Keeping the Clichés at Bay

The clichés are out to get me.

Not that I’m special or anything. Clichés stalk everyone, trying to wedge themselves into people’s lives. The more people they can convince to write/do/be clichés, the happier the cliché powers-that-be are. “Do what you want,” says the cliché, “I can’t stop you. But don’t you want to just try this other thing? Or maybe just describe it this other way? See? I knew you’d like it. All’s well that ends well.”

I don’t know why the clichés were even putting effort into my life. It was practically a cliché already when all of this started. I’d been married to my high school sweetheart almost thirty years. We had kids, dogs, a mortgage, etc. The only thing even a bit unusual about us was that we were a military family, living on bases and moving frequently. Maybe the cliché committee wasn’t meeting its quota or something. Who knows. But for whatever reason they sent one of their oldest, most reliable, cliché inducing situations: the mid-life crisis. My husband, about to turn 50, left to start a new life.

For weeks, I was a total break up cliché — crying, binge watching TV, grief eating. Going to work and keeping the dogs fed were about the only two things that I could accomplish. Somewhere, an entry-level cliché handler was awarded an “Employee of the Month” parking spot for provoking my oh-so-typical response.

But soon, it occurred to me that the situation was not as common as it seemed. My Marine husband hadn’t left me for a woman he met on a deployment. He left to pursue a relationship with a woman from his Bible study group. Not ultra-common.

I was in the midst of preparing to be a bridesmaid as well. The wedding was in a different part of the country, so all the preparations were being handled long distance. Literally two weeks after husband left, I had to drag myself out of the house and go to the bridal store alone to try on bridesmaid dresses. I did manage to not roll my eyes or cry when random brides-to-be picked out their dresses. Bonus non-cliché points for that.

I had also recently been placed in the Jeopardy contestant pool. I was excited to get that far into the Jeopardy process, but I didn’t really expect to get on the show. But after my husband left, I just knew the next catastrophe would be Jeopardy calling me while I could barely function. There’d be a laryngitis epidemic, and I’d be one of the only people in the contestant pool that could still speak loudly. Jeopardy would be forced to call me as a last resort. Then, I’d get to have a nervous breakdown on TV when Alex revealed the category “Happily Ever After.” Surely that hasn’t happened often.

So, to review: Husband left me for Bible study woman; I was preparing to be a bridesmaid; and I was waiting for Jeopardy to call me out to Hollywood.

Nice try, forces of cliché! Instead of adding up to the biggest divorce cliché ever, my life had become the premise of a sitcom.

Sitcom me would be angry, not sad. She’d say things like, “Which Bible verse made him think this is ok? ‘Rationalizations, Chapter 2018’?” or “What, he’s a pirate now? Vows are more like guidelines?”

Sitcom me would lose weight and look fabulous in her bridesmaid dress. So fabulous that she’d convince a sexy groomsman to accompany her to the Jeopardy taping. In a brilliant, season-ending plot twist, she’d win big in Final Jeopardy by being the only contestant who knew that John A Lejeune was the 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps. Sitcom me and sexy groomsman would use the winnings to get surfing lessons in Hawaii.

Of course it’s not how my life went. I didn’t think up those snarky comments until I started writing this blog. I had a great time at the wedding, but the only thing I picked up was a hangover. Jeopardy never called. But even though my life didn’t become a sitcom, thinking that it could be one cheered me up. For a while, I even quit thinking my life was a cliché.

Of course the cliché committee couldn’t let that continue, so they sent online dating.

I had not been thinking about dating at all. When you’re dealing with a divorce, you’re not really thinking “Can’t wait to have another guy break up with me.” But people talked to me about dating all the time, especially online dating. Some of them even sang dating app jingles at me.

Since I’d been married so long, my only experience with online dating was from years before when someone used my debit card number to sign up for a dating app. So aggravating. Not only did I have to block my card and reset all my automatic payments, I also had to convince my financial institution that I did not sign up for that dating site. “No, I did not sign up for that app, I’m married. No, really. Look at my birth date, I don’t even technically qualify to use that app yet. Trust me, if I were to ever use a dating app, it would be something more along the lines of “cougarsrus.com.”

(Ok, I never said that last one to my financial institution. I said it at a party when the idea of being single seemed impossible. Sometimes the clichés team up with irony. Jerks.)

But now I was a prime candidate for a dating app. Why not?

Not sure what I was expecting. I guess some grand algorithm that paired me up with my ideal mate. He’d probably live in Buenos Aires and I’d never get to meet him, but at least I’d know a match was out there. We could at least be pen pals.

I’d forgotten that some apps are based on location instead of algorithms. I was shocked when I hit “enter” and men immediately appeared on the screen. I hadn’t even answered any questions about my favorite books yet! Was it swipe right or left if you liked someone?

On the first day I noticed a lot of guys from a city about 75 miles away. I’d never heard of the place, which was weird since the number of possible matches seemed to indicate it was a decent sized city. An internet search revealed that it’s a truck stop. Guys were stopping for gas, checking the app, and then driving away! Seemed weird and counter-productive, but then again, I had just learned which way to swipe. For all I knew, gas station likes earned extra star power or something.

On day three I finally got brave enough to send messages to some of the men. First guy responded with one word. ONE WORD. I gave him a day to add more information before giving him the left swipe heave ho. “No thank you,” I said to the app. “I do not have the mental energy to pry conversations out of a man.”

Another guy suggested we go for a long car ride on our first date. Oh sure, that’s not creepy.

After a few more frustrating interactions I took a break from messaging, but I kept stalking the app. I quickly developed some auto-rejection criteria:

Guys at the truck stop

Guys pictured holding a fish

Guys that didn’t smile in their pictures

Guys wearing a hat in every picture

Guys posing at the gym

Guys whose beards weigh more than my dog

Except for the not smiling one, there is nothing wrong with any of those things. They were just reasons to not have to pick anyone.

Rejecting every man no matter what? Afraid to open myself up to a new relationship? Ugh. You could practically feel the clichés in the room.

I kept scrolling and swiping, but with no real purpose. Two profiles finally convinced me that I probably wasn’t ready to date.

First guy said he was in the Air Force. “Give me a break, Air Force. Get back to me if you join the Marines Corps.”

Very next guy was a Marine. “NO MARINES! SWIPE LEFT! SWIPE LEFT!”

I laughed at myself and gave up. Probably just in time. Cliché-wise, I was probably only a day away from taking a chance on a giant-bearded, body-building, hat-modeling fisherman.

The only thing I got out of the app was stories. The truck stop thing made people laugh, as did my ridiculousness about Marines. I started thinking that the whole thing would be fun to write about.

BAM! Sneak attack! Big cliché had obviously found out I’d avoided the “I’d given up on love when I met him” trap, and they’d leveled up! Of course they’d suggest writing about online dating! Writing about online dating is practically the cliché-est of clichés!

I fought the urge to write. I told people that I’d really like to write about it, but it had already been done. I pretended I didn’t have a blog, or even a journal. But come on! I’m supposed to resist writing about people checking their dating apps at truck stops? Can’t be done!

So, I gave in and wrote this blog post. But that doesn’t mean the clichés have won. Sure, I wrote about online dating even though it had been done a million times before, but I’d written it in an unusual way. I acknowledged the clichés from the beginning. Described our battles. Even used clichés to describe the behavior of other clichés .

Yes, I achieved Meta-Cliché! Victory! Bow to Your Queen, boring everyday clichés!

Probably not interesting enough for a TV show, but it might make a good t-shirt.

Anyone else out there beating clichés into submission?

That Time I Tried to Be Normal

My kids say we’re crazy, “but in a good way.” It’s fine. It’s a family trait, like having a cute nose, or being loud. Our lives are not non-stop, call-the-cops insanity. We just think a little silliness makes life fun.

Dancing was always part of that fun. We cranked up the radio and surfed with the Beach Boys. Ray Charles led us through “Shake A Tail Feather.” There were victory dances practically every day. Got a turkey in bowling? Victory dance! Poured the milk without spilling? Victory dance! (That one’s for me. I lack pouring skills).

Another silly favorite was the cutout in the kitchen wall. It was originally intended for handing food through to the dining room. But since we used the dining room as a family room, the cutout was pretty much pointless. Not to the kids, though. They renamed it the “pizza window,” and could not get enough of it. They’d “order” their food at the window, and then go eat in front of the TV. It was the best restaurant ever, as far as they were concerned.

The family room also functioned as a campground. We built tents out of chairs and sheets, and the kids would live in them for entire weekends. One summer, they convinced me to leave the tent up for a week. I was invited in for games, snacks, and TV. Even the dog would hang out in the tent. In the manner of our family tradition, she was a bit weird, too.* Her favorite snack was crickets. Obviously, this campground didn’t (usually) have crickets, but she considered sharing the kids’ chips an acceptable alternative.

Though the kids were perfectly fine with silliness at home, they weren’t always quite as chill about public displays of weirdness. My demonstrations of different ways to jay-walk (jay-skipping, jay-twirling, etc.) were usually met with “Maaaaahmmmm. Stop.” There were also minor protests over my “Meanest Mom Ever” Halloween costume. Even so, most goofy behavior was met with a shrug and “Whatever.”

(Or so I thought. When I mentioned putting the jay-skipping in this blog, my daughter said, “Oh man. Wow. I had totally forgotten about that,” and hid her face in her hands. I’m sure she’s fine.)

They’re adults now, but so far none of us has grown out of being a little crazy. This past winter, my son convinced us to create a multiple snowman display in the front yard. Just this week, my daughter and I did a “the Wi-Fi works” dance. So yeah, we’re still one with the weird.

I did try to be boring once. The kids saw something about a “normal” family on TV, and it somehow led to me trying to prove I could be normal, too. Of course, I couldn’t just stop dancing and making jokes. There’d be no fun in that. I decided to be “ultra-normal” and started acting like a proper, boring mom like the one on TV.

“What would you like for lunch, children?”

“Grilled cheese sandwiches, please.”

“Excellent choice. I shall get started right away.” Giggles from the kids.

After about ten minutes my son started getting worried, and the conversation changed a bit.

“What pleasant weather we’re having.”

“Ok, Mom. You can go back to being your normal self.”

“This is my new normal self. Your lunch will be ready presently. Would you like to eat at the table like a normal person, or do you prefer to eat in front of the television like crazy people?

“Mom, please go back to being regular.”

Looking back, I realize he might have been a bit freaked out to see his mom change personalities so dramatically. (Maybe I really was the Meanest Mom Ever.) On the other hand, it might have been that he just didn’t like the idea of eating lunch at the table. Either way, he was done with the normal experiment.

“Mom. Just be the regular you.”

“Whatever do you mean, children?” I replied in my posh voice. But as I flipped the grilled cheese, I couldn’t resist a quiet cheer and a tiny “didn’t set it on fire” victory dance. (Gas burners. It’s happened.)

Unfortunately for the normal experiment, I hadn’t noticed that my daughter had come up to the pizza window to see if the sandwiches were ready. Busted! She giggled at my little dance but didn’t say anything, so I broke into the “Monkey” for a super victory dance.

Before I could come up with another boring comment about the weather, my son also got up to check on lunch. He spotted me and yelled, “I KNEW IT! I SEE YOU DANCING IN THERE! DOING THE “MONKEY” IS NOT NORMAL!”

Experiment over. I failed the normal test. We laughed and did the “Monkey” for a minute, then I handed them their lunches through the pizza window.

As my son was taking his plate he said, “I’m glad you’re not normal.”

I figured he was really saying “I’m glad you’re not being normal anymore, and went back to being our regular fun mom.” After all, I was handing him food through the wall. But I asked anyway, just to see what else he had to say.

“Why?”

“Because you suck at it”.

A normal, boring mom would have grounded him. But we’re crazy in the good way, so we just laughed and made it a family legend.

The Cricket Patrol
The Snow Squad saluting me as I drove by

*See previous blog posts about the other crazy dogs in our lives

Waiting rooms vs. Bars

I had a doctor appointment this week.  As I was scoping out the waiting room for a seat away from the crowd, it hit me: waiting rooms and bars have a lot in common.

  • You have to show ID or it’s no admittance, no matter how long you stood in line or how old you look
  • You have to wait quite a while  before the person at the bar/counter will help you
  • You are crowded in with people that you normally wouldn’t get too close to-you never know what you might catch from those people
  • There are “interesting” stains on the floor – is that blood? You’re better off not thinking about it too much
  • That one couple yelling so that EVERYONE can hear their opinions on Game of Thrones/Stanley Cup Playoffs/their current medical conditions/whatever
  • No outside food or drinks
  • Inadequate bathroom facilities for the number of people present
  • The smell – not the same smell, obviously, but a distinctive one for each. For bars, it’s sweat, too much perfume, and the ghosts of a thousand spilled beers. For waiting rooms, it’s sweat, too much ointment, and lots and lots of carpet freshener (seriously, what is that stain on the floor?)

I entertained myself with this list for a few minutes, then opened up the book I had brought with me. As I sat there trying to read, I realized I had not taken into account a big difference-the one thing that makes bars so much better than waiting rooms. In bars, the TVs on the walls are muted.   Paradise!

Adventures with crazy dogs

Z and G

Took the dogs for a walk. When we got back, I opened the truck to get the garage door opener.

Z hates car rides, so as soon as I opened the truck door she started trying to back out of her harness and get far away from the vehicle. I had to drop the leash so she wouldn’t end up running through the neighborhood naked.


Z trying to escape

While I was paying attention to Z, G-who obviously likes to go for rides-took the opportunity to jump in the truck. I could not convince him to get out.

Meanwhile, Z was in the front yard enjoying her freedom. I shut the door to the truck, got Z out of the front yard and put her in the house. Came right back out to get G. When I opened the door he moved over to the passenger seat, presumably to give me room to drive him somewhere.

I went around to the other side and wrestled him out (they’re good dogs, but cars make them crazy) Just as I got him to the ground a fire truck went by and I glanced up. G immediately took advantage of the distraction. He jumped back up in the truck and moved over to the driver’s seat.

REALLY? I think he was laughing at me

By this time, the fire truck had turned around at the end of the street and was coming back by. I waved casually as if nothing was going on. “Hi firefighters. Nothing unusual here. Perfectly normal for me to be standing next to the truck while the dog is in the driver’s seat. By the way, I don’t look familiar at all and am completely unrelated to any of your coworkers.” They waved and kept driving. I didn’t recognize any of them, so maybe I got lucky and was able to remain incognito.

After the fire truck went by, I finally got G out of the truck and onto the driveway. As soon as I shut the truck door, he turned back into a good boy and walked into the house without even being asked.

Never dull around here.