It started as an experiment.
And everybody experiments, right?
It was just a little thing, you know, so I can hang with the cool kids. But now I fear it’s gotten out of hand.
It was last year. You see, I’d started a new job, a new assignment, along with about 80 to 100 other people. We were in a huge conference room, seated randomly at round tables. Some people knew each other from other projects, but most, like me, were amongst strangers.
We were a room full of attorneys in professional attire. The women outnumbered the men, slightly, as I noted when I conducted the unofficial scan of the room. This isn’t necessarily a function of progress. These assignments are, shall we say — upward mobility challenged? The ages in the room spanned from about 25 to maybe 65 years old. There was a respectable sprinkling of people of color, mostly women of color, but it was a predominately white crowd. None of this is particularly important, except I want you to experience the look and feel of the room, so maybe you can understand how I got all caught up.
I uttered the normal hellos, introductions, and Have you done this work before? –yadda yadda yadda– but then, as I often do –and I think it’s the writer in me — I shut up, watched, and listened.
Before and after our training sessions, and during every break, many of my new colleagues talked about about babies, toddlers, school aged kids, teens applying to colleges, school schedules, dance classes, sporting events, husbands, meal planning, diets, vacations, grown kids, daughters’ weddings, sons who just got engaged, etc. You know, personal stuff, family talk.
But most of this talk was by the women. Even the childfree women asked the other women about their kids.
My male brethren? Not so much.They were largely quiet, or spoke of the commute and past work experience.
Considering the age range of the group — these dudes were in prime dad years. All years are prime dad years for men, but I digress . . . .
And, I couldn’t help but notice the golden glint of a fair share of wedding rings on these men. Alas, in my single state the hunt for wedding rings (or lack thereof) is a commonplace activity for me, but I digress, again . . . . My point is, it stands to reason and probability and you know, math, that many of these men must have had wives and kids — that they just weren’t talking about.
And me? Having had all the kids I could have jumped right into the mom talk. But I wondered, what would it be like to be one of the guys? I’d still love the fruit of my loins, I’d still be ridiculously proud of them, but I knew — or perhaps I wanted to prove — that I was capable of making small talk that’s not about them.
Just like the guys.
Now, let the record reflect that I’m content with my gender, and I’m not one of those women who hate other women or moms, and I’m not trying to be a guy, I just wanted to be like them. Just for a minute. And to be honest, be like myself, the archived self I was before I had all the babies, two at a time, before the nasty divorce, crippling depression, and crushing debt, before the struggle to maintain normalcy for the kids while the mom was decidedly not all right. I wanted to conjure up the time where, in similar professional situations, I managed to talk the talk without all the baby talk.
Admittedly, having been through all the stuff I’ve been through — peruse old posts if you are not familiar– I just wanted to get away from it. You know, for a minute. Because discussing the kids always leads to questions about the ex. Always. It also leads to comments about my shape (and weight), and to my tutorial on fertility and heredity.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with talking about family at work. Nothing at all. But I couldn’t help but notice the gender divide and I thought . . . I’m gonna jump to the other side.
For a minute.
So, I opted out. I told myself that I would never deny the existence of my offspring, but I would make a conscious effort not to voluntarily talk about them, unless or until I felt like it.
For a minute.
But that was well OVER A YEAR AGO!
During this time I have worked side by side with both men and women, gotten to know them, like (some of) them, bonded with many of them, laughed and bitched with most of them. But I haven’t mentioned to them that I have almost half a dozen children, those young adult humans that I grew in my body, birthed and raised. And no ex-husband either. Nothing. Just me (ironically).
Like a fucking psychopath.
And now I’m in too deep.
What have I done? What kind of mother doesn’t talk about her children? — for over a year?
Just Me With . . . no children — to speak of, anyway. Are you kidding me?
There were a couple of times when I kinda broke my rules, which I’ll talk about later, because now — it’s a problem.
And I guess at some point I should report on the results of my experiment — how it felt.
To be continued . . .
Full closure: My kids are, in fact, AWESOME. The younger ones are still in college, happy and healthy, my oldest kid graduated from college, got a full-time job in his field, an apartment, and a roommate. They are crushing it. And by extension, so am I.
And, if I can be completely superficial for a moment, they are freaking gorgeous, objectively, like people stop and stare. I don’t post pictures of them. Just take my word for it.
I’ve been at it again. Cleaning out my house. My therapy. And also, kind of a strategic get out of jail plan. In the next year to 18 months I plan to move, and sell or rent out my home — the former hoarder’s house to which I fled upon the demise of my marital bliss — just one half step ahead of the hot flaming lava chasing me from my volcano of debt. Dramatic, I know.
So might as well start the pre-listing clean out now, right? Plus the kids are not here and I need to alter my surroundings. Again. And, it’s freee entertainment, which is a necessity right now, the free part.
I needed to seriously clean. Things are dirty. Even though I always felt like I was cleaning all the time, I wasn’t really cleaning. I was straightening up and clearing and cleaning around things — and those people I made — and dogs — but I never had all the stuff out of the way long enough to get to the really deep cleaning.
We had downsized already when we moved here and got rid of around 2/3 of our possessions. Many other belongings were removed along the way as I realized I still didn’t have room for them. My parents got my formal sofa and chairs (and I got rid of their outdated stuff) some other casual furniture purchased for the house just didn’t fit. I get rid of things all the time. But as the kids grew in our modestly sized home, we have been stepping over each other. Literally. We’re all relatively and objectively tall and have large feet and long legs. We take up a lot of room. And the sprints to be the first one to get the only bathroom in the house were getting serious, and a bit dangerous. But now the kids are gone for a while — a college thing — to be discussed in another post — it’s time for me to, as a good friend I recently reconnected with said, “reset.”
“Reset.” I like that.
As part of my clean out, clean up, and just clean, I went through an ottoman that doubles for “storage” of our miscellaneous electronics. I’d throw any cord I couldn’t identify, or those I could identify but did not need at that moment, old phones, parts of video games, remote controls, etc. in there. Some of these electronics were even in baggies to keep them from tangling around each other. I was proud of that and that at least most of the stuff in there was part of the same category. But I hadn’t taken out everything in years.
And at the bottom of the cords, games, adapters, phones, remote controls, and extension cords, there was a cassette tape. (For those of you who are not familiar, cassettes were used to store audio information before CDs, and CDS were and are used when music cannot be accessed from phones, or there is an absence of wifi or available data.)
This particular cassette was an audio recording of my wedding.
The church where I married recorded everything that happened there. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I assume this was to preserve sermons and music. In my case it preserved our voices stating our now defunct wedding vows, along with some really good music (I had a brass quartet at my wedding. It was beautiful . . . but I digress) and it recorded the reading of probably the saddest poem ever read at a wedding, “The People Who Never Say Goodbye.” This was a cry for help. As I’ve said before, ladies, your job as bridesmaids is not limited to showers, bachelorette parties, and shopping for dresses. Your job is to read the room, the bride, and call the whole thing off if necessary. Almost a Runaway Bride
My first thought was just to throw the cassette away, like my husband did with our vows. No fuss, no muss, no pomp, no circumstance. A Twitter friend suggested that I burn the tape. I’m no stranger to the burn. This ain’t my first rodeo. My Wedding Album. In response I joked that if I was a guy I’d whip “it” out and pee on it. The same Twitter friend reminded me — “You could squat.” Smiling about that, I put it on the table while I finished going through the electronics. Maybe, I thought, I’ll just listen to the music.
My next find wasn’t really a find.
I knew they were there. While cleaning out the medicine cabinet, I saw my old friends Mr. Xanax and Ms. Ambien – relics of my clinical major depression, anxiety, and insomnia following that pesky time when my husband of many years and father of our many children broke up with me. The pills were expired of course, but I kept them. Weird, because I never really liked them much and used them very sparingly. If I took a sleeping pill I couldn’t properly wake up in the morning. If I took a Xanax I was just a little bit off, out of it. But I tell ya, this was very helpful in certain situations. Very helpful indeed. It was my pharmaceutical prophylactic in difficult, awkward, or painful situations. Sharing Celebrations .
Still, having the pills in the house gave me comfort. I think I kept these old meds, you know, just in case . . .
After the scrub down and disinfecting of the cabinet (you’d be amazed at the mess that old razors for four girls leave), I found that the added space in my cabinet was far more calming than presence the old pills.
So — I chucked them. I brought them downstairs, opened the bottles, destroyed the labels and trashed the pills so no one could find them and sell them (it would be wrong for someone else to profit from my misery). And then? I casually dropped the wedding cassette — the audio proof of the “till death do us part” fallacy — in the same trash bin. I don’t want any of those particular reminders of the good, the bad, the ugly or the pharmaceutically numbed in my house.
And that was that.
There has been a slight shift in the universe. Did you feel it?
Just Me With . . . space, and some peace. Oh, and I found the remote control to the actual TV! Now I don’t have to get up to change the input from cable to Netflix. Not too shabby. Plus, I already own a CD of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and am blessed to have access to a classical music station, wifi, and a smartphone. There is no reason to listen to a cassette recording of my wedding music. Nope. No reason at all.
Plus, one of the brass players was this asshole, I Don’t Go to Weddings.
Let me set the scene.
Well even before the scene, a little background. Things are a little tight at home. So I’ve been looking for some side work. Don’t worry, it’s legal. I mean literally — legal side work. A little per diem. It’s a thing. And, it is necessary, because submitting applications into the great black hole of the Internet hasn’t been working out for me.
Internet job search, if you aren’t familiar — that’s when, in response to an advertised position for which you are qualified, you put the digital best version of yourself out there — you enter information about your past, your hopes and dreams, your goals, your abilities, your salary requirements and references — you put it all out there. Raw.
You click “Submit.”
But if you listen carefully you can hear it, the whoosh as your qualifications are flushed down the Internet toilet . . . “because in space, no one can hear you scream . . .”
But I digress, and I turned to Craigslist and answered an ad.
Admittedly, I had reason to be skeptical. The ad was barebones. No details, at all, not even the crappy stock language about working in a fast paced professional environment blah blah blah. The ad was only clear about one thing: The pay was not high. (Huh, what does that mean?) But as I said, things are as tight as a Kardashian dress so I replied anyway and attached my resume. (Accidental rhyme)
Lo and behold — a response!
However, no information.The email said that “they” have “someone” in my area the next day and asked if I could be at a local diner at 1:30. You know how when anyone says “long story short” they have already gone on for far too long? Well, long story short, I said I would be there. After not getting a confirmation of the meeting, or any details at all — like the name of the business, who I’m meeting with, his or her contact information or even their gender, I finally received a weak apology via email, “Sorry, I was in a meeting” and “Someone will be there a little after 2:00pm.” I replied, confirming I would be there at 2:05pm.
I went to the diner, dressed nicely and actually with some makeup on. It wasn’t a busy part of the day so as soon as I walked in the manager offered to seat me. I replied, “Well I’m meeting someone,” and looked around like I was looking for him —or her. The manager asked, “Do you see them?”
“No.” (But how would I know?)
So I sat at a booth facing the door. The waitstaff must have been just really bored because the server pounced on me,
“Can I get you something?”
“Not yet, I’m waiting for someone.” So . . . she brought me two menus.
The second time she asked me if I wanted something I ordered coffee.
The waitress brought the coffee and two glasses of water, because, well, I had said, repeatedly,
“I was meeting someone.” (Who? Who was I meeting? I didn’t know.)
Now, if you’ve read some of my other blog posts you know I often go out alone. Always have. Not a big deal. But the two water glasses — they threw me. Those glasses were evidence that I was not really eating alone. I was expecting someone. And that someone was not there.
Then — hope! A professional looking man with a briefcase came in alone and sat in the booth next to me and opened his laptop.
I asked him, “Are you here to meet someone for an interview?”
“No, I’m not.” He looked at me and shook his head. I can’t be sure, but the threesome in the booth next to him looked fleetingly in my direction.
I crawled under the table and assumed the fetal position. Well, I wanted to.
I had no computer. No reading material. Just my phone. But that was useless.You see I was never given a phone number of the person I was to meet or of the business, for that matter. I had no one to call or text to say, “Um — are you still coming?”
I finished my coffee. I told myself I would wait a half hour, which was way too long. No one emailed me.
The attentive waitress asked, again, “Are you ready to order?” To which I replied, as I was fishing for cash to pay for my coffee,“No . . . I think I’m just going to go.” The waitress said, “Okay,” but didn’t look particularly surprised. I left the money on the table, got up, and quickly walked out. I must have looked upset, because I was. I was murmuring inaudibly . . . Shady ass Craiglist lawyers wasting my time . . . I don’t have to stand for this shit, I’m out . . .
And then I realized– to the restaurant staff and patrons it would appear that I was some unfortunate woman on a date who just got stood up! Like I was rejected in my quest for love instead of just rejected in my search for some extra money.
I wanted to go back in and scream . . .
IT WAS NOT A DATE!!!!!!!
But, that would invite more pity.
And that would be a shame.
And there was already enough shame going around.
Just Me With . . . . one coffee, two menus, two water glasses, no food, no money.
Alone posts. Wait, why are there so many?
Pissed: Parking and Dining Alone Fun fact. This was the same diner.
I once had a music teacher, a professional concert musician, who told me that her doctor was concerned that she didn’t work out, that he thought she needed some kind of physical, aerobic, activity.
Her response was, “Have you seen me play?”
“You should. You should see me perform.”
He did, and promptly retracted his statement that she was not active enough. After seeing the fervor with which she played the most complicated, extended, and beautiful music, witnessing the amount of control she exhibited to transition from flashy virtuosity causing her to angrily rise from her bench, to quiet, sweetly melodic passages Continue reading →
Deja vu. I have written about this guy four times before. Four times. And I admit that to begin this post I copied and pasted part of my last writings about him, because he just keeps coming back and it’s all the same damn thing, over and over again . . .
I ran into him again. But wait, please peruse the following to you can get the full picture. This has been going on for . . . years! YEARS!
1. The Landscaper Guy — Not Digging Him — I meet a man.
2. The Landscaper Guy and the Female Chandler Bing — I give him a shot. (I shouldn’t have.)
3. The Landscaper Guy and A Phone Smarter Than Me — I shoot him down, and miss. I have to take better aim and shoot again.
4. The Landscaper Guy, Freaking Part IV — I shoot him down, again. He expresses concern about my single status.
Are we all caught up? If not, that’s okay because it’s always the same.
Fast forward to now. It was very hot, and you know how they say to check in on older people in hot weather? Well I had to get my Mom out of her sweltering house, so we went for ice cream at an outdoor place. As I was looking at flavors, a man looked at me.
I smiled, because that’s what I do.
He said, “You look familiar.”
I replied, “Well, I’m from here, so you know . . .” It’s a smallish suburban town. You can’t swing a dick with running into someone you know. (I’m paraphrasing from Sex and the City because Anthony the Wedding Planner cracked me up with that line. I like funny. Note to men: Many women enjoy humor.)
And here’s where I can just cut and paste, because it’s all so familiar.
“You live on Maple Street, right?” He asked.
“Yes.” Oh geez. It was coming back to me, like a bad debt.
I should have known, the white t-shirt. He had on a white t-shirt . . .
I walked away. I was only there to check the flavors for my mom and report back to her. She was waiting in the car. So that’s what I did. I just walked away.
I hoped, I so hoped that he would be gone when I returned.
My hopes were dashed on the jagged rocks below.
Oh he had gotten his ice cream and was getting into his car — but his car was parked right next the the place. Just my luck.
“Still don’t want to go out with a brother?” He asked me.
Incredibly, he had asked me out again. As I mentioned before, this has been going on for years. Check the dates of my posts. Years.
And still the answer was, is, and will always be, “No.”
Though I clearly said “no” the man continued, just like he had many times before. As he sat in the driver’s seat he motioned to the empty space next to him, “I mean — ice cream. You can sit right here. What’s wrong with getting some ice cream with me? It doesn’t have to mean anything.”
(Except that it would mean that I wanted to get ice cream with him, which I did not.)
And again, I tell you, I tell him, “No.” But like a call and response, I added, without conscious effort to do so, “But thanks anyway.”
(Why am I so polite? Oh well. At least I didn’t attempt to give a reason this time.)
He shook his head as if to say, “What is wrong with this woman ( or bitch)?” He seemed genuinely baffled that I declined to take him up on his offer.
I walked away, again, thinking, “Well, I guess I have another blog post to write.”
I was seconds from a clean get-away, but the Landscaper Guy in the white T-shirt called after me,
“You’re still beautiful, though.”
Well shit. I can’t argue with the brother.
Just Me With . . . ice cream for two — Me and my Mom.
Somehow, while paying my bills — which takes so much longer than it would if I had more money — but I digress . . . I started thinking about debt and sexually transmitted diseases. Don’t ask me why. So, here, without further ado, is a list of how debt is like an STD.
1. You’d rather people not know about it.
Really, no one starts a date with reaching under the table to scratch and saying, “Sorry, but I really itch down there. It’s supposed to stop in a few days.”
“Can you pay if my card gets declined? I think I have enough left on this card, but if I don’t, they might confiscate it. But it’s probably cool.”
2. Both can, literally, drive you crazy.
Untreated Syphilis can lead to dementia.
Stress from debt can lead to depression, and even sometimes suicide.
Seriously, it’s not funny.
3. Both could have easily been avoided by a little self-control and pre-planning:
Don’t do it with anybody or everybody or buy anything or everything just because they are just sooo cute.
Use the available precautions, like stopping at the store to buy condoms before screwing, or checking your balance before swiping.
Ask a simple question, “How much is this?” or “What is that sore?”
4. Treatment can sometimes take a while
STDs may require a course of antibiotics, then retesting, sometimes a change in medications, and retesting, etc. Rinse, repeat.
It can takes weeks, months, or years to climb out of debt, one payment at a time. Pay, Rinse, repeat.
5. Both conditions require a period of abstinence.
Keep your pants on (and mouth closed) until further notice.
Keep your shopping cart empty and put your plastic away. Step away from the mall.
In other words, keep your ass home and offline and enjoy simple pursuits — like pain-free peeing and going to mailbox without breaking into a cold sweat.
6. You can get both from people you love.
You can make an informed decision to be intimate within a loving, monogamous, trusting relationship and SURPRISE! Your Bae has crabs!
You can, after careful consideration, co-sign on a loan with a trusted friend, lover, relative and SURPRISE your friend / lover relative never had the ability or intention to make the payments..
Bottom line: You can get screwed by your loved ones resulting in a rash or low credit score.
7. You can inherit both an STD and Debt.
Sadly, a baby can be born with an STD if the mother had one.
Sadly, a spouse can die and leave you with his or her debt.
8. STDs and Debt can force you to have uncomfortable conversations.
“Um, I tested positive for chlamydia and um, you should be tested too. Kthxbye.”
“Um, I didn’t make the payments and um, they took our car last night. I am so so sorry.”
9. I doesn’t matter how you got infected with an STD or fell into crippling debt,you have to do something about it or things could get uncomfortable, or downright ugly.
Antibiotics don’t judge. You might need them because you were a indiscriminate, stupid, dirty whore who decided that the open sores, puss, or little bugs on your lover you met in line at the clinic were cute, or, you could be a faithful husband or wife who got screwed (literally and figuratively) by your healthy looking spouse who happens to be infected with — something.
Same with debt. You might be in deep debt because you indulged a shoe fetish or like to hang out at the race track or casino, or, you could have gotten divorced, sick, fired, ripped off by a stranger or family, either way you have to do something about it to clear your record. Now.
I think that personal finance folks should back off the blame train and offer concrete ways to deal with a situation without too much talk about how you got there, because debt is like an STD, if you have it, you don’t like it, and you don’t want again. People are more likely to seek help or advice for lifestyle changes faster for personal credit card debt — or gonorrhea — if they don’t risk being reprimanded, scolded, or ridiculed for suffering from a condition they already do not enjoy. Sure, offer tips to avoid a repeat exposure, but do so with the assumption that the person doesn’t want to deal with this again.
Lesson has likely been learned once you experience that first itch or open sore in a private place, or get that first red letter in the mail.
Ignoring either problem can get ugly, trust me. Go ahead, Google Images for Syphillis, Gonorrhea, and Homelessness. I dare ya.
Just Me With . . . a debt comparison.
It’s winter again.
Where I live we get snow. Not every day. But we get it. At times a lot of it. It’s a pain in the ass. It’s the shoveling. The not being able to hop in your car and go somewhere without first moving pounds of snow. And then never knowing if your car will start or stop when you need it to or someone else’s car will slip and slide and crash into you. Snow means weather related cancellations which are inconvenient, and often cost me money. Snow means being stuck inside.
It’s snowing tonight.
But there are other reasons why snow is irksome to me. Snow brings back memories.
It was years ago, on a snowy night, back when I lived in a cool neighborhood with friendly social neighbors. Back when I was still married.
I have never really talked about this night. This is to be a shortened version, by emotional necessity.
My husband had been distant. He was never gregarious and often not engaging, but for weeks he could not seem to make eye contact with me at all.
And though I had made this Sex on Demand pledge, I realized that it had been a long time since there had been any demand, request, or suggestion requiring me to honor my pledge and when I did it wasn’t, well, how does one say, romantic? There was certainly no eye contact. And there were other things. Just little things that I don’t want to talk about now. (How could I have been so clueless?)
I mentioned my growing discomfort to a girlfriend, who said, of course, that I needed to talk to him. Duh. Obvious response, and I knew that’s what I needed to do, but I wasn’t sure if I was imagining it (or I knew I wasn’t). It’s like when there’s a funny smell — before you do anything about it, first you ask around, “Does anybody else smell that?”
So I hadn’t said anything to him. Not yet. I was going to, but I didn’t know how or when. And I wasn’t completely convinced of why — I mean everyone is entitled to be in a funk from time to time. Maybe it was just that. And winter.
Then there was a snowstorm. This meant that until the morning sun could break through clear skies and shine on our faces, signaling that it was time to begin the back straining process of digging out, we were housebound. No one could go anywhere. So my very cool neighborhood decided to have a snow party. Everyone was invited to walk to one neighbor’s house, bring whatever we had on hand to share, and just hang out. It was like college, where you didn’t need a car to go out and no one had to worry about being a designated driver and we could just walk home. Except it wasn’t like college, because I had all those kids and a brooding husband who could not look at me . . . but I digress.
My husband didn’t seem to want to go to the party. This was not unusual. He never liked to go to parties. Not with me, anyway. See My High School Self, My Vampire Boyfriend. Still, we went, with our kids.
I thought it was fun. It gave us something to do, I could be around adults and consume free food and it was better than being cooped up in the house with little kids watching TV. My husband seemed okay once he got to the party, chatting with the neighbors about travel and hobbies (his travel, his hobbies). But he didn’t talk to or make eye contact with me. I remember coming up to him while he was talking to someone and trying to join the conversation. He did not acknowledge my presence in any way. He’s tall. He looked over me, literally.
When the party was over, we walked home in the snow and put the five children to bed. He sat on our bed, his back to me, saying nothing.
Out of exasperation rather than anger or reason, I said — blurted out, really, “What is wrong? You’re acting like something’s wrong. What is it?”
Without looking at me,
he said, simply,
“I have to go.”
Those four words changed my life, his life, our children’s lives and set me on a course which landed me here talking via the interwebs to you fine people. (Channeling Jack from Titanic — oh wait, he died. Oops.)
Tragically, my initial response to him was, “Go where?”
I didn’t know what he was talking about. I mean, we were snowed in and all.
Where did he have to go in all this snow?
And that, as they say, was that. Well, a lot of stuff happened, but he did eventually, go. He had to, you see.
So, now, on this snowy night years later, almost to the exact day of that fateful snowy night when my husband said those four stinging words, I sit here, thinking . . . I really don’t like snow. It’s a lot of work. The shoveling and all.
Just Me With . . . snow.
My Cheating Husband Was Packing Viagra — Packing my husband’s things.
When I Needed a Helping Hand — Moving my husband’s things out.
My Worst Superbowl, Remembered — When I realized it was a lost cause.
I’ve been in my former hoarders fixer house for a while now. And, as was always the plan, I will sell it — if the universe and my credit score allow– upon or just prior to or just after my youngest kids’ graduation from high school. I have a couple of years, but I’m thinking ahead. I probably won’t see a dime in return on investment for all the improvements I’ve made to my little hoarders home. There are a lot of reasons. But for this post I’ll focus here on my neighbors’ damn sofas sitting on the side of the road because that’s what’s bothering me today, every day.
Sofas, couches, easy chairs. Whatever you call them. Indoor furniture that is banished outside to publicly decompose for all to see — it’s the worst lawn decor ever.
It’s the modern day real estate equivalent to the head on a stick.
It’s crap like this that will lower my property value and keep it low — which is good for the contractors who want to buy low and rent or flip high — but bad for me. There are plenty of regular folks looking for an affordable houses in a nice neighborhood in a good school district, but because of the ever present sofas on the side of the road, it makes my neighborhood seem, well, not so nice.
Have you ever wondered why people put sofas outside which stay there for weeks, months, even years?
I have my theories.
1. They got a new couch. So they put the old one outside.
2. The old couch had something nasty happen to it — of the urine or vomit variety –that they just couldn’t get out.
3. The old couch had something smokey happen to it — the old cigarette in the cushions . . .
This only explains why the couch leaves the house, not why it stays outside.
Here are my theories on why they stay outside.
1. There is no (free) bulk trash pickup in the neighborhood.
2. Bulk trash pick-up is costly and low income (poor) people can’t or won’t allocate their money to pay for it.
Paying extra for trash removal can be a hard pill to swallow if you are having trouble paying regular bills (Query: How much money was shelled out on the new sofa? Perhaps the $25 bulk trash fee should be built into the cost of getting the new couch?) But regardless, there’s a solution. If you are able bodied you can save the $25 by breaking up the couch and putting it in the regular trash. I’ve done this. I’ve seen other people do this. It’s actually kind of fun it you want to get out some aggression. And another option is, if the sofa is old but not ruined, put it on Craigslist for free. Someone will take it. Craigslist people won’t pay a dollar for something, but if you say it’s free? They’ll take it. They’ll even take it from your house. If you don’t want strangers in your house, just plan to put the couch out on a sunny weekend, post the ad, and it will go away — for free. I’ve done this. More than once. If it’s truly trashed, this isn’t an option, but it’s worth a try.
3. I’m waiting for bulk trash pick-up.
But dude, how long are you going to wait?
Once a year, our Township provides dumpsters for people in my neighborhood to use free of charge for whatever they need to get rid of. But it’s once a year. In the Summer, I believe. It’s Winter now. Will the sofas sit here until July?
A variation on this excuse is: I put it out and wanted to see if the trash guys would take it. Okay, I get that. Because sometimes they might actually take it, or somebody might. This only justifies having an outdoor sofa for a week, though, tops. After a week has gone by of the regular trash people not picking up the sofa, it ain’t going nowhere.
4. Another reason proffered by well-meaning people is that the residents must not be physically able to get rid of the couch.
Well, I call bullshit on that one. If a person had the means and muscle to get the couch out of his or her house, they have the means and muscle to put it somewhere where it might get picked up. Obviously there are elderly or disabled (mentally or physically) who cannot maintain their property. I get that. But I’ve seen grown, strong, working men coming and going from these houses with the lawn couches. I call bullshit on them. I know people may have ailments that are not readily visible. I withdraw my calling of bullshit if that is the case. But if not, just putting indoor furniture in your yard and leaving it out in the rain, sleet, and snow until starts to stink, disintegrate, become the nesting ground for vermin and bugs, and just look plain old tacky — I just don’t get that.
Right now there are two couches I see every day. Every day.
Every damn day.
Couch Number One. It’s in a back yard, which backs onto my alley and my back yard. I see it from my kitchen window, as I said. Every day. As do at least four other houses and all cars that drive along this back alley. Lovely. This placement is curious to me, because their trash gets collected from their front yard. Why put the couch out back, inside their fence, on its side, cushions and all? Why? It won’t get picked up there by anyone. Maybe they are planning to have bulk trash pickup or somebody with a truck come later — but it’s been about a month now. And why leave the cushions? They could certainly go in the regular trash or recycling and this would cut down on the bulk of the sofa in the yard and also make it less inviting for bugs and rats. But no, the couch is outside.
Couch Number Two. This one is on the edge of a front yard of a house on the side of the road. Now this house has always had a messy porch. I don’t know the people, personally, but I’ve seen them come and go. Not elderly or infirm. Driving, working, healthy looking people. It appears as though they are doing some sort of home clean out now because there is more junk outside than usual. Again, having gone through extensive clean outs and renovations I understand that while work is in process, there will be debris, because — it’s a work in progress. But, the couch and cushions have been out there for again, about a month. I don’t see any evidence of home repairs or renovations going on. It appears as though someone decided to get some crap out of the house so — they just put it outside. Other large trash items have joined the sofa. These other items could have been put out in the regular trash. But, for some reason, the residents are just piling it up on and around the couch.
There’s a school bus stop nearby. Lovely.
These abandoned sofas are like announcements to people, whether they are passing through or coming home. It gives the appearance of,
“You have crossed over into a bad part of town.”
When people come to see me, or drop off my kids, they have to pass by one or both of the sofas. It’s far from inviting. It actually repels. And it seems that as soon as a rotting sofa is finally removed, another appears. I remember when we were still in the marital home when it was on the market, as we drove by what is now my neighborhood, my kid said,”I’m not moving over there.” She didn’t know that I had already purchased my little hoarders home. I told myself at the time, “I’ll make it nice.”
And I did.
I worked my butt off making our home as nice as I could, but I can’t do anything about the neighbors who allow upholstered furniture to rot outside their homes.
I think there’s a psychological reason why people do this. There are some people who are — interior. Most of their relaxation time is spent indoors. They only think of their yard, their porch, and front door as something to pass through to get inside. I guess then it becomes easy to make whatever changes you are making inside the house, and put the debris outside. After all, you’ve gotten it out of the house. It’s kind of like how an apartment dweller can throw things in a dumpster and go back inside, oblivious as to whether the dumpster is ever emptied.
But still . . .
These couches make me sad. It feels like people have just given up and don’t care. And what’s worse? It’s contagious. I would never do the couch thing, and I maintain my yard, but I’ve lost the will to garden or create an outdoor space for entertaining. I mean, why bother? I don’t want to sit outside and look at a rotting sofa while roasting marshmallows. I plan to garden and landscape more this year, to enhance curb appeal, but my heart’s not in it. I confess.
Just Me With . . . plenty of outdoor seating . . . on rotting couches . . . on the side of the road.
It just irks me. And it may cost me.
Related: Piss, Puke, and Porn — My Hoarder’s House
That Hoarder’s Smell — How to Get Rid of It
The sign is about to go up. The sign for the this year’s high school musical. This is significant to me, because, as I’ve written before — I remember things, so many things. It’s a gift — and a curse.
The local high school here has a very well-respected music and theater department. Going to see a play at the high school isn’t something that only a parent of a performer would put oneself through. It isn’t a painful two hours required by some familial connection to some pimply faced kid. No, it’s kind of like going to a “real” show. It is actually enjoyable, yet since it is still just a school production, the tickets are cheap. When my kids were little, I would take them to these shows and to other local high schools if they had a decent theater department. It’s a night out, and a way to introduce live theater to children without having to take out a second mortgage.
My kids’ high school usually alternates between a classic musical or one of the lesser known newer ones and they “recycle” ones they’ve done before when enough time has passed.
This brings me to the personal significance of the sign going up. Apparently, enough time has passed that the school has decided to repeat its production of the musical they did when my marriage ended. Let’s say it was The King and I — it wasn’t — but that’s the one I’m going with for purposes of this post.
Over the years I’ve only danced around the actual happenings surrounding my husband’s departure, dealing more with the fallout after he left than the painful process of his leaving. I tell myself I’m saving it for my memoir, but really — I’m extremely uncomfortable talking about it — still. For me, I guess, not enough time has passed for a revival.
Sometimes, though, you just have to raise the curtain — a little.
So here it is. It was about three weeks after he’d told me, “I have to go.” Those three weeks consisted largely of me begging him not to leave me, until one Friday night I finally said to him — “I guess I can’t force you to stay.”
That’s all he needed to hear.
By the next day, Saturday, he had booked a hotel room, and planned to sleep there that night. (Say what now?) That joker wasted no time. The plan was to tell the children on Sunday (aka the worst day of my life). After, he would officially move out.
So Saturday night? Separation Eve?
We went to see a play.
Our family was too big to get seats in one row. Musicals are a hot ticket in town. So I sat behind my husband, we each were flanked with kids. I remember thinking it was a mistake to sit behind him, because I’d have to see him, the back of his head, if I looked up at the play. And I didn’t want to cry. I remember trying very hard not to cry during the show, though there was comfort when the lights went down that my tears wouldn’t be noticed. Too bad it wasn’t really The King and I, I always cry at the end of The King and I. No matter, I had tissues to cover any escaping signs of my emotional turmoil. I always carried tissues with me from that time on. Trying not to cry or be seen crying in public became almost my vocation in the next year.
I remember during the play reaching out in front of me and caressing my husband’s shoulder. I just needed to touch him. I needed him to know I was there. Still. There. Hurting. I remember him acknowledging my touch without looking at me, as if he were saying, “Oh bless her heart.” I remember the awkward Intermission, when small talk with my soon to be ex-everything seemed so wrong and eye contact deemed so dangerous, as it might trigger the tears. I talked with someone I knew in the pit orchestra instead, I recall.
And I remember the play, “The King and I.” I remember thinking this would really be good, except for, you know, my life falling apart.
I was in a fog, a fog of shock, denial and accommodation. I’ve since had some clarity on the subject. And I don’t love him anymore. Haven’t for years. Still, I remember things.
The kids were oblivious. They enjoyed the play, having no idea that their world was going to be completely turned upside down — in a matter of hours.
When the show was over, we all went home and put the kids to bed.
Then my husband left our home to stay at a hotel. I knew that when he returned the next day it would be so that we could tell the kids he’d be moving out and he would, indeed, move out.
But that was then . . .
And enough time has passed (apparently) that it’s okay for the high school to put on the same musical. My kids aren’t little anymore. One is in college. The rest now go to this same high school, which means that I will see that sign every day, multiple times a day, until the show is over.
I used to hope that my kids would get involved in theater at the high school. None did. But, I think, this might be a blessing.
Because I don’t have to go to this show. Because if I did go to this particular production, I couldn’t help but relive that night, the beginning of the hardest days of my life and the long journey since.
If I had a kid performing in the 2015 production of The King and I ?
I don’t think I would handle that well. I remember things. It’s a gift and — oh hell — it’s a curse.
So, the sign will go up soon. Enough time has passed for a revival.
But no one asked me.
It will take all the restraint I have left in my being not to run the damn sign over.
Just Me With . . . a night at the theater. Too bad it isn’t Chicago, about famous murderesses . . . and their men — who had it comin.’
And I’m glad it wasn’t really The King and I, because that is a beautiful show and I would hate for it to be ruined.
Postscript: The damn sign is up now.
My Daddy Moved Out — What one kid said about it at school.
Happy Birthday to My Ex-Husband’s Ex-Girlfriend — Because I remember everything.
Worst Super Bowl, Remembered — Again, because I remember everything
My Cheating Husband was Packing Viagra — I helped him pack.
Six Days of Separation — I was a mess the next week.
I Don’t Love Him — self-explanatory.
When I Needed A Helping Hand — To move his stuff.
I recently had a vacation with the extended family. We rented a big house during the off-season at a resort area — so cheap. My family took pity on me because I had been unwell lately and because I currently live in a home with only one bathroom that I share with my five kids, though one is away at school.
So even though I don’t have a “Master,” per se (gag me), they let me have one of the master bedrooms. This meant I had my very own bathroom.
My very own bathroom. It was a thing of beauty. It had a jacuzzi tub and a separate shower, a private water closet and — space! I could dance in my bathroom. I briefly considered holding some sort of meeting there. It had more floor space than my current family room has. Plus, I didn’t have to make an announcement before I showered in case others had to use the bathroom first and I didn’t have to use the bathroom quickly before someone else took a shower. For a week, I didn’t have to wade my way through acne products on the sink and teen clothes left on the floor.
My glorious bathroom also had double sinks. I’ve discussed the double sink thing before, at Double Sinks in the Master Bath –Must We Have them, Really? One of the problematic issues about them being standard in new construction is the fact that not everyone is coupled up. The sinks are kind of a throw-back to the assumption that the heads of the households — the ones who deserve the best rooms — are always a couple.
Now, I loved having my own bathroom for a week. I am not complaining. It was an indulgence I’m sure many have on a daily basis, but for me? I was living like a queen, albeit temporarily. Still, I felt slightly silly in this bathroom. It may have been the double sinks. This was a bathroom built for two. Every time I went to wash my hands or brush my teeth or wash my face, it reminded me, ever so subtly, that I am single, occupying this space meant for a couple. The suite also had a king sized bed, and I have to admit that, after all these years, I’m still sleeping on “my side of the bed.”
I took turns using first one sink and then the other so that neither one would feel left out. (That’s my throw-back to having twins. Keep it equal as much as I can, in an effort to keep them out of therapy.) Inexplicably, I also locked the door to the water closet when I was in there. I guess I didn’t want my non-existent ghost husband to walk in on me when nature called as he breezed in to shave over “his” sink.
Oh wait, no one was going to use that other sink.
I was the master of my bathroom domain.
Oh well. I loved having this huge bathroom all to myself for a vacation, but if I had actually purchased a home with double sinks that I’d have to look at day in and out? That would kind of piss me off. Contractors, realtors, HGTV — take note.
The master bath also came with two sets of towels — I guess for my invisible ghost man.
I used those, too.
Just Me With . . . one shower, one bathtub, one toilet, TWO sinks and a bunch of towels — Just For Me.