A chronicle of my attempts to live a classy life as a single girl in the Nation's Capital

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Things I Inherited from My Parents

Fall has always been my favorite season.  As a child it meant new beginnings and a fresh start.  As the end of humid August approached, I could somehow feel the relief of crisp September air creeping around the corner, and I would always announce to my family--as I whipped open the back door and let the precious AC out--that it was beginning to "smell like fall."
As an adult, I still get butterflies in my stomach when I start to smell the fall air and I can't help but smile and feel like something new is approaching. It's also a season that leaves me feeling very introspective and the longer I teach and the older I become the more I find myself asking "what made me into the person I am?"
Undoubtedly, genes have something to do with it.  I have my father's fine, blond hair, and my figure reminds me of my mother's when she was my age. But more and more I am beginning to see all of the little things I have inherited from my family--conscious or not--that made me into the person I am today. And many of these little, but extremely important, things are habits I hope to one day pass on to someone else. It's a heavy inheritance and I sometimes doubt that I will be capable of carrying it on to another generation, but it's an inheritance that I will never be able to fully thank my family for and am so grateful to have.     

1. Always be on time and honor your commitments:
My parents are the most reliable people I know.  When they say they will do something, they do it.  And they show up 5 minutes early with the appropriate hostess gift. I grew up thinking everyone was like this (and wouldn't it be a wonderful world if they were?) but discovered in high school and college that this was, sadly, not the case. People would say "Let's hang out this weekend!" and I would naively think it actually meant we would. I would spend Saturday moping around the house like a scorned lover waiting for Danielle or some other girl friend to call.  I remember my mom telling me that while "people like us" only said things like that when we truly meant it, most people just say it and consider hanging out with me one of many options of things to do that weekend.  This concept still seems foreign to me but I've learned to accept it.  Still, some people may think I am rude or stand-offish because I don't say things like "Let's do lunch!" but when I do say it, I actually mean it.

2. Saturday Morning is Cleaning Time
When I would go to friends' houses in elementary and high school I was always secretly shocked at the condition of their houses. Not in a snobby way, I certainly enjoyed my times at friends' homes, but more in a "oh...most people don't have pristine counter tops at all times" way. I would go home and my mom and I would giggle about things I saw--because only she would understand and laugh too.  I distinctly remember one friend's house: we were eating dinner at the table and they had one of those lazy suzans in the middle.  As I spun it around to get pepper, a stick of Secret deodorant whizzed by. Our house was always very neat and clean--even in my younger years when I would insist on getting out every Little People playset at once.  How was it always so clean? There were probably many reasons, but one thing we always did was Cleaning Day.  I hated it.  Saturday morning I would get up and my sister and I would grumble about how this was supposed to be our "day off."  We'd go downstairs and sometimes my mom would have lists ready for us:
Lindsy: Windex all the glass and polish the wood, clean the upstairs bathroom.  Clean your room 
Laura: Clean the walls and baseboards, clean the hall bathroom. Clean your room
My dad was always the vacuum master (leaving perfect V swipes of the vacuum on the carpet) and my mom did a little of everything.
But my sister and I diligently cleaned, because it was Saturday morning and that's what you did. I even came to like certain tasks (scrubbing a particularly dusty baseboard with a toothbrush to reveal the gleaming white underneath).
So when I moved out and got my own apartment, you would think I would no longer feel the pressure of Saturday Morning Cleaning.  Wrong.  Without fail, the first thing I do every Saturday is clean my whole apartment.  And just like my mom had one, I also have a system. Though I have never been able to vacuum as perfectly as my dad.
As I type this I have chipped nail polish, a trophy of all the scrubbing, dusting, and polishing I did this morning.

3. "School is your job"
Both my parents would say this as I grew up.  I never had a job during the school year because "school was my job."  From kindergarten, my mom wold have me sit down when I came home from school and do any homework or talk about the school day.  When I was boggled by math concepts, my dad sat with me every day and helped me learn them--much to both of our frustration.  We collected bottle caps from milk or juice bottles (soda was rare in my house) and my dad would spread them out on the kitchen table. "Now Laura, there are 3 bottle caps here.  I take 2 away.  Three minus two.  How many do I have?"  I would squirm in my chair, looking at the one bottle cap but somehow still confused. "umm... 2?  no... 1?"
This is why I teach English.
This  habit continued into high school, my mom no longer had to tell me to do anything (my dad did still help me with math though...).  I came home, had a snack and started my homework. Homework was finished by dinner time and then I could relax.  When I had projects, I knew how to budget my time in order to get them done.  This was because my parents would sit with me when I had projects in elementary school--and got angry when I claimed I had to do some huge thing in one night.  "Now, when did the teacher give you this assignment?" was always the first thing they said. 
School was easy for me because of this and college wasn't a struggle.  My parents taught me an invaluable lesson about responsibility, organization and budgeting my time wisely that sticks with me today.  When it comes time to turn grades in at school, I am the obnoxious teacher who skips into the workroom saying "well, I'm done.  Anyone want to do lunch?" While the other teachers glare at me over foot tall stacks of ungraded papers. School is now, quite literally, my job.

4. A love of books and art
I don't know if this still happens, but when I was in elementary school, Mondays were half days. Instead of going home and paying video games (the first console I owned was when I was 16 years old.) my mom put me and my sister in the car and we headed off to the local library.  I loved Mondays.  I still remember the layout of the shelves and if I were to be dropped off in that library today, I could still find the craft section, the young adult novels, the Nancy Drew series, RL Stein's books... My mom would set us loose and we would all separately wander the aisles for hours.  When I was time to leave, all three of us had an armful of books on varying topics. We'd throw them into the (very large) trunk of the Buick Park Avenue and head home. Once home, I would pour over the books for hours, so excited to read what was inside.
We had another tradition that came less frequently but was always thrilling to me.  Every year, the day before Christmas Eve, we would all pile into the Buick and drive into D.C.  My dad would bravely parallel park that enormous car along 11th street (or where ever he could find a spot) and we'd head up the steps into the National Gallery of Art. I fell in love with that place the first time I set eyes on it, and it's a love affair that continues today.  Like all great loves, it's near impossible for me to say exactly what it is about art and museums that I love so much but it is a love created by my parents that will last until I die.
I jokingly tell people sometimes that the NGA is my church.  But, secretly, it's not a joke. When I walk into an art museum a sense of calm takes over and problems seem to melt away.
When I moved away from D.C. and lived in Philadelphia for a year, one of the first things I did (within a week of moving there) was go to the art museum and purchase a student membership so I could return over and over without paying admission. When I was devastated after the ending of a 3 1/2 year relationship, the first thing I did was hop into a cab and go to that museum. I was a peace there and the crying (finally) stopped.

4. How to be Alone
I just purchased a book by Jonathan Franzen with this exact title. (At the used book sale my father introduced me to--I keep buying books even though I have absolutely no room left for them).  Both of my parents are quiet people, and so am I.  Perhaps that's why we all like books and art so much. I struggled with the idea of being quiet for so long and often hated myself for being so quiet.  I longed to be loud and funny and let the voice in my head, the ongoing dialogue I had about the world around me, be heard. I would always think "if only people really knew me, they'd love me!" I'd have tons of friends. And a date to senior Prom.  
Only recently did I realize that there's a huge difference between being introverted (which I very much am) and being shy (which I am not).  The problem is that our society, for some reason, sees introverts as lacking something. There's something wrong with us because we want to be alone sometimes. I actually see it the opposite way now, though it took years for me to get there.  I am confident enough to sometimes eat out by myself and shop by myself.  I like myself enough to stand my own company. My parents taught me the value in spending time alone and I am so grateful for that. 
I am a happy, outgoing introvert.  And there isn't anything wrong with that.

5. Sweatpants are not to be worn in public.
Do I own sweatpants?  Yes.  Do they ever go outside my apartment?  No.  Excluding a brief period of insanity in college, I never wear sweatpants or PJs in public.  Just as my mom has never worn them in public.  My mom has always had a classic, no nonsense approach to fashion and in many ways I have adopted that.  But she also always believed you should put your best face forward and never let anyone (my dad included) leave the house looking shabby.  I believe it's important to look put together and it is just as easy to throw on a pair of jeans, a cardigan and black flats before heading out as it is to put on sweatpants and sneakers. 

I could go on with this list, and this certainly isn't everything nor is it in any order of importance. But I feel like this post is getting long and I have to get ready for dinner tonight (which involves styling my impossibly straight and fine hair).  So I leave you with these until (maybe) another time.  What unconventional things have you inherited from your family?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Another Foray into the DC Singles Scene

Apparently I didn't get enough of the wonderful male species the last time I went out , and so I found myself out again this weekend.  Ladies and Gentlemen---the following story is 100% true and unexagerrated. It's just what us single gals in D.C. have to put up with...

The venue this time: Liberty Tavern. Clarendon, VA

If you know Liberty Tavern, you might be asking "why would you go there?"  Well, for one there is no cover. And really, that's the only reason I need.  But also everyone and their mom was out in Clarendon that night and this was also the only bar without a line (though it was still so packed, you couldn't move at all).  And I do literally mean everyone and their mom was out.

My friend and I squeezed our way to the bar to get a drink.  Now the place is crowded and if you chose to sit at the bar in this situation, what do you think is going to happen?  People will squeeze in to get an order. So I find a "free" spot which happens to be right in between 2 guys.  They think this means that I am interested in chatting them up--rather than vodka-- and actually high five each other over my head. 


My friend and I turn around (smack into someone else--it's that crowded) and awkwardly shuffle away.  We eventually find a free-ish spot near a guy who will  be known as "BOO."  He sees my friend and yells "woah! you look scared! Why are you scared? Are you scared? You're totally scared!"
My friend says no once and just looks at him with an eyebrow raised. "Well if I scare you...hahaha.  You're scared!" Me: "She's not scared."  This went on for way longer than it should have-- leaving me thinking "What the..." 

He kept popping up at random times throughout the night, getting in my friend's face and yelling "boo!" whilst spraying her with Bud Light and saliva.


But the best one of the night:
As we turn away from "boo" and attempt to enjoy ourselves I spot a sweaty older (I'd guess about 45) man who clearly had a bad case of acne in his younger years.  This man is grabbing every woman who goes by and attempts to dance with her (no one else is dancing).  He sees me and my friend and approaches.
His first question : how old are you guys? (I thought this was an impolite thing to ask...) "You guys are really pretty. Seriously, really pretty."
(to my friend) "You must be older.  You know how I know? Because you look mean.  And Unfriendly."
(to me): "Hello Michelle Pfeiffer's little sister. You look younger (actually I'm the older one) because you're humoring me" (I have a smile frozen on my face, still shocked by this assault)  
Me: ... 
Him: "You know who she is?" 
Me: "Yeah..." 
(Back to my friend) "I mean you're not being polite and you're unapproachable.  I don't mean it in a bad way, but you just don't look very friendly."  (This goes on for a bit, my friend and I stare in disbelief) Eventually that Cupid Shuffle song comes on and he backs off--but also tries to get us to dance with him. Wasn't gonna happen.  But he wasn't done yet.
We escape (which in these close quarters means we turn the other way.)
And then.... I feel a poke in my side. I turn and see him grinning.

That's right, he poked me like I was a @#%!@$# Pillsbury Doughboy.  And then said:

"No fat there!"


At this point I was done and went home.

and you thought skits like this were mere comedy... I wish:


Friday, October 8, 2010

Notes from the Chalkboard 2 (and beyond!)

It's Friday and I am needing this 3 day weekend more than anything. The best way to describe today would be simply hellish.

My temper is a little short, I'll admit. And I recognize that I am being a little short with some of the students. But there is only so much disrespect that one person can take. But that's what happens when you force teens into an honors course that they don't want to take and don't really need. Not to mention the teachers...

Anyway, here are a few more things found on my chalkboard recently and one hallway poster.

The text reads: "Not a very tasty Oreo" This comes from a lesson on how to incorporate quotes into an essay using an Oreo analogy.  The bottom cookie is the analysis, I made it big to show them that analysis should make up the bulk of the essay. 

Sometimes I get weird and make things "talk."  But... this works better to get the kids to take their stuff than just writing "Whose is this?" above it.

And my favorite...

It's a new dance: Homeomin'  I was having a stressful afternoon and when the teacher appeared in the doorway holding this, I just cracked up.  The really hilarious/sad thing about it is how much care clearly went into making the poster.
And this is why I love English Teachers...

We hung the sign in our workroom.  The next day, this post-it appeared.  It cracked me up yet again.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Dancing Etiquette

Okay, I know I said I was going to post my week of Real Simple dinners several days ago.  I have all the pictures ready and the post half finished--it's coming, I promise!  I'm feeling a little lazy though and have something else I'd rather discuss: Dancing Etiquette.

I went out to Georgetown this weekend, which wasn't my first choice because I generally don't like hanging out at bars full of college students and wasted people.  I prefer the cute lounges on U Street, but I do enjoy dancing and Georgetown does have plenty of that.

Now I know some guys who will adamantly disagree with me on this.  But I'm right.  Because I'm a girl and I know.  Just because I am present in a club where dancing is happening and I choose to partake in said dancing does NOT mean I am a) necessarily wanting to dance with your sweaty self  or b) trying to hook up for the night.  I might just genuinely want to dance with my friends. Which is what I am trying to do...

Call me old fashioned, but what ever happened to guys asking permission to dance before getting all up in my space.  I just find it so unbearably rude! And to top it off, if I try to escape from this random guy who has quite literally attached himself to my hip, I am subjected to being called a bitch.  Yes.  It's happened.

And considering that dancing in clubs does not look like this (but I wish more of the "men" there did):

Than the guys really should ask first. It's just polite. This past weekend, I actually found myself thinking "God, guys are disgusting." Of course this was while trying to get rid of one particularly irritating guy who was sweatier than average, was grunting, and kept making this face:

"O" Hell NO!

It's not that I'm snobby or uppity while out. My group ended up moving to a less crowded area where I spent the night dancing (a bit foolishly at times) with male and female friends of mine--but they were polite! And I had a great night--my night isn't ruined by this but I do find it mildly annoying. All I would like is for boys out there to behave with a bit more decorum--and not think they have the right to yell at me if I don't respond favorably to their uninvited moves.

This video kinda explains it--that's me this Saturday at 20 seconds in--until we changed locations. Although the video gets a little strange towards the end--it is a funny parody of the SNL video.

What do you all think? When this happens to you (girls) do you feel the same way or am I being too prissy? And guys.... seriously?!