Unhooked Generation – The Book

Originally published in my MySpace Blog, 2/10/2008.

Unhooked Generation by Jillian Straus

The woman that wrote the book was not a clinical psychologist; she was only a woman in her 30’s wondering why it seemed so much more difficult for people in our generation to find lasting love.  She traveled to different locations around the U.S. to interview random people that responded to her ads posted in free newspapers and Craigslist.  Some points really hit home for me.

1.  Do you make a list?  I know a man who has listed 42 qualities his future partner must have.  I even have a list myself, though it doesn’t go up to 42:  must pay his own bills and not try to steal my money; must bathe at least daily; must brush teeth 1+ times a day; must be nice to me.  Some standards are reasonable, I think, and some absolutely no one can live up to.  I don’t even think I can list 42 qualities about myself, so how do I know if I fit that manifest my friend created?  Oh, and once you have your grocery list made, then you can go shopping on eHarmony or Match or Plenty of Fish to make your selection.  Like a piece of meat.  What ends up happening is that we reject everything, which leads to….

2.  Why suffer?  If I don’t like something, or if it isn’t working for me, why not just cut it off and be done with it instead of beating myself up trying to make it work?  Relationships ARE work.  Or at least they require effort.  Expecting for things to just fall into place is unrealistic, and bailing is the easy way out.  I have absolutely been quick to jump ship but can honestly say that I’ve never regretted doing so.  I just don’t put up with any juvenile bullshit anymore.  Of course, the “why suffer” mentality is one of the main reasons that couples get divorced; think about it:  how many marriages do you know about that have lasted for less than a year?  I can think of 7 of my friends right at this moment.  Is it that they’re picking the wrong partners, or just giving up too easily?

3.   Fear of making the wrong choice:  let’s talk about the guy with the 42 requirements again.  He repeatedly says that he never wants to commit, because what if the next person that comes along is a better match for him?  He’ll never, ever be happy, I guarantee you that.

4.  Never allowing yourself to connect because you are afraid to fail at marriage.  Wow, this is a big one – I have always said that if I’m crazy enough to get married, it will be only once.  Half of the interviewees said they were afraid of failing by not living up to the seemingly seamless relationship their parents have, or failing by turning out just like their divorced parents.  I’m afraid of the second one myself.  No one goes into a relationship thinking that it’s going to fail, but it’s another thing to think that you’re not even going to allow someone to get close so there is no opportunity to fail.

5.  Losing our gender identities.  Yes, women’s lib was a blessing, I will bang the drum about that one all day long.  It’s what allows me to be a single woman in my 30’s [now 40’s] with a career and the ability to stand on my own.  But……..I could really use a mate who knows how to work on cars.  And by the way, can he also like going to art museums, and cry at mushy movies too?  But I don’t want him to open the freaking door for me, I have two arms and two legs and can manage on my own.  But can he still pay for dinner, because he’s the man?  I can say that I want a really strong, stoic man who can build a house but still tear up over “Love, Actually”, but how realistic is that?  It’s a bunch of mixed messages that lead to misunderstanding because one person gets pissed off that the other one didn’t pick up the check.  It is every man for himself, I tell ya – because there are no boundaries on the gender roles anymore.  Better brush up on your communication skills.

6.  Technology.  How easy is it to erase someone from your cell phone, and therefore your life?  How easy is it to send e-mails and instant messages, but never talk on the phone or see each other face to face?  We’re definitely disconnected and our spelling skills are becoming atrocious – because we are lazy.  And scared.

This is one of the few relationship/self-help books that I’ve read from cover to cover – usually I get bored pretty easily or can’t relate to what the message is.  This one is fascinating because I have so many single friends, just like me, wondering what in the hell is going on.  If you recognize any of these factors within yourself, this may be an interesting read for you too.
[Disclaimer: Since it’s now 10 years old, some references are going to be outdated, but the ideas are still relevant.]

 

Advertisements

If Nothing Else, There Is Hope

Written as a MySpace blog post 10.5 years ago, approximately 3 years before I became seriously ill with the disease that took me down and now has me bedridden. I can’t believe it’s been a decade already.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Legacy of Hope   6/2/07

 

When I went to the Chandler library to cruise for movies to check out for the weekend, the selections were pretty slim.  The Poirot series that usually appears on PBS didn’t hold any appeal, and “Show Boat” wasn’t looking any better.  I picked up a documentary called “Legacy,” about a multi-generational family of single moms trying to escape the inner city projects of Chicago.

The narration is provided by one of the teenage girls who lives with her grandmother, mother, aunt, six cousins and four siblings.  Within the first 10 minutes of the film and after the grandmother gives her first interview about living in the projects, one of the nephews – the one that showed the most academic promise and stability, and was looked up to by family and neighbors alike – was shot dead in the street.  The filmmaker chose to follow this family for a total of five years after this devastating murder, which included the boy’s mother joining and completing her 5th addiction treatment program, the narrator’s mother getting a stable job after being a welfare recipient since the age of 16, and the grandmother finally qualifying for her own house after a generous donation from an area businessman who saw the news story of the boy being shot.  The narrator was the first in her family to complete a high school education and receive her diploma.

This was a difficult story on many levels.  It is not dissimilar to watching episodes of “Intervention” on A&E.  Nearly every person of my immediate and extended family is or was an addict; I saw and learned things that no child should.  Every person in my father’s family with the exception of my uncle died young, including my father.  This month will also mark the violent death 12 years ago [as of 2007] of my aunt at the hands of her boyfriend.

Poverty was also a strong factor in my childhood years.  My mother nearly died when I was five after she contracted a bacterial infection, and was bedridden for three months.  Add that to the strain of my own medical bills, with my terrible asthma attacks, allergies, and numerous bouts of pneumonia and bronchitis….and no health insurance.  “Preventative care” was impossible to consider.  We stood in line for milk and cheese.  We were also issued these awful frozen fish portions, which were breaded fillets of cod with a hunk of cheese wrapped in as well.  Luckily an uncle was a manager at General Mills and would give us test samples of various foods that they were developing to mass market.  It was a treat when we once got “Bonkers” – if you remember those, they were rolls of peanut butter with rice crispies and chocolate chips on the outside.  Mostly, though, we got these horrendous breakfast bars – vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate – that had the taste of chalk and the consistency of a doorstop.  We ate them because we had to.  [It is no mystery that impoverished people are overweight because the least expensive food is the most fattening and unhealthiest fare you can conjure up.]

One Christmas there was no money for presents.  My mom contacted a local charity that gave us $14 each to spend on gifts, took us shopping, and had a wrapping party afterwards.  Mom still had a sense of humor about it – somehow she convinced me to tell her what I got her, saying “Oh, I’ll forget, I promise.  Just whisper it in my ear.”  Of course I told her.

It is also no mystery that being poor is stressful, humiliating and limiting. It is easy to say “Why don’t they just ___________ ?”.  Right now, as a nation in general, we have a very them-vs.-us mentality; every man for himself. If you are lucky enough to have grown up in a household that never really had to struggle to survive, it is much more difficult for you to understand how this cycle of poverty continues through generations.  But instead of saying “Why don’t they ________?”, why don’t you ___________ to help?  Because it’s their problem, not yours.  I’m not saying that we have to give $10 to the people with signs at the end of freeway exit ramps.  Can’t we lend a hand before it gets to that point?  It may not be you or your family right now, but it could be in the future.  Medical expenses alone are becoming outrageous, even for those covered under company policies, and one major illness could be financially devastating.  Half of all bankruptcies filed are attributed to medical bills.  For some reason, we as a society have associated medical bills with outright laziness, when it couldn’t be further from the truth.

There were elements in this film that I could not relate to.  My extended family never bonded to get through the hard times.  When my aunt was killed, my father had to admit to the detectives that he “never really socialized with her” and didn’t know her boyfriend was violent.  Her death was heartbreaking, but instead of offering each other support, fights broke out over stupid things like who would get her dresser and bed.

These women in the documentary also had strong faith in God, which was never a part of my upbringing.  Hearing “God will get us through this” and “by the grace of God” was like they were speaking in tongues to me.  Faith is not something I practice.  Even if we’re talking about people in general, or work, or good health, or anything for that matter, I never sit back and say “I have faith”.  Instead, I have hard work and critical thinking skills.  If I don’t do for myself, I have no business sitting back and waiting for something, or someone, to take care of everything for me. 

Yet, there is still the legacy of hope.  We need to be reminded that despite our circumstances, we can rise above with dignity and flourish.  You or I may have been in a bad place 10, 20, 25 years ago, but that doesn’t mean we have to be there now.  Good deeds should be handed out to strangers, friends and family alike – you may need their help one day.

My mom has recently started worrying that she made too many mistakes and bad decisions when raising my sister and I.  It’s quite a time delay, since we are both in our mid-thirties and turned out pretty straight.  I don’t hold anything against her.  She also taught us love and affection, dignity, and the joy of survival. 

97% Compatibility But The 3% Was Extra Bad

I was contacted by this guy on OKCupid, and his profile seemed very promising. A few things stuck out: first, he grew up in the bible belt and he is staunchly NON-religious like me; second, he’s able to construct sentences correctly; third, he’s handsome and tall so he can do things like see the top of the fridge without having to dig out a step stool. I was busy for most of the day yesterday so I didn’t log into OKC until it was after midnight. Here is our conversation from last night:

Him: I am very interested in having you proofread my profile. Seriously though, I spend a great deal of time lamenting how very few people have any idea what an apostrophe is for these days. I don’t know whether it was always the case, and Facebook just revealed it, or if this is a new issue.
Me: I think Facebook revealed the issue. I have a friend who was formerly a high school teacher and who is now home schooling her 7-year-old twins. Recently she posted something that said “Morning’s!”. I nearly lost my mind.
Him: I guess so. Most people don’t spend their high school years reading peers’ papers, so don’t notice until later in life.
Me: That sounds correct. I probably would have fallen out of my chair if I would have had to read some of my classmates’ material, or tried to. Do you write, or are you strictly a reader?
Him: I write on and off. I don’t do it regularly enough, but I always take it up again. I’m probably going to make the jump from fiction to nonfiction soon.
Me: I hate to do this so quickly after just starting to chat, but I have to get up fairly early tomorrow, so I need to call it a night. Would you care to try to chat soon?
Him: Of course. I didn’t realize that it was after midnight. Let’s try this earlier next time.
Me: Sounds great! Sleep well.
Him: Dobranac.

This appears to be a pretty sane exchange, correct? It’s reasonable that I didn’t realize how late it was, and that I said, “Hey, let’s try this again; for now I need to go to bed.”

This morning I received a message from him saying:

Him: Good morning. I hope you are having a good day. Yes I would like to chat. I just need to what hours are better for you. Last night, I was merely responding to your messages at the time that they came in.

Tonight I responded and said:

Me: I looked at the clock last night and was surprised by the late hour is all – I thought I would have been tired before then. Sometimes I have to get up early, I don’t always have a set schedule. I hope you have had a good day. Mine ended up being busy up to this minute, surprisingly. Tomorrow I won’t be on at all.
Him: I’ll have some free time tomorrow, Chelsea.
Me: Ah. Well, I have PT, then I have to take care of my young nephews all day until about 11 at night (we’re going to a concert since they’re off from school), so I won’t be signing in.
Him: You don’t have to alert me when you’re signing on.

So that didn’t take long at all for him to fly his freak flag. First he asks me for an idea of when I’ll be on so we can chat, then he tells me he doesn’t want to be “alerted.”

I typed a bunch of smart ass replies to him but in the end didn’t send any of them, because a nagging voice in my head was singing, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” so that guy gets radio silence. But if I would have responded, here’s some examples of what I had typed and ready to go:
– I was merely responding to your request to know when I would be logging into OKCupid to chat
– You mentioned you would be on tomorrow and I responded that I wouldn’t be as a normal flow of conversation
– Do people ever get tired of you starting fights with them even when you are in agreement with them?

 

Me and Alan

This is just a tough week. My health stuff has been forcing me to push everything else aside – because as some of you know, you only have enough energy for one thing each day, and that is if you are lucky.

I had to go into the surgeon’s office today like I have done every single day since last Tuesday to get my wound checked and repacked. I’m actually a “super healer” and for that reason also very rare. My body immediately goes to town on closing up wounds and building scar tissue – collagen – so it’s yelling last call and shutting the doors before all of the riff raff has exited. The downfall to that is that my body trapped bacteria in its rush to seal everything, which is why the doc had to make hamburger out of my ass. This is also the reason why, when my body figures out that it can’t physically break every shunt, it resorts to clogging and strangling the drainage catheter. I don’t make keloids. However, I have a huge wad of scar tissue on the right side of my brain left over from the cisternoperitoneal shunts I had implanted there. If I press on that side of the skull, I move the whole mass and it’s very uncomfortable, as if I am moving strings that are attached on the inside of my scalp that reach down into my brain.

While I was getting ready to go to show my ass yet again, I was catching up on the news, and so saw the announcement that Alan Rickman died from cancer at 69. Like Bowie, he was another Brit with loads of talent, adopted and adored by us fickle Americans across the pond. This seemed like another abrupt loss that we didn’t see coming – I mean, some people shouldn’t ever die, right?

Like a lot of people in the U.S., my big intro to this man was the role of Hans Gruber in “Die Hard.” He was such a good badass. I didn’t want him to be killed off. I wanted him to return for every installment of that franchise.

About seven years later while I was living in Albuquerque, my roommate introduced me to “Truly, Madly, Deeply” via a VHS tape she had in her vast movie collection. It was a role that allowed me to see past his villainous past and embrace his gentler side, and roll around in his deep voice like a dog rejoicing in sunshine and grass. If God actually existed and had pipes, I do believe that we would hear Alan Rickman speaking.

In 2003, I moved to Arizona without knowing a single person, without having a place to live and without having a job. (Things were really different back then, kids!) A few weeks after I landed, “Love Actually” was released to the theaters for the Christmas holiday. I didn’t have anyone to go with, so for the first time in my life I went to a movie by myself. I’m glad I did – I liked the movie enough to buy, which rarely happens. But Alan was part of the ensemble cast. He played well the role of a man who was befuddled by the temptation placed in front of him and who ultimately could not rise above.

I know this makes me an oddball (judging by just how popular the Harry Potter series has been), but I could never get into the Harry Potter movies. So many people are mourning the loss of Professor Snape; I will instead choose to remember Hans, Jamie and Harry.