Friday, December 18, 2009

Reflecting on 35 years of Holly living

Today is my 35th birthday--how did THAT happen? I mean seriously, 35 is like a REAL adult. Honestly, I am dumbfounded how I got here. The last 10 years in particular are a blur. But unless I am on some kind of mind-altering drugs or am otherwise mistaken, today is December 18, 2009, 35 years to the day that I was born, according to my mother, who should know.

It's been a pretty crazy life so far. Nutshell version: Born in KS, moved to CA, moved to TX, moved to GA, moved to KENYA, fell completely in love with it, had to depart for adulthood (which broke my heart so badly I went married someone completely wrong for me at the age of 19), spent 8 years in an awful marriage, left, found Kevin, got my doctorate, moved to DC, got a job, had a baby, bought a house. Boom. Technically speaking, I've learned a lot along the way, although I can't say that I act like it. But here's a few things I've learned in theory, if not in practice, in random order:

1. If someone has to inform you they are very important--either explicitly or through arrogance, condescension, or demanding behavior--they probably aren't. That includes oneself. If you are important, that will be apparent to others in time. If you aren't important, get over it, most of us aren't either, and there are worse things. Like being an annoying jerk. Besides, convincing everyone you are awesome all the time is really exhausting. Take that energy and channel it toward actually becoming awesome in a way that doesn't undermine or seek to control others. Just put in the work and shut up about it.

2. Marry your soulmate. They do exist. Marriage is always hard work, but marrying your soulmate makes a HUGE difference. It's like you can cut a tree down with a little bitty axe or you can get yourself a big ass chain saw. Either way, it won't be easy and you might end up dead, but one is a lot easier than the other. Trust me.

3. A really good prank to play on someone is putting baby oil in their shampoo, but it only works with an opaque bottle. And play it only someone who can take a joke and/or is pure evil.

4. No one is really pure evil, and we are all evil to a degree. Don't judge, even though it is SO much fun, like THE MOST fun. But the day will come when you are judged, and you won't like it.

5. Men and women are fundamentally, irrevocably, completely, and utterly different. I don't care what Gloria Steinem says, she is just dumb. One of the biggest mistakes a woman can make is to think she can act like a man and get away with it, or expect a man to act like a woman. It never works, it just leaves a lot of crushed expectations littered all over the floor. And then some woman will just have to come and clean it up.

6. Jesus is full of grace and forgiveness and generally rocks. His followers, however, can really be quite heinous and annoying. Learn to differentiate.

7. The world will not stop spinning on its axis if your bathroom is not spotless and you are 5 lbs. overweight. OK, I am still learning this one a little bit, which is totally embarrassing.

8. Acne does not go away with age, even with wrinkles. Which totally sucks, but let's keep some perspective here, it's not like I am living in a cardboard box and wondering where my next meal is coming from.

9. The fashion industry does not in fact care if you look good. This was a shocking revelation to me. They care about making money, and that means they have to keep changing the styles, whether they look good on anyone or not. Just because something is supposedly in fashion does not mean you have to wear it, especially if it makes you look like an ice cream cone. Just say no.

10. A work place should have a roughly even gender balance. If you go too far one way or another, you have yourself either a fraternity or a sorority house, and that's never a good thing even when it is a fraternity or a sorority house. No thank you.

That's all I got. I don't want to think my birthday away, there are so many better ways to spend it.

Friday, December 11, 2009

It IS the thought that counts

More and more people seem to have forgotten what the point of gift giving is. On behalf of Martha Stewart, I'm going to remind everyone. A gift should one of two things, or both:
1)Something someone wants (you think) but either can't afford it for themselves (because they are 7 years old and don't have a job) or would not buy it for themselves because it is impractical and unnecessary (i.e. a dog snuggie. Except my friend Kim just bought one for her dog. So I can't give her that).
2) Something that communicates to the recipient, Hey, I get you, and I'm actually thinking of you and not myself for a change. I personally would hate a 3-year subscription to Cuneiform Studies, but I realize what a massive geek you are, so I shelled out the money just for you.

It seems like the chief destroyer of traditional gift giving has been the Gift Card. Don't get me wrong, I have given my share of gift cards and will continue to do so. I think gift cards are fine especially when you are not exchanging gifts with someone (as in it's a one-way transfer) and/or you don't know the recipients too well (i.e. Charlotte's day care teachers). But generally nothing is more perfunctory than a gift card, it is basically cash not even well-disguised. It is like cash with its hands over its eyes thinking you can't see it because it can't see you. That doesn't work too well for Charlotte, and a gift card certainly isn't getting away with it.

When you have people exchanging gift cards with each other, you have officially entered the realm of what-the-heck-is-the-point. Also in this realm, in my opinion, is when full grown adults with jobs tell each other what they want for Christmas. My husband's family--and I'm not putting them down, I love them more than anything--is particularly bad about this, and I have joined in the absurdity on more than one occasion. So we buy Kevin's parents the toaster oven they want, and they buy us the coffee pot we want, and we both spend $50. I don't think I am a massive Scrooge to say, why don't we just buy ourselves what we want and be done with it? We actually have stopped exchanging gifts altogether, because it literally degenerated into cash exchanges one year, and at that juncture it became easier to deny the Holocaust than it did to deny the pointlessness of our gift giving (which means that President Ahmadinejad is probably out buying us some loot as I speak).

On this topic, I give my parents a lot of credit, because while I have gotten many gifts from them that I didn't exactly cherish forever, I have almost never known what I was getting. My mother never asks me what I want, which means she has to put some thought into it. Personally, I would rather get a kitty cat sweatshirt I didn't expect than a blender I asked for, unless the blender can make margaritas by itself and clean the whole kitchen after and costs like $1 million and my best friend Bono gave it to me. Then I'll totally take the blender. Or just Bono. I would take Bono even if I asked for him, which I do every year (not in a romantic way or anything, I just want to hang out) and somehow no one ever comes through.

Of course the worst gifts are not those you expect or the gift card but gifts that show appalling lack of thought about what the other person would want. For instance you probably don't want to give a recovering alcoholic a fancy bottle of cognac. You probably don't want to give an overweight person a pair of skinny jeans (Actually, my well known belief about skinny jeans is that they don't look good on anybody, period, including you who are already starting to argue with me because you think you look so good in them, you don't, trust me, so I would just rule them out across the board). Similarly, it is bad form to give a new mom who has 30 lbs of baby weight to lose a massive box of chocolates. Try giving her prozac instead, that would be an appropriate gift for a new mom, probably the only one. You probably don't want to give an illiterate person Tolstoy's War and Peace. And you probably don't want to give a man, any man, a speedo, even if he wants it, for the good of humanity.

So there are some hints. Not that I am that stellar a gift giver myself. Most years I grasp at straws trying to come up with something for Kevin and settle for some random clothing. This year I actually got him something creative, but I won't say what it is since he sometimes reads this blog (only sometimes, and who can blame him).

This post is not that funny and pretty much sucks so I'm just going to stop now :)