the only acceptable wall is the London Wall

I am not sure what it says about the times we live in that even my ten year old associates the idea of a wall built to keep people out with our current presidential regime.  However, I doubt anything built by the government contractors salivating to get their modern-day Boss Tweed style contracts for the Mexican wall will last the two thousand years that the Roman built London wall has.

THAT is a WALL.  We visited the Museum of London today to explore the history of the people who built it, along with the other fifteen centuries of people who have lived and changed London.  It amazed me, the people who have come and gone and lived their lives here, each adding to and altering the city in their own ways.  This has been a process that seems to have accelerated in the last century, with mass communications and the amalgamation of the megalopolis, but the consistent ebb and flow of people in London, the shifts in trends and in the city government that alters how those people move and live in the city, it has changed and yet been consistent for all those millenia.  Roman London was likely a polyglot city, on a similar grid to modern London.  How many parallels do we have with our own history in these oldest of cities?

I’ve been here before, of course, in this city that reminds me so much of my own home.  Like all colonials coming back to the heart of Empire, it is culturally familiar to be here.  London is easy for me to exist in.  I could easily live here, even as an expat marked by my West Coast accent, because I understand the English culture, thanks to growing up in the British quadrant of a former colony.  I also now understand what it means to live in a massive global city, everything from moving in a crowded space to mastering a complicated subway system.  London feels like it could well be a home for me.

This is, however the first time I have brought my son, who is both very intrigued by London, and yet slightly dismissive of it in a way that only a citizen of another equally great city can be.

Ben has the extreme privilege of being able to compare London to New York, being able to compare the borough of Camden to his own of Brooklyn, our neighborhood of Hampstead and Belsize Park to Park Slope and Prospect Heights.  He can see the parallels between the great multicultural mosaics that both cities are, now, in the twenty-first century.  He can ride the Tube and admire that it is cleaner and more reliable than the NYC subway, but also note that New York has more people out and about on the streets at any given time.  Ben is a city child – all he knows is New York City – and so he is able to adapt to a city like London quickly and figure out how it works using parallels with his own home.  It’s a knowledge base and context I lacked when I first visited Europe, and a mental process that is interesting to watch.  Ben doesn’t have to adapt to being in a city in the first place; he just has to adapt to the specific place and culture of the city he’s in.

I had meant to write more about what we are actually doing while here, and even went so far as to take my Chromebook to the local laundrette to write while washing our filthy and stinky camp clothing, but got sidetracked into discussions on Brexit and Trump while there.  I blame the one glass of wine I had with dinner, as normally I wouldn’t decide polite arguing (it was quite respectful!) is more important than my own personal priority of writing.  I do not feel I gained from getting into a debate in a laundrette in London, because I do not need to learn more about opposing viewpoints: I know the opposing viewpoints and why the Left is still losing the critical thought arguments.  In this case though, I didn’t want to be rude and just shut down the conversation, which I feel is a uniquely female social obligation to be nice.  Which is a whole other blog post.  But due to that lost time, there will be no lengthy travelogue detailing our movements around London.  Yet.  It’s inevitable, of course, to post about our adventures here, but not tonight.

Instead, I leave you with the photo of my son on Hampstead Heath tonight, after he remarked “Mom, this looks so much like Prospect Park!  It looks like the Long Meadow,” and then went back to playing whatever stupid game he had on the Kindle and ignoring the scenery:

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You can take the city kid to another city, but you can’t make him give up Smashy Road.

i has a tween!

I find it exceptionally hard to believe two things:

  1. ten years have already gone by
  2. the 4’8″ 67lb creature that just tornadoed through the house in search of pants is the same entity who used to be this little angry meatloaf here:

Granted, we do actually have a photo record of him getting larger.

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Also, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t swapped out anywhere along the line because at this point, he literally looks like my face on Paul’s body.

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It is, however, slightly disturbing to think that I HAVE A TWEEN.  This creature is literally a tween.  He is ten.  He is his own person, although that person seems to be a class clown.

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Thankfully, these two awards (received yesterday, 6/18/18) balance each other out.

It’s a weird thing being a parent.  The best description I ever read of it was that it feels like your heart is walking around outside your body. This is my son.  This is the being who is the most important thing in the world to me, whom I would literally do anything I could to protect.  And here he is becoming his own person who is able to walk around in the world without any oversight or protection from me.  Worse, he’s becoming a totally different person all the time as he grows up and becomes whoever he truly is in there.

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Still.  I have a tween now, a boy who is halfway to being a man, a creature who will spend the second decade of his life building the foundation of the person he is meant to be.  My job is to support him as he becomes that person, and then boot him out into the world, because he is a terrible roomate (underwear everywhere, eats all the cereal, leaves dishes out).  It is strange to think that I have been doing that job without any formal training, because helping to create and then raise another human seems almost meta in its vast responsibility.  And yet, we have been doing that job, and we have, so far, produced a fairly decent human being.

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We have a tween.  Ten years ago, when they handed me my son in a bundle at Cedars-Sinai, I could not have imagined getting to this point.  I’m sure I’ll feel the same way when I look back at Mister Class Clown here from his junior year of college.

the post online argument shameover

shameover (n):

1. a feeling of regret and self-shaming that remains even after the cause of the event is forgotten by everyone but you
2. a feeling of regret and self-shaming that continues after a particularly shameful action

I am in the throes of #2 of a shameover from arguing on the Internet.  It isn’t the argument itself I’m ashamed of, but the sheer waste of time it represents.  It’s time I could be spending with my family, or time I could be practicing the piano, or time I could be doing my writing class homework.  It’s time I could use to clear out my work inbox or finish up some Scouting responsibilities (as District Commissioner and acting GSM for one group, the Scouting never stops) or just return personal emails.  There’s a dozen ways I could productively use time.  Arguing on the Internet is not one of them.

Duty Calls

Therefore, after two hours of generally wasted time arguing over the child migrant separation crisis, I have a shameover.  And it feels awful.  I feel like I do when I over-indulge in other ways.  I feel like I do when I carb binge, when my blood sugar spikes and I know it will eventually crash as well.  I feel like I do when I watch waste of time TV.  I feel like I do when I spend too much money, on impulse, on an item I do not particularly need and cannot return.  I feel like I do when I drink two glasses of wine too fast and know it will mess up my sleep.  I feel like I did last week when I trolled Trump supporters on the street. I feel like have cost myself something I cannot get back: in this case, time, energy, and a whole lot of adrenaline.

I consider it a waste of time to argue online, because  no argument online can be won anymore.  No one’s mind can be changed anymore.  No one wants to acknowledge logical points or even facts in an age when everything can be dismissed as “fake news”.  There was once a day when people would engage in civil, well thought out discourse on bulletin boards; now we all wallow in fallacies of online arguing.  There is no winning an argument or changing anyone’s mind online anymore; there is only being better at arguing and feeling better about being right.

The only saving grace of arguing online is that there are some cases where I learn something new.   Which I did, actually, tonight, from the original post that sparked the entire argument, which was moderately educational!   This Medium post similarly argues that arguing is a positive in that it helps one “bulletproof” one’s arguments.  Unfortunately, it’s almost always at a disproportionate amount of time and energy investment to argue for that knowledge.  Often, the knowledge I get from arguing online is information could have acquired elsewhere without paying such a high price in time, energy and effort, without arguing, without getting my blood pressure and my adrenaline up.  If I go poke around outside my own liberal bubble, I am pretty sure I can hear others’ points of view without having to waste time being polite and logical to random people I don’t even know who jump in the middle of an argument and decide to engage via deflecting and whataboutism.

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TRUE.  Because one person’s “FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE” is totally representative of thousands of other experiences and makes them an expert in the subject!

Why then, do I continue to waste time arguing online?  It inevitably results in me losing sleep, not over the argument itself, but over the guilt of the waste of time and energy from it (not to mention the adrenaline coursing through my veins from any argument).  I think it’s because there are two factors of appeal to online arguing for me: the need to hold people accountable for the social injustices they are supporting or failing to fight, and the need to be right.  On the one hand, I have always wanted to crusade for justice and against what I see as wrong, so having the entire Internet in which to do so is great for arguing for what I see as morally correct.  On the other hand, I just really like being smarter than everyone else and I will totally admit that.

Arguing online may hold a thin veneer of justification in that it allows one to try to use rhetoric to convince someone to do good.  Perhaps one will have the opportunity to impart knowledge and understanding to someone else.  Perhaps one will learn some critical piece of information or insight into the logic of the argument.  Perhaps one will learn a new way of looking at something, a new perspective that helps one understand the initial discussion topic better.  In some cases, when people share their perspectives with me, I’m actually grateful for the insight and knowledge.

However, ultimately, the knowledge that one cannot win an argument on the Internet means that if one is arguing, one is very likely arguing wholly due to ego.  It then requires a degree of mindfulness to recognize one’s ego as a primary motivator so one can pledge that one will not argue on the goddamn Internet and then have to write an entire blog post on why doing so is a bad idea before one can peacefully fall asleep.  Now, 900 words later, I feel like I’ve acquired some of that mindfulness – and I can go to bed.  Goodnight world!  Tomorrow is another day of being nicer on the Internet.

 

why dietland matters

Coming off of SaTC week, let’s focus on some very different television: Dietland.  Based on the 2015 book by Sarai Walker, this show tells the story of a “morbidly obese” woman, Alicia “Plum” Kettle, who has put her entire life on hold until she is no longer fat.  She denies herself more than just food: she denies herself feelings, love, sex, socializing, a career, her writing, baking, hopes and dreams.  Her life is limited to a few blocks of Brooklyn (HI PARK SLOPE!) except for days she goes in to her employer, a Hearst Media style publisher in Hudson Yards (which is where L’Oreal is based in reality), where she ghostwrites for a glamourously thin editor played by Juliana Marguiles.  By the third episode though, she’s realizing she isn’t denying herself life because she hates herself.  She’s denying herself life because the world hates her.

Show protagonist Joy Nash – in “normal” joyful clothes as herself, and as the self-denying trying-to-be-invisible Plum Kettle

So far the reviews have been mixed: the show is well written, well put together, and different than anything else on TV, but tries to cram in a lot.  The original material is almost hallucinatory in its surreality at times, so I suppose this shouldn’t be a surprise.  The problem is that the sheer density of the book has resulted in reviews which speak too much to the crowded nature of the show, and fail to notice that this is the first show to openly talk about two important topics.  The first of these is the way American society has, for years, taught women to enable and ignore poor behavior by men, while, at the same time, punishing and mocking women for behaving (or appearing, which seems to be considered a behavior in itself) in non-standard ways.  The second of these is the national addiction to antidepressants, and the impact of long term use and withdrawal.  Selling pharmaceuticals to one in four Americans is so lucrative than I’m genuinely shocked anyone called out that it might not be a good idea.

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First of all, I’m incredibly impressed that this show actually depicts and narrates the constant pressure women feel  in society to allow men to engage in the behavior that makes women feel bad, while simultaneously pressuring us to not engage in behavior that would make anyone else around us uncomfortable.  It is the first time I’ve seen a show on TV that portrays a fat woman being sexually harassed for no reason, and acknowledging that she is reluctant to speak up or clap back because g-d forbid she she should make it worse. Dietland actually takes this a bit further, and not only calls out men’s shitty behavior, but actually tries to show us all how to hold men accountable for it, without putting all the pressure to resist on the women who are the victims of said shitty behavior.  In last night’s episode, when a man harassed a woman in a convenience store, the other women in the bodega banded together to film and shame him.   We do not all have to torture and kill rapists as the shadowy “Jennifer” organization does, but as a society, we do need to call out men who harass women on the street or who slut-shame them in convenience stores.

This is one of the reasons why Dietland matters.  It shows men’s response to women who do not follow a socially acceptable code of conduct, which includes not only behavior, but appearance.   Society should hold men accountable for making choices to “grab women by the pussy”, rather than giggling and infantilizing those choices as “boys will be boys“.  And when a man bro’s out at the expense of a woman, making a comment on her weight or appearance for his own amusement (as a custodial worker does, mocking Plum to his buddy in an elevator), it is the responsibility of the other men to tell him he’s an ass.

The second reason this show matters is that it shows a protagonist going off anti-depressants and the consequences for doing so.  There are many voices of reason that remind Plum she was on doctor prescribed pills, that she should, at the least, wean off them rather than go cold turkey.  But antidepressant withdrawal is a BFD as we begin to discover that it is easy to reap initial benefits from medication, but difficult as hell to get back off said medication when it becomes ineffective.  No one really wants to talk about how awful it is to try to come off antidepressants, a consequence that is not well researched and on which patients are certainly not well educated when they start the medication in the first place.  It’s doubtful that I would have turned down antidepressants in 2005 had i known it would be such an awful experience to come off those drugs in 2018.  However, I was not prepared for how awful the withdrawal would be, nor was I really prepared to face the fact that the antidepressants hadn’t been working for years.  The NYT has been running a whole series on this recently, which is as much about the withdrawal as it is about the fact that no one is studying withdrawal.  To have a mainstream TV show address the idea of antidepressant withdrawal feels extremely timely as we start to investigate what the real long term effects of these medications are.

I do wish Dietland addressed the proven fact that antidepressants rarely remain effective for more than a few years.  In the book and TV adaptation, Plum is on Y, an antidepressant that seems to have successfully repressed her feelings ever since she began taking it to cope with rejection from a man she trusted with her feelings.  The show addresses the ready willingness with which we sacrifice joy to avoid despair, the way we are encouraged to embrace antidepressants out of emotional risk aversion.  It does not address the real challenge, which is that if an antidepressant is prescribed for real depression, we are very likely on borrowed time with it – and we must take ownership for hacking our own brains in anticipation of the day it no longer works.

So for these two threads alone – Dietland matters.  It’s got its clunky parts, and can be jarring and unfinished in places.  The reviews are not wrong in that it is trying to cram a lot of plot and theme into a single hour long episode.  However, I believe this is important TV.  The more we portray these issues in television, the more we address the way we, as a society, still choose gender inequality.  This show reminds us that as women, our inequality is constantly reinforced through the beauty and body image standards imposed on us, both by men and by ourselves. The more we show the methodology in which women are made lesser, the more we can find ways to make us equal.

 

 

 

happy 20th to impressionable women everywhere

Parts of the Internet this week have been celebrating Sex & The City: The 20th Anniversary, since the show debuted on June 6th 1998.  These articles and discussions seem to be based in one of 3 major streams of discussion:

  • The show is fantastically dated, in a way that makes it a time capsule of (white, middle-class) Manhattan at the turn of the 21st century.  It is from that parallel dimension of existence, modern life without the Internet or smartphones or even widespread email.
  • The show was both forward and backwards for its time.  Forward in its focus on female relationships and for its lack of judgement of pre-marital sex, backwards in that it only includes LGBTQ+ characters as caricatures and punchlines.

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#WokeCharlotte is the BEST 

(There is a good post up on Jezebel illustrating the blinding whiteness of the show, btw)

  • THE MEN ARE ALL GENUINELY AWFUL.  In hindsight, every single one is terrible.  Except Harry.  And Smith.  But it took the show until season six, five minutes before ending, to come up with these grown ass man characters who could be in genuine equal partnerships between a man and woman.  (Also, no one should be Team Big because I agree with the Dirtcast podcast that he is likely a Republican BUT THATS OK BECAUSE NONE OF THE GIRLS EVER VOTED LOL WTF)

The show, however, did apparently inspire an entire generation of women to move to New York City and live fabulous, SaTC type lives.  This mostly applies to women my age, women who were in our impressionable 20s when the show was at its height, who then went on to use it as a model of sophistication and worse, a model of potential for what life should look like in a big city.

I actually think the portrayal of New York City was limiting to what is possible here.  This city is a kaleidoscope of experiences, and is never the same two days in a row, a constantly shifting myriad of possible experiences and storylines told through the eyes of millions of people from thousands of cultural backgrounds.  If anything, Sex and the City had blinders on to the majority of experiences possible in the city, limited as they were to their stratum of society, their parties and galas and balls and weekends in the Hamptons and only the most two-dimensional of art.  It calls into question how one should define sophistication: should it be familiarity with a conventional white upper-class culture, or should it be the ability to know one’s city from multiple perspectives?

However, I didn’t pick up my drive to live in a big city from SaTC.  I’ve wanted to live in a big city since I realized there were big cities to live in.   What I did absorb was a lot of  modeling for heterosexual relationships with emotionally immature men.  This is fine when you are 24 and you are dating a Jack Berger type and you need a framework with which to understand what the hell his problem is.  This is not fine when you actually find the love of your life and find yourself actually afraid to express emotion because you have picked up too many bad lessons from a TV show.

It’s this latter point that worries me a bit about Sex and the City.  Are there other women my age who use the show’s storylines as one way to map out our experiences with males?  By creating characters for a dramedy, could Sex & the City have inadvertently have given us a set of male character references that we’ve internalized by mistake?  Did the show contribute to the normalization of emotional immaturity in men by providing us with those models at a vulnerable time in cultural history?

I do not hear my friends actively making statements like, “oh, he’s just being like Big” because a) they’re not idiots and b) that reference is two decades old.   Still, could the idea of Carrie and Big’s relationship dynamic, where he is an emotional man-child who sabotages all her other relationships to keep her attached to him, and she still ends up with him as a reward for his bad behavior – has that permeated our culture as acceptable?  Could the idea of these insecure men like Steve or Berger, men who couldn’t accept high earning women (and yes, I know Steve got over it) have entered our brains as an acceptable thing that we should just put up with and make excuses for?  Has SATC reinforced these behaviors as acceptable or did it just reflect our own inter-gender dynamics back to us?

I am afraid I can’t answer this through my own experience: I’ve been with my husband since I was twenty-seven, when the guys I was dating were also in their late 20s and early 30s, and were all still emotionally immature.  My knowledge of male behavior by men over the age of 30 is therefore limited to third-hand insight: pop culture, advice columns, and the tales of my friends.  Therefore, the idea of this kind of poor male behavior being normalized may be a pop-culture stereotype.  But as we begin to hold men accountable for their immaturity and entitlement , we have to re-evaluate what behavior women have normalized and internalized over the years as part of heteronormative dynamics – and SaTC may be one of the sources we have to question.

Still.  Happy birthday to Sex & The City, happy 20th to all of us for having the show, and all its modeling of women, their friendships, their sex-positivity and their ability to pursue vocational callings in the big city.   Even if their characters still couldn’t figure out how to use a smartphone (aaaaaaaargh) in 2009, we still should celebrate Miranda having a BlackBerry in 1999, buying her own apartment and being an unapologetic “Esq”. We should still celebrate Charlotte eventually recognizing that Harry’s love and devotion to her was something special.  And we should celebrate the merciful death of the movie series thanks to Kim Cattrall, whose Samantha was the best of the characters, not because of her sexual independence, but because she was a business owning badass who loved herself more.

For that, and for silly women everywhere, happy 20th.

 

 

where’s the revolution? (everything counts in large amounts)

Paul and I went to see Depeche Mode on Wednesday at the Barclays Center. And I think it may be our last time seeing what are purportedly one of my favorite bands

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I haven’t seen Depeche Mode for years – at least three years and three albums. Part of that is the expense, because when you go see a band that big, the venues are expensive, and the stadium/arena/ampitheater experience is just not that great to begin with.  Part of it, however, is the ever-present fear that one is going to go see a beloved band and it just won’t be the same.

I fell in love with Depeche Mode’s live shows on the 1999 Exciter tour, with the combination of sorrow inherent in the song material and the joy they took in performing. I went to see the 2005 Playing the Angel tour in L.A., and happily wrote a very long recap of the concert. And then we went to see the 2009 Sounds of the Universe tour at the Hollywood Bowl and it kind of felt…flat. Despite the venue, despite the band, it wasn’t the (reach out and touch) faith based experience I wanted.

The world is a terrible, shallow place, full of heartbreak and pain, misery and hopelessness, but there is still such perfect joy to be had in the music, in the singing, in the expression of those ideas. — from my 2005 “Playing the Angel” tour recap

And so I didn’t try a Depeche Mode show again until this tour. Although, to be sure I did get the best experience possible for this show, I bought floor tickets on fan club pre-sale, expensive even for Barclays, paid for with my unexpected March bonus. We skipped the opening act entirely, so we were settled in by the time the band came on, time we used to discuss the last few albums and why we just have not been able to get into them. I often wonder, is it me and my inherent laziness that is preventing me from getting into a beloved bands later albums? Or is it just that not everything a band puts out is something I am going to connect with? Is it fair for me to feel like Depeche Mode are “phoning it in” just because I’m not reacting to a “Going Backwards” the same visceral way I reacted to “Precious”?  Or is it just that these albums don’t have the same intensity that the past productions did?

And then we saw Depeche Mode spend two hours performing and trying to evoke some sort of emotion in their audience without feeling it themselves.  It should be no surprise that the emotional connection I expected never happened. I understand that Depeche Mode have been playing for almost forty years and can’t be expected to have the same connection with the music and the emotions and the audience that they had half a lifetime ago when I first saw them in Vancouver.  Still, Wednesday’s show felt too much like a performance, like a play performed by jaded actors who have been playing the same parts for too long, but who love the spotlight too much to stop performing.  The band, so joyful to share all of their cynical, depressing songs in the past, seemed to have no emotional connection with their own music.  I couldn’t pick up on either the despair that drives the songs, or the joy at sharing and performing that music I saw at past shows, and the absence of both made me sad.

I can’t blame the band.  It’s been thirty-seven years since Speak and Spell came out.  It’s been twenty-four since Ultra.  There is less time between the Erasure-and-Yaz Depeche Mode and the depressed, dark, drug hazed mid-90s band, than there is between Exciter and now.  It’s a lot of time.  These are humans.  They’ve lived a lot.  I understand that rationally, but I’m still irrationally disappointed to miss that emotional connection at a live show.  (I was also irrationally disappointed that Dave Gahan has chosen to grow a pencil moustache that makes him look like a goth rock Walt Disney but that’s another sidetrack.)

You can see my house from here: Dave Gahan’s video for “Cover Me” was shot in Venice, CA. When it played on the screens at the live show, I recognized my old neighborhood instantly.

The most telling example of where the band just couldn’t make the connection for me was in the back to back pairing of “Where’s the Revolution” with “Everything Counts”.  The former is Depeche Mode’s answer to the era of Brexit, Trump and populist overlords, a call back to the Beatles song with which they opened the show (The opening sound clip when the house lights went down was “You Say You Want A Revolution”, which was apparently a theme set-up)   “Everything Counts” is a song from the Thatcher years, and yet it speaks even better to our current era than it does to the 1980s capitalism it was written for.  As Dave Gahan asked, over and over, “where’s the revolution?”, in front of six-storey high images of marching feet and pumping fists, followed by the line, “come on people you’re letting me down,” I cringed.  Depeche Mode have never called for revolution, they have only, somewhat cynically, described a merciless system, a “competitive world”.  When they went into “Everything Counts”, that was the call for revolution, a relentlessly upbeat song about the evils of capitalism to remind us that the graph on the wall tells the story of it all (and the graph is very likely data from Cambridge Analytica).

Grabbing hands grab all they can, everything counts in large amounts

Depeche Mode have been a groundbreaking band for decades, not just because of the way they use their instruments, but because of the way they pushed synthpop into telling stories of the human condition and our desperate need for faith and love, our common conditions as humans.  They are unlikely global superstars, a mega-band that are emotionally and musically complicated enough inspire fierce devotion in their fans, yet are approachable enough to fill arenas on tour (Barclays especially was packed to the rafters).  Yet this tour, perhaps their own lyrics, from “A Pain That I’m Used To” on Angel say it best:  “I don’t need to believe all the dreams you conceive / You just need to achieve something that rings true”.   The Spirit tour just wasn’t something that rang true, and for that, while I still love Depeche Mode, this may not be a band that I see again live.

making work friends

This morning, I was skimming Facebook and saw that a group of women from my office had gone out for drinks last night to celebrate a former colleague’s.  My absence from this group is not particularly telling or indicative of anything to do with me or my value as a person, colleague or friend.  It is just a group of current co-workers who have been going out as a group for years, while I sit anti-socially at my desk.

In fact, my anti-social status at the office is so extreme that I am missing the company picnic today because I didn’t cross-reference my work and personal calendars before making plans for the school closure dates.  Therefore, I am hosting Ben’s friends for a day of “please entertain each other” activities instead of re-bonding with my own co-workers.   Part of this is because I’ve been offsite for the past year, and upon returning, instead of attempting to re-bond with colleagues, I decided to hide at my desk and pretend I don’t know anyone anymore.

My failure to prioritize this kind of in-office socializing is probably why I am rarely invited to events outside the office.  On a daily basis,  I make the choice not to get up from my desk and talk to people, which results in not being invited to events outside of the workday.  And for the past few years, I have prioritized my son’s birthday over the company picnic – and then this year, the one year I could have gone, I invited three of his buddies over to hang out instead of sending Ben to chess camp for the day, so I am now committed to staying home with a houseful of ten year olds.

It therefore should not be a surprise that I’m  not invited to office social gatherings, and yet, I’m still sad and disappointed when it happens and I see it posted about retroactively.  It’s just so hard to get over my fear of socializing at the office.  I worried for years that people didn’t like me, and only put up with me because they were obligated to engage with me, a fear everyone has but that I actually had reinforced in me twenty years ago by a co-worker who told me that was how she felt.  Now I not only worry people don’t like me, but also worry that the obligation to engage positively with me is higher since I am management and sometimes, I am someone’s direct or indirect boss.

This is not a surprising phenomenon to many people, I’m sure.  There’s mixed feelings on work friendships.  TV teaches us that it’s the norm to have a workplace social circle, but I  have never had that kind of extended work/social life.  I am friendly with co-workers, and often remain good friends with people after leaving a job, but it isn’t a regular occurrence to have that kind of interaction.  I do not believe this is abnormal, especially for people with children and/or other priorities outside the office, and the New York Times seems to emphasize that work friendships can be weird and inconsistent by running articles on a regular basis talking about issues that crops up in these strange hybrid relationships.

Is there a not-awkward, non-creepy way to make friends as a grown-up?

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It would be easy to be safe and just cocoon further into my loner, anti-social status, but that isn't what I want.  I know that my co-workers are people I would like spending time with if I wasn’t so anxious about it.  The problem is that added stress of thinking, “does this person like me or are they just putting up with me” kills most of the joy I would get from the encounter, and makes it difficult for me to reflect positively on the fact that this is a cool, smart, interesting person with their own perspective on the workplace we share and have in common.  It’s difficult to engage in a positive, meaningful conversation during a workday as it is – I’m always worried I’m  keeping someone from something more important – and then my fear of whether or not my presence is received the same way makes it even more difficult for me to engage in a verbal exchange that would add collateral to the friendship.

Therefore, I’ve  been hiding at my desk, nodding at people when I see them, smiling and saying hello, and praying I don’t have to actually engage because THAT IS HARD AND CAUSES FEAR.

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I empathize with this SO HARD.  It’s how I know Daria is really covering for insecurity!

I’m asking myself now, what can I actually do about this?  Do I have to come out and talk to people and put myself out there despite a crippling fear of rejection?  Do I have to make going to company events and happy hours more of a priority?  We’re moving to a new office soon, after all – can I make it a priority to talk to people there?  Can I engage more through the “Women in Leadership” initiative, making sure I show up for those events?  Would it help if i went into the office more days instead of working from home all the time?  What if I reached out more to co-workers, current and former, attempting to get to know them on a 1:1 basis and setting aside time to do so?

The answer to all of these things is yes, and the answer to everything is that I have to just work a little harder at engaging in meaningful social interactions, both in creating the opportunity to do so and in finding conversation to make that isn’t awkward when those opportunities come up.  That isn’t easy for me – I sometimes feel like I’m missing a critical part of the human personality, the part that puts people at ease and makes people feel comfortable with me, the part that makes me likeable.  That, however, is an insecurity for an entire other day.  For today, I need to go problem solve a way to get to that company picnic!