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Sunday, January 20, 2008


Life expands to fill its container.

Alternative title: if I became officially obsessive-compulsive tomorrow, there would be no noticible difference in this blog.

I spent more than an hour this morning drinking green tea and watching heavy clouds blow slowly over our living room window. I had to force myself to do this pleasant thing: my mind was so full of things to do that I was overwhelmed, and adding 'watching clouds for at least one hour' to my virtual list seemed like a wise, moderating thing to do. If I don't have time to watch clouds, I'm living incorrectly; I am thus pretending that by watching the clouds, I have corrected a grave error in my lifestyle.

I've previously described a sort of anxiety that sometimes strikes me on Friday night, when I realize that I will have upwards of 48 hours which I have not sold to an employer, in which I might accomplish some of the many, many goals I have set for myself. I have enjoyed discussing this situation with other motivated people, from a mother of a young child who, upon leaving her distant job to stay home for a few months to manage the baby and deal with contractors repairing her new home, who couldn't believe that she ever had time to ALSO work a full time job, to a retired friend whose life is filled with singing, acting lessons, and volunteer work. These friends are a relief, because I can commiserate with them about the fullness of life in a way that is not possible with a few young friends who spend their weekends watching television, drinking alcohol, and shopping, which they often summarize in one word: "bored." I simply cannot imagine having time to be bored.


For my own amusement, here is the to-do list that was interfering with my relaxation this morning, because of the obvious improbability of completing even a fraction of the items on it today:
wash laundry (towels, bedding) * mop the kitchen floor * dust the bedroom * review (and recycle) the week's non-social mail * print cyanotype photograms of pasta (three new shapes!) * print cyanotypes and develop them in different concentrations of acetic acid for my forthcoming article at * adjust cyanotypes with both acidic and basic chemicals to see how it affects their tonal range * test out sodium carbonate addition to fixer while printing vandykes to see if denser browns can be achieved * work up a shopping list of supplies needed for my photography projects (hypo clear, Polaroid 667, and ?) * figure our where books go in my Google books library once I "add" them, and how to share that library (if possible) * publish a web gallery of pinhole photos * publish a list of reviews of all movies I've rented through a DVD-by-mail service * publish a gallery of the first 48 color contact sheets made during my 2004 sabbatical (because they are pretty, and because they illustrate the concept of 'digital asset management' as something that sucks up my time) * scan orchid photos for my agency * brighten my protea ferrotype gallery so it looks good on the average monitor (and not just my ViewSonic or Steven's Mac monitor) * put a second coat of sandarac varnish on just about every wet collodion print I've made recently * publish new galleries of my most recent wet collodion session * publish a gallery of the images I've taken with the Kodak Duaflex my dad found in my grandfather's attic * publish my camera museum page (or modify Words About Pictures to include the same information) * put away laundry * cook something for dinner * bake two cranberry apple pies * make envelopes using some cool paper I've recently acquired * write letters * catch up on social e-mail * breathe * organize the postcards I've received from my postcard exchange group, and figure out who to send what to * prepare Happy New Year cards for the people on my postcard mailing list who don't know why I've stopped sending them (because the printer can't handle my monochrome work) * clean up my various messes around the house * lounge around * drink even more tea while blogging about tea (two new types!).
The way I usually manage such lists is to take on the five most necessary things, and leave the really fun things for later. But that's not very satisfying. (Happily, I've left off the many things I've already accomplished today. I'm pretending that makes me seem more balanced.)

This list changes all the time, of course, and I work out variations of my current priorities in the paper diaries (which I bind by hand, when I have time) that I fill so rapidly heading to and from work on my long commute.

And to think I wonder why I can't keep up on my reading.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)2:20 PM

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Youthful Seduction Efforts Gone Awry.

We watched the movie The Winter Guest out of affection for Emma Thompson and interest in what Alan Rickman might be like as a director. One of the four sets of relationships in the film is between a girl who forcefully gets the attentions of a boy, and that same day he decides he really wants to spend some quality time alone at home with her... and then becomes very confused.

I enjoyed that part of the story too much, because it was a slight variation of something that happened to me in college. So much intensity, leading only to panic and disappointment. I know people like to idealize young love... But those people are just misguided: for me and many friends, young love sucked rocks. Let me tell you a silly tale of a week and a half or so of young love in my distant youth:

Failed Seduction One: One weekend in college, I was reintroduced to the man who had grown up from being the sweetest boy in 5th grade. He'd adored me in 5th grade (I knew, because his mother took me aside at the time and told me so). I had adored him. (This is all relative - it was just 5th grade.) And yes, he appeared to be just as adorable in college - but taller and less boyish. We spent the day learning that we had loads of geek activities in common. (We played the same role-playing games! We loved the same anime! Etc.! These things that were relevant at that time to geeks like us.) Yet, he was also charming. We exchanged numbers; we had excited phone conversations; he asked me out.

We spent a bright and sunny day wandering around the City together as our first official date. He was remarkably attentive, extremely pleasant, and very flirtatious. He was great company. He kept speculating about our romantic near-future, which was promising. But he was a terrible tease: his speculation ranged well into his plans for our physical romantic near future. By the evening, he was suggesting that, if we got along so very well after making a fast re-acquaintance, imagine how well we would get along... in bed. Every hour came a new promise of unspecified, wonderful things he would do with me, and to me, given some time alone with me.

The day wore on, and we wound up at his mother's flat. No one else was home. We chatted on the couch, and again came his teasing about having time alone with me - in that very apartment. In the bedroom.

So many words! There we were, alone. We'd held hands; conversation had flowed so easily. He was all smiles and enthusiasm. Somehow, I suspected his florid plans were just bravado. But... I have always been a curious girl. (In multiple meanings of the word.) I had to know. So I pointed out that we were, in fact, alone, and that the aforementioned bedroom was less than thirty seconds away. And? He smiled. He led me back to the bedroom. We lay down, he put his hands on me, we kissed... And about ten seconds later, twenty at most, with all of our clothing still safely fastened, he said that this relationship (?) was moving too fast for him, and he really just wanted to talk some more. He pulled out a sketchbook and showed me some drawings. We discussed his favorite supermodel. And then his mother came home, and I had a great conversation with her (in the living room) for quite a while. I went home, after telling my charming male friend that I would be out of town for a week or so on vacation, but that I'd love to spend some more time with him upon my return.

That was similar to the film in certain ways. The next one I bring up because it happened just a few days later, and because it serves as a delay to the finale of that tale.

Failed Seduction Two: A few days later, while wondering why the sweet boy from 5th grade was so skittish after so much teasing, I found myself on an airplane headed for a Hawaiian vacation with two male friends, and the sister of one of the guys. It was supposed to be a 3-gal, 1-guy trip, but my (girl)friend had dropped out at the last minute, and one of my guy chums filled her place.

I did not realize that I was stumbling into an ill-fitted trap. The guy who had planned this trip, a college classmate of mine who had been dancing with me and my (girl)friend in nightclubs regularly, had booked all the reservations. In each and every hotel, he had made the same arrangements without my knowledge: he reserved a room with one big bed to share with me, and booked a room with two separate beds for his sister and my (girl)friend.

Now, at this juncture, you should know that we had not dated. We had not held hands. We had not kissed. We had not had discussions that would lead to any of those things. We were just friends and classmates who liked to go to the same nightclubs. There was no frigging way I was going to sleep in a bed with this guy just because he made reservations this way. His brain was not engaged when he hatched this seduction plan, but he apparently thought it was a great idea.

Having my male chum along complicated things fabulously. Because there was no way that his sister was going to share a room with my male chum, whom she had never met. Nor would she share a bed with her brother so I could share the separate-bed rooms with my chum. (I don't recall my chum being asked his opinion.) So, despite this guy's plans, I shared the separate-bed rooms with his sister, and he shared the single bed rooms with my male chum.

Male chum, and you know who you are, I am still so sorry that you had to bear the brunt of his comically scripted seduction plan. I really am. The trip was difficult in several ways - traveling is always difficult with friends (including me!), but this circumstance certainly made it more difficult in orders of magnitude.

On the bright side, you created my most vivid memory from that trip: it is the conversation in which you were explaining the situation about the "reservation mix up" to your parents on the phone, when I recall you said "It's okay, because [silly guy] doesn't like his boys smooth. [Long pause] I said, he doesn't like his boys smooth. [Long pause.]" Just imagining your parents' confusion on the other end of that phone line... *giggle* [sound of additional giggles suppressed violently] If I'd had any idea, I wouldn't have dragged you into it. (Nor would I have gone.)


There are two punch lines to this story of misdirected seduction planning.

I was only gone a week, but Guy1 was dating someone else by the time I returned from Hawaii. Presumably, this someone was a nice girl who wouldn't kiss him - or demand that he deliver on any of his teasing. *yawn* I never saw him again.

Guy2 worked up the nerve to ask me to date him a semester or so later. He became a very solid, reliable boyfriend for 3 years, and a wretched, workaholic, absentee boyfriend for another 3. (Hindsight is so damned clear!)

All of this rambling is posted here because of my sympathy with a facial expression that the girl in the movie makes, an expression which wasn't as exaggerated as my own was in real life, but which appeared to say All this trouble, for this? Which summarized my most 'social' dating years in one, slightly stunned facial gesture.


posted by Arlene (Beth)9:38 PM

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