People Watching

“Do you ever feel like you just landed on this earth? See the creatures all do their dances back and forth. You get restless and then you join them on the floor. Suddenly it’s tomorrow. It’s not today anymore.” ~Nada Surf, Hi-Speed Soul

I recently had an old friend come to town, and we decided to have one of our “tourist in your own city” weekends. Man, it was eye-opening. My days are pretty scheduled and/or low key, and I have given up dealing with the hustle of downtown Chicago on the weekends or going to crowded beaches to avoid tourists. I did all of the things I avoid last weekend, and holy smokes…people are bizarre. I mean that in the best way because I had free entertainment for hours.

We went to North Avenue beach, which I am pretty sure I have only been to one other time. Maybe two. I hated it then (too crowded and not my scene) and was almost certain I would hate it now. After melting for about an hour or so on the beach listening to the conversation of a group of gentlemen next to us (and being a bit appalled by their comments on girls that look “barely legal”), we went to Castaways. I’ve never been here because of the douche bag and tourist reputation. It’s a boat-shaped restaurant and bar. My friend wanted to go, and if you drive five hours to have drinks with me, I’ll take you where you want to go. We lucked out and found a table that was located close to the DJ booth and dance floor. I say lucked out because it gave us the perfect view to the daytime shenanigans happening on the dance floor. We planned to stay for one drink and stayed for three. This is what was happening:

  • As soon as we sat down, a guy walked by wearing a tank top saying “Sleeves are bullshit.” I knew it was only going up from there.
  • There were several bachelorette parties. You knew who the brides were as all of them had what appeared to be mini veils pinned to the back of their bikini bottoms. The first was a group of girls wanting to dance but clearly not drunk enough yet. It was casual swaying while sipping drinks, not making eye contact with one another and looking to see who was watching them. Who was watching them? These guys…
  • The bachelor party on the other side of the dance floor. There was one guy we couldn’t stop watching. He was probably around 5’8″, decent build and insecure as all get out. He stood there puffing out his chest, sucking in his stomach and flexing while drinking his beer. He kept staring over at the girls and inching his way over to them then slipping back to the safety of his group. He walked by my table at some point and I noticed his wedding ring. His wife is lucky…
  • The second bachelorette party was hilarious, already hammered and got everyone else dancing. The mom of the bride was the target for all of the guys looking to make their way into the group of bikini clad ladies. They would grab her and spin her in circles while trying to creep on the other girls. No one paid attention to the dudes and the mom had fun. Well done ladies.
  • The third bachelorette party all wore these bright pink sun hats and were also hilarious. The second and third lady party ended up mingling and, if I recall, tried starting a failed conga line. Where were you on that one bachelor party? Free booty grabs! Fail on their part.
  • I saw a large man walk in with a shirt that had a cartoon animal on it with a conversation bubble stating, “I put my thang down flip it and reverse it.” I never get mad at Missy Elliott lyrics.
  • An Indian couple start doing some Bali dancing in the middle of the booty shakers, and it was awesome. Everyone else thought so, too.
  • The older gentleman (I’m guessing in his 60s) at the table next to us made eye contact with me and started mouthing rap lyrics and was encouraging us to engage him in some partying while busting out his best “raising the roof” dance move.

That’s when we called it a day. We were having fun minding our own business. When the dance party starting encroaching on our observation party, we asked for the check. Who knew this is what was happening on the weekends while I was at home wondering if anyone wants to meet me for brunch?

The next day we gave day one a run for its money…

  • We got even more Chicago and went to the Billy Goat Tavern while waiting for our turn to board the architecture tour. I take my friends to only the classiest of places. I ordered a Schlitz…like a lady. Nothing oozes Chicago more to me than the regulars at the original Billy Goat. If you end up making conversation with them, they will always tell you this is where John Belushi used to hang out and how this is the only location where you can’t get fries. “You can get fries at the other locations, but this is the original!”
  • On our way to the architecture tour, I noticed a woman exchanging numbers with the guy who poses as the Tin Man for tourists.
  • Another woman was pleasantly gazing out over the river. It was a bit windy that day, and her dress kept flying up in the back. To give you a visual, I knew she wasn’t wearing underwear. At first we thought it was just a one time thing. But it kept happening, and there were no more secrets between us and this stranger. While hilarious, I did walk over and tell her the wind was lifting her dress a little high in the back. She thanked me.
  • We saw a woman screaming and yelling at some bushes to “get out of here.” I don’t blame her. They were sort of ugly and served no purpose.
  • On our boat tour we had the pleasure of watching other folks partying on their boats. One guy caught our attention. He was dancing like a wild man while facing his two friends on the boat. They didn’t seem impressed. Actually, no one was. The guys sitting next to me also happened to be watching him and said, “What is he doing?” I guess abs and a nice tan don’t override terrible dancing.

The day continued on like this, and I became increasingly aware of how boring I am. Then I wondered what some of those wonderful weirdos thought about me walking down the street. Is there something about my presence that would cause a chuckle? Do I care? Not at all.

I think I need to get out of my comfort zone more. This weekend was the best I’ve had in a long time. I guess my lesson learned from last weekend was one I learned many moons ago…Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. (Sorry. It felt rude not to end a Chicago story with a Ferris Bueller quote.)

Fresh Old Wounds

“Through the dawn I’d seen it, too. I caught a glimpse I thought was you. And I was overwhelmed. Lightning blue eyes against the daylight.” ~Secret Machines, Lightning Blue Eyes

How can simple words, a song, a smell…bring up old wounds and make them feel so fresh again? So raw? Months, years maybe, could go by and one scent or song teleports those wounds in the exact spot you’re standing. You feel the needles in your cells. You feel your heart race. Your breath feels heavy, then fast. You try not to cry. You push back the tears. You try to stop your chest from rising and falling so fast.

I was listening to some music while sifting through some old boxes of photos recently when a song came on I nearly forgot about. It was Lightning Blue Eyes by Secret Machines. This was a band introduced to me by my ex. I started sobbing. What the hell, right? I got a little worried about my own reaction. I had no idea where these emotions were hiding.

I questioned. Why am I so upset? (I started to panic a little.) Why does it feel like I reliving the worst of times? I’m looking at photos of me laughing! How do I make it stop?

Good question. How do you make it stop? Does it ever stop? Every day I’ve put one foot in front of the other. I’m happy again. I feel like myself again. I did a mental run down….I grieved. Check. I got angry. I tried to keep it in under control, but I was certainly angry. Check. I’ve accepted things for what they are. That was one of the final steps towards healing, I’m pretty sure. Check. So…what is happening? Honestly, I’m still not sure.

I recalled previous times when I think back to the old volleyball days or high school and get sentimental about them. I’ve laughed and cried over that, so perhaps this was a similar deal. Right or wrong, here is what I did:

I talked myself down. I’m human. I’m not regressing. Perhaps it’s just a gentle reminder to not make the same mistake. Not to let the wrong person in again. Maybe the wound resurgence is one of life’s tests. A pop quiz. Maybe life thought…she’s been working hard and got her life together…let’s see if she remembers how to react to shit she learned last semester.

I remembered who I am and how I could probably lift a car now from all of the strength I’ve built up over the last year. I remembered what I want out of life. These pictures weren’t that life. I remembered how far I’ve come and where I’m going. Then thanked my lucky scars for helping me get there.

When You Meet a Nice Guy So Naturally Get Suspicious

“There comes a time, in a short life. Turn it around, get a rewrite.” ~Cold War Kids, First

My dating and relationship history is not good. I dated immature bozos and consequently unsuccessfully married one. Why did I date these guys? I have no idea. That’s not true. I know why. They were funny and bended the rules on life. I love both of those things. What those things weren’t paired with was honesty, loyalty, true love and respect. Those are some pretty big gaps in a relationship, and since I am not used to them…I get a little suspicious when I meet someone with those qualities. I mean, I know these exist; they just haven’t been my personal experience. Let me explain with examples of behavior and sample conversation.

Here is an average conversation I would have with my ex after getting dolled up to go out:

Ex: (playing video games and not looking at me) You ready?

Me: Yep! (waiting for him to look in my general direction and perhaps say I looked nice)

Ex: Ok. Let’s go. Can you drive? (He may or may not have made eye contact with me.)

Me: Sure. (Actually, not cool. Did he notice me? Or is he not saying anything because he doesn’t have anything nice to say?)

Ex: Cool. The sleeves are kind of weird on that shirt.

This is a recent experience I had:

New person: You’re beautiful.

Me: (quickly looks at myself and wondering what his angle is…or wait, do you think he means it? Is he being nice because he just wants to fuck me? Do I care if that’s the reason? This dude just told me I’m beautiful. Say something!) Thank you!

Here is a list of things from various relationships I have put up with in the past and thought was normal:

  • Silent treatment for no reason
  • Playing video games online with pre-teens and cursing at them (for hours) then complaining to me when he was wasted he doesn’t get enough time to play video games
  • Putting thousands of dollars on my credit card for tattoos then complaining we didn’t have money for vacation
  • Criticizing my appearance
  • Getting so drunk nearly every time we went out that I have to carry him into the house while he is saying mean things…then of course doesn’t remember in the morning
  • Taking his turn being the designated driver then proceeding to match me drink for drink and get mad at me for expressing concern; inevitably I would stop drinking and be the designated driver anyway
  • Passive aggressive controlling
  • Jealousy over guy friends I’ve had for years and demanded I no longer speak with them

Crazy, right? What the hell is the matter with me? I wish the enlightened me could go back and smack stupid, sad me. I got accustomed to being treated with second hand love that I thought that’s what I deserved. When a nice guy comes along and sees me as this kickass woman, it causes a double-take and questioning. I wonder what his motivation is rather than accepting the compliment. This is sad. I deserve more. It took me a minute, but I now know I deserve the nice guy. It feels amazing, and I’m not looking back.

When you’ve dated bozos because they’re exciting and somewhat unpredictable…that’s what you get…unpredictability. When you’re growing up and wanting to put substance in your life, these are not the guys that are going to make you happy. Is it fun at first? Yes, but they’re not going to give you what you need or, most importantly, what you deserve. Is it attractive at first? Yes. Excitement is hot, but it’s superficial. You’re not superficial. After a certain amount of time, you have to figure this out and either accept your life are those bullet points above or get the hell out. I chose the latter.

You know what’s hot to me now? A guy who shows up. A guy who calls and doesn’t play the stupid wait three days before contacting game. A guy who is career motivated. A guy who knows what he wants. A guy who respects women. A guy who is HAPPY. That’s hot.

Are you wondering what happened with the “new guy” from our skit above that told me I was beautiful? This guy bought me a drink, offered to buy me a second one (I declined so as to not get too drunk talking to him) asked me about myself and was a true gentleman. He didn’t overstay his welcome. He didn’t say anything creepy or sleazy, so yes…he got my number. Did he wait three days before texting/calling? No. He didn’t. The first message came the next day. That’s what I’m talking about! Or texting about, rather.

My mom once told me that what I allow in a relationship is what will continue. She’s right. I would like to add to that, what you think you deserve is what you’re going to get. If you think you deserve the best, he’ll find you. What you are looking for is looking for you, too. Be patient. It will happen.

When I Say Hoosier I Don’t Mean Someone From Indiana

“Peach fuzz mustache, butt cut. El Camino pick-up truck. Aerosmith, Loverboy, Motley Crue. Holding hands just me and you.” ~MU330, Hoosier Love

I grew up in St. Louis, and I’ve noticed St. Louisans (Is that a word? If not, it is now.) have their own way of speaking. Many cities and towns do, but St. Louis has one word that the rest of the country defines in a completely different way. Hoosier. When I say that word, you probably think of someone from Indiana. The Hoosier State. You would be wrong. At least in St. Louis. In St. Louis this word is meant to describe someone others define as redneck, hick or white trash. To put it in context, here are some of the ways in which the word is used:

  • That’s sooo hoosier.
  • Oh, that bar? It’s a total hoosier bar.
  • That guy needs to put a shirt on! What a hoosier!
  • Did you see that mullet? What a hoosh! (This is the shortened version of our STL slang.)
  • Oh, you grew up in south city? Isn’t that neighborhood full of hoosiers?

You get the idea. If you Google St. Louis Hoosier, I’m sure you can find some visuals. I didn’t want to post one because I don’t want to give the impression I am making fun. I’m not. I’m part hoosier myself. This is a term I used my entire life and still do. When I moved to Chicago, I forgot my definition was not universal. I got weird looks from people, and I would get questions on why I hated Indiana so much. Even after I explained they would get it…but not really.

I never really questioned how St. Louis got started using this term. My minimal internet searches said it stemmed from a strike that occurred in St. Louis in the 1930’s. Workers were supposedly brought in from Indiana to fill in for the strikers. The term was not used as a compliment from that point on. Supposedly.

However, I will say this. Much like Indiana, there are some folks in St. Louis who wear the term like a badge of honor. They’re proud of their low brow self and give zero fucks if you like their jean shorts, no shirt, bad tattoos and Busch Light. Why? Because fuck you, they’re having a good time just livin’. You can go to your fancy sushi restaurants and drink your wine, but they’ll be in their yard grilling and chilling comfortably like a mother fucker. So long as there is a cooler of beer, they’re having a good time. You don’t need to go out of your way to try and impress a hoosier. They’d prefer it if you don’t, actually. You just need to provide a place where they can wear comfortable clothes, have a few cold beers, listen to good tunes and keep their good times attitude. It’s really that simple.

Being that I grew up in south city for the first 23 years of my life…I will forever have a little bit of the hoosier in me. It keeps me grounded. I’ve opened up my world and have experienced the high end lifestyle and everything in between. Being part hoosier keeps everything into perspective. It doesn’t allow you to take yourself too seriously. This is a good thing.

I get asked sometimes when I introduce my St. Louis friends to my Chicago friends why they’re so fun and awesome. I often hear, “They’re so down to earth and treated me like we were old friends.” I just say it’s because they’re from St. Louis. But what I really mean is, we have a little bit of that hoosier lifestyle in us. That’s just how we roll. Everyone is a friend and everywhere can be turned into a good time.

The Bearer of Bad News

“Learning to walk again. I believe I’ve waited long enough. Where do I begin?” ~Foo Fighters, Walk

If there is one thing I learned people hate to be over the last year it’s this…the bearer of bad news. When a marriage ends, it’s pretty common for one person to move on almost immediately. I’ve seen it and experienced it first hand. This causes confusion and stress for the mutual friends of the broken couple/marriage. What do they tell the person who chose to heal and deal instead of jump into a relationship? Do they “protect” them and tell them nothing or let them know what’s going on so they’re not caught off guard? When I say what’s going on, I don’t mean spew every detail of the ex’s life. That’s not productive to the healing process. I mean major things such as your ex got a girlfriend right away, your ex moved in with someone or your ex husband is getting married again about a year after your divorce. Things of that nature. Major details you’ll find out anyway but the blow would be lessened coming from a friend and not social media or overheard at a party where you’re trying to enjoy yourself.

It’s tricky, I guess. It takes a lot of courage to tell someone you care about something that may hurt them. It took me a while to figure out the people that will tell you the bad news are not always who you count on, assume or expect. I’ve also discovered not everyone is cut out to deal with these situations. It hurts when you feel let down and like your friends are keeping things from you. I have been doing my best lately to take a step back and put myself in their shoes to feel the discomfort they must feel. It doesn’t make the shortcomings right, but it doesn’t mean they love you any less. Like I said…it’s tricky.

So, who is capable of bearing the bad news? In my experience, it’s the people who have been through what you’ve been through. They get it. They have been on the roller coaster in the front seat. They’ll tell you the tough details without hesitation. They recall moments when they wish someone had been straight with them and will pay it forward. Be thankful for them and tell them so.

I feel like I should write a pamphlet of “bullshit to look forward to when ending your marriage” so people can have a reference.

I think a mistake I made in the aftermath of my divorce was not aligning myself sooner with people who have been through the experience or supported someone through the experience. I guess this is why support groups exist, eh? I probably should have given that a go. Your friends are doing their best, but sometimes they just won’t understand everything you’re going through.

How do you get over the disappointment of not being told pertinent details by your nearest and dearest? Well, that’s really up to you. My advice is to walk yourself through some of the following questions and thoughts:

  • Can you get to a place of understanding, or do you feel strongly it’s a sign they’re not that great of a friend? Only you can make that choice. I suggest you make it with a clear head so you have no regrets.
  • Do you want these friends who are having their own internal struggle as your friends later in life? What has helped me answer that was knowing at some point the actions of my ex won’t mean shit to me. For me, when the answer is yes, I do what I did in the aftermath of the split…deal and heal. Sometimes the answer is no, and I let go. I don’t miss those people.
  • Can you get over the shortcomings and not hold a grudge? If the answer is yes, you really can’t hold a grudge. You HAVE to let it go. No one likes shit being held over their head. If the answer is no, well, then fuck it. Say what you want about them.

You’ll figure it out. Just don’t get drunk and mouthy or fly off the handle before you do. Some things can’t be undone. Be patient and give yourself time to decide.

Side note: I feel like I should write a pamphlet of “bullshit to look forward to when ending your marriage” so people can have a reference. For me, I wasn’t fully prepared to deal with these scenarios because I didn’t know to expect them. It’s exhausting.

My advice to folks who are on the flip side and find themselves in this pickle of do I tell or not…the answer is yes. It’s always yes, and your pal that might get hurt from the news will always prefer to hear it from you. If you define this person as one of your best friends, suck it up. Bring wine. Maybe have a joke ready. But tell them before they find out from any other outlet than your mouth.

If I find myself at a similar crossroad in the future, I’ll know what to do. I’m not thrilled to say I know how to properly handle these situations because it means I’ve been through some shit. However, I’m glad I’m now aware. Statistically speaking, some of my friends are going to get divorced. I now know to put on a brave face, have wine at the ready while being the bearer of bad news.