"Kiss low."

Getting married changed my life. 
I grew up thinking that my family was firmly 'middle class.' It's taken me years to realize that my parents just did an extraordinary job of making ends meet, and that at times we were probably not much above the poverty line. We always had clean clothes and food to eat, but the extras were very extra and rare.

I was married two weeks after college graduation. My new spouse also grown up considering himself middle class, though his family had probably scratched for a living even more than mine had. His dad often worked two or three jobs to support them, despite the benefit that his two Master's degrees should have brought. However, his mom had grown up 'monied' and still thought of herself, and her child, as at least 'upper crust' if not precisely upper class. She had pretensions and played them out wherever possible. She found me lacking in all sorts of ways, and rarely hesitated to let me know. My appearance did not meet her standards of, if not hygiene, prehaps grooming. My hair was too long, my clothes 'unique', my concern about all of that sadly lacking. My education and career choices were completely wrong, vain and pointless. She was never able to criticize my care about or for her son, though, which was all that saved our interactions. 

It was in that state of mind that we started married life, in the crucible and surrealism of graduate school. He was a year into his Ph.D. program when we married. I had no plan for what to do after college and so just went with the flow for a while. A couple months after moving to his new college town, getting used to the city and being married and having no money, I got a job. I was hired as an Enrollment Counselor at a test prep company, a position that soon morphed into Office Manager—both because I am a natural organizer of things and because I am fundamentally unsuited to be a salesperson. That was an excellent role for me, a terrific company that I believed in, working with a crew that I completely adored and who helped me not be so terribly homesick.

A year or so into the job, we all went to an event together. It may have been a wedding or holiday party, but those details have faded. What I recall with crystalline brilliance, is when we team members greeted each other and introduced our dates to the group. Among others, I met the wife of my 3-levels-up boss. He was a fairly big-wig in the company, which turned out to be a stepping stone to an outstanding career. His wife, though, was really something. Her job was Marketing Director (or some such title) for a country. An entire country. Not a huge country, but a cool one: it's a Caribbean island, in the Antilles. Marketing Director for a tropical paradise. My friends were reporters and factory workers, computer techs and low-level store managers. Our vacations were staying with family, a weekend up north, or sometimes a huge splurge to visit a waterpark. No one I knew had ever visited a place like that, where she flew several times each month.

Needless to say, this woman intimidated me, and in ways that I did not yet comprehend. She was glamorous. I don't mean that "glamorous" was a way to describe her—more like, she defined glamorous (in a way). 

So there we were, a pack of colleagues, introducing our spouses and dates. There were handshakes...and cheek kisses. Need I explain that I'd never kissed anyone's cheek? Except for babies, of course, and boyfriends being given the let down speech. My heart sank, immediately, at the prospect of participating in this literally foreign custom. When Boss presented her to me and we leaned toward each other, she murmured, "Kiss low."

What the Fuck did that mean? 

I am not a tall woman. My spouse was not excessively tall, either, maybe four or five inches more than me. Boss Man is downright short, maybe my height at most. His wife, though, towered over all of us, and in heels. If I was going to kiss her cheek, I would need to stretch to my maximum height, and even then rely on her benevolence to bring herself down to my level. 

What the fuck? Kiss low?

I was adept enough to realize that I was not to precisely kiss her cheek. It was the journey that counted, rather than the destination. It was a kissing motion in the direction of the left side of her face. It was intensely artificial, awkward, and quaint but not in a pleasant way, like going to your favorite corner bar and being expected to dance a waltz. I was enormously uncomfortable, not just with the realization that I would need to do it, or the actual task, but afterward as well. I knew I'd done it wrong, that I'd clearly needed instruction to do something that others take for granted, and that I had been and would be judged for my patent inability to fit in. No one ever mentioned it again, and indeed I've probably not been in a position to cheek-kiss even a handful of times since then. No one else ever said anything about it.

What brought this up?

I've been pondering social anxiety. Isn't that precious? To take advantage of isolation to contemplate the inability (or unwillingness) to fit in? Most days I exercise in part by taking long, rambling walks. Because I like to take pictures along the way, I don't use headphones or earbuds to entertain me, instead listening to/for wildlife and generally letting my thoughts guide me. Often the thoughts are practical—"what was that?" being a common theme, followed in frequency by "what's for supper" or "fuck fuck fuck I'm tired/hot/sore"—but sometimes more theoretical. What should I blog about? What's keeping me from sleeping? Why is so-and-so behaving such-and-such? What is the meaning of contentment? What about solitude? How much is too much, and when will I know? And earlier this week, I was pondering my independence, which is also characterized as isolation or ego or solitude. Self-sufficiency or non-engagement. Have I, in figuring out how to be alone, turned away from connections? And if I have, why?

Introversion is suddenly a badge of honor, celebrated for its quirky joys, embraced by many—and poorly understood. It is a state of being, a personality facet, but also coming to be viewed as a deliberate choice. Social anxiety is an increasingly popular self-diagnosis. It is used as an excuse for antisocial behavior, for laziness, for rudeness. Can an otherwise socially adept person also have social anxiety? 

Ayup. That's what this is. It's the fear and intimidation inherent in the mere idea of social interaction. And it's rooted in situations like the one above, which lives like a nagging wound that won't heal. What will I do wrong this time? Who will see through my sufficiency and confidence? What short phrase will be quietly spoken, even just to me, that can utterly undermine my poise? And won't it just be easier and safer to remain disengaged, not to harbor that kind of risk?


I like a lot of semen - always have

I've been away. Emotionally, spiritually, practically--away. Kind of starting to get back to where I want to be. 

Have a new gig. Actually, numerous new gigs. I'm working as a contract attorney, getting hired on document review projects as they become available. It is not the most steady work, and can be desperately boring at times, but mostly is interesting and reasonably well paid. Its sporadic nature has resulted in some odd schedules and lots of missed opportunities to see other people, though, which is a big trade-off. Work to live, not live for work.

Haven't been watching movies lately. Just got out of the spirit and the habit, in favor of reading a lot over the last few months. It feels good to read, yet at times it lets me be inside my own head too much. Movies can be less long-term immersive. Watched a couple yesterday and am planning to go back and review some others that I'd seen a while ago.

Thanks to anyone who's checked in. Thanks for your patience.
It's Complicated (2009)
It's Complicated
(2009) - "When brought together at a family event, two exes find themselves oddly attracted to each other after ten years of divorce. Although the couple think that this affair will stay in a different state, it brings itself back to their own city and disrupts their personal lives. While the couple still maintain other romances, they cannot help but to continue with their affair."
source: streamed
I watched it because: my companion had seen it before and recommended it
IMDB: 6.5/10  -  Rotten Tomatoes: Tomatometer: 59% Audience: 60%
my IMDB: 7/10
notable quote: "'Why do you need to label everything?'
    'Because that's what this is!'"
MPAA rating: R
directed by: Nancy Meyers
my notes: undeniably well-acted, with a good script and all that jazz - I wanted to like this movie, but.... it's complicated, right? This movie hits ALL kinds of feelings about man/woman relationships, emotions (and lack of), unintentional hurt, miscommunication, and sex. That's a lot for a 2 hour comedy! Meryl Streep's Jane is a wistful, reasonably successful, genuinely appealing woman. Her ex-husband Jake, played uncannily well by Alec Baldwin, is a shallow-thinking, hedonistic, yet lovely man whose affections are, let's say, inconstant. Steve Martin's Adam, a rival for Jane's interest, is sweet and low-key, and Jake's current wife is portrayed as a bitchy strident stereotype by the striking (why is that rarely a wholehearted compliment?) Lake Bell. 
    I found it personally disconcerting, though completely engaging. It gave me a lot to think about (probably more than was intended or "normal" for this type of film). And it made me want a chocolate croissant.
overall: recommended

[the title quotation is from It's Complicated]


a hairline fracture of the soul

Orphanage in the rain, 
Empty opera house with its light dimmed, 
Thieves market closed for the day, 
O evening sky with your cloudy tableaus! 
Incurable romantic marrying eternal grumblers. 
Life haunted by its more beautiful sister life—
Always, always ... We had nothing 
But words. Someone rising to eloquence 
After a funeral, or in the naked arms of a woman 
Who has her head averted because she's crying, 
And doesn't know why. A hairline fracture of the soul 
Because of the way light falls on these bare trees and bushes. 
Sea-blackened rocks inscrutable as chess players... 
One spoke to them of words failing... 
Of great works and little faith, of blues in each bite of bread. 
Above the clouds the firm No went on pacing. 
The woman had a tiny smile and an open umbrella, 
Since now it had started to rain in a whisper, 
The kind of rain that must've whispered in some other life 
Of which we know nothing anymore except 
That someone kept watching it come down softly, 
Already soot-colored to make them think of 
Serious children at play, and of balls of lint in a dark corner 
Like wigs, fright wigs for the infinite. 


we know, we know

The way to begin is always the same. Hello, 
Hello. Your hand, your name. So glad, Just fine, 
and Good-bye at the end. That's every story we know, 
and why pretend? But lunch tomorrow? No? 
Yes? An omelette, salad, chilled white wine? 
The way to begin is simple, sane, Hello, 
and then it's Sunday, coffee, the Times, a slow 
day by the fire, dinner at eight or nine 
and Good-bye. In the end, this is a story we know 
so well we don't turn the page, or look below 
the picture, or follow the words to the next line: 
The way to begin is always the same Hello. 
But one night, through the latticed window, snow 
begins to whiten the air, and the tall white pine. 
Good-bye is the end of every story we know 
that night, and when we close the curtains, oh, 
we hold each other against that cold white sign 
of the way we all begin and end. Hello, 
Good-bye is the only story. We know, we know.  
[Martha Collins {1940- } 'The Story We Know' from Poetry (December 1980)]
Listen to it here


she broke it all to pieces, And each was a clot of hell

I gave my heart to a woman – 
I gave it her, branch and root. 
She bruised, she wrung, she tortured, 
She cast it under foot. 
Under her feet she cast it, 
She trampled it where it fell, 
She broke it all to pieces, 
And each was a clot of hell. 
There in the rain and the sunshine 
They lay and smouldered long; 
And each, when again she viewed them, 
Had turned to a living song. 
[William Ernest Henley {1849-1903} 'I gave my heart' - in the public domain]


the tremor —that deathly tremor— to the end of my end

The black of my irises, 
those simple, reclusive Sufis of mine 
swooned in the song-spell of his eyes. 
I sensed him billow all around me, 
radiating towards infinity 
to the other side of life 
like fire’s red pyramid, 
like a cloud in spasm of rain, 
like a sky embraced 
by warm seasons’ breath. 
I sensed that in the breeze 
of his hands’ movements 
the substance of my being 
was disintegrating. 
I sensed his heart peal inside mine 
like the bell of a wandering sorcerer. 
The clock took flight. 
The curtain withdrew with the wind. 
I had pressed him to myself 
inside the halo of that fire 
and I wanted to say something 
but to my astonishment 
his thick shadowing lashes 
released themselves like silk strands 
from the base of darkness 
along desire’s long trail 
and through the tremor 
—that deathly tremor— 
to the end of my end. 
I sensed my release. 
I sensed my release. 
I sensed my skin crack from love’s dilating joy, 
as my flaming mass melted slowly 
and flowed, streamed and flowed 
into the moon, 
a turbulent blurry moon 
drowned in a ditch. 
We had cried into each other. 
We had madly lived a moment’s 
ephemeral union inside one other.


it is not now possible, at times, to win except by falling

Neither the heart cut by a sliver of glass 
in a wasteland of thorns, 
nor the atrocious waters seen in the corners 
of certain houses, waters like eyelids and eyes, 
could hold your waist in my hands 
when my heart lifts its oak trees 
toward your unbreakable thread of snow. 
Night sugar, spirit 
of crowns, 
human blood, your kisses 
banish me, 
and a surge of water with remnants of the sea 
strikes the silences that wait for you 
surrounding the worn-out chairs, wearing doors away. 
Nights with clear axis, 
departure, matter, uniquely 
voice, uniquely 
naked each day. 
Upon your breasts of still current, 
upon your legs of harshness and water, 
upon the permanence and pride 
of your naked hair, 
I want to lie, my love, the tears now cast 
into the raucous basket where they gather, 
I want to lie, my love, alone with a syllable 
of destroyed silver, alone with a tip      
of your snowy breast. 
It is not now possible, at times, 
to win except by falling, 
it is not now possible, between two people, 
to tremble, to touch the river's flower: 
man fibers come like needles, 
transactions, fragments, 
families of repulsive coral, tempests 
and hard passages through carpets 
of winter. 
Between lips and lips there are cities 
of great ash and moist crest, 
drops of when and how, indefinite 
between lips and lips, as if along a coast 
of sand and glass, the wind passes. 
That is why you are endless, welcome me as if you were 
all solemnity, all nocturnal 
like a zone, until you merge 
with the lines of time. 
                                    Advance in sweetness, 
come to my side until the digital 
leaves of the violins 
have become silent, until the moss 
takes root in the thunder, until from the throbbing 
of hand and hand the roots come down. 
[Pablo Neruda {1904-1973} 'Alliance (Sonata)', from The Captain’s Verses]


like the scarlet tanager who lights in the apple tree but will not stay

I lie by the pond in utter nakedness 
thinking of you, Will, your epiphanies 
of woodcock, raven, rills, and craggy steeps, 
the solace that seductive nature bore, 
and how in my late teens I came to you 
with other Radcliffe pagans suckled in 
a creed outworn, declaiming whole swatches 
of "Intimations" to each other. 
Moist-eyed with reverence, lying about 
the common room, rising to recite 
Great God! I'd rather be . . . How else 
redeem the first flush of experience? 
How else create it again and again? Not in 
entire forgetfulness I raise up my boyfriend, 
a Harvard man who could outquote me 
in his Groton elocutionary style. 
Groping to unhook my bra he swore 
poetry could change the world for the better. 
The War was on. Was I to let him die 
unfulfilled? Soon afterward we parted. 
Years later, he a decorated vet, 
I a part-time professor, signed the same 
guest book in the Lake District. Stunned 
by coincidence we gingerly shared a room. 
Ah, Will, high summer now; how many more 
of these? Fair seed-time had my soul, 
you sang; what seed-times still to come? 
How I mistrust them, cheaters that will flame, 
gutter and go out, like the scarlet tanager 
who lights in the apple tree but will not stay. 
Here at the pond, your meadow, grove, and stream 
lodged in my head as tight as lily buds, 
sun slants through translucent minnows, dragonflies 
in paintbox colors couple in midair. 
The fickle tanager flies over the tasseled field. 
I lay my "Prelude" down under the willow. 
My old gnarled body prepares to swim 
to the other side. 
                            Come with me, Will. 
Let us cross over sleek as otters, 
each of us bobbing in the old-fashioned breaststroke, 
each of us centered in our beloved Vales. 


nothing need be explained

The difficulty to think at the end of day, 
When the shapeless shadow covers the sun 
And nothing is left except light on your fur— 
There was the cat slopping its milk all day, 
Fat cat, red tongue, green mind, white milk 
And August the most peaceful month. 
To be, in the grass, in the peacefullest time, 
Without that monument of cat, 
The cat forgotten in the moon; 
And to feel that the light is a rabbit-light, 
In which everything is meant for you 
And nothing need be explained; 
Then there is nothing to think of. It comes of itself; 
And east rushes west and west rushes down, 
No matter. The grass is full 
And full of yourself. The trees around are for you, 
The whole of the wideness of night is for you, 
A self that touches all edges, 
You become a self that fills the four corners of night. 
The red cat hides away in the fur-light 
And there you are humped high, humped up, 
You are humped higher and higher, black as stone—
 You sit with your head like a carving in space 
And the little green cat is a bug in the grass. 


it took hours for the shaking to leave my body

I once decided to pretend to be angry. 
Then I was. 
As a bird is caught in its birdness before it is caught in the bird net. 
The bird might be counted, tagged, released. 
The bird might be eaten. 
It took hours for the shaking to leave my body. 
Body of air, body of branch, what earth's yellows & nectars were made for. 
[Jane Hirshfield {1953- } 'The Bird Net', from Ledger]


will he remember?

Will he remember, friend? 
Where the curve of the parrot's beak 
holds a bright-lit neem 
like the sharp glory 
of a goldsmith's nail 
threading a coin of gold 
for a new jewel, 
he went across the black soil 
and the cactus desert 
Will he remember? 
[Allur Nanmullai, 'What She Said' Kuṟ 67, from The Interior Landscape: Classical Tamil Love Poems, trans. from the Tamil by A.K. Ramanujan]


there are ways to make of the moment a topiary

After all, there’s no need 
to say anything 
at first. An orange, peeled 
and quartered, flares 
like a tulip on a wedgewood plate 
Anything can happen. 
Outside the sun 
has rolled up her rugs 
and night strewn salt 
across the sky. My heart 
is humming a tune 
I haven’t heard in years! 
Quiet’s cool flesh— 
let’s sniff and eat it. 
There are ways 
to make of the moment 
a topiary 
so the pleasure’s in 
walking through. 


how you have leaped times out of mind

Although you hide in the ebb and flow 
Of the pale tide when the moon has set, 
The people of coming days will know 
About the casting out of my net, 
And how you have leaped times out of mind 
Over the little silver cords, 
And think that you were hard and unkind, 
And blame you with many bitter words. 
[W.B. Yeats {1865-1939} 'The Fish', from the public domain]