Archive | November, 2011

Bus Adventures and Misdirections

18 Nov

Due to recent circumstances which shall not be mentioned for the time being, I have been forced to face a new frontier…the MBTA bus system.

Now, to those of you who grew up in a bustling city where the bus was a natural form of transportation, you may not understand how foreign this concept is to those like myself who grew up outside the suburbs. Rural towns have rarely even heard of the idea of public transportation and most of us are socially conditioned to believe that the roaring metal tin cans roving the streets transport the unwashed miscreants of the world from point A to point B in the most inconvenient route possible thus making them something to be unquestionably avoided.

I no longer have the luxury of adhering to such foundational values, unless I am willing to give up my employment, social life, and any hope of escaping the confines of my fourth floor apartment. Therefore, Tuesday, for the first time in my life, I rode the bus. Now, I am not a stranger to public transportation. I grew up south of Boston and relished any excuse to take the train into the big city. The train is correlated with adventure and I felt accomplished every time I successfully arrived at my destination. Going to school north of Boston brought a new wealth of opportunities to further my amorous relationship with the T. I was that much closer to city life and that much more enthusiastic about exploring the cobblestone streets and underground tunnels.

The commuter rail and subway, however, are a vastly different playing field than the wheeled beasts making circles and winding paths through the cities and towns of the Boston area. A train has one start point, one end point and very specific and unchanging target points in-between, which can be easily plotted and chosen. On the other hand, there are a zillion busses, some of which have the same number but different destinations, with countless stopping points and transfers, which creates a veritable cluster-fuck of chaotic misdirection. As you can imagine, a virgin to the hard, audacious pipeline of vehicular bedlam, the past few days have been a sadistical confrontation to my navigational skills. I am choosing to allow room for comedic interlude in my poorly conducted adventuring, I am nothing if not able to laugh at my own misfortune and fine the humor in most unfortunate situations.

Day 1 – Up before the sun and as eager as a two year old with a new toy to conquer and destroy, my over confidence sent me on a mission to face the new day with a smile and a Charlie Card. I needed to take the 455 to Revere to catch the 411 which would drop me in Malden. I got off three stops too early, had to walk at least 2 miles part of which was up and over one of the steepest hills I have ever seen, to catch my connection, which, thank God, was 20 minutes late because of mechanical problems. I managed to make it to work unscathed and mostly still confident in my ability to successfully surmount the challenges I had faced. The journey home proved I could indeed make the same mistake twice when I, again, had to brave the dark and the cold and cross a highway on foot because I was too nippy at the bit. I just hope no one saw me walking in confused circles trying to figure out which stop on the four corners I should be standing at. Luckily, I met some sweetly entertaining characters to conceal my minor embarrassment. The first was an adorable old man (who I sincerely hope becomes my Tuesday night bus buddy) on his way to a Bible study. He was sweet and complimentary and enamored by my midnight painted nails. A few stops after he had vacated, a middle aged man from Mississippi took his place who made me laugh and told me about his ventures in the subway earlier that day. I love accents, and if he had been younger and/or cuter it would have made my night that much better.

Day 2 – My eagerness waning, I again met my rival on the street corner determined to make a better exploit than the day before. Getting into the office was much less convoluted, but getting home proved to pose problematic. Never take a bus you think is early at 5:00pm, most likely it is the wrong bus, even if it has the right number on it, ALWAYS look at the destination, even if it means standing in the rain for ten more minutes. Otherwise you may end up in the middle of Revere with no idea which bus connection you need to take and a dead cell phone. The driver called last stop and I got off in a dazed fog, asking myself what I had done. Refusing to cry or panic, I looked at a map, but after realizing it was gibberish, called my dad on a phone that was breathing its last breath. Just as he found the route I needed to take and began reciting the numbers, the battery buzzed its death cry leaving the line dead and the air silent. All I had been able to gather was “116,” which happened to be across the street. More map staring and forceful barricading of the welling tears led me to exasperation. The girl standing beside me said something which I laughed at and agreed with. She asks me for a lighter which I am sure I don’t have but look for anyway and we make a joke about the point of carrying cigarettes with no lighter or a lighter with no cigarettes. When she asks a passing fellow smoker on the street for a flame, she offers me one and the simple gesture restores my hope and determination. The nicotine sets my synapses buzzing and this angel of the night lets me use her phone to call my dad back just as the 116 bus pulls up to the curb. I thank her and decide I’ll take my chances. The bus driver must have been a gift from heaven as well because he guides me safely and uncomplainingly to my destination. I really do believe with all my heart that God looks out for me in my tumultuous attempts at independence, giving me just what I need, right when I need it.

At home, I let my dad know I didn’t perish in the streets and open a bottle of wine to unravel the tensely strung coils in my body. There is something to be said about getting drunk in your kitchen with the music blasting, baking a cake (or whatever the mood calls for at the time). Add in a little text flirtation and I’d say it’s the recipe for a perfect night, but maybe not a perfect morning.

Day 3 – Hung over and tired despite crashing into my pillows early, I was not quite defeated, but mostly unexcited about facing the challenge ahead. Traffic made the 455 late in arriving to my connection, and of course the day was more frigid than the previous two. Second piece of advice, always bring an extra sweater. There is a good chance you may find yourself sitting at a bus stop for nearly an hour just trying to huddle close enough to yourself to stay warm. Late for my meeting, I was overjoyed that my father was all too willing to pick me up from work instead of at my apartment to bring me home that night. (Why was I going to my parents’ house? Well I was going to see the midnight show of Breaking Dawn with a friend from my hometown of course!!).

I am choosing to see the silver lining in all this despite the mishaps and uncertainty. Hopefully a long weekend of rejuvenation will detonate the reset button and Monday will be a new quest leading to success. If not, I am sure you will be hearing about it.

Sexuality…what’s in a label?

13 Nov

The conversation of sexuality is s hot button topic, at least where I come from. I grew up in the Protestant church where intimate sexual experiences were sacred and intended for a marriage between a man and a woman. When I was a teenager and beginning to feel the tingling sensations between my legs when a cute boy walked by, I bought in, practiced self-restraint, made vows to stay a virgin until that ring was on my finger. Of course, I never dated in high school. I said it was because I didn’t know what real love was and didn’t want to run the gambit of failed relationships before my heart could handle it, but lets be honest, I was the shy, awkward girl who no one wanted to date anyway.

College was a different story. I went to a smallish Christian school north of Boston. Freshman year I became the bright, bubbly, outspoken, and at times obnoxious girl I never had been but always knew I could be. My vow of celibacy, however, remained intact, even after I met Mr. Wrong towards the end of my first semester. Mr. Wrong, despite many shortcomings in our relationship, taught me the meaning of love. My heart felt alive and I wanted to sing from the mountaintops and all that jazz. We toyed with the boundaries of intimacy and pushed against the lines we said we wouldn’t cross. Seven months later on the fourth of July, my desire for a closer bond with my companion ousted my vows of purity and we had perfectly boring and awkward sex. [On a side note, I’m convinced two virgins doing this together for the first time is both extremely smart and extremely dumb. Smart in that both of you feel the same amount of awkward. Dumb in that neither of you know what the hell you are doing.]

Since this sexual awakening, I have been through the whole realm of emotions around it. While I was with him, I was convinced I was going to marry him, which made the act, if not justified, excusable. We felt a closer connection and so what if we went a little ahead of schedule. After the break up, the shame I had been taught to feel kicked in. I beat myself up about it for a couple months, until I kicked myself in the hiney and decided it was time to stop moping. I started rebelling against all of it, starting with my guy friends. I don’t know why, but sleeping with guys I had no romantic feelings for, but knew I could trust was a stepping stone I was ok with jumping on, literally. Liquor helped, but that is a whole other story.

I was numb from the relationship still at this point and men were toys. I felt some guilt, but the more it happened, the less I felt. It was a coping strategy and an unhealthy on at that. My male friends didn’t mind so much, but it became a game to them too. It wasn’t until my first one night stand that I started to see how out of control I was getting. I wish I could say that was my wake up call, but it wasn’t that easy. A few more mistakes later and then a morning after where I had to drive a guy home I had picked up in Cambridge [to this day I still do not remember his name and he is dubbed “Clay Aiken” because that is who my roomy swears he looked like] it finally hit me.

I always say I live my life without regrets, but by that point there were a couple things I wished I could take back. Sex had become a toy, a way to feel connected to someone without actually putting in any effort. It became meaningless and easily exchangeable for love. I was not and still am not at the point where I believe sex has to be a sacred act saved for the bonds of marriage, I’m not even positive I want to get married, but sex is also more than what I had turned it into and I wanted to get back some of that magic that made it so special on the fourth of July so long ago. I have come to understand sex in a way I was not raised to understand it, but there is some validation in the things I was taught. As a society we have minimized its importance and meaning, made it something to be thrown around and abused. Even now, I am still culpable in this, and continue to get drunk and horny and make bad choices. It’s a learning curve.

I have veered off my initial subject, however. I wanted you to understand my sexual journey, and that is all the pertinent information, but it did not end there. In the church, we were also taught that man and woman were made for one another. Sex was not only designated specifically for marriage, but specifically for man and woman to experience with one another, and one another alone. In my sexual awakening, as I like to call it, despite how cheesy it sounds, I not only pushed the boundaries of sex outside of love, but sex outside of the designated genders as well. A drunken kiss at a bar with a girl led to full on same-sex make out sessions. My first sexual encounter with a girl was with my roommate and her boyfriend, maybe it felt better having a buffer. Since then, it hasn’t been an issue. I have the unique ability to not really feel shame about my actions these days. I am a pro at just going with the flow. And sometimes the flow leads me into a woman’s pants.

Straight, gay, bi-sexual, bi-curious…labels, for what? Sexual preference? “Hi, my name is ‘Lesbian’, what’s yours?” Does it matter? What if some of us are just sexual? I envision myself, if I ever get there, married to a man in a brownstone apartment in Boston, but right now, I like to have sex, and sometimes I like to have sex with girls. I don’t feel the need to shout this from the mountaintops. “Coming out” has never crossed my mind because I don’t feel there is anywhere for me to come out of. Sex is sex…but I could legitimately date a girl and feel the same way. My parents may never know, but they don’t even know that I smoke, or when I’m dating a new guy. There are things they would not understand about my life because they are of a different generation, a different school of thought, and our relationship does not suffer because there are things I choose not to fight about. I choose not to have a label. I don’t need the bonds of camaraderie that come with sharing in a community of a certain sexual preference. I don’t feel the need to push my values on any other person by the automatic straight/gay debate that is necessary for some people. I am who I am, and I am happy with who that is. I do not feel oppressed or forced into any mold. My friends accept me for who I am and don’t care what gender I bring home from the bar. The ones who do judge me are not my friends and I feel no need to associate with them.

So what is in a label? Why do we feel the need to tack on extras to our name and validate our choices? Are we that uncomfortable just being who we are?

PS I liked this post a lot on a similar subject