Wednesday, March 24, 2010

the perfect past

Last night I tried to clean out my email, which says I have more than 1,000 unread messages. It took me to the strange place of 2004, when I first got my gmail account, and I was breaking up with my boyfriend, becoming an alcoholic slut, and trying to get my life back on track by leaving the comfortable womb of San Francisco and diving headfirst into grad school in New York. The emails were so schizophrenic---filled with so much grief and excitement, hyperactivity and insomnia. They made me extremely nostalgic for that time of my life. When I feel really lost and lonely and confused, I like to kick myself for ripping myself out of that situation where "everything" was so good.

Do you ever feel like maybe the best part of your life has already happened? I had that terrible feeling last night. Let me step back a second to say that I am not as miserable as I was in my last post, and that I have somewhat successfully coddled myself with the Hallmark encouragement phrases that "dreams take time" and "genius is 99 percent perspiration..." This isn't about feeling discouraged or disappointed anymore. It is more about feeling as though that combination of naivete, optimism and determination was the magical combination and that ever since then, things have definitely been awesome in different ways, but never again have I felt that excited about life and its possibilities. And this makes me a little sad.

Of course, we cannot retain innocent hope forever. Maybe I still experience joy and wonder and fear, but it is all couched in this underwhelming, familiar cynicism that seems to be telling me that all these emotions are somewhat deceptive. Before, the appearance of these emotions were signals to me that great change was underway. If I was scared shitless or raging uncomfortably on euphoria, I knew that something incredible was happening and I just had to hold on and soak it in. But now I find myself in these tenuous places constantly, and I have begun to see it as a sign of permanence rather than change. I don't feel like I will struggle through these nerve-wracking times and come out with answers anymore; I've been through this before and none of these things got resolved. Now the struggle is just a state of being.

I am embarrassed to admit that I still feel like I broke up with my Ex in the recent past, and that I will be stronger and smarter once I get over it. That was five years ago. As a writer, I naturally live somewhat in the past, trying to understand something in order to package it and present it in some kind of frame, some kind of context. But I think that has a detrimental effect on my life, because sometimes things can't be packaged and explained and the attempt to do so can prevent us from keeping pace with what the future brings us. It is one thing to want to avoid repeating the same mistakes, but another to become so fascinated by history that we forget to vote.

I don't really know what I'm saying. I know that there is no such thing as figuring things out once and for all, that tough decisions have to be made repeatedly, and that pursuing a problem-free existence is like trying to outrun your shadow. I also know that as shiny and happy as parts of my past may seem in photos and emails, the fact is that I wasn't content to stay wherever I was, which is why I am here---and it would be foolish to think I could have stayed there anyway. Things change. I guess I just like to be the one to incite the change, rather than have it forced upon me. I'm not one for regret, but I do wonder what it would have been like had I stayed with my job, my boyfriend. I wonder if I would have put on all this weight. Or maybe I would be dead by now. It's hard to say.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

midlife crisis

I spent the past four days sick in bed, streaming Spanish movies. Only I am too cheap to pay for them, so I would stream a movie for the alotted 74 minutes, and then I would have to wait an hour to finish the movie. Good thing I had nothing else to do.

I wasn't actually that sick, just a bad cold. But sometimes I look for an excuse to lay up and be worthless. Then last night I went and baby-sat my friends' three-week-old baby. I met him the day he was born, and hung out with him a week later, both times of which his eyes were mostly closed. Now they are open, and I cannot imagine what he is seeing--shapes, light. He has no emotions or thought, just perception. He hicupped for about an hour, like, eh. Every time I put him down he would start to make these fussy noises, so I picked him up and danced with him for a while. We listened to Patti Smith and Wilco and David Byrne and Mark Farina and I think he liked it. Then we sat down and I talked to him for a long time about what I wondered his life was going to be like, after being born in Argentina to two very chill parents who are fixing to take him and their dog off to Paris in a few months and then...where? The where seems to matter less and less these days. These are some of my best friends here and we are all the same, just ricocheting around, stopping just long enough to fall in love, eat a steak, squeeze out a kid.

I know I am turning 30 next week. I felt a midlife crisis coming on when I looked into the eyes of that baby, because I kept thinking this one sad thought to myself: I hope you can do better than I did. 'Did'--in the past tense, like my life is fucking over or something. And I am not big on regret, but hey, there it was. I blame it on this cold.

When they came back I walked over to the bar where my friend was DJing. I danced for an hour before I began feeling incredibly sick and tired, so I took the bus home. I thought of the baby, the dog, the music, the cute boys, and the enormous quantity of snot in my head that seemed to be blocking both my air passages and my optimism. And I let myself wonder again what the fuck I am doing here, and I began to get a little despondent. I still have a ticket back in a few weeks, a ticket back--to what? I planned on changing it. I think that being sick makes you want to be at home. But this is a word that has largely lost its meaning--home. Home is where my computer is, pretty much. And for now, that is here. I also said that I wasn't going "home" until I finished this novel that seemed close to completion when I got here, but is now looking like the ultimate fail. What do you do when your plans seem to be failing? Do you keep going, or do you move on? It was like this with Ex. I could have stayed, but I left. I don't regret it, but sometimes I think that was the beginning of the end of all faith I had in commitment to people, to plans.

Obviously, life is complicated and whether to keep going or to drop it depends on a lot of things--how much you want something, how much the game has changed since you started playing it, and what resources are available to you. This is the problem. Instead of actually doing anything, I am just thinking about it all the time. God, it's hard to be this fucking lazy.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

heeding advice

I listen to people. Sometimes more than myself. Yesterday I went on what was supposed to be an overnight trip with my FC love affair. It was a test trip to see if we could travel together to the desert soon. I was very conflicted about going with him, because he is way into me and I am not so much into him. But he's a nice, decent guy, and if he could stop touching me we could probably travel together and split costs.

Pricey tequila happened Monday night, which always brings out the let's-talk-dirt in me. I was with my young friend who was complaining about not being able to get laid and so I asked him how to deal with this FC who is not a love affair after all. I like to keep my options open, but I can see how that is confusing. You are always wondering--am I going to get laid with this person or not? Earlier in the evening I'd asked my friend what to do, and he advised me to just tell the FC straight up that I was not going to sleep with him. But the young guy laughed when I told him. He said, "Even if a girl tells me no, half the time we end up sleeping together anyway." I put up the standard disgusted-feminist facade for a second but then he asked me if I'd ever said no and then done it anyway, and it turns out that I'm not exactly advancing my cause here. But one of them was a gross situation where I was definitely taken advantage of and I guess the other times I just changed my mind or gave into persistence. Sometimes persistence can be flattering.

Anyhow, the moral of that conversation was that you can say no, and you can just not do it. It doesn't matter if you say no but don't take the steps to follow through. I can do this, but it is just harder if you are planning to share a bed with someone, particularly if you are of the popular male mindset than 'no' means 'wait for it...' In the end, my young friend echoed my friend P's sage advice: just don't do anything you're going to regret.

So I went to Tigre yesterday with the FC, trying to be open-minded. And as soon as he touched me I told him not to, and he largely respected that. Tigre was beautiful, but I felt a little stressed all day about what was being expected. It wasn't until nightfall that I fully understood that I didn't want to stay overnight. We had the hard conversation. And, yes, he told me I could still stay overnight without sex. But I have tried that before, and with guys that I don't know very well, it is just cheap talk. I'd like to judge every guy separately, but when the odds stack up like that, it is just foolishness to ignore the trend. I was exhausted but I went home, feeling incredibly shitty about everything. He had gotten a really nice hotel and I wanted to believe I could have enjoyed it with him, just as friends. But I was right about one thing--he thought the fact that we had kissed the other night meant we would definitely have sex if we shared a room. He came right out and said it; he was disappointed and being honest. I guess it wasn't clear to him that he had been coming on hard to me and while I hadn't reciprocated all that enthusiastically, I hadn't exactly pushed him away. But making out is one thing, fucking is another. Amiright?

My roommate has been stressed and sick the last week or so, and I am right there with him today with a terrible headache and a sore throat. Stress really fucks up your immune system. And I am confused as to why I wasn't into this guy. It feels like I am walking away from a fucking perfect love affair--temporary, traveling, foreign, sweet, tall, and financially able to pay for things like nice hotels and long lunches. But for some reason I just don't want anything to do with it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

the comfort of friends and strangers

Sorry. I've been writing a lot this week. It is because I have been awake a lot, with my mind going like a loosed freight train downhill. Notice that things only go out of control DOWNHILL. Because, I suppose, if you lost your brakes going uphill, you would then be going downhill. That is physics, people.

I miss people a lot this week. Yesterday I thought I was cracking up and then I talked to Little Brother. Somehow he makes everything okay. Then I was saved by music, music that helped me sleep. There is this glorious photo site that I like full of people who are also photographers, who have lived in places that I have lived, and take me back to places I want to go, and places I have never been. One of the guys posted an album he recorded recently, when he was going crazy and also saved by his brother. I downloaded the album and fell asleep listening to it, a glorious 3 pm cradle-me-to-sleep nap.

It is not really music I think I would normally like, but I feel like I sort of know these people, their stories, and one of them sang me to sleep. I suppose it is the way people feel about celebrities, when they follow their lives and loves and careers but don't actually know them. I never understood those people until now. And now I am someone I don't understand. Because I will probably put on that very album and (hopefully) fall asleep listening to it again. The post isn't properly linked for permanent ever-ness, but for the moment you can find it here. It is the album Basketball by Pat Parra as well as a free download from Baby Dino called All Our Friends Are Dead, also very beautiful.

I have been kind of hiding out this weekend. I am on the fence about my latest love affair, and we are going on a trip this week. It is probably the worst idea ever. I am such a moody bitch. I asked him to go with me on this big road trip but am now having second thoughts because he seems way too into me. I foresee nights of me rejecting him. That is not the way I want to spend my 30th birthday. We are going to go on a test-drive one-night trip on Tuesday, and then I will decide what to do about it. I don't like the idea of me driving around the desert on my own, but I like the idea even less of my driving around the desert with a guy who won't give up on trying to fuck me. I really hate that feeling. It makes my skin crawl.

My relationship with the entire male sex seems to be become increasingly polarized. The more I hate them, the more they want me. And the more I want them, the less I like myself. My friend told me recently that she is terrified of sex. It is a funny thing for two equally promiscuous women to bond over. But I've been thinking about it a lot. I kind of thought that having sex with as many people as possible would get rid of my fear of sex, or at least reduce my discomfort with it. But I've really only come to one conclusion with sex--once you have sex with someone, one of you expects it at any given moment. And for me, the fear involves being put in a situation where you have to reject people constantly. It is better to just reject someone the first night and never have to do it again, or to just fuck complete strangers you will never see again, hence never reject again. Of course, then you only have sex with strangers, which is never as good as long-termers. But with long-termers, you have to deal with rejection of sex every once in a while, which I think so few of us know how to deal with. Certainly not me. I really don't know what to do about this. Some sort of strategy-change is needed. It probably involves drinking less than I do now as well as, I don't know, thinking differently. You know, being a different person.

It seems only fitting that today I got my first-ever message from a woman on my dating site, and that I was like, "Hell, yes."

I miss you guys so much. I have so many questions and misunderstandings and you have so many answers. Or, at least, hugs.

Friday, March 12, 2010

let's get physical

I had a really weird night. I met up with my French-Canadian love affair in San Telmo and then I waited for the 24 for at least half an hour before hailing a cab. It is like a 25 peso cab ride to my house, but I am twenty times more likely to take a cab when it's late and I have a few drinks in me.

We were having the standard conversation that I am used to having: how's your night going, seems pretty busy/quiet tonight, what's going on? I'm from the States, been here for 3 months, working, you know. When we got close to my house, the driver asked me if I wanted to go on a little tour of the city, because I wasn't familiar with his barrio. It was just after 1 a.m. and I was a little sleepy, but I can never pass up an invitation like that. He shut off the meter and invited me up to the front seat.

I was a little leery of hopping up front after the leg-touching situation on Tuesday night, but like I said, I am trying to get over that shrill, pointless feminist in my mind screaming "DON'T TOUCH ME" when it appears to be harmless. So I got in the front and we drove around a bit. We eventually stopped at a gas station where you can buy illicit beers. He drove me past where he plays soccer, through a super tony suburb of Buenos Aires, and then we parked by the Rio Plata and drank beer and talked about life. I trusted him.

The weird part came, of course, when he started touching me. At first it was just my hair, which he found fun. And then he told me my shoulders were fucked up--which they are, from carrying around my behemouth camera all the time--and was kind of giving me a little shoulder massage, which I wasn't really into. But the whole time we are talking, and I don't feel unsafe because even though it is the wee hours, we are parked next to a police station and there are people outside, fishing for god knows what. I would not eat anything that even looked at the Rio Plata.

Anyhow it was obvious that I didn't want him to touch me, so he asked me what was the matter, and, remembering the experiences of this week, I tried really hard to articulate myself. I didn't want to offend him because I still don't understand the cultural norms around physical contact with strangers. So I told him that Chinese people aren't very physical, and even though I'm American, as a woman I don't feel particularly comfortable when men I don't know touch me. We had been talking about our families--his parents died when he was young--and he said that although Argentines are very touchy, he tends to be even more so, because he lacked physical contact growing up. He apologized profusely for making me feel uncomfortable. But then he wanted to know what happened if he put his hand on my leg--did that make me uncomfortable? What was I thinking? I said while the contact itself was not abhorrent, my Chinese-American-female mind was rejecting the pleasure receptors. Or something like that. He didn't speak a lick of English, so this was all being discussed in my really excellent Spanish.

In the end we hung out for three hours. It was kind of incredible. I know you all read my blog with a fine-toothed comb, so you remember clearly the episode where I was struggling to come to terms with my sexuality in a cafe with two young boys asking me if I liked it up the ass. This was kind of the same situation, where I was trying to confront something that has been puzzling me, and I'm pretty sure it is a combination of my personal hang-ups, confusion with the cultural context, and the language barrier.

It's true that I did not grow up in a physically affectionate family. For me physical contact is kind of forced, or just there when greeting or parting ways. The taxi driver articulated that I was the kind of person who only lets my hombre touch me. Not since I baby-sat for two little boys have I had so many people touch me--or so I thought. But then I thought about all the dates I have been on in the past few years, and how I get weirded out when certain people touch me. I'm not sure if there is any rhyme or reason around it. I definitely was not weirded out when Friend of Friend was macking on me, or when the French-Canadian reached for my hand last night. I wish I understood my reactions more, because they are so strong. I think that a lot of time I don't want the physical contact if I think it will put me in a conflict zone--like one caress could lead to me fighting off unwanted sex, dealing with rejection/slippery slope, or I am just physically repulsed.

I don't want things to be this complicated. I just want to figure out how to deal with men. But it is not like figuring out algebra; every situation is so different. Or maybe I am making it complicated. I don't know.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

forced friendships and social norms

Last night I had to struggle to go out. I was really tired--been riding the insomnia train again--and I was chilling at home, enjoying some whiskey and a nice joint with my roommate. But I had been invited out by some fellow urban Americans who are all here in Buenos Aires for an extended amount of time.

They're nice kids--and I say 'kids' because they have certain ways of making me feel all of the five years older that I am. It is nice to have a crew to hang out with. But it is obvious to me that we would not be friends back in New York, that they are only hanging out with me out of either A) obligation, or B) boredom with each other--perhaps some fine combination of the two. And I think these are the options because that is what I am doing with them, with the addition of C) masochism/self-improvement. Part of me hates being with them, because I act differently around them--the way you would around people you don't know very well but want to get along with, but also in a way that I find very troubling, where I try to play up the qualities I see in them that I don't admire but understand that they value: their obsession with being in-the-know, their careless spending habits, and their self-confidence, which I find both alluring and repulsive.

Maybe it is what makes me feel old. I feel like I was like that once, in some small way. Anyhow, I feel like they bring out small pieces of me that exist but I don't like to play up so much, and part of being around them is literally not buying into their scene completely, and consciously trying to be me instead of one of them. It always fascinates me when I find myself as the outsider in a group. A balancing act emerges of trying to observe and understand the dynamic, absorb yourself into it and taking part in the rituals, or standing apart completely. This is the story of my life, deciding how much of a participant I want to be. With these kids, I got so caught up in wanting to be accepted that I forgot that I have a choice of not even caring if I am accepted. Because I don't want to be accepted on those terms. Being with them also makes me feel like an insecure teenager. Sheesh.

So last night I declined dinner and thought I would just meet them at the bar, and forego the after-hours club as well. I'm having a cash-flow problem. I thought, "If I can't make it through the night on 34 pesos (about $8), I am hanging out with the wrong people." But I was in good spirits in the end, and accompanied them to the club, but was already out of money by the time we got there. Somehow we avoided the 20-peso entrance fee, but then I was convinced to split a table with bottle service. Ah, yes. Spending money I don't have. Well, the decision was made, and I danced and had fun. Then one of the boys tried to take me home. We had been dancing a little and making out, but I didn't want to sleep with him. I don't know what it is more awkward--hanging out with someone you slept with drunkenly, or hanging out with someone you rejected. I guess it depends on the person. I try to minimize awkwardness.

In the taxi home, I am pretty sure the cab driver used our conversation about the manual transmission as an excuse to touch my legs repeatedly when talking about which feet you use to work which pedal. The touching thing is something I never know how to handle. I'm okay with casual contact, but with men I can't help but feel like they are just being lecherous. When I was out with that old guy last week, he kept putting his hand on my back or on my arms and part of me wanted to freak out and scream "DON'T TOUCH ME!" But I feel like that would be inappropriate; people are just more touch-y here. But it's like the situation with the forced-friend, like the allowance of physical contact is a slippery slope. I am still negotiating all this social terrain. It is good stuff for sleepless nights.

Monday, March 1, 2010

resting syndrome

So, we find ourselves in March. That is always a surprise. How did you like February? I thought it was okay. Another month with no work, just "work."

I have been Down South for three months now. There are many days like today when I don't leave my neighborhood, don't even want to. I am in that mode now where I don't feel the need to go anywhere. I thought that I would kick it in Buenos Aires for three months max, and then move on somewhere else. But I don't really want to anymore, so I'm not going to. I'm not used to this feeling; usually I am so restless. I bought a bunch of books.

After the horrible experience at last week's fashion show, I gave myself a breather and wondered really, what I needed to do. I get the feeling that I am going about this all wrong, that I am going in too many directions to make an honest effort at any one thing. Usually this doesn't bother me; it is kind of my approach to dating as well. It has its pros and cons. I just find it really difficult to specialize. Everyone says you have to make a commitment to one thing/person, to specialize in certain things. But I don't want to, and I don't know how. I guess I learned this week, that I am definitely not going to specialize in fashion. Fuck that.

This week I am biting the bullet and going after some copywriting work. Uggh, I know. But although my rent is miniscule, my belly demands to bed fed every few hours. I just hope it's not horrible.

I did, however, make a promise to myself to spend my 30th birthday in a place I'd never heard of before. I think I will get on a bus and go somewhere. I will have to figure that out; it's just a few weeks away. Maybe I will go to Tigre. I've heard good things...