Thursday, January 31, 2013

What Would Yolanda Do?

"You totally deserve better than this," I said to a friend after she told me her beau had ditched her last minute to grab drinks with friends, ignoring the fact she had cooked him a gourmet dinner.

"You totally deserve better than this," I said to a friend when she rang me from her job, her spirit destroyed by a manager who was thorny and self-serving and most certainly a candidate for medication.

It's always easier to stick up for your friends and it has nothing to do with being biased.  Wrong is wrong.  It's just so much harder to decipher it when you're in the middle of things.  It's like walking up to a piece of art, pressing your nose to the canvas, and surrendering the ability to see clearly.

This is why I spent a year tolerating a boss who withheld commission payouts, money that he openly acknowledged he owed me but conveniently failed to deposit in my account.  This is why, embracing my mother's commentary, I signed up for Phen-Fen, liposcution and Weight Watchers.  This is why I splurged on a $300 Nespresso machine for a man who only a month or so prior had called me a bitch.  "I said that?" he asked with a chuckle when I mentioned it.

"Why is it so hard to just walk away from something that we know is bad for us?" I asked Leslie as we sat down for burgers.

"What would Yolanda do?" she replied, Yolanda being a cast member of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.  She is confident but not arrogant.  She identifies what she desires and expects nothing less.  Her husband adores her.

"Yolanda would prance around her ginormous Malibu mansion before strolling through her lemon grove."

"In her Hermes belt."

"That too."

I know this sounds self-help-y but we often get what we think we deserve. Yolanda believes she deserves the best and, dammit, that woman gets it. And this isn't about being entitled.  These days I don't even expect a man to hold the door for me, or when he does, I argue with him about it.

"It's okay," I'll say as I shoo him ahead of me, both hands tangled up with shopping bags from Publix.  "Seriously, thanks though. This is why God gave me hips."

Yolanda would stand in front of the door waiting for someone to open it, being gracious and composed and appreciative as she strolls across the threshold.

It isn't easy changing how we act.  Heck, it took me eight months to start sleeping on the other side of the bed.  But I want to stop making excuses for another person's poor behavior that short-changes me.  I want to stop accepting criticism that is neither constructive nor imperative to transforming me into a better person.  And I want to stop tolerating and sometimes even rewarding behavior that qualifies as utter disrespect.

"You totally deserve better than this," I want to say to myself as I lift my chin, offer a soft smile, and walk away.  After all, that is exactly what Yolanda would do.

Monday, January 21, 2013

What a Jerk-off

"Join us for another round," the Brit proposed as he and a coworker settled up with the bartender.

"Would love to but I really need to get home to finish some work," I said, exaggerating my interest and fibbing about my professional obligations. Besides there being no chemistry on my end, he was sporting a gold pinky ring. Gold. Pinky ring. On a man.

"Then I'll call to make sure you got home okay."

I stopped to get gas.  I set my boots in my closet and my purse on a dining room chair.  I meandered into my office and glanced at my computer, a mandatory training session frozen on slide twenty-three of ninety-six.  And in the process, I missed his calls.  Yes, two of them.

"Hey!" I said when my phone rang a third time. "I have my phone on vibrate and didn't hear it buzzing earlier."

"You got home alright?" he asked.

I told him yes and then somehow got sucked into a conversation, politely answering his questions while watching the television on mute.

"I'm sorry?" I asked.

"I said, what do you wear when you're feeling mischievous?"

Part of me wanted to lecture him that such an inquiry was inappropriate, referencing Naomi Wolf and quoting Emily Post.  Another part wanted to point out that me leaning in and whispering, "I'm not wearing any panties," is much sexier than me randomly noting that on some occasions I go commando.  And yet another part of me was concerned by the random rustling in the background.

"I'm really not comfortable with that question," I said, ignoring the fact that there is enough evidence littering my past to preclude me from ever running for public office.  "Also, I really do need to get back to work."

The next morning, as my trainer counted out peck-fly reps, sweat dripping off my nose and landing on the bench, I relayed the story. 

"I'm not sure if the British accent hurt or helped but he just came across as such a creeper."

My trainer snickered and laughed, covering his mouth and doubling over at the waist.  And when he was done, when he had finally composed himself, he responded.

"Oh yeah, no, dude was totally jerking off."

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

180 Degrees

In the film 180deg South, Yvon Chouinard, longtime adventurer and founder of Patagonia, made a comment about how we handle obstacles and that going backwards is only a figment of one's imagination:  You can take one step forward or you can turn around 180 degrees and take a step forward.  Which way are you going?  And which way is progress?

A lot changed for me in 2012.  I moved south, leaving behind a condo I couldn't afford to sell and a former boss erroneously threatening to sue me for defamation of character.  I accepted a new position in a different industry, learning that though the grass is always greener, every patch of grass is dotted with steaming piles of dog pooh.  I dated and broke up with the same man three times, learning more about myself in that span of time than I have from any other prior relationship.

As I inched my way toward the close of the year, I glanced over my shoulder and took stock.  My apartment in Atlanta was finally fully furnished and felt like home, my Philly condo occupied by a caring scientist from Japan.  My hard work in my new position had earned me an all-expense paid reward trip to Grand Cayman, Pina Coladas included.  I had no complaints. Though for as good as things were, my unfinished novel still haunted me.

"I think I want to write a screenplay," I said to Leslie in December, both of us sprawled out on chaises on our parents' Florida lanai.

"Do it!"

"The literary market is dead.  Hearing James Patterson speak in November and seeing my friend with a two-book deal plug away at teaching made this incredibly clear to me."

"Right, so do it!"

"I think that's why I can't finish my novel.  It feels like a useless dead end."

"Seriously, do it.  Now can we get back to discussing Bethenny Frankel and her divorce rumors?"

Within 24-hours, I rang up my friend in Los Angeles who, thanks to her gym membership and gregarious personality, knows award winning writers and producers, one of which was standing on the stage at this past weekend's Golden Globe awards.  "She knows the one next to Clooney," I bragged to Leslie.  Anyway, my friend gave me some advice, noted craft books I should read, and told me to have fun.  The last part was my biggest fear.  It has been years since I found writing fun.

A few weeks ago, I made some free-thinking notes about my manuscript.  I sketched a timeline, noted key scenes, identified relevant characters.  Then I set that aside and picked up a book by Syd Field.  Last night, as I curled up on a flight back from Chicago, I pulled out the craft book, broke back the spine, and started reading.  Eighty pages and more than a few neon yellow highlighter streaks later, I looked up to see us touchdown in Atlanta.  

"This book is brilliant," I said to Leslie as I shoveled in bites of takeout Thai food she had grabbed for me.  "And I'm kinda baffled why this was never required reading for my MFA."

I excitedly explained that character is defined by action, not words. It is the inverse of writing a novel. And through action one tells a story.

"No, this is actually really fascinating," she said when I apologized for spending ten minutes analyzing the characters in 'Silver Linings Playbook.'

"I know, right?  Oh, and by the way, I met a guy on the train back from the airport.  A Brit.  Who likes tennis.  We shared a cab."

"Wait, what?!?!"

"Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that. Huh. My bad."