by lara on March 27, 2014

I don’t like cala­mari. It’s not a big deal, but it’s emphatic. I really don’t like the stuff. It’s rub­bery and unpleas­ant in the mouth and it tastes like dead fish. So I don’t like calamari.

I’m sur­rounded by peo­ple who loooove cala­mari so I can’t fig­ure out why I don’t. And every five or 10 years I lose some of my sense and fig­ure: What the heck — it can’t be that bad. Every­one else loves it, and I love all these other things that they love. Even dif­fi­cult things. Like roasted brus­sels sprouts. So I’ll try it. Um, no. It’s always a total, damned-near-to-gagging-at-the-table (my grand­mother would be appalled by my man­ners) fail­ure. Some things are just not meant to be liked by me.

It’s not that I spend a lot of time think­ing about my hatred of cala­mari. In fact I would say that I spend more time think­ing about tooth­paste or shoelaces than cala­mari. It only comes into my con­scious­ness at all when I pass it by on the appe­tiz­ers sec­tion of the menu at the Ital­ian place in town. You know going through the appe­tiz­ers… Antipasto plate — no, too much; bruschetta — maybe; cala­mari — ugh, No; bread sticks and fruity olive oil — yeah, that’s what I’m in the mood for.

On the other hand I can dis­like olives with­out the drama. No, I don’t like olives. But my dis­like of olives is just a basic “I’d rather not but it won’t kill me if there are some in the salad.” I’ll pick out the ones I can see and leave them on the side of the plate but if I acci­den­tally get one on my fork and into my mouth then it’s not great trauma, I just won’t like that bite of salad as much as the one before or the one after — unless of course I’m being par­tic­u­larly hap­less and both of those also con­tain an olive. Okay, there’a cer­tain level of sus­pense in the olive thing, but not real drama.

Cala­mari involves drama. An unsus­pected bite of cala­mari is absolutely revolt­ing. That tex­ture first and then the taste of bilge water. (Yeah, I do know what bilge water tastes like, and yeah, I do think that cala­mari car­ries with it not only the taste of stag­nant sea water but a hint of kerosene.) There’s an actual catch in my stom­ach and a lit­tle hint of a flip — a threat, if you will, that any fur­ther attempts to inflict cala­mari on the sys­tem will result in open revolt.

There’s some­thing shame­ful in not lik­ing cala­mari, it’s like not lik­ing oys­ters. Cala­mari, like oys­ters, are grown up food. Marks of hav­ing made it out of child­hood food pref­er­ences and taboos. Being will­ing to eat those salty, sea-tasting and rankly slimy del­i­ca­cies. I’m not an oys­ter fan either, but some­how I don’t find myself try­ing oys­ters every five or 10 years and being revolted back into my senses.

Some peo­ple are like olives — the ones I’d just as soon avoid but if they end up in the same con­ver­sa­tional group at a party it’s not big deal. I won’t walk away or sulk and I don’t par­tic­u­larly won­der how it is that any­one else could like that per­son. They’re just not my taste. Live and let live.

No mat­ter how much my friends and fam­ily are always going on on about them — “Joe is so funny.” “Lucy is so sweet and a great cook!” Joe and Lucy just aren’t going to be on my list of peo­ple I want to spend time with. Joe is an ego­tis­ti­cal blow hard and Lucy is just so damned twee it makes my teeth ache. On the other hand Joe is someone’s favorite uncle and Lucy has never let any­one suf­fer a bereave­ment with­out a good sup­ply of casseroles in their freezer. But they’re like olives. It’s not going to ruin my evening if they hap­pen to cross my path or end up monop­o­liz­ing a bit of con­ver­sa­tion. They’re just olives.

And then there are the cala­mari peo­ple. The ones whom I can’t under­stand how any­one tol­er­ates, and whose pres­ence I will actu­ally be rude to avoid. There’s Tony who is con­sis­tently cruel in the way that only guys who weren’t one of the cool kids then but are now can be. And Joyce whose all-encompassing jeal­ousy poi­sons even the most casual friendship.

The stu­pid thing is that for at least one of them I have to go back and remind myself every so many years why I don’t like them. It takes for­ever to get the taste of kerosene out of my mouth.


Toddler Head

by lara on March 3, 2014

Am I the only one here who’s sick unto death of man­ag­ing myself like some balky damn toddler?

When you have a tod­dler in the house every sin­gle moment of your life is con­sumed with man­ag­ing the tod­dler. They are inge­nious, … and they can walk. In fact, when on one of their laser guided mis­sions toward trou­ble they can walk a hell of a lot faster than the aver­age sleep deprived par­ent of a tod­dler. There’s noth­ing trick­ier than keep­ing a tod­dler out of trou­ble. Except maybe get­ting one to do some­thing that they’ve decided they don’t want to do.

Hav­ing a puppy is kind of like hav­ing a tod­dler. I recently had a puppy in my life. My nor­mally pretty calm, grown ups only house was a maze of gates, bar­ri­ers, crates, and playpens; and a mine field of chew toys, bouncy balls, and squeaky things. Not to men­tion the 42 pounds of 4 month old Bou­vier. And one, very damn grumpy, old Minia­ture Schnauzer.

The puppy I man­aged pretty well. Like the clown in the bull ring said: Not my first rodeo. I know where to put the gates, when to take Monkey-Socks with Extra Teeth out for potty breaks and not to leave any shoes below waist level. No, my prob­lem is the other tod­dler. The balky, sullen, over­grown tod­dler that is me. Yeah, there’s more than one black dog in the house. There’s the pup that’s sits under my chair while I’m typ­ing and there’s Mr. Churchill’s dog, who’s once again taken up res­i­dence in my brain. The damned thing turns me into the worst kind of tod­dler. Not the tiara wear­ing pageant brat that some­how seems to have made it onto TV. Nope, this is the snot nosed, snuf­fling, arms slack at her sides lump of clay that Won’t.

I can­not get the lit­tle shit mov­ing. There is no promise, no whee­dle, no cajole, no threat, no mind game that can budge her. She’s too damned smart. Just sits there and looks back at me with a know­ing glower.

There are tricks, a thou­sand tricks. And we’ve all heard them. From well-meaning friends, from the self-help books, from our ther­a­pists. Yeah, I’ve got a ther­a­pist. She and I go way back.

Have you been through this? The ther­apy where they teach you to “man­age” your­self? Make lists, sched­ule things, set pri­or­i­ties. Build up a rou­tine, get up and do some­thing, any thing, it doesn’t mat­ter. Exer­cise is key. Set a timer and do just five min­utes of some­thing. Make a list. Don’t allow your­self to engage in repet­i­tive activ­ity. Don’t turn on the com­puter (yeah, right, I’m a writer. WTF — I’m sup­posed to copy this shit out in crayon and send it out to you all by bal­loon?) Take a walk, Think happy thoughts, Call a friend. Breathe. Go to yoga class.

Ah, go to hell. If I could get the kid to do any of those things with any sort of ease I wouldn’t be in this mess.

I try talk­ing sense.

Take a walk — you’ll feel bet­ter.
Go to the gym — you’ll feel bet­ter.
Call a friend — you’ll feel bet­ter.
Take a shower — you’ll feel bet­ter.
Write some­thing — you’ll feel better.

I try bargaining.

Set a timer for 5 min­utes and clean the counter. I’ll give you this cookie. She swipes the damned cookie right out of my hand. Hey, she’s big­ger than me.
Sort your inbox, just to be sure that there’s noth­ing in there that can hurt you. You can play Bejew­eled after­wards.
Just empty the dish­washer. You don’t have to load it.
Write the draft of a blog post. Maybe it’ll be funny. You can have a nap when you’re done.
Make the three phone calls. You can ignore the email mes­sages today.

I make threats:

Sort the mail — or some­thing won’t get paid.
Clean the fridge — or some­thing will rot.
Take out the trash — or some­thing will smell.
Read those emails — or some­one will be angry.
Get off your ass — or some­thing bad will happen.

I try blackmail.

Well, okay, black­mail doesn’t work because black­mail depends on some­one car­ing and the bat­tle cry of the tod­dler is Don’t Care!

The prob­lem is that the tod­dler is savvy. The tod­dler has been around the block a few times. The tod­dler is on to me.

Best story ever…

Microsoft, like most big, mod­ern com­pa­nies offers their employ­ees a host of train­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties. Things like Project Man­age­ment The­ory and Soft­ware Cod­ing Secu­rity Stan­dards and the ever pop­u­lar Build­ing Effec­tive Teams which includes assess­ing team roles and per­son­al­i­ties, set­ting and meet­ing team goals, help­ing your employ­ees to man­age con­flict, and all that crap.

One guy took it all a lit­tle too far. He took his skill set home with him and when faced with a domes­tic cri­sis for­got that he was sit­ting at the din­ner table not a con­fer­ence table and that the per­son over there was his wife not a team member.

When she deter­mined that her con­cerns were being met with con­flict de-escalation and team goal align­ment strate­gies rather than proper spousal atten­tive­ness she blurted: “Don’t you dare man­age me.”

That’s my tod­dler, all over. “Don’t you dare.”

Believe me, I’d rather not have to.

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