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I worked. I slaved. I sweated. I bled. I dreamt. I researched.
And then? And then!
The day dawned when I was to get my new phone.
I’d decided on the just-released Droid X2 for myriad reasons, among which the two biggest were: 1) screen size and 2) ability to act as a mobile hotspot. It also had a faster dual-core processor and higher-res qHD screen, which are two features you totally just skimmed over right there before jumping to the next paragraph.
So I went to the store. I got the Droid X2. I brought it home. I tweeted this picture of my outsize, claw-like fingers awkwardly grasping my holy grail:
I had a phone.
And then? And then!
I didn’t like it.
No, seriously. I wanted to like it, I really did. I felt so bad about it that I actually dreamt about my inner phone turmoil, which is just about the most ridiculous personal fact I’ve ever typed into a post draft window. But when I woke up, I knew. I knew it was over between us.
The biggest thing that killed the romance for me was the display quality. It had higher resolution, sure, but because of some technical thing I still don’t really understand, it looked fuzzy to me. Colors banded on certain icons and on certain graphics. I could see the pixel gridlines. Simply put: it looked really fucking shitty. Not to mention I was unenthused about the Motoblur skin and Verizon-installed apps, the logos at the top and bottom of the screen and on the backside of the phone, and the call quality which made it sound as if my husband was speaking to me from inside a paper bag. Which are three more things you didn’t bother to read. It’s okay. I’m just going to say I understand and give you a hug now, then run into my room, collapse on the bed, and sob into the pillows after you’ve left.
In short: Dealbreaker. The deal was broken.
So what did I do?
My friends: I went and exchanged my Droid X2 for an iPhone.
I see you out there; your lips curling, a snarl rising from the back of your throat, hair rising on your neck and arms. Them. You’re one of them. You’ve been brainwashed with the rest of the feeble masses. You’re just an empty candy shell with a creamy iPhone filling. Bet you think Apple products are all tits and asses. Ice cream on waffles. French fries dipped in chocolate shakes. Bet you think Steve Jobs shits rainbows, unicorns, and Betty White.
Well, I can’t confirm exactly what comes out of Mr. Jobs — nor would I enjoy being tasked with finding out — but I can confirm this:
I love my new phone.
Things I particularly love: the crisp retina display of the screen, the camera that manages to blow away the X2′s camera regardless of its smaller megapixel size, the call quality, its mobile hotspot capability, the (surprisingly!) improved battery life over the X2, and its seamless integration with my MacBook Pro’s applications and my iPod.
[See?!?! See!?!? That makes THREE APPLE PRODUCTS you were clearly ONE OF THEM FROM THE START!!!!11!]
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go order a cappuccino and take a lot of artsy Instagram pictures of it.
I’m about to get a new phone, you guys. A smart phone. I’m so close I can taste it. And it tastes like… beryllium and lead and zinc, with a dash of brominated flame retardants!
God, it tastes delicious.
[sheepishly removes old phone from mouth]
[wipes off screen with sleeve]
This is a pretty big deal for me, because the last time I got a new cell phone was September of 2007. And man, I thought it was sharp. It was a Motorola Razr V3 flip phone. I thought its inner 1.2″x1.4″ screen was the hugest screen ever. The alpha/numeric keypad was slick. I was convinced I was rolling the Benz of phones, especially since I’d had my previous phone since 2003. I could have had limited internet access for an additional monthly fee, but I opted for the most basic service plan because who needs internet on a phone, anyway? Also, I was 26 years old and completely broke.
Now I am 30 and slightly less broke, and damn it, I can live no longer without internet on my phone. It’s been a long time coming, too. First, we were getting married, so every last dime was going towards the wedding. Then, the beau offered me the cell phone of my choice for my Christmas present, but I deferred making a decision because I wanted to do research first. Now, nearly six months later, I’ve done my research. I’m ready to commit.
But the closer I get to finally ridding myself of my old phone, the more I realize just how much life has been lived with it. At the extreme risk of sounding hopelessly sentimental — it is a phone, for chrissakes — this phone has seen me through going back to school, quitting the first job I got when I moved out to California, floundering, then building a new career. It’s seen me through moving in with a boyfriend, to getting engaged, to getting married. I’ve got texts on that thing from 2007. Which probably explains why I’m constantly running up against a full text inbox, but I can’t bring myself to get rid of them. They’re part of my personal history! No matter how strange, varied, and out-of-context they are:
“I just realized my underwear is inside out”
– 9:35 p.m. 10/6/07
“I’m not sure how you got so awesome, but I like it.”
– 3:37 p.m. 10/16/07 [note: sent by the beau. Awwwww.]
“I will die alone with ten cats”
– 6:42 p.m.11/26/07
“Bart. Nothing like public transport when you are slowly dying inside”
— 10:17 p.m. 3/08/08 [note: Bart = Bay Area Rapid Transit]
“If i were a 16th century serf, i would have bigger problems than defining my personal philosophy”
– 2:52 p.m. 08/29/08
“Lets never be our mothers”
– 5:08 p.m. 12/10/08
“I just saw some drunk guy ask the cops where the closest bar is.”
– 10:21 p.m. 04/22/10
“My patent papers are at a slight angle, Sam.”
– 4:08 p.m. 03/17/11
“I am the lemon zester of destruction.”
– 6:16 a.m. 03/26/11
“Jan, it’s because I’m in love with you”
– 6:08 p.m. 5/25/11
Then, of course, there are the texts I kept because they were associated with special days. Like these three messages I received just after we got engaged from the three ladies who would be my brigadiers (I love how different they are):
“What!? What!? Oh my god! Call me as soon as you can!”
– 6:02 p.m. 06/13/09
“Oh that is so awesome I am so happy for you both”
– 6:09 p.m. 06/13/09
“OMG!!!! I am so excited for you i have momentarily forgotten how to use phone”
– 6:51 a.m. 06/14/09
A text from my bachelorette party, after I’d temporarily left the dancefloor to walk my cousin to her car:
“We miss you!!!! Bob Dylan and Eminem are calling your name…”
– 11:04 p.m. 08/22/10
A couple of texts from our wedding day:
“CONGRATULATIONS MRS. [MYLASTNAME]!!!!! xoxoxo”
– 4:14 p.m. 09/18/10
“Amazing night!!!! We luvs u guys!”
– 7:59 p.m. 09/18/10
And the day after that:
“I just saw you two on your first husband-wife run!”
– 10:57 a.m. 09/19/10 [Note: yes, yes, I did make the beau run with me the morning after.]
And! Let’s not forget the pictures! The crappy, horrible pictures that I took over the years on this god-forsaken antiquated phone:
Memory is an interesting thing. Why do we keep what we keep? What meaning could it possibly have to anyone but ourselves? And when we die, those memories go with us, so what’s the point of hanging on to them? Is it to help us validate our existence while we’re alive? Is it so that we can occasionally remind ourselves that, hey, we once saw a box of fruit labeled “Sexy Apple,” and so then we can figure out a way to work that into a future conversation in a way that makes us seem clever?
Yeah. I’m going to miss these memories when they’re gone.
This phone? Not so much.
Do you keep texts? Have you ever considered making a scrapbook of your favorite texts? Wouldn’t it be weird to take digital words and make them into physical crafts? How much does it say about our culture that our lives are becoming increasingly tied to various handheld devices — devices that are themselves obsolete after two years? When do you hold on, and when do you let go? How many questions do you suppose I’m going to ask you? Fourteen, maybe? Fifteen?
Visiting my family in Michigan always leaves me feeling a little bit like I’ve slipped the fragile bounds of reality and wound up in an alternate universe entirely.
For instance, one day while I was there I found myself tussling with logs. Like, the wood kind of logs. That come from trees. I don’t know about you, but here in California, I never have any kind of interaction with trees that strays outside the boundaries of looking at them. Sure, we have regular old normal trees in the Golden State, which will certainly come as a surprise to those who think California is one giant tropical beach caressed gently by the shade of palm fronds and overrun by the supertanned gay Hollywood liberal Jewish media elite. And if a tree were to fall down here, where I live, well, I would simply wait for the proper authorities to come and haul it away.
But in Michigan, when a tree gets sad and falls down? Well, ma’am, the proper authority is you. You can’t just leave it there splayed across your folks’ property, you have to go around helping your dad pick up all the branches and twigs that broke off and then sawing up the tree into logs and stacking them. To use as firewood, or something. Or possibly contests involving brute strength. Or maybe you can set up a lawn chair nearby and just hang out. Have a drink. Hi, logs. Hi. What’s going on with you? Feelin’ a bit sappy lately, eh?
Ha ha! Ha! Ahh.
[I haven't left the house much lately.]
Point being: many things in Michigan1 are different from where I live in California. For example:
- Don’t bother asking for soy milk. Or flavors, or fancy foams, or anything else besides regular black coffee. They only have cream, and they will put it in your coffee for you before handing it over the counter. You cannot be trusted to handle this task yourself.
- All green salads involve iceberg lettuce and creamy dressing.
- “Organic” doesn’t exist.
- Food is fried.
- Dinner is at 5:30.
- Camoflauge and work boots are everyday casual wear.
- The menfolk talk local gossip, the price of corn, the weather, the Great Fire in the grain elevator in town in the ’70s, who used to farm for whom, taxes, and what kind of drink they should have next.
- The womenfolk talk local gossip, who they ran into at Walmart and how much the items they bought there cost, children and the raising of them, the weather, and what kind of drink they should have next.
- Introducing yourself to someone involves citing your family name, your mother’s maiden name, the names of extended family members, what year your parents graduated from high school, the family names of your parents’ friends, what road they used to live on and in between what farms the house was located, and possibly what make and model of car everyone involved drove. This process can sometimes take up to an hour and requires at least two drinks.
- Speaking of drinks, the most expensive one I bought in Michigan was $3.50. The cheapest one I bought was $1.50, but that was because my uncle is vice president of the Conservation Club.
- “Conservation Club” is a fancy way of saying “hunting club,” of course.
- If you don’t wave to every car, you’re rude. And maybe a little snooty and high-falutin’.
- Deer heads mounted on walls are an unironic method of decoration.
It sounds like I’m poking fun at Michigan, and I suppose I am. But this is where both sides of my family are from. This is where I always came back to as a child. This area and its people were the one constant throughout my life of moving around. I oversimplified those bullet points for the sake of humor, but I’ve no patience for anyone who actually dismisses my home region outright as boring, backwards, and worthless.
At the same time, it’s just that… I don’t really belong in Michigan. I’m keenly aware of the observations I made above because they feel so foreign compared to how I live my life — “alternate universe” was an apt description. I’m an outsider there, just like how I’m an outsider here in my current home on the elbow of California, in this godless socialist Republican spiritualist name-brand-coveting organic-spa-loving $90,000-car-driving P90X-doing gluten-free botox-addicted hippie earth mother paradise.
Oh, hey, there I go making sweeping (and contradictory!) generalizations again.
I’ve long envied people who are settled, and who know where they belong. It seems like it answers a lot of questions, you know? Questions about who you are, for example. Questions about what meaning and purpose your life should hold. But maybe that’s entirely my flawed perception. Maybe my modes of self-identification are askew. Maybe no one ever really belongs to any one place, and I should just shut up and stop trying to make any sense of it.
Yet here I stay. Stuck somewhere beween the forgettable flyover states and the elitist coasts. Somewhere between my blue collar roots and my middle class lifestyle. Somewhere between pride for where my family came from and the cold, guilty knowledge that I could never live there.
Maybe there is no city or region in the world that feels right — that feels like belonging. Maybe just going where you need to go, doing what you need to do, and surrounding yourself with good people is enough. Maybe “belonging” is more of a state of mind than any one place or person.
Yeah. I like this. I think I’ll stick with this explanation for now.
What about you. Do you ever grapple with similar stuff? Have you ever felt settled, or are you still searching?
1 For the intent and purpose of this post, “Michigan” is defined as “the rural sector located at the tip of the state’s peninsula, surrounded by Lake Huron.”
Hi, guys. Hi. I don’t normally like to do this, because I feel like we’re inundated with appeals to donate to various organizations from every angle. But you’ve got to pimp the causes that are important to you, right?
Take Steps for Crohn’s & Colitis
One of my best ladies, and a wedding brigadier to boot, has a sister with Crohn’s disease. She and her fiance dedicated themselves to raising money for and participating in the Take Steps for Crohn’s & Colitis Walk this Sunday, May 22. As of this writing, they are $210 behind goal.
If you’re feeling generous today, will you consider chipping in a little change? Donations can be made here:
Dishing for Dana
And if you have any extra money to spare, please consider donating to the Broke-Ass-Bride’s Dishing For Dana fundraiser. I know a lot of us circulate around each other’s blogs, and many of you already know about this massive effort to help Dana with her medical bills. Those who don’t can learn more here.
To be quite honest with you, I’m fairly broke. We are broke. The beau and I have been doing a lot of paycheck-to-paycheck living, and my paycheck only arrives once per month. I put off talking about Dana’s cause here until I was able to make a donation, which I did today when that glorious and long-awaited check arrived.
Even though I’m late to the party, it still helps. Everything does. You can contribute here.
And even if your pockets are empty right now, thanks for simply reading. The thing that most rocks about writing this blog, I think, is being a part of a community of people who care. Period.
I feel I owe you an explanation for my almost-sorta-three-weeks of blog silence. So, here it is:
Aw, shit. I was trying to come up with something really good, like I fell into the center of the world’s largest cream-filled doughnut and it took me three weeks to eat my way out. Or maybe I’ve just been busy during the hockey playoffs filling in as a Canucks Green Man.
The real explanation is something like this: I went to Michigan and then a bunch of life happened. I wasn’t hair-pullingly stressed out; I was just trying to Get Stuff Done. Unfortunately that “stuff” didn’t include writing anything that wasn’t an email to my boss. Or a list of things to do. What’s more, I didn’t really feel like writing. I felt like I had nothing to say. What I was supposed to say?
“Dear blog: Sometimes I go to eat certain kinds of sushi and I feel this guilty tug at the back of my mind because of overfishing, sustainability, and environmental concerns. Then another voice always pipes in and is like, well, in that case, I should go ahead and eat all this sushi now before it’s gone forever. This voice always wins because I am an evil person with a black heart of doom.”
“Dear blog: I sincerely regret my choice of underwear today.”
“Dear blog: I could stare at the album cover for Stankonia all day long. What do you think it would take to get Outkast’s André 3000 to come out of hiding and make another album so he could perhaps be inspired to take his shirt off again?”
“Dear blog: The other week I was at my friend’s house drinking tequila and another friend was like OH MY GOD WE’RE MISSING AMERICAN IDOL and she turned on the T.V. and so I ended up watching, like, 20 minutes of American Idol for the first time ever, and my takeaway from this experience is 1) Why would J.Lo ever wear saggy-ass pants during a performance, that is like traveling thousands of miles to see the Grand Canyon and discovering it’s been completely filled in; and 2) Everyone cries all the time.”
“Dear blog: I take great delight in referring to Facebook as ‘Facefuck.’”
This is why I don’t write during these periods of time.
Let’s see. What else have I been doing outside of pathetic attempts at self-improvement?
- I made this poster for Harvey Milk Day! I drew Harvey by hand in Illustrator and I am incredibly happy about how he turned out.
- The day I got back from Michigan, I drove myself to urgent care to see about a giant swollen lump adjacent to my right armpit. Boy, you should have seen the look on the nurse’s face when she asked me what I came in for and I pulled back my sweater to show her! Turns out it was an inflamed sebaceous cyst and I had to have it removed right there. The doctor took a strange delight in showing me what he was pulling out of that thing. “This is the cyst wall!” he crowed with glee, balancing something that looked like tapioca pearls atop of his scalpel. I still owe the medical center $155 for the privilege of having that much fun.
- THEN, the nail on my big toe suddenly fell off. I KNOW, RIGHT? But get this: I already had a new toenail halfway grown in underneath! My body has been magically doing things I didn’t even know about!
- I’m thinking about changing how I refer to the beau on this blog. After all, he’s not really a “beau” anymore, per se. But I still don’t want to use his real name. I’m considering calling him “Nick.” Thoughts?
- I am getting so insanely excited about this blog’s impending redesign that I am about ready to throw up. Not the bad kind of throwing up, of course. I’m talking about the kind where you open your mouth and only glitter and rainbows and happy faces and exclamation points comes out. Although personally speaking I’ve only had the bad kind, so I wouldn’t really know. But anyway, I’m finally catching up on other stuff to the point where I can maybe carve out some time starting this week! Eek!
Okay, that’s it. I think I’ve covered pretty much everything. I have a couple of posts about Michigan that I started while I was in Michigan and I will probably finish those and post them later this week. Maybe. I’m not promising anything. I’ve also had a bunch of stuff rolling around in the back of my mind about wedding stuff and life goals and social and economic classes and impermanence, so I’m hoping I can figure out a write about those things in a funny yet poignant and meaningful way. Eventually.
In the meantime, I’ll be looking for the world’s largest cream-filled doughnut.
What have you been up to lately?
Lately, I’m trying to be quiet.
Not quiet in the sense of turning the volume way down on NOW That’s What I Call Music vol. 3 and halting my boot-stomping, pot-lid-banging parade around the house. No, I mean quiet in the sense of not talking so damn much.
You see, while I tend to be reserved around strangers, around close friends and lovers I tend to behave like a raving lunatic. I crack bad jokes faster than I can come up with them, I voluntarily disclose embarrassing facts about myself, and I generally do everything within my feeble power for a laugh. And with the beau it’s exponentially worse, because I am around him all the time. I mean, even when we’re busy with separate extracurricular activities — which is often — I can bet that at some point during the day I’ll step into the bathroom and find him brushing his teeth. Or I’ll wander into the kitchen and find him rummaging in the pantry. Or maybe he’ll be standing by the dryer, pantsless, waiting for the creases to get tumbled out of his work khakis. Oh, you. There you are. So we meet again.
When you see the same person every day until the end of time (read: MARRIAGE), it becomes difficult to consistently come up with fresh material. It doesn’t help that my daily life is not interesting enough to reliably generate fascinating topics of conversation. So when I’m with the beau I often resort to simply making shit up. My go-to methods of engagement are:
- Threatening him with divorce
- Threatening to punch him in the face
- Chasing him around the house in an attempt to punch and/or tickle him
- Repeatedly asking him irritating questions to which I already know the answers, like “So, what’s your name?” and “How does it feel to be a Beau Lastname?”1
- Pretending I don’t know him and ordering him out of my house
- Accusing him of contracting a venereal disease
- Replacing the lyrics to popular songs with his name and singing it over and over
- Performing complicated interpretive dances set to aforementioned songs
While all of the above is done entirely in jest, I can bet that when I start to get sick of my jokes, the beau has probably already been fantasizing about pushing me out of the nearest window for a considerable length of time.2
So, I decided to shut up. Outside of normal bounds of communication (i.e.; “Yes,” “No,” and “So, were you just planning on leaving this shit here on the counter for me to clean up?”), I tried to avoid saying anything that wasn’t actually worth saying. I focused solely on bringing up things that would make for meaningful conversation fodder. Which is to say that most of the time I was silent.
For a couple of days, the experiment went pretty spectacularly. One night, the beau even talked for upwards of half an hour about what he lad learned at a work conference, which is remarkable when you consider the fact that he doesn’t talk about anything, ever. I started to wonder if it was just because he’d never been able to get a word in edgewise around my perpetual caterwauling and wacky antics. But then it kind of dropped off from there. I gradually began forgetting about my vow to be quiet, and would sometimes get more than two minutes through making up an inane song about the beau before remembering that I wasn’t supposed to be doing that anymore. Then the beau would take hold of my shoulders and earnestly implore, “No! Don’t stop! I like it when you make up songs about me!” And I would go to punch him, and then we would chase each other around the house as I menaced him with murder.
Seriously, you guys. Fake murder. Stop looking at me like that.
So in the end it all fell apart. I’m not sure there is room in my personality to be sincere, purposeful, and thoughtful all the time. But the test did serve as a strong reminder that I could be better at communicating with my spouse in general. For example, when broaching the subject of household cleanliness in a confrontational and accusatory manner, I learned that it’s helpful to be specific:
WRONG: “So, were you just planning on leaving this shit here on the counter for me to clean up?”
RIGHT: “So, were you just planning on leaving this shit here on the kitchen counter for me to clean up?”
Take notes, friends.
The other thing I’ve been trying to do is be a better listener. I’ve developed a terrible habit of tuning people out when they talk. I first observed it with my mother, which is honestly a little too easy to do. Not that I don’t love and respect the woman, but dear god, she has a knack for getting unnecessarily descriptive about her home decoration plans during our weekly phone calls:
Mom: “So I had a coupon for Kohl’s and I used it to buy towels that were already on sale. I’m going to put them in the powder room. I ended up getting them almost half off, and they are very cute.”
Mom: “I’m thinking about moving the old powder room towels to the basement bathroom, because you know your Dad only uses that one. Of course, I am going to need new towels for the upstairs bathroom, but I’m also thinking of replacing the curtains in there.”
Me [eyes going unfocused]: “Mmm-hmm.”
Mom: “Those curtains are just so old, they were already there when we moved in, and you know I’ve tried to wash them but they’re just at the point where they’re gross. Oh, and I also finally found a mirror to put over that table in the hall, but I’m concerned that the wood color doesn’t really match ….”
Several minutes go by in which I check some work emails, scan my Twitter feed, and occasionally interject an Uh-huh, Oh really, Ah, or Oh yeah? whenever the tone of her voice deems it appropriate. That is, until my brain scans a particular word amongst the chatter that abruptly sends me crashing back into the conversation mid-topic:
Mom: “… The doctor said he had arthritis, and that it probably came from an old dirt bike injury. So your poor dad can’t really use his knee right now. But he’s got another appointment next month, so we’ll see what they say then.”
Me: ARTHRITIS INJURY WHUT!!?!?1/12323402p0ypoqjof~!?
And then I am left frantically backpedaling for more information in a way that somehow does not alert her to the fact that I have not at all been paying attention.
Okay. So I’m not the best daughter sometimes. But I gradually began noticing this not listening trend branching out to my friends. I completely forgot my best lady had a job interview, and then I was surprised to learn she is apparently going on a trip soon to visit my other best lady. What? Huh? This is a person I chat with in Gmail nearly every single day.
And then it started happening with my husband:
Beau: [standing in doorway, staring intently]
Me [looking up from laptop]: “What?”
Beau: “Aren’t you coming?”
Me: “Me? Where?”
Beau: “We have to leave soon.”
Me: “Leave… ?”
Beau: “For the luncheon?”
Me: “… Luncheon?”
Beau [through gritted teeth]: “The luncheon ceremony? The ceremony in which I’m accepting a Pulitzer Prize?”
Me: “You’re… being awarded a Pulitzer Prize?”
I’m bad. Really bad.
But, hey. At least I’m trying?
What’s new with you? What are you trying to do?
1 See why I decided to keep my name? Can you imagine the endless Who’s-On-First?-type hilarity that would ensue if I took “Lastname” as my last name?
Faceless Drone at Government Bureau: “First name?”
FDaGB: “Last name?”
FDaGB (narrows eyes expectantly): “Yes?”
FDaGB (sternly): “Your last name, please?”
Me: “I told you, Lastname.”
I mean, I’m a fan of alliteration and all (“Lyn Lastname” is super cute!), but damn, son.
2 And this is precisely why I insisted upon renting a one-story home.