28 February 2012

Naked Face (with an obscene gesture warning)

The truth is, all three of my long-term romantic relationships were with brown-haired men with red beards. I dated Tom, off and on, for over 8 years (there's a post about him coming up soon, too). We started dating when I was 14 and he was 15, so I didn't know he had a red beard at the time, but by the end, he'd been bearded for a good while. A year later, when I brought Matt home to Hendrum for the first time, Sam at the gas station said "Is that Tom in the car with you??" Um, awkward...No, Sam. That's my new boyfriend who just happens to look like Tom.

It turns out the third time's the charm.

Shaun and I first met because of Dan & Tenessa. Dan and Shaun worked together at WDAY, a local newstation, and I was in D & T's apartment one day (they lived just above me) and saw a photo of this handsome young man with dark hair and a red beard. "He's cute," I said.Tenessa's cupid sensor lit up and they told me about this Shaun Ganyo fellow. I liked him long before we met.
 He had a beard when we started dating. During the 2 1/2 years before we got married, he sometimes went down to a goatee, and shaved it off totally just once. I prefer the beard. My favorite look of his is above, with short hair and a ridiculously long beard. People tend to come up to him and ask stupid questions about it, when it's that long. It makes me happy.
Mostly, he has a beard because he's lazy. Shaving takes work, apparently. But every now and again, he gets his monstrous beard trimmed, or I trim it. Above is Christmas this year. I think we trimmed it because the weekend before we'd gone to his parents' house, and his mom really, really likes it when his beard isn't too crazy.

One of the first things we talked about when he got fired was him shaving his beard. He hasn't shaved it off in over ten years; V's never seen him without it, and we've established I have a clear preference. And he's still lazy. I talked him into keeping the beard, but cutting it way back, to a reasonable length. Above is a couple of weeks ago, out at the lake. Well-groomed, non-ZZTop-ish. 

 But he hasn't gotten a job yet. And he read something online that said bearded men are less likely to be chosen in a job search when cleanshaven men are also applying. So I gave in and said he could shave it. Last night, with V's help, he cut off the well-groomed red and gray whiskers. In trying to get a picture of him cleanshaven, though, he refused to let me see him unless he was flipping the camera off. So my apologies, gentle readers, for the delicate among you.

But here he is. Would you hire this guy? Would you marry him? 

Here's hoping it unlocks all kinds of employment opportunities. V just calls him "Naked Faced Daddy" now, but if we can call him employed, it will all have been worth it. Besides, it'll grow back right quick, once he's securely working and they like him too much to let him go.

Just like me.

12 February 2012

Oh, lighten up.

Too many heavy posts makes Languishing a preachy blog. Here're some photos from a recent family dinner.

Our blue-eyed girl.

Emmy's heart was broken, somehow. I think Will may have made her cry, or maybe we ran out of ketchup...at any rate, Uncle Shaun talked her through it, and Seven was emotionally supportive. It all worked out in the end.

11 February 2012

Stories I Tell My Students: Walking in the Dark

As I think about the stories I tell my students, I realize that many of them involve gender issues. So often my students, especially the 18-20 year olds, come to my classes believing that inequality between the sexes is a thing of the past, something their mothers and grandmothers had to contend with once upon a time. So I tell them my stories, and see if they think that's still true.

Several years ago, back when I lived just a few blocks from downtown Fargo, my friend Bayard and I stayed at Lauerman's, a bar that's not there anymore, until closing time. It was around 1:30am when we started walking home, and it was a lovely summer's night. We hadn't had so much to drink that we were impaired, really, and I remember the night clearly.

Bayard lived three blocks closer to the bar than I did, in The Gardner, a big security builiding that used to be a hotel. We walked west on 1st Avenue north, laughing and talking, until we got to his door.
"You want me to walk you home?" he asked. I laughed at him.
"Nah. It's just three blocks. Have a good night."

For those of you who are unfamiliar, 1st Avenue North is a one-way street, very busy during the day, but almost totally deserted after midnight. Aside from the former hotel-turned apartments, it's lined with little shops, and across from Bayard's building is the federal courthouse (where Leonard Peltier was convicted of murder).  There's a lovely art museum, an insurance office, and other small office buildings. Nothing at all is open after 7pm. The nearest gas station was 6 blocks away, past my apartment by several blocks. And the security of Bayard's building is not like other security buildings: there's no entryway where you can run in and buzz to be let in. At this time, in the late 90s, you had to go to the payphone up the block and call whomever you were visiting to come down and let you in.

At this point in my story, the men tend to seem quite bored. I wasn't terribly drunk, so they don't see how this story could get interesting. The women, though, almost every one of them is sitting up straighter, staring at me, with a touch of fear in their eyes. They know where this story is probably headed. And that difference in reaction is exactly why I tell this story.

About a block further, as I'm walking, happy with my dear friends and thinking about my little apartment, a man turns the corner toward me. He's about my size, maybe a little taller, probably thinner than me. He looks to be in his late 40s or early 50s. He's just walking, coming my direction, on the same sidewalk I'm on. There are no cars near us, and the stoplights will soon start blinking off and on, as they did at 2am back then.

I stop my story. The women are leaning toward me, wanting to know what happens. The men are looking out the window, or at the carpet. Sometimes, though this is rare, one or two men will be listening carefully.

By name, I call on the most verbal of the men. "What would you do?" He usually looks a little sheepish, because he hasn't been fully paying attention, and he usually doesn't understand the question.

"I'd keep walking. What else would I do?"

Then I open it to the women, who are itching to speak, by now. "Ladies?"

"I'd taze him!" "Did you have pepper spray?" "I'd get on my cell phone and at least pretend to call the cops!" "I'd cross the street, or run the other way."

The men are almost always startled, thinking they missed some important part of the story. To prove my point further, I ask the women, "Where would your keys be?" They almost always have the same answer.

"In my hand, with one out that I can use as a weapon if I need to." They nod together, as if this is the only answer.

I repeat the story, from when I left Bayard at the apartment until the man turns the corner and begins to walk toward me. I ask the men why they think the women react so differently from them. This man showed no malice, appeared to carry no weapon, and clearly was not following me, but just minding his business. He was not enormous and didn't have a wicked mustache he was twirling evilly. The men squirm uncomfortably, realizing that the possible violence women face is more than they realized, and more deeply feared than they knew. The women are often surprised that the men don't know this is our reality.

They want to know how the story ends, so I tell them. I crossed the street, almost immediately, and the man knew why I did, too. He called out to me, "You don't have to be afraid of me. Honest!" Which, as is clear as soon as I say it out loud, is not a comforting thing to say to a woman on a desolate street late at night. "I know," I called back, and walked the block and a half to my apartment, listening for footsteps the whole way, locking the door behind me.  I do feel bad for that guy, who was almost certainly just minding his own business, and who probably had no intention of harming anyone, that night or any night. His intentions didn't matter to me, then, though.

The women point out that we have to do those things, to assume the worst, in order to protect ourselves. I point out that it's a terrible thing, to have so much of our energy go to that kind of self-preservation. 

I'm not sure which reaction makes me more sad: the complete surprise from so many of the men, or complete acceptance of this as how the world works from so many of the women. Both, I guess, just break my heart. Which is why I keep teaching, in the end.

06 February 2012

I Told You Once, You Son of a Bitch...

As a little girl, my music influences were...eclectic. We had church music, of course. And then the record player at home...my dad was 43 when I was born, and his musical tastes were a whole generation behind my friends' parents. Which was awesome, really. We listened to a lot of Burl Ives, some Hank Williams, Sr.; The Louvin Brothers; Patsy Cline and other old coutry groups. Once a month or so, in music class, we got to bring a record from home and we'd all listen to each others' favorite songs. I don't even remember the music other kids brought, but I loved listening to Country Death Ballads with all my classmates. (Now that I've typed that sentence, I'm not sure why child services never showed up at our house).

The other music I listened to was "new" country, on the radio at our babysitter's. She had a transistor on top of her fridge, and the only thing better than a country death ballad was a little "Rhinestone Cowboy," Eddie Rabbit, or any Crystal Gayle. The edgiest song on country radio in the late 70s/early 80s was, at least in my experience, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." Oh, I loved that song.  Though Johnny was a little overconfident when he dismissed the devil, I wanted to own the record more than anything in the world.

I didn't even realize, then, that one could purchase new record albums. I thought you either listened to your dad's records, or lucked out a garage sale. (We were simple people).  The day I saw the album, in a milk crate jn a driveway in North Moorhead, I almost wet my pants. It was probably 1981 or 82, and there was hardly any wear on cover. It was, as I recall, marked 50 cents.

My dad didn't even argue or tease me, make me think I wasn't going to get this. He knew how much I loved this song. We brought it home, and I bounced in the backseat all 28 miles. I stared at the cover, I read the titles of every other song...I slid the record out just to look at how long my song would play. It was my first record just for me, that I had picked out. Oh, music class, I was going to impress everyone next month!

We had to unload the car, and take out the dog, and finally, after Mom had started supper, Dad put the record on the player. The familiar fiddle music, the talk-song lyrics....I was dancing in the living room. I was so happy I even let my sister dance, too. And then came the best line of the song..."I told you once, you son of gun..." only he didn't say "gun." This was not the radio version Charlie Daniels, the G-rated, FCC approved Charlie Daniels. As my dad reached for the power switch, I started making my case. "I know what that word means, dad, and I will never, ever, ever say it. I'll sing 'gun' really loud every time it's on. I swear." But it was too late. He slid the record back into the barely worn sleeve, and took it down to the basement, where there were the best hiding places. For months I begged for that record, and though Dad was sympathetic, he would not be moved. When I'd given up begging, I tried to find it myself when my parents weren't home. I spent hours in that damn basement.

In 1986, after Dad's stroke, I knew I was running out of time. Aphasia or no aphasia, I was going to have that record. After he moved home from the rehab hospital, I asked him where he'd hidden it. He grinned at me.
"Is it in the basement?" I asked. He shrugged his shoulders. "Is it in the garage?" Still grinning, still shrugging. "Did you forget where you hid it?"
"Ah, nope." He couldn't say much, but he could say that.
"You're still not gonna tell me, are you?"
"Ah, no. No, no, no." And he grinned.

I've learned many more curse words since then, but I still haven't found that record. Wherever he put it kept it safe from my tender ears.  I reckon he's still proud of himself for that. 

04 February 2012

Bag sale

In the shower this morning, I suddenly realized it was time for the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch $4 bag sale! And I was late! You can imagine my horror.

I arrived 45 minutes after opening, which means about 70% of the clothes were already gone. But I still managed to fill two bags and find a 79 cent doll for V.

This round's haul included:
  • 2 pairs of pants for me (one for work, one for leisure)
  • a basic red tank top for me
  • 1 pair of khakis for Shaun (in case he gets a job)
  • 1 tie for Shaun (some jobs require ties. Can you imagine?)
  • 11 or 12 tops for V and/or Will and/or Emmy. Mostly these are plain sweatshirts, that I have big plans for embellishing.
  • 1 brand new shirt for my father-in-law (his birthday is in a couple of weeks)
  • 1 full-length camel-hair coat. I'm not sure, but I think the camel hair will act much like felt, so I'm going to try to use it as such.
  • 1 Talbot's black corduroy dress, size 12. This won't fit anyone in the family, but it's long, so there's lots and lots of corduroy to harvest for other projects. I would feel bad about cutting up a perfectly good dress, and if you're desperate to own a long, well-made dress that is not very stylish but is certainly nice enough, let me know and I'll give it to you.
So there you go. No great finds like the vintage dresses here and here, but that's what I get for sleeping in. All in all, it was well worth the $8.79. Now let the laundering commence!

03 February 2012

Winter quiet

Hello, gentle readers. I know Languishing's been quiet this year so far. Things at Casa Languishing have been especially difficult, and it's been hard to think of what to write on the blog that wasn't either a complete lie, or so depressing that my gentle readers would just weep at the heartache.

Well, okay, maybe it's not that bad. But Shaun lost his job almost three weeks ago, now, and it's become a major focus for us, of course. Procuring a new job is a lot of work: polishing a resume, scouring the classifieds, finding non-elastic waist pants...

We don't have any savings to speak of, so within a month, either Shaun needs to have found work, or we try to find a way to cut $1,000 a month from the household budget.

I know that we have more than so many people in the world, and I'm not going to whine about what we don't have here. But the unknown freaks me out. I make plans, and back-up plans, and I try to help Shaun however I can, and still do my own work, and we both take care of V, and...it becomes too much sometimes.
It's only been three weeks. He's had two job interviews (we're still waiting to hear on both), and there are other positions he can apply for. But every day that goes by without work makes the fear in my chest tighten just a bit more.
We try to talk to V about it in an appropriate way so she understands why we're both anxious, and why we cry sometimes, and so she knows none of this is her fault, and no matter what we'll take care of her. She's too smart for us to pretend nothing's wrong, anyway.

So we talk about it, and try to stay calm, and Shaun fills out applications and wears non-elastic waist pants to his interviews. I'll try to blog more often about other things. But if I can't or don't, please be patient. I'll be back soon.