Thursday, February 26, 2009

I tried dancing on a Saturday night just to see what the fuss was about

Let me get this straight from the outset. I like dating. I like the possibility of a held hand; the anticipation of intimacy. And to be honest this blind date was not bad on the scale of blind dates. However, I was slightly at a loss to discover that this youngish man does not drink coffee or alchohol, or enjoy movies or food. It is always a bad sign when you're drinking coffee and he's drinking white hot chocolate on a first date. This man eats to stave hunger and he sleeps so as not to be tired. He seems utterly uninterested in exploring the world as it is. His saving grace is his British sense of humor and his obvious enthusiasm for English literature, which he studies. If a man has no vices, he should at least have a passion, or three. There should be a hint of something under his skin. We sat there for a few hours, chatting and I found myself wondering, despite our pleasant conversation, if this is really where I want to be at 7:30 on a Thursday night. Can my life be reduced to a life of the mind augmented by hot chocolate? Is this who I am?
This is obviously about more than just this one date. It is a question I have been asking myself as I am approaching the end of my thesis. I will soon have to make a decision as to whether I want to continue on to a PhD and stay within the confines of the academy. As odd as this is to say aloud, my thesis has been my friend for the past two years and academia my home since I started my schooling. I'm good at it. I always have been. After all, I went to a university where the cultivation of life of the mind is the prime objective; where the t-shirts read "that's all good and fine in practice, but how does it work in theory?" and I thrived there. And yet, I have been feeling lately that I want to do something else; something more visceral and palpable. I want to cook in restaurant kitchen, to open doors to other worlds with food; to watch the eyes of a child light up as they find Middle Earth; I want to feel the slick velvet oil of a horse's hide through my fingers; to come home dirty and grimy and aching with sun and a hurt that reminds me of my body's existence. I want to earn my money by the sweat of my brow and not the grace of a university donor.
And yes, I know, joining the academic world does not negate the possibilities of any of these endeavors. And yes, I know it to be a truth about myself, that like the young man I went out with, I am happiest where I am comfortable; where I know the language, the code of behavior and I don't often venture outside the realm of the already known. But there is another part of me as well. It is the part of me that revels in new places; in taking an experience into myself and walking the world with it;. It is the part of me that wants to be in Paris in early morning light and mist; to learn to dance Flamenco like I saw in Madrid and to ride a rodeo in the shadow of the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. It is the part of me in sitting in a bar, waiting for the "hey, baby, can I buy you a drink?"
So whoever you are, I want you to come, walk this world with me.

Thesis Watch: Still at page 68

Book Rec: A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sounds of silence

Last June I decided to move out of the apartment I had been living in for the past four years. I was determined to live alone. I was coming off of a horrific roommate experience-one that kept me shaking with fury most days- and I wanted nothing more than my own space, my own sunlight across a tiled floor, my own silence. Instead, come August, I found myself in a new apartment living with my sister.
My younger sister and I shared a room for most of our lives, so sharing an apartment just seemed like a continuation of the way things had always been. Of course, we both threw minor fits in the weeks before we moved in, culminating in my sister reconsidering her decision about a week before the moving trucks arrived. We created elaborate rules, hoping to maintain a sense of independence and a life separate from one another. Within a week the rules and the fear induced hissy fits disappeared. After a string of roommates whose lifestyles needed to be accommodated and learned, there is nothing quite like living with a sister. We settled into a comfortable pattern of domesticity- I cook, she washes. She mops, I sweep. I stumble into her room at 6:30 (if I'm lucky) a.m. to feed the cat and then stumble back into bed, she wakes an hour later and makes coffee while I sleep. Some nights we sit and talk. Some nights, when we both come home late and grumpy, we retreat with our computers to our respective rooms and shout inconsequential greetings at each other from across the hallway.
There are drawbacks to this sort of living situation, the foremost one being that when my sister is gone I miss her. She went to the states last week for a friend's wedding and left me with the apartment to myself for a week and a half. When I was living with said horrific roommate I used to treasure my solitude and independence. Cooking for myself was one of the most satisfactory things I could do. I like to think that those are things that I still treasure. My sister left last Wednesday night. By Thursday the silence felt oppressive and the prospect of cooking dinner almost brought me to tears. The joy in sharing a good meal, in feeding someone, is exponential to that of eating alone. And yet, somehow, on Saturday night when my plans to go out with a friend fell through I was glad. I didn't miss my sister any less, but I liked the silence more. I felt that I needed it to brace me for the week ahead. (and what a doozy of a week it has been). I still would rather share my food, but I also have forced myself to rediscover the joy of cooking for oneself. I was glad on Tuesday, when my good friend who is visiting from the states arrived to stay for a few days. I am also glad for these few minutes when she is off seeing relatives and I have this small calm in which to write. It's a balance, I guess, finding those things you wish to share and those you wish to keep to yourself. I'll find it. Maybe the key is having someone who will make you coffee in the morning but understand when you need to drink it alone.

Two random things I will never understand:
1) Why the old Russian ladies wear makeup in the pool.
2) Why the food at haredi weddings must inherently be cold and crappy.

Also, I miss my sister.

Book Rec: Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris

Thesis Watch: Page 68.