The solution is so obvious

When a 6’6″, 250-lb man mansplains how I should deal with rude behavior

Mr T, my friend L, and I were at a music festival. It was all free to see a ton of amazing musicians, so we were grateful and didn’t want to complain about anything. How can you complain about great music delivered to you for nothing?

I admit I wasn’t happy about being in an enclosed space with unmasked people and on a warm day, at that, but then I realized I could solve the problem. At least, I could solve the problem of warm, stagnant air.

I opened the plastic walls.

Nobody stopped me and indeed, others joined me. Soon, we had airflow and it was much more comfortable.

But dealing with the Standers was a little more challenging.

For an hour – an entire hour, people drifted in front of us and stopped. They didn’t sit in the empty seats near us. They didn’t check to make sure they weren’t blocking anyone’s view.

They just walked until they hit a chokepoint and then they stopped.

Sometimes, they danced. I don’t want to harsh anyone’s mellow and I believe you should dance if the spirit so moves you, but what dancing does is make it impossible for me to adjust to your position. That is, even if I move a bit so I can now see the performer, you move as well and – there you go, blocking me again.

For the first hour, we just laughed about it. Every few minutes, a new person would step into the spot where he blocked our view. We rolled our eyes and laughed, but after an hour, it got to be a bit annoying.

That was when Mr T stomped in front of one of the standers to block the stander’s view. Mr T was going to Show Them!

He lasted 22 seconds.

Then he slunk back to his seat.

He couldn’t bear to be rude.

Which of course is one of the reasons I love him.

We had to resort to grand gestures to indicate our displeasure. We pointed to the empty seats. We laughed louder and rolled our eyes – well, rollier? In any case, it was probably clear to anyone paying attention that we recognized the situation and were not terribly happy about it.

As we got up to leave – our musician had finished, a huge man – maybe 6’6″ with big muscles – came over to me.

(Not to Mr T, but to me. Because it’s the Little Woman who needs telling, right?)

“Just let it go,” he advised. “And if you can’t, then just ask them to move.”

  1. Total stranger
  2. Giving me advice
  3. I had not asked for
  4. And would not work in this context

What even is the proper answer?

What I wanted to say:

  1. I’m supposed to ask every single person who has blocked my view over the past hour to move? Which means I would be asking someone every three minutes or so?
  2. Did I ask you for advice?
  3. What color is the sky in your world? The world where women’s requests of men are heeded immediately and never turn into bad situations?
  4. Did I ask you?
  5. I bet that works for you.
  6. Did I ask you?
  7. Did I ask you?
  8. Did I ask you?

What I did:

I adopted the strategy I used years ago when I was a clerk at Macy’s over Christmas.

I couldn’t use my current online strategy, which is not to argue or engage in any way with idiots, but the Macy’s strategy is close: Say anything to get them to go away.

“If you don’t like it,” he persisted, “you should just say something!”

“Of course you are right,” I said.

“Don’t just get mad! Just ask them!” he continued.

Because when women just ask men to do something, they do it! It always works! THANK YOU SIR!

We’d be pretty if we would just fix ourselves

There’s nothing wrong with us that surgery, hunger, or expensive new clothes can’t fix

From Helen Ellis’ “Bring Your Baggage and Don’t Pack Light”

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been told – by a man who is looking at your almost naked except for your underwear body – that you would be cute if you would just lose a little weight.

Raise your hand if you’ve happened to see a note scribbled next to your name: “smiles, plump.”

Raise your hand if you mom put you on a diet when you were five.

Raise your hand if you find a silver lining in covid masks because they hide your teeth, which you hate because they are yellow from the tetracycline you had when you were four.


When are we right? When are we done? When are we OK as we are?


A few years ago, my mom had to have that eyelid surgery because her droopy eyelids were affecting her vision.

Because I am pretty much my mom’s clone, both physically and psychologically (a former boyfriend who met my mom, her sister, and my sister said, “It’s not that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. It’s that the tree placed the apple exactly where it wanted it to be.”), I thought Well, in 20 years, I will also need that surgery.

Then I thought maybe I should investigate it now, as the body heals faster when it’s younger.

I went to the doc for a consult. He spent some time looking at my eyes and my eyelids and yeah, sure, he could do it and now I needed to wait in the waiting room to talk to the money people about next steps.

While I was waiting, he ran out to me.

“I CAN FIX YOUR EYEBROW, TOO!” he said.

I raised them. My eyebrows. What was he talking about?

“Your left eyebrow is lower than your right. I can fix that.”

I had never noticed. Not once in my entire life.

I had never noticed this flaw so huge that a plastic surgeon runs out of seeing one patient to inform me that he can fix it.


A few weeks after my consult, I saw my aunt P, who is a nurse. I asked her about the procedure, wanting reassurance that it was as simple as it sounded. When I told her about the eyebrow, she gasped.

“You can’t change your eyebrow!” she said. “That’s your Grandma Sylvia eyebrow! She had it, your dad had it, your sister has it, your cousins have it. That’s your grandma eyebrow! It’s part of you!”

When I got home, I looked at photos of my grandmother.

Aunt P was right. I have her eyebrow.

Why would I want to change that?

So I didn’t.

And my eyelids droop.

And I am still plump.

And I still have yellow teeth.

And I. Don’t. Care.

I’m done with making sure my body is acceptable to others. I’m done.

A room of our own

Why do men want to be in all of our spaces?

I wrote about manspreading in this piece (Assault is not love).

I referred to it in a comment on a story in the Washington Post about the people you see at the airport.

You may be shocked to know that a man replied, telling me that manspreading also happens to men.

To which I answered, “So —- write your own piece about it, then,” but to which I should have said, “LORD HAVE MERCY WHY DO MEN HAVE TO INSERT THEMSELVES INTO EVERYTHING?”

Yes, dear, I’m sure manspreading happens to other men.

But – I don’t care about that.


I was talking to a friend about the women’s group at work. She mentioned that a VP was a member.

Need I say that the VP is male? Or is that redundant?

“Why is he in the group?” I said.

“He’s an ally,” she said.

“He shouldn’t be there,” I maintained. “The conversation changes when men are in the room.”

(And he can be an ally by hiring and promoting women. He doesn’t have to be in our club.)


There’s a woman I follow on twitter – Hibo Wadere – who campaigns against female genital mutilation (FGM).

I can’t even begin to count the number of times men have popped up in her comments to tell her that MEN, TOO, SUFFER FROM CIRCUMCISION.

Yes. We know. Start your own group. Hibo’s focuses on FGM. FEMALE genital mutilation. Not male.


  1. Why do men expect women to do all the heavy lifting? If you’re against male circumcision, nobody is stopping you from advocating against it. Why should Hibo expand her group to include your cause?
  2. Men already have almost all the other spaces in the world – why do they have to take ours?
I don’t want to return to these times, but I like the concept of a women-only space. And if you haven’t read this book, read it now.

The birthday taxman cometh

Rage against the tyranny of the group gift

I don’t celebrate my birthday at work.

I have usually liked my co-workers, but I don’t like being the center of attention and I dunno – I just don’t want to have anyone make a big deal or even a little deal about my birthday at work.

I have tried very hard to keep my birthday on the DL. At an old job, I was glad to move to a new group where nobody knew anything about me.

I took the day off on my 40th birthday as I did not want any of the 40th birthday stuff to happen.

I returned to work the next day to find my office decorated with black streamers and headstones and all that stuff.

I was not happy.

And yet, because of peer pressure and “but she went to HR to get your birthday and then worked so hard to do this!” protestations about my group’s admin, I had to grit my teeth and thank her for the thought.

That’s not to say I won’t celebrate other peoples’ birthdays. I am delighted to make brownies to celebrate a co-worker’s birthday. But that’s low key and it involves chocolate. No office decorating involved. Just food. And nobody even needs to know it’s about a birthday. We gather around the chocolate and are happy and that’s that.

So I am not a total Grinch, but – imagine my surprise when I saw a message to my group at work soliciting money for a gift for the boss’ birthday.

  1. You never gift up at work. Never. (See authority Alison Green at Ask A Manager about this issue.)
  2. I don’t even have a 2 because this whole thing is so egregious.

When did it become A Thing to Give Money At Work To Buy A Birthday Present? (FOR THE BOSS?)

(I have a really good boss. I like her.)

But I don’t buy birthday presents for my own family, including Mr T.

Seriously. We all have all the stuff we need. We joked that if we had had a big party when we got married, we would not only have insisted on no presents but we would have required that all guests leave with a set of towels or a lamp.

(We didn’t have any guests other than immediate family because Mr T’s mom and dad were against our marriage but agreed to attend the wedding anyhow. We were worried they would get drunk and make scenes and it would be too mortifying to have our friends see that and GUESS WHAT THEY DID GET DRUNK AND MAKE A SCENE.)

The only reason I work is to increase, not decrease, the amount of money I have.

Why should I 1. give money 2. for a birthday present 3. for my boss when I don’t even spend money on my own family?

Again – I really like my boss. But not as much as I like Mr T or my mother and even they don’t get birthday presents.

So – when I saw the message to the group, I called the organizer, who is also a friend of mine, and said “Nope. I don’t do that.”

This is the beauty of not caring about Having A Career.

I. Don’t. Do. That.

PS My friend who is doing the collecting also hates the whole concept and is trying to kill the practice in our group. She, too, has never seen this sort of thing at work. She’s an ally, but she still has to care about her career.

A tale of two abortions

Yes, women really will die

The doctor above is in Wisconsin. She was waiting to know if she could perform a D&C on a woman whose pregnancy was no longer viable.

Thanks to the Roe vs Wade overturn and thanks to everyone who voted for that monster, Wisconsin has reverted to an abortion law written in 1849 – one that forbids abortions except those necessary to save the life of the mother. Three physicians need to agree on the diagnosis that the abortion is necessary.

A law from this century also requires

  • An ultrasound that the “provider” (I hate that term – it’s a physician) shows the patient
  • In-person counseling
  • A 24-hour wait

BUT TEXAN! you argue. THE WOMAN IN THE STORY ABOVE – THERE IS NO WAY THAT BABY WILL SURVIVE! WHY SHOULD THERE BE ANY QUESTION?

Well her life isn’t threatened, is it?

Except it could be. And once sepsis sets in, it could kill her in less than 12 hours.

So let’s look at two possible incomes. I will use my own experience as an example.

Wedding week version 1

I am, much to my surprise, pregnant. We weren’t trying but we weren’t not trying, either. So there you go – the thing that I had feared almost my entire adult dating life has happened but it’s not a disaster.

We’re having a very small wedding – immediate family only, mostly because we fear how Mr T’s parents might act around our friends and my relatives. They are mean drunks and they have made their disdain my family clear in the past.

Plus they have made their dislike (this term is probably not strong enough) of me very clear.

As in, not only did they tell Mr T not to marry me – according to them, I am a gold-digger, to which I say that I am not a very good one – but also threatened to boycott our wedding, to which I said Don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya.

Yet Mr T wants his parents at his wedding so he finally uses the one weapon he has in his arsenal: He tells them I am pregnant and that if they ever want to see their grandchild, they will come to our wedding.

(I wasn’t going to let them see my kid even if they did come to the wedding, but I was letting Mr T do Mr T. No way would I expose a child of mine to their toxic anger and constant criticism. I had seen how they treated their other grandchildren.)

The Friday before our wedding – at ten weeks, I start spotting.

On Saturday evening, Mr T’s parents arrive.

Late Tuesday morning – the earliest appointment I can get, the doc tells me that nope, the fetus is dead. I go by myself because we don’t want to tell Mr T’s parents what’s going on. It’s none of their business.

At 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday – again, by myself, I have a D&C. The D&C doc came into work early – she did not want to let this wait. “It can cause problems if the tissue isn’t removed,” she tells me.

Wednesday evening, with me high (or trying to be high) on the vicodin they gave me – it hurts to get a D&C – Mr T and I take his parents out to dinner and to a karaoke bar so they can hear him sing. Mr T happens to be an excellent singer, a talent he inherited from his parents, and one we thought would please them to see. Nope. When Mr T starts to sing, his dad starts raging that it’s TOO LOUD and walks out of the bar.

On Friday, we get married.

And here we are today. Older, no kid, but alive and mostly happy, although our country is turning into a banana republic and that is distressing.

Wedding week version 2

On Friday, I start spotting.

On Tuesday, the doctor says nope, the fetus is dead. But because my life isn’t in danger, there is nothing he can do. We just hope for the best – sometimes, the body expels the tissue and that’s it.

But sometimes, the tissue becomes infected.

On Thursday, my mom, my mom’s gentleman caller, my brother, my sister, and Mr T’s bonus daughters arrive. They are the people I want to see.

Also on Thursday, new things start happening with my body. In addition to the spotting, there is a nasty smelly discharge. I get a fever but I have chills at the same time. And the pain is getting bad.

I call my doctor. They fit me in after regular hours. I make some stupid excuse and leave the house – none of the people I love know I’m pregnant. The only ones who know are Mr T’s parents and they never say a word to me about it. (Even in Version 1, they never say a word. Ever. Maybe they thought Mr T was lying to them and I never was pregnant?)

The doctor runs some tests. It could be an infection that could be – could be – life threatening. Not always. Sometimes, it just leads to a hysterectomy, which is not life threatening.

“I need to get two of my colleagues to look at your chart before we can go further,” he says. “I can’t do a D&C unless two other physicians agree that it’s necessary to save your life.”

He makes an appointment for me to get the required ultrasound, but can’t get one until Monday. He also makes an appointment with a counselor, but a counselor isn’t available until Monday, either.

Sepsis after a miscarriage is rare.

But I am the lucky person who always gets the bizarre side effects of everything. Does Benadryl put you to sleep? It keeps me awake. Does Lyrica solve your headaches? It not only does not solve my headaches, it makes my hair fall out. Plus I am a “geriatric pregnancy” and that’s a risk factor for sepsis.

On Friday morning, my doctor calls me: the tests show sepsis.

“You need to come to the hospital right now so we can try to treat the infection with drugs,” he says. “And we need to do a D&C, but until you have the ultrasound and talk to the counselor, I can’t even take it to the hospital lawyer.”

Sepsis can kill in less than 12 hours.

Instead of getting married that afternoon, I get IV antibiotics.

But it’s too late.

I die.

The End.

ABCDEFU (angrier)

Get angry and turn that anger into action

Gayle wrote this song about a breakup, but I think it’s an anthem about women and our current situation.

I’m thinking about anger.

I’m thinking about women’s anger, specifically.

There are so many things to be angry about. So. Many.

But we’re taught to be nice. Not to get angry.

My friends.

It’s time to get angry.

It’s time to get angry about abortion and school prayer and Miranda warnings and the EPA.

And it’s time to turn that anger into action. Many of us have the luxury of time, a luxury that younger women do not have. Let’s use our anger and our time to make sure that younger women have it better than we did, not worse.


What that means at a practical level is that I work to make sure Ron Johnson, the great embarrassment, is not re-elected.

That means I volunteer on Mandela Barnes’ campaign.

That means I get out the vote – that I volunteer to help with voter registration and that I write postcards to encourage people to request absentee ballots and to vote and that I encourage college and grad students from out of state to register to vote in Wisconsin if their home states are safe Democrat states (like Illinois) and that I make sure that my friends with kids at out of state colleges make sure those kids get Wisconsin absentee ballots.

Here’s what we all can do:

  • Volunteer with or donate to the League of Women Voters in your city or state. They register voters.
  • Volunteer as a pollworker. We need people to operate the polls. Two years ago, for the spring election that the WI Legislature Republicans refused to postpone, the city of Milwaukee could open only a handful of polling locations – most of the usual pollworkers are older didn’t feel safe being out with COVID. Many people prefer to vote in person. Help ensure they have a place to do so.
  • Write or call your senator and your congressional representative in support of voting rights, even the ones who won’t do a damn thing, like Ron Johnson. Get it on the record that their constituents disagree with them. I don’t know if that will accomplish anything, but it takes very little time, so it’s not like you’re losing anything.
  • Write and call your state legislators to support voting rights. This includes
    • Expanding early voting days and hours
    • Allowing ballot dropboxes (looking at you, WI jerks who took them away)
    • Increased DMV hours so people can get the IDs they need in states that require voter ID
    • Getting rid of voter ID requirements. Honestly, people.
    • Restoring voting rights for felons
    • Ensuring people in jail awaiting trial know they can still vote and helping them get ballots
    • Ensuring out of state college students can register to vote in your state
    • Allowing absentee ballots to at least be opened before the polls open on election day so that the counting of the votes can be faster and easier
    • Allowing a third party to take an absentee voter’s ballot to a dropbox or a mailbox or the city clerk (ballot harvesting)
    • Allowing people to give water and food to voters waiting in line at the polls (I mean – some of this is SUCH BULLSHIT)
    • Ensuring that the clerks send representatives to old folks’ homes to help residents vote
    • Reducing or eliminating requirements for “indefinitely confined” status, a status in Wisconsin that allows you to vote without a voter ID and also ensures that you automatically get an absentee ballot for every election (otherwise, you have to request one each time)
  • Make sure that everyone you know is registered to vote. Send them to vote411 to register online.
  • Know a kid who’s going to college out of state? Figure out which state needs her vote more, then make sure she’s registered to vote in her college state or has requested an absentee ballot from your state.
  • Know a kid in college in your state? Are her out of state friends registered? Again, figure out which state needs the vote more and encourage her to register and, if necessary, request an absentee ballot.
  • Send Liz Cheney a postcard and tell her she is awesome for upholding democracy. 416 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515
  • Donate to the good candidates, no matter where they are. Even good people with a good message need cash to pay for campaign literature, web hosting, postcards and stamps for thank you notes to donors, snacks for volunteers, etc, etc, etc.
  • Volunteer for the good candidates in your area. This can mean knocking on doors to talk to voters, leaving literature at the doors of voters, helping at a phone bank, or texting voters.
  • Maybe go to a few marches. It doesn’t hurt for the world to see crowds of angry women. In the movie Selma, LBJ tells Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, that King needs to get a crowd to Washington, DC, so that LBJ has cover to push the Voting Rights Act. Politicians look for reasons to act and not to act. If thousands of your constituents support something, it gives you a reason to vote for it.

The suffragists were beaten and jailed and forced-fed.

We have it easy in comparison. We don’t face the same level of danger they did when they showed their anger. Use your anger. Use your rage. Donate time and money and let’s take what’s ours.

Screw Trump and screw the Supreme Court

And screw all of you who enabled him. May all your tax dollars go to support the madrassa that’s coming to your town.*

Source

If you think you are safe because you agree with Trump and the Supreme Court, then you are an ignorant person who knows nothing of history.

You are also evil. You are willing to watch the US government be overthrown just so you can get what you want? Fuck you.

If you knew anything about history – if you had ever read a book, you would know that authoritarians turn on everyone eventually (See: Stalin). You think you’re part of the In Group and that dictatorship is OK when the dictator is Your Guy and you will get what you want and it will all be cool, but you are wrong.

You are also stupid.

If you are like the man who used to be Mr T’s best friend and admit you know that Trump is a horrible person but you voted for him not once but twice “because abortion,” then clearly you think nothing could possibly happen in your life where you or someone you love would need a Miranda warning, would not want your tax money to support a religious school, or would be pregnant and not want to be pregnant.

Because the wives and daughters of Trumpers never get raped, do they? They never have ectopic pregnancies. They never get pregnant in high school or college or when they are barely putting food on the table for the children they already have or when a doctor has said their body can’t survive another pregnancy but the birth control failed or when the birth control fails, period, or when the fetus is diagnosed in utero with some horrible, incurable condition or when they want an abortion for whatever reason.

They’re safe.


Years ago, I was talking to my cousin, who lives in a small town that now has two stoplights but at the time had one, about gay marriage.

Me: Yeah, I used to be against it too, but then I thought about all my gay friends, some of who have been together for 20 years, and thought they should get the legal protections of marriage.

Cousin: I don’t have any gay friends.

Me: Oh yes you do.


My staunch Catholic dad would not have supported Trump, I don’t think. We always went to church every single Sunday, even when we were on vacation, and we had many a rosary night in our house. But my dad was a freethinker and was the one who warned me against prayer in public schools. (And he had sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution and had seen what happens in countries run by dictators.)

Me (while I was still in high school, OK? be kind): But what’s wrong with having prayer in schools? How can that be bad?

Dad: People who support school prayer always assume it’s their God who will be prayed to.

Me, who had met almost no non-Christians in my life – US military bases were not known for their diversity of religion: ???

Dad: How would you feel about prayer if you lived in a town where a cult was in charge? What if we lived in that town near Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and they ran the schools and wanted you to pray to their god? Would that be OK?

Me:

Me:

Me: I never thought of it like that.

He also was not a political party guy. When I was in 7th grade, he got into a long debate – via me – with my Texas history teacher, who talked about supporting the party vs the candidate. My dad was adamant that you support the man (at the time, it was almost always the man) – that you look at the candidate’s character.

No way would my dad have chosen that idiot.


Good luck with allying with a stupid, evil, narcissistic dictator wannabe and with your sisters and daughters who want an abortion and with your kid who gets arrested and with how your precious tax money is spent. You’re going to need it.

* Please note I am not anti-madrassa. I am anti-tax money supporting religious education. My guess is that the Trumpers would be appalled for tax money to go to a non-Christian school.

The past isn’t dead

It’s lurking behind every casual interaction

Every time I visit Memphis, where I lived for nine years before being tricked into moving up north, I am shocked to see Black people and white people socializing together. That does not happen in Wisconsin, at least not that I see.

Yes, I will see Black people and white people at the same political events, but that’s about it. Not at restaurants or plays or festivals – not to the extent that I saw it in Memphis.

(And it probably goes without saying but I will say it anyhow – these political events? They are Democrat events. Not Republican. I can’t say for absolute sure that Black people don’t go to Republican events in Wisconsin but I can be fairly sure.)


The first time I went back to Memphis for a visit, Mr T and I went to my favorite restaurant. As we were waiting for a table, I was trying to figure out what was different.

Then I realized: I saw both white people and Black people in the restauarant.

I had not seen that in Milwaukee.


When my friend Leigh and I went to Clarksdale a few months ago, I was heartened to see Black people and white people not only socializing together but dancing together. In Mississippi! Mississippi! Home of the original racists!

Perhaps we actually can overcome our horrible past and move forward together with everyone enjoying equal rights and the police not killing Black suspects at twice the rate they kill white ones. Perhaps we as a country can actually fulfill our dream as a land of liberty and equality.


Did you know that the concept of race is actually a social construct, not a biological one? When I was a kid, I was taught that there are three races: Mongoloid, Negroid, and Caucasian.

Guess what?

It was all a big fat lie.

There is no such thing as race – at least, not biologically.

It doesn’t exist. It’s just something people with power made up as a way of – I don’t know – maintaining their power? That seems about right. It explains the patriarchy as well – it’s all about keeping power.


In the grocery store, Leigh, who is a very pretty, petite blonde, accidentally bumped into a Black man.

“I’m SO sorry!” she said. “Please excuse me!”

“Oh no ma’am,” he answered as he backed away and held his hands up. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

“No!” she laughed. “I bumped into you! I’M sorry!”

He shook his head as he continued to back away from her, hands held in the air. “Excuse me, ma’am. I’m sorry.”

I couldn’t figure out why he was apologizing to her. She had run into him. There was no doubt about the facts.

And then I realized.

He is not optimistic about the future.

He has not forgotten about the past.

He has not forgotten how many Black men were lynched after white people got angry that a Black man dared to look at or even speak to a white woman.

He has not forgotten that nothing has ever happened to Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman who (falsely, but even if it were true, none of the outcome would be right) accused Emmett Till of grabbing her. Emmett Till is dead, but his accuser – the prime mover in his death – lives.

He has not forgotten and neither should we.

The Chronicles of Goth Girl and Goth Boy

The Soap Opera of MCTS Route 57, or Why I loved taking the bus to work

This is the last time I saw Goth Girl and Goth Boy on the Bus. I still can’t believe the story had such a perfect ending.

There were two teenagers, whom I named Goth Girl and Goth Boy, on the bus I used to take to work. I watched and documented for months as Goth Boy pined for Goth Girl.

On June 13, 2014, I took the bus downtown for the last time – I had quit that job. I was sad because I thought I would never know how the story ended.

And then.

Here is their story, as chronicled originally on facebook.


March 20, 2014

Goth girl on bus: You really shouldn’t tattoo your face.


March 26, 2014

The two Goth kids are arguing about whether it’s “po po” or “five oh.”


March 21, 2014

Goth girl on bus: I never got odd until we had to move.


April 28, 2014

The Goth Girl has laryngitis but the girl who soaked her shoelaces in bleach overnight (I wanted to tell her bleach doesn’t work on synthetics) is talking enough to fill the silent gap.


May 2, 2014

Goth girl on bus yesterday: black leather bustier, black leather miniskirt, black hose, black hightops.

Today: aviator sunglasses (it’s overcast), jeans, gray sweater, gold chain belt.

She is fun to watch. I just wish she would shut up.


May 2, 2014

I am very concerned about Goth Girl on the Bus and Goth Boy on the Bus, her boyfriend. Usually, he sits next to her with his arm around her, looking proud because he has a girl, and I can’t see his bagging pants or the long key lanyard hanging from his belt loop. I can still see his sweet face that can’t look tough despite his gear. He just looks like a nice kid.

Today, he got on the bus and walked right past her. Didn’t even say hi. He stood the entire ride, the lanyard swinging as the bus accelerated. She ignored him and talked to their mutual friend, Girl with the Weird Bangs. Did she break up with him? I hope not.


May 5, 2014

I can’t tell if Goth Girl on the Bus and Goth Boy on the Bus are back together. When I got on the bus this morning, Goth Girl was sitting cross-legged on the seat, chin in her hands, eyes closed, as she usually is. I am not impressed with someone who puts her feet on a seat in a public space, but what can you do? I did bump into her knee, but not on purpose. When you have your knee in the aisle, another person’s gym bag is going to bump into it.

When Goth Boy got on the bus, she picked up her bags and moved over to the window seat so he could sit. He did, without removing his backpack. His lanyard, which is about 30″ long, dropped all the way to the floor. It was the only color on him – he was wearing black jeans, a black jacket, a black hat with what appeared to be the dragon from the Welsh flag embroidered on it, but I only saw it from the side, and black tennies with white stripes. He got a haircut. It looks nice – very short.

Goth Girl was wearing a black skirt, black shirt, and a purple choker. No eye makeup today. No eye drama.

In the past, when he has sat, he has put his arm around her and they have leaned their heads together and stayed that way for the entire ride.

Today, they sat but did not touch, except for one moment when they leaned into each other and bumped. She fidgeted with her sunglasses and talked loudly about how she had been to see this amazing band on Friday and had started the mosh pit: “Dude! I didn’t go to the concert to sit and be lazy!”

He twisted his hands and adjusted his earpiece. They did not hold hands when they got off the bus. But they talked to each other.

The Girl with Weird Bangs was not on the bus today.


May 6, 2014

Goth Girl is not on the bus today.


May 7, 2014

Here is the Goth Girl on the Bus update du jour:

Goth Girl was in her usual place on the bus today, sitting cross-legged on the aisle seat. She did pull her knee up when I passed, perhaps remembering yesterday when my bag banged into her.

(Which was not on purpose – I try to be polite even to people who annoy me. Actually, I am more polite to people I don’t like than to people I do like. Maybe I don’t want the people I don’t like to know I don’t like them? But why would that be so bad? Just one time, it would be really fun to be direct with Mr T’s dad and say, “You are a mean old man who makes people cry and I DON’T LIKE YOU.” But I don’t. I am a chicken.)

She was wearing jeans, a light plaid jacket over which she later put a black down jacket (this is Wisconsin and it is still cold here), and a gauzy purple scarf shot with silver wrapped around her waist. It all looks good on her because she is 15 and when you are 15, everything looks good. I wish I had known that when I was 15. I also wish I had stayed out of the sun, but we lived in Panama at the time and I was on the swim team and in the sailing club, so avoiding the sun would have meant avoiding my life.

She was also wearing her wire-rimmed aviator sunglasses, even though it was overcast. When Goth Boy asked her about it, she answered, “Dude. I have like the most light-sensitive eyes IN THE WORLD.”

When Goth Boy got on the bus, she moved her bags – she has two, but they do go to an arts magnet school and she probably has supplies – and scooted over to the window seat.

He sat and as he sat, his green and yellow lanyard swung against the side of the seat, the hook clanging against the bus.

She spoke briefly in a very low voice, which was unusual because she is usually quite loud, yet droning. Then they didn’t talk, which is also unusual – she usually will not shut up. He fiddled with his iphone and earbuds and she looked out the window. When he would turn to look at her, she kept looking out the window.

I was sitting behind them a few seats. I almost got my regular seat across from them – the seat where the sun is not in my eyes and the heat vent is not blowing on me – but someone else was there when I boarded the bus. She almost disembarked to catch another bus, but after she asked the driver to “blow for that bus,” the other bus didn’t wait. She returned to her seat and I put my things down again.

So I couldn’t see their faces, but I could tell that they were not talking to each other. The Girl with the Weird Bangs was not on the bus today. When Goth Girl and Goth Boy got off the bus, she walked quickly ahead of him to join the Girl with the Green Hair.


May 9, 2014

OK. Goth Girl on the Bus and Goth Boy on the Bus, Friday edition. It was pouring down rain when I got on the bus. Goth Girl was sitting in her usual seat, cross-legged, scribbling furiously with a colored pencil. She was wearing a white blouse with ruffles around the neck, a black and white skirt, a black corset on the outside of the blouse, four orange bead bracelets on her right wrist, two silver bead bracelets on her left wrist, a long necklace with a purple pendant, purple hoop earrings, and an orange beaded hair tie holding her hair in a ponytail. She was wearing dark eyeshadow and had cat-eye eyeliner.

She sorted through a stack of index-card sized papers. I couldn’t tell what was on them. She had a fistful of colored pencils and kept changing colors to fill in something.

When Goth Boy got on, she scooted over but did not look at him. He said hi, she said hi. He was soaking wet because he did not have an umbrella. What is it with people who know it’s raining yet don’t carry an umbrella? We do have ways to keep the water off our bodies.

She maintained her cross-legged pose, which meant he did not have as much room to sit. He was not wearing a jacket today – it was warm enough yesterday and today to go outside without a coat, which has not happened since October.

He wore black jeans and a maroon t-shirt. I counted the keys on his key clip/lanyard. At least eight. Who needs eight keys? I have two – the house key and the car key. That’s it. What are all those keys for? Eight? Who needs eight keys?

He looked over at her but she kept her head down, looking at her drawing. She is a lefty – is that why she has only two bracelets on her left wrist?

The middle-aged white lady who was being comforted by the young African-American guy yesterday afternoon got on the bus. Her bag of pink sequins cut the rainy gloom a bit. It was overcast enough that Goth Girl was not wearing her sunglasses.

Goth Girl spilled her box of pencils on the seat – at least a dozen of them. Goth Boy quickly moved so he could gather them for her. She said something to him that I did not catch. I hope it was “thank you.”

Then they returned to silence, with her looking down and him looking at her hopefully every few minutes.

He put his arm around her! Yay!

Wait. No. He put his arm behind her to pull for the stop.

What is going on with them? If they are broken up, why do they sit together? If they are not broken up, why don’t they talk to each other? What is this limbo?

They got off the bus. She opened her umbrella and shared it with him. Maybe there is hope.


May 10, 2014

D and I were speculating about Goth Girl on the Bus and Goth Boy on the Bus last night. Did he cheat on her? Is that why she is being so cold to him?

I said that it looks like she really has the upper hand in the relationship and that he likes her a lot more than she likes him. So why would he cheat on her?

But stranger things have happened.

D told another person, who also got involved in the conversation, that Goth Boy was really a nice kid.

Which appears to be true but how can you tell? He is not a yeller. He does not glare. He does not seem to be the type of man who would make someone cry. He just wants to be in the presence of Goth Girl. He just wants her to look at him. He wants to put his arm around her and lean his head into hers the way he used to.

But she won’t talk to him. He can sit by her, but that’s it.

A detail I have left out that may or may not be relevant is that Goth Boy has bad acne on his cheeks. I look at his face and wonder if his mom has taken him to a dermatologist. He has all the underpinnings to be a very attractive man some day – he is tall and lanky and he just looks sweet, but bless his heart, that acne is hard. Can boys take accutane?

So D and I wonder if Goth Girl is punishing Goth Boy for something? Did she go to that concert alone to Show Him? Or are they only schoolyard sweeties? I had a boyfriend whom I mostly saw at school. We would go out behind the chemistry lab at lunch and neck. We could do this every day because we were in the Panama Canal Zone and the weather is always nice.

He gave me whisker burn, which I didn’t know about but figured out immediately when my mom asked, “What’s that rash on your chin? It’s looks like whisker burn!” My hand flew to my chin, covering it, as I said, “Oh, no – probably just mango rash.”

The next day, I told David – who ditched me right before the prom to go with the weird redhead from my PE class but I heard he spent the night in jail so hahahahaha – that he had to shave or I wasn’t kissing him any more.

Maybe Goth Boy and Goth Girl only see each other at school, except that makes no sense – they are both on the 57 bus line, so could easily see each other on the weekend.

I wish Girl with the Weird Bangs would show up again and maybe sit by me so I could ask her what’s going on.


May 12, 2014

She just scooted to the window seat in anticipation of Goth Boy on the Bus’s stop.


May 12, 2014

Goth Girl: “These sunglasses are perfect for indoors.”


May 12, 2014

GG: “I didn’t have time. I’m just wearing jeans and a hoodie.”

GB: “You look fine. “

GG: “I took a shower yesterday. It had been way too long for a girl not to take a shower. I am being European.”


May 12, 2014

GB is not fidgeting. GG is Chatty Cathy.


May 12, 2014

He just stroked her hair.

He is showing her photos on his phone.

And they are talking to each other!


May 12, 2014

GG: “Can you see my face at all with my hair like this?”
GB: “I can see your chin.”


May 12, 2014

GG: My mom is a huge black man in the body of a little Italian woman.


May 13, 2014

Goth Girl and Goth Boy were not on the bus today, which is why I cannot call them Goth Girl on the Bus and Goth Boy on the Bus, but they had an interesting conversation yesterday about Mothers Day.

(NB I almost slept in this morning, thinking I would go late to work after spending 2.5 hours on the phone last night with Australia, but then I thought, “No! I can’t disappoint my friends by not reporting on GGotB and GBotB,” but then they weren’t even there and I could have slept late.)

GG was saying that she was chastised on Sunday for not wishing her mother a happy mothers day and I sympathized, thinking that I, too, do not like Mothers Day, just as I do not care for Valentine’s Day and told Mr T a long time ago that I do not expect him to observe a holiday imposed on him from without. Valentine’s Day is fine for those who wish to observe it and I do not think less of anyone for doing it, but Mr T doesn’t like it and I don’t want to force him. It’s enough for me that he does the everyday things – cleans the hair out of the drain in the tub, changes the kitty litter, goes to Wal-Mart at midnight to buy and install a new battery for my car (which he did while we were dating). I don’t care if I get flowers.

I feel the same way about Mothers Day – it’s externally imposed and I am forced to participate not because I believe in it but because I love my mother and do not want her to be hurt that I am not doing it. But if I had my way, Mothers Day would not exist and people would just show their love and appreciation all the time.

So GG was saying she was chastised for not wishing her mom a happy Mothers Day and I thought, “Oh girl I feel your pain but really, would it kill you to tell your mom that you love her and maybe to spend a few bucks on a card? We all face situations we don’t like in life and we do them because standing on principle won’t change anything and it will just hurt people we care about.”

Then she said that she was going to say something, but by the end of the day, the day was already ruined so why bother? I hope she has had time to reconsider since Sunday and maybe tell her mom that she loves her and that she is sorry for not saying anything on Sunday because again, how does it hurt anyone to do that?

GB said that they went to his grandmother’s on Sunday and there were a bunch of relatives, including some people he doesn’t like. I can’t decide whether it’s better to learn at a young age that just because you are related to someone, it doesn’t mean you have to like them, or if it is better to have great relatives and enjoy your youth but then be shocked when you get married and discover that some people are real jerks.

I had a nice childhood with nice relatives, so married life has been an adjustment for me, as I had no practice as a kid being around mean drunks or passive-aggressive blind CC’ing emailers.

Maybe I will see GG and GB tomorrow. Maybe GB will do more than tentatively stroke GG’s hair. Maybe her hair won’t be covering her face. Maybe she will tell GB that she made her mom a card and gave it to her on Monday.


May 14, 2014

Goth Girl was On The Bus today. Sitting in my seat. My seat. I had to sit two seats behind her in one of the side seats, which meant that every time the bus lurched, I was thrown from side to side rather than from front to back. Side to side is much more uncomfortable than front to back.

Her hair was pinned back with a black leather bow. She was wearing black leggings with lace at the ankle, a purple knit miniskirt, and a gray hoodie. As usual, she looked great because she is 15 and at 15, everyone looks great, even the girls who think they don’t.

Goth Boy got on the bus. I saw him from the left and noticed that he has a hoop earring in his left ear. He left his earbud in his left ear so the right ear could hear what GG was saying. It might behoove him to remove both earbuds to concentrate on her fully. There is almost nothing sexier than getting someone’s full attention.

I couldn’t hear what they were saying very well. There was something about German shepherds and then something about unions – how unions protect you against discrimination and pay you when you’ve been injured on the job.

I should not expect a 15 year old to understand employment law, so I will not criticize her for being wrong on those issues, but honestly.

I could have heard more if they had talked when the bus was stopped, like the two minutes it took for the driver to help the passenger using the wheelchair get off the bus. (The wheelchair has to be locked onto the floor of the bus during the ride, so getting a wheelchair user on and off the bus takes a little time.)

But they talked only – she talked only – when the bus was moving. She looked straight ahead. He kept turning his head to her. Even though I could see only the back of his head, it was a yearning look, I am sure.

Maybe some progress? She was laughing and pulling away, saying, “Stop!” I couldn’t see what was going on, but was he tickling her or squeezing her knee? Physical contact! Maybe there is hope.

GB, get rid of the earbud. Let her see that she has your complete, undivided attention.


May 14, 2014

Saw my favorite bus driver, Gwen C, this afternoon. We always chat. She is the nicest lady in the world. She is the one who waited for me the day I was at the stop by City Hall that was actually closed and I hadn’t noticed because I was too busy trying not to freeze to death. I noticed about ten seconds before the bus was supposed to arrive that I was in the wrong place and an entire block away from the next place the bus really would stop, so I started running in the snow with my heavy coat and snow boots and gym bag and purse and the bus pulled up and then passed me and stopped way ahead on the corner. I thought I was going to miss it and be stuck downtown in the cold for another 30 minutes, but the bus waited. And waited.

When I got to the bus, out of breath, I saw it was Gwen driving. I thanked her for waiting and she said, “I recognized you all the way back there. Of course I waited for you.”

So she is my bud and I saw her today because I was on an early bus. I asked her if she ever drove GG and GB home. I see them only in the mornings – I have never seen them in the afternoon. Gwen drives an afternoon shift, so it’s possible that she might have seen them.

I described them and their situation – they had been together but now they’re not and it looks like she’s been punishing him – “Oooh, he’s in the doghouse!” Gwen said – but might be relenting a bit.

“Why do you think they broke up?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I told her. “Have you seen them? We need more information.”

No, she has not seen them. But she wants to know what’s going on.

“You wouldn’t believe the things people tell me,” she said. “They get on this bus and tell me things about their lives and I just go um, um, um.”

“You’re like a priest,” I said. “You’re anonymous and safe.”

She laughed. “They just need someone to tell their troubles to, I guess.”

She will be on the lookout for GG and GB.


May 16, 2014

I got on the bus. Someone was in my seat – I couldn’t be too mad because it was my friend Liz, but I didn’t want to sit next to her because I prefer my own seat so I can spread out – and I had to sit a few seats behind GG. She was not glammed up today. Looks like she hasn’t washed her hair in a few days. She had a big black hairband holding it back, kind of a ’60s vibe. Baggy jeans with rolled-up cuffs, huge white hoodie. Sunglasses.

Girl with the Weird Bangs was in front of her and they were chatting, chatting, chatting, only I couldn’t hear them very well. I caught “reputation” and “I have a bad reputation” which of course made me very curious. Just how bad can a high school girl’s reputation be, especially these days when nothing is bad?

GB got on the bus. GWWB stuck her red-leggings-clad leg out to trip him. He laughed and sat next to GG, who had scooted over. GG said, “Hiiiiii!” in almost a “We slept together last night and now I am feeling a little flirty” way except I would guess they probably did not sleep together last night. GB was jaunty, but not that jaunty.

As soon as GB sat, he leaned into her and bumped her with his shoulder. Or maybe she did it first. Rats! I didn’t write down who did it first and I can’t remember! That’s an important detail, don’t you think?

He bumped her. She smiled and then she bumped him. He bumped her again and then she bumped him again.

Multiple bumps, you guys!

I caught bits and pieces of their conversation. She was claiming that just because someone jumps from 115 feet, it doesn’t mean he will die. GB challenged her. She said, “I can come up with multiple scenarios where he doesn’t die. He has a parachute. Or he falls into a truck full of pillows. Or into water.”

I wanted to interject that from 115 feet, even water will not cushion that fall, but how can someone who has probably never had the opportunity to jump off a high dive know that water can be very hard, even from ten feet? There are no diving boards any more, are there? Or very few. Do high schools even have diving teams any more? I was on the diving team. I was not very good, but all you had to do was show up to be on the team and I am good at showing up.

GB laughed. He said, “Or the person could open his jacket and swoop, like a flying squirrel.”

Oh they laughed and laughed.

Then – AND THIS IS THE BEST PART!! – he started tickling her again and she squealed, “Stooooop!” and she grabbed his hand and he grabbed her hands and there was HAND GRABBING!

Oh the flirting. I can’t stand it.


May 20, 2014

GB and GG not on the bus second day in a row. What’s going on?


May 21, 2014

Mr T: Are you going to sleep in tomorrow?

Me: No.

Mr T: But your call [with my company HQ in Australia] lasted more than two hours! You were on the phone past 8:15. Go in late.

Me: I can’t.

Mr T: Sure you could. Your boss doesn’t even get to work until 9:30.

Me: I can’t.

Mr T: Oh! You want to be on the same bus with Goth Girl and Goth Boy!

Me: Yes.


May 21, 2014

Goth Girl and Goth Boy were on the bus today! Where have they been?

GB had a new accessory – a neon lime-green plug in his left ear. It actually kind of suits him.

I could not hear a word they said today except when GG said, “And I was like, ‘holy shit!'”

But I did see GB rub GG’s shoulder for almost half a minute when he first got on the bus. GG did not seem to mind. She did not pull away. She did not tell him to stop. She let him. Even leaned into him a tiny little bit.

I started reading Anna Quindlen’s new book, so was mildly torn between reading about the problems of rich New Yorkers and watching the people around me. As I do not really care for the literary genre of The Troubles of Rich People in New York Who Have to Pay $40,000 a Year for a Nanny, it was easy to abandon the book and people watch instead.

Unfortunately, it became hard to see GG and GB because a few minutes after GB boarded the bus, a young man with broad shoulders covered by a thin white t-shirt, wearing orange tennies, and with shoulder-length braided dreads sat between us. I didn’t mind too much because I was fascinated by Dread Man’s hair. I don’t usually like dreads, but his looked really nice. About halfway through the trip, he lifted both arms, took a hunk of braids in each hand, and gracefully tied the braids together to form a crown on the back of his head. He looked like a black Santa Lucia from the back and lacked only candles in his hair.

In the meantime, I was blocked from hearing anything by the young woman sitting across from me who talked on her phone the entire time. I don’t know how she can hear anything with the other bus noise, but she must. Her toenails were painted black, as were two fingernails on her left hand. The other fingernails were unpainted.

I do not know if this is a new trend in fingernail painting, but if it is, you heard it here first.


May 22, 2014

Goth Girl and Goth Boy were on the bus today. She was wearing black and gray. He was wearing black and gray. He removed his backpack before sitting, which is not his usual practice. Why today? Why the change in habit? Did he finally think, before sitting, “You know, I might be more comfortable if I don’t have a backpack behind me, pushing me forward?” Who knows what happens in the mind of a teenager?

GG didn’t talk. She was scribbling furiously with her left hand in a green, spiral-bound notebook. GB looked ahead, listened to his music. He coughed, yawned. He was unshaven.

It was a companionable silence, not a tense one. The kind of silence I imagine that couples who have been married for a while have. The kind that couples who are not like Mr T and me have. Mr T and I do not have companionable silence. We have times where I am trying to tell a story and Mr T just wants me to get to the point already and I explain that the story is the point. We also have times where Mr T is talking about politics (ie, always) and I am trying to get him to stop talking about politics and reminding him that he tricked me by not telling me before we married that he would become this involved in politics.

However, we also do not have the silence described in the movie “Best in Show” where Jennifer Coolidge (aka “The Bend and Snap Chick”) is married to a very, very old man who doesn’t talk. “We can talk or not talk,” she says. “We have a lot in common. We both like soup.”

Where was I? So GG and GB sit quietly for about ten minutes and then he bumps her with his shoulder and she bumps back and they repeat. Then she scratches his back with her right hand and smiles.

They return to stillness, but 30 seconds later, GB reaches over and tickles GG’s leg and she laughs and grabs his hand.

We reach their stop. GB grabs one of GG’s bags and then lifts his backpack with the same hand and carries both items off the bus. Gallant.


May 23, 2014

GG and GB were not on the bus today. Almost nobody was on the bus today. The big guy in the suit who talks on his cellphone most of the ride and who uses a wheelchair that he backs out of the bus when we get to his stop was on the bus this morning. He was also on the bus this afternoon when I left work early on the 2:14 bus. I don’t know if he usually leaves work at that time or if he, too, was cutting out early for the long weekend. I don’t remember seeing him in the afternoon before.

The Middle-Aged Lady with the Pink Sequin purse was on the bus this morning. The two guys in their mid-30s were on the bus. One of them reads the sports section of the paper and has shared it with the guy behind him before; the other reads his kindle.

That was about it. I guess a lot of people started their weekend early. The only reason I took the 7:14 bus was in hopes of seeing GG and GB. I don’t know what the deal is when they are not on the bus. Are they skipping school? Maybe they have some kind of flexible schedule.

I thought the Man with the Braided Dreads was on the bus today. A man with broad shoulders boarded the bus but sat close to the front. (Because there were a ton of empty seats up front. I never sit up front – I need to be on the side opposite the sun so I don’t look into the glare and I need to be in the back so I am not under the vents – there is either hot air or cold air blowing out of the vents, depending on the season, and I don’t like sitting in the wind. I get a little cranky when someone is in My Spot.)

Anyhow, this man sat up front. I wasn’t wearing my glasses, so all I could tell was that he had very nice shoulders and he was wearing a wool cap over what appeared to be braided dreads. I squinted but still couldn’t tell. I finally put on my glasses and then discerned little braids coming out from under the edges of the cap, not the nice, thick braided dreads I saw on Wednesday.

Which was fine because then my question would have been, Why would you stuff such nice hair under a cap? Like I said, I don’t usually like dreads, although the young woman who works at our library has nice long waist-length dreads (and she is white and I NEVER like dreads on white people because the only white-people dreads I have ever seen look dirty), but this guy’s dreads looked really good. I just wanted to grab his hair and squeeze.

I wouldn’t, of course, because that would be battery and also because that would be rude. And just weird. But I have been thinking about those braided dreads since Wednesday and just want to know the story behind them.


May 24, 2014

GB and GG not on the bus second day in a row. What’s going on?


June 3, 2014

GG and GB were on the bus yesterday. The first thing I noticed when I boarded was that GG had cut her hair! It was a little longer than shoulder length and now is is short – a little shorter than a Dorothy Hammill. It is cut up in the back but a little longer in the front. It is very cute. She had two little purple barettes securing it on her right side.

I took a photo and posted it here, which prompted a few early-rising friends to ask why I had changed my policy about posting photos of GG and GB when I had previously said I wouldn’t. I defended myself by saying that you really couldn’t see her face, but I decided that Holly and Dean were right and I took the photo down. It was too invasive.

It is not too invasive, however, to write about them.

So. GG had her short hair. She was sitting cross-legged in the aisle seat, as usual, chin in her hands. She was wearing a purple t-shirt to match the purple barettes. Two wood bead necklaces and one silver chain. A black miniskirt over black leggings. Fingerless purple lace gloves, undoubtedly an homage to Madonna, who is old enough to be this girl’s grandmother.

Wait. Is she? Madonna is what, 53? And this girl is 17 – not 15, as I had thought. Yes – if Madonna had had a baby at 18 and that child had a baby at 18, this girl could be Madonna’s granddaughter.

I bet Madonna shudders at the idea of being a grandmother.

I am a step-step grandmother, which is an odd state, because I don’t feel old enough to be a grandmother but I AM old enough to be a grandmother. My best cousin is nine days older than I am and she has two little grandchildren.

I have three step-step grandchildren, so by the calculus used by the indigenous women I worked with in Chile, I win.

That was always the first question any of these women asked me: How many children did I have?

These women were illiterate and lived on subsistence farms, but they always won because they had children and I did not. They felt very sorry for me indeed.

For the record, I have never cared about having children, but I am delighted to have step-step daughters and step-step grandchildren. It’s all the good stuff with none of the hard part.

Where was I? Oh. Goth Boy got on the bus. Still unshaven. I wonder if he is growing a beard. It’s a little late in the season for that.

He sat. They talked about their weekends. I guess they don’t see each other on the weekend, although they could: they are both on the bus line. They could just take the bus to each other’s house. Why don’t they?

I didn’t hear much of what they said because they don’t talk while the bus is stopped, only when it’s moving and noisy.

There was no shoulder bumping. No tickling. No hand grabbing. But neither was there tension.


June 4, 2014

Got on the bus this morning. No Goth Girl. So no material for the day.

OR SO I THOUGHT.

A few stops later, Goth Boy got on the bus. No Goth Girl. I have never seen him when she is not on the bus.

And then HE SAT NEXT TO ME!!!

Unfortunately, he was a little bit stinky. He needs better deodorant and could probably wash his t-shirt. And – this sounds really mean but it was true – his breath was a little bit bad. I suspect he rolled out of bed, threw on his clothes from yesterday, and walked out of the house without bothering – or having time for – with the things that the rest of us feel compelled to do as grown-ups: we take a shower and brush our teeth not because we like to do so but because we fear ridicule and the impact to our careers. Some people, of course, are so good at what they do that they can be horribly ungroomed, but the rest of us are pretty fungible and must conform to the non-optional (mostly non-optional) social conventions.

I sat reading my book, wondering what to do. Should I put myself in the story? A good reporter doesn’t do that.

But I am not a good reporter. I am not bound by those rules.

I put myself in the story.

Me: Do you not have school every day?

GB: What?

Me: Sorry. I’m nosy. I notice who is on the bus and who is not. Sometimes you are on and sometimes you aren’t. I just wondered if you have school every day.

GB: On Tuesdays, we have classes online.

Me: Oh! And I have never seen you on the bus before without that girl.

GB [shrugs]

Me: She is very cute.

GB: We’re just friends.

I could swear he said this sadly. He was not smiling when he spoke. I am not that great at reading body language, but I guess I am better than some people. My boss started having weekly meetings with everyone in the office. He told me how much everyone loves the meetings.

I answered, “Are you kidding me? They HATE them!”

“How can you tell?” he asked.

I answered, “Because half of them sit there with their arms crossed and won’t give you answers other than ‘fine’ when you ask how their work is going. Two of the people don’t even sit at the table, even though there is room. They sit at the chairs against the wall. You cannot have everyone at the table unless they are literally at the table!”

He seemed perplexed, but this is the same guy blesshisheart who on my first day of work, when I moved to the conference room because my desk was right next to the radio, turned the radio off and then told my new co-workers that I didn’t like the music. This was after he had asked why I didn’t just turn it off.

“Because I do not want to be the new person who comes in on Day 1 and tries to change the culture,” I said.

Yet he still turned the radio off. And blamed me.

“Do you realize what you did to me when you turned the radio off and told people it was because I didn’t like it? It took me months to recover,” I said.

He seemed surprised.

So maybe I am not so bad at reading body language after all. I could be a lot worse.

GB: We’re just friends.

Said sadly. Without a smile. He likes her. She does not like him back. I want to tell him that it wouldn’t hurt to bathe and wear clean clothes, but that probably wouldn’t help him with her. It will just help him with other girls. If the chemistry is there, it’s there, even for a slightly stinky boy. Stinky is ephemeral. She just doesn’t feel the same way about him that he feels about her.

Me: Hang in there. Nice guys do win in the end. They do.


June 9, 2014

Were you guys wondering if I saw Goth Girl and Goth Boy today?

I did.

Well, I saw Goth Boy. Goth Girl was not on the bus. Is she skipping class this near the end of the year? Bad move, GG. Or maybe not. I never once skipped class in high school but I know people who did and they turned out just fine.

However, I did skip class plenty in college and that didn’t end so well for me. Thanks to Alan for picking up my differential equations homework to turn in, but if I had just gone to class with him, I, too, might have a PhD from CalTech instead of just an MBA. Alan went to class. I did not. You do the math. (Because apparently, I was incapable of getting up early enough to do so.) After that semester ended, I changed my major to English.

So skipping class can have an impact on your future. I would be far more employable today with an engineering or science degree than I am with an English degree. Let that be a lesson to you, anyone who wants to major in the liberal arts. It’s super fun to major in English – you get a degree for reading great books and then writing what you think about them and sometimes, you become a New York Times bestselling writer, like Jeff Abbott, but most of us English majors languish in obscurity, hoping for a 401K and dental.

Goth Girl, get your butt to class.

Goth Boy, on the other hand, was not skipping class. He got on the bus and sat across from me. I caught his eye as he sat and we did the, “Hey fellow bus passenger” silent nod of greeting, but then I couldn’t catch his eye again.

I tried, believe me. I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to engage him and ask what he was going to do on summer break. I wanted to ask him what he was listening to. But he just stared off into space, perhaps worried about the weird middle-aged lady staring at him.

I also wanted to gently suggest that he should wash his clothes and take a bath, but I don’t think there is a way to deliver that information kindly to a stranger. Either he doesn’t know that he is smelly, which is bad enough, or he does know and he is in a home situation where resolving the problem is not easy.

I want to know why his mom and dad don’t say, “Son! Go take a shower! Throw those clothes in the wash!”

But then, I come from a family where my parents made sure I had clean clothes and that I myself was clean. Maybe he has bad parents. Maybe nobody washes clothes at his house. Maybe they don’t have a washer and nobody will take clothes to the laundromat. I don’t know.

I almost wanted to call Child Protective Services to report child neglect, just because of the smelly clothes and body. Then I noticed a tattoo on his lower right arm.

According to wikipedia, which we all know to be an accurate source of legal information, it is illegal to tattoo anyone under the age of 18 in Wisconsin, even with parental consent. This was not a new tattoo. I don’t think he is over 18.

If my kid came home with a tattoo, I would hit the roof. I would especially hit the roof it is was in a state where tattooing minors is illegal.

I get the feeling that nobody is looking out for this poor kid. It makes me sad.


June 11, 2014

Goth Boy report du jour. Goth Girl not on the bus. AGAIN. Where is she?

Goth Boy got on. I couldn’t tell if he was wearing his usual t-shirt because he had a sweatshirt on over the t-shirt, with the hood of the sweatshirt pulled over his baseball cap because you sure don’t want your baseball cap to get wet.

NB Am I the only person in the bus system who understands the function of an umbrella? Because I am often the only person I see using one in the rain.

GB got on, but then walked right past my seat. I caught his eye and nodded and he nodded back. I wanted him to sit next to me so I could interrogate him, but he did not. He is a shy fawn from the forest, a scared wee mouse hiding under the chair. He will bolt if approached too quickly. I must gain his trust.

Perhaps I should bring treats on the bus: a handful of cookies, a slice of pizza. What entices a teenage boy? Other than teenage girls, of course.

I wanted to ask him where GG was. I wanted to suss out his living situation. Casually – So? Do you usually take the bus? Or do your parents drive you to things? What sports do you do? Oh – baseball? Did your dad teach you to throw?

I would gain his confidence by opening up to him first, though.

“I had to do this stupid team building thing at work,” I would say. “The woman was sooooo nice but she talked about how water picks up the emotion written on the test tube. I wanted to tell her that our CEO has degrees in chemistry and physics and even though we should pray for him a lot, he is not stupid. I myself got an A in college physics – albeit self-paced physics – and am pretty sure that water does not change its crystalline structure depending on the emotional state of the people around it.”

He would laugh at the Wooo-wooo!-ness of it all and then I would admit that despite the emotional water and then the three minutes of silent deep breathing that this woman turned out to be a fabulous facilitator who totally called the CEO on his bullshit and that I have already connected with her on LinkedIn. “KnowwhatImean?” I would ask him.

Again, he would laugh and say, “Man I HEAR you!” as he shook his head at the weirdness of it all.

Then I would tell him how boring it is to sit in meetings from 8:30 to 5:00 and the stress of not knowing if the meeting will actually end at 5:00 so you can make the 5:11 bus and saying something about it to the CEO, who snaps, “It will take how long it takes,” which makes you want to say back, “Dude. I am not emotionally invested in this company the way you are. I am here for a paycheck and even that is not enough to keep me around right now.”

He would say, “Tell me about it! Remember high school and sitting in class all day when all you wanted to do was wxyz?”

I would grin and say, “Well, wxyz was not on my agenda when I was in high school, but I read a lot of fiction, so can well understand.”

Then he would sigh and say, “What’s THE DEAL with teenage girls?”

I would say, “Dude” (not really, because I don’t say “Dude” unless I am mocking someone with a limited vocabulary), “Dude, all I can tell you is that it gets better once you are out of high school. Do you really want the best years of your life to be right now? No you do not. You want to know that things get better, not that they go downhill from here.”

He would say, “But I just want to take her out to dinner.”

Then I would say, “OK. Here’s a plan. Don’t laugh! Here’s what you need to do. You need to take a shower and shave and put on a clean shirt. It can be a concert t-shirt, but it needs to be clean. You need to put your iphone away. You are going to give her your full attention. Then you are going to – DO NOT LAUGH! – buy some flowers. Four dollars at Sendik’s. You are going to go to her house, ring the bell, introduce yourself to her parents, then ask for her. Then you are going to say, ‘I would like to take you on a date.'”

By now, all the blood would have drained from his face.

“Women love it when men put their ego at risk,” I would say. “She might say no. She might say yes. If she says no, I promise you that 20 years from now, she will be telling her friends about the amazing guy who slew the high school version of a dragon to ask her out. Twenty years from now, she will be saying, ‘What ever happened to Goth Boy? I sure hope I see him at the reunion.’ And then when you do, when your skin is better and you stand up straight and dress sharp and have your own business, she will rue the day she turned you down. You will be gracious to her, of course, but the 20 years from now version of Dakota Fanning will be tugging on your arm, saying, ‘Sweetie, the Rolls is double parked.'”

I see that happening. Do you?


June 13, 2014

The last time I saw Goth Girl and Goth Boy. I took the photo above.

The End.

Il faut faire le grève

If we want a decent work-life balance decent life, we need to be French

If blue-collar women making barely enough money to pay their bills can challenge The Boss, so can the rest of us. Source

I read a great piece by Anne Helen Petersen (here) about how we shouldn’t go to work sick.

The author is not talking to people who must be physically present for their jobs. They often don’t have a choice. They don’t work, they don’t get paid.

Instead, she is talking to those of us privileged enough to be able to work from home. We CAN work when we’re sick (or when we’re on vacation) and so many of us do.

STOP IT YOU’RE NOT THAT IMPORTANT.

But – many of us fear for our jobs. (Reasonable, I know – I have been laid off twice, although I think one of those was actually a firing, but that VP got fired herself two months ago so karma.)

And we know that the work will not go away. It will just pile up and wait for us.

However.

However.

Nothing will change until we change what we are doing.


In the Before Times, I was sitting in a conference room, scrolling through the news and waiting for a meeting to start.

“Oh wow!” I said to a co-worker. “The Teamsters just led a successful shareholder revolt – they’re on the board at McKesson – and got the CEO pay CUT!”

“They’re just jealous,” my co-worker answered.

I was so shocked at his response that I didn’t even know what to say.

I thought of the proper answer at about 2 a.m. that night.

My co-worker thinks we’re management. But we’re not. We’re labor.

It took me a long time to realize that, too, so I can’t be upset that he was so ignorant.

But – we are labor. We are not the people who get the golden parachutes. We are not the people who get the huge bonuses. We are not the people who are protected financially.

I might not be on the factory floor, but I am still subject to the whims of the boss and will be – have been – one of the first ones cut to preserve the CEO’s bonus.

I am labor.


A friend’s company allowed employees to travel business class if they were flying from the US to Asia.

So my friend, Rob, flew business class on his work trip to Asia.

When he returned, his boss was cranky.

“Would you spend your own money to fly business class?” the boss asked.

No, my friend thought, but I’ll spend someone else’s money on it. If I didn’t want my employees to spend my money on business class, then I would make it the policy that they had to fly coach.


Remember the awful boss who laid me off/fired me then got fired herself?

She waited until after I had taken a work trip and expensed in-flight internet to tell me she wouldn’t approve it.

(Even though my previous boss had always approved it.)

She said I was probably goofing off.

  1. I wasn’t goofing off; I was working.
  2. Even if I were goofing off, I was stuck in a middle seat in coach after having spent three days on a work trip, getting up at the crack of dawn to work, going to meetings all day, then working after the meetings doing my JOB. If I wanted to spend $40 to goof off – is that so bad?
  3. Even if I were goofing off, the time to tell employees that the policy has changed is before you implement the change, not after.

Anne Helen Peterson (read the whole thing) says we need to “refuse to be a scab” and to take our time off as an “act of solidarity.”

In addition, we need to take our time off to force companies to staff appropriately. Everyone who checks email during vacation and spends the first night of their honeymoon in the lobby of the hotel working until 4 a.m. because “this project has to be done and I’m the only one who knows the details” perpetuates the current culture of overwork in the US.

I get it that you’re worried things will fall through the cracks. I get it that you don’t have a backup.

But it is not your job to figure out your own backup. You’re not a teenager working at the mall, wanting to switch shifts with someone.

It’s not your job to make sure that work gets done while you’re on vacation or out sick.

That is your company’s job.

But when you work anyhow, you let the company off the hook.

“See?” they say. “We don’t need to hire more people! The work is getting done with the people we have! OUR SYSTEM WORKS!”

Take your time off. Take it. If not for you, for your children. You’re not even risking being shot or blackballed.

All you’re doing is taking time off that is due to you.

This is your act of solidarity.