Monday, November 24, 2008

Twilight, Oh, Obsessive Love

Saturday I saw Twilight with my friend and her twelve year old daughter. Because you know, I read the same books as pre-teen girls. Whatever. In case you live under a rock and have not heard of Twilight, it’s a wildly popular series of teen vampire novels.

Here’s the story in a nutshell. Girl moves to really crappy town in her junior year of high school. Girl falls for ridiculously good looking vampire boy. Vampire boy falls for girl (whose blood smells uncommonly yummy to him) but he’s conflicted because he could like, inadvertently crush her during one of their make out sessions.

The first book was a long, controlled, slow burn of desire. I felt physically relieved when Bella and Edward finally kissed. I took a cold shower and wondered, where were the hot vampire boys when I moved across the country my junior year of high school?

Twilight is a great love story even if I did find myself cringing a lot at how obsessed Bella is with Edward. Maybe I cringed because as an adult looking back, I can see that I was nearly as obsessed with my first boyfriend. I am sure my parents wanted to gag because looking back, I want to gag too. I had a collection of little framed photos of him that I kept by my bedside and when adults asked about my boyfriend, I excitedly ran up to my room, brought down my portable shrine, and arranged it on the kitchen table for show and tell. Ugh. Gag me (with a spoon).

But it was exhilarating. I know now that who broke up with who or who said what to so and so after math class or who has a crush on who even though their best friend had a crush on them first is inconsequential, but back then, these things were THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE. Wars, presidential elections, financial crises took a back seat to whether Josh answered the note you left in his locker after fourth period. (Like, OH MY GOD he totally DIDN’T! What an ASS-wipe!... Let’s call him on three-way.)

Twilight (the book) captured the urgency and mystery of the new feeling of falling for someone. As for the movie, well, let’s just say that for two hours I alternated between an eyeroll, a smirk, and a skeptical face. Mostly because the heartfelt (or teenfelt) lines from the book came out empty on the screen without a believeable attraction to back them up. Edward walked around with a constantly furrowed brow (to show us his conflict). And the film was peppered with super corny, seriously cringe-worthy scenes (see slo-mo Vampire baseball).

I don’t know, maybe there is something to be learned from Edward and Bella. Maybe our adult relationships could stand a tiny dose of YOU ARE MY EVERYTHING (just a bit though, I mean really there's laundry, dishes, all sorts of things that need to get done as soon as the couch make out session is over).

For a real dose of reality, it would be interesting to see the movie of Bella and Edward on their fifth wedding anniversary when they went to Ikea and Bella yelled at an old woman who snapped at Edward for moving too slow. Oh wait, that’s part of my love story…which I’ll tell you about later….

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Lunch Lady's Daughter

Last week was my thirty-first birthday. As always, my mom called around noon and reminded me that I was born, “Just in time for lunch.”

She also told me another story, one I’ve heard many times before, but this year I can’t stop thinking about it. Mom has always joked that the lunch lady wanted me. See when I was cooking in my mom’s belly, she was still a high school senior who pushed a plastic orange tray through a lunch line to get food every day.

As the legend goes, each day this particular lunch lady (whom I’ve just named May in my head) told my mom, “If you don’t want that baby, I’ll take it!”

Growing up, the lunch lady was something of a joke, as in, “If you come home puking vodka one more time, I’m going to call up that lunch lady and see if the offer still stands.”

When my mom told the story this year she said, “No really, the lunch lady really wanted to keep you. It got a little creepy actually. I had to switch lunch lines.”

I couldn’t help but think of my previous blog entry (Excuse me, Are You Going to Raise that Baby?) as it dawned on me that the creepy lunch lady could be me. Because if I worked in a high school I guarantee you I would be stalking the lockers of every pregnant girl around. Possibly even the ones I merely suspected were sexually active (Pssst, hey girls, over here, if you get knocked up, here’s my card! Call me….seriously.)

It’s strange to think that the course of my life was hinged on the whim of a seventeen year old girl. A simple decision could have cast me in an entirely different role in life. Named and raised by the high school lunch lady, I could have been anyone. Maybe I’d be Margie the Seamstress, Paula the Pediatrician, Chrystal the Crack Whore. All my mom had to do was say, “This is too much to handle,” and I would have been whisked off to a land of stainless steel counter tops, hair nets and large bins of macaroni salad. (The super-secret tater tot recipe would be my birth right).

But my mom didn’t give me to May. Honestly, the decision is still a mystery to me. Put in the same situation, there’s NO WAY I would have had me. I would have begged and stolen and hitchhiked my way to the abortion clinic and if that didn’t work I would have auctioned me off to whatever school service employee was interested.

Not my mom though, whatever her reasons, she kept me and despite some rocky times for both of us, things have turned out pretty well. Neither of us have ever been in jail. I am not currently addicted to crack or having sex for money, I bathe on a regular basis and never call people after nine on a school night. All in all I’d say my mom fulfilled her requirements as a parent.

Would May have done the same? I don’t know. I’ve always imagined May the Lunch Lady as kind of a weirdo. But now that I want a baby and can’t have one, I understand her. I have a strange desire to move across time and space to comfort her. I know the heartache of wanting something you can’t have. It must have been devastating to want a child and watch this young girl, a child herself really, passing in front of her eyes every day at noon.

When I think about it, May did contribute to my existence. She provided my mom with essential sustenance in the form of heaping piles of canned green beans and macaroni and cheese. Maybe in some way I was aware of her.

Now when I think of being born just in time for lunch, I think I was giving a nod to May the Lunch Lady. As if to say, “Maybe I wasn’t meant to be with you, but don’t worry, your baby will come down the line eventually. Also, thanks for all the tater tots.”

(P.S. Obviously my mom deserves double helpings of props for squatting me out, hauling my ass around, cleaning up aforementioned vodka puke and generally doling out greasy, buttery lovin' for thirty-one years.)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Me llamo Stephanie

I finally did it. I signed up for Spanish class. Every year I look at the book and every year the class is on a night of the week I have regular meetings. But this year, miraculously, my Wednesdays were relatively clear.

Before I went I was a little nervous. I haven’t taken a beginning language class since middle school. There were three choices back then. Those of us who imagined we would one day enjoy a baguette and a glass of merlot in the shadow of the Eiffel tower, signed up for French. Those who were more practical and who wanted to, oh I don’t know, talk to actual people who spoke the language they were learning, took Spanish. And those who wanted to buck the entire system took German.

Seeing as how my family roots lie in French Canada, I saw it as my duty to my ancestors to learn French. But years later, all this amounts to is an occasional crossword clue and knowing how to correctly pronounce the titles of the French movies that play at the Hippodrome.

Spanish is a much more useful language. Most members of my husband’s family speak Spanish and my dream is to attend family events and be able to understand toasts and wedding vows. Also, thanks to Danny’s family I have plenty of people to practice (and embarrass myself) with. Because embarrassing yourself is an integral part of the language learning process. Like walking up to a French woman and saying, “I like your socks!” when you really mean glasses.

My class is held in a local middle school. It started out pretty simple, but by the end of our two hour session I wanted TO KILL MYSELF.

Our venezualan teacher was moving her way through vowel sounds. This is what "a" sounds like etc. We moved on to the consonants and were half way through she asked, Hay Preguntas? (Any Questions?)

A woman raised her hand, “Yes, how do you say sky blue? You know like the paint color at Lowes?”

The teacher looked confused, but answered the question. I gave this woman the benefit of the doubt, maybe she couldn’t wait until later for this information because later that night she was flying to Madrid to paint a house. Who knows?

After the alphabet, we learned some simple phrases. Starting with, “Como se llama?” (What is your name?) We practiced it a couple times and were about to move on to the next phrase when the teacher asked, Hay Preguntas?

Now, most people would think that the question “What is your name?” is pretty straightforward. Those people would be wrong. According to my new classmates, the phrase has infinite and sundry interpretations. A lesson that should have taken ten minutes dragged on for forty-five as people asked questions like:

Which name are you asking for? My full name or my nick name? Should I also say my middle name? How do I ask someone for their last name? Do you mean my name as it would appear on a job application? Or what my mother calls me? My name is Ed. But my full name is Edward John Clancey the III, should I give that name to the person asking? Or just say Ed?

The teacher was, understandably, a bit perturbed. She kept trying to explain a concept that any five year old would have gotten immeadiately. “The question is just, what is your name.”

It didn’t stop there. One man asked, “Wait, so you’re asking for the number?”

Again, the teacher looked confused. I could feel her wondering, are these people smoking crack laced with loco juice? “Noooooo,” she said slowly, “this question is asking someone their name. That’s it. If it’s a job you can give your full name if you want. But if it’s like, your neighbor asking your name, just say your name.”

The class was still skeptical, but we moved on. I was happy when we didn’t cover more deeply philosophical questions as “What is the meaning of life?” or “What is love?” Because if we had I might have shot someone.

For next week we’re supposed to bring in two words or a phrase we looked up, something we might use in class. I think mine’s gonna be, “Can it assholes. I’m trying to learn Spanish.”