Where the "Real World" Grows

Friday, June 29, 2012 | 0 Comment(s)

Say Anything is one of my all-time favorite movies.

As the movie begins, the valedictorian is giving a high-school graduation speech, and, like so many before her, she speaks about entering the "real world."

Ah, those pesky quotation marks.

In my brother's high school graduation speech, he also spoke of what it means to be delving into a world separate from our parents -- going out to make our own way in the world.

But, if i'm being honest (and i always am).  those of us lucky enough to go to college didn't have to figure out how we fit inside those quotation marks for a good long time. 

And then, after a 6-year dip in the real world pond, i went back to graduate school, a move i thought might pull me back out of the confines of the quotated "real world" for another half-decade.  What i found, however, was that for me the nature of the "real world" has very little to do with one's employment status.

So.  What IS the answer? what differentiates the semi-protective shell of childhood from the ever lamented monster of realness.  Here's my answer.

As kids, we have good times and bad times.  There are birthdays and recitals and parties and sleepovers and toys oh my.   There are also bullies, and teasing, and siblings, and recitals and sewing class.   But, these moments are discrete.  and if you wait long enough, the bad will relent to another happy moment . . . . and before too long after that, you will get teased relentlessly in middle school.  Growing up, you learn that you just have to outlast the bad moments in order to make it to the next waterslide party (metaphorically speaking of course).  I like to picture a kid who hates veggies (um . . . no one i know of course, with a bunch of brussel sprouts on his plate.  "i want ice cream," he tells his mother.   And what does she say (we could all say it together): "eat your brussel sprouts and then you can have dessert."  outlast the bad -- get to the good.

and then there is decision making!

But, thankfully, for kids, there is a right and there is a wrong and 9 times out of 10 we know what we should do.  (of course, how many times we do what we should is another matter completely).  There is a simplicity to the way the world is laid out for children.  This is NOT to say that a child's inner life isn't complex (far from it), but rather that we both teach our children, and give them confidence in themselves, by giving them choices they have the ability to make. 

And then the "real world" happens.  inside the quotes.   and two main things change.

1.  What is right and what is wrong get blurred.  Oh, the times I have lamented for the right answer to come to me.  Should i teach english in japan?  Should i go to grad school? (no) Should i break up with this person?  Marry that one?    And they get harder  usually its the choice between two equally viable alternatives.  Should i take this position or go back to school?  Stay together long distance, move, or focus on my career?  Get a dog or buy a playstation?!?

Being in the real world means no more right and wrong answers.  it is a time of best guesses.  this unnerves the many of us who draw solace from knowing we are doing right.  it is a process to find a place where you find excitement in the new adventure you've chosen instead of ruminating on the what if's.

2.  The good times and the bad times happen simultaneously.  This one takes a bit more explanation.  As an adult, when things get sucky, we try to do what we have always done when things sucked.  Forge through them to the happiness that must be coming down the road.  Unfortunately, when you're an adult, sometimes instead of happiness being at the end of the road, there is a grandparents death, or terminal cancer.  (i know i know, not very sunny of me).

And herein lies the growing.  When the realization comes that as adults, negatives no longer evaporate over time -- but linger like stinky farts -- you have to find some way to counteract this assault.  And you can't wait.  You have have to appreciate and revel in the moments of bliss like your life depends on it.  (i would argue it does).  You have to grab opportunity and enthusiasm by the waist and dance with them as long as the music is playing.  You have to embrace the good even when -- especially when-- the bad is still waiting in the wings.  Make it wait.  Make it wait as long as you can.  This ongoing battle between dealing with the reality of the pain of being a human being and reveling in the glory of the miracle of getting to be a human being, all takes place between the curved lines of the quotation marks which envelope the "real world".

Fairy God People

Thursday, June 21, 2012 | 0 Comment(s)

I am desperately in love with my friends.

No matter how crazy or outrageous I think I may be, they always keep me grounded by showing me how much of life I still fail to even glimpse.

I mean.  I'm a liberal guy.  Not even "pretty liberal."  Solidly liberal.  And these are not my political beliefs per say, but rather that I take a more "if it makes you happy, and its not hurting anyone, rage on" approach to life.  Very rarely, if ever, am I the one trying to keep things civilized.  You get the picture.

So, when my beautiful friend Daphne (not her real name) came running up to me, excitedly telling me that she was a "fairy godmother," I kept a completely open mind.  Of course, having no idea what that meant functionally, I did a quick mental checklist of reasonable possibilities:

- She's a godmother, and is simultaneously she is coming out to me.
- This is just Daphne's way of saying she's a godmother
- She's in a play
- She's joined the circus
- She's lost it completely
- She bought a toy wand and stole a child
- She bought a toy wand and borrowed a child
- She needs to stop watching True Blood

I was so very very wrong.  And the fact that the truth is so much further afield than my already ridiculous list of possibilities is what both humbles me and continues my love affair with my friends.

Here's the real way Daphne became a fairy godmother, and I'm fairly sure that this should become the true definition of the term from now until eternity.

She explained, "So me and this amazing couple have been sleeping together a lot recently.  And we've been having the BEST SEX!!!  And . . . . get this . . . the wife got PREGNANT during this period that we've all been sleeping together.  Soooo . . . . . I'm this soon-to-be-kid's fairy godmother!!!"

And, god damn it, she's totally right.

My reaction, however, took more of a circuitous path to comprehension, reflection, and then unbelievably enthusiasm.

My brain went like this:

She's sleeping with a COUPLE.  That's crazy.  That's horrible. That's HOT. That's amazing.  Daphne's amazing.  Hot sex with a couple.  People do that?  Ok.  Yah.  That's something people do.  Totally.  I knew that.  I totally knew that. And i'm comfortable with it.  Totally comfortable with it.  Am i saying comfortable too many times?  I think this makes me uncomfortable.  And jealous.  And horney.   Annnnd now i'm super happy.  Daphne is having hot threesomes for procreation!!  Why aren't more people doing shit like this?  Are more people doing shit like this!?  I have the coolest fucking friends in the world. 

So, Daphne is a fairy godmother.  Duh.  The term is perfect.  It both reclaims the word "fairy" for the GLBT community in a positive and empowering sense -- and, to the best of the English languages ability, connotes Daphne's real and unique contribution to the creation of this new life.  Who wouldn't want to have a fairy godmother floating around in this world.  Even if she can't turn your pumpkin into a carriage, the more loving grown-ups tethered to a child's well-being the better.

And frankly, while i don't personally know this lucky new fairy god-child rolling around in a womb somewhere, i can say with certainty that while Daphne may not turn be able to turn your mice into horses -- her magic and love are transformative.

The Distance between Happiness and Prestige

Thursday, June 14, 2012 | 2 Comment(s)

I've started bartending.

and while i'm still in the "i'm not entirely sure what i have to do/get done" phase, and there is still an above average amount of new stuff related anxiety -- i'm really enjoying it.  i like people.  and on a slow night at this bar, working alone, it's akin to mainlining people for 7 hours.  all kinds of people.

even, it so happens, the upper level statistics conference run out of  my department, which i have attended in the past.  The course is run by one of my favorite professor and statistical guru's Aline.  So . . .  the introductions went a little like this:

Aline:  "Oh everyone.  the bartender is Mattitiyahu.  He's taken this course in the past and is proficient in the HLM (abbreviated statistic techinique) methodology we were taking about today. "

Me: "What would you all like to drink tonight." 


It all went remarkably smoothly.  It was aided by my old office-mate being back in town to co-teach the course with Aline.

But eventually, someone inevitably asked the question: "If you have your PhD, what are you doing bartending?"

Now, I'm a wiseass by nature, and so my reply was fairly automatic.   I told her to wait until she finished grad school, and that she'll probably want to bartend as well.

But the real answer to the question speaks to a fundamental misunderstanding that many people seem to make.  The majority of my friends in my community are in some way connected to the food or drink industry.  And while they range in age from college kids to thirty something bar business owners, the vast majority take great pride in their work.  they are hired because they love what the food experience can be.  It ranges from pride in a particularly good espresso design on a customer's drink to knowing the names and tastes of those people that make themselves regulars at your establishment.  These are professionals.  and so, when you ask them (we'll get back to me in a second) why they are doing this when they could be doing X, Y, or Z -- you are inadvertently demeaning the outstanding effort they are putting forth to maximize your customer experience.

I realize, of course, that my situation is a bit more extreme.  I am somewhat more of a juxtaposition than the average bear.  But this is where we encounter the distance between happiness and esteem.  I'm bartending because i want to bartend.  Seeing my friends and being social while staying active and watching sports is a pretty ideal situation.  The hours are also flexible, so i can pursue my other interests as well (like writing!!!).  The question shouldn't be "why are you bartending", but rather, "what do you love about bartending."  Instead of seeing me at a job that subjectively lacks esteem, see a person with opportunities who is making the choice to bartend.  I know it seems like a small thing that i'm making a big deal out of, but there is also a class element attached to it, and it helps contribute to the perspective of academics being out of touch.  When you demean the profession of bartending, or cooking, or serving -- you're saying what makes you happy is more valuable than what makes others happy.  And it's particularly offensive because you are benefiting from that service persons' job more than they are benefiting from yours (unless they are VERY well read on the latest journals).

Personally, I have a deep esteem for happiness.  for me, the distance between happiness and prestige closes further and further the more i learn what to place value on.

Take These Broken Rings

Friday, June 8, 2012 | 4 Comment(s)

This is true story.

Post-wedding celebration, a few hand fulls of the out of town guests came over the the hotel we had booked for our wedding night (hellllllls yah).  When wifey and I arrived, they had already set up an old school box t.v.'s and were searching through an old . . . um . . . . college documentary?  (one of our friends took hours and hours of video in college -- then he lost said film.  Then he found it.  Then he didn't edit it.  And that's what we were watching).   Not long into their search, they pulled up some footage of a younger, more muppety looking version of myself putting some serious moves on a mannequin in a Target.  From the look on her face, she was totally into it.

After that embarrassment we sang happy birthday to another friend in attendance and started to drink the scotch.  I should mention that when we arrived in the lobby of the hotel, it was immediately apparent that there was another wedding going on in their banquet room.  I tell you this because at this point, that wedding started overflowing into the bar as well.  It wasn't long before the bride herself was informing e that we had "gotten" their wedding venue (suckers . . .cough cough).  Thankfully, it didn't get confrontational considering everyone was drinking and uber happy.

The bar is closing, as they are want to do.  We settle up and decided it's time to call this 10 hour party a rap.  I look at e and she is beaming.  I look into a mirrored pillar, and I am equally beaming.  We are beaming together.  High beaming.  We take the fancy schmancy copper-colored elevator to the top floor and are strolling down the hallway toward our room when, in all of my beaming beamedness, I jump up, hit the passing door frame, and scream, "BEST WEDDING EVER!!!"

Simultaneously, I hear a dull crack, and the feeling of pop-rocks encasing the upper joint of a finger on my left hand.

I shattered the ring.  On the door frame.  Turns out stone quartz is NOT indestructible.  Not even close.  A the time i was bummed, but with a little distance it was easy to realize that a ring that didn't survive day one of marriage, wasn't going to be with me for the long haul anyways.

By morning, i was thinking that breaking your ring at the end of the wedding was akin to when rock stars smash their guitars at the conclusion of a killer set.  Essentially making me a marriage rock star.  Screaming, "THAT'S HOW YOU DO WEDDINGS!"( a la Will Ferrell's debate style in Old School) as I smash my elaborate decorative ring.  I like that image.

Most importantly.  E saw it all happen.  She watched the whole thing go down, so there is none of that "you broke your brand new wedding ring that is a symbol of our love and connection and unbroken commitment to each other, how???"

But i wanted a ring.  My finger already felt like a liar. So i went to a head shop in Northampton and bought this $8 beauty.

 yes.  It has scorpions on it.  two of them.  Their tails connect.  I tell myself that it is symbolic in that i am a scorpio and e is a gemini (aka. twin scorpions), but really it's just a placeholder.  Something to hold the spot warm until the real deal comes back around.

My wife is picking out the new one.  I think that's best for everyone.

Marriage Was The Case That They Gave Me

Wednesday, June 6, 2012 | 0 Comment(s)

I simply can't give you all a postmortem of the weddingpocalypse that happened here over memorial day.  I can tell you that I already broke that wedding ring a posted recently (more on that in another post).  Unlike the engagement story, which was long, but had a linear trajectory -- the story of this wedding was a combination of hundreds of smaller stories, all beginning at various moments in the past, and then converging at the Pine's Theater in Northampton 10 days ago.

There are also no real words to describe how special and loved by my community the wedding process made me feel.  To try and convey those emotions would be a jumble of mixed metaphors including birds and rainbows and butterscotch sundaes and snow days.  i was shock&awed by the generosity of love, care, and spirit that were sent my wife and my way.  (NO MORE MMF EVER!!!!)

This event was a coming together.  A coming together of our diaspora of friends, all from various vignettes of our lives B.M. (ahem. 'before marriage'), to meet and share in our love and joy and celebration.  A coming together of these ol' friends, with the people who have always know e and I primarily as a couple (yes, by marrying me my wife has implicitly agreed to let her first initial be used in this blog).  A meeting place for old e stories and mattitiyahu stories to meet more recent e and mattitiyahu stories.  And, since, we both have fantastic amazing talented and, most importantly, overly affectionate friends -- it was like a love nirvana: lovana.  The ultimate friendgasm.  It had the feel of the final campfire from sleep-away camp, only it lasted all weekend long (wow.  how privileged to you have to be to keep up with my metaphors!).  personally, i experienced a humbling amount of love.

It was also moment for us to turn inward as a couple. To recognize what we'd gotten ourselves into, and to take the time to appreciate it.  To feel calm and strengthened in the presence of my partner -- and to appreciate the moment that was created solely to declare that love for each other publicly.

I have to tell you, "i do" feels like getting picked first for flag football in middle school.  it's like getting picked first, but for the rest of your life.