Living Life Without Regrets

I used to live my life without much regard for my safety. I did what I wanted when I wanted, and while I took reasonable precautions, in general I wasn't overly occupied with thoughts of danger.

Over the past few years, I built up a life for myself that could lead to a nice secure future. I got to a point of financial stability and job and career security, and I gave up risks that might jeopardize those. I was working toward a family, so I stopped thinking about the things I wanted to try before I got there.

In the past year, enough has happened to completely turn that back around for me. The recession, heartbreak, family struggles, health scares...so much has fallen together to remind me to look inward and determine what's important to me.

While what I really want is to travel, spending time in lots of crazy remote places where a saner person might not venture, I do still have some restraints. I'm in school, I've got a job, I've got the chance to invest now in a way that could lead me to a job that would allow me the ability to do the travel I want in the future. What these restraints don't do, however, is keep me from pursuing some of the adventures I can locally. Sailing, salsa dancing, climbing, caving, surfing, skydiving, scuba, intense yoga retreats...these are all things I can do here, and I've avoided because I felt like I was saving time and money for something that just isn't gonna happen now. I felt like I'd have time to do those things, but the truth is, I might not.

I was talking to my sister, an insurance agent, today about adding another life insurance policy so that I could feel a bit better about protecting my mom. She, of course, wanted to know why. So I told her. I'm scared to wait to do the things I'm scared to do. I want to do everything that scares me, and I want to do it now.

Some things that scare me are simple and silly. The other night I was walking with A to the gym and we passed the boxing gym with a sign that said "First Class Free". I was having a very difficult day and not feeling super confident, and A kinda reached toward my arm to pull me in and just walked to the front desk and asked how we get started. The guys (totally hot, btw!) were so amused by us, and specifically asked us to come back when one of them would be teaching. We're now set to start next week. I'm so excited about this little act. Yes, simple, silly - why would I be scared of a boxing class? Why am I intimidated by a bunch of guys and staring and judging and thinking I'm not good enough? Ridic, but still a real fear.

Other things that scare me are a little more serious. I want to walk by a cliff by the ocean and climb it because it's there - not because someone has a rope course already laid out. I want to boulder in the surf along the coast. I did a teensy bit of that down in Big Sur in December, but it was just enough to whet my appetite. I want to explore a cave nobody knows. I want to go where I want to go, regardless of locks or fences or signs. I want dive a shipwreck, jump out of a plane, sail down the coast...I want to do it all.

This is what I told my sister. I guess I expected her to argue with me because I found myself surprised when she told me that she not only supported my decision, but also encouraged me to do everything I can while I can. She reminded me that while our family lives long lives, you never know when some health scare or financial trauma will hit and make everything impossible. If I'm gonna do it, I need to do it now.

She ended the phone call by telling me something she's said to me many times over the years. There are many iterations of this quote, but my sister's simplified, drawled version is by far my favorite:

There's no reason to live my life so I come out pretty in the end. I wanna come out all used up and messy and screaming, "Wooo Hoooo, What a Ride!"

Thanks, Sissy.


You Know You're From Springfield When...

although I'm actually from a small town outside of Springfield, all of these made me smile with a bit of nostalgia this morning (especially after the crazy changing weather we've had here in SF the past couple days...I miss thunder!)

You know you're from Springfield, MO when...

you take out-of-town guests to Bass Pro Shops.

your high school had more pickup trucks than cars.

you still have to think every time someone says MSU.

you knew someone you went to school with/dated/taught/worked with Brad Pitt.

you've crashed other schools' proms.

you started watching "The Bachelor" second season.

you've bought live bait at a local gas station.

the concept of numbered streets is totally foreign to you.

you know which restaurant owner invented cashew chicken, and you debate where to get the best.

when someone mentions minorities, you think they're talking about underage drinking.

your whole town stood outside watching tornados rather than taking shelter.

road construction and lake levels lead the local news.

you go to the park at 3pm to enjoy a sunny day, and by 3:05 you're running for cover from the thunderstorms.

you can count all the escalators in town on one hand.

you mark significant events by which ice storm it was closest to.

you can throw a rock from any corner and hit either a church or a chinese restaurant.

you only know who Robert Franklin Stroud, John Gotti, Larry Flynt, and Manuel Noriega are because they were patients at the federal prison medical center, and you cheered when Johnny Sack died on The Sopranos because you knew the place.

you cruised Battlefield.


I am a Moron

I had a bit of an emotional break on Sunday night taking care of the ex's cat. In looking for a bowl to put down extra water, I opened cabinets to find MY dishes. Dishes I'd had since before I met the ex. I knew of course that I had given him these dishes...but to see my dishes in his apartment was a little jolt to me. I noticed on his counter that he had bottles of wine that we'd picked out together. Also, we raised a kitten together. And seeing his new cat in kitten stage...seeing him make choices he learned from our experience. It was all a little much.

That night I had a dream involving kangaroos - I'd been viewing someone's pics that evening - and I woke up thinking about the Australian wine we chose together. The really good (relative term for a region that specializes in Sancerre) bottle of  Shiraz we brought back from the Hunter Valley (from a beautiful winery called Iron something or other) has been waiting for me to have a moment like this. The wine represented a time when my future was planned much differently than it is today, and I wanted to toast to that memory and drink it away.

I pulled out the bottle with A, but we couldn't finish it. We acknowledged that it wasn't something we'd normally drink, but we tried to take it in context. This was a red wine from a region known for sweet whites. That's why it was really fruity and too sweet. But it meant something to me. And I knew I had liked this wine in Australia.

After a glass I turned to A and asked if she was sure it wasn't corked. She confirmed that it wasn't, and that this was just not a wine we would normally drink.

The symbolism inherent in a wine that I had loved and hoped for and waited for turning out disappointing was just too much for me to bear, and I couldn't have any more. But I also couldn't bring myself to pour it down the drain. This wine meant something. I was certain the taste I didn't like was based more on my emotion than on actual flavor qualities.

In a fit of not caring about providing alcohol to the homeless, I hoped to find someone on the way home who could use a little bit of a warming up (yep, judge me now). The two guys normally camped out on California weren't there. The woman on Hyde was nowhere to be found. I wanted someone to appreciate this wine.

It occurred to me that my neighbor might enjoy trying a wine that can't be purchased here, as he is just starting to really learn the ins and outs. So I take over the remainder of the bottle, but he makes it very clear that it is, in fact, shitty wine. I take another sip and finally admit to myself that it's awful. The altitude from the flight must have killed the flavor. I was upset, but there was also something slightly liberating about pouring it down the drain.

So this morning I get a text with a pic attached, asking me why my Australian wine has a California label. I look at the picture, scour my wine racks, and let my mistake sink in.

This is the wine I had last night. You can buy it for $7 in discount stores. Don't buy it. It's crap.

And this is the wine (unopened) I brought over from Australia. You can't buy it here, but if you bought it there it would be currently be about $25.

I got emotional over a crap Lodi wine (also from a fantastic trip, though!) while my Hunter Valley shiraz sat safely in my apartment.

On the upside, I think I've embarrassed myself enough lately that I no longer have any shame.


From the Mouths of SF Men

Continuing the conversation about nice guys and/or SF passive guys...

I was recently out with a friend who moved here last year from the East Coast and his roommate, who was born and bred in the Bay Area. My friend is the epitome of what I think it means to be a man. (Well, almost...Marlboro Man of Pioneer Woman is the true epitome, but I'm so never gonna meet that type out here.) He pays - even for friends when he can. He makes decisions, he open doors, he carries heavy things, he takes risks, he displays confidence, he walks girls home or hails their cab...as I'd say it back home, his mama done him good. So, knowing my friend's answer already, I asked the roommate if he always paid on the first date. Without hesitation he said no. We delved a little further and he emphasized that he behaves out of a belief in equality, not out of being a cheapskate. He said that he does usually offer to pay, but that the girls frequently argue with him and he's not going to let that go on all night. It seems like maybe the women are the cause of confusion rather than the guys not manning up. Unfortunately, I'm starting to think neither the men nor the women of SF were properly taught the rules (or they let go of their training in the confusion of SF liberalness). To do my part for my humanity, I decided to clarify the rules of paying for dates, as learned in southern Missouri and followed thus far by every man I've ever dated except SF boys.

First Date:

Bill comes, I take out my card in an offer to pay for my half.
He argues and says he has it.
I say thank you and put my card away.

If he actually lets me pay my half, there will be no second date.
I don't care how poor/broke you are. I don't need much. But if I'm not worth you making that gesture the first time we meet, it's not a date, and you therefore won't be getting a second one.

Second Date:

Now, this one is slightly more tricky.
If the first date was fairly expensive, I'm likely to ask if I can take him out this time and insist that I pay, but it will be for a less expensive thing than he did. I will also let him pitch in for drinks or pay half the bill for the date if he insists (and this would earn points and increase likelihood of 3rd date).

If the first date was normal, I'll again offer to pay my half, but I won't be offended if he accepts my offer.
I would expect him to then do something extra, though, like pay for a cab or purchase an after dinner drink. It wouldn't be points against him if he didn't, but it sets it up for a weird dynamic in which we're already discussing who pays for what a little soon in the dating scheme.

If he pays for the second date in full, I will be sure to pay for after dinner drinks or a cab or something small. I will also insist that I get to treat him next time, but again, he'll earn bonus points if on that next time he picks up some small thing like a drink or cab.

And so it goes until it evens out with him paying about 3:2 or so.

I like this plan. I have no problem feeling like he is taking care of me financially in regard to those dates, because it will even out. I'll keep my fridge stocked with his favorite beer or keep his whiskey at my bar. I'll buy the groceries when I make him dinner. I'll spend money on pretty underwear for his benefit. It just works.

The problem with the SF man not paying for the dates in the same way means the other stuff no longer evens out. So I spend money on make-up and hair and cute shoes and facials and yoga classes and sexy underwear - all so he gets what he wants. And now I ALSO have to share the burden of half the dates? As if men spend nearly as much as we do on these things. And honestly, if I trust him to pick up the alcohol, it's gonna be all beer all the time, and sometimes I need to go pick out that fancy bottle of wine. Am I supposed to ask him to repay me for half? Or groceries - I will always go for the local organic cut of beef, so if I expect that I have to buy it...which means I'm paying for it then, too.

These men who are trying to be more equal are forgetting about the natural dynamic that has worked for decades.
YES, I make money. I may even make as much as you. But women still don't make as much as men, even in the exact same positions at the same company. And men sure as hell don't shell out $150 to keep their skin clear and soft, their hair shiny and touchable, their hairy regions waxed, and everything else perfect just for us.

Boys, if you want to date a girl who doesn't wear make-up, shows up in the same clothes you wear, never wears sexy lingerie, has hairy legs and armpits, has wrinkles and/or major zits, and smells like discount soap - fine. Then you can let her pay. And yeah, you may think that beautiful chick across the bar is just that girl, but that's only because you don't know what goes into creating that "natural" look. You know how long we fuss just to make sure that one tousled lock of hair falls just so? And yes, we do it for us. But we also do it for you. So when you go around deciding to treat us equally by choosing not to pay for that first date, you throw off the balance. All of a sudden we're paying equally, but we're putting far more effort into our appearance. Then we start to think maybe we're better than you. Then we start looking for the guy who will pay. OR, we stop giving a shit, stop shaving, and start wearing ratty old grandma undies with holes and frayed waistbands. Up to you boys, make your choice.

ANYWAY, this all came up again because I was reading Why There Are No Girls in SF and Sam posted a guy's perspective of the city's unaggressive men. Sam points out that men are unaggressive here, in this case in approaching women, because the women are too damn scary.
SF women seem to have this hybrid sensibility of hill-billy southern gallantry, where prescribed gender roles dictate who should aggressively pursue whom, and a regionally specific 70s-style extremist feminism, where there is hyper sensitivity to being hit on. According to San Francisco magazine, “Bay Area women have been known to react to innocent flirting as if they'd been groped ...
That’s the paradox. SF women get sort of annoyed when guys attempt to seduce them. Not bemused or bored, annoyed. The fact that the average SF guy has the charm of a yard rake doesn't matter. SF women want men to make advances on them but without them knowing that the advance is being made, which requires not just Code speak but pretending to be gay.

This creates what anthropologists call a double bind dilemma. A successful response to one message implicates a failed response to the other, so that the person will be automatically wrong regardless of response. It's pretty much the kind of thing that broke the Union in 1861 and makes the Middle East a total mess. So if you’re a guy in San Francisco and there's a pretty girl sitting next to you, what’s the right move? You keep quiet, keep your head down and hope no one starts yelling.
And you know what? I think maybe he's right. We are an independent sort here in SF, and it is frequently the case when we are out that we don't want to be bothered. Sometimes a guy interupting girl time is intrusive, and perhaps SF girls are a little more vocal about that. Maybe that leads to exactly what Sam posits about men just keeping their heads down and waiting for the girls to come to them.

Now, I was taught that if you aren't interested you always say thank you with a big smile and simply decline the opportunity for an introduction or a free drink. This encourages men to keep trying with other woman. Having seen other women out here react harshly to come-ons, I have to wonder if this isn't all our fault. Have too many of us women rejected vocally and meanly to the point where all the SF balls are now shriveled and tucked up inside never to be seen again? Honestly? It almost makes me feel more sorry for the guys here than disgusted with them. Good thing I'm way past my pity sex days.

Ladies, we need to understand our job. The men need to understand theirs.

We get pretty, we smell nice, we buy nice underwear and bat our eyelashes. Men pay (at least at first and usually slightly more overall), open doors, carry heavy things. Not because we can't do those things, but because they want to do them for us.

We can be equals, we can share power, but come on...there's a nice balance to how things work (one I find particularly sexy), and we're seeing the evidence of f*cking with that as plain as day.


Pioneer Woman's Love Story

I'm still not a hundred percent sure how I came across her website, but Ree, better known as Pioneer Woman, has a collection of blog posts that are stealing all of my time.

Ree was a midwestern girl who moved to LA for college and loved it. She stayed a few years after, knowing that she needed the big city, and happy in a long relationship.

As that relationship progressed, though, Ree realized that she needed some time alone to figure things out. She didn't know exactly what she wanted to do or where she wanted to be, so she went home.

Then she met the cowboy.

Seriously, this woman lived my effing fantasy. Except for the whole, move away from the ocean AND the city thing. Not sure I could handle that one.

Her writing is worthy of any romance section, but ladies beware - you'll be pulled in faster than you think.

On this one, though, I'm gonna say it's worth it.

Read Ree's Story.
(read from the bottom up)

Weirdly, I prefer reading it in those installments. Once you get far enough in, however, you'll find Ree's link to the entire story all in one place. Try that if it makes you happier.