, I was feeling particularly vulnerable anyway, and we all know how much music amplifies everything. 

Whatever the case. I finally cracked. YOU WIN, VALENTINE'S DAY. 

On the bright side, I'm feeling considerably better today and I'm shifting my focus elsewhere to this really nice dude who has been sending me messages and that I think I may actually be meeting this weekend. (Now that I've actually SAID it, I will have jinxed the whole thing.) On paper, it seems perfect. He's my age, graduated the same year from the same college I did, has a similar sense of humor and a similar tendency toward the verbose, and was legitimately excited to hear back from me. Keep your fingers crossed, Internet. I'm cautiously optimistic about this.

In conclusion: Valentine's Day is an evil, evil holiday created to break the spirits of the single people of the world, as if the other 364 days weren't bad enough. 

Also, the candy should be on sale now. Tomorrow is payday. You do the math.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Project: Mixtape

It's one of the great tragedies of living in this digital era that no one will ever make me a mix tape.

I mean, sure, you can make compilations. But on a cassette tape? I mean, can you even GET cassette tapes anymore?

There's just something highly romantic and nostalgic about the idea of a mix tape, especially coming from, say, a member of the opposite sex.

If some guy wanted a quick way to earn a bunch of points with me, he could buy this and fill it with a thoughtful mix of songs:


But, I had an idea, driving home last night. It's Valentine's Day, which means very little to me, but I thought - what if we collectively made a "mix tape" of sorts? As kind of a love letter to each other. We're all connected in some way or another (if nothing else, by this blog. If you're reading it, then BAM, you're part of the ICTH family. Whee!)

I'm going to need you to help me with this. I want to make 2 playlists. So if you could be so kind as to comment with (1) your favorite song of ALL TIME and (2) your favorite love song, that would be superb.

Depending on how many people answer, I might have to edit and choose and what not, but I will purchase them (if I don't already own them) and curate the equivalent of two mix tapes. Depending on what the most legal option is, I'll either make them available for download in a future blog post OR through Dropbox OR I might be persuaded to make/mail some hard copies to those who are interested. (If you have  any thoughts on this part of it, feel free to add that to your comment, also.)

I'll be taking song submissions up through one week from today, if you need some time to think about it.

I think this has the potential to be fun? If not for you, then for me. I like collecting new music.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Happy Day Before the Day Before All The Candy Goes On Sale!

I've been kind of a shitty blogger lately. I don't mean that by way of an apology because I'm not so presumptuous to think that people were terribly devastated by my absence. I mean that in the terms of "I can't seem to make words work." It's quite frustrating. I want to write. I just... can't. At least not coherently.

(HAHA I KNOW this blog is usually not coherent, so picture this level of coherency and then, like, subtract from that. SCARY RIGHT.)

I tried to write the funny-only-in-hindsight story of The Incident With My Car (coming soon!), and I stared at and stared at it and was like, "okay, you need to come back and re-write this whole thing sometime when you can be witty since you can't hand-flail over the Internet." (I suppose I could make a vlog. But I suck at that.) Epic stories will not be told until I can do them justice and make them sound as epic as they are. (Epic being a relative term, as it pertains to my otherwise fairly ordinary existence.)

So I've been giving my blog the side-eye and made a list of things that I meant to blog about and then suddenly things in the news and pop culture sort of exploded and OF COURSE I have opinions that MUST be shared with everyone, and... and... and... then I probably got sucked into Pinterest and then it was time for bed and that's why I haven't been posting. I hate it when people ask me what I do in my free time because it's pretty much "look at pretty and/or funny things on the Internet until I fall asleep" EVERY DAY. I don't even know where my evenings GO because I know that I have them, I know I must do something, yet I can't ever account for doing anything worthwhile.

Therefore, I have concluded that I am either (a) eating (b) sleeping (c) Internetting (d) showering (e) at Target (f) at the grocery store or (g) no, seriously, I can't even think of anything other than "various errands as needed."

OR, Option H, which is: baking things and writing about them.

Which brings us to the fact that I have proclaimed February to be Red Velvet Month because it seems Valentinesy and even though I hate V-Day with a bitterness I can't quite explain anymore, I've decided to be a good sport and go with the flow.

Last week I posted about Red Velvet Chocolate Chip cookies. I made them twice because I didn't like the way the first batch turned out and also because I wanted more. The trick to keep them from drying out (and they will be predisposed to drying out because cocoa powder is kind of a moisture-sucking bitch) is to bake them for the minimum amount of time you can get away with.

I actually learned quite a bit in this endeavor. For example, I didn't really know what red velvet *was* other than some form of delicious cake that must always be accompanied by cream cheese frosting. Turns out? Red velvet is basically just a special less-sweet form of chocolate that's dyed red. (I, um, actually didn’t figure that out until I started printing recipes. I guess I still thought it was some sort of magical flavor that just kind of came into being.) So when I'm done with this, I'm going to start making Purple Velvet and Green Velvet and Blue Velvet and confuse the fuck out of everyone. 

It's going to be awesome.

So THIS week (specifically, today), I posted the Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies which would have been my favorite recipe I've tried since I started this project except then I remembered how much I loved the pumpkin cream cheese bread, so I'm very torn, but it's all good because HOLY SHIT THESE ARE AMAZING.

I will admit, I'm not always the biggest fan of brownies (I have absolutely NO IDEA why this is, but... it is) but these are not your regular brownies. They are pure delicious and they're pretty, too. I fail to see how you could NOT impress anyone with them. Shit, I impressed MYSELF when I pulled these bad boys out of the oven. 

Now, I'm not saying these will get you laid, but I am saying they won't hurt your chances. 

Unless, like me, you hoard the entire pan to yourself and guard them like Gollum ("my precioussss"), in which case, the odds of snagging a dude (or lady, if that's your preference) goes down substantially. Especially because if you EAT all the brownies yourself, you will likely get fat and then no one will love you. (I'm still working on my self-esteem issues.) *cough* Just kidding. My kitty loves me and that's all that matters. Except for when she doesn't. But she's a cat. That's kind of their deal.

This is what I look like without makeup.
This is also why I will be single for my 27th consecutive Valentine's Day. Holla.

I have no further segues for this after that gloriousness, so... um... go make the brownies. You're welcome. The end.

Monday, February 6, 2012

[insert pun about running colors here]

If you might vaguely recall, if you've been hanging around here for an exceptionally long time, I have a secondary blog that is documenting my quest to achieve 30 specific things before my 30th birthday. I've been really, really bad at keeping up with it, and in the last year, the only thing I think I accomplished was the weight loss goal (which, well, was one of my BIG goals and was one that seemed least likely to happen when I made the list) and I still haven't written it. There are things on there like "sing karaoke" and I don't even remember what else, but things that should be easy enough to do, but I just haven't DONE them. I have, also, taken the liberty to keep the list updated, and there were some things that were too vague or too improbable that I switched them out.

One of the things I added was "Run a 5K."

Now, I'm not a runner. That much should be apparent even if you're new here. I... I don't particularly care for the feeling of not being able to breathe and that of feeling like I'm going to crumple up and die at any second. I don't like burning lungs or achy sides and I'm kind of a wuss about the whole thing. Late last summer, one of my friends and I started running a little bit, and right before it turned into fall and got cold, I could run a solid eleven minutes without stopping - but only because of the peer pressure aspect of not wanting to be the one who punked out first. (Motivation, fuck yeah!).

A bunch of my friends did the Warrior Dash last year and had a great time. They almost tried to drag me into it, but I knew there was absolutely no way I could train to run a 5K in time let alone be in good enough shape to handle the extra challenges/obstacles - things like CLIMBING and I don't even know what else. But CLIMBING is not a thing I can do. Rope Day in gym class was a nightmare.

Then I saw this on Pinterest.

And I was like, now that's the kind of 5K I would enjoy. (Because while I have an aversion to being covered with mud, apparently I'm totally cool with the idea of being covered in paint? I don't know. I've been muddy before, and I don't particularly like the feeling. I can be such a girl.)

So I repinned it so I'd have it somewhere to come back to and then moved along.

Then! Katherine tweeted at me and was all, "yo, I want to travel for a race, we should do this" and I'm all "but they're so faaaarrrr" and she's like, "bitch, Kansas City and Minneapolis are NOT that far from you" and I was like "oh. oh yeah." Because I always forget that KC is a mere 2-3 hour drive from here, and I hadn't seen Minneapolis on the list when I was scrolling because I am apparently blind or something. (That whole conversation was paraphrased, by the way.)

These two events happen to not be until July. Between now (February) and then (July), I am sure I could muster up the ability to run 3.1 miles. (Ok, I guess Kansas City is in June, not July, but whatever.) AND it sounds like it's a pretty laid-back race, as far as races go.

Behold, text copied from their site:

The Color Run is a one of a kind experience that is less about speed and more about enjoying a color crazy day with your friends and family.  For our events, it is all about participants of all different speeds, ages, shapes, and sizes toeing the start line.  Whether you are a casual morning walker or an Olympic athlete, the 3 miles of the Color Run course will be the most enjoyable real estate you’ve traveled in a VERY long time. (If you have more questions about how it all works, check out our “ABOUT” page.)
Rule #1 All participants are welcome… fast, slow, runner, walker, old, and young.
Rule #2 White shirt dress code at the official start line and ready to roll no later than 9am sharp!
Rule #3  Completely colored Willy Wonka goodness at the finish.

And... and... well, if you don't think it's kind of cool by now, I'm not going to be able to convince you. But I have convinced myself AND my lazy ass, and so you know what?

I'm totally gonna do it.


PS - If anyone else wants in, I think if we have 4+ people, we can make a team, and registration costs per person are slightly cheaper. You know you want to...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

My Heart is Like a Cat on a Leash, And Other Terrible Metaphors

Holy shit, guys. That was the most emotionally debilitating round of PMS I've ever suffered through. (Hi there, very small contingent of dudes who read this!). I logged more hours curled up in the fetal position this week than probably in the last couple months combined. Normally this time of year, I'd blame the ever-so-handy Seasonal Affective Disorder, but, alas, it's only snowed about twice and it's really been quite nice out, so that really isn't an excuse. So I'm blaming the next best thing: hormones.

I don't know what my deal was. I was just really, really sad and introspective and just... well, sad. It wasn't so much a wallowing-in-self-pity spree (which used to be my old MO, so maybe I'm growing as a person), but I could definitely feel all of my insecurities rising to the surface, all my flaws, all the things I hated about myself - staring me in the face. (see: previous post.) I just felt so very not good enough. For what, I don't know. The world, I guess.

(I didn't say these were necessarily rational thoughts.)

The other part of the whole woe-is-me drama is the fact that it's finally sunk in to me how lonely my life can get. Like, in the romantic sense, not in the overall sense, because I interact with tons of people on a daily basis and I have a lot of friends and while I don't always see them or talk to them as much as I'd like, I know they're there. But sometimes? I kind of wish I had someone to come home to and cuddle on the couch with. Again, I can try to blame winter, because it's normally prime snuggle season, but... I think I've finally run the course of my experiment in independence and would really kind of like to have someone else along for the ride.

I've always prided myself on my ability to be alone, but I'm really not sure that's an admirable thing anymore. I will always enjoy being able to come home and throw my shit (not literal shit, of course, I'm not a monkey) wherever and not have it bother anyone but me, and if I don't do the dishes for a week or if the laundry piles up or I don't make the bed then it's annoying only to me. Right now, I can sleep excessively and not shower and be a completely unproductive member of society and nobody needs to know or care and can't judge me for it. Despite all of these things that definitely fall into the "pro" category, I'm kind of thinking that maybe I'm ready to trade it in for someone. Not just anyone, though. I'm not desperate, yet. But if I found someone that had that potential, I'd entertain the idea of sharing my space.

But, shit, there is NO ONE. And I'm not getting any younger. I feel like society is pressuring me to find someone before I hit old maid status. Maybe I should... before things start sagging or I have to color my hair to cover grays rather than just because I got bored of the color it was before. Like all of these assets I've been given in order to "catch myself a man" have an expiration date or something. And I've seen way, way too many movies where they're all "you're more likely to get struck by lightning than meet anyone after the age of [fill in the blank.]" (Okay, the olnly one that really comes to mind is Sleepless in Seattle but still. It stuck with me.)

And I know there's no hurry. And I know it's also possible to find someone later in life. Happens all the time. But I don't WANT to have to wait until later in life because that means more of this heart-wrenching empty time alone by myself. I have to know there's a light at the end of this tunnel, or it will drive me mad.

I met a boy a couple weeks ago in this totally-not-made-up but totally Hollywood-esque meet-cute that made for a fabulous story (that I still have not posted, because I was busy being a self-loathing asshole) and the most exciting thing about it was that it meant that maybe I had a chance to meet someone the old fashioned way. Not that there's anything wrong with the online scene (which I've been neglecting right now, because I just don't have the energy to go through a pile of messages when my heart's not in it. I'm not getting very much ROI on my time and while it's a nice ego boost to be showered in flattery, it's... well, it is what it is.) So as soon as I tell that story you're going to be all "omg that is awesome!" and it was awesome but maybe I'm ruining it in advance because it hasn't gone anywhere. Honestly, I think my friends are more bummed about his not calling than I am. Maybe it's because I never expected him to. Maybe it's because that situation was to serve as nothing more than a bit of hope to keep me going. In which case, it worked. Because it did give me a bit of hope that I needed to not completely give up on myself.

Orrrr - and I almost hesitate to add this last part because I know there will be Opinions on the matter and I don't really want to hear them because I know what they're going to be and I DON'T DISAGREE WITH YOU but that doesn't change the fact that it is what it is and I can't magically flip a switch and fix things though you know if I could, I would - maybe I'm still hung up on the last guy I dated, because I am an irrational being who stupidly decided it would be a fantastic idea to still be friends because it was better than nothing and because, of all the guys I've dated and subsequently cut out of my life, I actually couldn't bear to not have him to talk to. Even if it was just snarky text messages. It was more miserable for me to cut off all contact than it was to just move on. So I've delayed that healing process quite substantially with that particular move. It probably doesn't help that there are mixed signals all over the place and the level of our friendship isn't exactly 100% platonic, either.  I mean, I know better. I know I'm just making things worse for myself. You don't need to tell me. I KNOW. I don't want to hear it. I just want to complain about it because it still hurts sometimes and it hurt a lot this week because naturally in the course of the Being Lonely, stuff like this readily comes to mind.

Look, I know I'm being stupid. If I emphasize this, will you promise not to bombard me with comments and emails indicating as such? It's bad enough as it is. I really don't need to hear it again.

If I could just get my head and heart back on the same page together, everything would be golden. Because my brain is totally ready to move on, it has acknowledged all the things it needs to acknowledge, and it's basically standing there like a person with a cat on a leash. (My heart being the cat, in this metaphor. Uh.. hang with me. It may or may not make sense when I'm done.) It's patiently waiting for the damn thing to move, and giving it gentle and then not-so-gentle tugs on the leash and trying to drag the damn thing down the sidewalk. Because the cat/heart is a fucking stubborn asshole, which anyone who knows cats or hearts can agree with.

I lied. That really didn't end up making much sense after all. But you got the idea, right? Yes? Great, moving on.

Basically, I know that I'm being a stubborn idiot and I'm not really going to budge until some other dude comes along and manages to sweep me off of my feet somehow (remember, my brain is still paying attention, and scoping out the various routes it can take)... and since the odds of that seem remarkably low in my neck of the woods, I guess I will just have to wait it out. Or I could push a little harder on the situation of the Boy I Haven't Actually Told You About Yet. Or I could hop back online and try a little harder to make a connection there. I have options, sort of.

Being lonely and being alone, though, are not the same thing.

They often cross paths with each other, but at the end of the day, I can deal with being alone. I don't mind it. It's when the being lonely pops up that makes things tricky. And you mix that with a healthy dose of self-loathing that was already brewing?

You get a Friday evening spent curled up in the fetal position, drifting in and out of sleep for the next sixteen hours until you get called in to work at your part-time job because nobody can ever seem to work their shifts and because I am still a doormat that can never say no. Sigh. It was good for me, though. It got me out of my damn house and helped shake off some of the weird clouds that were hovering (metaphorically) over my head.

It doesn't really matter, though, and you know why it doesn't really matter? Because almost like clockwork, I'm back to feeling like my usual self again. Enough that I want to kick my own ass for this last week of being a pathetic, weepy mess. Seriously, what the fuck. I guess self-flagellation in the form of an obnoxious blog post about myself will have to do.

Yes, I know.


Friday, February 3, 2012

Hiding in Plain Sight

I first started stifling my true self in order to fit in when I was four.

I could read before I got to preschool, but, legend has it (and by legend, I mean, my mother likes to tell this story) once I realized the other kids couldn't read yet, I pretended I couldn't either. I didn't want to be the freak, I didn't want to stand out. How I even knew to alter my behavior to try to conform, is beyond me. I guess it was instinctive, somehow. Once I got to "real" school though I figured it out pretty quickly, in concrete terms, and I spent my entire youth + adolescence + teenage years constantly searching for approval from my peers. I didn't want to be left out or made fun of. It was like walking a tightrope, and if I said the wrong thing or revealed what a geeky loser I actually was, I'd fall down into the lion pit and things were hard enough as it was. So I started building that wall and censoring everything I said to make sure it was "okay" so I didn't make a fool of myself. I was desperate to stay in the good graces of my peers. Popularity was out of my reach, maybe, but that didn't mean I had to be ostracized. It was enough to blend in.

When I was little, I was content to live in my own la-la-land world where I would draw and write and read and just imagine shit up and had little interest in other people for the longest time. I was a weird kid that didn't have a lot of friends. These days, my oddball behavior probably would have been classified as autistic and I would have probably been medicated or something, I don't know, but back then, they let it play out. And while I still carry some degree of social awkwardness with me, I think I turned out pretty okay.

There are still specific memories that stand out to me, reminding me why I started trying so hard to figure out how to obey the unwritten codes that dictated the social order. One time when I was at a sleepover, probably one of the first sleepovers I went to, I remember bursting into tears because one of the girls called another girl a bitch (we were like, six, mind you) and asked me if I agreed and I didn't know what the word "bitch" meant and they made fun of me. The next day while we were waiting for our parents to pick us all up, all the popular kids played on the swingset and I stayed off to the side by myself, playing with the farm kittens. I'd never felt so isolated and out of place in my life. It didn't really get much better than that, for a long time. I had to ask - not quite beg, but ask, in a really pathetic sort of way - to hang out with the cool kids at recess. I spent a lot of time by myself. I finally found some consistent friends around fourth grade, but it took a while for that sting to wear off.

I was never what you would call "cutting edge" and I was very sheltered when I was little. I wasn't allowed to watch R-rated movies until I was about fifteen, though I can't say for sure that I didn't "accidentally" do so when I was at a friend's house. I learned about sex by flipping through my mom's issues of Glamour and I pretty much took to heart that drugs were bad when my class was being subjected to the D.A.R.E. program in fourth or fifth grade or whenever it was. I didn't even have my first kiss until I was seventeen, though that may have had more to do with my debilitating shyness than any desire to be well-behaved. Overall, though, I was too afraid to get too out of line so my parents had it pretty easy. I was a good kid.

Being a good kid, however, does not make one popular. It rarely even makes one tolerable, in a world of kids that will make fun of you for just about anything.

It didn't help that I wasn't classically pretty, like the other girls in my class. Being pretty got you everywhere in the social order. Sure, I'm decently attractive now (despite what the voices in my head start to scream at me after I spend just a little too long looking in the mirror), but I wasn't always. I remember my mother telling me I was getting chubby when I was in 4th grade and from that point forward began to question everything about my appearance. I had really bad skin until high school (and even then only because I took some then-experimental skin-clearing drugs that may or may not even still be on the market) and braces and terrible hair. I still hold a grudge against my brother-in-law's brother for something he said to me in sixth grade because it hurt my feelings so much. When I graduated high school, I finally fit the definition of "pretty" but I was so used to being awkward and ugly that even to this day, I frequently see nothing but the flaws. Ask me, and I'll tell you all about them.

So what does this have to do with anything? It has to do with everything.

I was so afraid of saying the wrong thing and being ostracized at my super-cliquey school that I hardly said anything at all over my freshman and sophomore years. I was painfully shy and socially awkward. I'm still kind of socially awkward, but I have learned to force myself out of my shell. People find this all very shocking considering how loud and outgoing I've become, but it's still a focused effort. Sometimes I have to force myself to speak, especially if I'm somewhere with a lot of people that I don't know well. I think a lot of that has carried over. Obviously I watch what I say less often, because I say a lot of stupid shit, but I'm still constantly searching for acceptance.

I'm bringing this up because it's been bothering me a lot lately. I feel like a failure as a friend, because even the people that I consider myself closest to don't get to be privy to the things that go on inside my head. I still keep a lot to myself. I'll dodge questions, I'll avoid certain subjects - basically anything that might reveal anything about my true self. The more I think about it, though, I don't even know why I still do it! My best guess is that I'm simply overcompensating for the fact that I felt miserable and unloved by my peers as a young Kelly and now big grownup Kelly is making a really big effort to feel like she fits in and that people like her.

It's kind of an avoidance issue. I avoid conflict or having to deal with people not liking me, so I build up this facade of being completely aloof and cheerful and whatever else, so that they can't see that I'm a human being too and that I have - gasp - feelings. I don't want people to see that I am weak or vulnerable. That's why I joke around all the time. I mean, it's fun to be the funny one, but a lot of times it's kind of a mask... if I say something funny, it will (a) diffuse a tense situation (b) people will like me (c) they'll label me as "funny" and move on, thereby negating any other potential labels that they might be inclined to give me.

But what good does avoiding everyone serve me, now? I've undoubtedly fucked up so many relationships (and not just of the romantical variety, though God knows how many men I've turned away by my aloof nature.) I've failed so many people. People that have entrusted me with their deepest, darkest secrets (or even light, upbeat secrets, whatever, secrets all the same - things said in confidence), I can't seem to get myself to reciprocate. I don't like to talk about my feelings or dreams or wants or needs, because if someone makes fun of them or looks down on them, then... what's left?

And the rationale inside my twisted little mind tells me it's a bad idea to be vulnerable or open because then they have information that they could use against me to hurt me. (So, maybe it's a trust issue. Or maybe avoidance and trust issues are linked. WHY IS THIS? It's not like I had a fucked up childhood. Shit, my family didn't get weird until I was well beyond an impressionable age.) I've gone this many years without openly expressing my feelings and now it's really, really hard for me to do that. It's terrifying, really. At least to do it with a person sitting across from me, who can see me and my facial expressions and can immediately counter with a response, whereas times like right now I can sit and think about what I want to say. Like I've often thought about taking a tape recorder or something with me so I could maybe verbally "write" while I'm driving, story ideas, blog ideas, thoughts in my head... but I can't even picture saying my thoughts out loud TO MYSELF when I'm in a car BY MYSELF. It's THAT hard for me to express myself in spoken words.

Part of it is that I've become a people-pleaser. I want everyone to like me. (Which isn't surprising, given the first few paragraphs of this post.) Maybe that's why I don't like to pick restaurants. Partially, it's because I truly DO NOT CARE, because I love food and I'll eat just about anywhere, but also that I don't want to pick something that someone else is going to hate and then feel bad that they hate it, or worry that they're going to judge me for picking THAT place. Really, though, I think instead of coming across as being laid-back, it's just kind of annoying. I annoy myself sometimes. Like, just suck it the fuck up and make a decision. I'm getting slightly better at this. I've also developed what I feel to be a win-win situation: let the other person pick the genre, and then I will pick a restaurant from there. It's something, at least.

The rest of it? I don't know. It's probably just a carryover from those earlier years, something I was doing without even realizing it because it was just so automatic. It's like I'm finally waking up and realizing what a pain in the ass I've been, how much I've been hiding from the people that I care about the most. If it's not too late to make a resolution for this year, it's going to be this. To learn to open up, to learn to let people in.

Too bad I have no idea how.

It's taken me several days and several different attempts at writing this, and I'm still not sure it makes any sense. I've been in a weird funk for days (though it could just be PMS, who knows) and it's actually keeping me awake at night. (That, and some severe sinus congestion which is finally subsiding. Ugh.) Now that I've latched on to this, I don't know how to let it go. Obviously something is broken, has been broken for a long time, and it needs fixed. I don't know where to start, I don't know how to do this.

I need help. Advice, encouragement, that sort. Tell me I'm not crazy and that I'm not the only one like this. Help me be a better, more real person. I'm tired of hiding.