April 30, 2008
These important life lessons sponsored by MS Word bullets
  • Don't leave your apartment at 8:53 am with only a screwdriver and your new license plates.

  • When leaving said apartment, try to wear something other than yoga pants and a white tee shirt. Like a bra and underwear.

  • When you realize you've locked yourself out and have only a car key, don't berate yourself for not washing your face or brushing your teeth before exposing yourself to the daylight.

  • Stay calm. You have given spare keys out to 5 friends for this very purpose.

  • Don't panic when you realize that none of these friends is home. Or that you have no phone. Or money. Or underwear.

  • Try not to worry about looking homeless as you scour the streets of DC for change. It is enough that you know you have steady employment.

  • Don't abuse your steering wheel as it dawns on you first that pay phones no longer exist, and next that you are too gross in appearance to stop at the fire station for help, where all the brothers are lined up out front to greet the Pope.

  • When you do locate a pay phone 30 minutes later, don't curse technological advances as you realize you only know one phone number by heart: your mother's.

  • While trying to figure out how to make a collect call and conceal your nipples at the same time, ignore the haggard man playing with your tires. He's only interested because you parked half of your car on the sidewalk.

  • When your mother doesn't pick up two collect calls, avoid calling her names under your breath lest she pick up on the third.

  • While driving to another state to retrieve your spare keys, wash your face with a hand wipe and pull the screwdriver through your hair in the hope that your mother will recognize you at rendez vous point.

  • While waiting for mother at marina, ignore frowning woman on cell phone placing a call while watching you change "your" license plates. Yes, you look like a criminal.

  • 60 minutes later, when your mother arrives with money, insurance card, and Diet Coke in hand, suppress every urge to jump on her back and hug her tightly. You know full well she'll feel your commando breasts and take the Diet Coke back.


April 28, 2008
Kris: the other bright meat
I'm tired of living the anti-healthy lifestyle. For all intents and purposes, my picture should be on the FDA Web page devoted to How Not to Treat What God Gave Ya, the one that would pair me with some uberradiant Kris antithesis like Ashley Judd or Denise Austin. She'd be demonstrating how to make popsicles with orange juice and an ice cube tray, and I'd be drinking vodka and Crystal Light while making Velveeta nachos with a Baked Lays base. This is really no way to live long term, and I'm sick and tired of all of it. Literally.

The advice I got about the high blood pressure was infuriating - I don't think there was a thing on the checklist that I was doing right. Multivitamin? Minimal alcohol use? Sleeping well and someplace other than your couch? Eating a low sodium diet that isn't 2/3 dependent on meals that can be ordered by number? It doesn't get better. Regular exercise beyond trimming your cats' nails? Maintaining an ideal body weight? Getting a physical more than once before the cicadas hatch? Here's where I started to hear the crickets. When you're doing most everything wrong it's hard to know where to start. It's overwhelming, to say the least, a little like thinking you're getting a new chandelier hung and finding the whole house has to be rewired.

So I began in the kitchen, and with the wine rack, specifically. Like most people, drinking is my stepping stone to more harmful pursuits, in my case, seven 100 calorie packs of orange hexagons, Marlboro Lights, and innumerable wedges of Laughing Cow cheese. When I'm home most everything I eat is packaged and made by trolls in the Kingdom of Low Fat, which would be fine if I ate them in moderation or with a side of anything green or grown outside the Kraft Foods test kitchen.

I should reveal that I'm a food blog lover, if only for the pretty pictures, and dreams that someday I will put to good use all the Calphalon I've amassed. These cooks are amazing. I envy their ability to stroll through farmer's markets, picking and plucking the freshest there is. I imagine them piecing together a novel meal with each item they buy, knowing just how their full spice rack will play into the equation, thinking in exact amounts what they have to work with at home in their pantries. It must be near orgasmic to know how to craft from scratch. To recognize the difference cardamom will make in a dish. To know why racks of lamb long their entire lives to wear little hats on their deathbeds.

So I set out this weekend if not to imitate to improve. I had only two drinks in four days. And it's amazing just how much extra time you have when you aren't out drinking! You can unpack your suitcase from your November trip! And throw out canned goods than expired in 2006! And grocery shop! Armed with a large fountain soda and a commitment to avoid the frozen food aisles, I hit the Safeway. I picked up a beautiful pork tenderloin, bread and cheese, fresh pasta, a foundation well within my comfort zone. Strategically, as in I had no earthly idea what to do with them just as with infants when they cry, I saved the greenstuffs for last. I won't call it panic that I felt while approaching the produce section, as I reserve that emotion for moments when someone first sees me naked, but I was overwhelmed. So I went for the old friends first: cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce. Wow, Kris, I berated myself, you buying for the Roy Rogers Fixins Bar? In my shame, I forced myself to bag a pound of fresh green beans and some red potatoes, and then blamed my beeline to the register not on those frightening artichokes but on running out of fountain soda.

What followed is a clear indication as to just how much a woman of 34 years can miss out on in a lifetime. When I got home, I opened my catch of green beans, and rather than whirring up a joyous flurry of pans and spices and real, live butter, I simply stared at them. What the hell was I supposed to do with them now? Was I supposed to boil them, broil them, stick them in the cavity of a turkey? So I did what any self-respecting blogger would do: I Googled it. And with the help of the genius that is the Interwebs, I found videos on snapping the ends off of beans like your grammy used to on her back porch, on cooking them to perfection. And every moment of the process was joyous. With wild abandon I broke their little green necks and feet. Then I boiled them like bunnies and plucked them out before sogginess set in. I even timed them to be plated with their red potato bed mates! And they were beautiful, and perfectly done, and tasted luscious with a little bit of butter and cracked pepper. And the moment of triumph was all I imagined for those online foodies, a glorious mix of excess serotonin and a pride not felt since my last spelling bee. And not a morsel of it lessened when I realized the pork wouldn't be done for another half hour.


April 25, 2008
Waiting for Godot, Guffman & Greece
I'm waiting for perfection. I have a new spring Coach that has been sitting in the bag for weeks as I'm waiting for the perfect day for its debut. Today is the perfect day, of course, with a cloudless sky and a high of 80 breezy degrees, but my outfit just won't do. I'm also waiting for the impossibility of flights to Venice to drop below a thousand dollars and for the ideal firm but noninflammatory language for a letter I want to send my mother. I'm still waiting.

I have friends who are putting off dating until they lose weight, who miss out on the joy of being thrown unattractively into the sand by a rogue wave because they refuse to put on a swimsuit. I know others who won't vacation in lands of the sun until they drop those last 20 pounds because outdoor lighting and cellulite just don't mix. I gave up that quest long ago. I just tell kids that counting the streaks will tell them my age.

My mother all but covered the parquet with feathers when I broke out a Waterford wine glass the night of my father's death. Really, what more significant night did we have coming down the pike? Oprah and Steadman coming over for a taste of that 1942 reserve? I have relatives who cover the furniture with any number of devices, from plastic slip covers to empty boxes that still don't deter the cats from shredding the cushions. Don't get me started on hallway runners. And paper plates. And pristine bathroom hand soaps. Just who is a more perfect guest than we are?

I planned to save Greece for my honeymoon, you know, the celebration of the nuptials that are anything but imminent. What could be more perfect than kissing your closest while floating in perhaps the most gorgeous waters on the planet? Eventually I got tired of waiting and realized it wasn't my dream to drive a Rascal up to the Acropolis. Like a great Britney album, perfection just isn't coming.*

* This does not, however, under any circumstances including armageddon and McCain winning the election, allow you to contact that imperfect ex you've been thinking about. Even his mom thinks so.

April 23, 2008
Use your words
I'm a woman who talks a good game. I probe acquaintances for specifics of their sex lives, I request details of every gross surgery or open wound, and I'll approach complete strangers to ask them where they got their highlights. But last night at the MAC store, I simply refused to ask the saleswoman for my favorite lip gloss by name, and instead pointed at my empty tube and grunted. Because apparently saying the word "nymphette" in an open forum offends my delicate, reserved sensibilities. My mother will be most encouraged by this development.

April 21, 2008
childfree to be you and me
I’m not going to BlogHer this summer. I decided this based on a variety of factors, not the least of which was the fact that I’m not speaking this year and therefore would have to pay for the conference, which would minimize the disposable income I generally reserve for Laffy Taffy and Bonne Bell Lip Smackers. I’m also of the mindset that I deserve a completely fun vacation right now, away from all things even remotely related to business and networking and permagrin. I’m thinking my September trip to Greece will do the trick. It won’t be free smiling, for sure, but there will be no pressure to attend sessions rather than lay poolside with a margarita.

I of course checked out the BlogHer agenda, and was pleased to see there’s a session on being childfree in the blogosphere. Oh, all the places this could go! I’m hoping that the speakers celebrate the presence of childfree bloggers rather than lamenting the amount of attention we seem to lack in comparison to the mommy blogger. I would hate to see it turn into a bitch session in which we show our collective dissatisfaction with not getting enough play. We already know this is how things are, but why is this the case? Is it because we don’t have the well-defined network that the parent bloggers do? Is it because the readership is there in one case and not in another? I can say with certainty that it isn’t for lack of good content; much of the best writing out there is produced by bloggers I’m quite sure have never held a baby. I’d like to see participants discuss what is out there in this "other" community of thriving bloggers, but also why it is that being a non-mommy blogger seems to be today’s radical act.

It also seems important for them to discuss why this distinction is even necessary. Most days I’m of the view that it isn’t, but that this is simply the way things have shaken out in the big, bad online world. People need a way to categorize those they read and those who read them; it helps to answer “Are you one of us?” and saves precious time that otherwise would be spent sifting through an online TJ Maxx of sites. Categorization lets people know where they are likely to find something of interest, a connection. And it colors many things, from post content to who talks to you at a blogging cocktail party to whether certain types of ads run on your site. But does it help any of us? I’m on the non-parent blogroll on some sites – does it make a difference? Truth be told, I don’t care if you are a parent or a beekeeper or both. If you write interesting posts, I’ll read you. If you have something to say that someone else hasn’t said before, or you manage to say it in a different way, I’ll read you. It matters not if you live on a farm in Oklahoma or around the corner from me. Do what you do well and the other distinctions don’t even matter. Do they?

April 15, 2008
There's no reason for hugs! There's no reason for tears!
Well, there are several reasons for both, but not a one of 'em is growing off of my cat's bum! They don't think it's more c-a-n-c-e-r! Not to be said above a whisper! Until now!

Tonight's vet exam was quite thorough. There was palpating and prodding and yes, there was gooey clear lube, and quite a bit of nail biting while I thanked our lucky stars that this examination room had none of those ominous stirrups. It seems Bug's rear end has developed a thing - a growth at the amputation site that's either newly-used muscle or a little munchkin of fat. I'm going with the former, mostly because someone in this household should have a firm bottom, and also because I like to imagine Bug lifting Cricket with his rump while I'm at work.

There have been many rough moments during my time as the Angelina of sick rescued cats, but now is not one of them. I am filled with with exclamations! I am filled with Christ's love! I am filled with Pinot Grigio!

I'm going to call it his asshat.


April 14, 2008
Because when you think that you can’t take anymore, that your body might implode because this! 2008! it can’t get any crappier four months in, what with your father dying and all the other left of happy that has chosen to dump itself in your lap, you find out that it can indeed get worse. Like finding that where your cat’s leg used to be, there’s a new lump under the skin instead, something the vets warned you might again rear its ugly head. And then you realize you can take more that you thought, and that you don’t go into cardiac arrest when it happens. You simply just keep going through the fucking motions.

April 10, 2008
The redesign is imminent. If I could have a boner, I would, as crass as it is. But if you've been reading for a while you knew that already. I need sleek, I need simple, I long for clean, sharp lines. More white space and simplicity. It's my bias. But what would you like to see here at The Wino? Nude photos are of course off the table. Well, not off my kitchen table, just this site.

April 9, 2008
Ache, or the Post that Made You Hate the Metaphor
It’s an awful parallel, but it will have to do, because I have both a headache and low verbal SATs. I have a pair of shoes, ones that fit like a dream. Unlike most every other pair I’ve owned, they don’t incessantly rub my heels, don’t make my little toes ache. They’re more versatile than favorite espadrilles or flats; I can wear them to work, I can wear them to baseball games, I can wear them to lunch with my sometimes all too observant mother. Their color makes me beam, their style fits me perfectly. When I get up in the morning I can’t wait to wear them and sometimes in a tipsy twirl I forget to kick them off before bed. They draw warranted compliments no matter the occasion.

But one day last season I felt a sharp pain. And out of nowhere I was bleeding, a cut so deep and swift I was in disbelief. How did this happen? When there’s no logic, no linear relationship no matter how obvious, I simply plug along, and this was no different. I put on a band aid and went back to business. And then it happened again, leaving little cuts and bruises, and I was left telling friends I was perfectly fine while they rolled their eyes and noted my limp. These perfect shoes, no matter their value, were biting the foot that filled them, the next time before the last nicks had healed. I wept with disbelief, and was given cause not once, not twice, not even just three times. And it really, really hurt. I’m not sure I can stress that last part enough.

The moral of this stumbling, hypothetical, not particularly applicable, frankly tortuous story? I’m forced to put them back in the closet. Because when it comes down to reality, a girl’s best shoes shouldn’t fucking bite.

I told you it was an awful analogy.

I lost a very important friendship recently, and distressed doesn’t begin to cover the feeling. I’m devastated at times, vacillating between sheer anger and confusion, then onward toward independence and defiance. I can’t believe I had to lose him. It’s more honest to admit that I let him go, feeling ultimately forced to make a decision I did not invite, because in my world view he wasn’t playing by the rules. Rules sounds too definitive, too harsh, but that’s indeed what they are. They’re my dealbreakers. Rules that seem to me to be a part of the canon of personal relationships, something as intuitive as a do unto others.

I don’t think my rules are all that hard to follow. I don’t require friends let me bed their fathers, and not just because I’m not sexually attracted to even a one. (No offense.) I’m much more old school in my absolutes: Respect those most important to you. When you make a mistake, apologize and move forward, doing your best not to make the same error in judgment again. It’s more than just lip service; it’s giving where giving is due. It’s making room for more than just you and the flatterers, thinking outside your own head. To me, it’s about avoiding avoidance, even when your history tells you it’s the natural thing to do. It’s choosing fight over flight. Over the easy way.

There was a time not so long ago when I didn’t play by my own rules. I loved people deeply, but I didn’t care all that much about how my actions impacted some of them. They were responsible for themselves, after all, and frankly, if I didn’t care for me, there wasn’t a chance in hell the ones I kept closest were going to get anything that was in my reserves. Those on the outside got all of that. Because you know what? I could push the ones close to me to amazing extremes and they'd never leave. And the ones on the periphery? They didn’t demand anything more. They were accepting of me on autopilot, indulging my occasional plunges into the depths. It was gloriously comfortable in its counter intuitiveness. It was safe and easy. And it was all things bad for me. And just because I did it and sometimes fall back there, it doesn’t make it right.

Things are different for me now. When you don’t meet even the most basic of the dealbreakers, when you don’t treat me with consistent respect, you can’t be part of my inner circle. You simply cannot.

(Notice how I have to keep telling myself this? It isn’t yet reflexive. Wash. Rinse. Repeat, Kris. Begin again.)

I love this man. Love - as in the present tense - and have sometimes foolish faith in his ability and depth, his potential for giving and friendship, his gift for telling a joke when I flub each and every one. Despite everything, he’s always represented a peach in an orchard of dusty apples. And when a friendship ends, the pain is in remembering the peachy times, in the details. I want to tell him about the latest with a friend’s sick pup, want to mock just how poorly I know his baseball team is doing, want to report back on a recent rash of DHL truck sightings. There’s a lot to share, to tease about, to tell to someone with whom I shared many, many, many hours. And so it sounds unfair in my head, and unfair as I write it, as if I’m doing something wrong, but I can’t budge. Because in recent years my values have begun to dictate more and more of my decisions, and if I do what it is that I want rather than what I need, I open myself up again. I lower the walls that are now higher than ever, that were scalable not too long ago, the ones that were leapable given the right situations. Too much risk. I avoided the easy way, chose fight over flight, and it bit me. That isn’t ok.

I just want to scream and shake him and tell him this simply can’t be. I want to bellow and bawl. Why can’t you get it fucking right? Why do I have to be a casualty of a world of which you can’t make sense? Why do I not get the best of you? It’s fourth grade again, and I’m flailing and screaming because a choice is out of my hands. Not fair! I’m screaming with almost no voice, only there’s no one to console me now, no mother to stroke my hair and tell me just to wait because things will be different down the road, you’ll see. Because as much as I’m kicking and screaming against acceptance, I’m beginning to think these things just are what they are. It’s the way the world goes as an adult, and by now I know you can’t change people, can’t heal them to be who you want them to be. Even who you know they can be. I’m a woman and a friend who deserves more than the safe and the comfortable and the all things bad for him, the ones which somehow end up being bad for me.

This loss still seems inconceivable right now. But it’s reality. And I’m not sure if I mentioned it, so let me say it again, although this time I’ll leave the awful, gratuitous, painful analogy out of the equation. No matter how far I feel I’ve come and how I know what has to be done to take care of me, right now? I just really, really hurt.

April 6, 2008
K Number 1, if we had married, I'd probably be living in Southern California. I bet we'd have had the ceremony in our hometown and you would have sung at our wedding. Like that teal suit that plagued me through many a college formal, you'd have worn a non-traditional tuxedo for which I'd secretly resent you. I'd be a nagging wife who'd pester you to get a real job. I'd be a loving wife who repeatedly removed from its sacred place in her jewelry box the first ring you gave her when you knew she was the One. I would have been on the verge of breaking up with you over the years for your strange appreciation for Hootie and the Blowfish and a penchant for using slang in love letters. But I would be in awe of your passion for life and your love for your parents and your pick of the perfect engagement ring and your all-time amazing ability to disarm a woman with a kiss. If I had married you I would be a dog mom rather than a cat fiend. If I had married you I'd have been a widow at 29.

K Number 2, if I had married you, I'd probably be living on a street bearing your last name. We'd have a top-of-the-line gas grill and you'd probably coach a little league team. We'd likely travel out of state once a year, and when we did we'd bump heads as to whether it would be to Disney or Yellowstone. We wouldn't have gotten pregnant yet, but we'd hang out with high school friends who had a few little ones of their own. We'd have an in-ground pool and an SUV. We'd go to firehouse fundraisers and church on Sundays. On sweltering summer Fridays we'd make the age-old trek to the Jersey Shore and our neighbors there would know us by first names. At family cookouts I'd close the screen door behind me to find your mom standing alone in the kitchen, and we probably still wouldn't have much to say to one another even in the silence.

Dearest J, if we had gotten hitched, it would have been quite a wedding. Only after a series of hints and possible threats would you have gotten up the persuaded courage to propose to me, and when I told and retold the animated proposal story you would blush and slowly shake your downturned head. I'm pretty sure your bachelor party would have been broadcast on the Internet, and would have involved at least three different bail bondsmen. We'd have a baby boy and we'd live in Northern California. You'd be the most responsive husband and a wonderful father, the man who would go out once at 3 a.m. to appease my cereal craving and again at 3:30 when you confused Froot Loops with Apple Jacks. I would find myself often frustrated by your quiet nature but rewarded at the tiny bubbles of goodness and wit that would make their way to the surface during an odd expressive moment. If we were married it's safe to say I'd be drinking hard liquor.

C, if we had made it this far I think we'd be living in Tallahassee, still doing the grad school thing almost a decade after we both started. We would have been married in a Catholic church in DC, and I probably would not have met half the friends you invited to the wedding. I still wouldn't really know what happened in New Mexico. A good bit of our furniture would be from Ikea, and much to my mother's chagrin, we'd have gotten at least two large tents and a thankfully smaller chocolate lab as wedding presents. I'd force myself on a regular basis to eat seafood and not to use puns to excess. We'd go to Martha's Vineyard for our yearly trip and I would find it amazingly rewarding to see my sunburned cheeks in the annual family photo. I'd remain in awe of your ability to make perfect rice and completely amazed at what a good, good man I had found to put up with me. A good bit of the time our lives would be spent in complete silence.

R, if we had gotten married we'd be living in Alexandria, likely in a small house in the back roads of Del Ray. We'd be regulars at the local coffee house, me writing on my laptop and you reading about the latest social revolution. I'd be doubling up on birth control while you did exercises you'd found on the Internet rumored to make your sperm more ambitious. I'd watch you play inline hockey on Wednesday nights and wonder why I never really fit in with any of the other wives. I'd pray for you to get your front tooth fixed. I'd bake miniature rum cakes and take them to parties at which I'd wish for once you'd mingle. Instead, you'd mostly just sit, writing or singing or whatever it is you did in your own head, while I drank Chianti to excess and contemplated forcing myself on your coworker under the mistletoe.

K, if we had gotten married we'd sooner or later nest in MD. You'd play ball for the alumni club and I'd probably only show for the Miller Lites that followed. I'd want to undress you no matter the suit and beg you to wear them more often. We'd go back to San Francisco to recapture moments of near-perfect wine and sex. I'd find excuses not to go on stateside group vacations, hoping for more than repeated college reunions. Neither of us would bring any good furniture to the union, and we'd still order in and eat on a coffee table, always in front of the television. Laughter would be our foundation. I'd pick fights about family and finances, delusional that it would prompt change, and then guilt would prompt a frantic effort at nice. Our best days would be spent by the ocean, your freckles urged out by the sun, me giggling while clumsily trying to float the waves. You would have been thankful that my father was alive to see me in my wedding white. I would always know that I could trust you, count on you to hold my hand tightly, and ask me to dance no matter the event. I'd still drink Yellow Tail. And our lives would still be about me.

April 1, 2008
I’m intoxicated. Don’t jump to conclusions. By God, it’s the most beautiful day in DC thus far this year, and it’s so gorgeous here that I’m suppressing my every urge to write the post I was going to about tourists being kind to DC residents while invading our space to gawk at the cherry blossoms. It’s downright sublime.

This is perhaps the pinnacle of the year for my city, when suddenly the runners around the park are baring their pasty legs and they care not that they haven’t lost their requisite winter weight. The air smells of barbeque and you don’t even mind that your neighbor has forgotten that smoke rises, and rises right into your living room with a right turn into your cats’ lungs. Traffic doesn’t seem as grueling, because the monuments are set against what only this morning was an overcast, weeping sky. The girls across the street come home later than usual and their jackets have been traded for short-sleeved tees. The windows are open and you can almost hear the Pepco bill falling.

Spring in DC is about wishing you had learned how to put the rented convertible’s top down before leaving work. About turning the car heat on only your feet because the sun has found the rest of you. About switching to a white wine because you invite the initial chill. And about walking the extra few blocks to catch a cab, about drinking street side while rubbing your feet against the brick, and about leaving the lined dress pants hanging in the closet until the next cold front comes through.

It isn’t the couple’s season, which bodes even better for the single girl. It’s group spring brunches spent with sunglasses atop your head and a solo walk at lunch that doesn’t leave you longing for his hand around your waist. It’s laughing loudly at a joke because there isn’t cold silence in the streets, without a care as to who hears you. It’s knowing softball on the Mall and conversations with neighbors on the front stoop are around the corner. Everyone is looking upward, if only to let the sun touch their cheeks, and there’s no need to grab another for warmth. No one is ever alone in spring.

So yes, please, come see the cherry blossoms, and enjoy this ridiculously beautiful city as much as I do. And remember that crossing a DC street is done in the same way that it’s done in your home state, even if grandpa keeps honking at you from the Buick across the street with a Zebra cake in his mouth, and that taking a mid-intersection picture of those gorgeous, bubbly blossoms is worth a thousand words, but is also grounds for being pummeled by a rental car regardless of the warmth of the night’s breeze or this appreciative, spring-drunk local’s heart.