Friday, December 17, 2010

I have a dilemma.  It is one of those things that seems to be near-insoluble to me, but that seems trivially resolvable to everyone I have talked to about it.  (Of course, they do not agree on what the trivial solution is, which perhaps suggests it is not as trivial to think, but who am I to argue with the people who think everything can be boiled down to whatever the answer they have already chosen is?)

I mentioned on this blog that the IB was in town several weeks ago, and I also mentioned that he was in a relationship-wanting phase of our friendship.  He has been this phase with increasing frequency and intensity for a few years, the main obstacles being (in rough order of increasing severity) the thousand-mile distance between our homes, my periodic unavailability, his inconsistency, and my general lack of interest.  Over the weeks since his visit, he has been more consistent than usual - more consistent than ever, I think, except when we first met and might have actually been having a normal relationship - about staying in touch.  I've been replying to his emails and texts in large part because I don't find correspondence burdensome; I don't mind being in regular contact with him, but I don't particularly crave it.

He is coming back to the area for ten days over the holidays, because his parents live here; it would be reasonable for him to make a day- or weekend trip to New York.  He has done this before, and we discussed him doing it again.  But it seems a little more serious, perhaps because it would be over New Year's, perhaps because it would be the second visit in as many months, perhaps because he has become unrelentingly clear about his intentions.

The IB is a good guy, really a catch.  He's intelligent and successful.  He reads for pleasure and enjoys traveling.  He's a good talker and a good listener.  He doesn't have many hangups, and he's adventurous enough to be good company in most situations.  However, I can't seem to get on board.  I'm not opposed, exactly.  I understand, intellectually, that his thinking makes a lot of sense.  We have always enjoyed each other's company, there have been intermittent periods of non-platonicness that have seemed to have potential, and now that he has decided finding a partner is the big item on his agenda, I'm a promising - perhaps the most promising and/or only - candidate.  It is a perfectly reasonable way to go about choosing something that will be important in your life, such as your car or your home or, I suppose, your spouse.  

I'm not rejecting the idea because of anything superficially unappealing about him.  The problem isn't the amount of money he makes or his looks or his confidence level (none of which I would classify as unappealing anyway).  The problem isn't even that he lives somewhere I don't want to live, or that I cannot seem to get interested in sleeping with him.  Maybe the problem is just that I've known him for so long that I don't find such a dramatic shift in intentions plausible, especially unaccompanied by any substantial shift in the tone of our interactions.  

The good thing is, well, how would I like to feel when I am with someone who is going to be my partner?  Happy and confident and safe.  I feel all of those things when I'm with the IB.  But also, I would like to feel stimulated, like I am growing, like I have to grow a little bit to keep up with him.  I don't feel that way with him.  I feel relaxed, which is also good, but a little bit too relaxed.  Like I can go ahead and be my worst self and it's okay.  I don't want to always have permission to be my worst self.

Also, I am not in love with him, but I suppose that's immaterial.

Finally, there is an obstacle that should not matter but, a little bit, does, which is guitar boy.  Things have intensified, not necessarily to a point at which I would call him my boyfriend (although that is a little bit because of how ridiculous it would be) but probably to a point at which it would not be cool to spend a weekend with an old flame in an attempt to rekindle the relationship.  It is obviously ludicrous to compare these two men, and it would be insane to forgo the a rewarding long-term relationship for an exciting but short-lived fling.  Except that the fling is making me happy, and I am not convinced that the rewarding long-term relationship would.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

on being good

I have a lot to say and very little excuse for why I haven't said it yet, since I do have a decent amount of free time.  But I'm tired, which makes me forget what I have to say.

At some point there will have to be a retrospective, because 2010 was a hell of a year.

The biggest thing I have learned this year is that in life there are no brownie points.

I'm big on brownie points.  This is perhaps because I screw up a lot, so I need them.  But it's mostly because the way I'm constituted makes me always want to be looking over my shoulder, checking if I am earning all the gold stars.  I like to be thorough; when I play video games, I like to kill all the bad guys rather than just dodging them.  I don't like to test the system; if I'm told I absolutely have to be at work at 8:30 on the dot every morning for training and it takes half an hour to get there, I'll leave at 7:45, every morning, even after I see other people waltz in at 8:32 and 8:35 and 8:45 with no or few consequences.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing.  It's good to be conscientious.  And there are certain areas of my life in which I could afford to be more conscientious (these days, alarmingly, that's the Not Eating Yogurt-Covered Pretzels For Lunch area).  But overall I tend to live as if there's some sort of gold-star chart at the back of the classroom, and maybe when I die there will be an award for the girl who has amassed the most.  And what I've learned this year is, well, there had better be such an award when I die, because there is certainly not going to be one before that.  Nobody ever says, "gee, you were at work early every morning for sixteen weeks, even the morning the entire subway system flooded.  Great job!"  Similarly, there are not prizes given out for never taking a long coffee break, or for going to the gym every morning, or for getting good Xmas presents for your whole family.  In general, there is no reward for being good.

So being good has to be its own reward, which means you have to choose what of it you do.  Going to the gym before work is its own reward about three days a week.  The other days, sleeping an extra 90 minutes is a better reward.  Getting good presents for people is its own reward - but paying extra to ship them faster is not.  Getting a project at work done is rewarding, but staying until seven just because everyone else is that day, is not. Going to bed early... well, somebody needs to find  way to bundle that with something I actually want to do.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Gift Hierarchy

  1. The best gift is one that the recipient wants very much but does not realize she wants.  How could  person not realize what she wants, you ask?  She might know this thing exists - it might be a book she hasn't heard of or a gadget she didn't know of.  Or, even better, she might simply never have considered how much such a thing will improve her life.  This is a very hard gift to find, highly recipient-specific, and is even harder for well-adjusted recipients who know their own desires well.  I generally don't try to shop for such gifts for a given occasion because they're so rare, but if I see or think of something that will be perfect for someone, I buy it immediately or make a note of it for later.
  2. Special category for romantic gifts: the first romantic gift between a couple of a given romantic-gift category, or an unexpectedly-but-welcomely-romantic gift (i.e. between people who are not yet officially involved).
  3. Something the recipient already wants but would never allow themselves to spend money on because they are perceived as too expensive / luxurious / hedonistic.  This gift is best if it is actually a very small luxury and the means of the giver and recipient are similar.  (Example: buying $30 worth of expensive chocolate for a good friend, when $30 is a typical amount to spend on each other, is really sweet.  Buying a $200 bottle of wine for that friend, when $200 is their food budget for the month and play money to you, is - in my opinion, anyway - less impressive.  The beauty of this gift is not that it is a wealth transfer; it is its permission to indulge oneself in a way one wouldn't ordinarily allow.)
  4. A gift elaborating on a known fondness of the recipient (i.e. some people are always happy to have books; others are always happy to have jewelry, or new music, or gadgets) in an unusual, giver-specific, or especially welcome way.  For example, gifts bought on exotic travels or made by the giver.  This is the highest realistic goal for most gift-giving occasions.
  5. Other romantic (relationship-appropriate) gifts.
  6. A "this made me think of you" type of gift - i.e. one whose tone, humor, character, or etc. made the giver think of the recipient.  Sometimes these are things the recipient likes; frequently they are not.  But they're usually interesting and thoughtful.
  7. ------------------------------- line between good gifts and okay gifts -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
  8. A gift elaborating on a known fondness of the recipient in a typical way.             
  9. A generic gift.  Many people keep gift closets full of scented candles, bath products, and nonperishable foods that they give out - over the holidays or throughout the year - as hostess gifts, holiday presents for neighbors, offerings for the kids' teachers, and any other time a gift seems called for.  These are perfectly good gifts if the only thing that needs to be said is "look! I got you a gift!"; otherwise they are disappointing for everyone.
  10. Something the recipient has specifically asked for.  
  11. Money (if given by parents or older relatives).
  12. ------------------------------- line between okay gifts and bad gifts ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  13. Most gift cards.  A generic gift card, i.e. from Gap or Bed Bath and Beyond, has no advantages to the recipient over money and a few obvious disadvantages.  Some gift cards are actually other kinds of gifts - for example, a spa gift card for a person who would never spend money on a spa visit is actually type 3.
  14. A gift meant to improve the recipient.  My parents are masters of this gift form.  I have been carrying an electric wok around for the last four moves because they seem to think it is something that a person who lives alone and doesn't cook needs to have.  In my current kitchen, it does not fit on the counter.  They also like to give me cookbooks. 
  15. No gift.
  16. Something totally orthogonal to the recipient's personality and interests, the kind of gift that makes you wonder if the giver knows you at all.  Sometimes the only difference between this type and type 6 is presentation.
  17. A gift for which the best, and sometimes only, possible explanation is that it was meant to hurt or offend.  Closely related to type 14, but more negative and usually given to women, by their significant others.
I have three more holiday gifts to buy, plus cards to write.  Fortunately, that will not be the end of the gift-giving because in January two friends have birthdays and I'm going to a wedding, and then possibly another wedding in March.  I say "possibly" because this wedding is to be held in Palm Beach, at The Breakers, a resort so fancy even the website is intimidating.