Saturday, May 6, 2017

Ch 1 The apple does not fall far from the tree? Should I reconsider a future with a man who might grow into his parents’ collecting habits? Do I dare risk a collection of pigs?

Now that I have seen his parents’ house, this scene, which occurred last month at Primo’s place, makes more sense.

Me: Are you through with those newspapers?

There is a pile a foot high stacked on the shelf next to his TV.

Primo: No. Why?

Me: Because it's a ton of papers and it looks bad.

Primo: If the pile outgrows the space, then it's reason for concern. But if it fits into the available space and it's in a neat pile, then what's the problem?

Me: They're old newspapers. Nobody reads old newspapers. You don’t have a fireplace. You are not moving. Why do you need them?

Primo: I don’t know. I might.

Me: I doubt it. You should put them in the recycling.

Primo: You don't think a neat pile is an acceptable resolution of a big mess, do you?

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Ch 1 part 6 The mess that is Sly and Doris' house, which is something I am not used to seeing, as people who move every three or four years courtesy of the US Air Force tend not to accumulate a lot of stuff

When I examine Sly and Doris’ house, their annoyance at having to clean out the spare room starts to make more sense. My mom is a neatnik. She has stuff, but it is all very well organized and put away and labeled. It is a lot of stuff – she probably does not need her Simplicity patterns from 1978 and I am trying to convince her to donate that kind of thing so I won’t have to deal with it later,[1] but she is not disorderly.

Sly and Doris appear to have a different approach. They have the “Let’s just pile everything on top of everything else and create a mishmash of junk” approach, an approach that many people, including yours truly, would consider a pre-hoarder approach.

Every surface in the living room and kitchen – except the ceiling – is covered with knickknacks or photos or papers or magazines or pigs. Pigs of every material: brass, ceramic, clay, glass. They like pigs, I guess.

There is also, just to add some variety, a glass octopus on the mantel of the fireplace. (Not sure why you need a fireplace in Florida, but there you go.) It is lit. From within. It is something to behold. Totally not making this up. 

A piano is crammed in next to the breakfast table. Nature Conservancy magazines are stuffed between the wall and the piano and stacked on top of it.

There are two bookcases in the breakfast nook, one on either wall, leaving almost no room to pull the chairs from the breakfast table, not that I would need to pull out a chair because that table is place where people sit to eat.

Books and magazines overflow the bookcases. Spirit catchers and leaded glass thingies are stuck to the window. Greasy, dusty old delivery vases full of artificial flowers are on top of the cupboards. The counters are crammed full of appliances, pill bottles, spice jars, and snacks.

In the living room, three cats lounge on the back of the sofa. Two of the cats are sweet and affectionate; the third is hostile, drawing blood from me when I sit by her. There is one cat dish on the breakfast bar and another on the floor next to the kitchen counter.

Stacks of Mother Jones and National Geographic and crossword puzzles sit on the coffee table. An old plastic trash can sits next to the end table by the sofa. On the end table is a pile of mail and newspapers about five inches high.[2]

Half of Primo’s office has piles of empty corrugated boxes, the tub in the spare bathroom is full of empty corrugated boxes,[3] and there are stacks of old newspapers next to his sofa, but he can’t hold a candle to his parents.

Sly, is unshaven – he has those thick gray whiskers older men get and there is hair sprouting from his ears – and is wearing Birkenstocks without socks, shorts, and a stained t-shirt that said, “Vote Republican – it’s easier than thinking.” His toenails are thick and yellowed and jagged and his heels are cracked and blackened. I look away quickly before I catch old man foot cooties.

Doris is barefoot. Her feet are in the same condition as Sly’s. Should I judge her more harshly for having gnarly feet? It doesn’t seem fair, but at least women can get a pedicure.

Wait. Men can get a pedicure, too.

And no. Not fair to judge her more harshly than Sly just because she is a woman and we judge women on their looks. In fact, I am betraying the Sisterhood by even thinking that Doris should take better care of her feet than Sly should. Shame on me. Shame.

Her hair, thick, gray, and blunt cut at shoulder length, is pushed back from her face with a headband. She wears no makeup.

She wears baggy khaki capris and a long t-shirt decorated with butterflies. No bra.

She is tall and very slim. And very generously endowed.

I will leave it at that.

Although, again, I have to slap myself and remind myself that I should not collaborate with The Patriarchy in judging a woman with unbound breasts or on her looks in general. Women do not exist to provide eye candy for other people. I have heard – I would not know myself – that when one is busty, wearing a bra can be very uncomfortable.

OK! I don’t judge. I am not judging. Doris does not have to conform to the norms of the Patriarchy in her own house. She doesn’t.

[1] If you know what I mean.
[2] So that’s where Primo gets his Leaning Tower of Visa.
[3] “Because someday, I might move out of this apartment,” he says when I ask him why he needs to keep a bunch of boxes. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

In which Primo agonizes about whether to visit Ted when he (Primo) is going to the city where Ted lives and Primo's best friend and I both say, "Why bother? He's had plenty of chances to be a decent human being to you?" but another friend says, "What harm could there be?" which to me means, the other friend has never encountered anyone toxic ever

What Primo (and I) would really like to have:

A brother (in-law) who is a decent, kind person who is nice to be around.

What Primo has:

A brother who is nice only when he wants something and even that niceness is tinged with - I don't know how to describe it - condescension? mocking? the clear impression that Ted is saying the words he knows he should say but that he is rolling his eyes as he is speaking?

Primo has had a trip planned to Washington DC for a month. It's some political group thing and they actually pay people to do work and it's a place he would like to work and they are paying for the trip and we have enough money to survive even if Primo never works again but I still want him to get a job because I don't want to be the only working (one of us has to work so we can have decent health insurance).

For this month, Primo has wondered if he should try to see Ted, who lives on the way to DC.

I have said No! No! No!

But Primo says that he wants to try to have a good relationship with Ted.

I say why? Primo has all the power in this relationship. He does not need to cultivate Ted for anything. Ted is the one who has been the jerk in all of this. He has had so many chances to be nice to Primo and has chosen to be a jerk instead.

Ted is a middle-aged man whose own best friend of 30 years told Primo last year that he was "taking a break" from Ted.

As in, what kind of person can't even keep a relationship with his best (and maybe only) friend?

And why should Primo be doing all the work? Ted has never apologized for being a jerk, for screaming at Primo, for implying that Primo was stealing from the trust. His niceness always precedes a request for money. He is never nice just to be nice.

But Primo persists.

He left for DC two days ago. Called me last night.

Primo: You know I asked Pete and Julie if I should talk to Ted. Pete* said nope. Julie said I should call.

Me: Julie's never met Ted, has she?

Primo: No. Pete says Julie is a lot nicer than he is.

Me: A lot nicer than I am, too.

Primo: And then Tom** called. He and (his wife) think I should call Ted, too.

Me: These people have never met Ted! They have no idea what he's like!

Primo: I know. And I have been thinking about it all day and dreading it. And then I saw a notification that it is Jack's birthday today, so I knew I needed to call or text him. So I decided to call.

Me: Call Jack?

Primo: I started with Ted. And Ted'sWife answered the phone. They are in Atlanta at Ted'sMom's place - she is very sick and they think she is dying.

Me: So you don't have to visit! But you get credit for trying!

Primo: Yeah, but - Ted and Jack's mom is dying!

Me: That is awful.

Primo: So I feel bad for them.

Me: Of course.

Primo: I told Ted'sWife to call me if they are back in DC before I leave next week.

Me: But you hope they won't.

Primo: Yes.

* Primo's best friend for 35 years

** A very good friend of 30 years

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Ch 1 Primo's mom and dad and the conversation I thought we would have, which just goes to show you how lucky I have been with the parents of previous boyfriends, including the college boyfriend’s parents who thought we were too young to marry (we were), but who were always polite and kind to me

This is how I thought it would go when I met Primo’s parents.

Doris: Goldie, we are so excited to meet you! Primohas told us a little bit about you, but not enough.

Sly: Yes! Welcome to our home. We are happy to have you here. Would you like a glass of water or juice? I’m afraid we don’t have diet soda, but we can get some at the store tomorrow. Doris did ask Primo what you drink, but he never got back to her.

Me: A glass of water would be lovely. Thank you.

Doris: Are you hungry? You guys have been traveling since early this morning and I am pretty sure they don’t feed people on planes anymore. Did you stop for lunch on the way here? If you didn’t, I can make some sandwiches or get out some cheese and crackers and grapes. You must be hungry! Oh! And I did make an apple pie. It’s Primo’s favorite. No time like the present to have pie!

Me: Pie sounds great! I am hungry.

Doris: Oh! Before I forget – I thought I asked Primo to ask you this, but is there anything you cannot eat?

Me: No! I like everything but tripe!

Primo: I like tripe.

Me: You also like tendon. You are weird.

Sly and Doris laugh merrily.

Doris: Oh that son of ours! He is indeed an adventurous eater! Don’t worry! I am not planning on serving tripe!

Primo: But I don’t like anything with that orange flavor, like beets or chard or winter squash.

Me: And nothing that ends in “erry!”

Sly and Doris laugh again.

Doris: I see you have been learning Primo’s food rules!

Me: Yes! Honestly, how did you put up with him when he was a kid? He is so picky!

Doris: Oh my! There were times when he ate a cheese sandwich for supper. My mother was from Georgia and I like my greens! I had no intention of being a short-order cook in my own kitchen.

Me: Good for you!

Doris: Goldie, Primo told me that even though you both live in Austin, you two met at your college reunion. What was your major?

Me: I didn’t choose as wisely as Primo did – I majored in English.

Sly (laughing): Wait a second there, young lady! I was an English professor. English is a perfectly fine major!

Me: I know. My original plan was to major in biomedical engineering, go to medical school, and then design artificial body parts. I didn’t quite make it. Instead, I went to the University of Texas for my MBA.

Sly: Well, the world of English is happy to have you! Who is your favorite author?

Doris: Let’s not get into shop talk, dear! Goldie, Primo tells us you also live in Austin. Are you from Austin?

Me: No, I moved there for a job after college.

Sly: Oh really? And what is your work?

Me: These days, I do marketing for a tech company.

Sly: That is a field about which I know nothing. Tell me more!

Me: [blah blah blah about my job]

Doris: Dear, where are you from originally?

Me: My dad was in the air force, so we moved around a lot when I was a kid.

Sly: Really? I was in the navy for four years. Where was your father stationed?

Me: We lived in Spain when I was a kid and in the Panama Canal Zone when I was in high school. Most of the rest of the time in the US was in Texas.

Doris: How fascinating! We lived in Michigan briefly while Sly was completing his graduate work, but then we lived in Pittsburgh for the next forty years until he retired and we moved here. It must have been so interesting to live in so many different places! How I loved visiting my grandparents in Georgia. I love to travel.

Me: Yes, I do, too. That’s where all my disposable income has gone over the years. I don’t have a fancy car, but I have traveled. And I do like Georgia. I like the south a lot. I am not a fan of snow!

Doris: I have to admit I do not miss the Pennsylvania winters at all!

Sly: Nor do I! Shoveling snow certainly loses its charm after a short time. And once the kids were out of the house, we had nobody to delegate it to!

Doris: You lived in Spain and Panama? Do you speak Spanish?

Me: Yes, but I am fluent only because I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile. I learned Spanish in school in Spain and Panama, but in Chile, I had to speak it to buy food and pay my bills, so that’s when I got good.

Doris: You were a Peace Corps volunteer? That is wonderful! We are huge liberals so of course we support the Peace Corps! Do you realize how many Parent Points you have just gained with us? How could we ever find a better partner for our beloved son? Welcome, welcome, welcome!

Sly: Let’s see. You went to the same college as our son, so you clearly meet the educational standard we would have for a daughter in law. And you, unlike our son, have a master’s degree – and from a top university! In addition, you have one of the best liberal credentials possible – you were a Peace Corps volunteer. Truly we have hit the jackpot for potential daughters in law. Welcome indeed!

Are you thinking, “Yeah, that’s how these things go” or are you thinking, “Bless your stupid little heart, Goldie, you are delusional. There is no way the conversation could have gone that well. That is fiction!”

If you picked Option 2, you would be correct.

This is how it actually goes.

Sly [not making eye contact with me]: Primo, what do you think about the Pirates this year?

Primo: Sports talk

Sly: More sports talk

Primo: Even more sports talk

Doris: But what about politics? We need to talk about politics!

Sly: Oh definitely! Politics talk

Primo: More politics talk

Doris: And even more politics talk

Sly: Politics!

Doris: Politics squared!

Primo: Yeah OK politics

Sly: Stupid people who don’t agree with me on politics!

Doris: Totally stupid! If they don’t agree with us, it’s because they are stupid!

Primo: Well, sometimes people have valid reasons for disagreeing.

Sly: Those stupid people are too stupid to live. Why are they even allowed to stay in this country?