Monthly Archives: November 2016

Great Expectations

I’m not a huge fan of Christmas, but for whatever reason, the holidays have been bothering me more than usual this year.  I haven’t been able to put my finger on it until earlier today.  This is nothing groundbreaking, and it’s probably not going to come as a shock to anyone, but here it is: Christmas produces too many expectations.

It’s good to have expectations of yourself, of your kids, your friends, etc.  Those are less expectations and more goals, in my mind.  It’s good to have goals – necessary, even.  To me, expectations are the “should” statements in your life.  I should go to the office picnic and mingle with my coworkers and, more importantly, the bosses.  I should have a blowout birthday every year for my kids because everyone else does.  I should want this size house or that car because that’s what you’re supposed to want.

Friends, you all know that I don’t like to be told.  In fact, I resent it.  When it comes to Christmas, all I hear is, “Oh, you should want to do it for your kids!” or, “Why don’t you decorate now?  Everyone else is!” or, “Get an Elf on the Shelf!  The kids love it!”  I don’t care what everyone else is doing.  I don’t care in the rest of my life, so why would I care at the holidays?

Here’s the problem, though: They get you through the back door.  When you’re away at work, all of these hidden forces are working away at your kids without your knowledge.  TV.  Babysitter.  Kids at school.  Teachers.  Relatives.  And they’re all telling your kids what Christmas should look like.  All the emphasis is on Santa and presents and buying and shopping… It’s insane.

Now I love shopping as much as the next gal.  I don’t buy half the store in one sitting, though.  I can’t afford to do that, and even if I could, I wouldn’t.  My house isn’t big enough to house that much stuff, and honestly, I don’t want it.  I feel better when my house is clutter-free.

But the expectation is that you want to buy tons of stuff for your kids.  The implied mantra is that you aren’t a good parent if you don’t buy mountains of toys for your children.  You aren’t a good parent if you don’t get them an Elf on the Shelf.  You aren’t a good parent if you don’t take them to the mall and let them sit on some homeless guy’s lap while he wears a fake Santa suit.  You aren’t a good parent if you don’t do X, Y, and Z.

Well, I’m not buying that.  In the first place, I can’t afford to buy tons of stuff for my kids.  I’m not going to go into debt so that they swim in plastic.  Also, it doesn’t do them any favors to spoil them.  My grandparents were awesome and I loved them with all my heart, but they didn’t help me out in life by spoiling me.  Kids aren’t going to die if they don’t have an Elf on the Shelf or don’t get 100 toys.  Don’t even get me started about “Santa.”

This whole issue was giving me hives earlier today.  I was sitting in my room, bagging up old clothes and some toys to take to the Salvation Army.  We have so much shit, and so much of it we don’t need.  When I realized that I was cleaning out in order to buy more, it made me mad.  I like my house de-cluttered.  But I kept running up against the wall made of “should.”

I have a solution, and I can’t take credit for it.  I have an acquaintance – one who can afford to buy her kids tons of shit – who doesn’t do much for Christmas.  They have a tree and decorations and all that, but each of her children get three gifts: one toy, one book, and one thing they need.  That’s it.  No more, no less.  I am adopting this method, except it will be two toys (one from me, one from Santa) and something they need or a book, depending on age.

I think this is a fantastic compromise.  They get the excitement of opening gifts, but it’s not overboard.  They can still do Santa, but it’s only one gift.  And I can buy them things and meet that “should,” but I don’t have to break the bank doing it.  This is an arrangement that I can feel good about.

To clarify, at this point, I obviously have no problem with capitalism or buying things, inherently.  What I do have a problem with is gratuitous spending with no aim.  I read an Updike quote once, and the gist of it was that Americans can transmute every special occasion as a need to buy something.  Like I said, I’m all for having the means to do that, and I think it’s good to be able to satisfy whims now and then.

I think the problem that we’ve run into, culturally, is that we think that things are going to make us happy.  We have begun viewing happiness as a goal and not a practice, and we have created voids in our lives and begun expecting things to fill them.  People don’t understand that no thing, no matter how big or how expensive or how ostentatious, will fill that void.  The void will gape ever wider to accommodate the acquisition.  It’s like a funhouse that grows grotesquely in proportion to how much you have, and it will never be full.  You’ll run from room to room, trying to furnish them all.

The answer for a lot of people, in this case, is to make the holiday more religiously based.  That’s fine, if you’re Christian, which I am not.  I don’t go to church and, in fact, have serious beef with organized religion.  I think it’s a joke, and I think it’s a sham, although I do recognize that there is probably some value in the ceremonial part of it all.  And I do think churches can do good things, in the humanitarian sense, but I think you can do that absent religion, and I therefore don’t care to go to church.

So when you neuter the materialism and don’t care to incorporate Jesus, what is left of the holiday?  Family.  Togetherness.  A celebration based on traditions that go back millennia.  I don’t think that we have to make it about religion or presents.  I think it’s good to have that reminder to get together with your family and be grateful for the love and comfort they provide.  Of course, if none of that suits your taste, hell, go on a cruise.

But one thing I do know is that I feel more comfortable with Christmas, having made the decision to do it on my own terms.  Even in small ways, it’s not always easy to buck the trend, but I think it’s worth doing.

I hope you’re all having a fine start to the holiday season.  Stay away from the homeless dudes in Santa suits…

Trumped.

Good morning, America.

Are you dehydrated?  My guess is there are a lot of Trump supporters hung over from, well, the usual thing that causes hangovers.  I would also surmise that a lot of Hillary supporters are dehydrated from crying tears of anguish.

I am much happier at a Trump victory than I expected to be.  Well, to be perfectly honest, I never thought it was going to happen, so I never gave any thought to how I’d feel if it did.  But one of the very first headlines I saw when I went to scour the news sites was that Putin has already extended his hand and said he wants to break bread with Trump.  Folks, that is good news.  The best, in fact.  That is the kind of news we need.

Although I do think Trump is a loose cannon, or at least has been up to this point, he has been better on foreign policy than Hillary.  No, China isn’t going to like him, but to be honest, the bit about China manipulating the currency markets is 100% true.  China has been seeking to undermine the US dollar for a long, long time now.  Anyone with any brains at all should know that.  Trump was just being honest, like it or not.  (Apparently the Chinese didn’t like it.)

But I am extremely happy about Russia.  I was worried about what a Hillary presidency would bring us, in terms of a degenerating relationship with the Kremlin.  Although I don’t think that this Trump presidency guarantees a friendlier relationship, I do appreciate the fact that there is at least a chance there for that to happen.  The fact that Putin is at least willing to extend his hand back out to Trump is worth a lot.  And I think it says a lot about where we are coming from, that our enemies/detractors have been essentially unwilling to meet with us.

Here is something that people don’t understand: you don’t have to like someone to negotiate with them.  It is not necessary for someone to like you in order for you to hammer our agreements and at least have a drink.  In the arena of diplomacy it is, in fact, necessary that you negotiate with people that you don’t like – people you may actually find deplorable.  People don’t have to like you, but it is necessary that they respect you, in some basic way.

Yes,  I think the Trump victory sends a rather major signal, not just to the international community but to certain factions here at home.  There has been a major push over the last few years, with the help of the media, to undermine common sense, logic, and reason.  Left is right, up is down, war is peace, etc.  The state of the economy and the insistence of the political establishment on keeping it anemic has left people underemployed, with less disposable income, and less hope for retirement.  The extreme left-leaning rhetoric – the kind of rhetoric that accuses Joe Punchclock of being a racist and a homophobe because he doesn’t want to walk into the ghetto at night and feels some apprehension about men who dress as women and women who want to be men – has left people angry and perhaps not overtly, but it is simmering there, just beneath the surface.  People have been scared to speak out because they don’t want to carry the mantle of racist, homophobe, intolerant, or hater.  They fear for their reputations so they remain quiet in the hopes that they’ll be able to hang onto their little corner of the world as best they can.

Those are the people who came out yesterday.  The fact that Trump took the Rust Belt to me speaks volumes about what is going on in Middle America (or what’s left of it).  States like Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin should have been easy wins for Clinton.  Michigan?  Come on!  Those are the old union guys!  Unions vote Democrat!  But they didn’t.  They really, really didn’t.  The “blue dog Democrats” abandoned Hillary, and it feels like they may have just abandoned her completely.

And they abandoned her because they are tired.  They are tired of struggling to make ends meet.  They are tired of being told that they’re bad people because they aren’t totally enamored with socially liberal policies.  They are tired of feeling forgotten.  And who can really blame them for that?  Their way of life has been eroding for a generation now, at least.  They have felt, quite rightly, that nobody was listening.

I’m not suggesting, by the way, that Trump is.  I don’t think Trump knows what he believes.  I think he says whatever takes his fancy in the moment.  He is an ADD candidate.  He doesn’t have carefully formed opinions on much of anything because he can’t focus on any one thing long enough to really flesh it out.  My hope is that to compensate for that clear deficiency, he will surround himself with a competent brain trust, as any good businessman should.

Besides the potential for international negotiation, at least with some parties with whom it would be wise indeed to have meaningful discussion, I am happy – nay, thrilled – to see the end of the long night of the Clinton Dynasty.  They have been well and truly cut off at the knees in the most humiliating way.  Hillary has made two runs now and lost, and next time, she will be too old.  She has been routed.

I know, I know – I’m a traitor to my sex.  Except that I give respect where it’s due on the basis of morals as well as ability.  The Clintons have no morals, and I do not and have never felt obligated to side in with someone on the basis of some incidental commonality.  Ideas and actions are what matter, and I agree with exactly none of the Clintons’ ideas or actions.  I am proud of that.

I am officially out of time this morning – gotta take two of three kids to the doctor before work – but I leave you with the thought that this was historical, and it will be interesting.  I do not know what path we’re on.  I do not really believe that Trump can “make America great again” like he says he can.  But foolish, optimistic little anarchist that I am, I remain hopeful.

Ding dong, the witch is dead.

And the Winner Is…

It was eerily quiet at work today.  I was expecting a lot of kerfuffle about the election, but alas… The silence was deafening.  Even my cube mate who told me during the primaries that I wasn’t raised right was oddly silent.  She didn’t even have an “I Voted” sticker on.  None of my agents commented on it.  It was a little bit, well, weird.

Not that I’m complaining.  I think we all know I gave the polls a wide berth today.  Hell, I’m actually not sure where I’m even supposed to vote in my precinct.  Probably the senior center.

Despite my non-voting, I’m watching the results trickle in.  It’s early yet, and we don’t have the left coast in.  I hear Clinton was expected to be at an early disadvantage, and that may be true, but just looking at the electoral college, Trump is ahead by what I would consider a fairly significant margin right now, and he’s got Ohio and Michigan, and possibly North Carolina.  Florida, well… We all know how Florida is.  Missouri has long been called the bellwether state for accurately reflecting the election results for the past century, excepting 1956.  Missouri is showing up red.

I’ll be honest: I have never given a Trump presidency any actual consideration.  I always figured his odds of winning were so slim and, frankly, the Clintons so obviously criminal, that he wouldn’t have a snowball’s shot in hell.  Maybe I was wrong.  Heh.  Wouldn’t that be something?  The lil’ asshole in me thinks it would be hilarious if Donald J. Trump emerged the victor tomorrow.  I mean, seriously, who would Hillary have killed for that?  Would it vanquish her once and for all?  I have to think so; her health is clearly in decline.

Oh my God.  A world where Hillary Clinton didn’t get to be president.  Now that is an idea I don’t hate.  And no, it’s not because I’m a self-hating woman or something.  I just legit think she’s a murdering, evil bitch with no soul, and I don’t like her.  I don’t like her coke-snorting, philandering husband, either.  I also didn’t like the Bushes or Obama, and I’m not a slave to the Reagan cult.  Nope.  Just generally don’t like any of the presidents.  I do have a weird little soft spot for the ole Iron Lady, but she made her missteps.  Point is, I loathe Hillary Clinton.  Always have, always will.

Trump is just like a walking joke to me.  He’s like an orange marshmallow in a wig and a suit.  So strange.  I haven’t really even heard him speak because I have avoided all coverage of the election.  I will, however, make this observation: Holy shit, the media hates this guy.

Now, you all know that I’m not a secret Trump supporter.  I didn’t vote for either of them or Johnson or Stein or anyone else.  I don’t have a horse in the race because I ride my own damn horse, and I ride it in the opposite direction from Capitol Hill.  But the bias in the media is just… I mean, it’s kind of comical.  I feel like, as someone who honestly doesn’t care about either candidate for anything further than SNL joke fodder, they really are trying to sway the people against him – even though the votes are now, by and large, cast.

I have read through articles from several outlets, and all I’m seeing, even from Fox, is that Trump can’t win and that he is obviously behind.  Well… From where I’m sitting… It actually appears that he is, numerically anyway, winning.  Now that’s not to say that he will win.  I don’t know who will win, although my suspicion from day one has been that Clinton will have it and that she’ll steal it even if she doesn’t actually win it.  But I could be wrong.  I’m no pundit, and I’m no analyst.  But I can read polls and numbers, and I know that what my eyes are seeing do not match what I’m reading.

Whatever happened to just reporting?  Here is Trump.  He has x number of electoral votes.  Here is Clinton.  She has y number of electoral votes.  But there is so much speculation surrounding any little thing that it seems like this giant, overblown thing. Stick to the facts.  Let the people decide.  Stop trying to influence them.

Shifting gears a little bit, I was talking to my aunt for a minute when I went to pick the kids up.  She and my uncle went and voted after they dropped the kids off at preschool.  She asked me when I had gone to vote, and I pointed at my Emma Goldman shirt, and she remembered then.

She shrugged and smiled.  “Well… It’s just something you do.  My mom and dad always took us with them when they went to vote.  They said it was important.”

The notion that voting is important is so ingrained in the American psyche.  Even when you point out using actual, written-down numbers that a single vote doesn’t matter at all, people just laugh and say, “Well, it’s just something I do.” They make it sound as mundane as putting on underpants or brushing one’s teeth.  And actually, I think that’s the reaction that the system counts on us having.

Holy shit.  The states are closing out their counts, and damn if this isn’t actually a little bit exciting!  It’s like watching one of my Forex trades as it pushes closer to take profit.  … You know… Trump has it, if he can hang onto Michigan, Wisconsin, and NC.  He got Florida.

I was going to say some more smartly intelligent things about voting, but you know, I think I’m going to cut it off here.  I’m calling it: Donald Trump will be our next president.  I wouldn’t have thought it.  I will be surprised, at this point, if Hillary gets it.  I’m not going to lie, folks.  I am not excited about a Trump presidency (or any presidency), but there are very few things I would like more than to hear the demonic screams emanating from Sister Frigidaire tonight.

Objectively Romantic

Well, I had a date last night.  I have been on two dates since the divorce.  Neither of them has yielded up anything close to romance.  To the contrary, I would say that both experiences have left me generally glad that I’m single.

I told you all that I would do my own anthropological experiment in dating, and I have kept my promise, at least partly.  I am not on Bumble or Tinder because I deactivated my Facebook account for the duration of the election, and I’m actually thinking about keeping it inactive a bit longer.  I do, however, have an OKCupid account.  To say the least, it has been interesting.

I have never gotten a dick pic, but I have gotten some random stuff in my inbox.  Guys asking to be kicked in the balls.  Dudes who will blatantly tell you to sit on their face.  Men who think they’re saving time by typing “u” instead of “you.”  I have had a few genuinely nice messages, but so far only one of them as progressed beyond the messaging point.

I got a message from a guy we’re going to call Java.  He was from St. Louis, a programmer (because I’m the geek whisperer), married and divorced once, no kids, intensely intelligent, and seemingly sweet.  The whole thing took off very easily.  We had a lot in common – general opinions, likes and dislikes, mentally screwed up former exes, etc.  We agreed after about half a second that we needed to meet each other, so we made plans for the following Friday (last night), and kept talking.

Frankly, I was pretty convinced that I was finally going to break the dry spell.  In point of fact, I was counting on a torrential downpour.  Well, much like when the weather forecast is calling for massive amounts of rain and a tornado that doesn’t end up panning out, the forecast was incorrect, and we’re still enduring the drought.

We met for Mexican in south city, and it was okay.  No great shakes.  The conversation was pleasant – interesting, related to a variety of subjects, etc.  We had already decided that, because we’re both cheap and because we were expecting it to go off, we would just go back to his place and watch a movie.  That would have been great…

Except his place.

Now, let it be said that I am no neat freak.  I sweep the new laminate once or twice a week and then do a full Swiffering.  I try to do the dishes every night, but sometimes they age for a day or two.  I do laundry every day.  I change the kids’ sheets once a week or more, depending on variables.  I scrub the toilets and sinks on Saturday.  I wipe down the barrel of the washing machine. My room is a disaster.  Clothes on the floor.  Nightstand needs a dusting.  But my house smells like apple cinnamon Scentsy wax, and the overall environment is clean, if not moderately disorganized at times.

This apartment was awful.  Awful.  Awful.  First of all, he had dogs.  Now, we all know I don’t have much love lost for dogs or really indoor pets, generally.  They’re messy and smelly, and when you’d have to be crazy or love cleaning to want to add that on top of kids.  Anyway, his dogs were gross, and the house smelled like dog.  He’s in the process of moving, and there was stuff everywhere.  Clothes.  Books in boxes.  … But no furniture.  The only thing out was his giant computer desk in his office, his bed in his room, and an old futon mattress on the floor.  Not even joking.

I always thought that my executive function skills were poor, but this was next level.  This was him offering to get me something to drink and me refusing because I didn’t want to touch the glasses.  And I’m not a neat freak – not even a little bit.  I can deal with some mess.  Next.  Level.

And it’s really too bad because I honestly think that I would have been 50% more likely to have had good vibes about the whole thing, if it hadn’t been for that.  He was a genuinely sweet guy, and we were both geeky and nerdy.  We liked a lot of the same stuff.  And while he wasn’t really my physical ideal, I also realize that the odds of a 6’2″ stud who does gymnastic strength training religiously wanting to go out with me are almost nil, and I don’t hold being average against people.  I mean, I’m average.  We’re statistically in the majority.

But the fact of the mess… And it wasn’t clean mess, where the person dusts and vacuums but just has some clutter around. This was gross.  And it made me think less of him.  It made me think the things that came off slightly quirky on paper were legitimate issues in real life.  I am, in fact, almost certain of it.

For anyone out there who is doing the online dating thing – and I know most people are these days, if they’re trying to date – please bear this one thing in mind: don’t make your date your therapist.  You’re there to get to know each other and have fun.  You are not there to dump your problems on a total stranger.  Because no matter how well you get along on paper, you are strangers.  Don’t force someone who doesn’t know you to listen to every problem you’ve had since childhood.  No.  Not kosher.

Was it a night wasted?  No.  I learned some important lessons about online dating.  The first is that you cannot get emotionally invested in someone you haven’t met.  Let me repeat that because it’s really important: You cannot get emotionally invested in someone you haven’t met.  No matter how much you technically have in common, no matter what kind of “chemistry” you seem to have, there is no accounting for taste, and we never ultimately know who it’s going to be that lights our fire.  Sometimes there is just no rhyme or reason to it.

So in the interest of making online meeting – because it’s not dating until you’re face-to-face – a more objective practice for myself, I’m setting out to do with dating what I do with trading Forex: set up a “trading” system with the expectation that, applied correctly, it’s going to yield a given amount of positive results.  Take the guesswork out of dating.  Select down to people who are objectively a good match, get as many of them out on dates as possible, and go from there.

And that’s what dating sites are trying to do, right?  Well, I’m attempting to refine it.  There are a million questions that you can answer about yourself on OKC, and it does try to weight them, but ultimately some things are going to be more important to one person than another.  We all want someone we find attractive, but looks are more important for some than others.  Same with money, brains, kids, pets, etc.  We all have our deal breakers.

I know what my deal breakers are.  I know what I like in men, physically and mentally.  I know how to weight my preferences.  I am also learning what items are most likely to cause an otherwise good match to turn into a headache in fairly short order.  It doesn’t take long to figure this stuff out.

I am currently working on a mind map (thank you, Mind Maple) that outlines a points-based “trading strategy” that allows me to treat potential pairings like a Forex trade.  I know my trading strategy fairly well, at this point.  It’s simple, and it works.  More to the point trading, to the greatest extent that it can be, should be devoid of emotion.  You look at the chart, you do your analysis, and you decide whether or not a trade is likely to yield good results.  There ultimately no predicting the market, but you can surmise based on prior experience and movements how likely it may be.  That’s all you’re doing with online dating – or dating of any kind, actually.

The job of the trader is a simple one: choose a trade that has a higher probability of winning, and then determine the entry and exit points.  Where is your take profit going to be?  Where is your stop loss?  At what point are you willing to cut your losses and call the trade a bad one?  Are you rational enough to stick to your stop loss?  Because brother, let me tell you, you do not move your stop loss further out once it’s set.  You can tighten it up, for sure, but don’t you ever move it further out.  You will blow up your account and/or face ruin, if you do.

What are some of my deal breakers?  Distance.  Drugs.  Kids from multiple partners in a fairly short period of time.  No job.  Obvious lack of direction/goals, most especially when coupled with a general sense of unhappiness that is coming through even on the  modest amount of profile info.  Mental problems.  Extreme sloppiness.

That probably sounds like a long list, but let’s be honest here.  Who wants to date a bipolar slob with no job, no goals, and who smokes weed all day?  Nobody in his/her right mind, that’s who.  Set your stop loss, folks.  I know I’m going to.

I hope it doesn’t come across like I’m bitter from a couple of bombed dates because I’m not.  Actually, even when it’s bad, at least it’s entertaining.  I mean, sure, it disappointing because we’re all hoping to find someone to connect to on a deeper level, but honestly, some of the shit that you have to dig through to get to that is just comical.

I genuinely hope the guy I went out with last night can find the right person.  Because he is a good guy with some very particular positive characteristics.  I hope equally fervently that the things that he’s deficient in he can be self-aware enough to correct.

When I am done with the dating “trade system,” I will write a post about it and put the file up here for all to see.  I am genuinely interested to see if I can come up with a system that will statistically yield better dating success.  I don’t hold out much hope because people have been trying to do this forever, but hey.  My trading strategy has thus far been a good one.  I have a 71.4% success rate on my Forex trades, as of today.  If I can figure out currency trading, how hard can dating possibly be?  … Please don’t answer that.