I’m trying to find volunteer work. I have this fantasy where I run a writing workshop for 13-year-olds, and we exchange meaningful moments and leave indelible impressions on each other’s lives, but in Brooklyn, which has like the highest concentration of famous, established writers in the world apparently, there’s a waiting list. Like I’m trying to work for free, okay, but it’s still like competitive to do that. I have to wait six months to hear if I can do some measley copyediting because Paul Auster is teaching the kids right now. Jees. Both great, and jeees. This cool nonprofit, 826 NYC, is partnered with McSweeney’s, one of those literary mafia outfits. What the. It’s like wanting Dunkin Doughnuts coffee and all that’s available of super mochatto mochiatto frappe cinnos.
Apparently, the men in my office get together and talk about the bods of the women in the office. There was one group email that circulated commenting on the view of one set of “beautiful cantaloupes” during a photo session. Various young ladies have complained about one person in IT who loves to call them all “sexy” and “baby” and complain about being married. I was a little shocked to hear this goes on, from people I know and who have been perfectly nice to me. My husband’s reaction to this was to shake his head and say “why are people still eight years old.” (Sensitivity Points for Husband.) There was one guy who is such a lonely oddball that he gets inebriated at office functions and hits on everyone (the old throw-everything-on-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks technique). At one such event, he actually massaged my back while I was talking to friendlier colleagues, causing me to say “Lots of inappropriate touching going on right now” while dissolving into uncontrollable giggles. (Um, I’m eight years old.)
I don’t know what to think. It sort of is sexual harassment — not the “Disclosure” kind starring in Demi Moore and Michael Douglas, in his favorite kind of role of being a victim (See
“Falling Down,” where he gets victimized by and then turns his anger on every minority group. Poor rich white man. Pleeeeeeease.) More annoying than threatening. I don’t think we all have to ignore the fact that we have bodies, but it’s funny how some males still don’t see how this might be somewhat offensive to the ladies, and I don’t understand why more people don’t hit on me. I still have it going on. (ha ha ha ha) And that’s the other weird side of this equation. I’m passing that age where people look at me, and not that I was ever Prom Queen, but there’s definitely something about being a young woman that draws people’s eye and they do stop looking as you age. Isn’t that weird? It’s like when Shirley MacClaine told AARP Magazine that she feels invisible, especially after working with Cameron Diaz. Oh my god, I’m like Shirley MacClaine.
I asked someone in Accounts Payable how’s life and she said “I’m alive, so life is good” (which is almost redundant. heh heh, i’m so petty) but I instantly wished to have a similarly, no-nonsense attitude. Why not? I go to the gym, I have a job, I have a home, I have a husband, I have access to a multitude of Yuppie services. Yo, I’m like loaded, people! I’ve got nothing to complain about.
And yet…I’m so good at it…
I’ve had Mom Friends for a while. I don’t mean like my junior high school teacher whom I still talk to and who is 82 or 1,000 or something, but the Mom Friends my age. It’s slightly freaky when your pals start reproducing. It’s a sign of what–adulthood? Yet another hallmark that seems to happen so easily in the movies but in real life seems unacceptable or unbelieveable or just I don’t know, not what you think it would be. Friendships change. I don’t know what it’s like from the Mom Friend perspective (and I suppose I will some day) but from the perspective of the friend-with-inactive-womb, it’s a shift that sometimes puts a bump or a permanent stop to the friendship.
Keeping up with Mom Friends requires you traveling to them (understandable) and spending the much of the time fretting over the baby rather than talking to each other (also understandable). Having a baby is consuming stuff, and kids require a LOT of attention. And they’re so tiny. (Oh god, what if you drop one.) That part doesn’t bug me. I get that part. (I actually am a fan of kids — some of them. With some, there’s an insta-bond; others seem like blank-faced pigs in a blanket.) But sometimes there’s a faint whiff of “Some day you’ll understand” from your Mom Friend. She has advanced beyond your realm and is only able to fully connect to other Mom Friends, and sometimes, that makes me sad. It’s sort of like the pals you lose when they fall in love. When single, they’re reliable and like steel-rod-loyal, but once coupled, they disappear like, I don’t know, alka seltzer dissolving in water (i’m really low on similes right now. sorry). Or it’d be like if all your friends move to Philly and started talking about cheese steaks all the time. What would you do then? Mom Friends like other Mom Friends because they have much in common. Like one of my Mom Friends, who is still quite dear to me, is a Mom to two kids and sees ghosts in her house. And now, she’s completely enamored with another Mom Friend who happens to be a Psychic and can cleanse her house of spirits as well as discuss the merits of Timeouts. How do you beat that, people?
It’s a long life (knock on wood). People come and go, and sometimes come back again. I mean, we all kind of take turns leaving each other, right? I’m just getting used to it and I’m not always so dang melancholy. Maybe I’ll just go give myself a timeout.
It was bad at first. I had moved out of tiny, two-bedroom (360 square feet, no closets; shower in the living room, etc.), six-floor walk-up, rent-stablized West Village apartment begrudgingly. Even though the paint was peeling, the mice ran rampant inside the walls, and the entire building felt like it was sinking, I still loved it. It was the West Village, man! You can see celebs there! You can pay $2.50 for a Magnolia cup cake! You can walk along the gentrifed West Side Highway park and ignore the mild sewage odor and pretend you were in San Francisco! I guess it was time. At some point, I might be pregnant, and unless my husband is willing to piggyback me up six flights, I just can’t pull it off.
Once ensconced in Brooklyn, we were in a new world of space and quiet and it creeped me out. It reminded me of the suburbs, and I felt hopelessly stuck. Somehow, though I had spent so much energy to get away from my suburban roots, I came smack back to it. What is thing, these quiet streets, with these trees all over the place? I missed Manhattan terribly. I imagined all my friends having raucous good times, creating exciting memories from nightlife pursuits I was too far away to experience (I live like 20 minutes from Manhattan). The subway commute to work was longer. I couldn’t visit my old neighborhood–too painful, it was like going through a breakup, and I didn’t want to be reminded of the good old days..
But suddenly, in year two, I have fallen in love with my neighborhood. I mean, I can jog on the sidewalk and not have to dodge bodies. It’s nice to wake up and not hear sirens. There are a lot of cool volunteer organizations in Brooklyn, tons of writing groups and theater people. People are friendlier in Brooklyn. Isn’t that weird? But it’s true–folks are less guarded and actually look at each other when passing. And these trees are like growing on me.
I still can’t wander in the West Village without feeling pangs of melancholy, but…it’s okay. At least, I’m healing. Ha ha haha.
Can I introduce you to a really bad show? October Road. It’s about a kid who’s facing a mid-life crisis–or a quarter-century crisis–at age 28. He wrote about all his hometown friends in a bestselling novel and never spoke with them again, and now he’s come back to them and his ex girlfriend and his family and his ex’s kid who might his. It’s soooooo hard to watch without imitating. There’s one scene where Laura Pepron, who plays the ex, confesses to her best friend in a close-up: “The whole time I was yelling at him I just wanted to kiss him.”
When scenes like that happen, David and I have face-offs at home as to who can do a better imitation. That line has stuck around. May I also recommend the show Medium for inspiration. There was one episode where Patricia Arquette attacks a man who she thinks hurts her daughter. It’s worthy b/c her face doesn’t move and she emits a high-pitched like animal sound. (She’s pretty, I like she’s more plumb than the average TV starlet, but even with the Emmy, she cannot act, people.) The way they staged it, it just looks like she’s punching the pillow. Very fun to re-enact at home.
I read People.com at work when I’m aggravated and Drew Barrymore is the number one most beautiful person alive! In response, she said something like “it makes my peacock feathers stretch out to heavens and burst into little truly beautiful heavenly star.” That is just so out there, I kind of love it. Does she not have a publicist? Thank you for my second laugh of the day.
“You can marry a millionaire,” says mom, “you don’t have to make it yourself.”
“Too late for that.” (I married an actor.) “Maybe one of my kids will make millions, but of course by that time, I’ll probably be dead.”
“That’s not necessarily true,” she says. “Treat them well, and maybe some of it will trickle down to me.”
Then we talked about the colossal, hyped real estate prices in New York.
“Maybe,” she says. “You’ll have to move to a house with a backyard. By the time I retire, you’ll have two kids.”
“Sure, you can live in a tent in the backyard. And when it rains, you can come inside. Like on the porch.”
Ha ha ha ha. Thank god my mom is funny. It was my first big laugh of the day. It helps!!!
After watching this flick, I realize every immigrant story is bitter sweet–the ones from Asia and Southeast Asia anyway. It’s too far between the U.S. and Asia to feel some sort of loss and all these stories seem to be about lives marked with loss and some joy, and an absolute disconnect with the new adopted country and the kids you have here shaped by it. That’s why this story makes me so darn weepy (the book, I loved; the flick, not so much. It went all over the place and never really accumulated, and it’s odd that Kal Penn, the lead, looks the same age as the actors who play his parents.) I saw it with my mom, which only added to the weight I felt, watching the scenes of the new immigrants feeling lonely in the U.S., receiving some negative attention because of what they looked like, etc., etc., etc.
Mom found the flick “boring” and decided the filmmaker wasn’t that talented. (She has no idea what goes into moviemaking, though I think, as I said…she was right). When I asked her if she still regretting immigrating to the U.S., she looked as serious as she always does and says yes.
“Really? Even after more than thirty years in this country?”
“Yes, I wish I never left Korea.”
From which point, I was completely released for any feelings of guilty or immigrant-related melancholy. I mean, seriously, if you still regret something after thirty years, don’t you think that’s a little retarded? Don’t you think at some point you don’t really think about it b/c the point is so moot? My friend’s husband’s folks immigrated from Germany–his dad from East Germany, and he ran without a look back! (Granted, East Germany isn’t like a resort country or something). But you’re here! There’s really nothing you can do about what happened so long ago. Plus, the Korea you remember from whence you came no longer exists. Even the language my folks speak from the 1970s is different than what’s currently spoken. When they go visit on occasion, think of Austin Powers coming back to the present time asking whether to shag now or later (though…another sentence might be more fitting for my parents.) All I mean is the world they miss no longer exists — the streets they grew up on are different, the people, the culture — and so, I feel sorry for them all over again.