Unpopular Opinion Coming Through

Over my lunch hour, today, I got caught at the chatty table. I’m not exactly sure how that happened. Poetic justice, really. I sat down at the empty table, and wouldn’t you know it? Ten minutes later, it was the social event of the season. Women talking about their sons and grandsons, and the wonderful world of high-school wrestling. I know next to nothing about wrestling, and I have no sons or grandsons, so you can imagine my role in the conversation. Mostly smiling and nodding, while I wonder if it’s okay to get out my earphones, yet.

So, the coach has announced that he will be very carefully monitoring the boys’ weights to be sure that no one is doing unhealthy things to get the weight class of their choice.

Yup. It was a conversation about eating disorders, but no one actually said “eating disorder.” Not even the woman who was describing her kid, who was compulsively chewing gum in order to soak up moisture from his body. (I’m not sure I totally got the process, but that’s the theory.)

You have to imagine a weird mix of pride and concern. Here and there, a mother setting her foot down, that her son is NOT going to endanger his future health so he can wrestle for a couple of years. Less clear about how, exactly, she intends to stop it.

Damn it, no! You cannot have a puppy eating disorder.

It’s weird how deep and dark and deadly serious high school sports are. And if you think they’re just a game… well, you’re either an optimist or completely out of touch.

The first time I remember anyone talking about this was several years after my older cousin stopped (football, wrestling, etc.) He’d played in high school. And college. And for what it’s worth, I thought he was pretty good. (what I could see from over the edge of my book, anyway.) I thought of him as athletic. Fit. Healthy.

And then, all of a sudden, people were talking about how much better he looked, now that he wasn’t trying to maintain his weight class… How much weight he’d lost. And they were right, of course. I’d just never thought of him as anything other than a “big” guy.  I was surprised by the comment, and more surprised to realize… well, wow… sports probably weren’t all that good for him.

Kids push themselves hard. Not just boys.

And they don’t always have a clear idea of whether they have an actual chance of being a pro football player or a prima ballerina.

The cost-benefit assessment is more an adult’s job.

The idea of a coach lecturing an entire team on “eat right or else?” I hope he was talking to one specific kid, but I don’t believe it. And honestly, I think a more recreational approach to high school sports might be wise.

No, Really… If you could do anything….

I ran into this TED Talk the other day.

And even though it was nested in among such gems as “Your Vagina is Not a Car,” a highly intellectual search for hidden meaning in Kubrick’s version of The Shining, and assortment of official and unofficial music videos, it stuck with me.

If you ask teenagers what they want to do when they grow up, about 80% of them say they want to be one of three things: Doctors, Lawyers, and Engineers. (Well, I think it said engineers. I’ve dated enough of them that there’s a semi-permanent censorship bleep over the word.)

And if you then ask them No, really, if you could do anything in the whole world you wanted, what would it be?

Uhm… well, about 80% (of the total, not just the Doctors, Lawyers, and whatevers) change their answer.

Okay. So 4 out of 5 people –already, in high school–are planning on doing something other than what they really want to do.

Or maybe… they have no sense of how to get from where they are to where they want to be.

I find myself looking around at the people I know–and people I think of as successful–and wondering which one is the happy one? If I have five people lined up, which one is doing what they actually want?

Remember that lecture from college? Look to your left… look to your right… One of those people won’t be here by spring.

This is more… well, add in the person in front of you… and behind you… and all four of those people will be spending their lives doing second-choice jobs in pursuit of stability and money.

And maybe I am the happy one. Maybe, even though I haven’t reached my goal–the fact that I’m still in motion counts for something.

Maybe the fact that I haven’t arrived at a destination I never wanted to get to in the first place matters more than I think.

And either way, so I’m in a job I don’t love, but somehow, maybe… I’m a little less alone than I thought I was.

After all… if 4 out of 5 people could do anything–anything in the world they wanted–it wouldn’t be what they are doing.

Garlic Bread and Patriotic Socks

Last night, I dreamt I went to a casual dining establishment where–for some reason–they were advertising free patriotic socks with every meal. That’s probably a side-effect of all the explosions. A little less than a week left to Independence Day, and my neighbors are celebrating. Loudly. Why no, as a matter of fact, fireworks aren’t legal to sell or use in my community for a few more days. Never mind, the neighbors are conducting their own private Trinity tests, and I’m dreaming about patriotic socks.

The garlic bread? Well, doesn’t everybody dream about garlic bread?

So I was in this casual dining establishment. The kind where you can look over the counter and watch what’s going on in the kitchen… and I ordered a meal, which should have come with garlic bread and patriotic socks.

I didn’t get the garlic bread, and that left me with the feeling that since I wasn’t given patriotic socks, I should probably complain about those, too. Whether I wanted them, or not. (Possibly not a patriotic socks person.)

I had to complain to get my garlic bread, and then, I had to complain two or three times to get my patriotic socks.

As I’m leaving the restaurant, I had to tell them that if I did not get my patriotic socks, I would not be paying the bill.

So, a manager comes to talk to me, and then, I’m standing there watching while she pulls out an overnight case that is completely full of socks folded into neat little balls in white plastic bags. She hands me my bag of socks and apologizes.

I don’t know what made me check. My subconscious is a strange and suspicious place.

I had to call the manager back. These are not patriotic socks.

What do you mean? Of course, they are.

These socks… are yellow and black.

The manager looked at me like I was crazy. She unrolled the socks, and pointed. Yes, they are. They have pictures of cowboys on them.

Can’t argue with that, so I went away with my yellow and black cowboy socks.

Dreams of Sleeping, or why You Shouldn’t Eat Gravy Before Bed

This is the week for iffy sleep patterns and strange dreams. As far as I know, absolutely everyone in town has had trouble sleeping–heat, humidity, thunder that would wake the dead–and the general feeling has been described as “hung-over, but you haven’t been drinking.” So, attack of the poorly modified Kreb’s Cycle.

Time for tea, in other words.

I woke up just after a really bizarre dream, in which a Bestselling Author was giving a lecture that would have been more suited to a college professor, and wound up getting ripped for calling Tiberians Tiberians. Now, never mind the fact that Tiberius went around naming just about everything after himself, so exactly which Tiberians, and where was up in the air…  (There’s a snazzy tourist resort in Israel, and that’s probably what a modern human being would mean. I’m not sure I count as a modern human being.) Well, we just don’t call them Tiberians, anymore.

Oh, good. I have Second-Temple political correctness going on. In my head.

You would think dreams about a time period in which people believed that female orgasm was necessary to conception might possibly be more interesting… but uhm… no.  The appropriate Second Temple dream would be debating what to call Tiberians.

So, then, Author moved on to showing off wardrobe pieces for The Handmaid’s Tale. (Which he did not write.)

That means a chartreuse dress (roughly in his size) with truly enormous white ruffles that somehow, miraculously, folded up into little book-shaped ornaments that dangled off the dress at random intervals. I think there was a button. Ruffles. Books. Ruffles. Books.

Well, that’s definitely a “different” take on the Handmaid’s Tale.


Not Quite Screaming, but Still…

I had one of those dreams last night. The kind that have you waking up in a cold sweat, grateful to be under your own blanket in your own bed. I would call it a nightmare, but the truth is, it wasn’t all that scary, when I was dreaming it.

I was zipping down the road at a nice–but perfectly lawful–clip, and trying to buckle my seat belt.

A blue hybrid–one of those old, boxy things, with the enormous battery in the back–hit me head-on. The car was really, really blue. He was out of his lane, and I was distracted And for a second, I was flying through the air, or at least, knocked firmly around.

Everything went black–probably due to far too much TV–and then, I woke up.

That makes the second bad-enough-to-wake-you-up dream in the last couple of weeks.

No, I really don’t know why you have to know about this.

And yeah, maybe this is just a sign that I need more fish in my diet, or an extra vitamin pill before bed.

But at the moment…

Buckle your seat belts before you get on the freeway, and don’t drive distracted.

This has been a public service announcement from Karen’s subconscious.

You Are Supposed to Be a Cup of Coffee.

I’m not the only person in my peer group who had dreams, once, but I’m slowly creeping toward being the only one still actively working on achieving those dreams. Some dreams go fast. If you’re twenty-five, and just starting to dance, you’re never going to be a prima ballerina. Not every kid gets to be an astronaut, and most kids are too smart to want to be the President of the United States.

Maybe I’m lucky my dreams have a longer shelf life than most. If you had to be a writer by a certain age, or you’re done, I’d be in trouble. I made up most of my own deadlines, and then, I pole-vaulted over them. Not everybody can do that. Football (too late.) Gymnast (too late.) Mutant Superhero? (Still waiting on that reactor melt down.)

I still have a real chance. And, if you’re like me–if you’re one of the artists, the creators, the intellectuals, dragging people back into your own head–you still have a chance to grab your dreams, too. It doesn’t matter if you’re eight, or eighty.

Even so, I knew other kids who wanted to be writers, poets, artists… and they’re not.

They moved on to more practical things. More linear career paths.

At some point, they got out of high school, ran out of electives in college, and decided their dreams weren’t worth fighting for. Maybe they were pressured.

Parents like stability. So do romantic partners and future children. And society. We’ve all heard the jokes about “I’m a writer” being a euphemism for unemployed. And out here, in the real world, you’re going to be surrounded by people who gave up, or whose dreams timed out, or who never really knew what their dreams were in the first place.

And creatives are smart people. They’re absolutely capable of the doctor/lawyer/accountant path. So…. a lot of them turn.

Keep trying. Keep working. Keep your dreams close. I know it’s hard. I’m right there with you, thinking about selling life insurance to hamsters. I know the temptation to walk away, and do something that looks good on a resume and impresses people at the high school reunion.

I think you should keep chasing your own dreams.

But if you don’t…

Don’t be a doctor or a lawyer to make your mother or father happy. It won’t make you happy.

Be a cup of coffee to make me happy.

Fan-Girls, Groupies, and Choosing the Right Dreams

Last night, I dreamed I was helping one of my favorite authors rearrange his collection of movie posters.

I’m not sure whether this is a good dream or a bad dream, because on the one hand, I am kind of a fan girl, so I could have a pretty good time playing grateful slave labor. On the other hand, I do have some  qualms about encouraging this new movie/television hobby in someone who is supposed to be writing my new favorite book.

And, honestly, I have some qualms about the groupie-ing mindset that produces a dream like that.

Really? Dream Self offered to help you clean out your attic?

And furthermore, Dream Self didn’t even question it, when she was there in jeans and a t-shirt, ready to work… and you showed up looking like you were about to go on national television?

You’d think black would show at least a little dust, after a long day of attic diving. But…

Oh, yeah. That’s right. Dream Self Groupie.

And in this dream, I was just way too impressed with Favorite Author* to notice that I was basically following him around taking orders and hauling movie posters.

Suddenly, that starts to sound like one of those insecurities dreams. Not the rose, but near the rose type things.

Too bad. It was pretty fun, until I woke up and started thinking.

*No, I won’t name names. He probably isn’t that much of an asshat in real life.