Males and Females 24-40

Focus groups are weird and interesting. I used to do a lot of them when I was younger, and I still sign up for them sometimes. I’m a good little consumer. Even though I don’t buy that much stuff because I’m in a bunch of debt, I still want to buy all the stuff and can easily go on about why I like or don’t like something. I can write paragraphs about breakfast sandwiches and beauty balm, or (insert thing that might taste good or make me look pretty), and have no problem verbalizing that.

But yeah. The basic idea is, you sit in a room with people of a certain demographic mix. Sometimes it’s people statistically like you in pretty much every way, which is slightly odd. Sometimes it’s people in your general age range, but a mix of skin colors. Sometimes there’s a diversity of economic or geographic backgrounds. You talk about your opinions on a product or experience, then they give you a check at the end.

What you might not know is that there’s always one person that is not going to shut the fuck up. They don’t get their opinions heard often in real life, and now they have a captive audience. They are stoked. This is their big chance.

Without further ado, I present A Montage of Product Opinions. I recommend playing music while you read these, maybe this or this.

  • Topic: Fast food breakfast, something near and dear to my heart. A middle-aged woman went on at length about how “fresh” was a very, very important quality to her. Moderator: “You’ve mentioned that word a few times. What does ‘fresh’ mean to you?” She smiled a Cheshire Cat mile, something worthy of winning the lottery, getting laid, and being awarded a Pulitzer in the same day. “That,” she purred, “is what we need to define.” No. No. We don’t. No. I’m sure she’s gluten-free now, despite testing negative for Celiac twice.
  • Topic: Blowout bars. Sitting around with a bunch of white girls between 20 and 30, the moderator visibly irritated that we didn’t prefer an awful late 60s throwback interior to something more clean and simple. She kept coming back to the brown-olive-yellow toned monstrosity, rolling her eyes and eventually letting out an exasperated hiss. Shitty faux-retro design doesn’t make 23-year-olds think of tousled waves, and trying to push your boss’ opinion is obvious and awkward.
  • Topic: Something about hair color. Females, age 20-30. A white woman with children from the suburbs with a bad blonde dye job said she went to the Mexican salon by her house because it was cheap, even though she was pretty sure they didn’t like her and they didn’t do that great a job. Record scratch.
  • Topic: Vodka. We didn’t get to drink it. Mix of males and females, maybe 21-35. They showed us some ads that looked American Apparel-esque, some hot skinny people sitting around a long table in what looked like children’s animal masks, about to play some old-school party game or maybe go kill a person, something vaguely alternative involving clear mid-priced liquor. Whatever. One bro-y guy started to voice his reaction, but was interrupted by a girl who was dead set on letting you know that “I HATE HIPSTERS. WHY DO THEY HAVE TO RUIN EVERYTHING? HIPSTERS RUIN EVERYTHING.” She would come back to this theme throughout our 75 minutes together. Afterwards in the elevator, bro-y guy she interrupted made a crack about how she should shut up, with a thinly veiled undercurrent of “because she’s fat and unattractive”, and in that moment I hated them both.
  • Topic: Microwavable meals. This group was uneventful. I was the asshole. In the phone interview, I totally said I ate Lean Cuisine 3-5 times a week. I buy Lean Cuisine every two years then remember how sad and awful they are. But I’ll totally spring for a Banquet chicken pot pie, aka .97 of pure, sodium joy. And seriously, who eats frozen meals that often? Everyone in the room looked relatively unbloated and scurvy-free, so I can only assume they were lying as well.

Lessons learned: People, especially women, don’t get heard a lot in their day to day lives. People are the worst. Some company in the mid-2000s really wanted to make this happen.

-Rose

Going Home

To many of you, the idea of living with your parents again at the age of 35 probably doesn’t sound very appealing, especially if it meant leaving the city.

But I am starting to look forward to it more and more, mostly because of my current situation.

While I don’t have expectations of being waited on hand and foot, there will be other adults around me, 24/7, who can help.

There are tons of things I won’t have to think about, like paying the rent or going to the store or cleaning the house. Eventually I’ll do those things. But not having to deal with them for the first few months of being a new mom seems like a pretty priceless gift to me.

I can’t imagine being in an apartment all day, sometimes by myself, in the dead of winter not knowing what the hell I’m doing, no other human beings to have adult conversations with.

It’s not going to matter where I am because the furthest I’ll be going is the doctor’s office anyway. So being in the suburbs is as good a place as any.

I’ll miss being physically close to people, but I can assure you, I doubt I’ll be very social for a period of time. And when I re-emerge, it’ll be summer again, the perfect time to roll back into the city for patio drinks.

I think city life is starting to stress me out more than usual. A lot of this has to do with my own physical discomfort and irritability. But there is no solace here. My bathtub is too narrow and the hot water runs out way too fast. My landlord/upstairs neighbors clod around their hardwood floors with their shoes on above my head at all hours of the day and night. There has been construction on the street outside of my place for well over a month.

I’m so grateful for my car, but sometimes it feels like all I’m doing is driving and parking, driving and parking.

I know I might be bored out in the suburbs. But maybe that’s what I really need right now.

-Carly

Tired of (Certain) Men

I had a really frustrating doctor’s appointment this past Monday.

A doctor in the “pain treatment” department of a hospital essentially refused to give me cortisone shots for my carpal tunnel (with a referral from my ob/gyn) because “the benefits did not outweigh the risks”.

Or in other words, I was told to suck it up.

This insinuation, the implication that I was somehow exaggerating my symptoms, that I would rather put my unborn baby’s health on the line over my own discomfort was insulting to say the least.

What it really made me do is feel like a bad person, a bad mother. Someone who didn’t want to be troubled with the nuisance of tingling, numb fingers as if that were the worst of it.

Yes, I know this is temporary. I know it’s not the end of the world. I know. I know. I know. But that isn’t making this very moment any easier.

In general, it got me thinking about pain. How we’re unable to articulate what pain feels like and how each of us have a different threshold for pain. How we can’t ever tell someone they don’t hurt when they actually do or show someone our hurt in the exact way we are experiencing it.

Specifically it got me thinking about how a man will never know what it’s like to be pregnant or give birth. Ever. They cannot. And whether they experience something more horrific or uncomfortable is not the point.

It’s why I’m hoping beyond hope I don’t have a male doctor on call when I go into labor.

And no, not every guy is an insensitive jerk. The father of this baby is filled with nothing but empathy and patience, a person who encourages me to vent, gives me room to be frustrated and sad and scared and who at No Point has asserted any sort of selfishness or dismissal of what I’m experiencing due to my pregnancy. His love and support has been invaluable.

I can’t know for sure if this guy who sat across from me the other day saying I should just put up with my pain for the sake of my baby was talking to me this way because he was a man. But when he said his daughter is pregnant and he would tell her the same thing, I realized he couldn’t understand her pain, nor did he want to. From his medical vantage point, there is no benefit to easing my suffering, which is beyond just physical, even if I was his own flesh and blood.

I don’t need a man telling me to suck it up. I don’t need a man to validate this process, this experience. I don’t need a man to tell me shit about pregnancy or labor and I don’t care how long he’s been a doctor.

This may be the first time I’ve gone through this, but I know a helluva lot more than Every Man On The Planet.

-Carly

Damn Good Coffee

I’ve had a rough month and I’ve been watching a lot of Twin Peaks, and it’s got me thinking about coffee. Making coffee at home is one of my favorite rituals, to the point where drinking it unrushed on Saturday morning is the smallest, most awesomely dull vacation.

And I make a damn fine cup of coffee. Intelligentsia whole bean that I grind myself, because I’m fancy. Tiny coffee maker because I’m the only one in the house that drinks it, the guy and cat are more into Diet Coke and water. One sugar cube. Lots of whole milk.

I don’t think you have to be used to the worst kind of surprises to appreciate boring, but it helps. Growing up wasn’t good sometimes – sometimes a lot of the time. Realizing things can be pretty okay is still a novelty, a party I thought was invitation-only and I still sort of feel like I’m crashing. Pretty okay is kind of amazing.

I make coffee in the house where I live. I like to come back here at the end of the day. I like the other person that lives here. Sometimes there’s fights and tension, but they’re not the default. I know how good things can be, and that it’s not impossible to get there. It’s not even always hard. And that still boggles my mind.

The coffee is hot and good. I feel it wrap around my brain like a caffeinated hug, clearing the fog from my head and sleep from my eyes. I think more clearly. Everything is a little easier to handle.

Mundane activities are small and sacred. Making coffee reminds me that things are all right. And let’s not get started on pie.

-Rose

It Gets Better

I went to my parents house to move some things in this weekend. Well, my boyfriend did all of the heavy lifting. In the basement where we’ll be living, some old trophies and plaques sat on a table. My mom jokingly asked him if he’d like to peruse my accomplishments, showing him I’d won a poetry contest.

She asked if my poem was sad and I said that of course it was. It was about unrequited love. My dad asked who it was about and when I said his name, he yelled it back in an incredulous tone.

Because really, it was ridiculous. My infatuation with this particular person was long and painful.

At the time I really couldn’t see myself out of feeling this way. It felt hopeless, endless.

That was eighteen years ago.

It didn’t just go away. I had to make choices, like deciding to not longer be friends, in order to get over it. Maybe that seems callous and unfair, but it worked.

But that wouldn’t be the last time I would have my heart broken or endure a nameless depression.

This is life. Life is ups and downs and choices and fate and indecision and mistakes and success and sometimes a sort of nothingness that is also everything at the same time.

And every time I’ve wondered if it would always be this bad or if it could it could get any worse, it was not and did not.

It’s hard not to dwell in it though. It’s hard to be in the midst of a difficult moment and talk yourself out of it, to look to some future time that’s not guaranteed, a light at the end of the tunnel that you might never reach. And sometimes it’s perfectly fine to just be in it, to allow yourself the grief and sadness. Don’t be hard on yourself.

Try to use your past as an example. Look to the times you triumphed when things seemed impossible or when something unexplained happened to turn things around. That’s what got you here.

Because for every instance it got worse, it always got better. Eventually.

-Carly

Are We There Yet?

I want to be really truthful about my experience. This means, in Carly fashion, it will sound like a lot of complaining. And I suppose it is. It’s also true that I haven’t had in depth conversations with people who’ve been pregnant to ask them what they went through, though some have been forthcoming about certain details.

I guess what I’m trying to tell you is that You Don’t Want This. I mean, you want a baby. Maybe. And you sort of like the idea of having a baby bump. Perhaps even thinking about what it’s like to have a human being growing inside of you is exciting, or at least intriguing.

Yeah, so those things make up about 5% of the total experience.

And I know I could have it so much worse. I mean, no, farting all of the time isn’t worse than constant heartburn or hemorrhroids. Hip pain during the night is better than edema or leg cramps. Peeing every two hours during the night is better than being constipated.

I can say that having 24/7 carpal tunnel has been one of the most miserable things I’ve ever gone through. There is no relief. I haven’t been able to feel my fingers for months. Sometimes the pain is so excruciating it makes me cry. Being in constant discomfort makes me stressed and irritable. Pretending that it’s not happening can be frustrating. I can’t imagine living with chronic pain like this for years. Thankfully I’m hopefully only a week or two away from getting cortisone shots. If that doesn’t work, I’m considering lopping off my hands at the wrist.

I’m short of breath. It’s hard to bend over. I haven’t gotten a full night’s sleep in months.

My stretch marks are really freaking gross to look at. When this is all over, I will weigh close to 200 pounds. Two. Hundred. Pounds. And I’m lucky because I don’t have gestational diabetes (I was just 20 pounds overweight when I got pregnant).

I’m not having sex with my amazing, supportive, patient, caring boyfriend. I don’t view myself as someone attractive or sexual anymore. I am sober. All day, everyday.

I am not me. I have not been myself in almost seven months now.

I miss me. A lot. And the truth is, that me is gone. Forever.

This transformation will end and then I’ll be something I’ve never been before.

A mom.

There is no way to prepare yourself for these changes. No way to know what pregnancy is really going to be like (or the fact that 10 months is WAY TOO LONG). For me, this journey has been on the depressing side even though I’m very much looking forward to meeting my son.

Sometimes it’s weird because there are people who light up at the sight of my belly or are genuinely happy for me and express this. And while that is meaningful and amazing, I feel pressure to match or top their enthusiasm. I really want to tell them that I’m totally out of sorts and that trying to focus on the unknown awesomeness is too intangible at the moment. When they are wild eyed and saying “this is SO EXCITING” I want to answer “Sure! I mean, I think? Yes, probably…ya know, I don’t actually know if it is, but OK! I mean, what’s done is done, right? LOL.”

I don’t know if knowing all of this would have dissuaded me from going through with it. But I do know that not knowing anything has been a shock in a lot of ways. I sort of hate that all of my preconceived notions were based on pure fiction. Smiling, glowing soon to be moms who seemed so able bodied and joyful and serene. Even now, I’ll see a visibly pregnant woman in business casual attire walking from the train and wonder if she’s feeling as put off by this whole thing as I am. I want to shout from my car window while pointing at my belly “this is total bullshit, amirite???!!!”

I’m sharing this not to complain, per se, but to just let you know that I think pregnancy kinda sucks and not just the last month of it because I’m not even there yet.

You can do whatever you want with this information, but at least now you have it.

-Carly

Sounds or Songs

My roommates and I were waiting for the Purple Line at Howard. I don’t remember why we were going to Evanston; they never wanted to go to the movies as much as I did.

We were making that weird, slightly anxious small talk you make when you’re waiting for something and are afraid you’ll miss it, even though that’s unlikely – like when someone’s going to call your name for your takeout or coffee, or there’s trains coming and going and even though you’re probably not going to miss a big purple sign that says Linden, it’s the first time you’ve ventured north of Jarvis.

A sudden burst of bird sounds exploded from somewhere nearby, startling us with their chirps and cries. We lapsed into silence for a minute then started up again, replacing them with our own trills and warbles.

Then the bird sounds came back, a cacophony of squalls and cheeps seemingly louder than before. Yet there were no small, feathery bodies to be seen, or even droppings indicating avian life.

“There aren’t any birds,” I was good at stating the obvious.

My red-haired roommate’s face brightened – she had this. “No no, it’s a recording. They do it to keep the other birds away.”

And then the train conductor, who had been listening amused for who knows how long, was standing next to us.

“No, ladies. It’s a mating call.”

-Rose

 

Not That You Asked: Drive Better

The baby is going to think I’m a yelling, swearing lunatic because the only time he hears me talk loudly is when I’m in the car (or when the Bears are playing terribly).

Is it wrong to think you have a responsibility to be as careful and safe as possible when you’re behind the wheel?

I have seen some of the most ridiculous and dangerous jack-assery on the road since getting a car that I wonder aloud how more of us aren’t dead from accidents.

90% of the problem is people are on their phones.

GET OFF YOUR PHONE WHEN YOU ARE DRIVING.

I see it everyday on my commute. Some asshole in front of me staring at their phone, unable to put it down for five whole seconds to, I don’t know, DRIVE. Thinking just because there’s a little traffic they can let the car in front of them get 500 feet ahead before finally looking up and realizing they should go. Or some people who are so involved in a conversation or texting that they are actually veering into on coming traffic or swerving like they’re drunk.

NEWSFLASH: The Belmont overpass is four lanes. You wouldn’t believe the amount of people driving straight down the middle.

My favorite game to play is to count how many cars make it through a left turn green arrow. Seriously, try it. So many space cadet dummies not bothering to accelerate or move at all.

It really is your job to pay attention for the sake of other drivers. It is your duty to like, stop when it’s red and go when it’s green and use your blinker when you’re going to turn.

I think what really burns me about bad driving is the selfishness of it all. People get into a 4,000 pound death machine and pretend they can basically do it blindfolded.

But since I know my ranting and raving will fall on deaf ears, why not let Werner Herzog explain it in a way you can hear (and see).

-Carly

Love Like The Movies

There are some movies I see through different eyes now that I’m older and a little more experienced. All of them are relationship movies.

I stumbled on “High Fidelity” again the other day and have very different feelings about it than when I first saw it.

I used to identify so much with Rob. I understood what it felt like to be dumped. And of course, saw his appeal as someone of the opposite sex. DJ at the Double Door? Yes. Owner of a cool record store on Milwaukee Avenue? Yep. Opinionated about music in a passionate way? Uh huh.

I was annoyed by Laura who doesn’t come clean about her feelings or her burgeoning new relationship. I hate how she keeps calling and showing up to get her things, always seeming to leave the door open in a way. And how on Earth does she end up with someone like Ian/Ray anyway?

I related to Rob wanting to figure out what had gone wrong in his past relationships, as if this were the answer to his problems. It made sense that he was insanely jealous of Ian/Ray and fixated on whether or not Laura had slept with him. In general, it did feel as though he truly missed her and mourned their relationship.

But the other day, I saw him as an annoying, immature guy in his 30’s, a mirror image of many of the guys I’ve gone out with. Emotionally immature, walking around like he’s completely blameless. Someone aloof, who was hurt in the past and uses that as an excuse to not commit, always keeping you at arm’s length. Someone with a bruised ego who isn’t upfront about the pretty legitimate reasons for why he was dumped, like the fact that he’d cheated on her and owed her a lot of money.

The only part that made sense to me was the end, when Rob finally figures it out. These other girls? They’re just a fantasy. One in which everything is going perfectly. But reality doesn’t work that way. And if reality is that he gets to end up with someone like Laura, he should be trying to lock that shit down.

I don’t want to assign gender to this because I have no idea what it’s like to date me or what it would be like for me to date a woman. But I will say that this “ah ha” moment from Rob is one that Laura already had, probably from the very beginning. She even says so herself when he wonders aloud why she’d live in his dump of an apartment when she’s making good money by responding that she wanted to be there because she wanted to be with him.

And that’s all it really is. Wanting to be with one another and doing whatever it takes to make that happen. Leaving space for things to go wrong, because sometimes they will. Knowing there will be good days and bad and today is nothing like yesterday. There are so many outside factors that go into relationships that we sometimes forget about all of the things we have no control over.

Two imperfect people trying to make the most of being together…because we hope and want to believe it’s worth it.

I think the notion of “not being right for one another” is really coming to a place where you realize there is a complete breakdown in communication that can’t be fixed. It’s when you are unable to understand one another. You have to exhaust every option to really know for certain this shouldn’t be and that has to be after a mutual effort. And you both have to have some accountability and self reflection.

(Sidenote: A huge, selfish asshole is not “right” for anyone. If you want to get married and have babies and your partner does not, they are not “right” for you. If your partner is abusing you, they are not “right” for you.)

I think sometimes it’s easier to give up.

But then you’re just left starting at square one again. The work is never going to end so long as you’re with someone. So maybe instead of jumping ship thinking there’s a better match out there, try a little harder with the one you were lucky enough to find in the first place, especially if they’re already willing to do that for you.

-Carly

Telling Someone Else’s Tale

I was at a special edition of The Stoop last week, and something about the the way one of the readers was introduced stuck with me. The always-awesome Lily Be presented Erica Clark by saying Erica’s story was one she’d told to other people because even though it wasn’t her story, it was so interesting and WTF (for lack of a better word) she had to repeat it. It got me thinking about when I tell other people’s stories, and that idea in general – when something hits you so hard, makes you laugh so deep, or is so flat-out weird that you have to share. It has nothing to do with you, but that something makes you want to tell it again and again.

It makes me curious: When do you tell other people’s stories? What sticks with you enough to repeat when it’s not about you?

Some other people’s stories I keep coming back to:

  • How one of my best friends got her pet bird. She was working in a pet store and had no idea parrots lived for a million years. Then I pull up this picture.
  • That time my mom got caught shoplifting as a teenager, the girl that was also caught, and how they both got off.
  • My friend Wendy’s story about going to a survivalist camp. Or how she found out about canned butter. She has a lot of good stories, okay?

Bonus – when I asked my dude for an example, he pulled up this one immediately. It has a lot of the elements I think make a story get around: a faint but present personal connection, tension, and shock value. Like most stories, it’s better told in person. Sorry. If you run into us, I’ll make him tell it.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Tim went to a party and a guy told Tim this story, so I told it to people in Ann Arbor. Every time someone new showed up, I had to tell it – I got really good at telling it.

Essentially, this guy knew a guy who was with some friends in Florida. They were out on a boat, drinking a lot, and they were really drunk. They see a manatee swimming by. This guy’s friend is really drunk and he’s like, “Do you dare me to jump on this manatee?” His friends are like no, that’s stupid.

He’s super, super drunk though, so he’s super excited about it. But no one really wants him to jump on this manatee. He’s so drunk that like, he thinks that they all want him to do it.

He stands there and says “1…2…3!”, and jumps off the side of the boat. He jumps on top of the manatee.

He jumps through the manatee. The manatee was dead and it was decaying.

He’s kind of stuck in this manatee and they have to drag him out of it.

You have to embellish a bunch of stuff though….like, he jumps into it and just starts throwing up on himself.

-Rose

 

 

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