Sunday, November 3, 2013

When again the better angels of our nature

I was recently told by an extremely smart person that she greatly values my thoughts and opinions--that I should "start a blog" (knowing full well I have this...thing) because she thinks the way I interpret the world, and my ability to break things down, are valuable. Of course, I was deeply flattered. Anytime a PhD. wants to tell me that they think my brain is valuable, they're welcome to do so.

So I thought about that for a while. I do have certain things going for me: Chicago Public Radio is my most-listened to preset in my car, and due to my work hours I hear a lot of BBC World News. I spend a lot of time on social media making judgmental Martin-squinty-eyes at happenings in pop culture. I detest hyperbole and overreaction. I tend to subscribe to Occam's Razor in most everything. I have a lot of free time, and I actually do enjoy gathering outside perspectives on most things. I'm pretty good at summarizing things and being legitimately fair and balanced.

All that said, the world is full of middle-class, white 20-somethings who think their thoughts and opinions are worthwhile. A lot of them cook and bake way better than I can, most of them dress way better than I do, and I'm willing to bet a bunch of them are a lot more resourceful than I am. A lot of them have more life experience than I do: they've lost someone close to them, they suffer from a chronic illness, or have overcome cancer, or perhaps overcome an addiction. Who am I? Other than being a lady, I more or less have had every privilege afforded to me. I can't believe that my ideas or point of view are needed in any way, shape, or form. I'm a slightly poorer, less disaffected, and far luckier-in-love Lena Dunham (who has been quoted as saying "I'm anti-pants", so we clearly have things in common).

All THAT said, here are my thoughts over the last couple months:

-I was very surprised George Zimmerman was actually found not guilty of any sort of culpability in the murder of Trayvon Martin. I assert you can easily figure out where people's hearts and opinions lie about that case based upon their framing of it as a "murder" or a "killing/shooting". I spent a lot of time thinking about ways I could speak out about what I felt was injustice, without co-opting the feelings of black Americans.

-The WikiLeaks scandal made me uncomfortable. I understand why Julian Assange is free while Chelsea Manning is jailed. I don't like that our government was keeping some really damaging things from the public, but I also don't like government secrets getting leaked. I'm team "anti-leaks" while also being "team transparency in governance. I assert you can tell how compassionate a news organization is whether or not they respected Chelsea's request to call her Chelsea and use feminine pronouns.

-Mass shootings keep happening, and I will never, ever be able to have a rational discussion about gun control with people who aren't anti-guns. Not because people who are pro-guns/pro-2nd Amendment/anti-gun control are horrible people, but because I am extremely irrational in my fear and loathing of guns. I can understand the right to bear arms, and the framers' intent, and social/cultural factors that probably contribute more than access to guns, but I don't think I'll ever be able to shake that gut feeling that guns are bad, and no one should have access to murder machines. For these reasons, I stay out of these discussions.

-Boo government shutdown. Boo Tea Party. Boo Republicans for letting yourselves be bullied by party extremists. Fist-bump to the President for negotiating with Iran and not bitter GOP House members. Some people thought that reflected poorly on the President, but I think it sent a loud, clear message about what he thought about the Tea Party and their demands. We don't negotiate with terrorists.

-On a related note, I'm not completely a bleeding heart namby pamby liberal person, in that I had only marginal reserves of sympathy for the government workers who were on forced paid leave. I repeat--paid leave. Yeah, not getting your paycheck at the beginning of the month was probably hard, but welcome to the private sector. Except in the private sector you wouldn't be getting those un-worked days paid back to you on a later check, you'd just be SOL. "What are they supposed to do??" cried politicians and citizens decrying the shutdown. IDK, dip into their savings? Budget? Find a new job? Your average American seems to have been able to figure it out when it happened to them, and Congress hasn't been securing their back-pay.

-The Affordable Care Act has already helped me (the Boy only needed 6 months of gap insurance before he could be added to my plan since he could stay on his parents' plan until he was 26, free birth control, free yearly preventative care screening), and I'm excited to find time to read the literature Friday's sent me to see if I'm eligible for subsidies. I'm sorry if younger, healthier people will be "penalized" for being young and healthy and having higher premiums than they're used to, but I think (if for some reason this system stays in place for the long term *cough team nationalized health care cough*) they'll appreciate young people carrying that burden when they themselves are older and sicker and don't have to pay a zillion dollars to stay alive, let alone have any sort of quality of life.

-Logic behind American obsession with English nobility re: royal baby eludes me to this day. Didn't my elder Martins fight a war to ensure I didn't have to care about the monarchy?

-Egypt: get your act together. Please don't ask me, or the US, how. We don't have good ideas. A similar entry would fall under "Syria".

-I'm kind of mad at Edward Snowden, more than I am Chelsea Manning. That is exactly the kind of leaking I disapprove of. Boo Edward.

-I've been married for over a year and will be spending Thanksgiving in Boston. Thumbs-up and smiles all around.


Word-vomitingly yours,

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What's in a name?

I was simultaneously hoping no one would notice, and that everyone would notice.

I changed my name on Facebook a month or so ago...back to what it's always been.

I had changed my name on Facebook shortly after the wedding only semi-reluctantly. Even though I was pretty sure I was comfortable with the choice we as a couple had made, it still felt wrong to me. But the flush of nuptial bliss and all those shiny pictures of me in a beautiful gown with my glowing and handsome husband (!) made me feel a bit like a new person on Facebook already, so why not go and update the name?

It took a couple attempts. Should I do the full thing? The Boy and I had agreed to share both a middle and a last name. He would take my "maiden" name as a 2nd middle, as would I, and I would assume his surname as my own (it seemed egalitarian. ish). Catherine Elizabeth Martin Durbin. But, would people think I was doing a double-barreled last name instead? After several gos, I finally settled on Cathi EM. Durbin. Several friends joked I should be Cathi Elizabeth M.D. I silently sulked that, even though The Boy went to the DMV with me to change his name on his license, he didn't change anything on Facebook. And why should he? He didn't have his original middle name up there, why should he suddenly decide to display his new one? Our egalitarian-ish choice was seeming less egalitarian, and I bristled.

I changed my display name on my e-mail, and after several months I changed my voicemail message. I held off doing anything with Social Security--I didn't want to confuse the IRS, you see. Paperwork takes time, who knew if three months would be enough time for the corporate office to officially change the I-9 or W-4 or whatever it was before the W-2's came out? Tax season came, and went. We filed jointly with no issues.

Time passed and still I stalled. Friends and acquaintances got married in the meantime, and all of them changed their names on Facebook too. Every time one of my lady friends gleefully changed her name online, my heart sank. Where were my strong, feminist peers? Why wasn't anyone standing firm and keeping their original name? How was I supposed to live vicariously through someone, if no one was doing it?*

It was around that mental point that I realized it wasn't too late for me--I could still remain Cathi Martin. I didn't have to live vicariously through someone, I could I rolled that concept around in my brain and felt a small thrill--and a huge dose of guilt. A couple days into mulling over this option, I had a conversation with a coworker who accused me of not wanting to be married anymore. I asked The Boy a dozen times if he would be sad or mad or disappointed if I never officially changed anything and he kept reassuring me (as he did when we were engaged) that it really, really didn't matter to him; do whatever made me happiest. I read things online cheering on the non-changing choice as small, individual victories for The Sisterhood, and I read things online forecasting the demise of my marriage since I was obviously holding something back.

I told my dad that I didn't think I was ever going to officially change, that I'll always be a Martin. He smiled into his plate of nachos before fixing his face into an expression of bland concern and told me that it sounded like I'd put a lot of thought into this. The irrational sense of guilt I was feeling (like I was somehow cheating The Boy out of something?) was still there, but it was so, so much smaller than the hot ball of anxiety and wild horror that had been spinning inside my chest when making the small moves to change my identity. The final straw came when a couple wedding invitations arrived addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. Boy Durbin". While I know my poor friends were just exercising "proper etiquette", something finally snapped inside of me.

So, here I am. Cathi Martin. On the one hand, I really hoped no one would notice that "Cathi EM Durbin" had changed back to "Cathi Martin", since I didn't want a Facebook wall full of "omg--divorce?????" messages. On the other hand, I wanted everyone to notice. I wanted it to be a big deal, so that the next time someone has to think about changing their name, they don't worry themselves sick over it like I did.

In the meantime, I'm pretty sure there's still time for both of us to officially change our last name to "Awesome" if we wanted to.

<3 p="">CMart (who reserves the right to change her mind again)

*For the record, I don't think changing one's name is inherently an un-feminist choice, or that my friends who did change their last names are weak, or downtrodden. I know that's the implied counterpoint to the above rant, and I want it clear that I don't think that. My brain was just in a weird, bad place where everyone else's choices seemed like a referendum on my own, and on society as a whole, which absolutely isn't true. I almost wish that changing my surname upon marriage was as natural and joyful a choice as it was for so many of my friends. Having a family name would be nice, you know?

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Puppets (or: The Double Edged Sword of Projected Expectations)

Last night at work a familiar scene played itself out in the corner of the bar. Some guests had a perfectly  normal experience, and ended their stay by hailing a passing server to get a manager to lodge complaints about the evening that were a complete mystery to me.

The details are irrelevant, really. Perhaps they were angling for free food (our culture seems to support the transactional model of "here is my complaint--I'd like to redeem it for one free meal, please"), perhaps their expectations were unrealistic, or perhaps they didn't like the cut of our jib. The motivations of guests who fabricate complaints aren't really any of my concern. The other bartender and I provided perfectly fine service and we weren't in trouble, so we just shrugged and rolled our eyes and went about our business of giving perfectly fine service to our other guests.

I've been bartending for six years, and unfortunately it's taken me almost as long to reach a state of acceptance about my place in the world while I am in uniform. I spent a long time confused about it, as my bosses, coworkers, and the regular guests all seemed interested in me as a unique person (as I was, them), and so my assumption was that all the other persons I was interacting with also considered me as a fellow person. Having been raised my entire life by parents and a community of people who acknowledged that I am a special snowflake, worthy of consideration as an individual, it's easy to see why it has taken several years for that paradigm to shift.

All snark aside, it really has made my work life immeasurably less stressful to truly internalize that by and large, I am not important to my guests. Sure, the caliber of service I provide will impact their enjoyment of the 45 minutes I've been placed in charge of their food and drink, but I am but a cog in a machine. This realization shouldn't have taken so long, honestly. All those guests are cogs in my own personal life machine. Insert Bar Guest, Receive Money. Their lives outside of the walls of my bar are irrelevant to me, and their worth as a person is directly tied to the amount of drinks they order and how generous of tippers they are, so why should I expect them to care about my worth as a person outside of competently mixing up a tasty beverage?

The bright side of this is that when guests behave irrationally, I am a duck and their nonsense is water. Off my back. And such as. When someone starts our interaction by sullenly ignoring me, or snapping at me, it's easier to remember that it really isn't personal. When someone tries to scam a free meal by complaining about me because they've decided society's rules about payment for goods and services don't apply to them, I know it has nothing to do with me.*

The dark side is that sometimes I'm reminded of my interchangeable status after a bar guest has lulled me into a false sense of making real, human connection. I get plenty of people (men, usually) who obviously just want to talk about themselves and their own opinions--that's a fact of bartending I accepted long ago. No one wants to hear what I think about the Cub's bullpen when they have their own theories and gripes. What has surprised me, and taken me just as long to accept as the aforementioned zen-like shrugging, is when I find myself floundering through some sort of personal script a patron has lured me into. These scripts tend to take the form of the patron offering me advice, trying to "save" me from bartending. I used to not realize what was happening until they ignored my statements of "actually, I'm quite happy" by trying to convince me that I couldn't possibly be. I've since had enough experience with these conversations to see them starting, almost always with a "So, what else do you do?" which is rapidly followed by the patron telling me how smart, pretty, and capable I am. I hear that question and those words and heave a heavy, inward sigh, and hunker down for some concern trolling doused in paternalism, disguised as friendly banter.

These people don't know me. They've never met me before, and the only information they have about me is that I am cheerful and capable of pouring a Bud Light in a timely fashion. I'm no psychologist, but I feel pretty comfortable asserting that the people (men) who tell me how much potential I have after three minutes of interaction, and who spend the next thirty minutes telling me exactly how I can turn my life around, have a deep seated need to feel powerful and smart. I'm a captive audience member. I'm female. I'm in a position of service to them. They have implied social status over me in myriad ways, and by exercising that status to educate and inform me, they're enacting a scene for themselves where they themselves are smart, powerful, and capable. I could be anybody. I definitely don't have to be me, personally.

So, it's a double edged sword. Being a cog, in general**, protects my insides sometimes and shreds my insides sometimes. Mostly, I just want to mix some drinks, lament about the Cubs, and come home with some money.

*Obviously, sometimes I do mess things up and I take full responsibility for those mistakes--usually by apologizing, correcting the mistake, and offering something beyond mere correction to placate the angry folk and delight the understanding folk. I actually can't think of a time when I legitimately messed up/didn't notice a kitchen mistake that required a guest to request a manager of their own accord. Not to brag, but I'm relatively good at most aspects of my job, including foibles.

**I am not a cog in many specific cases. I have lots of regulars who like me as a person, and whom I enjoy as people. They ask about my husband and the TV shows we have in common, I inquire after their pets and and their upcoming international travel. We make each other smile and the 45 minutes we spend together some days leave us all with more than a full belly or a pocket full of tips.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

We sat down for a minute, grew up into men

Despite being the owner of a relationship-status indicator ring for over a year, I'm still not entirely used to wearing one. Even when foregoing my diamond solitaire and merely rocking the plain gold band, I'm constantly playing with it, conscious that it's there. I forgot to put the rings back on after doing dishes last night, and found myself hyper-conscious of their absence all night--going to fiddle with the rings that weren't there, taking an extra moment to make sure they were dry after washing my hands and re-remembering I wasn't wearing them.

Similarly, I've been feeling a bit stir-crazy in the apartment with The Boy. While we've settled into a comfortable pattern I've had more and more moments where I just really, really wished I lived alone again. Yet oddly, less than 24 hours after he left for Kentucky this past weekend I found myself getting antsy. Where's Boy? I'm bored! What am I supposed to do here, by myself? It felt like loneliness, not the solitude I remembered from my hermitage.

It seems I've gotten used to this being married thing without even realizing it.

The concept of "being an adult" has been on my mind quite a bit recently for various reasons. Car insurance things, job interviews, researching home prices and staring pensively at the savings account, being asked at least once a week by someone I know when I'll provide the world with a baby Martin. I keep waiting to wake up one day and feel like an adult--some mystical, overpowering mindset that will imbue me with a sense of steady confidence and direction. The mental ability to be able to take control of any given situation is what I associate with adulthood, and I still just feel like I'm winging it.

However, it's also occurred to me that by most standard measures (and many non-standard, but damning signs) I'm a fairly high-functioning adult. Let's see:

-I work around 40 hours a week
-I pay my own bills
-I scrutinize said bills when I feel like there's no possible way we consumed that much electricity
-I live on my own, with my spouse
-I make my own doctor appointments (and actually, you know, go for yearly checkups)
-I have a non-dealership mechanic I trust who I recently gave $1500 to so as to make my car not explode
-I buy fresh produce. Sometimes.
-I actually have a strong opinion about the quality of toilet paper we have in our home (several ply, soft, but not so soft that it disintegrates into fluff on contact)
-...and disinfecting wipes (spring for the brand name. Trust me. There's a reason store brand is so cheap)
-...and laundry detergent
-I've had garments tailored for everyday wear

Which all sounds so very dull, and settled, But realistically, it's a pretty great racket. I have money and agency, and pretty much get to do whatever I want. Fortunately "whatever I want" is fairly benign things like "order sushi delivery" and "take a vacation", or perhaps "binge-watch RuPaul's Drag Race". So I'd say that for now, I've got adulthood pretty locked up and should stop worrying about it.

Hyperbole and a Half

Friday, February 15, 2013

Grin and bear it

The majority of my adult life has been spent living in an apartment*--an honest-to-God shared housing situation with a lease, landlord (or lady), and adult-like neighbors who don't (often) get drunk and rowdy and knock the "exit" signs down every Friday night. Because of this, I'd like to think that I've pretty much mastered the nuances of being an apartment dweller, as opposed to a dorm dweller or a home owner, or living off my parents' largesse dweller.

I hold the door open for people whom I know live in my building, and I don't buzz in random people who are just button mashing at the front door in hopes of gaining entrance. I'm mindful of community laundry hours even though I often need to wash my clothes at 3am and I'm pretty sure my apartment is the only one bothered by laundry noises. I don't listen to my music overly loudly, and I do my annoying noise-making activities like grinding coffee beans during weekday afternoons when people are more than likely awake/not even home. I honestly have never thrown a party myself because I'm afraid of disturbing my neighbors with joviality (which might be going above and beyond expected neighborliness, but my aversion to having people not like me overpowers my desire to clean up Doritos ground into my carpet and pick up discarded beer bottles after an evening of frivolity).

I expect the same courtesies to be extended to me. I don't think that's an unfair expectation of the other grown-ass people who live in my buildings. In general, and especially in my current building, we all get along quite peacefully. I buzz in the teenage boy who habitually locks himself out, my across-the-hall neighbors kept an eye out for packages while we were on our honeymoon, upstairs Carlos and I keep an ear out for trouble. It's a pretty great gig, overall.


Very little gets under my skin like blatant disregard for others. This peeve of mine translates itself in a lot of ways: rage at drivers who are too good to use their turn signals because CLEARLY they're the only one on the road that matters, glaring at litterbugs, fuming silently over people in front of me at the bank who could have gotten their act together at the little kiosk before getting in line but instead chose to wait until they were being served to go rummaging through their purse for whatever time consuming thing they're about to do.

Today's post is brought to you by angsting over whether or not to remove someone's laundry from our (only) washing machine in order to do my own. That, however, is a pretty common shared housing complaint and as long as you aren't a d-bag about it (like throwing the offending laundry on the floor instead of temporarily in your own basket) I think everyone agrees that having your laundry handled is a logical consequence of neglecting it. I'm a little annoyed, mostly at having to touch someone else's wet laundry (ick), but it reopened a deep and festering wound I have with one of my neighbors in particular.

Mr. and Mrs. Blue Cobalt--why do you insist on always taking up two parking spaces in our lot? Why?! I know it's a new car for you, but it's not, like, a Porsche. And even if it was a Porsche, do we, your neighbors, have a track record of being terrible at parking and dinging up each others' cars? As far as I can tell, all of our vehicles have been unmolested in their tenure in the back lot. Most especially, why do you do this in the spots that are closest to the building? It's winter. I'm cold. If you weren't taking up two spaces instead of one, I could have walked 15 fewer steps to get inside, and had 10 fewer seconds to fantasize about lighting your stupid car on fire to keep warm on my extended walk to the back door.

I'm constantly annoyed. I want to retaliate, but I can't think of any way to do so without stooping to their level. I could leave a note under their wiper, I suppose, but if they then choose to ignore the note and continue to park like a dick I'll just be super duper extra annoyed when I see them taking up prime parking real estate. I've contemplated parking like a jerk as well, elsewhere in the lot. Perpendicularly to the spaces, perhaps, since it seems we in this building don't care about standard parking convention and it's a free-for-all out there! I've also thought about parking next to them, also straddling a line, but that seems like it's just an open invitation for retaliation. These people don't have any concern for parking niceties, who knows what other social ills they are capable of?

This trial and tribulation is a continuous thorn in my side, but it does allow me to exercise my most powerful Apartment Dweller tool: sucking it up. Sometimes people are annoying but it is absolutely not worth escalating over. They're not really hurting me, and I really should just get over it. Much like hearing the Red Hot Chili Peppers blasting above my bedroom at 3pm, or wincing at the hoarde of teenagers in their minivan honking for 5 minutes until aforementioned teenage boy comes out, it's better to keep the peace and just roll my eyes and move on. There's no real reason to go around having uncomfortable confrontations and creating tension between neighbors, when at the moment there's only momentary tension around situations.

That doesn't mean I'm not going to keep whining about this parking thing, though.

*I suppose one year was spent in a shared house situation, but the same concept still applied as we were all employed during various hours of the day and night and had to be more conscientious of each other's time and space than in other share-houses.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Post hoc ergo propter hoc

Yes yes, it's two Latin titles in a row. You can blame Netflix for this one, having ruined my life by putting The West Wing up on instant streaming. This one is a logical fallacy, meaning "after this, therefore because of this". It seems befitting of a New Year's post. I'm making resolutions (or at the very least, new decisions) and planning my year due to the things that happened last year. I'm not sure that 2012 is in of itself responsible for how I will approach 2013, but I'm sure it did have some influence.

Here is how I signed off at the end of 2011:

I have high expectations for this year, some things I'll be verbal about and others which are too precious to be spoken aloud lest I jinx it.

Things I Hope Come To Pass In '12
-Become a manager, fo realsies
-Get out to Boston twice (once is for sissies)
-Plan the best bachelorette party in the world
-Not ruin my makeup at the Poncho Wedding Extravaganza
-Not die in an earthquake/flood/cyclone/deluge of frogs on 12/21
-My vote for Obama in November will be one for the winning side
-Buy a Jetta

For the record, the preface and the sign-off were referring to the thoughts "I really really hope The Boy and I get engaged if not married this year please oh please oh please" frenetically tumbling around my head for the better part of the last couple months of '11. That being said:

-Frenetic, marriage-like secret hopes? Success! Got engaged on the first snow of the season (thank you, practically snowless winter) on 1/12/12 and married 8 months later.
-Get out to Boston twice? I...think I made it only once :( I'm going to blame Seester for coming to Chicago too often.
-Become a manager? Success. Fo realises? Failure.
-Best Bachelorette party? Success! Miranda seemed to have a good time.
-Not ruing my makeup at Poncho Wedding? Success! I blubbered the night before while practicing my speech, but held it together during the day itself.
-Not die? Success!
-Obama win? Success!
-Buy a Jetta? Failure. I did buy a new car for The Boy, though.

So out of 8, counting the manager thing and the car thing as .5 each, I'm 6 for 8. While accomplishing 3/4 of one's goals doesn't sound too shabby, I'm still (for no reason) in an academic mindset, and a 75% is extremely unacceptable for an A-student like myself. This is, of course, not weighting any of the assignments. I'd say getting engaged AND married counts for more than buying a Jetta, though both do require a certain amount of commitment.

I don't typically take the start of a new calendar year to review my life and make resolutions. This is largely a result of my having very little follow-through and also hating disappointing myself even more than I hate hard work. So instead of setting goals and likely not living up to them I instead make a wishlist and leave it up to luck and whatever work I feel like putting in to check things off the list. This year is different, though. I've felt compelled not only to reflect upon the last year but to also, well, be resolved to do things differently this year. Our household's resolution is to "Be Grownups" by, like, seeing a financial planner and getting life insurance and writing wills and stuff. My personal resolution(s) is based around the theme of Choosing.

I want to make better choices in 2013, overall. I've been empowered over the last couple months by various sources that life is but a series of choices, and I have the power to choose. This has settled itself into my brain in the following ways:

-Choose health.
When staring at the fridge, feeling munchy, to choose a vegetable snack instead of chips. When faced with 4 hours of free time, choosing to spend one of those at the gym. I can even still watch The West Wing on my Kindle Fire! My leisure time doesn't even have to be interrupted!
-Choose to speak up.
When someone says or does something I find objectionable (especially with regards to driving while intoxicated, as many people in my social circle do) instead of being silently uncomfortable, speaking up.
-Choose to promote myself.
When an opportunity presents itself to me re: a career, to take it instead of forgetting about it.
-Choose peace.
When someone is aggravating me (*cough* guests at Friday's *cough*), instead of treating it like a battle to be won where they realize they were wrong and I am right to instead just be nice and help them out without trying to prove a point. I've been comparing the two methods at work over the last couple weeks, and the latter is far superior. While in my mind, winning a battle of wills and holding firm that I was not the one to make a mistake feels righteous, it never feels good in practice. It usually just makes me feel like an asshole.

So, with all that said...

Things I Hope Come To Pass In '13
-Have a full time job, with benefits, that isn't bartending
-Same-sex marriage legalized in Illinois
-Take two vacations, at least one to Boston
-Be able to jog a mile in under 10 minutes without feeling like I'm going to die
-The Boy getting a full time, degree-relevant job
-Having ownership of some sort of retirement fund

Grownup Year,