Thursday, June 30, 2011

That one time I realized my friend was a jackass

The other night J and I went to see Terence Malick's The Tree of Life. I've been looking forward to seeing the movie since rumors of it started circling last year, and against my better judgment (but at the urging of J) I invited a friend of mine and his new fiance to join us. Let's call this friend George, and his fiance, Abigail (because that is essentially what they look like to me).

I first met George in grad school in Boston. George is the typical overachiever with a severe case of ADHD, has collected various degrees, ranging from humanities masters to MBA's across this great big ol' country of ours, and has obvious commitment problems when it comes to relinquishing himself to one profession. (He's currently the CEO of a start-up medical IT company that actually seems to be experiencing modest success in its infancy. This after he made multiple appearances on CNBC and CNN talk shows discussing his "first ever virtual magazine" that he launched about three years ago before virtual mags were the norm.) Well, George recently moved to my town (of all places) with his newly minted fiance he met for the first time last year in line at an Auntie Anne's Pretzels in a mall in Los Angeles. Since I am one of only a handful of people he knows in the area, he's been incessantly calling to hang out with J and I. Which is cool, since I love a good cocktail hour, but it can get a little much when you do it for days in a row. I can only handle so much ADHD.

ANYHOO, after (politely) rejecting his invitations for weeks, J suggested we invite them along to see The Tree of Life...just to show we weren't opposed to hanging out or anything. I was on the fence about extending an invitation since the last time I saw a movie with George was when the two of us went to see Walk the Line opening night in Boston. Let's just say it was a disaster, in every sense of the word. And it all culminated with his cell phone ringing on LOUD during one of the most pivotal moments in the film when Joaquin Phoenix undergoes his home detox with Reese Witherspoon. Not only did George's phone ring in the silent, packed theater, he then proceeded to answer it and have a conversation with the person who called as people yelled at us to be quiet. It was mortifying, and visions of the night resurfaced as I hesitantly extended an invite to Tree of Life.

And what do you know? History has a funny way of repeating itself, in not-an-altogether identical way, yet close enough. We met up with George and Abigail outside of the theater, along with their two friends they decided to invite along and not tell us about till the last minute. No biggie, that I don't mind. But after we took our seats and the theater lights dimmed, George proceeded to talk during the entire first 45 minutes of the movie. No joke. I felt like I had entered Hell, since one of the fléaux de mon existence is when people chatter through movies. Granted he wasn't speaking at a normal volume, but it was still above a whisper and that, combined with Abigail's obnoxious giggling every 20 seconds at whatever he was saying, made me want to throw my tub of popcorn in their direction, douse them with my Diet Coke, anything to make them shut up. It only added to the charm of the situation when George kept standing up and walking over to his friends across the aisle to hold actual conversations with them while he was on bended knee. All while the movie played in a semi-packed, darkened theater. Was this really happening?

About an hour into the movie Abigail, who was seated to my immediate left, leaned over to me and said "George says this movie is so depressing that it makes him want to kill himself. We're going to see Midnight in Paris next door..." She followed this with one of her annoying and expectant giggles, as though perhaps I shared the same sentiment. I shot her a straight-faced look that meant "You've got to be kidding me" and simply said "Fine, go." (No giggles from my end, since the movie, though slow in its start, was actually quite good but would have been better if the charming couple seated to my left would have just shut up and tried to understand it.)

A second later George leaned toward me over Abigail's lap. "Are you annoyed that we're leaving to see the other movie?" he asked.

"No," I whispered, turning back to the movie.

"You look annoyed..." he prodded. I quickly turned back to him.

"I'm annoyed because you've been talking through the entire goddamn movie. This is a theater -- STOP TALKING!!!" I hissed. He gave me a look as though it suddenly dawned on him that movie theaters weren't meant to be socialized in like pool halls. Five minutes later he, Abigail, and his charming friends stood up and lurked out the theater doors.

Of course during the rest of the movie he texted me incessantly from next door, asking if J and I would wait outside of their theater for them when we were finished since we had all planned to grab drinks afterward. But when The Tree of Life was over, the last thing I felt like doing was getting a drink with them. I passed their theater  en route to our car and texted that we were just going to head home. His response?

"Sorry for having left....I feel awful."

I snickered at the cow poo I was actually reading on my cell screen. Really, guy? Do you really feel that awful? Because if you did you probably wouldn't have done it in the first place, but since you are one of the most inconsiderate people I have ever met I seriously doubt you even care. And I think that's what pissed me off the most about the whole situation. It wasn't just the fact that getting up and leaving in the middle of a movie you were invited to is what I would call pretty rude, it's also the fact that you had to talk the entire time you stayed. As if the whole world revolves around George and Abigail and everyone else must be expected to laugh along with their thoughtlessness. 

On the way home I questioned why I even bother returning his calls anymore. Not over just what happened that night, but for every similar inconsiderate thing he's done leading up to it.  I don't really want to associate with people who think it's okay to be rude or disrespectful under the guise of of "having fun" or being "funny." The older I get, the more I just find it classless and irritating.

A few days went by and George called again. His message was upbeat yet vague, requesting that I call him back. (I am 99% sure it was to invite J and I out to Mojito Mondays.) As much as I love my mint-flavored cocktails, I can think of 3,000 other people I'd rather grab mojitos with. (Okay, 3,000 is an exaggeration, more like 20 -- 55 if we're counting celebrities and deceased novelists.) So though I'm pretty good about calling people back, I decided he was no longer worth my time and deleted his message without returning the call. 

My life is too short to deal with bullshit.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Weddings and Chads

Including this weekend I have two more weekends here till I leave for Buenos Aires. Yesterday I had a great day shopping with J (I scored a cute pair of leopard flats at Banana for practically nothing), and last night we went to a huge engagement party at a relative's mansion in the hills. I've never seen said relative's new mansion but my first reaction when we passed the estate gates and parked in the driveway was "Jeeeeeeee-sus...." 

It felt like we we had arrived at Lisa Vanderpump's home in Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. The front doors, made of wrought iron and glass, were at least 10 feet tall, and the giant marble foyer opened into an even more gigantic living room, with marble columns, marble floors and two-story picture windows all along the back wall, showcasing a stunning view of the valley below. The back "patio" (if you could even call it that since it was larger than my entire apartment and parking space combined) was lined with a stately stone balustrade, and had an infinity pool that overlooked a 180-degree view of the valley and mountains in the distance. 

The other day J had asked me what I would be content with when we're older. Last night I found my answer. "This," I said, motioning to the house and view. He agreed that we need to figure out some way to make it happen...that doesn't involve any unethical or illegal activities (much to my dismay). ;)

Anywits, the party was fun, I ate too much as always, etc. etc. And though today is Sunday, I get no J time since he's gone to the wedding of some person he knew way back when. I argued that it was a waste of time driving two hours each way to attend the wedding of a practical stranger, but he argued that he's not like me and doesn't consider people he hasn't talked to in ages as "strangers" if they grew up together. (Which I think it utterly stupid, but hey, in the words of Tamra Barney "You can't argue with stupid.") I'm obviously not at the wedding with him today because -- wait for it -- his delightful head case of a mother will be there! After what happened last year, J and I haven't spoken to her since that charming exchange. I have no desire to ever speak to her or see her again, and J seems to not mind life without her, but it was inevitable that some wedding or funeral would bring us face to face again, and so I said forget it. 

Yesterday over soup at Boudin, J said there's going to come a time when we're going to have to speak to her again, but I disagree. There's no requirement in the marriage code that says I need to pretend everything is all rainbows and unicorns after you not only insult me, but take it a step further and insult my family. I will get all Teresa Giudice if it comes to that. I'm sure it'll be awkward today with J and his mother at this blessed event, but thankfully I'm not there to witness it. 

In other news, summer is officially here, which means the Tool Academy has reconvened at their local watering hole (aka our apartment complex swimming pool). Since my living room windows (which are often open) face the pool, I often hear the staccato of Coors Light cans popping open along with the lovely conversations that the meat heads have down below. Two days ago, a particularly delightful fellow we'll name "Chad" was venting his women woes to his bros over sunscreen and a pack of Natty Ice. Apparently one of Chad's many problems is that he's "doing" a chick he doesn't like. According to his generous descriptions, Chad's chick is not hot enough for him and he really doesn't like her, but he doesn't know what to do since "she comes to all his basketball games" and "has nice tits." An hour later a fellow sunbather named "Morgan" (who had the voice of a phone sex operator) introduced herself to Chad and his buddies in the pool area. From the conversation they had, I had a feeling Chad was going to have no problem moving on from "nice tits" girl.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A good example of a proper crowd wave

Waiting for stage set-up.
Little late to the game with this post, but the U2 concert last week was spectacular. The venue, which holds 69,000 people, was sold out -- though I heard on the news later that many weren't able to make it on time because of terrible traffic jams near the coliseum and little to no parking after the concert started. Oh wellsies, we got there on time! Lenny Kravitz opened, and it was a blast from the '90s watching him perform. Partially died when he played "It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over" (my anthem in college) and "American Woman". After Lenny's act was over, there was a 45-minute lag before U2 started. And you know that means....crowd waves. Big ones. Here was the view from our tier:

At one point during intermission, all three tiers had giant crowd waves circling the coliseum. It was in-cred-eeeb-lay. Precisely why I dig concerts so much -- the audience's energy is always so infectious and exhilarating (okay, maybe not always. There was that time I saw Gordon Lightfoot, well two times, when the audience was very mild-mannered and remained seated throughout, politely clapping after every song. But even that was tons of fun. It was Gordon Lightfoot, for God's sake.)

ANYHOO, then U2 came out and of course they were divine, though I'm still of the mind that Bono needs to 86 his weird, see-through shades. For some reason they remind me of something a pervert would wear. 

With so many people packed in and screaming, I wondered if that's what it must have felt like going to a Beatles concert back in the day. Not that I'm comparing U2 to the Beatles (sorry, they're untouchable), but in terms of legends U2 comes close.

Bono and The Edge

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Biutiful Life

Last night I watched Alejandro Innaritu's latest film, Biutiful. I am a huge fan of Innaritu's work -- both Amores Perros and Babel are in my top 20 favorite films of all time -- and though they are both crushingly depressing, in many aspects there is optimism and hope within his characters' pain and tragedies. This is why I love them. Innaritu never ceases to pull the beauty from the devastation.

In Biutiful I was expecting something similar of the main character, Uxbal, masterfully played by Javier Bardem. But as the credits rolled in the end, all I felt was an extension of Uxbal's profound pain amid unfinished business...of the fact that maybe -- no matter what catch phrases and greeting cards may make us believe -- there is no such thing as atonement and redemption...not even when we're at the very end, desperately trying to do good in the final moments of our last breaths.

Uxbal runs a counterfeit ring in the slums of Barcelona. You know those Nigerian guys slinging fake Gucci bags and Chanel sunglasses on the street corners of every European city? Yeah, Uxbal is their boss, and he's also got a hand in the underground Chinese sweatshops who produce the loot. Immediately he's not a guy you'd think to empathize with, since he's...well, in the business of exploitation.

But Javier Bardem does an excellent job of making you feel for his character, who is essentially a single father with two young children and a bipolar, borderline drug addict wife/ex-wife, depending on what day it is. Uxbal's trade has not made him a wealthy man, as evidenced by the rot on his bedroom ceilings and the cereal he feeds his children for dinner every night. Then he starts bleeding urine and you know this definitely can't end well.

After finding out he's going to die in a couple months of terminal cancer, Uxbal tries to reconcile for all that he has struggled with -- not giving his wife what she needed, the crimes he has committed, being a better father, how his children won't have a proper caretaker once he's gone, who he will pray to when his time comes since spirituality, at some point in his life, seems to have taken flight and never returned.

Seeking atonement is a common theme, and one this movie illustrated well. But the hardest pill to swallow during viewing was the suggestion that atonement may not exist. Good deeds done in desperation, when your back's against a wall, may backfire and cause even more strife. People you think you can rely on, who you need to depend on in your weakest moment, may take what they can from your pocket and flee.

Though I found very little hope or optimism in the message of this movie, I liked it nonetheless. It was, like reality, raw and abrasive. Sometimes I think we need to be reminded of that: that most lives, unlike the way most films would make you think, do not end on a positive, reparative note. And that is biutiful.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Guest post

Fellow blogger Amber from Blonde and Balanced is off enjoying her fab honeymoon this week (Mazel, Amber!!), so I've written a guest post for her site while she's away. Keep in mind that I wrote it near the end of March, so it's been more than two months since I've left my job, but the post still holds true, nonetheless. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

An open letter to women, or “how to be your own best friend”

Yesterday I woke up to a text message from a friend who's going through a (pretty) terrible break-up with her boyfriend. Said friend has a fear of abandonment, and a history of staying in not-so-great relationships in lieu of being alone. I know this is a debilitating feeling for many, and often translates moving from one relationship to the next, searching for outward love and acceptance when that internal love and acceptance is M.I.A. This may or may not lead to emotionally abusive and (hopefully not) physically abusive relationships that further weaken poor self-confidence.

Even though it's a common theme, it hits close to home when I see it happening to one of my friends. She didn't have the best of upbringings -- both of her parents basically abandoned her at different points in her life -- so it's easy to see where this lack of self-esteem stems from. But she's an attractive, intelligent woman now who is one of the few females in her department at the prestigious international biotech firm she works at (think pipettes and cell cultures and petrie dishes – she is a bona fide scientist). A lot to be confident about, right? But you wouldn't know it by speaking to her, and that is beyond depressing to me.

When did people stop realizing their worth? After this recent breakup, she told me over the phone a few days ago that as sick as it sounded she still wanted her (now) ex. I was shocked, considering they had a history of bad arguments and sad times. “No you don't,” was all I could reply. “You can be happy, you know. You're worth more than that.” She said she wanted to believe that, but couldn't. It was as if a thick and weighty gauze had been tamped down and hardened around any semblance of confidence she had.

Her text this morning asked a simple question “How can you be your own best friend?” The question broke my heart, because it's so simple yet the answer – if there even is one -- is so complicated. “I have an awful habit of relying on my boyfriend to be my everything... How do you rely on yourself?” she asked.

Good question. How do you rely on yourself?

We kicked some more texts back and forth, and I told her I'd email her. I initially thought writing to her about this would take some thought, but when I began typing it all just starting spewing out like verbal diarrhea:


Hope you're hanging in there. So you asked me earlier how to be your own best friend, but I don't think anyone has the definitive answer for that or else it would be easier for more people to depend on themselves. I think the first thing to do is start trying to perceive yourself differently. Continually tell yourself that you are valuable, you have worth. Remind yourself what you love about yourself, or what makes you proud.

When people look in the mirror every day, their perceptions of who is looking back at them are often warped. Past experiences, upbringing, etc. can shape many people's minds to see a skewed image in front of them, but you must stop allowing that to happen. You can't change your past but you can change your future. It's never too late. Tell yourself that from this point on, that person looking back at you in the mirror is beautiful, strong, compassionate, intelligent and doesn't need a boyfriend to feel valuable. All of these things are true about you, so you must see yourself in this light. The only way to begin to chip away at the low self-esteem that makes you depend on others and not yourself is by repeating that you are an amazing human being. You might not believe it at first, but you need to affirm this over and over again to yourself.

I think the most important thing you need to remember is that being alone has no projection on your value as a human being. You are a great person, and great people are okay with being alone because they know they can rely on themselves. This stems from self love. You need to love yourself before you can love anyone else. If you don't love yourself first you will only be giving half of yourself to whatever man you're with, and that isn't fair to either of you. Self love takes a lot of nurturing, a lot of repetition, a lot of alone time that might be really scary at first. But realize that this scariness in the beginning is just your low confidence talking. It is not scary to be alone; it is merely an illusion put there by your past to frighten you. You must break this cycle or else it will repeat for the rest of your life and you will always be unhappy because no one else can love you as much as you should love yourself. Depending on others to fill this void may work temporarily, but it will only make you weaker over time, and you will never be happy. You deserve happiness.