Monday, November 30, 2009


I love the dry roads. I love when the cold wind blows, and the grass on my lawn turns brittle and brown. The trees are empty; no more leaves blowing in the streets, except for a few dried-out stragglers that long to chase each other across my walkway. I love to linger outside, bundled up in my coat and scarf, feeling the crunch under my feet as I walk out to look at the sky, which is bleak and clear, but pregnant with stars.

The cold outside reminds me of what lies inside. The cold reminds me of that first burst of warm air when I open my door, of what lies in wait for me when I strip down to my underwear and crawl into my double-layered bed, where I don't need to turn on the heat, because I'm cradled in downy fluff, and I'm pressed into sheets that spent the day insulating and warming and waiting for me.

I love to hear the weatherman say, "The temperature is dropping." Because it means that more will come, more excuses to bundle and layer and find new and interesting ways to stay warm without turning on the heat. More reasons to wear my scarf all day at work, to look out of my office window and feel glad that I don't have to be out there for any reason, that everything I need is inside.

The cold reminds me of finding ways to curl up against someone I love, to grab his arms and force them to pull me closer and to find the places where he is the warmest, and where I'm the warmest, and to fall asleep, dreaming mindlessly in those waning early morning hours when we are still locked and pressed together and have nothing to think of but hot coffee and warm showers, clean towels and winter socks.

Cold bleakness outside reminds me of comfort inside. Cold bleakness outside reminds me of shaking off snow-laden boots on the porch, and of looking forward to dry socks inside.

Cold bleakness outside reminds me that we've created a womb inside, where we've made our nest, where we curl up together on our fuzzy couch and fight against the winter front and dream of sunny days, when we wore shorts and tank tops and drank frosty beverages, longing for bleak winter days filled with wind and substantial weather.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Island of Misfit Toys

I've spent a good portion of my life feeling like I've never quite fit in anywhere. Once, when I was in the fourth grade, my mother and I were school clothes shopping, and she picked up a sweatshirt that had a bunch of white sheep in rows on it, with one black sheep down in the corner. "That's you," my mom said, pointing at the black sheep. It didn't really mean anything at the time, because you haven't yet settled into your group of friends when you're in the fourth grade. But it's not long after that when you do.

It wasn't until late in the game when I discovered a core group of friends who had no delusions about their place in the pantheon of secondary education. I had plenty of friends before this important discovery, but even then, even though I knew those friends liked me and accepted me to some degree, it was the kind of acceptance that comes from shrugging your shoulders and giving up, weighing out the pros and cons, and saying, "Yeah, this friend I have is kind of a social retard, but she's funny and entertaining. And completely safe. My parents will never tell me I'm not allowed to hang out with with her." And then they would STILL try to dress me up and give me helpful advice on How To Fit In. It never worked.

College helps alleviate that feeling of not fitting in. Unless you're in school on a sports scholarship, everyone starting college is on even footing: None of us know what the fuck we're doing, and we hate our roommates, and we don't have any money, and your first lecture of the day is at 8am and there are 250 other students in it, and the cafeteria food is awful and calorie-laden, and we've all gained 15 pounds by the end of the first year. College was the great equalizer for me. But naturally, after spending four years in a fairly isolated music school, by the time I graduated, I could count my college friends on one hand. Possibly even one finger.

But I didn't go to college to make friends, and once again, I found my people in other places, people who were quirky and fun and got me. Those people, like my people in high school, are still my friends, and meanwhile, I'm 34 years old, and I still don't quite fit in.

I went to karaoke last night with my friend Lisa. I love to sing karaoke, because it's easy, and it doesn't take much vocal acuity to impress some drunk people at a bar. It's easy validation, and it's really the only acceptable reason for me to be singing Journey or Bon Jovi or Bangles songs in public. It wasn't really as much fun as I'd hoped last night. Granted, my friend Lisa has the uncanny ability to make any situation fun, even the kind of situation that involves an overcrowded, kind of dingy bar with a sound system that's too loud and filled with those making the most out of their holiday weekend. The only joy I managed to wring out of the night came from when I was actually singing, in spite of the fact that the rest of the bar crowd was too busy racing each other to the bottom of their glasses to listen to me sing. I didn't care. The room could have been empty. Singing is one of the few things I get to do in my life that belongs to me and only me. So fuck everyone else.

Still, the feeling of misfittedness was overwhelming. It was crazy crowded, so my friend Lisa found the only two empty seats at a table inhabited by two very lovely young women who were clearly having a wonderful time, as evidenced by the legion of beer bottles that sat spent in front of them. Lisa bumped into someone who she used to know from her days of owning a tattoo business with her late husband, so I lost her for quite some time. So alone I sat, nursing my one drink, wishing I was tucked into my jammies instead of waiting for my next song to come up on the karaoke DJ's list.

Sitting there, I had the opportunity to study everyone in the bar with me. There was the painfully thin blonde nightmare, drinking cosmos with her cadre of friends. There was the waitress who had the same name as me, forcing the karaoke DJ to christen me "KandywidaK". The other "Candy" danced up to a large bald man at one point, grabbed his head, and forced him into a motorboat situation that I'm thinking he may be regretting this Sunday afternoon. There was the hipster couple, boyfriend with the requisite beard and elbow tattoo, and girlfriend decked from head to toe in Urban Outfitters. Our lovely table companions who flirted with 21 year old college boys all night and then cursed the universe for sending them men who were clearly too young for them, but ended up exchanging numbers with them, anyway, leading me to believe that they couldn't be THAT angry at the universe. They all intermingled with each other effortless, fluidly, even those who had never met before until that night. And it made me wonder, as I sat there, intermingling with no one, if I was failing in some way, if I was missing some key social behavior that I was never taught, or if, once again, I just simply did not fit in.

I'm perfectly willing to chalk it all up to being out of any sort of social setting for quite some time. I've been happily ensconced at home with the people whom I love the most, going to bed a decent hour and getting up and girding my loins for the office, yet another place where I clearly do not fit in. Or maybe I don't try hard enough. Maybe if I bent slightly a few degrees this way or that, I would be like my table companions, who fought attention like King Kong hanging from the top of the Empire State building, swatting biplanes like flies.

More likely than any of this, however, is that I've become a pro at wildling down my circle to those and only those I get, only those who appeal to me and my sensibilities. Which, and here's the irony we've been waiting for, has made just the same anyone who never accepted me and what I am. They weren't shutting me out; I've been shutting them out. I fit in fine. It's most everyone else who doesn't fit in with me.

I don't know why, but somehow, this realization makes me feel better about last night, about high school, about any time I've been surrounded by people and yet felt completely alone. I am an island of my own making, and to be honest, I'm feeling completely okay with that. Islands can be really comfortable. Haven't you ever seen Gilligan's Island? Those fuckers had it made!