Saturday, November 3, 2012

On The Subject Of Birthdays

   It has come to my attention that I am being forced into my late early-twenties in little over a week's time. Yes, I am entering my 24th year on this lovely little world we've cultivated (well, others have cultivated, I'll admit to rather a lot of sitting back and handwaving "looks like you guys have it all under control, I'll just be over here with me iced-tea"ing.) and there are crock-shits of things happening all around my head. Goddamn, it's full enough in here already without all this external noise to add to my general state of confusion, did I not say I had an iced-tea to tend to?

   I'm moving out of this house at the end of the month. The house I've had the longest tenure in of any of the houses I've lived in. We've been here about seven years, whereas previously we tended to jump from house to house every two to three years on average. We have yet to find a place to actually move in to, but we'll have to get on that shit soon because I foresee a modicum of discomfort should I have to share a bed with one of the new occupants.
   I am currently persona non grata with at least Cousin Carla and her associates, plus I've kind of provisionally told my mother to keep to herself (looooong story), and my ex Marnu who I've been endeavouring to stay friends with as per our many, many discussions on the topic is acting like a bit of a bizarre prick, so I have no idea where that stands. Sister Estelle and her husband have also had something of a tantrum recently which led to them taking back their dogs who had been living in my yard keeping all the burglars (both imaginary and real) at bay. That means at least that many less people that will be coming to my birthday party, and that's a big issue for me. Last year (as you may remember, oh lone loyal reader on a Mac reading from Switzerland) no one came besides my mother and Carla, and it was truly fucking sad. There had also been some drama with other friends right before my birthday that year and the over-all mood was just bleak.
   But I'm turning 23. Fuuuuuuuuck. That's OLD. Not in the "I'm barely out of my teens and people in their 30's are old to me" kind of a way, but in a "Oh dear god everyone my age has already studied something somewhere and is at least more or less on their way to their 2.5 kids and OK-ish jobs" kind of a way. I have so much stuff I want to do. In this world, I have mountains and mountains of stuff I want to do. It's not indecisiveness, I know all of those things by name and each one is as important as the thing standing next to it, and anytime I've ever wanted to turn my focus to one thing the others scream out in protest, causing me to sit back down and neglect them all equally. I mean really, I've worked, but a combination of shitty circumstances, limited means and a general disposition towards self-destructive laziness has just gradually driven me into a cul-de-sac, and I'm starting to panic.
   It's like dieting or quitting smoking. You always think you'll start on Monday, then Monday comes and suddenly you have a cigarette in your hand or a deep-fried slice of black forest cake in your mouth (yes, the whole slice, don't skimp on the visual here) and then you feel all right excusing further "cheating" until it's not longer cheating but full on habit again. It's always been "this will be the year I buckle down and make a short film" or "2012 will be the year I go overseas." But either my bottomless ability to cut and run or the universe itself will always come down with a slightly greasy thumb and squish that shit right the fuck out leaving nothing but an uneasy apathy and dark chocolate cake crumbs in its wake. It's always been sort of OK because I'm young and I obviously- like all the other invincible, immortal twenty-somethings- have all the time in the world. After all, isn't 50 the new 40? And 60 the new 70? Hell, by the time I'm in my thirties 100 will be the new 90 and they'll have figured out how to live forever anyway, so really all I'm doing here is taking a gap decade.
   I can't do that any more, I just can't. I know my health is by and large in as robust a condition as the underside of an '82 VW Beetle that's been parked on the beach since its inception, and as such I think I can at least comfortably say I'm not as invincible as the next 23-year-old. I'm struggling with so many symptoms that manifest themselves cosmetically that I cannot bear to look at myself in the mirror without worrying it might break the universe. In summation: my head is full. It's wall-to-wall angst and I have no spoon with which in to dig. (Avoiding ending sentences on a preposition like a BOSS, yo.) (Please don't point out the inevitable numerous examples of me doing just that even within this post itself, just let me have the Boss-Win this once, OK?)
   Let me tell you a secret about growing up poor: it creates this casual kind of a greed that ends up trying so hard to fight itself, it goes negative. Money was always tight for us, but there was a certain point after which things took a proper swing for actually poor, and I was always ultra-conscious of the fact that we couldn't afford things. It made for a distinct and unerring separation between need and want. I learned very early on to recognise that I wanted the toy other kids were getting, but that I didn't need it. And if I didn't need it, it was imperative to not only not ask for it, but to make it look like the very knowledge of its existence hadn't even entered into my sphere of consciousness. If I let on even vaguely that I might want this toy, then my parents would be burdened with that fact and with having to deny me it, or worse still would buy it for me at the expense of something we probably needed. This kind of refusal to acknowledge wanting extended much further for me than it ever should have- I didn't have the kind of social interaction that teaches kids what the rules of exchange are in human interaction; what is understood to be acceptable and expected in order to navigate basic conversation. I ended up extrapolating everything I knew from the books and TV shows and movies I spent way too much time immersed in, and let me tell you something: people in real life are no where near as smart or tidy in their thinking as writers give them credit for. It's made for a pretty crappy understanding of, you know, talking to other human beings and the trajectory of any relationship, and it's installed at the level where my brain decides when to blink and breathe.
   Not letting on that I was disappointed that I couldn't get a particular toy eventually turned into a very elaborate apologetic round-about in situations that had barely even the slightest connection the idea of sparing my parents my greed. If I'm in a room with three other adults and the host asks if anyone wants coffee, I cannot possibly say yes before someone else has. In fact, I can't answer even if they're talking directly to me, because if I say yes to an unsolicited offer that was made to me ouright, obviously I am going to be seen as brazenly presumptive and entitled and that I cannot abide. If there's a buffet line at someone's house, I can't be the first to "help myself", even after a painful amount of encouragement. I can't even be the second, I have to be the last. Men sometimes motion for me to enter a doorway ahead of them or open a car door for me, but I end up "no, after you"ing to such a tenacious extent that it actually creates the most awkward vibe that makes the guy feel a little emasculated and makes them think of me less like a lady (as it were) and more like that weird chick who goes into spasm when entering a room. (This, by the way, comes directly from an old friend of mine. He told me once that my continual insistence on walking into a room last and carrying my own bags made him almost subconsciously write me off as a "girl" and regard me as a very awkward dude, and I've started smelling a pattern as to why guys always switch right into friend mode the moment they meet me. Well, I say friend mode. Restraining order mode just doesn't have the same ring to it.)
   It's ridiculous. The scale this takes on can sometimes be overwhelming, and I end up turning down so many kind offers and free things just because I'm deathly scared I've got it wrong and I'll look like an entitled jackass or that I'll end up coercing someone into doing something they didn't want to do. How much of a prick would I look if I just said yes after someone asked if I want the old laptop speakers they're not using any more? Fuck, what if I've misunderstood and they really just want to loan or show them to me? And if I accept, later when I leave I'll have to call attention to it when I have to remember to take them, and that'll look even worse. If I say thank you for the meal someone treated me to that I'm genuinely really grateful for, all I'm going to end up doing is remind them that they've somehow been tricked into spending money and/or effort on me, and then I would obviously burst into flames and die. Or more likely, I'd burst into flames and everyone else would die, because that's just the kind of a-hole I am.
   Behind all of that though, is this ever-growing sense of that want. I love giving gifts, I really do; it's one of my favourite things to be able to pick out something perfect for someone they weren't expecting to get or wouldn't have thought buying for themselves. I'll admit that there's at least a small part of me that enjoys giving random and perfectly picked gifts because I wish the world worked like that more. I knew I wasn't getting the expensive Barbie with all the flash for Christmas, and in keeping it quiet it went on a mental list in a way. You become so aware of all the things you know you can't have that they become symbols of not-having beyond the respective value itself. So I take any chance to give little presents or do things that I know someone would have had to pay for because I know how much I'd like to be the recipient of those kinds of things. I do the same with the adventure game parties I sometimes throw (or used to throw)- I know I'd be over the moon to be a participant in one of those, so I put them together for other people in case someone feels the same and has never had the chance to take part in one. That makes me sound more benevolent than I am, I assure you this is all just a bratty selfish kid who WANTS WANTS WANTS.
   What I'm saying is, when my birthday rolls around, I get ridiculously materialistic. It's one of the few times a year when you've got some booty coming to you (as Calvin might say), and the only day that's yours entirely. No matter how crap the rest of your year has been, or how busy people have been or what-the-fuck-ever-have-you, it's the day when you get calls and messages and cards and candy from even the most tangential acquaintances and co-workers. And as a barometer for the shitty job I've done of growing up and out of old habits, I'm quite happy to say that when it comes to birthday gifts, it's quantity over quality. (Interestingly, the same phenomenon occurs when I have money to spend and I go shopping. Even if two things from different stores can be put into one bag, I want two. When I get home and put my shopping bags on my bed, I want to be able to tell at a glance that I brought home STUFF.) I like physical embodiments of having, and I'd rather have a box of beads and five second hand books and some DVDs than I'd want a car. It's the most abhorrent mind-set, but it's utterly part of me and I don't see it budging any time soon.
   Part of the reason I'm writing this at all- as I can quite easily see this being of zero interest even to the Swiss Mac Lover who so obligingly put me on his RSS Feed- is because it's a part of me writing or talking a certain set of things out so I know the shape of them better. In writing this, I've given exact wording to a thing I've always known about myself but had no definition for, and I can work on changing it now. Not the wanting of stuff (by the way, Mac person, feel free to send many, many gifts should you find yourself with an over abundance of cash and early-onset Christmas spirit), but more the crippling inability to exist in society without swallowing myself like Oroboros in an attempt to be polite. Along with the fear of an obviously imminent death (either due to the aforementioned bursting into flames or alternately dying of the hiccups) and creeping age, there's the fear that I can't just live like a normal human being. I've touched on this briefly in a previous post (the one that dictates Carla's absence from my birthday party- you know the one.) but it's something I desperately need to fix. All of my major romantic relationships have happened almost by accident, and especially contrived and unlikely accidents at that. Any time I've been called upon to manually bring about some kind of a connection with someone new, my fucking bizarre misunderstanding of the mechanics of interaction have inadvertently steam rolled me into unintended faux pas and out right we-can-never-speak-of-this-agains, so I'm going to have to go about learning all this stuff you bastards just seem to know like left from right.
   I don't know that either by the way: in the same way that I'm convinced I'm flirting with someone when I say hello back, I also cannot manually tell time at a glance, have absolutely no feel for the times table, and often have to pause to tell my left from my right. I can't tell you what a metre looks like even after you've shown me, and I could not even begin to venture a guess as to how long it has taken me to write this post. I couldn't even estimate to the nearest hour for you, I just don't have a measure for these things. Piano lessons for years (or possibly year, my guess here cannot be trusted) and I can't play you three blind mice. Can you imagine what an awesome driver I'm going to make?

   So listen, if any of my friends are still bothering to read this, take this away from today's pie: when I ask you to help me learn how to just behave like a normal person, I'm fucking serious. You know that time I asked you to set me up with someone because unless I'm meeting them under the explicit pretense of a potential romantic engagement I literally cannot impart the idea of it naturally? I meant it. I need your help, super-buds. I need lessons in personhood 101, and I need as many wingmen as I can possibly garner. I would very much like to avoid dying alone in a small flat at the age of 43 surrounded by my 29 cats if at all possible, but I'm afraid the basic training I have does not qualify me for much more. In fact, I think the two cats I already have might be fostering rebellion in their hearts even now, I might actually be losing ground here.
   And also, if you haven't read between the lines (or even the lines themselves, I do realise that my signature walls of text defend themselves from the threat of being read by their sheer volume and incidents of gratuitous "fuck" usages): presents.*

*It might have been a joke, but I am now going to have to punish myself Dobby-style for my wanton gift solicitation. If you need me I'll be over here ironing my hand.


  1. 43? Het ek dieselfde lewensverwagting?

    En (sug), as ek nou wraggies wéér moet verduidelik van die groot pienke...

  2. Ek weet, ek weet. Dis soos 'n swaard: pointy end goes in the other guy. Of so iets, as ek reg onthou? Het nog erens hier die sketse wat jy vir my gemaak het...