2016 Was NOT the Worst Year Ever

With only two more days left in 2016, ’tis the season for everyone to bitch about how awful this year has been… and I do mean everyone. Whether you bought your first home, got your dream job, or finally conceived a child after struggling with infertility for years, social media dictates that you must spend the next two days wailing about the cruelty of 2016, usually in conjunction with the death of a long forgotten celebrity.

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I, however, love New Year’s. Like birthdays, New Year’s provides an opportunity for reflection… which is basically receiving a grade, and that’s my favorite.

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A year ago, I had been dating Jake for six months, was excitedly preparing for my first day as a supervisory librarian at the Northside Library and dreaming of getting a cat after  I moved from Shetland to be closer to work. I was struggling financially, having worked as a half time librarian while substitute teaching for so long, and was still relying on the health insurance that is prayer. I was excited about all the major life changes that would come in 2016… and change things did. While I’m not so heartbroken by the death of Debbie Reynolds and Prince as to lament of the despair of this past year, I will admit that the amount of change has been a bit… overwhelming.

It all started with my new job and its surprise levels of management. As I adjusted to the demands of full time supervisory work in a new library with new people, Jake worked two weeks on and two weeks off… and then two weeks on and one week off. We made the best of the time we had together, going skiing and seeing movies… growing closer and beginning to discuss marriage. When I realized moving wouldn’t be worth the time it would save, my commute increased to about 35 minutes each way… but I still got my kitten. Thackery Binx weighed a half pound the day he joined the family and he has brought nothing but joy. Jude loves the company of his brother and even Jake likes him. Though he won’t openly admit it, I’m pretty sure he wants several more.

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By fall, I’d decided to step down from management and Jake had agreed to quit oil. I never saw him. He’d been demoted and his pay had been cut numerous times. I wasn’t game for being the oil wife, enjoying manicures and designer handbags to take her mind off the fact that she’s mostly alone. So, as the holidays neared, I chased a new dream and worked to control my nerves over Jake’s unemployment, reminding myself that he’s hard working and good and not my ex-husband who refused to hold a job for four years. In the meantime, Jake spent his weekdays on the Granger Ranch, working cattle for $100 a day and I spent mine crying in my office over how much I hated my job… simultaneously counting the days until the weekend, when I could see Jake again.

Despite all this upheaval, on November 20th, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, Jake asked me to marry him, just days after I’d accepted a voluntary demotion and transfer to the Jackson Library. We could’ve waited until Jake had the perfect position and we’d relocated to Jackson, but why waste time, when we could move forward with our lives? We enjoyed our first Thanksgiving and Christmas together, since we refused to join our holidays until we were committed.

For me, this was my last Single Girl Christmas. I’ll say goodbye to my pink tree and purple glitter bulbs forever, when I put all my décor away in a few short hours. It’ll be the first of many bittersweet goodbyes as I bind my life to Jake’s on May 6, 2017. I’ll leave my little apartment, the first place I ever felt truly safe as an adult… my hometown of Shetland, where I spent my teenage nights driving around with Gaily… my maiden name and my identity as Just Belle… the time in my life where the only decisions that effected me were my own. While 2016 has been a year of change, 2017 will put it to shame as I become Belle Granger, wife of Jake, and resident of Jackson. I’ll celebrate my 30th birthday, and happily so, having accomplished nearly everything I’d planned by such a big date.

So for me, 2016 was a stepping stone to all the great things 2017 will bring… and I am so excited.

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Looking Back: The Men I Didn’t Date in 2013

Today, my Facebook newsfeed, like many others’, is equally filled with photos of newly healthy meals and bitching because the gyms are crowded. I, myself, am a goal-oriented person. I set goals weekly, so it would just be poor characterization if I missed an opportunity to set them annually. This year, I’m keeping it simple with the following five:

1. Perform more service work. Dedicate a minimum of one day, per month, to helping someone else.
2. Attend church more consistently… and punctually.
3. Swear less… or more creatively, by cutting back on the more universally unacceptable words.
4. Lose twenty pounds… because it’s New Year’s and you have to choose a cliche.

and finally…

5. Put some actual and legitimate effort into dating.

Numbers 1, 2, and 4 have clear guidelines. They’re pretty attainable. Let’s face it though; in regards to number 3, “suck my dick” is a pretty universally unacceptable phrase, from a woman. It’s likelier that I’ll lose twenty pounds by next Tuesday than it is that I’ll suddenly be a Sesame Street extra. I do, however, tend to mix dorky Disney-worthy swears with the worst ones in my vocabulary.

Me: “Zetus lapetus! Fuck. Do you think it’s been long enough since Zenon: Girl of the Twenty-First Century for me to use that?”
Gail: 

So, I’m half there. Which brings me to number 5.

2013 was a year of sporadic dating, vacillating between the two extremes of “I CAN FEEL MY EGGS ROTTING INSIDE OF ME!” to “My next wedding will take place ON A SNOW-COVERED MOUNTAINTOP IN HELL!”

burning wedding dress

Before I got my promotion to librarian, I really hadn’t been dating at all. Sure, I claimed to be putting in effort, but I just didn’t have the time, between finishing graduate school and rocking in a corner, chewing on my own hair. I went on a couple of dates, but that’s about it. So, this year, I’m going for consistency. For the past couple of months, I’ve really had no interest in meeting anyone, because the holidays are busy for losers who crochet their own Christmas presents; and every single guy who tells me Christmas Vacation is hilarious, is just plain wrong. I feel like, if I’d hit the dating scene with half the vigor I hit that bottle of bourbon on New Year’s Eve with Gail and Terry, I’d be madly in love in no time.

::drunkenly discussing Charlie Hunnam::
Terry: “He’s okay looking, I guess. He looks like…”
Me: “Like he fell from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? I know. I would give that man a rim job in front of my grandma. Admit it. You would totally go gay for him.”

Facebook status New Year’s Eve 2013:
Let’s get CRUNK! It stands for crocheting while drunk. 

Note to self: don’t drink on any future dates.

In my defense, however, it’s not like the prospects have been great, lately. In fact, I’ll treat you to some of the guys I didn’t date this year.

Aerospace
I’ve briefly mentioned Aerospace in previous entries. He was 27, educated, enjoyed his big boy job, and never sent me a penis picture. He seemed promising through text message… for six weeks. After three, even I had decided it was time to be a little forward. I mean, I didn’t actually ask him to meet me, because I don’t posses my very own set of testicles, but I did ask what his normal time constraints were. When Aerospace said he usually talks to someone for about a month, before meeting, I decided to give it a bit longer. He regularly messaged first and encouraged conversation. He seemed interested. During week six, however, I was just tired of receiving news of how his day went, when I’d never even met him and he was showing no inclination to change that. If I’m not worth meeting, fine. Find someone who is, because I’m not looking for a fucking pen pal. I’m not your chat buddy, when there’s nothing on TV. Suck my big fat furry dick.


There goes number 3.

Clingy Catholic Engineer… because there was already a Catholic Engineer
If Jane were not an engineer, I would seriously be judging this entire profession. It seems every engineer I’ve dated is batshit. CCE was a year or so younger than I, and after having discussed that issue with Jane, I decided to give him a chance. We messaged for a couple of days online, before trading numbers. The next day, after quite a bit of text messaging, I didn’t respond after work, because I was working out. We’d been texting all day, and I’d messaged on my break, to tell him why I couldn’t talk, so I figured that was fair. The next morning, I woke up at seven o’clock to…

I hope I didn’t do anything wrong. 

The voice of Gail sounded in my head and it was stronger than my fight or flight response, so I kept chatting with him. At one point, he asked me to send him pictures. I wasn’t sure what kind he meant, and I’m thinking that was the point, to allow for my own creativity. I told him there were current photos online and I wasn’t sending more, but I was a little creeped out by the vague request, coupled with his… enthusiasm. Then, the next evening I got home from work, after having traded a few messages…

CCE: You make it home okay?
Me: Yeah. I have a friend coming over. We’re going to hang out and watch Netflix.
CCE: Ah. Sounds fun.
CCE: You still want to talk, right?
Me: Sure. Just not right now, since I’m about to have company.
:: two hours later ::
CCE: Watching the game?
Me: Nope. Watching Netflix with a friend.
CCE: Oh. A marathon. Cool! Watcha watchin?

First, aside from the obvious issue of clinginess, who has someone over for less than two hours? That’s not a thing. Second, “Nope. Watching Netflix with a friend.” was a nice way of saying I was busy, he knew that, and he needed to leave me alone. That was his chance to feign forgetfulness and apologize. Still, I heard Gail telling me to give him a chance… until the next night.

CCE: You wanna watch the game and maybe have dinner tomorrow night? 
– dude, you’re coming on strong right now and that’s several hours together, making it super awkward if I’m still not feeling it –
Me: I’m cool with meeting, but why don’t we do something low-key, like coffee?
CCE: Coffee Sunday sounds great!
– okay, he’s receptive to just coffee; good sign –
Me: How about Monday, since the weather is supposed to be bad on Sunday?
CCE: Sure. We can work out the details then.
– whew… I really was reading into things –
Me: I’m disappointed by the weather. I really don’t want to miss Mass again.
CCE: Oh! We could go to Mass together. 

… aaaaand scene. I tried. I did. But the guy asked me to meet him at the chapel. Fine. I’m intentionally wording it dramatically, but we had only been chatting for a few days and he wanted to meet at church, after I’d told him dinner was too much? Dude, calm down, you are making women uncomfortable. I sent him a text telling him that he seemed to want something much more serious, much more quickly and that I wasn’t interested in meeting. Then I spammed his number. Later, I saw he’d responded, but didn’t read it past the “Okaaay. You said…” There was nothing to say. He made me uncomfortable. It wasn’t happening. A week later, I got a “Hey, how are you?” message in my inbox, like we’d never had the “thanks, but no thanks” conversation at all. Um… no.

Kinda Sorta Catholic
KSC and I had been messaging on and off for awhile. I don’t think either one of us saw the other as a real prospect, but we couldn’t pinpoint a reason to blow each other off. We’d each send an “Oh, sorry I didn’t get back to you… blah, blah, blah” type of message every 10 days or so and try to pick things up again, over the course of a couple of months. He had a real job and his profile said he was Catholic, so despite the mutual lack of interest, I decided to give him a chance when he gave me his number. Naturally, since his common religion was a main appeal, I brought it up.

KSC: I’m Catholic because my dad was. The topic of religion is a fun one for me, but I’m not sure where I stand. I think it’s really personal and those beliefs are private.

Um… well, for one, if you’re Catholic, because your dad is, you’re not really Catholic. Unless you go to Mass and receive Reconciliation and Communion and all that jazz, the Catholic Church does not consider you a practicing Catholic. That’s fine and all, but know where you stand. Two, if we’re talking about dating, I think it’s a fair question to ask what someone’s general beliefs are. I didn’t sick the Quizmaster on the guy. Finally, if this is a “fun” topic for you, why are you being such a little bitch about it?

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The Quizmaster. My dated references are downright nostalgic.

We continued to chat, and KSC asked to meet at the cowboy bar the next night. Okay, I’ve told ya’ll stories about the cowboy bar. One involved Gaily nearly being dragged forcibly to the parking lot and the other involved damned near nudity on the Saturday before Halloween. This bar can be fun in the summer, with the right crowd and attitude, but it’s pretty sketchy. I told my dad that I’d let Woody Harrelson “stick it in my ear” and he laughed, but the man doesn’t want to hear stories about the cowboy bar. People get raped there.

Me: I really don’t like the cowboy bar.
KSC: 😦 Oh. Well, what do you like, then?
Me: It’s not even that I don’t like the cowboy bar, really, but that I just feel like it’s a really sketchy place for a first meeting.
KSC: Oh. Well, I see it differently, but that’s okay.
Me: I’m also a woman. I have to be more careful.

We made vague plans to meet for coffee and then neither of us ever talked to the other again. That’s fine by me. If Jesus gives you the heebie jeebies, but meeting a stranger at a place I recently described as “a little rapey” doesn’t, this is what I picture…

Just… ew. 
I opened the new year with this gem, from a guy I messaged a few weeks ago, but who didn’t really return a lot of interest.

Ew: I’m gonna throw this out there and hope I don’t scare you off. Would you be interested in coming over to my place and having some fun? I guarantee you will have fun.
Me: If you’re “looking for a real relationship,” you should probably keep the hook-up pleas to a minimum.
Ew: I am looking for a real relationship. I still would like to have fun though. I’m not a bad dude I just figured I’d take a chance and ask you.

Um… no. You’re not looking for a real relationship if you’re comfortable with being seen as that guy who begs for sex online, because no one looking for a real relationship will respond. His profile opened with talk about wanting to settle down. If that’s how he puts up a white picket fence, I’ll pass.

Holy shit, we’re grown-ups.

This New Year’s Eve, Gail and I rented a motel room in a town about an hour away, took a cab to one of the many popular casinos in the state, gambled the penny slots all night, lost more money than we made, ate quesadillas as the clock struck midnight, drank too much, and took a cab back to the motel.

Me: “‘Motel 6: We’ll leave the light on for you… but that’s about it.'”
Gail: looking around at the sketchy parking lot “‘Motel 6: It’s well lit… thankfully.’ We probably shouldn’t keep insulting it once they can hear us.”

motel 6 room

Me: “Ew. Someone’s been raped in this room.”

swill

Pre-drinking Smirnoff Apple and orange soda.

“Gail, the phrase is ‘apples and oranges’, because they don’t go together. This tastes like acid and urine.”

Throughout the night, as we gambled and drank, I recorded the quotes that made us giggle like maniacs in my phone.

My drunken lamenting over not understanding the appeal of gambling:
Me: “Gambling is gay.”
Gail: “You probably shouldn’t use that as an insult in public.”
Me: “It’s not my fault they’re gambling.”
Gail: “That’s not…”

Gail drunkenly complaining that we had to wait for the cab instead of being able to take the shuttle:
Gail: “We should’ve stayed at the Holiday Inn. They have a… a… thing.”
Me: “That’s great. You should be their spokesperson.”

I have no idea.
Me: “He could’ve gone home, looked in the mirror, and preened like a peacock.”

In the night, we slept on the Flinstone beds (slabs of rock) with our own personal blankets, because motel blankets are covered in semen and tears. I woke several times to down water and ibuprofen and call the desk to ask what time we had to be out, not that there was a credit card on file, because we paid in cash… like hookers.

Gail: “You know what’s awesome? We used our own money, rented a motel room out of town, took a cab to the casino, and gambled all night.”

I was more blunt with the same sentiment as I did my makeup.

Me: “Holy shit, we’re grown-ups.”

When Gail and I became friends, we were 15-year-old virgins, who couldn’t drive, or hold jobs, had never had a date or a first kiss. She used to make fun of me for loving the show Lizzie Maguire while we played old school Super Nintendo in her little sister’s bedroom floor. Growing up, everyone acts like you’ll just become an adult at a specific age or a particular milestone. So Gail and I each turned 18, moved out of our parents’ houses, got married, got pregnant… and it still never happened. Maybe that’s because we sucked at all of those things, constantly struggling. Three years ago, I was living in a motel, imagining the death of my ex-husband, through no intervention of my own, because that would allow me to be free of him. Gail was pretty much doing the same thing, only the sweeter version where he just leaves. Being an adult, or at least our version of it, sucked and we just felt like abandoned children, both having had no choice but to strike out on our own the second we graduated high school.

Then, we sold our wedding rings together, started dating, rented our first places of our very own with no one else’s name on the lease, put the bills in our own names, started our careers at entry level positions and…

holy shit, we’re grown-ups.

Being an adult is awesome now. My childhood wasn’t all that glamorous before my sucky early twenties. But now, no one hits me or manipulates me or steals from me. I don’t have to lie to my family to defend anyone and when I come home and the place is a mess, it’s my mess. I only have to feed me and if that means cereal, sweet potato fries, and orange juice for dinner, that’s my right.

I don’t always feel like an adult, however, even now. When I call my Gramma crying, because my mother’s acting like a lunatic again, I feel like the 14-year-old kid I once was. When I open a DVD and see the case is charred from a house fire he started, I’m 19 and my pets are dead on the lawn. When I call the credit agency to ask what this charge is for and they tell me it’s from the phone company when I was married at 21, I feel like the scared 23-year-old in the judge’s office, praying he’ll sign the papers. We were mislead as children. You don’t just suddenly feel like an adult. It comes in phases, like when I take a trip with my best friend. I don’t have to answer to anyone. I pay with my own money. I wake up and go shopping all day with my own money. I don’t wonder where that missing hundred is. I go home and have soup and pears for dinner and…

holy shit, I’m a grown-up.

“Such a pretty, pretty mermaid”: A Misguided New Year…

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Last New Year’s Eve was important to me. It was my first divorced New Year and I wanted to do something fun. The boys were busy with family and my dear bestie (I use this term ironically, because it’s awful) is a killjoy who was, literally, asleep by 8:00. So that left me with two choices: crafting in my underwear… or Malik.

Malik is a friend from high school, who’s really always been closer to Gail. We initially all bonded over the fact that we wore targets on our backs through the halls of our small town high school. Gail wore the same gray sweatpants and oversized t-shirts every day of 10th grade. I wore ribbons in my combat boots with overalls, a turtleneck, and black-rimmed glasses. Malik was fabulously burnt-orange-scarf-gay. As we grew as people, Gail and I chose destructive marriages, while Malik chose felony larceny, cocaine, meth, that orgy that one time… and that other time. You get the idea. So… I knew he’d be up for New Year’s Eve fun.

The guys were over at my apartment as I dressed to go out with Malik. They disapproved of my company, frankly, for damned good reason after the last time had involved my getting punched in the chest by Malik’s angry ex-lover, on whom he had a restraining order.

Jay: “I thought you said you were never going out with him again?”
Chad: “Didn’t he steal from you?” Yes. Indeed, he did.
Jay: “Are you gonna blame us for not hanging out with you, when you get raped tonight?”

I rolled my eyes, assuring them it wasn’t a guilt trip. I was just going to have fun, with or without them. They called me an idiot. I knew even  then that they were right.

The night started off as expected. We made our way Downtown to some guy’s apartment as I explained my parameters to Malik.

Me: “I don’t care if there’s pot, but nothing harder. I’m not leaving my car anywhere or driving drunk.”

That is super fucking lenient for me. That’s as party animal as I get, so Malik agreed.

So we got to Stranger’s apartment (I think it was someone’s ex-roommate, who was out of town) and pre-drank while we waited for the cab. I’d bought a plastic bottle of vodka for $4, because I was on a budget and had refused to buy any drinks at the bar. Malik had told me he’d cover one. The night went on in one of those party montages with the song “We Are Young” playing. There were lots of cover charges and tons of pricey drinks on Malik. I drunkenly informed a bouncer of the following:

“You are a very handsome black man! I don’t even find black men attractive, but you’re really good looking! I’m from the suburbs. There are only 77 black people in my hometown according to the 2003 census!” Yes. I drunkenly quoted the census report.

There was dancing and peeing in a single bathroom with a girl I’ve known since we were literally infants, T. In a different bathroom, I drunkenly referred to a woman as Mexican, which infuriated her. I didn’t understand why and said so, explaining

“What?!?! I said Mexican. You are Mexican. It’s not like I said Mexicunt. What? I said it’s not like I said that. It’s not my fault you…”

I’m pretty sure T yanked me out of the bathroom at this point. Then, I fell asleep in the bar. You get kicked out for that… even if you explain that you weren’t passed out, you were just napping. Luckily, T ran out with me and we sat on the curb until Malik and company came out, which was only a few minutes later. By this time, I was drunk; I didn’t know these people; I was exhausted and cold; I’d called Jay and Chad at least twice to scream “HAPPY NEW YEAR! I LOVE YOU!” I’d explained multiple times that my normal idea of fun was XBOX with my boys. In short, I was done and it was closing time. Then I overheard the following:

Malik: “Get a hold of Keyshond. If he comes through, I’m in for a hundred.”
Me: “Wait. What? What are we talking about?!?!”
Malik: “We’re gonna get some coke.”
Me: “I’m guessing you don’t mean the kind with the cute polar bears?”
Malik: laughing “You’re adorable.”
Me: “I’m not doing coke, Malik.”
Malik: “You’ll just try it. Just a little bit.”

As Gail put it later, you don’t just “try a little bit” of coke. You just do coke. Malik and company continued to try to get hold of Keyshond and I texted Chad to ask if coke really wasn’t a big deal and was just like smoking pot, as Malik had insisted. Chad told me that was crap and he’d be terribly disappointed if I tried coke. At some point, I started drunkenly shouting “I CAN’T DO COKE! I’M A LIBRARIAN!” and “I AM NOT A POLAR BEAR!” which got the attention of some friendly officers, so Malik called a cab… quickly. Despite this, the night had gone well enough and we’d even gotten Malik’s brother’s girlfriend (Crazychick) to get up and into the cab. I’m paranoid and insane and had swiped some mail from Stranger and taken a picture, which is the only reason anyone had the address to get back. Points for being such a party animal. So we drove back to the apartment while Crazychick got progressively angrier. I don’t think anyone ever figured out why she was so upset, but she was loud and violent and we were all drunk, so we sort of just let her hit Malik’s brother.

Not my problem. I don’t even fucking know these people.

I was tired, but curious about pot and Malik started rolling a joint. It took awhile, so I decided to just go to sleep. As I drifted off, however, I was hoisted up and heard Malik say “No. You’re trying it. Breathe in. Don’t spit this out and cough everywhere.” The last order referred to my earlier cigarette mishap. Pathetic, I know. I don’t really remember much after that, so I assume I slept. The night had been good and just far enough out of my element that I felt I’d done something new while I was still young enough to do that stupid shit. Then, I woke up.

Why is everyone naked? Is everyone seriously naked? Shit. What did I take? Is there some kind of drug that makes you want to get naked. I’M not naked. Thank God. Why can’t I move?

I have no idea why everyone’s arguing for the legalization of marijuana, because it was fucking terrible. My whole body felt like lead. I signaled for T’s help and she quickly dressed and came to check on me. Really, she was quite sweet the whole night, even if I do know more about her pubic grooming than I should.

Me: “Did I take something?”
T: “No. You didn’t do any drugs. Don’t worry.”

Even drunk and high, I could tell that she meant I didn’t do anything besides pot, because she was one of those “If it grows in the ground, it’s not a drug” hippie types.

Me: “Can you help me take my boots off?”
T: “Of course.”
Crazychick: crawling on top of me naked “Ooooh. Are we undressing her?”

Crazychick then started talking about stripping me and leaving me in Stranger’s bed as a gift. It was a terrifying thought even when I couldn’t bring myself to care that a naked woman was crawling on me, likely dripping some kind of venereal disease over my sweater dress. As the night wore on, however, I stayed clothed, save for the stockings I’d worn and ripped when I got up to pee. T took her clothes off again and she and Crazychick danced naked.

“Let’s do more shots!”
“We can’t! We did all the shots!”
“We did all the shots?!?!”

“You’d make such a beautiful mermaid. Such a pretty, pretty mermaid.”

T’s fully clothed husband sat on the couch next to me and watched his wife, the girl who played the Virgin Mary in the Christmas play when we were 7, perform oral on her mermaid. I was too high to care and ate most of a box of Reese Puffs that I had found in the cabinet in an attempt to sober up. At one point, Crazychick crawled on top of me and asked:

Crazychick: “Have you ever kissed a woman?”
Me: “I don’t care.”
Crazychick: “Do you want to kiss a woman?”
Me: “I don’t care.”

Seriously, what is the appeal of pot? Or kissing women? Their mouths are way too soft. It’s like swallowing not-yet-set Jello.

So, in summary, I got kissed by a woman, got to see the Virgin Mary all grown up and performing some girl on girl action with a complete nutcase, and had a nice chat with T’s husband about how it doesn’t bother him to watch his wife go at it with a woman, because he can’t offer her that anyway. Then Malik’s brother came out and saw his girlfriend under someone else and it was just about time to go. All the while, Malik slept in the chair next to me until I felt I had enough Reese Puffs to absorb the liquor and drive him to work sober. I got home, vomited, went to sleep and once again vowed never to party with Malik.