Sunday 23 October 2016

Un-Happy Valley Half-Marathon

Some people run to win, some run to live, some do it out of masochism, some genuinely love it, others just want to build cardiovascular fitness to play their sport of choice.  Most are trying to outrun Father Time.

Me, I run to eat.

I love to bake.  I prefer to bake for other people but I have been known to, um, taste things I've baked.  I love wine, and cider.  I love Mexican food, as well as Indian, Thai, Greek, Italian, and pretty much the entire UN of food options.  I love chocolate and pizza a little too much to have ever found out if skinny feels better than they taste.  And I love ice cream just slightly more than life itself.

In the horse world, we call horses that seem to get fat on air "easy keepers".  You have to feed them a fraction of what a typical horse of their size and workload would need to prevent them from resembling a real-life Thelwell pony.  Alas, I'm an easy keeper, too.  I can maintain my weight on far fewer calories than is typical for someone of my age, size, and activity level.  I have to exercise tremendous restraint in order to be able to fit through doorways.  No exercise burns as many calories as running.  It also suits my solitary nature.

So, if I don't run, I can't eat, and that's no fun.  I took a long break from running when I was depressed and unhappy with my life, career, and relationship.  Alas, I did not take a commensurate break from eating, and I am paying for that still.  I have lost over half of the weight I gained but I still have many miles to go to run off the remainder (which I wish could be done without losing the boobs, but that's a rant for another post).

Goal-oriented by nature, I entered the lottery for the NYC Marathon when I began running again, and I commenced a more ambitious training program than I had undertaken when I ran it in 2002.  But my back decided to thwart my plans, and I have completed less than a quarter of it.

I'd signed up for a few halfs as part of marathon training.  I wrote about the Kingdom Run in August, which remains my favourite race despite the fact that I always finish last.  Today was the inaugural Happy Valley Half-Marathon, created by the owner of my local gym, where I have been attending at least six classes per week, along with yoga, cycling, and working at the barn, to augment my running.

I knew that, being 14 years older and 40 lbs. heavier than the last time I ran a marathon, getting back up to my usual snail's pace would be a challenge.   Nonetheless, my stubborn goal for the marathon remains to beat my previous time of 5 hours.  Unfortunately, nothing in my training indicates it is realistic to expect to finish in less than 6 ½.  I am not built for speed, but such an abysmally slow time would not even count as a finish for me, no celebration and no reward deserved.

Was not wearing this t-shirt.
Pace has been much more of a problem for me than endurance, so I have focused my training on improving my average pace per mile, but with my training having ground to a halt over the summer due to my back, I haven't made much progress.  My Kingdom Run time was 3:01; my goal today was to beat 2:30.  I failed.  My time was 2:44.  I wasn't quite dead last but I was finisher 349 out of 358.  The winner, 21, male, finished in 1:23, and the first female finisher, also 21, finished 9th in 1:32.  Now that's a time I wouldn't be embarrassed to post.  The August race was run entirely in the rain, which was unpleasant but is unlikely to have slowed me down any.  The rain of the last two days abated before today's race, thank goodness, but it was replaced by a bitter cold wind.  The course was covered in wet leaves.  I ran gingerly and was fine – my running shoes are worn through and have no tread, so I have to be careful no matter the conditions (no, I am not an idiot – I had planned to replace them before the marathon but finances did not permit) -- but I saw a number of people slip and fall.  I wore a scarf over my face but I have cold-activated asthma and breathing was absolute misery from start to finish.  I do enjoy running immensely, and I never once felt tempted to walk during the Kingdom Run.  I hadn't a single sore muscle during or after the race, and I finished feeling like I could have turned around and ran it again.  Today I had to fight for every step.  I didn't walk – that is an unbreakable rule of racing; I don't think you belong on the course if you have to walk – but I wanted to.  My quads hurt the entire time, which has never happened before, and there was never, until the last mile, a moment when I thought, "I've got this".  There certainly wasn't a millisecond when I thought, "I can easily run twice as far in two weeks".  I pushed myself through the entire race, freezing and completely miserable, without enjoying a single stride.

It also seemed weirdly long.  The first mile marker sign I saw was mile 5, and I was feeling like it should have been at least 10 at that point.  Each mile after that felt like four on a normal run.  I was expecting RunKeeper to show me that the course had been marked inaccurately and I'd really run two-three times as far, but it only said 13.4 when I crossed the finish line, a negligible difference.

After the August race, I drove back to the lovely guesthouse where I was staying, showered, and went back into town for lunch.  I never at any point felt even slightly sore or tired that day.  Today I showered and went for my usual Sunday brunch at a local cafĂ©, which revived me slightly, but I still needed a nap, and I am not a napper.  I was ambivalent about going to a concert tonight but decided that I might as well go because nothing productive was going to get done today.  Tomorrow, I'll do an easy 6 miles and see how it feels.  I should not be the tiniest bit fatigued or sore from a half at this point.  The brutal weather is one obvious culprit.  I stood breathing the steam from the shower for a half-hour before my lungs stopped feeling as if they were on fire.  What I really need is to go to the hot tub place.  That would sort me right out.  That was a local haven I lost access to when City Boy left, as they have a two-person minimum.  It pisses me off – they could just use cameras to make sure solo bathers don't drown.  Ok, I am kidding about the cameras, but I do think the policy is unnecessary – I would happily give them my first born to be able to go there.

Besides the weather, another difference between the races may be mental energy.  At the August race, I had just seen Silas and was a blissful week free from a job I hated.  I had hot summer days of freedom to look forward to and a little money to live on until I found a new job.  Now, money's run out, haven't seen Silas in nearly 3 months, and I have to continually tamp down the fear of not getting a job when it's almost November and I haven't yet paid my October bills.  I know I will get one eventually, it's just getting hard to stave off both creditors and panic.  That may be draining some of my running energy.

Thanks to the two solid days of rain, my back had a break from running and felt better than usual before this race.  I have started clenching my hands and jaw tightly when I run, bad habits that waste energy.  I try to stop when I notice but it's an unconscious reaction to coping with the back thing.  Luckily today I got until about mile 4 before it started to seriously impede me, and it wasn't until I had stopped and milled around after the finish and started to walk to my car that it completely seized up. I am still not sure how I got to my car.  I am hoping that it will at worst do the same thing on marathon day: hold off on being completely debilitating until after I cross the finish line -- in, I hope, less than 5 hours.

Monday 17 October 2016

So Much Yarn, So Little Time: A Rhinebeck Report

I'm baaaaahk from Rhinebeck.  There are many sheep & wool festivals around the country but the biggest one, which takes place each October at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck, NY, at the height of foliage season in the Hudson River Valley, is so well-known amongst knitters that it is simply referred to as "Rhinebeck".
I'm absurdly spoiled living within walking distance of WEBS, the largest yarn store in the world.  (They even snagged the URL  WEBS is yarn mecca – genuflecting when you go in the door isn't required, but it is encouraged – and knitters, crocheters, spinners, and weavers from around the globe make pilgrimages there.  They have, as you would expect, a vast selection of fibre and knitting tools, from the cheapest, tackiest acrylic to the most expensive luxury yarns, and they carry some hand-made and local products in addition to the major manufacturers.  But, due to volume, they cannot offer products from most of the small, independent fibre and tool makers (although they do support and promote them generously).  These are the sort of artisans you see at fibre festivals.

You don't go to Rhinebeck to buy 10 skeins of mass-produced yarn to make a sweater; you go there to buy one special skein of hand-spun, hand-dyed yarn from the vendor's own sheep.  Rhinebeck is its own kind of pilgrimage, and I think it is honestly the single event I most look forward to each year.  I just got home and I am already feeling down that it's over for a whole year (no, I can't afford to go both Sat. & Sun.; I know that's a sacrilege but it's too far to drive twice and I can't afford a hotel, let alone two days of yarn shopping and eating overpriced fair fare).

Rhinebeck is a two hour drive from my house, through the Berkshires and down the Taconic State Parkway.  Scenic is an understatement.  And the Taconic even has parking spots for making out at scenic overlooks, although I have yet to bring a date to Rhinebeck.  The only downside is the astonishing number of deer grazing along the Parkway.  Each trip I worry that this will be the year one of them leaps in front of my car.
You gonna have the lamb or the lamb?
The interminable lamb line.
Before we get too intoxicated with fibre, let's eat.  Lamb, appropriately enough, is the featured dish.  It appears in many forms at the food stalls.  There is also traditional fair food, of the fried dough and cotton candy variety, but most people ignore that in favour of the local vendors selling seasonal treats.  You will find plenty of cider donuts, hot cider, apple crisp, and pumpkin pie.  Since I'm surrounded by these at home, I ignore them and focus on the lamb, despite being a militant vegetarian the rest of the year.  Alas, so do thousands of other people.  The queue for the roasted lamb sandwiches each year has to be seen to be believed.  I waited exactly 50 minutes for mine today and made myself even angrier and more frustrated reading about the election on my phone whilst I was queuing.  It's an incentive to bring a friend because you can take turns holding a place in line and not miss so much yarn fondling time.

There's usually a substantial queue for every food stall at lunchtime but today I noticed one, new this year, without any line.  Curious, I read the menu:  Lamb sausage sandwich with side of chickpea salad or lamb stew.  No prices.  I went up to the window and the vendor was grinning at me a little too enthusiastically.  Then I saw the fine print: They were each $20.  That explains the shit-eating grin on the vendor.  He was looking greedily at the crowd and thinking he was going to make a killing.  But knitters aren't that stupid, hence the lack of a queue.

Roast lamb, onions, mustard. Worth the wait.
In addition to the food stalls lining the walkways, there is one building devoted to local food purveyors.  There are gourmet chocolates and cheeses, baked goods, dips and spice mixes, jam and sauces, and, above all, wines.  You could spend the entire day sampling local varieties, although I don't recommend it if you have to drive home.  There is a vendor who sells a spice mix called "Gobs of Garlic".  Each year I buy three tubs of it and throw it into myriad recipes.  It's the secret ingredient in about half the dishes I prepare.  One can order it online but it's become a ritual for me to get it there.

By making a Herculean effort to completely neglect all of my responsibilities, I finally managed to input my entire yarn stash into Ravelry over the summer.  A total of 127 different stashed yarns doesn't win me any largest stash awards, but it certainly gave me pause.  Rhinebeck was, obviously, going to test my yarn diet willpower, and the first temptation came when I reached out to pet a skein whose deep wine colour was like a siren's song.  It was soft.  Really soft.  I read the label:  50% cashmere/50% silk (400 yards, fingering).  Ah.  That would explain it.  Yes, it came home with me.

Green!  (Yes, some of that came home with me, too.)
My other temptation was any skein of forest green yarn.  It's my favourite colour, and surprisingly hard to find in yarn.  Blue, my least favourite colour, is one of the most universally popular colours across all cultures on earth, leading to a glut of shades of blue yarn and seemingly very little green.  If there is green, it is a warm green, not my green.  The first forest green skein I spotted was, alas, mohair, which makes me itch, so I passed on it.  I had better luck later, as I perused each booth in my methodical OCD way (another reason I go by myself: I trek building by building, row by row, to be sure I don't miss anything.  For some reason, this drives other people nuts, but skipping around and missing things would drive me nuts).

A wheel & some roving.
Knitting is the gateway drug.  After awhile, you crave a deeper connection to the yarn in your hands.  So you try dyeing.  And then you get a little roving and a drop spindle.  Then you want to spin more yarn faster, so you invest in a wheel.  Then, oh, what the hell, you pick up a fleece, just to try carding it yourself.  And from there it is a surprisingly small step to owning sheep.  I'm sort of at that point.  I haven't yet convinced my landlady that letting me keep sheep will enable her to sell the John Deere riding mower in the garage (bonus: I could actually park my car in there then, instead of outside in the snow), but I do own a sheep share at a local farm.  Twice a year, the farm owner invites the sheepholders to come meet the lambs and watch the shearing.

Some knitters take a detour into related crafts like crochet or weaving.  Rhinebeck is dominated by knitters but it is truly a festival that celebrates all fibre arts – for better and for worse.  There are booths with everything from tapestries and rugs to needle-felted dragons.  There is wool clothing and hats (even horse blankets this year!), woven tea towels and bedspreads, and a variety of fibre artwork, most of which has one thing in common: it's absolutely hideous.
I told you there was a felted dragon.
Fancy wool coolers. Would love to get one for Silas.
I liked the yarn art featuring horses.
I'm not the folk art type but the horses are charming.
Be sure to dye, responsibly.
Handmade drop spindles
This tool is called a niddy-noddy.  I shit you not-y.
Spinner in her booth sneaking in a little spinning between customers.
And sheep may be the stars of the show but they aren't the only fibre animals there.  If knitting is the gateway drug, wool is the gateway fibre.  Knitters are notorious for making yarn from any animal with hair.  I have in my stash a skein of dog hair yarn.  (It was given to me by someone who hates me (seriously) and I am keen to get rid of it, if anyone wants it.)  For awhile, I saved my dogs' undercoat when I brushed them, with the idea of sending it to the Malamute Spin folks, but I eventually came to my senses and gave it to the birds for their nests.  Basically, if you can hold it down and sheer it or comb out its hair, someone, somewhere, will spin that fibre into yarn.  Rhinebeck vendors sell yarn made from llama, alpaca, angora rabbit and goat, yak, vicuna, and, uh, possum (this is apparently big in Australia, where nothing surprises me).  I didn't see any yaks or muskoxen (qiviut – the most expensive yarn) but the other animals were represented, along with cashmere goats and myriad breeds of sheep.  There are also yarns made from every kind of plant fibre you can imagine (cotton, linen, flax, hemp, soy, sugar cane), and a few substances you can't (milk).
Get yer quality yak fibres here.
Please don't blame the Romney sheep for the abysmal
presidential candidate named after them.
Baah, baah, black sheep.  I have plenty of wool, thank you.
Freshly shorn.
No, I have never seen kangaroo yarn, but nothing would surprise me at this point.
I have no idea what they are doing at Rhinebeck.
Llama taking a load off.
You don't have to go to Kashmir to get cashmere.
Little half-ounce bags of cashmere roving!
& it's even legal! Soooooo tempting! (I resisted.)
I tried to get a photo of a man spinning at a wheel in his booth, but he jumped up to greet someone.  I wanted to prove that there are male knitters, and some of them are even straight.

As the clock struck 5 and I made my last purchase of the day, the vendor told me that she is also running the NYC Marathon.  We wished each other luck. 

I attempted to start a knitting blog many moons ago but, like so many UFOs, it has been hibernating for years.  Once I revive it, I will link to it from here.
Lamb roasting.
My tiny Rhinebeck haul. I'm broke so I was very restrained.

Friday 14 October 2016

Lessons Learned in the LTR Trenches (Part 1)

Alas, it's usually the opposite.
Having recently entered the dating scene after the demise of my second long-term relationship, I've given some thought to what makes an LTR work and, conversely, what are the signs that an LTR is doomed.  They all seem blindingly obvious but one's perspective can get skewed from the inside.  I found, to my chagrin, that I was dismissing the what-makes-an-LTR-work criteria as things I could live without, and assuming the doomed signs were typical of most LTRs.  I'm cynical so it was strange to me to learn that everyone in an LTR wasn't as unhappy as I was, that there are people who actually like, respect, even love their partners, and still want to touch them.  It never occurred to me that was possible, let alone common.  'Familiarity breeds contempt' is my motto for relationships; I didn't think you could live with someone, really get to know them, and retain any affection or respect for them.  Apparently, some people do, although I still have difficulty wrapping my head around it.  So, I've put together this list as a reminder for future relationships.

Bodily functions should be kept private
I read a memoir recently in which the author recounted that she knew her nascent relationship with a college boyfriend was doomed when he couldn't deal with her accidently farting when they were hiking in the mountains together, and I also recently heard a guy lament that a girl refused a second date with him because he had belched on the first one.  Belching and farting are generally deal-breakers for both sexes, but some people (read: guys) seem not to know this.
One partner, who shall remain nameless for his own protection, thought that when I was in the shower was the perfect time to come into the bathroom to take a big, smelly dump.  Guys, if you want to keep the romance alive, this is a crappy idea, pun intended.  There were other warning signs the relationship was doomed, but that was a big, smelly red flag.  There are things that say, "We are so intimate and so in love and I feel so safe with you that I can be myself" and then there are things that say, "I am an inconsiderate jerk with no boundaries."  (For the record, I would make an exception if partner had food poisoning.  But this was never the case.)

& thus he guaranteed that "new
girlfriend" would never become
"long-term girlfriend"
I know a guy who liked to listen to women pee and he used to stand outside the bathroom door when his girlfriend peed.  Then they got married and he didn't have to sneak around anymore, he could actually be in the bathroom, brushing his teeth, whilst she peed.  And it got old fast.  He is no longer turned on by the sound of women peeing.  This is probably a good thing but my point is that even if you have a partner as weird as he is, bodily functions are not sexy.  The less your partner sees, hears, or smells them, the better your relationship will be.

You should be proud to show off your partner
I became embarrassed to bring City Boy anywhere, especially professional events, or introduce him to anyone I knew.  His narcissism and lack of social skills embarrassed me and my choice of him as a partner made people question my judgment and probably my character as well.  He was also such a loose cannon that he makes Trump seem a paragon of verbal discretion in comparison and I constantly had to worry about him obliviously saying something to my boss or our landlady that might cost me my job or apartment.

At first, I tried to tell myself that he could learn, that he would eventually grow up, that he had other qualities that compensated, and that my friends who really got to know him looked past it.  In retrospect, it was one of our main sources of friction, the cause of many fights and much resentment.  You will not feel good about yourself or your relationship if you are not proud to show your partner off anywhere and everywhere.  If you start to avoid bringing them with you, that's a big red flag.

And even though it is obvious I am not talking here about looks or style, that doesn't mean those aren't important.  You should be proud to show them off for those reasons, too.  Don't dismiss them as superficial.  A friend said to me recently, "When you are in love, looks don't matter because when you look into each other's eyes, you are seeing directly into each other's souls."  That resonated, but it doesn't contradict what I am saying.  If you are truly in love it's not that you won't be embarrassed if your partner is unattractive, you won't find them unattractive so it won't be an issue.  So if your partner says they'd bring you along if you were hotter or had better clothes, it's another red flag.

You shouldn't feel the need to change them
Men tend to consider the negatives about a potential partner and make a decision about whether or not they can live with them before they commit.  They don't assume their partner is going to change, let alone that they could change them.  Women are just the opposite; we see potential partners as works in progress, lumps of clay, malleable and mouldable.  We consider what we don't like and think to ourselves, "I can fix A, I can change B, he'll grow out of C….."  Whether it stems from nature or nurture, this is a stark difference between the sexes that is nearly universal.  Yes, there are exceptions, but stereotypes exist because they are true.

But women should have a steep learning curve and after your first relationship, when you are crying to your friends, "He didn't change!" (Men, in contrast, are more likely to complain at the end of a relationship, "She changed!") remember that you cannot change people.  Oh, you can change a few superficial things sometimes, and you can be supportive if someone wants to change.  But if you find yourself entering a subsequent relationship with a laundry list of improvements to make to your beau to make him acceptable LTR material, whether he needs better jeans or better values, that's a big red flag.

You should find the same shit funny
My first LTR (Country Boy) began in graduate school when we lived in the same dorm.  Shortly after we started dating, I began taping comics to his door.  My door was covered with them.  When he never said anything, I eventually mentioned it and he said vaguely, "Oh, was that you who put those there?"  Everything else was going so well, we were falling head-over-heels for each other in those euphoric early days, so I let it slide.  Likewise when I suggested watching a stand-up comedy video and he said he hated stand-up.  He also wasn't keen on my sarcasm.  In retrospect, these were all big red flags.
Your senses of humour must overlap substantially or you are fucked in the long-term.  It's easy to dismiss little incompatibilities at the beginning when you are screwing like rabbits, but you will need humour to get you through life.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying a shared sense of humour is enough to outweigh other problems.  City Boy could be really funny.  He has one brother who is over 6'5" and obese, as well as a diminutive adopted brother.  One of the first events we attended as a couple was the latter brother's wedding.  It's a Jewish wedding custom to lift the bride and groom on chairs whilst singing the Hava Nagila.  After helping to hoist the groom, he sat back down at the table, wiped sweat off his brow, and deadpanned, "When [other brother] gets married, we're gonna need a Bob Cat."  The entire table laughed until we were in tears.  We both cracked up over the O Fortuna misheard lyrics video.  He's named the paddock where we put the Arabian horses "Gitmo", which scandalises everyone else at the barn but I think it's hilarious.  We didn't always agree – he thought Borat was funny, I hated it – but our overlapping senses of humour cemented our relationship.  If you don't find the same shit funny, run, even if the sex is off the charts, because you are going to need humour later.

You should be best friends
One of my favourite descriptions of love is "love is friendship set on fire".  As with my friend's quote above, I've learned that this is achingly, deliciously accurate.  No-one can be all things to you, so you must have other friends – friends who meet other needs, share other interests, in whom you can confide about your relationship.  But your partner should be the first and last person you want to speak to every day.  They should be the first person you want to tell anything, good or bad.  You should both feel able to vent, to ask for advice, to receive comfort and sympathy, just as you would from any platonic friend.  The euphoric in-love feeling doesn't last, unfortunately, so, in order to sustain an LTR, you need the intimacy of a deep friendship.  I tried, and failed, to cultivate that in both my LTRs.  The reasons it wasn't reciprocated were different in each case – each partner had his own issues that precluded it – but it was a big red flag that each relationship was missing something critical.

The sex should be out of this world
Yes, I'm going there.  I realise that some couples claim that they no longer have sex but are happy.  My response is that one of them is lying and probably getting it elsewhere.  This is well-trodden territory:  The endorphin high of falling in love does not last, nor does the can't-keep-your-hands-off-each-other shag fest of the first six months.  Eventually, you're no longer on your best behaviour; you see each other's flaws; the quirks that were cute at first now make you homicidal; resentments build; someone farts in bed.  You begin to have rows.  At first, they are followed by make-up sex.  But once you entwine your lives, perhaps even have children, you become too exhausted for any kind of sex.  The eye wanders, and often the body, and sometimes the heart, follows.  Many LTRs end at this point, and some of them should.  People grow and change, and falling in love is no guarantee of long-term compatibility.  But sometimes what is needed, and I realise I sound like an advice column clichĂ© (Hey, I used to write one), is better sex.  It is a chicken and egg situation: Does a better relationship lead to better sex or vice versa?  The answer is yes to both but you can't paper over a bad relationship with good sex because good sex requires both attraction and intimacy.  If the feelings aren't there outside of the bedroom, sex won't restore them.  If your relationship is faltering, don't try to fix it with sex.  But if the relationship is otherwise strong, work on the sex to keep it alive.  Sex is oxygen to a relationship; it will die without it, and faster than you might expect.  Many people are living in relationships that died years before.  Sometimes we stay from inertia, sometimes for practical reasons, sometimes because we haven't realised anything is wrong.  Much has been written on how to keep passion in a long-term relationship and the consensus is to make time for sex, don't let it fall by the wayside as life gets in the way.  Make it a priority.  If you have no desire, parse out whether you have no interest in sex or no interest in sex with your partner.  If you are still horny but can't work up any desire for your partner, the relationship is dead.  I stayed in a relationship where I had such contempt for my partner that I felt revulsion at touching him or being touched by him.  I told myself it was all my fault, and I kept up that self-blame for over a decade before finally realising it was him, not me, that was the problem.

The Obamas: Still in love, still desire each other.
Dan Savage says that partners must be good, giving, and game (GGG), which means that they must make a good faith effort to be sexually available, to please you, to at least try things you want to do in bed.  If they are not GGG, he says, you have the right to seek it elsewhere and, when you find it, you should DTMFA (Dump The MotherFucker Already).  City Boy used to throw this in my face in his frustration.  I understand he was upset and unsatisfied, that he felt rejected.  When he found someone else, he immediately dumped me.  Shortly thereafter, he threw it in my face that he wrote a letter to Dan Savage thanking him for giving him the courage to DTMFA and that he was now enjoying great sex with his new, kinky GGG girlfriend.  I honestly didn't blame him.  The reasons I wasn't attracted to him were legitimate but rather than staying with him hoping he'd change and I'd eventually desire him, I should have let him go years earlier.  You cannot manufacture attraction any more than you can love.  Life can get in the way of your sex drive but it's critical to parse out whether you have lost interest in sex itself or just sex with your partner.  If it's the former, work on it with your partner; if it's the latter, it's about the biggest red flag you can have.

You should fall in love (but it's sometimes ok if you don't)
That may sound cheesy but bear with me a moment.  I never felt in-love with City Boy, even at the very beginning when we were having so much sex I literally wore him out.  I liked him at first, but never fell in love.  I told myself that was not important and I should actually be glad my heart was not engaged – safer that way.  I had felt in love with Country Boy but it turned out, years later, that I had been in love with who I wanted him to be not who he was.  Was it really love then?  That experience made me suspicious of love: I think what most call love is merely infatuation.

I thought I was better off not loving City Boy but when things went downhill, I didn't have that deeper well of affection to draw on.  That heady in-love feeling doesn't last but skipping it doesn't bode well.  Even the best relationship takes effort, and love is the fuel that keeps it steaming along through all of its challenges.  But relationships can work without love.  In my case, I am not even looking for love in my next LTR.  I don't want another relationship but I do want to have children, and I need financial security.  If I were rich, I'd use a sperm donor to have a kid, and bide my time on an LTR, waiting until I fall in love, if that ever happens again.  But, as it stands, I might have to wait too long if I wait for love so I have to be practical.  If I find someone attractive, reasonably compatible, whom I can respect, that will have to suffice.  Love won't do me a helluva lot of good if I'm menopausal before I find it, or homeless.  Women are very practical – remember the ending of Casablanca.

And anyway, love is no guarantee you'll be compatible or that the relationship will last.  It certainly isn't always convenient, as the best speech ever made about it explains.  In analyzing my relationships with City Boy and Country Boy, I've spent some time contemplating love.  What is it?  Is it real?  Is it important?  Yes, it's one of the things that makes life worth living so everyone should experience it at some point, even if it's not in your current LTR.  I suspect many people go through life without ever feeling it.  Other people in love may seem insufferable and ridiculous, until it hits you over the head like a cartoon anvil.  When you're in love, all the song lyrics suddenly make sense.  It's "All the things we — we grew up not believing in. Total obsession, night and day".  I don't think it's possible to be in love without it being reciprocated because the wonderful feeling that buoys you everywhere is not how you feel towards the other person, it's knowing how they feel about you.  You feel wrapped in it as you go about your day, like a warm shawl, and the thrill of it keeps you up at night.  Someone loves me, you think, someone is lying awake thinking about me like I am thinking about them.  No matter what you are doing, a little voice in your head is trilling someone desires me, someone finds me attractive and interesting.  You may not be able to work out why but that doesn't matter because the critical point that has you smiling to yourself like an idiot all the time is that they know you and they still like you.  Even if you have healthy self-regard, that is still a remarkable feeling.  Remember Beatrice and Benedick:  The electricity between them was crackling but what made them fall head-over-heels in love was being told the other was in love with them.

Well, I don't need to prattle on about love.  If you've felt it, you know what I am talking about.  If you've never been in love, you just think I sound like a babbling moron anyway.  And this is the most wooly of the points on this list because the rest are really deal breakers, red flags you should not ignore, but I have to kind of fudge here and say that love is a nice-to-have, and I hope you get to experience the joy of it at some point in your life, but LTRs are also practical arrangements, always have been.  Mae West said, "Sex with love is the greatest thing on earth, but sex without it ain't so bad either."  I can vouch for the former; it's the ideal.  But life is rarely ideal, sometimes you have to be pragmatic.  You need to know how and when to make that call, based on your individual needs.

Suffer love! A good epithet. I do suffer love indeed, for I love thee against my will.
In spite of your heart, I think. Alas, poor heart, if you spite it for my sake, I will spite it for 
yours, for I will never love that which my friend hates.

(Part 2 will get into the heavy stuff, like division of housework & leaving the toilet seat up.)

Tuesday 11 October 2016

Presidential Debate #2: #TrumpsterFire

"Does Trump have the discipline to be a good leader?"


If your drinking game from last night involved Trump's sniffing, you are probably nursing a substantial hangover today.  Alas, I am temporarily teetotaling in an effort to lose weight (I know, I should skip the ice cream & keep the booze, just STFU), but I'll be gentle and not tax you with a long review of last night's #TrumpsterFire.
As I stated in my post on the first debate, both candidates need to attract undecided voters, not preach to their own choirs.  Clinton flubbed a few times, as she always inexplicably does, but mostly came across as good-humoured, even-tempered, competent, capable of taking the high road and remaining unruffled by the ignominy of having to debate this buffoon as if he were a serious opponent, and deal patiently with inane questions that have little to do with policy.  But she will get no credit for that; her debate performance persuaded few undecideds to her side.  Some people who refuse to vote for her genuinely disagree with her on policy but the vast majority don't think she is qualified to be president due to her sex.  They won't admit this to themselves, so they inflate every molehill into a criminal mountain.  There is really no way through that subconsciously sexist mentality.  Clinton doesn't have a natural flair for public speaking but even if she did she'd just be called a slick political insider, and that's another thing she has against her.  In every election since Andrew Jackson's, candidates have used their status as outsiders to convince voters that they will make big changes.  But Republican obstructionism has made voters more frustrated than ever with politicians, so Clinton's experience is used against her rather than to bolster her qualifications.  If she got angry, she'd be seen as shrewish, "unattractive", yet her good humour is read as smugness.  Candidates have been called supercilious in debates past but never has there been any discussion about how much a candidate smiled in a debate.  Clinton has been the subject of commentators deliberating, quite seriously, whether she smiled too much or too little in each debate.  By being prepared and knowledgeable, she is viewed as scripted and insincere.  She is in an impossible situation.  There is almost nothing she could say or do in a debate that would pull in voters, even if you can argue that she does little to help herself.
Trump, in contrast, had an almost limitless opportunity to pull in both reluctant Republicans and undecideds by apologizing for his past behaviour and presenting himself as a serious candidate.  As has been said many times, the bar is set so low for him, he just needs to act the tiniest bit sane and competent, give any concrete answer at all to policy questions, and dispel concerns about his temperament by simply keeping his shit together for 90 minutes.  Once again, he showed himself incapable of any of that.  He didn't gain any new supporters last night (Frank Lunz's bizarre wet dreams notwithstanding), and neither did Clinton.  So, we are basically at status quo ante on this Monday morning, some of us a little hungover and a little sickened by the events of the weekend.
John Oliver, alas, taped his show before the debate, but weighed in on pussygate.  Colbert had also pre-taped his show but couldn't resist getting a little catty from his study.  Attention has naturally been focused on Trump's claim that his celebrity status enables him to kiss and grope any woman with impunity, but this is only the latest in a long line of similar remarks, so it's a bit baffling why this one in particular has taken on last straw status.  He's been on Howard Stern so many times that there is almost limitless similar chauvinistic banter on which to draw.  When Stern asked Trump whether he'd have sex with a woman who was having her period, "Donald, seriously, you would not, right?", Trump responded, "Well, sometimes you get there by mistake."  Um, let's unpack that.  If things are moving in a fuckward direction, a woman is going to mention she's having her period before the guy "get[s] there by mistake" so as not to provoke his latent castration anxiety with unexpected blood on his dick.  The typical male response to that information is "you're not fuckable at present but you're still obliged to satisfy me sexually so I'll take a blow job instead".  So, the obvious assumption regarding Trump's claim of getting there by mistake is that he was, shall we say, making the journey without consent.
In contrast, pundits are making too much of his disagreement with Pence on Syria.  In the early republic, the vice president was the candidate who got the second highest number of electoral votes.  When parties coalesced, that meant working with a political opponent, which led, eventually, to the candidates for both offices sharing a ticket.  The VP candidate is normally chosen to balance that ticket, which can put some daylight between him and the nominee.  This is usually considered a good thing as it casts a wider net for voters.  In this case, Pence is obviously supposed to appeal to the religious conservatives.  So, the fact that they haven't spoken and have publicly disagreed on policy is just another indication of the unserious and disorganised nature of Trump's campaign, but it isn't otherwise remarkable.
Finally, Trump's response to every policy question was to inveigh against current policy and attack both Clintons, Obama, and anyone else handy, including the moderators.  He's like a grown-up version of that kid who was always complaining he was bored but never had any suggestions for what to play.  The moderators tried to goad him into actually answering a question - it was great when Anderson Cooper said very slowly, "I am going to repeat the question in words of one syllable that even a complete fucktard like you can understand" - but they failed.  It was a policy-free debate, all mudslinging.  In some ways, this whole election is hilarious, but it's alarming that people are voting for this sack of shit. The mere fact of his nomination and his polling in the vicinity of 40% today says many things about the country and all of them are bad.

Friday 7 October 2016

An Even Bigger Pain in the Arse Than Donald Trump

Not sure if her problem is back pain
or anal without enough lube.
Segueing briefly from politics to other forms of chronic pain, I finally have a diagnosis for the back problem that has dogged me intermittently for over four years: Sacroiliitis.  (Say it 10x fast.)  In prosaic terms, it's inflammation of the SI joint.  Well, there are actually two of them, on either side of the sacrum.  They perform the minor task of connecting one's spine to one's hips.  The inflammation in mine is about 70% on the left and 30% on the right, which coincidentally also describes my political views.
What's causing them to protest so vehemently and relentlessly?  There are a variety of possible culprits, as when you are grouchy and it could be anything from global warming to hangriness to just generally being an arsehole.  In the case of sacroiliitis (c'mon, it's such a weird word you know you like saying it), I could have an anatomical predisposition to it.  It's mainly women who get it, and my hip bones are wide even by female standards, which puts stress on the pelvic ligaments.  Yes, I have classic childbearing hips that I have not been able to make use of yet.  (Still working on that – as Olympia Dukakis said in Moonstruck, "It ain't over 'til it's over".)  Alas, they're not considered nearly as attractive in the 21st century as they were in the 19th.  Wide hips mean a wide arse, which is never a good thing, Meghan Trainor notwithstanding.
Aside to other wide-hipped women out there:  Always, always, and I mean always, wear fitted clothing.  Baggy clothes are your enemy.  Anything that hides your tiny waist is going to make you look like a hippo.  Trust me on this one.  The bottom half of the hourglass may be fuller than the top, but cinch that waist so it doesn't look like a beaker instead.  Think 40s/50s vintage pin-up silhouette. Just buy all your clothing here and you can't go wrong.
Sorry, wide-hipped sisters, the 1920s was emphatically NOT our era.
The 1940s & '50s on the other hand....
Arthritis can cause sacroiliitis, as can infection, and some scary diseases.  But the most likely cause is traumatic injury that creates some sort of imbalance that is aggravated with movement like running.  In my case, I had a minor riding accident 7 ½ years ago when I fractured my pelvis in three places on the left side.  It wasn't nearly as dramatic as it sounds; they were just hairline fractures so nothing appeared to be displaced.  But something is out of whack, and I don't just mean with the electoral system.

Treatment options suck.  I'm not willing to take pain medication even temporarily, let alone permanently.  I take an ibuprofen once every few months when it's really unbearable and I freak out just about that.  A cortisone injection might get me through the marathon.  I've only been able to complete about 25% of my training program due to this and I only have four weeks left to catch up.  But the injections are hit or miss, not guaranteed to make a difference in individual cases, and they are not a simple matter of popping into the doctor's office for a shot.  As an acquaintance who recently had it done described it, first they inject you with about a quart of lidocaine, although they admit it only numbs the surface and not deep into the joint where the cortisone shot will go.  Then, using an ultrasound for guidance, they manoeuvre a needle about the size of a garden hose to get the cortisone into all the nooks and crannies.  It sounds like so much fun, who could resist?  But I am still trying to find out if my insurance will cover it, and, in case the victim, I mean, patient requires sedation (which I won't, but my needle-phobic readers are nodding their heads vigorously), they make you bring someone to drive you home afterwards.  I hate asking favours and certainly don't have any local friends I'd feel comfortable putting up to that.
So much this.
There are exercises to strengthen the surrounding muscles and loosen tightness in the joint, but I have already been doing them with no discernible improvement.  In fact, when the problem started years ago, I blamed it on my old futon or on having gotten fat and out of shape.  But when I lost weight and started exercising again, it got exponentially worse.  Rest eases the inflammation but that I cannot do, not if I want to keep losing weight and getting in better shape, and certainly not with the marathon imminent.  I have been sucking it up but there are, unfortunately, limits to that.  When it's really bad I literally cannot run; when it's at its worst, it's similar to sciatica and I become like a turtle on its back: I cannot turn over and get up.  I don't cry often but I have cried from this, not from the pain but because I am a control freak.  Any loss of control is unbearable for this uptight WASP -- you won't find me taking drugs, drinking to excess, or allowing anyone to tie me up during sex either.

I literally cannot remember the last time I had a full night's sleep without my back waking me up.  As I documented in this blog post and then this one, I have tried changing mattresses as a possible solution.  My fancy new mattress has put me deeper in debt but it hasn't helped my back as I had desperately hoped it would.  (At least it's terrific for sex – I'll try to keep thinking of that as I pay it off over the next many years.)

Yoga helps, and I am counting on that as a permanent fix.  Alas, there isn't much my hot chiropractor can do except relieve symptoms on a temporary basis.  Massage also helps tremendously as it relaxes the muscle tension that builds up everywhere.  As much as I like being single, I keep fantasising that having a partner to give me massages would be lovely.  And then I remember that no partner has ever given me a massage.  You know how it goes:  They either want you to give them a massage first, after which they claim they are too relaxed to reciprocate, or they rub your back in a half-assed inept fashion for about a minute and then start feeling you up, which would be fine if it were in addition to rather than instead of the massage.  (Although a partner, no matter how poor a masseur, would enable me to go back to the hot tub place, which really helps.  Gods, I miss that.  I think the two-person rule is unnecessary.  Maybe they could use cameras to make sure no-one drowns.  Just kidding.)

But, hey, after years of wondering why my back was trying to ruin my life, at least I have a diagnosis.  That's a start.  I'll take it, and run with it.