just call me raegen

STUPID, MEANINGLESS LIVES UNITE TO DISCUSS UNPOPULAR OPINIONS

Month: October, 2012

Boundaries, people!

This blog is written in honor of M, who, after reading last week’s blog, said something to the following effect:

“Haven’t you met anyone who just shares way too much?”

Yes, M. Yes, I have.

In fact, I haven’t just known that guy; I’ve been that guy. That Guy Who Shares the Wrong Things With the Wrong People. That Guy Who Knows No Boundaries.

Speedo-burn by kenichihoshine from flikr

This guy — well, metaphorically speaking, anyway. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not ashamed to admit that. We all come from somewhere. We all have things to learn in life.

I come from my family — more to the point, the Italian side of my family, which played a larger role in my life than the Polish side. And I don’t care what anyone says about the following being “stereotypical,” because the simple fact is that the Italian side of my family does know when daughter Sophia’s been robbed blind by her loser boyfriend, Aunt Contessa stops taking her “special pills,” and cousin Vinnie, conversely, takes a dump. Names and details have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent, but you get what I mean.

Italian nurses

Huzzah! Our yeast infections just cleared up! (Photo credit: timefornurses)

Now, this doesn’t mean I don’t have a loving family. I’m simply pointing out that some people are more comfortable with this level of information being shared with and known among a group than others, and that comfort level can change at any point in one’s life. I’m also asking you, dear readers, to keep these things in mind when you consider how a person becomes the person she or he becomes, because the company you keep — whether by blood or by choice — does affect you. It’s not a matter of blame but of illustrating the simple nature of existence: Patterns of learned behavior can go unquestioned for a long time — sometimes even for one’s entire life.

I’m actually surprised I didn’t learn the importance of boundaries, of privacy, much earlier in life. I’ve always been somewhat secretive by nature — sometimes with the right things, thankfully. But sometimes with the wrong things, too. And Lord knows I’ve trusted plenty of unsavory types who might’ve used my “secrets” to exploit me at many points along my life’s journey. In the end, the only way to keep a secret — in fact, the only way to actually have a secret, if you really think about it — is to tell no one, someone much smarter than me once said.

Invisible Ribbon

Can you find the secret? No? EXACTLY. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But I actually didn’t experience life-altering, smack-you-in-the-face-obvious betrayal — at least, not of this particular flavor — until I was in my 30s. Around that time, people I entrusted with a very personal secret used it — at least in part — to drag my name through the mud and otherwise make my life a living hell (as much as they could, anyway). And while yes, their behavior was their choice, I’d been stupid and I suppose desperate enough at the time to have confided in these goons, and I’m responsible for that — namely, not respecting my own boundaries properly.

Margaret Hamilton as the Witch in the 1939 fil...

The real-life wicked witch of the West is only slightly less green with jealousy, as it turns out. You have been warned. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s a part of this “boundaries” equation that’s always going to be tricky for me, though, even if I’ve flushed most (if not all) of the goonage out of my life: I happen to be a writer. More specifically, I’m the type of writer that believes perhaps one should do something useful with the things she’s learned in life and share them, in the hopes that those looking for a light in the darkness as I once was will find it. And I’m a huge fan of the quote by Anne Lamott that goes, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” If that tells you anything about me. And it should.

FAIL

Think this guy will come to regret this picture? Meh, probably not as much as Speedo guy once he figures out he’s gone viral. (Photo credit: Rob Boudon)

It’s a tricky balance, maintaining one’s personal boundaries while at the same time using one’s experience for the purpose of self-exploration as well as education. Boundaries as a writer are a whole other can of worms — if you’re the kind of writer I am, anyway. I think part of it is about control; if I decide to share something publicly through writing, that’s fine, but if I’ve entrusted someone else with that something as a secret and that person shares it, that’s uncool, mostly because I didn’t choose to make it public; that other person did. But over the past few years, I’d say it’s become clear to me that certain things in everyone’s lives really should probably remain private. Some of these may have been obvious to you, but again, just keep in mind that where you’ve come from is different from where I’ve come from.

Here are just a couple of those “certain things” most hope you (and me) would just keep to yourself:

1. You sex life. There are very few people who should ever know anything about it. Period. Or maybe exclamation point. Part of the problem is, women grow up watching asinine programs like Sex and the City — oh, yeah, bwotches, I went there! — and think this type of information sharing is key to female bonding. And guys grow up thinking talking about women like pieces of meat is somehow key to male bonding. Let me tell you what it is actually key for: making those who engage in this sort of behavior look like ignorant, inconsiderate morons. I’m not saying people shouldn’t talk about abuse, curing sexually transmitted diseases or contraception. I’m saying keep the sexcapades where they happened. If people wouldn’t tell their friends about their conquests if said conquests were present, that’s a pretty good indicator that they shouldn’t be speaking about it. And if those conquests wouldn’t care if this sort of information was shared or were even there when it was shared, those sad people clearly haven’t figured out proper boundaries, either (not to mention self-respect — but if they had that, they wouldn’t be sleeping with the likes of Herpes McSyphilis, now, would they?).

Sex and the City 2

Burn this DVD. You’ll feel better. I will, too. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2. You’d be better off keeping your finances to yourself. Let me tell you from experience that there are few things worse than confiding in someone that you got some kind of raise, bonus, severance, inheritance, whatever, and not even a week later, that same person asks you for money. (That was an awkward conversation.)

There are more, of course — and most would point to religion, politics, health issues, and even sexual orientation as being some of them, though I’d disagree to varying extents — but the most important point here is to know your own personal boundaries. Think of it this way: If the thought of your worst enemy knowing what you’re about to tell Sally in Accounting makes you uncomfortable, don’t tell Sally, because you never know when she might become your worst enemy. It happened here, folks. (Again, names and details have been changed to protect the, well, in this case, not-at-all-innocent.)

English: Picture of a water cooler with a litt...

This water cooler may look innocent enough, but do not be fooled: It’s the Antichrist’s accomplice. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The one thing I can be grateful for with respect to my 30s’ eye-opener is that I was already growing conscious of the fact that I was feeling uncomfortable with certain information being in the hands of others in general, some more specifically. What was I doing that raised my awareness and led me to make some different life choices — choices that went against the behavior I’d grown up around and subsequently imitating in my earlier years?

Until my memoir is finished, my friends, that part of the story must remain a secret. 😉

Communication Is Key

Yesterday, a coworker asked me a question about the trade show I’d attended the day before. After I answered, we got to talking about clients, issues we’ve come across in dealing with them, and strategies for improving our chances of success with them in our respective capacities.

By the time she left my office, I realized two things: 1) I’d only ever done something like that with this office’s sales staff with one other salesperson who’d left long ago, but who understood the importance of this kind of interdepartmental communication, and 2) how important this kind of communication — well, communication in general, too — actually is.

Let's Talk Mobile Couch.

Can’t you see I’m busy doing some male bonding here? (Photo credit: LexnGer)

Lately I’ve been hearing complaints from various people in my life — both professionally and personally — about feeling confused, slighted, uninformed, ignored, misunderstood, etc. These are all problems resulting from a lack of communication… or a lack of effective communication, but let’s just call that “communication,” too, for the purpose of this blog, because ineffective communication isn’t really communication when you think about it anyway.

For example, when you call someone a butt clown instead of telling them why you’re upset, you’re not communicating anything to that person besides the fact that you’re immature and, like an infant, can’t really express your needs outside of throwing a fit.

(“But, Raegen, haven’t you called people butt clowns on here before?”

“Why, yes, yes, I have. But that’s different.”

“Why?”

“Because I also tell them why I’m upset.”

“It still seems kind of hypocritical, though…”

“Just shut up, butt clown! You’re ruining my point here!”)

Bush Responds To Allegations of Temper Tantrums

Waaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!! (Photo credit: taisau)

The weirdest part of all of the complaints I’ve been hearing lately is that people know exactly what’s bothering them — so they’re clearly not having a problem communicating that. What is the problem, then? They’re not communicating with the right person.

It’s not going to do you any good to tell all your coworkers, for example, that you feel out of the loop and worry that it’s affecting your abilities to do your job if it’s your boss that holds and disseminates all the information you need.

It’s not going to do you any good to tell your family that you feel slighted by one of your best friends who for whatever reason didn’t send you a holiday card this year.

And your buddies are not going to solve your problems in the bedroom. But your doctor might. Your shrink might. Your partner might.

English: G-Spot Vibrator

This might. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As far as I can tell, people have one of three reasons for not communicating with the right person who can help them solve the problem:

1) There is a belief that communicating will in some way damage the other person’s feelings beyond repair.

2) There is a belief that communicating won’t change anything anyway, so why bother.

3) People are chicken s***.

I’m now going to make the argument that Nos. 1 and 2 are really just thinly disguised No. 3s that aren’t fooling anyone.

LOST Auction - Mr Cluck's chicken costume

Although… did you know most of the time, it’s women in these costumes? (Photo credit: Pop Culture Geek)

While, yes, some things we say can be hurtful, no one participating in common society is so fragile that they’re beyond repair. And most of the time, the hurtful things are things being said deliberately to be hurtful, as opposed to being hurtful in and of themselves. In other words, there’s a right way and a wrong way to phrase the same thing, and people who say hurtful things are typically choosing the hurtful version.

People are smart enough to know there’s a right and wrong way to respond to most things. For example, if you ask me if you look fat in those jeans, I’m smart enough to know you’re already feeling a little insecure to begin with, and I can either be a friend to you or exploit that. One right way to respond (take notes, gentlemen) is, “I think these other ones are more flattering.” One deliberately hurtful way to respond is, “It might be time for you to start that diet again.”

There is this sort of Hollywood version of communication that leads us to believe that every time we communicate — if we’re doing it effectively — rainbows should shoot across the sky, unicorns will appear and begin prancing around doing a little happy dance for us, and the other person not only suddenly — after all this time — gets us, but the change we hoped for occurs in perfect synchronicity, and we ride off into a fairy-tale sunset ending (perhaps on those aforementioned unicorns) together.

This was just too brilliant to pass up.

But that’s why it’s called Hollywood, people; this is not how it works in real life. In real life, if you’ve communicated effectively with the right person in a way that could elicit change, here are just some of the things that could happen:

1) The other person, who was previously calm, expresses a new emotion. This could include joy. This could also include anger. It really doesn’t matter. If you’ve really gotten through to someone, you’ve made that person think, and that elicits an emotional response. That emotional response is a sign of progress. But it also inspires fear in the heart of men (and women — you know what I mean).

Cue “Goodbye Horses.”

2) The other person could — and likely will — respond verbally to what you’ve said. This could include, “Thank you! This was really bugging me, too, and I’m glad you brought it up.” This could include, “How can we improve this situation?” But this could include, “You know, it bothers you when I do X, but I find myself doing X when you do Y.” This also could include, “I’m not sure we should be friends/lovers/etc. anymore.” And people are typically afraid of loss and even change, even if deep down, they really want change and know change must occur.

3) Most importantly, though — and no matter what the outcome — you will finally know you had the courage to tell someone how you felt. This is the part people really don’t think about much — or if they do, thought doesn’t equate to value, but it darn well should. If you have the gonads to tell someone what’s on your mind for the purpose of improving that relationship and, bottom line, your life, no matter what happens after — no matter if that person disrespects you by calling you a butt clown, then walks out the door, or not — you can and should still be able to respect yourself.

But if you spend the rest of your life in a cage of fear, no one — not you, the person you have a problem with, nor all the outside parties you confided in about the issue — will be able to respect you.

“I refuse to live in a cage of fear.”

Oh, yeah, there is one other reason a person might have for not communicating with the right person: You just plain don’t care enough. I’ve reached that point with people who’ve come and gone in my life hundreds of times over. And this is fine. Some people come into your life only for a season, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But in this case, don’t waste anyone’s time. Save all your breath, don’t complain to anyone, and just let nature take its course.

But if you’re planning to continue having any sort of functional relationship with another person, you have to be willing to communicate with that person. It’s part of change. It’s part of being an adult. It’s part of life.

Madonna said it best: Express yourself. (Crotch-grabbing optional.)

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Best Chocolate Ever: Part 1

My friends, it’s been one of those weeks. You know, the kind that tests one’s very will to go on in this pig anus of a world. The kind that, simply put, suck.

And whenever I find myself dwelling on such a week, I know there is always one thing that can cheer me up.

That is my fond recollections of chocolates past.

Molten chocolate

This is actually a pool of my chocolaty tears of joy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Suddenly, life seems worth living again.

I may be hypoglycemic now, but hey, I worked diligently throughout the years testing many a chocolate treat to become so. So when I tell you what’s good, you best be believin’ it.

While I am a chocolate elitist, I am also going to include some down-home and even downright commercial offerings to round out the list and make you feel less sad about the fact that you will likely never be able to try some of the deliciousness that has graced my digestive tract. You may even want to try to make me jealous by listing delicious chocolately goodness that is out of my reach; it could inspire me to visit otherwise utterly worthless places like, say, Alabama, which I would otherwise avoid like a proctologist. (And yes, I am implying that I would visit a place for the sole purpose of tasting a unrivaled chocolate dessert.)

Chocolate Mousse — When one thinks of decadent chocolate desserts, I think the first thing that springs to mind is this gift from our pals en France. Oddly enough, I never actually had this en France — which, now that I’m thinking about it, makes me wonder what the hell I was thinking. (Oh, yeah, that’s right — pastries every damn day!)

Pastries!

Delicieux! (Photo credit: billadler)

The best chocolate mousse I ever had was at a place on Melrose in L.A. called Caffe Luna, a little Italian joint that closed several years back. That mousse was out of this world, and I’m sad to say I’ve never been able to find or make its equal.

However, there’s a restaurant in Tucson, AZ, called Cafe Poca Cosa that has a Mexican chocolate mousse — which essentially means they’ve added some cinnamon to it. I suspect, though, that their cinnamon might be magical, because that mousse is delicious.

Chocolate and cinnamon as part of the Uruguaya...

Chocolate + cinnamon = heaven (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chocolate Sour Cream Cookies — “What are these?” you may be wondering — to which I reply, “Delectable clouds of chocolate.” Not meringues — thank the lord — these cookies are hands-down the moistest (I know, I hate the word, too, but what can you do?) and best “homemade” chocolate cookies I’ve ever had. Too bad I haven’t had them in years, since the recipe I tried was an epic fail, and even the one I had my baker friend attempt didn’t come close to the original. Plus, I no longer live in BG, OH, where I used to get them. Not to mention the fact that the place that makes them there, The Cookie Jar, rotates their menu monthly, making these tasty treasures available at most a mere 12 times each year.

Cookie Monster

Like the big blue guy said, C is for cookie — that’s good enough for me! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hot Chocolate — In high school, nothing could beat Cuppucino’s hot chocolate, which was literally a melted bar of chocolate in milk. You could stir it and see the chocolate swim up from the bottom like happy little sugary fishies just waiting to swim around in my tummy pond. And then, Ike’s took over. And Ike blows.

I was a woman lost at sea — a sea of subpar cocoa alternatives.

When I met Starbucks’ Chantico several years later, I was still guarded. Was I really ready to try to love a hot chocolate again? But with 40 g of sugar in a single 6-oz cup, seriously, how could I not fall for this short, dark and handsome suitor?

Chantico

Where you from, you sexy thang? (Photo credit: niallkennedy; lyric credit: Hot Chocolate)

And then, God smote me again, and the chain stopped offering it for reasons I still feel are completely insane. I’m the only one who likes it just as it is? Other people are stupid. (Not you, though. I meant other other people… Well, now this is awkward…)

I swore I wouldn’t be hurt by another hot chocolate lovin’ and leavin’ again. I found other things to fill my hot chocolaty void. But then, years later, I entered a Vosges in Chicago. “I’ll just try La Parisienne, just this once,” I said. And there I found myself on the roller coaster of hot, liquidy cocoa love once again.

Hot chocolate

It’s so good once it hits your lips. TWSS. (Photo credit: Bernt Rostad)

Cold Chocolate — But let’s not be mistaken here. There’s nothing like a cold, refreshing chocolate drink during a Vegas scorcher. And if you’re not going the ice cream route, there’s only one reasonable choice you can make in this circumstance: Get thee to a Godiva! I’ve gotten a couple of friends hooked on the Dark Chocolate Decadence, and I have no regrets. And neither do they. Well, except that one time T and I strayed from the formula and ordered the Milk Chocolate Decadence. “Where’s the decadence,” the despondent T said to me after her first sip. Naturally, I had to find out the truth for myself, so I took a sip. Where is the decadence, indeed.

商店GODIVA Chocolatier@九龍灣德福廣場

Typically, it is here, but you must choose wisely. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chocolate Cake — Now that I’ve made you all sad that you can’t access at least three of these desserts, I’m going to throw you a bone and tell you where the best chain-restaurant chocolate cakes are at. Perhaps not surprisingly, these cakes far exceed the quality of any meal you might order at either of these places, but neither of these places is one where you’d think, “You know, I should really try the chocolate cake.” In fact, who eats chocolate cake after Chinese food? I’ll tell you who: this guy right here. Why? Because P.F. Chang’s Great Wall of Chocolate is actually pretty amazing. You got to get it heated with the raspberry sauce, though. Don’t be a punk and corrupt it by asking for it some other way, now; I may be far away, but I’m not far enough away to high-five your face.

If it doesn’t look like this, something is terribly wrong. (Photo credit: http://www.pfchangs.com.ph)

And after loading up on pasta, who in their right mind thinks, “You know what I need right now? More carbs!” Well, I never said I was in my right mind. I only said I wouldn’t lead you astray when it came to chocolate. And neither will Macaroni Grill’s Homemade Chocolate Cake. Just make sure you get plenty of ganache. That’s where it’s at. And by “it,” I mean your impending — yet delightful — diabetic coma.

Speaking of, at this point in my life, I can only have a couple bites or sips of any of these most beloved treasures of mine, so it’s probably for the best that I’m so far away from so many of them. But if you happen to be near them, indulge on my behalf!

However, since I have to wait to be reunited with my preciouses once again, I’m going to have to make you wait for the many more chocolate wonders of the world I have to tell you about. We’re talking truffles, folks. Gelato, too. Just you wait and see…