Thursday, April 10, 2008

Where have I gone?

There's been a lull in my blogging over the past week and I apologize.

I had one hell of a weekend. I wish I could say that I went on a bender. Or that I spent the first half of this week recovering from the effects of copious amounts of alcohol. But both would be lies. The only drugs involved was some Ibuprofen to ease my jaw after 72 hours of grinding my teeth together.

I went into north country (where there's still some snow clinging to the ground) to visit my grandmother and other members of my extended family. Which is normally a wonderful thing. I haven't been to see them since my uncle passed away. I like getting to see these people and the chance only presents itself every few months, if that, so I jumped at it.

This time was different. This was the trip where my father was introducing his new girlfriend to his family.

I think I need to start with a statement of my take on the situation as the child of divorced parents. My parents have been divorced for going on 11 years and I already went through the process of my mother dating and remarrying. Dad's been dating on and off for years as well. I'm cool with it. Whatever. In theory it makes you hopeful about the world, that no matter what your age is that you can still go out and find someone that you get along with and that likes you back. In theory.

Now, as for this new woman. She's nice enough. On first impression she's lovely even if she does talk way too damn softly. Having a conversation with her in a crowded restaurant makes you want to sign up for a hearing aid.

But the more time I've spent with her the more neurotic I've discovered her to be.

At first I thought that I would make her into a character in one of my stories. Someone who is afraid of shiny things like coffee cups with enamel and kids toys that light up because she thinks they're more radioactive than other coffee cups and other children's toys that aren't shiny. Someone who doesn't trust bridges that are held together by rivets.

I figured that those two things together could make an interesting sketch of a character. But then the list of things that have traumatized her kept growing to the point where she wouldn't be a believable character anymore. (Monk aside.)

She was traumatized by Dr. Seuss books. Really? Not as a child but as a grown woman reading them to her kids. She got the words and rhythm of One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish stuck in her head and couldn't sleep. Thus trauma. Sacrilege! She recited probably a dozen lines of One Fish, Two Fish to me in demonstration of why it was traumatic. I just sat there saying "I don't understand" which caused her to recite more lines. "I don't understand." To which she wailed "It got stuck in my head!"

*crickets chirping*

I'm left to assume that prior to reading Dr. Seuss she never had a song stuck in her head. But even then, I struggle to see what the hardship is here.

She also ruined two books for me this weekend.

She's the kind of woman who has spent too much of her life in the suburbs and therefore thinks she should be reading a certain kind of book and that everything else is "fluff." Okay fine whatever. I'm not going to rail against the notion as I might very well someday have that kind of woman as an audience but I still think it's awful to start telling someone about what an interesting book you've read by telling them the entire frickin plot. So I got the cliff notes version of Middlesex without any of the beauty, subtlety or nuance that the author spent all those years creating. Joy. I feel so enriched.

She did the same with The Memory Keeper's Daughter.

She's freaked out about being old. And then she made some awful comments about it in front of my almost 76 year-old grandmother. Including one about being put in a home which made me stiffen my spine and glare. She also pouts when my 14 year-old cousins refer to "old people" indirectly. Get over it - you're four times their age, they'll never think of you as young, they already think of me as old.

As this was a four hour road trip each way there were the necessary park and pee stops. As I've done this quite a few times I take note of the good the bad and the ugly and try to stop only at the good. But this is north country and generally your options are limited once you get off the closed access highways with their state run roadside reststops. But the creme de la creme of north country McDonald's bathrooms were "disturbing on so many levels." I COULDN'T BELIEVE IT! It was sanitary, recently cleaned, nothing on the floor, not falling apart, didn't smell bad, had your own stall with working locks. But apparently when one toilet flushed the water coming out of the faucet temporarily cut out. THIS WAS HER COMPLAINT! Darn. A bathroom system with one intake pipe. Wow. Really disturbing.

Then she got "concerned" about the food handlers not wearing gloves. We're talking about the people who all they do is put together the food, wrap it and hand it off to the next guy. These people do not handle money and they do not interact with the public. Dad -- the germ doctor -- tells her that it's no big deal so long as they wash their hands.

"But what about germs under the finger nails?" she asks.

She has spent waaaaaay too much time in suburbia. And she obviously is on a look the other way basis with all of her fancy restaurant food because I'm telling you right now that those people don't wear gloves either.
There are germs on everything and you'll never get away from all of the germs. Basically washing hands is just to make sure that fecal matter doesn't make it into your food, but we don't tell her this part. I would have loved to though. I would have loved to elaborate on the fact that the body is a wonderful thing in that it kills almost all the germs we put into it.

OH! And now she thinks we're a hugging family.

We are sooo not a hugging family.

Okay, I hug my grandmother and my aunt when I see them because I haven't seen them in three months. And on the day I leave I hug them again because I won't see them for another three to six months. It's a long term departure thing, not an everyday thing. But apparently we're now a "hugging family" just because my aunt wouldn't shake her hand.

So now she wants to hug goodbye. Like, goodnight. Everynight. NO! No, no! At the end of the trip she goes to hug me and all I can think is this had better be a sign that you're leaving the country for a couple of weeks because you should so not be hugging me for anything less.

And she's one of those attack huggers. She doesn't stretch out an arm and lean into it. She doesn't wave you over. Doesn't stand up straight and do the back pat thing. No, she launches herself at you. Headfirst. Whole torso angled toward you, feet taking quick little steps to catch you before you get away. She springs at you and hooks you into this leaning hug and it freaks me out. She starts her approach and I freeze. I suddenly know what it's like to be a rabbit knowing something is coming after you.

I don't like hugging strangers.

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