I don’t care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members. ~ Groucho Marx That be me. OK I’ll make one tiny exception which would be when I was a dancer in my younger days. However, other than that, I start to cringe whenever there’s an invitation to a ‘social group’ or ‘club’ or ‘team’ . Ugh! Groupthink. Come be like us, be one of us.
Is it a commitment thing? Is it a stubborn thing? I think it’s more just the fact that it’s a big group of people agreeing perfectly, which makes me roll my eyes. Cynic? No, actually I’m not. Realist? Hell yeah. Too many people agree just to get along, to feel like they fit in, to be somewhat accepted. Maybe it’s because I’ve stuck out like a sore thumb wherever I go. So when I get those invitations, I try to be sensitive to feelings and not show myself cringing, because to say ‘you know, as soon as you have me as a member you’ll wish you hadn’t’.
The other day my boss was talking to our department about customer service, a topic I’d asked him for a long time to focus on so that there was less ‘that’s not my job’ and more ‘it’s not about me, it’s about taking care of business and pleasing the customer’ (which in my world, is twofold – the hiring managers i recruit for and the job applicants i shepherd through the process). He discussed the idea that kids are more apt to try new things because they haven’t been shot down (yet) and that adults are much less likely because they fear rejection, failure, mockery, etc. So I guess I’m looking at the world through a younger lens, as I’ve failed enough in my life where it just doesn’t matter anymore. I am a more sensitive and tactful person than when I was younger, but I haven’t in turn let myself be stifled or intimidated based on the person or situation or what-n0t. As I heard in a movie once, ‘he’s just as full of shit as the next guy’.
Anyhow, why do I bring all of this up? Little thing, actually. I was invited to a BBQ this afternoon by a friend. Thinking this was a little shindig at a friend’s house, I accepted. To find out this morning that it was a social networking group function, that I had to pay a $10 cover, and that the group refers to my age group as ‘fabulous’, and that even though I pay I’m still expected to both BYOB *and* bring a side dish? The thought of a giant group of unknowns paying to spend time with each other because we’re in the same age range… I don’t know, it feels like work. I’m a recruiter by day and have to be ‘on’ and on the weekends I don’t feel like being ‘on’. If I want to drink and curse and dance and laugh too loud, I want to do it in a diverse group where I’m expecting a surprise or two along the way. Call me judgmental, I guess it’s just if I’m ever in a situation where it has to do with categorizing myself, it makes me skin crawl. There’s my father’s DNA in me right there. The reason folks laugh is because he was and I am very social in many ways. But be damned if we’ll be called X, Y, or Z.
So you mix that mentality of mine with a smattering of PMS and you have a girl who would really just rather lay in the chaise lounge in the backyard with a book this afternoon, breathing in the world but not feeling any pressure to engage. Days like this I can sit in the yard with my big knife and garden gloves and pull weeds for hours, crawl under a cool sheet and take a nap in the middle of the day, or turn on a movie and ‘waste a perfectly good day’ (as many moms would say), or….oh wait i have no partner in crime right now to talk about what else i’d rather be doing than being a social butterfly.
So what am I going to do with my afternoon as I sit out here on the deck and type? I’m going to get on my bicycle, I’m going to buy some new garden gloves (the fingertips of mine are blown out), drop off my bicycle at the local fella’ s shop around the corner for a tuneup, and then turn up the ipod and well, do nothing at all. or something. it doesn’t matter. i have a scheduled life 40 hours a week, so in the rest of my time i would rather figure it out as i go along.
I’ve been thinking about the next time I have a vacation and what I want it to look like. I have friends in the South and the Midwest and even Puerto Rico, and while I’d love to financially handle seeing all of them, I feel if I choose then I still miss out, and with the choice of visiting a friend in any of those places comes the fact that it’s a visit to see a friend (duh), which for me is half of a vacation. When I use the word vacation it’s something very specific for me – it’s going far away, it’s doing whatever strikes me, with no obligation and total relaxation.
When I was 18 I rented a car for two weeks and, well, just drove. I ended up going the length of the Oregon Coast. The first day I went to my little mecca and stripped down and went into the ocean and I was free. By the end of the first day I’d met a terribly cute Canadian in a wetsuit on that beach. ( We fell madly in love for the rest of that year.) I learned to ride on the back of a motorcycle and camped out for a few days with him and his friends, and then left him to go into the mountains and spend time with my then 5 year old sisters in Colorado.
When I went to Paris at 25, I just booked a tiny room in the center of town…no giant list of to-do’s, and with exception of grabbing a bus over to Versailles (where I promptly escaped the palace and fell in love with eating strawberry glace and walking down country roads around it instead), i found the best of my times spent writing on the Pont Neuf and drinking red wine in cafes and getting lost in the flower market on the Ile de Cite. What disappointed me? The Eifel Tower (crowded). The Louvre (boring). What moved me? Caprese and my journal in the gardens at Rodin and the statue of The Lovers. Drinking wine and kissing a cute boy I’d met at a cafe and walking along the canal. Getting lost down a narrow street and finding a tiny lingerie shop and an old lady who took very good care of me (I still have the dark red…oops never mind). Paris always reminded me of an older Portland – split down the middle by a river, like here, I never was lost, always was comfortable, and was treated beautifully. (and no, I don’t speak a word of it beyond the necessities). It changed me forever, as it made me brave and for some reason, when I came back, nothing was the same. I remember the boy I had been dating didn’t even quite know what to do with me. Six months later I was married. (I know how did THAT happen?).
When I went to Barra de Potosi south of Zihuatanejo at 34, again I booked the room and nothing else. I curled up in the hammock on the balcony outside my room, I swam in the ocean every morning and every evening, I took a thousand photographs, read at least five books, and was barefoot in the sand, eating fresh camarones al ajillo, lobster diablo, etc, and drinking Pacificos with lime. I heard the music and absorbed the heat and let everything go. I had open wounds following the death of my father and wrote a book’s worth. I had just started blogging so wasn’t brave to publicize all of my pain quite yet, but had begun on the road. While at Casa Frida, I was fed fresh mango and papaya each morning and a margarita every night. Guests came and went and I met a couple on the last few days who very much understood. They came to Portland once and we had lunch and it was like exhaling.
Finding someone you can travel with is a beautiful thing. Most of my female friends I am confident I would not be able to do that with – you know how many women are, go-go-go, plan-plan-plan, hit-this-spot, hit-that-spot. I just want to eat and drink and explore and if I want to spend one day taking a long nap in the sun, that’s what I’ll do. If we want to split up one day and do our own thing, that’s what we’ll do. It’s a chill thing.
Why have I not mentioned vacations during my marriage? Let’s see. Honeymoon was in Jamaica. My Irish-blooded husband thought he’d skip the sunscreen and ‘build a base tan’. Needless to say he was covered in 2nd degree burns over most of his body by day two and in pain most of the time. Even better? When they asked if there were any newlyweds in the crowd to come up for a slow dance, he wouldn’t. Shoulda known then right? There was a nice moment or two – horseback riding into the mountains to see the old sugar and rum plantations, and escaping the compound to a little bar for the best fresh fruit daiquiri of my life (promptly followed when I got home by the worst food poisoning of my life). But overall, not good. Anywhere else, you ask? He never took me away for the weekends. If we went anywhere, it was my idea, my dime, my planning. I’m a pretty simple girl who just needs someone to surprise me once in a while – not all that candlelight and roses stuff, rather something like ‘clear your calendar honey, today i’m going to take you into the country’ or ‘it’s your birthday, i’ve rented us a tiny little cottage by the ocean to hole up in for the weekend so we can walk on the beach with our dog and sleep late’. It will happen as it should, I know.
But in the meantime, I think of where I shall go next. A few know, but I’m still piecing it together. It involves a pilgrimage I’ve wanted to make for many many years, and seeing an old friend, and maybe even a new friend. I know it involves eating, drinking, and laughing. I am positive there is ocean and mountains and air in the mix. And rest assured, there will be lots of doing whatever and being wherever feels right.