Tag Archives: people

imbroglio


imbroglio n. an extremely confused, complicated, or embarrassing situation

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I am a champion eavesdropper and general observer of people. I do it often, especially on the morning train. It is a bit of a game for me, to overhear conversations, on the phone or actively between two people. If I was a novelist I think I might ride the train just to gather ideas for character sketches. It’s more than just a few moments of a conversation. It’s the way that particular person talks. Their speech pattern and intonation, the overall cadence of their speech, what they are talking about and the emotion they are audibly emitting. Piece it together with what they’re wearing, the bag they’re carrying, their ID badge hanging off of their zipper. It all creates an invented persona and I am a detective trying to solve who they are to place them in my own story. When I am lucky enough to catch someone lamenting on an imbroglio, it ties it all together – but I am rarely so lucky. Instead I watch and create my version of them in my head.

I picture myself as a hack impersonation of Ernest Hemingway in “A Moveable Feast:”

…A girl came into the cafe and sat by herself at a table near the window. She was very pretty with a face fresh as a newly minted coin if they minted coins in smooth flesh with rain-freshened skin, and her hair black as crow’s wing and cut sharply and diagonally across her cheek.

I looked at her and she disturbed me and made me very excited. I wished I could put her in the story, or anywhere, but she had placed herself so she could watch the street and the entry and I knew she was waiting for someone. So I went on writing.

The thought of Ernest Hemingway writing in a café, observing people and turning them into his characters inspires me. I don’t know if I’ll ever write a novel, or anything deemed publishable for that matter, but I can still create the story to pass the time. Here are some of my favorite, frequent characters.

The Fun, Fearless Female

She is one of my favorites and I hate when she sits in a car farther down the line and I don’t have the chance to observe her. She works for Cosmopolitan Magazine, or at least I think she does because she is always carrying tote bags that have bedazzled sayings like “Fun, Fearless Female” with fake kissy marks- the kind they give away at workplace events. She surely looks fun with her honey highlighted bob, a hint of cleavage showing through her light, acrylic Forever 21 sweater in the Spring and Summer. 100% fun. The most notable thing about her, though, is that she is always telling some long, drawn out, exquisitely animated imbroglio to at least 3 or 4 men – most of them bald and overweight, but nonetheless gathered around like a moth to a flame. She comes across as young, peppy and seductive in a very suburban way, but if you look close you see the tiny creases of crows feet, her foundation and powder caked there signaling a clue to her age. She must be mid 40’s going on 17. I wonder if she’s writes those sordidly famous Cosmo sexual advice columns. Or if she’s just a functionary, a cog in the wheel of the smut publishing universe.  

Kate Spade

The girl that all of the men stare at on the platform. The perfect hair, the clear complexion. She always carries a Kate Spade bag and has work friends that she sometimes talks to on the train. She has an immature taste in clothing…like this morning when she wore espadrilles and a tailored jean blazer on this rainy, 40 degree day. She smiles with her mouth closed because her teeth are crooked. It seems like a source of embarrassment for her. At first glance, you would think she has it all together, but if you look closer you see that the strap on one of her handbags is torn and taped discreetly back together. That her iPhone screen is so marred with cracks that I wonder how she uses it without slicing her fingertips. The day she sat next to me on the train she stabbed me with her bony elbow at least three times because of her feverish texting. She was whispering on the phone, gossiping about work and about her upcoming trip to LA. She is married, the standard large, flawed diamond solitaire and channel set wedding band combo. I wonder what her other half is like. If he’s like her, clean looking and popular or if he’s a nerd.  I always pair her with “Tom Brady”, the good looking tall guy who carries the Coach diaper bag as a man purse who always stands near her on the platform. They would go so well together – Kate Spade and Tom, walking side by side, she in suede ankle boots, he in grey loafers (no socks). But she is uninteresting, not because she has to be, though. I feel like she’s just looking the part, playing the role. Maybe she doesn’t have the courage to be anything else or maybe she just wants to be the pretty girl on the platform, and that is enough for her.

Bob

Sometimes I take the train from a different town, with different people crowding the platform. Sometimes I see Bob, and he doesn’t know it, but I listen to his music. Sometimes it’s Jay Z or Kanye. Other times it’s something I can’t place but wish I could. Usually when I hear a song I like, I try to remember a line or two to Google later and then download it. But I can’t hear the words through Bob’s ear buds, tucked behind his long dread locks. It makes me sad to catch a beat and not know what the song is. He drinks Dunkin Donuts coffee – not flavored, medium – and wears a suit under his overcoat.  Sometimes he stands next to me and we wait, I with my purple Beats, he with his white ear buds, and we share the platform in our own individual, music laced bubbles. I wonder what the probability is that we have ever listened to the same song at the same time, our headphones secretly communicating our comradely in static code.

The Twin Beaks

They both look amazing from behind. Him in a brown tweed overcoat, her in a smart red trench. They hold hands, they talk with their heads close together and you think to yourself – wow – what a great looking, loving couple. You expect them to turn around and blow you away, like in some cheesy rom com movie where the music queues up and the wind blows their hair just so. Instead you notice that they both have strangely large noses. Everything else about them is perfection – except for their twin beaks. I suppose it’s not very nice to say that perhaps it is their facial protuberance that brought them together, but I would bet it was, even if it was only subconsciously. I wonder if they ever think about how big their noses are, perhaps even laugh about it together over glasses of wine and pate. What would happen if one day one of them decided to fix their nose, or would they do it together? Would they argue about it? It’s funny how something so small like a nose can change your perception of an entire face that might otherwise be quite beautiful. If in focusing so much on a large nose can cause you to miss the perfect mouth and hazel blue eyes. Maybe that is why they belong together, because they share their noses and can see beyond it when a regular nosed person may not be able to. I suppose it might be rather liberating, to find a counterpart that doesn’t accentuate your flaw, but shares it and intimately understands it. In a way, I envy the twin beaks.

I am, indeed, no Hemingway, but he was possessed of many vices the same as I. I too have the girl in the café who looks away for another and is unaware of me, staring clandestinely, making up a story about her. There is always the temptation to want to break that line, to reach out across and meet these characters, these personas that I have invented. To know if what I am making up is in any way accurate. But that would ruin the magic of it all. I know that it is better to never know so that I can fill my mornings with these people and to pretend I am Hemingway, waiting for the train with my music and coffee.

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friend


friend n. a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection.

friends

“True friends stab you in the front” – Oscar Wilde

The word “friend” is a loaded word for me. I am and never have been good at making or keeping friends. Perhaps it will be my life’s greatest challenge. Lately I have been thinking a lot about friends and friendships. Once upon a time in a world without social media you could just move on and forget your previous friendship failings or tragedies, but these days they linger in throwback photos that a “friend” posted online of that 5th grade birthday party that you weren’t invited to. Seeing your bully included in that photo instead of you can inflict quite a sting and bring back all of those insecurities and questions you once had about yourself…and justifiably didn’t want to deal with in adulthood having already triumphed over them.

I think I am a member of the majority when I say that I was a victim in a female trio friendship tragedy. Early in my life (Kindergarten), things were pretty copacetic. I never attended preschool so most of my “friends” were neighbors who stole my Barbie dolls and babysitters whom I idolized and watched Duran Duran videos with when my parents weren’t home. It should be this way as a child. Friendship should be simple and far from tragic. When I started Kindergarten I was pretty reserved, but I made friends easily. I got along well with little boys better than little girls, and that is still the case. Things were just great. I had a “best friend” and I was hers as well. She had another best friend who wasn’t really my best friend – and we tolerated each other. We were both in competition to be the only “best friend” but in the end it was mutually accepted that we would coexist…until around the 4th grade that is.

The 4th grade was a really turning point in my life. It was the year that my bully came to town. Being the new girl at a small, private school made you an instant celebrity – especially if you came from a street clothes wearing, bubble gum chewing allowed, public school. You were a rebel, the cool kid – automatically – even if you sucked. Usually the cool kid was indeed cool – or I just got along with them relatively well. But this year the new girl set her sights on my trio of friends and I was marked as the odd man out. She did all of the back talking, rumor spreading, “mean girl” things a bully does and the result was the end of my friendship. She sought to replace me and as 9 year old girls haven’t learned a ton about loyalty yet, she was successful – and I became the lone wolf.

Having been ejected from my first foray into friendship, I sought new friends and found some. They were never the same. The bond just wouldn’t form the way it had back when I was 5. They already had other friends and I wasn’t new or interesting enough to be an attraction. I spent the next 2 years as the third wheel, all while watching the girl who bullied me fill the space that had been meant for me.

The school closed and I ended up in public school, finally away from one bully only to find another. Being new in public school as a 12 year old was like being a leper at the Oscars. I was also pretty awkward and fat, so of course I was tortured day in and day out for being so. My new name was “meatballs” and I was called that for almost a year until I starved myself thin.

Things weren’t awesome in high school either. Being an athlete helped, but the connections I made never stuck. College was a fiasco which is worthy of a blog post of it’s own – until I met my husband who is the bestest friend I have.

When I think about this checkered past, I have to believe that what happened way back when left an indelible mark on my ability to make and care about friends. Having been hurt so early on, the fear is now an innate part of my personality. I’d like to think there are others in the world just like me.

When I was friended on Facebook by the original “best friend” I was hesitant to accept for the reason that I am writing about today. I questioned why this person wanted to add me to their list having rejected me so long ago. Could she have never known how painful it all was? Did she ever care? Then I saw the posted photos of the fun times without me…the group photos of the 3 of them where I should have been, and I felt hurt and hatred all over again. A thirty five year old mother with a successful career and loving husband reduced to an insecure 8 year old in the blink of an eye. So I’ve been thinking on it for some time, and here is my conclusion.

I have a handful of people that I can call true “friends” that I am convinced will be with me throughout whatever comes my way, and I with them. We don’t take a lot of group photos or give each other “BFF” embroidered pillows. If you look on Facebook you might not even see them – because they are real people and I don’t need to post them like badges on the internet to prove to the world I indeed have friends. Some of them might not even know I consider them so close. Sometimes we don’t talk for months – years even – and it doesn’t matter. We are not a fad or a trend. We are not cool or begging for admiration. They don’t abide by the rules of FIFO or seniority. We can connect on day 1 as well as 10 years from now. We like each other “as is” – warts and all.

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personality


personality n. the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individuals distinctive character

I’ve been home for some time as a full time mom raising a young child, as you already know from reading this very blog. I have too much time to think about things. My brain seems to run all day. While I was driving to our morning coffee and munchkin ritual today, I got to thinking about personality and the role it plays in our lives. It’s such an odd thing – this term personality that we choose to signify all of the good, bad and ugly things we tend to do regularly. It becomes really important in our day to day lives and interactions. I think this scene from Pulp Fiction best sums it up.

In certain situations, I have been described as somewhat quiet. Growing up I was rather shy and would frequently not know what to say. Yet when you get to know me, whether through my writing or by just hanging out with me, you soon come to find out my quirky, goofy personality – my collection of characteristics that make me Kim. I’ve never actually sat down and thought about what these characteristics are. I suppose I can be a pessimist at times, but I always hold onto hope – so I’m not super negative or anything. I’d describe it as having a firm grip on reality. I can be stubborn – I’d rather say “determined” and that has led me to achieving goals I set in my little life. I love to laugh. Whenever I reconnect with people from my past they always mention how much I used to laugh…even if something wasn’t THAT funny. I think I’ve made quite a few people think they are actually a lot funnier than they are. I am terrified of bugs…and I mean terrified. I once called my husband crying on a business trip because there was a bee in house…in the room upstairs, with the door closed…completely distraught because I was terrified of going near it. I frequently make my dog Stella eat spiders and other insects I find around the house. She’s like a 60 pound furry aardvark. I would also say that I am somewhat of an idealist. I expect a lot from people. I assume that most will do the right and honorable thing all of the time and get really disappointed when they don’t. But I am forgiving. I love a genuine apology. I adore honesty even more.

So that’s sort of a summary of my personality. Just a blurb. I guess I can add that I love hip hop and gangster rap. Being a 5’2 very caucasian female adds some humor to that characteristic when you drive a large orange Honda Element with the whitest baby in the world sitting (and dancing) in the back seat.

I haven’t really cultivated this personality of mine. It’s taken me quite some time just to admit to some of the characteristics that comprise “me.” I feel it would be inauthentic – which is another characteristic for my collection. I like things as they are – unforced and natural – like my son. It’s somewhat refreshing to be around a toddler for this reason. He can’t help but show his true colors all of the time – especially when you don’t want him to. He  is the most authentic person I know. Perhaps sometimes a little too authentic. He’s terribly stubborn and outspoken at times. He can be a bit shy with new people at first but warms up pretty quickly. He loves to dance and be the center of attention. He is in fact very much a ham. He generally doesn’t want his mom to be doing anything but paying attention to him – including running with the jogging stroller. His personality was so strong today that he screamed the entire 2 miles drawing several looks of pity from everyone that passed us along the trail…including the wild turkeys and dogs.

I can already see how my own personality is starting to rub off on him…in not such pretty ways. I suppose it’s a good thing he spends so much time with the dog. She’s very calm and zen…and protects me from all of the spiders and bugs. Having a second insect killer in this household is definitely a good thing.

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rotifer


rotifer n. a minute multicellular aquatic animal of the phylum Rotifera, having a wheel like ciliated organ used in swimming and feeding.

After a week at the beach, this seems like a fitting word. I can only imagine how many rotifers we came in contact with on Block Island. It is also a fitting word since I have taken such an extended hiatus from this blog. I needed a good noun to write about – not some pesky, emotional adjective or energetic verb.

Rotifer reminds me of high school biology – a subject I adored when I was 16. I think I have lost quite a bit of intelligence since then. I have no idea how I handled the mathematics and technicalities involved to study science, let alone think I could continue my biology studies in college. Sometimes I feel like I copped out when I changed my major to English. It was an easy major for me. I didn’t have to struggle to write or read as I had always loved to since I was young. I chose the road most travelled by when it came to my higher education.

This brings me to the subject of life decisions. Since having my son, I have had to make some very weighty decisions about my life, not returning to work being the largest and most influential one. Believe it or not, it would have been a lot easier for me to return to work. Work was familiar for me. I knew I could do my job well and what the challenges were from day to day. In contrast, baby raising is a constant challenge. Regardless of how much I read or research there is always so much more to learn. I also made the decision to be more health conscious after being pregnant. I run and try to eat right (mostly). I take my art and creativity seriously now and give it the time and consideration it deserves. Moving away from Brooklyn was also difficult. It would have been really easy to just stay in our old life and simply insert the baby into it…or at least try. Ultimately I miss Brooklyn immensely, but I know that Maplewood is a real home for all of us. I suppose I am always a work in progress and always trying to make the right decisions. It gets overwhelming sometimes.

There are many people in (and out) of my life that I like to study. People watching is one of my favorite hobbies. It’s interesting to see what doors open and close by the making of difficult decisions. Even in small ways, perhaps as small as the rotifer, we are always making decisions that blaze a trail for our future. What to eat for lunch? What to wear to work? Whether to bathe or not? Go running or watch TV? The fascinating thing about making decisions is how one minuscule decision can be life changing at any moment in your life without any warning whatsoever. Even more fascinating is the fact that sometimes making the more difficult and painful decision is the better one to make. Of course this leads me back to Robert Frost in his much abused poem:

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 

 Perhaps it would be easier to be a single celled rotifer with less decisions and mistakes to make. And maybe I should have persevered with my studies in biology and become a doctor. The one thing I am sure of is that my road has been very windy and interesting due to the decisions I have made. It also double backs over itself, goes backwards and then forward again. Sometimes it dead ends and I have to go back the way I came. Frequently there are rocks and boulders to climb over, scrapes and bruises to heal. Some days the trees may cloud the sky and leave me in darkness. Other days the sun blazes down to show me the way.  A straight and level road would be pretty sad. I’m glad I’m not a rotifer and that I have many, many cells and appendages to help me travel along my road and make good and bad decisions all along the way.
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oik


oik n. an uncouth or obnoxious person

Wow. I can’t believe the dictionary gave me this word today. It’s Saint Patrick’s Day! In America, it means you get drunk, wear green and pretend you’re Irish. In Ireland…er…you drink Guinness and have a farm parade. We spent St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland a few years ago and it was actually quite pleasant and devoid of oiks. It was like a religious holiday for the Irish and as we were there on a weekday, it was a day off. We went to a parade in Cashel but it was mostly tractors, farm animals and children. We had ice cream and Guinness and the world was blissful. Unfortunately there was no traditional Irish music, just Black Eyed Peas and a late night dance party…which was disappointing.

The world could do with a few less oiks these days. They seem to turn up everywhere…television, Whole Foods, on trains with “F*** Me, I’m Irish” t-shirts” and on the road in cars. I think someone needs to form a Coalition Against Oiks. I encounter them everyday and have to bite my tongue.

Well anyway, today I have avoided the oiks. My husband’s birthday is today so he is in the city while my son and I avoid the crowds and drunken masses. This word reminds me of a chant from old Girl Scout Camp days. Change the oi oi oi to oik oik oik….

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