Friday, October 31, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 762: To sleep, to dream

SH: You don't care about togetherness!

Me: I just want to go to sleep.

SH: But you don't care if I come to bed with you or not.

Me: Nope.

SH: But why? It's togetherness!

Me: If we're just going to sleep, why does it matter if we are together in bed?

SH: But when you are married, you are supposed to lie sometimes and say you want to be together!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The working life with engineers: My new wardrobe plan

Texas Home T

I wrote recently that the engineers I work with do not notice what I wear. At first, I was a little bit bothered by this because why bother to shower and dress and put on minimal makeup if nobody is going to notice? Why bother to do it if there are almost no other women around and you have nobody to compare yourself to? Why bother to do it if you have to keep your coat on all day anyhow because even though it might be a rare 70-degree day in Wisconsin, your building is ice cold?

But now I realize I have been given a great gift. I no longer have to care about what I wear to work. Not that I am going to become a slob, but - I am going to stop shopping. I am not going to spend money on new clothes. Or consignment store clothes. I have enough. Nobody at work notices if I wear the same thing week after week - which is what I have been doing. I used to think I had to have a lot of variety in my wardrobe, but now I realize that I do not. I can wear my brown skirt and orange sweater every Tuesday for the next year and my blue and white dress every Thursday and nobody would bat an eye. Nobody would notice. They would not notice because

1. They would not see what I am wearing in the first place because they do not look
2. They would not remember from week to week or even day to day what I wear.*

I am free. I am free from spending money and shopping and worrying. I just need to be covered from the neck to the knees and I will be fine.

The only exception I am making is for this t-shirt. I have ordered it. Actually, my sister is getting it for me for my birthday - I am ordering one for me and one for her and she will write me a check.

I bet if I looked like the model, my co-workers would remember what I wore. But this is reality.

* Except SH, who has a phenomenal, almost photographic memory for triviality, but does not seem to remember that he promised to clean his junk out of the basement six years ago before we even moved into the house. I believe that is called selective memory.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Marriage 601, Lecture 12: A man shall leave his father


Me: Stop picking at me. [As we argue about how the silverware is stacked in the drawer.]

SH: I'm not picking at you. This isn't real criticism. I'm trying to take you from good to better. Isn't that noble?

Me: No.

SH: I am trying to do the right thing.

Me: You're not.

SH: I was raised on criticism.

Me: I know.

SH: It's amazing I didn't turn out to be a real jerk.* When I first got to college, people didn't like me. I thought being right was really important and that I was superior.

Me: What changed your mind?

SH: I decided I wanted to be better liked. I liked people and they didn't like it when I was critical.

* It really is. His father is a flaming jerk. I mean, so much on fire that an ocean could not put him out. So flaming that I would not cross the street to - well, you know. So it is truly amazing that SH is not more like his father, who has no friends. Except SH actually realized that he was being a jerk and took steps to stop being a jerk, whereas his father, at the age of 80, remains convinced of his superiority and has no interest in changing.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Wisconsin 101: The best sister in the world

I had a birthday. It was a lovely birthday - I got to spend a lot of time with friends. I saw my Peace Corps boss, who lives in Chile. She was in Chicago for work and I took the train down and we spent the day together. SH did all the housework, including preparing the guest bedroom and bath for Bonnie and Gary.

I thought about how lucky I am to have had good bosses most of my life. MariCarmen was my boss and now she is my friend. Gary was SH's boss and now he is our friend. When SH and I went to Memphis last year, we had coffee with Joe, another  boss. I stay in touch with most of my former bosses but I will not stay in touch with my two most recent bosses - or penultimate boss and most recent CEO. All I can say is they made me appreciate how good I have had it.

My friends greeted me on facebook. SH got me a great birthday card. My mom called. She had been too busy with some unfortunate recent events to get me a card but I know my mother loves me and I do not take the lack of a card as a sign that there is trouble.

And then I noticed that my sister was in Las Vegas and was tagging the heck out of everyone, including our cousin Laurie. She had invited Laurie to go and had not invited me to go.

She had invited someone related to us who was not me - she invited someone who is not her sister - to go on a girls' weekend with her.

Photo after photo on facebook. Lots of tags of Laurie and Jenny's friends.

But not me.

Then she posted someone on my facebook wall. My sister loves me. I love her. She gets me.

October 22 at 12:35pm · Enterprise, NV · 
Happy birthday Class Factotum. In celebration of your birthday I enjoyed a weekend in Vegas. And the good part was, you didn't even have to come with me. .
LikeLike ·  · 

  • Class Factotum Ha! I looked at your posts and thought, "She didn't even ASK if I wanted to go!" And then I remembered it's because you love me.
  • Jennifer  I didn't have to ask, I knew.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Marriage 601, Lecture 875: Who are all the incompetents in SH's past?

The furnace repair guy showed up two days early - this is Wisconsin, people here get up early - to do the annual maintenance on the furnace. Which meant that with 30 minutes notice - they called first, I had to tear through the house and make sure that it was in a condition that wouldn't shame me to the world. Although I have to say that I am a decent housekeeper even when I don't expect company. I was shocked at the condition of some of the houses I saw when we were buying a house. People knew that a potential buyer was coming in and yet the house had a stack of laundry six feet high in the corner and reeked of wet dog.

The furnace guy did whatever it is that he does - it involved noisy equipment, so Shirley was happy. She sat on the bench near the furnace and watched and let the noise roll over her. She loved the roto-rooter guys, too. She likes the vacuum cleaner.

Shirley is one weird cat.

SH was on the phone, his weekly conference call with his boss.

The furnace guy came upstairs to tell me what he had done and what needed to be done.

"You need a new air filter."

"I think my husband changes those. He's on the phone, so I can't ask him. Maybe it's worth it just to have you do it, though. How much do you charge?"

"It's $36, which includes the filter."

I shook my head. "Nope. I know he's done it before and I'm pretty sure there are some spare filters somewhere in the basement. If not, I'll go to Home Depot. What else?"

He explained that there was something wrong with the lmnkr and the wstwd was also bad. "It's OK, though," he said. "The lmnkr is warranted by the manufacturer, so it won't cost you anything to replace it. The wstwd will cost you about $150 for the parts. We can do that with the lmnkr labor, so there would be no additional labor."

"So my net cost would be $150?"


"That sounds good, but I'll have to talk to my husband. I know he'll probably want to talk to you first. He won't think I gave him enough information."

"OK," he said. "Have him give me a call. Or anyone in the office can talk to him. Just let us know."

Before the furnace guy could walk out the door, SH came flying down the stairs, phone in hand, mouthpiece on his head.

"What are you doing!" he asked. "Don't buy anything! Don't sign anything!"

I looked at him and rolled my eyes. "What? I'm not. Don't worry." I turned to the furnace guy. "See what I mean?"

He smiled, took his clipboard, and left.

An hour later, SH finished with his call and came back downstairs.

"Why were you panicking?" I asked.

"I didn't want you to let him install the air filter? I can do that!"

"I know," I said. "I already told him."

"But what if you had let him? And he had charged us?"

"Did you really think I would authorize him to do work without asking how much it cost? You know what a skinflint I am. Besides, I USED TO OWN MY OWN HOUSE! I know how to talk to repairmen!"

Sometimes I want to bop SH over the head with all the files I accumulated from when I owned my own house in Memphis. A big bop.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 12: A belly masher

Me: This dress is too tight, isn't it?

SH: Let me see. Yeah, it pulls a bit across your tummy and your butt.

Me: Man. If it had a decent seam allowance, I could let it out a bit.

SH: Can't you wear one of those things?

Me: What thing?

SH: You know. [Runs his hands down along his side from his waist to his thighs.] Those things.

Me: What?

SH: That sort of mashes all of it in.

Me: Like a girdle?

SH: Yes.

Me: That's never even occurred to me - where does all the fat go? I don't think it would work.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The working life with engineers: The micromanaging life

Me: My boss wears me out. He wants a specific outcome but he also wants to tell me how to get there.

SH: He is asking you to do it a specific way instead of asking for an end result?

Me: Yes!

SH: He is an engineer!

(Photo from SH's friend Ray Daniel's new book, which I really liked. Go buy it. If there is an engineer in your life, you will relate.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The working life with engineers: What you wear to work

It doesn't matter. It does not matter at all what you wear to work if you work with male engineers. Where I used to work, it mattered. I mean, it didn't matter, but I cared because co-workers - women - noticed. Indeed, one co-worker complimented me frequently on my outfits, which pleased me to no end because I feel like I have no sense of style whatsoever and any sense of it that I do have is hampered by my desire to stay warm above all, which requires that I wear fleece-lined tights and other such monstrosities in the winter.

I had worried about wearing clothes that were rolled up and stuffed into a backpack for an hour while I rode my bike to work, but

1. I no longer buy things that wrinkle and
2. Men don't look. Men especially don't look at women my age, alas. Not that I am in the market to be looked at, but it's always nice to be looked at, isn't it? It's always a little bit nice to get that second look, that up and down look. I am not in the market for another husband or for a boyfriend, but it's nice to be appreciated.

Engineers are a special subcategory of men. Straight engineers do not look. My Costa Rican engineer friend Edwin wrote, "We engineers are like having a close gay friend, we don’t have a gay couple but we only notice gadgets and formulas and that sort of stuff. Girls are OK, but they are no competition to technical matters, so you are safe within your new engineering coworkers."
I am not sure I agree with him. My gay friends do notice what women wear and they will sit down next to me and we will have a good ol' time going all Glamor Don't on passers-by. And even SH is a good fashion critic, although I think he steered me wrong advising me to keep that Banana Republic wool-ish tweed dress that looked great on the website on the 5'10" 110-pound model but did not look so good on 5'5" 140-pound me.

Where was I?

Oh. New job. Bunch of engineers. Could be gay, could be straight. I have no idea. Don't care. But they do not look at me. I didn't realize they do not look at me until after I had my bike accident - yes, I was wearing a helmet and the helmet was just fine after I fell, it was my prescription sunglasses and my face that took the brunt of the fall. So for weeks, I had this huge bruise on my face - a bruise I used to get out of attending social events with SH - I am not a social person so was delighted to have the excuse - and that I used to keep my boss in line, warning him that if he was not nice to me, I would act scared around him when the two of us went to corporate.

So I had this huge bruise and six stitches in my eyebrow and NOBODY NOTICED. If I saw someone with that level of damage, I would maybe pretend not to see because what if she had been beat up by her husband and was ashamed and didn't want to talk about it but I would react. I would not be able to keep my eyes from flying open or keep my jaw from dropping.

These guys reacted not at all. I know because I was watching them because I wanted to talk about the injury and how ticked off I was that the urgent care center would not treat me and that I had to go to the ER where they did not ask if I wanted a CT scan - did not discuss the pros and cons - but just did it and then charged me $1,500 for it, even though I kept saying, "I have a $2,500 deductible! How much is this all going to cost?"

(For the record, I paid more for that medical treatment than I paid for my first car. I paid more for that medical treatment than I paid for one year of Top-20 ranked business school tuition. I do not begrudge any nurse or doctor or nurse practitioner her proper pay, but I am not a fan of possibly unnecessary diagnostic procedures.)

So yeah. The engineers at work didn't notice my bruises. They will not notice what I wear to work.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The working life with engineers: The potluck

A potluck, working with mostly women

1. The potluck list goes up at least a month before the event. The desserts are oversubscribed and people ask Barb to please, please, please bring that fab peanut butter pie that she made last year.

2. You ask people if they are going to the potuck and they say of course they are and look at you a little bit funny because why wouldn't they be going?

3. The morning of the potluck, the cafeteria is already full of crockpots and covered dishes and food. It smells good.

4. At lunch, there is space to go down both sides of the table, but almost nobody figures it out and there is only one serving spoon per dish anyhow.

5. All the silverware and napkins are placed at the beginning of the serving line, which means you have to use one hand for your plate and the other hand for your silverware, which means serving yourself is difficult

A potluck, working with mostly men, almost all of whom are engineers

1. The list is up for two weeks and includes easy things like "paper plates" and also includes recipes for some of the dishes suggested on the list, for this is an Oktoberfest and maybe ve should keeping be vit ze zeme, yah? yet by the day before the event, the only items claimed on the list are the Nutella (from yours truly, who admires beyond grandness the brilliance of the person who thought to put Nutella on a potluck list), the cucumber salad, and the rolls.

2. You ask people if they are going to the potluck - for which there are signs hanging by every restroom and every door to the outside and for which HR has sent out three emails - and they look at you blankly and ask, "What potluck?"

3. The morning of the potluck, the cafeteria looks like it always looks.

4. At lunch, there is space to go down both sides of the table and the engineers file down both sides of the table because that is the logical, efficient way to serve the most people in the shortest amount of time.

5. But even engineers don't get the silverware right. Only the people who worked at the faculty club in college know that the silverware and napkins go at the end of the line in a buffet.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 65: The prince and the pea

SH: Some people wash their clothes too much. I read an article on how to keep your jeans blue and they said not to wash them very often.

Me: Well, that might work for some people. 

SH: I don't overwash stuff. 

Me: Me neither. 

SH: There are clean clothes and there are dirty clothes and there are clothes that are not clean but can be worn again. 

Me: Yeah, I know. 

SH: That's why I keep them on top of the dresser. 

Me: Why can't you just put them in the drawer? 

SH: Because! They're not clean! 

Me: But they're not really dirty. I mean, you're going to wear them again. 

SH: I can't mix the clean clean clothes with the a little bit dirty but can be worn again clothes. 

Monday, October 06, 2014

The working life: I joined a *different* army. I joined the one with the condos and the private rooms

You guys, I have a new job (I think you know that). I am no longer working downtown, where it was easy to get to work on the bus. I am now working out in the nether suburbs, in a converted manufacturing facility with almost no windows and almost no natural light in a neighborhood where there are no sidewalks and no place to get coffee, except for the 7-11 across the street and up a block, the getting to which requires hiking through two parking lots and over some grass and then risking your life to cross a busy street unless you want to go all the up to the light which of course you do not because you are just trying to get coffee and the getting of coffee requires that you take the straightest line possible.

So I am working way out in the middle of nowhere where there is nowhere to go at lunch and nothing to do at lunch so people take a short lunch and then leave at 4:30 rather than working until 5.

For a few months, I rode my bike to work. I was thrilled - well, not thrilled because I hate exercising - to discover I could get almost the whole way there on bike trails and side roads. This was good news because SH's solution for my new job away from downtown and away from the bus routes was for us to buy another car.

I am not working so that we have to spend more money.

I am working so we can sock money away in the bank so that once we retire and neither of us has a defined-benefit pension, which nobody has any more except public employees, we can afford to eat.

I am also working so I can buy shoes. But even then, I have enough shoes. I do not need any more. I am on a shoe moratorium and also a clothes moratorium. (See: Working with engineers means you don't have to worry about what you wear.)

So yeah - the whole point of my getting a new job, other than to get away from the insanity that was my previous workplace (just as I never really understood how truly horrible in-laws could be until I got some of my own, I never understood how bad upper management could be until I ran into the most jerky CEO I have ever met in my life. In two weeks, I will spend two hours on the bus just so I can see my boss from when I was in the Peace Corps - she will be in Chicago for a meeting. I know I am capable of having good, long-lasting relationships with a boss, so I know it is not me. I would not cross the street if this CEO were on fire and I think you know how the rest of that goes.)

Oh. I need to finish my sentence. The point of getting the new job was so that we would have more money, not less.

It is now getting too cold and too dark to ride my bike.

Fortunately, the city has just started a new route to the suburbs.

I rode that route today, hoping to find the new Goth Girl and Goth Boy.

That was not what I found.

I had to connect to the new route a few miles west of our house. I got on the bus on what must have been its 10th or 15th stop. It was jam packed full. So much for my visions of sitting on a seat by myself and reading my book in comfort.

I got on the crowded bus and noticed I was the only white person on the bus. This is not racist. It is a fact and it is somewhat relevant to the plot, I think, because the woman in front of me turned around, looked me up and down, and asked, "Are you sure you're on the right bus?" I don't think she would have asked me that question if I were not the only white person on the bus.

I wish I could have said that I was clearly on the wrong bus, that I really should have been on the bus with the with the condos and the private rooms. But indeed, I was on the right bus, and I rode the whole way standing up, trying to read with a book in one hand and holding the upper strap with the other.

There were no teenagers on the bus as far as I could tell. Just working people. Although I did eventually have a nice conversation with three people about their jobs as order pickers at a warehouse. They like their jobs, which I am glad to hear. But distribution center picking is not as interesting as teen romance.

Goth Girl and Goth Boy, 18

Goth Boy report du jour. Goth Girl not on the bus. AGAIN. Where is she?
Goth Boy got on. I couldn't tell if he was wearing his usual t-shirt because he had a sweatshirt on over the t-shirt, with the hood of the sweatshirt pulled over his baseball cap because you sure don't want your baseball cap to get wet.
NB Am I the only person in the bus system who understands the function of an umbrella? Because I am often the only person I see using one in the rain.
GB got on, but then walked right past my seat. I caught his eye and nodded and he nodded back. I wanted him to sit next to me so I could interrogate him, but he did not. He is a shy fawn from the forest, a scared wee mouse hiding under the chair. He will bolt if approached too quickly. I must gain his trust.
Perhaps I should bring treats on the bus: a handful of cookies, a slice of pizza. What entices a teenage boy? Other than teenage girls, of course.
I wanted to ask him where GG was. I wanted to suss out his living situation. Casually - So? Do you usually take the bus? Or do your parents drive you to things? What sports do you do? Oh - baseball? Did your dad teach you to throw?
I would gain his confidence by opening up to him first, though. "I had to do this stupid team building thing at work," I would say. "The woman was sooooo nice but she talked about how water picks up the emotion written on the test tube. I wanted to tell her that our CEO has degrees in chemistry and physics and even though we should pray for him a lot, he is not stupid. I myself got an A in college physics - albeit self-paced physics - and am pretty sure that water does not change its crystalline structure depending on the emotional state of the people around it."
He would laugh at the Wooo-wooo!-ness of it all and then I would admit that despite the emotional water and then the three minutes of silent deep breathing that this woman turned out to be a fabulous facilitator who totally called the CEO on his bullshit and that I have already connected with her on LinkedIn. "KnowwhatImean?" I would ask him.
Again, he would laugh and say, "Man I HEAR you!" as he shook his head at the weirdness of it all.
Then I would tell him how boring it is to sit in meetings from 8:30 to 5:00 and the stress of not knowing if the meeting will actually end at 5:00 so you can make the 5:11 bus and saying something about it to the CEO, who snaps, "It will take how long it takes," which makes you want to say back, "Dude. I am not emotionally invested in this company the way you are. I am here for a paycheck and even that is not enough to keep me around right now."
He would say, "Tell me about it! Remember high school and sitting in class all day when all you wanted to do was wxyz?"
I would grin and say, "Well, wxyz was not on my agenda when I was in high school, but I read a lot of fiction, so can well understand."
Then he would sigh and say, "What's THE DEAL with teenage girls?"
I would say, "Dude" (not really, because I don't say "Dude" unless I am mocking someone with a limited vocabulary), "Dude, all I can tell you is that it gets better once you are out of high school. Do you really want the best years of your life to be right now? No you do not. You want to know that things get better, not that they go downhill from here."
He would say, "But I just want to take her out to dinner."
Then I would say, "OK. Here's a plan. Don't laugh! Here's what you need to do. You need to take a shower and shave and put on a clean shirt. It can be a concert t-shirt, but it needs to be clean. You need to put your iphone away. You are going to give her your full attention. Then you are going to - DO NOT LAUGH! - buy some flowers. Four dollars at Sendik's. You are going to go to her house, ring the bell, introduce yourself to her parents, then ask for her. Then you are going to say, 'I would like to take you on a date.'"
By now, all the blood would have drained from his face.
"Women love it when men put their ego at risk," I would say. "She might say no. She might say yes. If she says no, I promise you that 20 years from now, she will be telling her friends about the amazing guy who slew the high school version of a dragon to ask her out. Twenty years from now, she will be saying, 'What ever happened to Goth Boy? I sure hope I see him at the reunion.' And then when you do, when your skin is better and you stand up straight and dress sharp and have your own business, she will rue the day she turned you down. You will be gracious to her, of course, but the 20 years from now version of Dakota Fanning will be tugging on your arm, saying, 'Sweetie, the Rolls is double parked.'"
I see that happening. Do you?

Friday, October 03, 2014

Wisconsin 101: The perfect catsitter

SH and I went out of town for a Saturday night. We weren't planning on leaving until about 4 p.m. on Saturday, so I emailed our catsitter - the adorable 14 year old boy who lives down the street from us - that we would need him to feed the cats Saturday evening and Sunday morning. He knows they eat at about 5 p.m. 

SH was at some thing Saturday after lunch, so the car was gone. I had taken a shower but hadn't bothered to get dressed. I was still in my robe because it was Saturday and I could. I was on the phone with SH - he was stopping at Aldi on his way home from his thing - when I heard a key in the lock of the back door.

I knew it wasn't SH because I was on the phone with him.

I walked to the kitchen and looked at the back door. It opened.

The catsitter stepped in. Looked up. His eyes flew open. 

"We're not leaving until about 4," I said.

"I'm sorry!" he said. "I'll come back later." He blushed and closed the door and locked it again.

I didn't even think to ask him why he was there. It was just so odd.

I wrote him a quick email. 

"Sorry for the confusion!" I said. I explained that we don't feed the cats until 5.

I told SH. "I think he knows when the cats eat," he said. "What if he was coming over just to see the cats?"

I thought about that idea. Last summer, while we were gone, the catsitter turned on the air conditioning for a while every day because he was worried it was too hot for the cats. SH got a little cranky about that - air conditioning a house just for cats - a house with open windows - but I reminded him that a catsitter who is worried about the comfort of our cats is a catsitter we want.

Then the catsitter's mom told me that the catsitter had vacuumed before we returned home. I couldn't tell because the cats shed so much that the only time our house is cat-hair free is December and that is about the only good thing about December,  but I still thought it was a really nice thing for him to do.

SH and I went out of town. Came back. The cats were happy and had been fed. 

The next day, I got an email from the catsitter:
You're not the one that needs to apologize! I know that I should feed the cats around dinner time, and I do. But that afternoon I was watching a re-run on the Animal planet that featured kittens and after I just wanted to have one in my lap. It's embarrassing. Anyway, sorry for jumping the gun by coming before you even left! I hope it wasn't that big of a deal. 
 Could he be any cuter? SH was right - he just wanted to hang out with the cats.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Marriage 701, Lecture 23: A clothing taxonomy

Me: Gary, look at this old Rice t-shirt SH found.

Gary: Wow. That is old.

Me: Yeah. SH has an entire area of the basement dedicated to storing old Rice t-shirts.

SH: That's not true!

Me: You have them all in an old suitcase in the corner and when you were looking for a Rice t-shirt for that alumni thing, you went right to it. You knew exactly where they were.

SH: It's not a dedicated Rice t-shirt area. There are concert t-shirts in there as well.

Me: OK. A Rice and concert t-shirt dedicated area.

SH: But only concerts from the 80s.

Me: Oh Lord. So it's an 80's t-shirt area.

SH: Yes.