Life

I saw him in a dream

What the FUCK is wrong with you?!!

His sheepish smile instantly transformed to injured horror.  “What do you want me to say? I can’t DO anything about it now.”

You could say you’re sorry.  

He made a choice, took a breath, and decided.  “You’re right. I’m sorry.”

And you could tell me I’m right.

“About what?”

You remember how we used to argue – err, discuss things – and I would tell you that you ought to be more sympathetic to people who seemed from the outside like they make bad choices?

“What does that have to do with anything?”

Seriously?  Where the fuck are you now?

“There’s no need to swear.”

Bullshit there isn’t.  And fuck you.

“Okay I can see you’re really angry – “

No shit, Sherlock.

“ – so I’ll come back another time.”

No!  Please – wait! Come back.  Please stay for a bit. Please. I’ve really missed you.

“Are you ready to be nice?”

…. Yes.  Maybe. I’ll try.  I’m really angry with you, you know?

“I can see that, yes.  But I can’t do anything about it now, and being mean to me isn’t helpful.”

(Silence.  Tears drop onto my cheeks.)

“So – what were you trying to say?  About sympathy? I don’t see what that has to do with me.”

Oh yes.  You always had zero sympathy for anyone who made less-than-perfect choices.  You seemed to be incapable of empathizing for anyone’s particular difficulties that were outside of your experience.  Even difficulties that you were witness to, you never empathized if your friend / acquaintance thought about their options differently than you would, or had different priorities, or pressures that you didn’t understand.  Particularly people who (insert meaningful glare here) take their own lives. Do you understand what I’m getting at now?

That’s what you wanted to talk about?”

Is there something wrong with talking about that?

“It’s just that I thought you would be happy to see me, so I made the effort to come see you.  You look well and I’m glad you are happy.”

(Crying)

I miss you.  We should have been friends for a long time.  You and your wife should have grown old together.  Did you think about her?! About how you left her alone?

“She didn’t want anything to do with me anymore.”

That’s bullshit and you know it.  She loves you more than you realize and misses you more than you know.

“No she doesn’t.”

Yes she fucking does –

“Language.”

Too fucking bad!  Yes she loves you, and she blames herself.  I called her last week and just listened for as long as I could spare while she worked on processing all this shit.  She. Misses. You. And. Feels. Like. Half. Her. Life. Is. GONE.

At this, he looks shocked, and on the verge of tears himself.

“… I had no idea …”

Of course you didn’t.  Because you have no empathy.  You know, that thing that I’ve been trying to get you to develop so that you can make the world around you a better place.  But you were resistant and dismissive, and now this particular character deficiency has come around and bitten you in the ass.  Your lack of empathy kept you blind to how much you matter to everyone else, and in your despair you did something that you can’t undo.  You fucked up big time.

“…. I … I … I don’t know what to say …”

You could go visit her next time, tell her you’re sorry, and just let her yell at you.  I would tell you that now you know for next time, but that’s a bit of a moot point now.

(He hangs his head.  I reach out.)

I miss you and I love you.  Yes I’m angry at you. I’ll be angry at you for a while, and she will be angry, too.  Please understand that we’ll forgive you eventually, but as I said – you fucked up and you’ll have to wait a while.

(He fades.  He’s gone. It feels empty.  I cry.)

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Ode to Busy Season 2018

With apologies to Walt Whitman

O vodka, my vodka! Our fearful trip is through
The car has rounded every bend, and gently carried you
At the thought of drinking you my step has extra bounce.
I open the trunk and reach for you to carry you into the house.

Mother-fucking piece of shit!
How I cursed my clumsy grip
The vodka tumbled downward
It did not survive the slip.

 

O vodka, my vodka! How can you not know
This week has been abominable; I desperately needed you so
For you I made a special trip out to the liquor store
For you I pined and dreamed (and rhymed!) and only wanted you more

I can’t believe it; it cannot be!
It’s really just my luck.
You leave me here without even a taste!
Fuckety-fuckety-fuck!

 

My vodka does not answer, all shattered on the ground
It does not recombobulate, my wailing now resounds
The car is parkèd in the drive, commencing its repose.
It’s too cold to go out again; besides the store is closed.

You all enjoy your evening
While I with mournful tread
Walk the ground my vodka lies
Fallen cold and dead.

How to write a dress code for boys

Have you seen this?  This completely unsurprising supposedly-directed-at-both-genders-yet-curiously-female-centric dress code for a prom at a *gasp* Catholic school?

Yeah.

The inevitable discussion is of course all about misogynistic body-policing vs. good and common sense, summarized with one word in the usual way: modesty.

Look, the school absolutely has the right to set the tone they want for the event.  So they want a formal, respectable prom where everyone is dressed with taste and elegance?  Good for them.  But why the single-minded focus on the women?  I assume there will be guys there, correct?  And there are expectations for gentlemanly dress and appearance, correct?

Oh, wait –

“Young men are expected to wear formal evening attire that would include a tuxedo, suit with a tie, or sport coat and slacks with a tie.”

That’s it?

Really?

But the women get pages – pages – of examples?!

“But Athena, there’s just so much more variety in women’s clothing – that’s why the women need the additional focus!  And there’s only so many pages because the school is just so generously providing examples so that there’s no confusion about what’s allowed!”

Yes, they are providing examples!  Good for them.  I have no doubt that those examples were provided in order to make it crystal clear to girls exactly how to follow the dress code.  But here’s the problem: all of those models are a size 2.  Further, prominently featured in the dress code are subjective statements such as, “Dresses should not be excessively tight,” and “Some girls may wear the same dress, but due to body types, one dress may be acceptable while the other is not,” and even a flat-out admission that “Modesty is admittedly a subjective interpretation.”  In short, there is zero guidance for curvier girls regarding the overall look that would be considered acceptable for their body type, which means that there is a lot of room for disagreement between school administration and a student making a good-faith attempt to comply.

“Really, Athena, this is really nothing different than a fashion magazine showing young adults what to wear to job interviews!”

Err … yes it is.  In particular, a guide for men’s interview clothing would discuss recommended color combinations, the proper fit of clothes, a provision that clothing should be wrinkle-free, and many other details that, in total, yield a professional, put-together look.

Speaking of detail, it’s time I get to the point of my post, which is –

How to write a dress code for formal dances without being sexist (i.e. in such a way that compliance for women and men is equally burdensome with roughly equivalent ratios of good sense and arbitrary rules)

For women

I don’t think anyone needs my help writing a dress code for women.  So let’s skip this part.

For men

  • Men are expected to wear formal evening attire that would include a tuxedo or a suit with a tie.
  • Jackets should hang off the shoulders in a dignified manner without being too big. Jackets must be worn at all times to preserve the dignity and formality of the event.  Jackets are allowed to be unbuttoned while dancing or seated but must be buttoned at all other times.
  • Vests are optional, but if worn must be color-coordinated with the tie and the rest of the outfit. Vests must remain buttoned at all times.
  • Ties are required. Ties may either be in the necktie or bowtie style and must be properly tied; clip-on ties are disallowed.  If a necktie style is chosen, the bottom of the tie must hang to between the top and the bottom of the belt buckle when standing up straight.  Neckties may be no more than 3” wide at the widest point, and bowties may be no more than 2” wide at the widest point.  Ties must be worn and properly tied at all times and may not be “loosened”.
  • Belts are required. Belt buckles may not be more than 2.5” in diameter and should not be ostentatious in appearance.  Belts should be color-coordinated with the rest of the outfit.
  • Pants should not be oversized nor excessively tight. Pants should hang to the ankle when standing.  Pants may touch the top of the shoes but should not touch the ground when standing up straight.
  • Dress socks and dress shoes are required. Athletic shoes and/or athletic socks are disallowed.  If you have a medical waiver allowing special footwear, you must bring your waiver with you to be allowed into the dance.

The overall look should be formal and tasteful, properly fitted, not oversized, and not excessively tight.  Men wearing wrinkled or improperly fitting clothing will not be allowed to attend.  Tastefulness is admittedly a subjective interpretation, but one which we have a duty to uphold.  Students should therefore err on the side of formality and good taste and not put school administrators in the difficult position of upholding school standards.

Guidelines will be strictly enforced.  Students, including guests, not in compliance with the dress code will not be admitted to the dance.  There will NOT be a loaner clothing option.  Having been specifically forewarned, we expect nothing less than full cooperation from students and their parents on this issue.


General notes

We understand that there is a degree of judgment in fulfilling the provisions for good taste and modesty.  We further understand that what is acceptable to one school official may not be acceptable to another.  Because we reserve the right to strictly enforce the guidelines, yet we want to minimize misunderstandings and disappointment inherent in strict enforcement of subjective guidelines, we are available to pre-approve your outfit.  From (date) to (date), text a picture of yourself in your proposed outfit to XXX-XXX-XXXX.  If you receive a response of “approved,” simply show the approval to anyone who challenges you the evening of prom.

If you are unable to attend for any reason, your ticket cost will be refunded to you.


 

There – see how easy that was?

Agnostic

Scene: Husband and I in the basement on our computers, each playing a game.

Me: *grumble*

Husband: What?

Me: Nothing.  It’s fine.

Husband: No really, what?

Me: *inwardly sigh and make the decision to let him feel like he’s helping* This game mechanic isn’t working, but it’s okay.  I’m just not going to worry about it, and I’ll try it again some other time.

Husband: Have you tried clicking it?

Me: Yes.

Husband: Have you tried reloading the user interface?

Me: …. Yes.

Husband: Have you looked up what else you’re supposed to do for it to work?

Me: Yes I have, and there’s nothing else.  It should be working but it’s not.  No reason why.

Husband: *irritated* Look, things don’t just not work without a reason.  So there’s not no reason, there is a reason.  You’re probably doing something wrong.

Me: *also irritated now* Yes I’m aware that there is a reason that exists somewhere in the bowels of the program.  I just don’t feel like spending my limited leisure time figuring it out.

Husband: Well if we don’t figure it out, we can’t fix it.  Here, let me try –

Me: *interrupting* Look, I don’t care.  I really don’t.  I’m aware that if I don’t investigate, I will never know.  And I’m okay with that.  See, while you are content to remain agnostic with regard to important things like the existence of God and the implications (or lack thereof) on the universe as a whole and your place in it, I am content to remain agnostic with regard to shit that doesn’t matter, like why this game mechanic doesn’t work.

Fin

To my esteemed employer

Greetings and salutations,

You’re dumb.

I just submitted my expense report for a work trip (this one), and it got kicked back to me.  Why?  I ran through everything I spent on the trip – flight, hotel, rental car, food, and I received the following response:

Lunch is not ordinarily a business expense.

Excuse me?  Yes of course lunch isn’t ordinarily a business expense.  Because I don’t buy lunch when I work in town.  That’s why I tried to run it through – because it was money I spent while out of town that I wouldn’t have spent otherwise.

If there is a valid business reason for this meal, please provide the reason and the attendees, in accordance with the expense policy.

Um – yes.  The business reason is that I’m a human being that needs calories from time to time in order to be productive throughout the day.  Sigh.  Who am I kidding?  I know better than to try that one.

But that’s only how the policy doesn’t work for me.  What you don’t realize is the completely obvious way the policy doesn’t work for you.  Hence my previous assessment of your intelligence.  See – now that I know I can’t get lunch reimbursed, I’m going to go back to the policy, take a look at the allowances for all the other meals, and get more food for those meals to make up for having no lunch.  Instead of a small breakfast, moderate lunch, and light dinner, I’m going to get a late breakfast and a large early dinner that I’ll eat half of in the early afternoon and the other half in the early evening.

Here’s about how my out-of-town meal expenses compare before I was aware of the no-lunch policy and afterward:

meal-comparison

You see?  I don’t want to be out the cost of lunch every day, so I changed my behavior.  And now you’re spending more money on my travel because of your policy designed to spend less money.

Good job, genius.

Kind regards,

Athena

How to get your very own TSA pat-down

Wear this.

img_20170215_195034

Yup – that’s what I wore to work today as I flew out of O’Hare to join one of my audit teams for a couple days.

It turns out that there is metallic thread in the shirt, and the airport body scanners don’t like it.  Because of that, I made it to second base this morning with a very nice TSA lady.

So!  Lesson to all of you – watch out for metallic thread in your clothing if you have to fly for business, lest your diabolical plans to go to work at your boring, run-of-the-mill job be foiled by the TSA.

If you don’t feel loved, it’s your fault

And a Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too!

I’ve seen a couple versions of this message over the years in various places, and I hate it.  It’s nothing but the typical behavior-policing misogyny that you see over and over again from conservative religious types.

To be clear, I believe in God – 100% convinced He exists and He loves us based on the various logical arguments, philosophical arguments, historical evidence, scientific evidence of various miracles, and the occasional clear-as-day perception of an overwhelming Presence from time to time.

But this type of post is not helpful.  At all.  If you’re convinced that God is real, the absolute WORST thing you can do is conjure up emotionally manipulative bullshit and slap God’s name on it. All you’re going to do with that is drive people away when they see it for the victim-blaming poison it is.  Off the top of my head, here are the most obvious toxic messages embedded in this very short article:

  1. Fun-loving personalities are “desperate” and “attention-seeking.”  Exhibit A: The stock photo used for this piece.  With their modest clothes, tasteful makeup, joyful smiles, moderate portions of wine, and no men anywhere in sight – what exactly are those girls doing that could possibly be offensive?  To anyone?  Also, some people are naturally more flamboyant and attract more attention than others, and guess what?  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  How about we not insult them with derogatory terms, mmkay?
  2. Reasonable expectations are “begging for attention and affection.”  Because we gals are just so needy, ya know?  How about we stop pretending that there’s something wrong with people who need attention and affection from their loved ones?  Yes I said people instead of women on purpose – because there are plenty of men who thrive on affection.
  3. If you experience completely normal feelings of loneliness, it’s your fault.  Because God loves you.  QED.  If that doesn’t work to make your feelings of loneliness magically vanish, it just means you need to be beaten over the head with the Catechism a few more times.  Hell, even the newly canonized St. Mother Teresa had some spiritual dry spells where she didn’t feel loved by God.  So where do you people get off telling normal, non-canonized people that there’s something wrong with them for feeling the exact same way?
  4. Your needs for human interaction (which you were created with) are irrelevant. When you make a friend or start a relationship, be sure to consult your crystal ball ahead of time so you know whether or not the relationship will work.  If it doesn’t yield a flat, emotion-free, passion-free courtship … err … I mean chaste of course … and end in marriage, it’s clearly your fault for “settling.”  Emotional and social needs are a thing, and it’s very damaging to pretend they aren’t real.
  5. You think you know what you want, but you don’t.  You need someone else to tell you what you really want because your feelings aren’t real.  Not directly stated in this piece, but strongly implied with the references to your suffering, your free will, your unwise decision to “settle.”  More explicitly stated by the female half of this couple, who in her pamphlet addressed to young women says, “You think you want sex, but you don’t; what you really want is love.”  It’s very damaging to create or encourage a dissonance between your intellect and your desires this way.

So what’s the answer?  I don’t have one, other than, “Sometimes life sucks and you can’t do anything about it.  I’m sorry.”  Once you confront the truth of this, you’ll have a better shot at where to go from there.

To my boss on my last day

 

I remember the day it first hit me that I had a stupid, silly, embarrassing schoolgirl crush on you.  I don’t remember exactly when it was, but I do remember thinking to myself, “What the fuck is wrong with me?”

After my last day working for you I came home and cried.  Once again, here I am thinking to myself, “What the fuck is wrong with me?”  And now we’ve come full circle.

“Well if you don’t want to leave, then don’t,” I hear you thinking.  Yes, yes, I know – no one is forcing me to leave.  When I really thought about what I know about you, I didn’t expect you to understand.  I wanted you to understand, because I care what you think of me.  I hoped you would understand, because we understand a lot of really random things about each other.  We think a lot alike, which is one thing that made our professional relationship really fun.  But you also have a ruthlessly self-interested streak, so you shut down long before you even started to see it from my perspective.

When I first told you I was leaving, you sat on it for a day and then came back to me – “Should we talk about this?”  I was not expecting that at all.  I don’t know if you realize how perilously close you came to changing my mind over the next two weeks.  Or maybe you do but you don’t care because I didn’t actually change my mind.

When I thought about how much I wanted to leave, I didn’t fully trust myself because I was afraid my irritation was blinding me to all the reasons I should stay.

But when I thought about how much I wanted to stay, I really didn’t trust myself because I was afraid my feelings were being influenced by how I felt about you.  Remember that stupid, schoolgirl crush I mentioned earlier?  Yeah, that was a real pain in the ass.

It was a lot to work through, which was hard enough, but the hardest part was working through it alone.  Sure, I had my husband and a few friends to talk to, but their perspective on accounting career issues is so limited.  The one person whose advice I really wanted was the person sitting across the table from me.  For obvious reasons, that was the one person whose advice I couldn’t have.

So, I figured if I can’t trust some of my feelings, then I really can’t trust any of them.  It had to come down to intellectual reasons only.  And that conclusion was unmistakable:  I had to go.  Oh, I fought it for a while.   A long while.  Not that you looked terribly closely(*) but I’m told the weight loss was fairly obvious.  That’s how hard I had to hit the gym just to stay sane while I was both getting my work done and accepting the inevitable.  I also lost a lot of hair because agonizing indecision is ever so much fun.

But the biggest thing I was afraid of?  Telling you.  I knew that it would be the end of our friendly professional relationship, and I really, really, really didn’t want that.  So the real reason I lost the weight and the hair?  You.

A year from now I’ll look back and laugh at myself, but the fact remains that today I feel like crap.  Thankfully I only have to keep myself distracted this weekend before I can throw myself into my new job on Monday – I expect to be overwhelmed, which will help more than anything.

I wish you nothing but the best.

I will never forget you.

(*) Which is more than fine, really.  Honestly, if you had said something, I would have wondered if I was in the office or out at a certain client-which-shall-not-be-named.  You know the one.


 

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

anigif_enhanced-13108-1448862653-2

Thanks for reading; I feel better now.

We will never speak of this again.

A Valentine’s Day love story

Or, more accurately, a meditation on my feelings.

I am in love with my coffee.

Mmmmmm .... oh yeah baby ....

Mmmmmm …. oh yeah baby ….

That first sip of dark-roast divine delight sets my tongue alight with flavor and heat.  I feel the warm glow slide down my throat and enliven my entire body.  I feel the invigoration of the caffeine flow through my veins as I reflexively flex my biceps – I can take on the world!  Or at least this audit.

copeco.com

Yeah! Go me!

The same excitement as kissing a naked lover with wet lips.  The same comfort as being curled up in a blanket with a spouse.

first love wattpad

Wait, what?!  That wasn’t what I wanted!  A little morbid, don’t you think?

true love mirror-of-my-soul

That’s more like it!

Happy Valentine’s Day!