Monday, August 26, 2013

Act Like an Adult

At a wedding I attended a few years ago, a female friend of my parents turned to me as soon as the ceremony ended and asked, "So, when are you going to get married?"

The kid in me wanted to say, "I don't know. When are you going to get your mustache waxed?"

But as an adult, I said something vague, like, "I just haven't met the right guy yet."

Even though I'm thirty-two, I don't always feel like an adult. Maybe it's because I still carry a bookbag instead of a briefcase. Actually, when I first started teaching, I bought a briefcase, but it was hard to carry it because of all the heavy textbooks I used in my classes.

Maybe it's because I'm still buying school supplies, like notebooks, pens, and candy to throw at the loud students in the library.

I have long hair, and it grows pretty fast. So I have to get it cut every six weeks. But I haven't gotten a haircut in three months because I spent the money at Starbucks. 

My iPod playlist also resembles that of a teenage girl, because it includes songs by Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, and One Direction. What? Their songs are catchy and fun to work out to! Have you ever tried to work out to classical music? I'd probably fall asleep on the treadmill!

Side note: Please don't stop following my blog because of my taste in music. I'd promise to never post a video by one of my favorite musicians, but then I'd just be lying.

Even though I'm thirty-two, I still don't know how to put on makeup. Every time I go to Macy's, I try to get up the courage to approach one of those cosmetics salespeople and ask them for tips. But they all look so polished and fashionable that I end up walking right past them every time. I tried watching a few of those Youtube videos on how to apply makeup, but I got depressed because the girls in those videos all had better hair than mine.

Every time I go to a cafe, there are always at least two or three people who think that their laptop bags need their own separate table. As an adult, I either ask them politely to move their bags so that I can sit down, or I find another table. But the kid in me wants to fling their bags across the cafe and yell, "How do you like me NOW?"

When I walk around outside, I can't help admiring the pretty dresses and high heels that women my age wear. I keep thinking that I should stop wearing jeans, T-shirts, and sneakers all the time and dress like a woman in her thirties. Maybe then when I go to the nail salon and ask for a pedicure, the ladies won't stop and ask, "Wait, are you over eighteen?" I do dress up when I teach, but that still doesn't stop some of the students from saying on the first day of class, "Wait, are you the teacher? We thought you were one of us." (On the other hand, I think that once I get older, I'll want people to think I'm younger.)

I've been watching a lot of Youtube videos where people show off the ways that they decorated their homes; my favorites are the ones posted by House and Home and Spaces. Even though I've lived in my own apartment for more than ten years, I still have pictures up on the wall that I decorated my high school locker with. (But at least I finally threw away those Backstreet Boys posters.)

Being an adult is sometimes more difficult than I thought it would be when I was younger. It means that if I mess up, I have to take responsibility for it. It means that if someone hurts my feelings (like when my dissertation committee tears apart my drafts, which is what I'm afraid is going to happen when they read my latest draft), I can't hide in bed and cry; I have to let it go and move on. It means that I can't always do whatever I want, because I'll have to deal with the consequences.

On the other hand, I do like some of the perks of adulthood. I like that I don't have to eat my vegetables unless I want to. I like that I can stay out as late as I want (even though I usually fall asleep before midnight). I like that I don't have to hide my copies of Cosmopolitan anymore (my father still tries to make me cover my eyes every time there's a kissing scene on TV). I like that I can live on my own, pay my own bills, and make my own decisions.

Also, even though some of my students initially think that I'm younger, once they start missing class regularly, sleeping or texting during lectures, or making up excuses for why their work was turned in late (or not at all), I definitely feel old.

What about you? What do you like/dislike about adulthood? What makes you feel like you're still a kid? What makes you wish that you were still a kid? 

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Problem with Flirting

My membership expired a couple days ago. I decided not to renew it, especially because I've begun to think of this online dating site as "Middle-Aged Men and the Young Women They Lust After" and "Men Who Want Girls Who Don't Eat". (I just read a profile where the guy wrote, "I'm looking for a girl who's in shape, not a girl who's a shape." I mean, really?)

I'm disappointed and embarrassed that I only got to go on one date this time around. It made me think that maybe there was something wrong with me, or that maybe I was just very unattractive.

On the other hand, I haven't really e-mailed anyone in a couple of weeks; I don't feel as hopeful about it as I did when I first signed up. I also haven't logged on to plentyoffish in more than a month, partly because under "occupation", one guy wrote "Hi people"; b) I am apparently very appealing to men with multiple children and ex-wives; c) more than one guy wrote in his profile that he wanted to give his dates lots of massages (and I don't even like to hold hands!).

When I went to cancel my membership, I received an offer: "3 months for the price of 1". Despite my failure with both match and plentyoffish, I thought about joining, which is one of the few dating sites I haven't tried. But on the other hand, I would have to pay almost three times the amount that was offering me for the same amount of time on zoosk. I could have tried eharmony again, but it would have cost more than a hundred dollars to see a bunch of profiles with no pictures. (I'm not completely superficial, but I do want to see at least one picture of the guy before the date. I just want to Google him to make sure he's not on America's Most Wanted. Just kidding. Sort of.)

I also could have tried okcupid again, which is free, but I was afraid I'd get more e-mails from married guys (whose wives were also on the site) or from guys who insulted me because I didn't want to hook up with them...and their friends.

I always thought that I'd meet someone the old-fashioned way, by chance when I was out pursuing my own interests, working, or just running errands. But my interests include going to neighborhood festivals like Northalsted Market Days, which is in Lakeview (otherwise known as Boystown). I think of that festival as "The day that I walk around eating funnel cake while staring wistfully at all the muscular gay guys dancing in colorful underwear." (And they're all so friendly, polite, and nice, darn it!)

The chances of my meeting someone at work are fairly slim, since I'm an English teacher and a grad student. Most of the other grad students and teachers are a) female; b) in a relationship; c) gay; d) single, male, straight, and only have eyes for women like Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, or Mary Shelley.

Even though a lot of the guys on claim that they're tired of the bar scene, I know that most of the guys are actually at the bars and clubs. But seeing as how I don't drink alcohol and most of my friends are too busy changing diapers or working sixty-hour weeks to go clubbing, I don't get to go to those places very often. Anyway, every time I do go to a bar, I keep yelling, "WHAT?" the whole time. I also keep thinking, I could order two twelve-packs of Coke for the price of this one cocktail.

Every once in a blue moon, a cute guy does flirt with me, but seeing as how I literally am a nonflirt, I'm usually clueless and oblivious when it happens. For example, when I went to another festival, I bought a chocolate covered strawberry. The guy who sold it to me said, "I'm going to give you one of the big ones, because you're cute." I merely said, "Thanks," because what I was really interested in was the strawberry.

When I went to one of the cafes where I'm a regular, one of the male baristas kept complimenting me and trying to chat me up. But I was too focused on the manuscript I was working on, the coffee I was drinking, and the person who loved Justin Bieber so much that she blasted it from her iPhone (I thought about pouring my coffee on her iPhone, but that would have been a waste of coffee.)

I usually don't even realize that a guy is flirting with me (or in one case, that a guy just asked me out) until he's given up and walked away. Partly it's because I get harassed by random creepy guys on the street on a regular basis. I've learned to keep my head down, my eyes averted, and my mouth shut. So when a cute and friendly guy tries to strike up a conversation with me, I immediately clam up. On the other hand, it's also because I really am very shy and don't know how to react, because I automatically think that he's only talking to me because he's a) drunk; b) trying to make his ex-girlfriend jealous; c) trying to convince me to join his cult. (And yes, all three things have happened before.)

When I'm online, it's easier. You have to be more straightforward online, by sending a "wink" or an e-mail (I always send e-mails). It's much easier to say hi to a cute guy online than to just walk up to one in person. You can figure out what you want to say beforehand and rewrite it if it doesn't sound right, unlike in real life. If someone you don't like tries to contact you, all you have to do is block him.

So I decided to renew my membership with for three more months. I'm also thinking of going to one of's singles events, such as one of their speed-dating parties. If that doesn't work, then maybe I'll try zoosk, or maybe I'll rejoin okcupid. I want to keep trying, at least for now. But if online dating really doesn't work out (I can't keep doing it forever, or rather, I can't keep reading profiles written by arrogant, age-obsessed jerks for that much longer), then I'm going to have to turn off my computer and venture out into the "real world" to meet someone, rather than wait until we've exchanged several e-mails before we meet in person.

What do you think? Is it easier for you to meet people (whether it's significant others or friends) online or in person?

Monday, August 12, 2013

What I Hope for

1. The day that I can open a magazine, read a newspaper, or turn on the TV and not read or hear a single word about the royal family. Seriously, I thought that the Americans declared their independence from the British more than two hundred years ago. So why are we so concerned with every move that William and Kate make? (No offense to the British or the royal family, though.) But unless the new royal baby turns out to be the real-life version of Harry Potter or James Bond, I don't really see what the big deal is.

2. Meeting a great guy who loves coffee, TV crime dramas, and judging annoying people as much as I do. It'd also be perfect if he DOESN'T want to date a girl who's young enough to be his daughter or his granddaughter. What is WRONG with these old guys? And what is it about me that makes me so appealing to seventy-year-old men?

3. Finishing my dissertation and then tossing it in the air like Mary Tyler Moore did with her hat in her TV show, or possibly setting it on fire because by the time I finish it I won't even want to look at the cursed thing anymore.

4. Completing my PhD and being done with grad school, so that I won't have to listen to the other grad students brag about their academic publications and conference presentations. Then I can go teach at a different school and listen to the other professors brag about their academic publications and conference presentations.

5. Finding out that those rate your professor websites where students bash their teachers online because they are angry about getting B-pluses or for being penalized for missing class twelve times in a row have shut down and can never be restarted.

6. Writing and publishing novels that people can relate to and that make them laugh out loud.

7. A life where I don't have to work two or three jobs at the same time just so that I'll have enough money to pay rent and buy staples, like milk and M&Ms. (I am and always will be a workaholic, but even I need some time off to relax, watch crime dramas, and track down the loser neighbor who's been stealing my magazines so that I can give her number to every telemarketer in the country.)

8. A family of my own, where I can be the mother to one or two little neurotic workaholics, who also obsess over the people who cut in front of them in line.

9. The time and the money to go to other countries, like Spain, England, and Ireland, so that I can visit the places where my favorite authors grew up, traveled to, and wrote.

10. Students who will never EVER complain about their grades, who will ALWAYS show up on time, who will never miss class, and who will come up to me one day and say, "You're right. Cell phones suck! I'm going to get rid of my cell phone and use all the money that I would've spent on my cell phone bill and apps to buy books. I'm also going to stop watching reality shows so that they'll all be cancelled. Then we will never have to see drunken hookups, catfights between people who are allegedly adults, or fake crying ever again."

Here's hoping....

What about you? What kinds of things do you hope for, or what kinds of things do you look forward to?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Savoring Summer

When I was younger, I liked those back to school commercials that advertised school supplies. I loved picking out brand new notebooks and pens for the classes I was going to take. But now that I'm a teacher, I don't feel that same sense of excitement when I see those commercials.

Don't get me wrong. I love teaching. Being in the classroom and interacting with the students are the best parts of teaching. Sometimes, students come up to me and tell me they loved one of the authors we studied so much that they started reading other books by that author on their own. That makes me feel like I just found out that I am the sole heir to the Coca-Cola Company. When I see the improvement in their writing over the course of the term, I get a great sense of satisfaction in knowing that they've learned something from me. When students get excited about what they're writing, it makes me feel happy and proud.

But on the other hand, I can't help dreading the prospect of grading dozens of papers on the same topic. I think of the students who not only complain about their grades but demand that I change them. I feel angry when I think of their parents, who send me nasty e-mails, ordering me to change their children's grades or not penalize them for being absent several weeks in a row (yes, this has happened several times. It bothers me that they want to be treated like adults but then run to their parents to fix their problems for them.).

One of these days I'm going to invent a device that will make all the students' cell phones automatically shut down as soon as they enter my classroom, so that they'll never text in my class again. (Of course, the students will react by shrieking, "I've just lost the love of my life! What am I going to DO?") I get stressed out when I think of all the excuses I'm going to hear from students who miss class again and again and again but still expect (or demand) A's.

I also think of my dissertation committee rejecting or tearing apart the chapter I've been working on. I've done so much writing and research that sometimes when I read fellow bloggers' posts, I automatically think, Wait. Where are all the footnotes? I'm afraid that my committee will tell me that what I've written is still not good enough and that I'm not smart enough to be in grad school.

Even though I have been studying and working all summer, for the first time in a long time I've given myself a chance to enjoy myself as well. (I was going to say that I've given myself a chance to "relax", but it's about as difficult for me to relax as it is for one of those "Bachelors" or "Bachelorettes" to keep a straight face when they claim that the only reason they're on TV is to find "true love".)

For example, a couple weeks ago I went to the Chinatown summer festival. It felt so good to be outside on a beautiful day. I ate delicious egg rolls, fried rice, and almond cookies. I even bought a couple souvenirs, including a pretty beaded bracelet that only cost three dollars and a small painting that unfolded like a scroll (it only cost $2.99!) to hang in my apartment. I saw people doing Tai Chi, and I watched the Lion Dance.

There was also a Chinese woman who was holding several sticks of incense, and she gave me one as I passed by. I couldn't understand what she said, but I saw other sticks of incense that had been placed in a container of sand in front of a small statue of Buddha. So I put the stick that she gave me in the sand. I also saw a small donation box, so I dropped some spare change in it. She and some other Chinese ladies thanked me and gave me a piece of cake. It wasn't until I walked away that I realized that even though I'm Catholic, I may have just made an offering to Buddha and a Buddhist temple.

In addition to the Chinatown summer festival, I also went to the Taste of Chicago in Grant Park, where restaurant vendors from all over the city set up stands and sold great food. I read several chick lit novels, and it was a relief to read stuff that wasn't written by people who think that using words that are only used in spelling bees makes them sound smarter. I went to movies with friends. I took walks around my neighborhood, and I wrote down in my journal all the funny, weird, and interesting things that I saw and heard. I also plan to visit the Art Institute on one of their free admission days; either that or I'd like to go to one of the movies featured in the Grant Park Film Festival (you can bring a beach towel to Grant Park and watch a movie for free on a large screen). I'm also interested in watching a free show that I heard about where a dance company is going to perform.

During the school year I'm always working. But during the summer I feel like I have more freedom to do other things that I want to do, and it feels good. I just wish that it didn't have to end, but it won't be long before school starts again.

I really need to work on that anti-cell phone device. I plan to use it on the people who talk on their phones in the movie theaters too, and then I'll point and laugh maniacally when they start freaking out.

What about you? What have been the best parts of your summer? When you were a student, did you look forward to going back to school? If you're a teacher, how do you feel about summer vacation?