Living Life On My Terms

Life after 50. In vino veritas!

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Socially Awkward


Have you ever noticed how people behave in their automobiles?

Have you ever been at a red light and looked… I mean really looked…at the person in the car on your right, or on your left?

Go ahead, look. Stare at ’em. Watch them start to freak out.

Okay not really. Don’t do that. That’s just weird and crazy stalker-ish. They may even call the police on you and have you hauled off… not that I’ve ever done that or anything.

All kidding aside . . . it’s interesting to me to (surreptitiously) observe others in their cars while waiting at a signal light. Some pick their nose; some sing along to the radio; some talk to themselves (or their hands-free cell phone, perhaps?). Some people put on lipstick, fluff their hair, pick something out of their teeth. Most people, however, are looking at their laps. Surreptitiously checking messages on FB or Twitter, or reading email on their smart phones. Rumor has it that even getting your cell phone out and playing with it at a stop light is violation of the no-cell-phone-use-while-driving-law. Me personally? I don’t want to test that theory. But there sure are an awful lot of people who like to look at their laps at signal lights. Just sayin.’

Social convention, when in the close proximity of strangers in tight spaces such as elevators, subways, commuter train cars, or escalators, demands that you gaze out into space, never making eye contact and just pretending the other person isn’t there. And Americans have a rather large personal space, so you have to make sure none of you is touching the other person. Not even a tiny corner of your sweater. It’s like you create a little cone of silence around you. You know, like when you were a kid and would hold your finger a millimeter away from your little brother, and move it all around while chanting in a sing-song voice, “I’m not touching you…” Not that I ever did that, either. Ahem.

elevator etiquetteI mean, how many times have you done this: You are waiting for an elevator, shifting your shopping bags from hand to hand as you gaze at the arrow at the top of the elevator, pushing the “down” button repeatedly, as if all that staring and pushing is somehow going to make the elevator move faster. It reminds me of standing at the printer at work after you send your document to it, and muttering “c’mon, c’mon” at it, as if that intimidates it into working faster. But I digress.

So the elevator FINALLY arrives, and if you’re an introvert like me, you hold your breath as it dings, pausing before the doors open, hoping… nay, PRAYING that there aren’t any people inside the elevator and you can ride in comfort the rest of the way, hoping against hope that it doesn’t stop on any more floors and pick up any more of those pesky people.

Alas, the door opens and there are other people on the elevator. And if there is only one, I will usually glance at him or her, but never in the eyes; usually somewhere around their left ear — and then smile briefly before hurrying onto the elevator car and turning around. If there is more than one person, then the rules are you make no eye contact, get inside the elevator, turn around and face front, and everyone stares at the elevator doors, or the elevator panel, watching the floors click by. A heavy silence usually prevails, unless there are a couple of people, or group of people who all know each other, and they chat either quietly or boisterously, depending on how much alcohol they have imbibed. At that point, you and the other elevator passengers will either exchange amused glances at the drunken idiots, or mutual rolled eyes at the ridiculous buffoons. Nothing bonds two strangers like shared annoyance at our fellow humans.

But cars…. cars have a similar etiquette, but you have this large buffer of automobile around you. But you’re all facing the same direction, not looking at one another, maybe taking sidelong glances at fellow car travelers, seeing if you can catch them picking their nose (hey I imagine there is a 12 year old boy inside most of us).

But the point here is what do you do if you see someone you know in the car next to you? I mean, if you walk onto the same elevator car, or subway or commuter train car, you sit next to one another and have a pleasant conversation, right? Or at least a wave and a quick hello before sticking your nose in your book, or smart phone, or tablet or whatever you have to buffer yourself from others. But in a car? What do you do when you are side by side, and drive up to each signal light beside each other?

Today, a co-worker and I left for lunch from work at the same time. He pulled into the right lane and I pulled into the left, because I was going to get onto the freeway. There are three signal lights between work and my turn off for the freeway, and naturally we hit all three of them red. And naturally we were beside each other at each light.

As we both climbed into our cars in the parking lot, we exchanged a wave and a “have a nice lunch”. Then, we pulled out of the lot  and up to the first signal light. We stopped side by side. I looked over at him, and we exchanged grins and that goofy “hey we’re both at the signal light at the same time” awkward wave. So then what do you? What’s the socially acceptable next move? You keep eye contact for a second, thinking, “Okay, now what?” It feels rude to break eye contact and go back to staring at the car in front of you, because if we didn’t have these cars between us, we’d be chatting. I don’t want him to think I’m being rude, but sitting and staring at each other and waving for more than a few seconds is just….creepy. So he goes back to staring out the front windshield, and I stare out of mine.

Guy in carFinally, the light changes and we move forward. I think, okay perhaps the next light will be green, or the cars in front of him will turn off and we won’t be side by side again. But alas, no luck. He pulls up to the red light, I pull up next to him. And therein lies the dilemma. What is the proper etiquette? Do I pretend he isn’t there? Do I exchange another grin and goofy wave? Awkward! Will he think I’m rude? Then I smack myself upside the head (figuratively, because if I did that literally he really WOULD think I’m nuts). We can’t speak to one another; what in the world would we do except sit there and wave inanely at each other?? I mean really. I briefly consider calling him on the phone and then think that probably isn’t a good idea either.

So we sit there, staring through our windshields. I nervously run my fingers through my hair, tap my fingers on the steering wheel to the beat of the music, trying to pretend the guy in the car is a perfect stranger.

Finally light turns green and we trundle up to the last signal light before I have to turn off…. a-a-a-a-and we’re beside each other once again. My stomach clenches. Do I look? Do I give him that grin and eye roll about the stupid signal lights, gesturing at the signal light and shrugging my shoulders like “whaddya do?” Would we then wave at each other again? Do I just pretend he’s not there? The right side of my face is burning as I imagine him thinking I’m a dork because I don’t look at him. Then I worry that he would think I was a dork if I did make secondary eye contact.  What are the rules? Gah! I don’t know!

Socially awkward? Why, yes I am, thank you.

So in the end I opted for staring out my windshield and willing myself not to turn my head and see what he’s doing. Because if he’s not looking at me then maybe he doesn’t like me or he’s mad because I didn’t give the eye contact at the second signal light….

Ok really I’m not that neurotic. But I did find it awkward as we found ourselves side by side and three consecutive lights. Being in cars is a unique social situation because we are close in proximity and yet out of earshot. Unless you’re a CB’er and then you can just say “Breaker, breaker this is Lady Snowman,  catch you on the flip side. Over and out.” Or whatever.


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The Last Acceptable Discrimination

introvert1I tend to be a hermit on the weekends. Since my working life is filled with so many humans and I am naturally introverted, I usually take the weekends to recharge my batteries. Evenings, too, after work.

What this boils down to is that I’ve become very nearly a hermit after work and on weekends. I have to wonder sometimes if this is because I am relaxing and recharging, or if I’m hiding from the world? Maybe a little of both, perhaps.

I am very overweight, and tall. At my height of nearly 6 feet, I stand out in a crowd. Literally. With all this weight on my bones? I stand out even more. I am very self-conscious and am well over 100 lbs more than the recommended 180 lbs for my frame. Sighs.

couch-potatoEat right and exercise, right? Well without going into a long diatribe about the merits of diet and exercise and the pitfalls of the slothful lifestyle I’ve adopted, suffice it to say that I am a couch potato and I love being a couch potato. I am not one of those people who say ‘Yay! I get to go to the gym today!” or “Yay it’s time to go work out.”

I love sedentary activities. I enjoy kicking back in my recliner, reading, watching TV or doing counted cross stitch. A body in motion stays in motion, and a body at rest stays at rest. And my body tends to be resting most of the time. A sad state of affairs in a world where being overweight is a horror, let alone being obese, and if you’re not low-or no-carbing, you’re so déclassé.

I’m so over it. I’m over fad diets, and counting calories and counting points and carbs and fats and sugars ad nauseum. There has to be a better way. None of these methods result in permanent weight loss. Or if they do, it is rare. Even weight loss surgery isn’t the answer for all. I have had friends with amazing results, and then some kept it off and some didn’t. The key to any of these things is changing your habits. Changing your eating habits. Period. You can’t get a gastric sleeve, lose 120 lbs and then go back to binging on chocolate and ice cream. Darn it. There is no magic bullet. You have to just grit your teeth and stop eating those things.

Ahelp-not-loosingnd therein lies the problem. I feel deprived when I can’t have those things. I love going out to eat, I love ice cream, I love chocolate, I love desserts of most any kind. My favorite veggie is corn and my favorite fruit is grapes, and both of those are on the “no no” list because of their high sugar content. Substituting fruit for dessert doesn’t cut it for me. My craving for these things has much deeper psychological roots than simple “don’t eat them and you’ll stop craving them.” I’ve had moderate success on weight watchers, and after a few weeks, everyone around  me wishes I’d just go back to eating the crap because I am so cranky.  Food is my happy place. I love to eat, and food is more than just a way to nourish my body; it’s a way that I feel good about myself and reward myself.

So get a good therapist, you say. Well, yes that would help. But there must be a way that we as humans can incorporate these foods we love in a balanced way so that we can enjoy the things we eat. Life is too short to be this fat, and life is too short to live without snickerdoodles, chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven, ice cream, spaghetti, lasagna and other foods we love to eat. What I struggle with is how to keep those foods in my diet and consume them within moderation?

So I realize this sounds like I’m whining, but really I’m just thinking out loud. I need to teach my body to stop eating when I’m full (I’ve completely lost that ability; I just keep cramming it in my face because it tastes good), and allow myself to have my goodies without overdoing it. I seriously need to lose weight; I’m 56 years old and I am tired. Literally tired. And also sick and tired of the stares, the lack of eye contact (people act like obesity is catching or something) and the inability to fit in an airplane seat and in rides at Disneyland. And, sadly, movie theater seats. I can fit, but just barely. I have to place both hands on the armrests and push myself out of it. Sometimes I expect to hear a “pop” when I extricate myself from those seats!

When I’m buying groceries I feel that my food choices are subject to scrutiny. Same goes with restaurants. Forget going to a buffet. People almost scoff openly.

Yes I love to eat. Yes I am seriously overweight. Yes, I am still a human being with much to contribute. Hug a fat person today and let them know they are loved. Because I can tell you from experience; we don’t feel loved very often.

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Sometimes I Use A Spoon


Living alone affords you many luxuries not afforded those who live with other humans — the ability to be uncivilized.

Ice cream instead of breakfast? Yes, please!

Leaving the kitchen in disarray until morning? Absolutely.

Wandering around all weekend in my jammies? Frequently.

Eating dinner with a spoon instead of a fork? Definitely

Cue the needle scratch on the record.

Yes, I do those. All of those. Not all the time, but with some regularity. Does that mean I am completely uncivilized? Absolutely not. You can still take me out in public and I promise not to fart, burp, or eat with my hands. I promise to shower, fix my hair and make up and will not scratch my butt in public.

But it is interesting to me how quickly these things fade away when you live alone. When there’s no one there to give you the “are you freaking kidding me??” look when you are in your jammies at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. There is a certain sense of accountability when you live with someone else.

I have lived alone for the past five years, with the exception of a year and a half when I tried living with a roommate and shared a house. That taught me one very important lesson — I am best living alone. I don’t tolerate others in my space, or their idiosyncrasies. I love coming home on a Friday night, closing and locking the door, changing into my nightgown, fixing dinner, and eating it while sitting in front of the TV watching one of my TV shows on my DVR, or a good movie. I have a very people-oriented job that I love, but that leaves me exhausted and drained at the end of the day. I am an introvert by nature (which sometimes people misinterpret as being “anti-social” — not true. But that’s another post for another day) so interactions with people drain my energy, unlike an extrovert whose interactions with others energizes them.

Last night after I fixed my dinner, and I knew I was going to be eating it in front of the TV, I pulled a spoon out of the drawer instead of a fork. This dish involved rice, and rice sometimes doesn’t do well with forks. So I ate my dinner with a spoon. Sometimes I do this for expeditiousness sake.

Living alone for me has many, many positives, and few negatives. I can do what I want, when I want, and I am rarely lonely. I am also involved in a virtual world called Second Life, and I have many friends there. If I feel the need for company, I can call a real life friend on the phone. I can go into Second Life and talk to real friends in a virtual environment. I am not lonely. But I am alone. I choose to be alone. It would take someone really special to make me want to stop living alone.

Meanwhile, I sometimes eat dinner with a spoon. I sometimes wear my jammies all day. Life is too short to be anything but happy!

~ Kay