So Mom’s Retired, and I’m Totally Not Jealous…

I’m not jealous of my mom.

Last week, a friend of hers from work, who recently retired, called me and asked for my mother’s number and address. Apparently, she’d lost the information when she switched phones. While we were talking, she professed how excited she was for this new phase in her life and that she was looking forward to spending more time with my mom.

I guess I should mention Mom’s been retired a little over six months now. Yep, that was her Christmas present to herself: retirement…and a trip to the Rose Bowl.

Totally not jealous… totally.

Anyway, before we got off the phone, Mom’s friend again exclaimed that she was so relieved to finally be done with work and to not have that burden and stress always on her shoulders, and that she knows that retirement is going to be so fulfilling. Then she paused, as if waiting for me to agree with her, as if she expected me to say, “Yes, retirement is everything they say it is, everything it’s cracked up to be!”

Mind you, I was currently at work when she called.

So no, I have not experienced the bliss that is retirement. And the way this economy likes to cheat us degree-possessing millennials, I probably won’t know that elusive period of life called retirement for at least another 50 years.

God help me if I’m still working at age 75!

It can be quite annoying when I’m minding my own business, doing my work, or writing, or reading, or eating breakfast or lunch, or walking down the hall, or hell, even using the bathroom, and someone stops me to ask, “How’s your mom doing?”

I DON’T KNOW! 

While she is at home, lounging around, not lounging around, cooking, not cooking, planting a garden, not planting a garden, sweating in gym class, not sweating in gym class, taking spontaneous road trips to the beat to buy fresh fish,  not taking spontaneous road trips to the beat to buy fresh fish, blasting radio music, not blasting radio music…

…I’m at work. I have no idea what she’s doing, how she spends her day. One thing I do know: she ain’t working. Meanwhile, I’m trying my hardest not to curse people out, or cry from getting cursed out. The joys of working in customer service.

And I’m totally not jealous.

But I’ll admit, I was a little depressed when I left the house for work this morning. Not because it’s Monday. Although, no one would blame me—having to spend eight of the most precious hours in the day in a cold, gray office after such a beautiful and warm weekend, who wouldn’t get depressed about that?

But this morning, I was in a good mood before I got ready to leave. I didn’t sleep through my alarm (insert slap the snooze button twenty times) and woke up on time. I read several chapters from Psalms to receive encouragement and strength from God’s holy word. I packed my lunch—homemade chicken noodle soup I cooked the night before, and tuna salad (also homemade) spread on toast for breakfast. I got a laugh from some of the ridiculous cases on Judge Faith (in this episode, a woman sued her ex-boyfriend for a vacation he promised her when they were together). I watered my herb garden (unfortunately my cilantro died, but my mom, since she has the time now, bought be a new cilantro plant). I even packed some gym clothes and tennis shoes because I plan on going to Planet Fitness after work (my aunt seems to think I lost three pound since Memorial Day, because she’s gained it, so I want to spend about an hour on the elliptical just to make sure those pounds I apparently lost stay off).

Today was going to be a good day.

Then I walked past Mom’s room, and she was lying in the bed watching Iron Man.

I want to lie in bed and watch Iron Man. I don’t want to have to go to work when I could be lying in bed watching Iron Man!

But I’m not jealous.

Nope, totally not jealous.

 

Dear Jiffy Lube Mechanic

Dear Jiffy Lube Mechanic,

Remember me? I came by for an oil change on a rainy Wednesday afternoon around lunchtime the week before Memorial Day. You weren’t my first choice. I originally intended to spend my lunch break at the garage closest to my office, but when I turned the corner, the parking lot was completely full—everyone apparently having the same idea as I, to get last minute service work done on the car before holiday travel.

In comparison, your establishment looked closed, and I was tempted to turn around and go back to work, half my lunch break already wasted and I still hadn’t eaten, but you were leaning against the side of the building waiting for me. So I pulled in, and you approached my window, gestured for me to roll it down, and asked what you could do for me. I informed you that I only needed an oil change. You asked me the mileage on my car (around 61,000—I don’t do much driving), and listed for me the pricing options and complementary services you offer for every oil change, like breaks and lights check, tire pressure, windshield wipers, and vacuuming (which I really needed, since in the two and a half years I’ve had that car, I’ve never gotten the floors vacuumed).

While the men were under the car, took me aside to your computer and informed me the services my car was due for: transmission service for every 60,000 miles at $149, fuel filter change every 30,000 miles at $79. I wasn’t prepared to spend all that money when all I wanted was a basic oil change, and I’m still not so sure you weren’t just trying to sell me stuff, but I wrote it down, just in case, for future garage visits when I had the funds. However, you sold me on the new air filter and the more expensive oil change that would give me 7,500 miles, which meant my next oil change won’t be for at least another year with how often I drive, and you also offered me ten dollars off.

Is it common practice to tip mechanics? If so, you deserve at least twenty percent gratuity for such great customer service. Miles ahead of the garage I usually take my car.

I stayed in the waiting area inside while you worked on my car. I brought my writing journal along to do some character sketches and story outlines. I was participating in the Short Story a Day May Challenge, and I had also challenged myself to write a new short story for literary magazine submission. With May nearly over, I was successful in posting a new flash story on my blog every day, but I had yet to start on my new literary story. I wanted that to change, because believe it or not, It’s been almost two years since I’ve written for anything other than my blog. So doubt was seeping into my mind.

Then you came in to tell me my car was ready and saw me writing. You asked if I was a writer. After hesitating, I said yes. Claim it, I thought to myself. Don’t apologize, don’t make excuses, you are a writer. You are published. You asked me if any of my work was available for you to read, and I tore off a sheet of paper and quickly scribbled down the online magazines where some of my favorite stories are published. Like “Full Court Drama,” published in Agave Magazine, “Clouded Memories” in Cease, Cows, “Folly” in Minerva Rising’s “Sparrow’s Trill” issue. I also wrote the web address to my writing blog and gave the scrap paper to you.

You stayed while I paid the girl at the counter, then walked me out the door and to my car. That’s when you asked for my number. And while I’m not one to just give any guy my number, especially one I just met thirty minutes before, I gave you mine, not only because of all your help with my car, making me feel like I truly received service and didn’t just spend a bunch of money, but also because you showed more interest in my mind rather than my looks. You opened the driver’s door for me, let me in, and promised to call me soon, take me out sometime, eager to hear me read some of my stories to you. I left with a smile and much anticipation.

But you never called.

I thought maybe you were abiding by the rule—wait a few days to call, don’t appear too desperate and available, make them sweat a little.

But now it’s been two and half weeks, and while there’s still a possibility that you might call, my hope is stretching thin. I’m not mad . . . not really . . . just a little disappointed. I’m at a place in my life where I’m not interested in a romantic relationship, but I was really looking forward to making a new friend, someone who was supportive of my writing. I don’t have many friends like that, apart from my blogging family online.

What happened? Did you change your mind about me? Was getting my number just a bet between you and the other mechanics? Did you forget my name and lose my number amid your hundreds of contacts? That happened with a lady at church once. Maybe I mistakenly gave you the wrong number. Things like that slip my mind quite often—remembering my own phone number. If I did, believe me, it wasn’t on purpose. Maybe I gave you the right number, and you did call, but I didn’t answer. Because of the rise in scam phone calls, I don’t answer numbers I don’t recognize. But you could’ve texted me; I do answer those. It might’ve even been better if you’d called me while we were both standing by my car. I could’ve saved your number in my phone then.  At least I could’ve gotten your name. I’m sure you were wearing a nametag, but I don’t think I ever looked at it.

I guess my only option now, if I ever want to see you again, is to go back to Jiffy Lube, use the over due transmission service or fuel filter change as my excuse for my visit. But let’s be serious, I’m a bit of a penny pincher, and I probably won’t go back to a body shop until after I attend the “Getting to Know Your Vehicle” seminar that the Men’s Ministry at my church is hosting, just so I’m sure I understand all the maintenance work that’s required for my car to keep from over spending.

Also, I’m afraid you won’t remember me, and that would be so much more embarrassing.

So if you happen to read this, I’d like to say I’m still waiting for your call—maybe we could meet up to see Wonder Woman together—but if you’ve chosen not to continue your pursuit, it was really great meeting you. You seem like a great guy, and any woman, especially if she’s a single, insecure writer like me, would be lucky to have you as a friend.

Sincerely,

The car illiterate writer with the red Hyundai

 

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Will the Real Writer of the Family Please Stand Up

Not everyone can write. I know that’s a contentious statement to make in writing circles, so let me backtrack and say that not everyone can write well.

I have a lot of people in my family who think they can write, and hey, if you’re good, I’m not knocking you, but let’s be serious here. The true writer of the family is me, and it has always been me. But I never get the recognition I feel I deserve. Yes, my mom reads my work, and she brags to her coworkers, and they get hooked on the stories I post on my fiction blog. I have a brother in jail who has loads of time now to read the stories I send him to keep his mind off his unfortunate circumstances. As for my extended family—they make me feel like, oh, anyone can do that, or, it’s amazing when someone else does it, but not so much when I do it.

Memorial Day weekend, my cousin came down from Nashville to visit, and she told me about this memoir she and her parents were writing. It’s basically a history of the family, crazy life experiences, etc. It had a great premise, I thought, on account that every family has at least three outlandish stories to tell that would make a great book. The title was also badass, but I probably shouldn’t share it since the eventual goal, according to my cousin, is to publish the book.

During the entire conversation, I was under the impression that I was invited to be a coauthor in this project. Hell, we were on our way to their house to have an all-day writing session. She’d even given me the link to the shared Google Doc the memoir was on. I was so excited to be included, because for the longest time, I felt that this part of my family didn’t care about my writing, didn’t acknowledge it, or simply didn’t think it was that big a deal.

Unfortunately, when I arrived with laptop charged and ready, my aunt politely told me no, this project was for their family only, meaning mom, dad, sister, sister, no cousins, no nieces, no previously published fiction writers allowed. So while everyone else sat at the dinning room table, typing away in their assigned chapters, I tended to my blog and pretended not to be totally irked, by the fact that I was the only true writer at the table not writing in the memoir. The family memoir.

But I had many other projects on my plate. For one, the Short Story a Day challenge was nearing completion; I had three more stories to go. I was also gearing up to write a novella in July for CampNaNoWriMo in preparation for writing my novel in November for NaNoWriMo, which I spent all April planning.

Of course when I told them this, my aunt’s response was, “Do you get a prize or something for writing every day?”

“It’s more of a personal achievement,” I answered.

Then my cousin asked me to explain NaNoWriMo, and I was excited to tell her all about it since I will participating this year, and this is the first year I actually feel fully prepared and confident that I can start and finish the challenge.

Then my non-writing uncle chimed in. Allow me to roll my eyes for three minutes.

Let me pause to tell you a little bit about my uncle. First, he loves to talk about himself, but then I guess all writers do. Hell, that’s what I’m doing. I would take him more seriously if he was actually a good writer, but the man can’t even put two words together to form a complete sentence that makes sense when he talks, which is why it’s so mind-boggling to me that he was a preacher for 25 years. Preaching to whom? What congregation? Who could understand him?

When I was around 17 or 18, on my way to college, I told him about my aspirations to become a published author, and he basically told me to get a day job, I was wasting my time, no way in hell, it’s a one in a million chance that I will ever get published, might as well just give up now, major in something that will get me a job. After that, he showed me his scrapbook of all the articles he published in magazines back in the ’80s on activism and what not, and all I could think was, “Really? After you’ve just killed my dreams, you’re seriously gonna shove all your ‘success’ in my face?” Obviously, I’ve never gotten over it (even though I probably should).

And he still does that shit, to this day! Whenever I tell him, “Hey, I got a new story published,” he immediately goes to his office and grabs that stupid notebook to show off his writing from thirty years ago. Can I get one moment of glory, please, without you always trying to steal my thunder, Uncle?

And he writes just as “well” as he speaks—jumbled up rambling that spins the reader in circles. I’ve tried to read his published articles before, and each time I’ve found myself wanting to edit them.

So getting back to the story, my uncle adds his two cents. “50,000 words in a month? That’s extremely hard to do!”

Me: “It’s around 2,000 words a day.”

Uncle: “That’s a lot!”

Thinking to myself: Not really, that’s like three pages single-spaced in a word doc. Saying aloud: “Well, you have to plan ahead; you can’t fall behind, or it’ll be harder to catch up.”

Uncle after jumbling a few words: “You have to be a real writer!”

Me to myself: The fuck? I am a real writer! (in Eddie Murphy’s Mushu voice from Disney’s Mulan)

Auntie: “Well, she’s a writer too, honey.”

Me to myself: Oh, you remember now?

Uncle: “Well . . . ” *fumble jumble tumble bumble*  “. . . no.”

Me to myself: What?

Uncle: “I’m talking about a real writer. Yea, ’cause, ’cause, I know of this guy, you know, who writes like 10,000 words a day, a day! OK?”

Me to myself: He obviously doesn’t have a day job. Whatever, man. I’m done with this conversation.

So after we fell into an awkward silence, I decided to go to the link my cousin sent me and read what they had written so far. I could tell from the opening lines that this memoir was her idea. She’d written some great sections, hilarious, not too wordy, clever headings and titles (I should enlist her help with titling some of my stories, because sometimes I struggle). Then I came upon a section written by my uncle, and once I got through all the mumbo jumbo, it was again all about him, all about the great ministry work he’d done, a bunch of self-righteous shit jumbled together in run-on sentences. I was over it.

I didn’t even bother to read what my aunt had written. She’s not a writer. Period. She and my cousin spent ten minutes arguing over why she couldn’t randomly rename characters Pookie and Ray-Ray just because that was the title of the chapter (another clever title by my cousin, which I probably shouldn’t have named, but oh well). Pookie and Ray-Ray are caricatures of the ghetto. Every “hood” has at least one Pookie and one Ray-Ray. Obviously my cousin intended for that chapter to be about the types of people you meet in the hood, but if you’re going to name a character Pookie or Ray-Ray, that character has to fit the profile: Pookie, the ghetto fabulous, over-sexual hood rat, and Ray-Ray, the fast talking hustler, always trying to sell you some knockoff purse or pair of shoes, smooth talking a girl right out of her panties. These are just a few definitions, but there are many. The point is you can’t just name anyone Pookie or Ray-Ray, and the fact that my aunt could not understand that is proof (proof, I tell you!) that she is not a writer, at least not a creative one.

I’m the writer of the family, dammit! My cousin, I’ll say she’s good, from what I’ve read so far (and she’s pretty supportive of me, even from Nashville), but this is my livelihood, and it sucks that my family doesn’t respect it.

Maybe I’m a little selfish. Maybe my feelings are just hurt because I don’t get to participate in the family memoir. Since graduating from college, I struggle to find like minds who enjoy writing as much as I do. It’s why I immerse myself in blogging. I have a family of writers here online. But to have a writing session where the whole family sits together at the table to write and discus writing—oh my goodness, that is a writer’s wet dream! Unfortunately, I don’t get to be a part of it. Not with this family.

Even though I am family.

But I guess working with a real writer would be a little intimidating for them, especially since I can be an asshole of an editor too. Just ask my countless unfinished novels collecting megabyte dust on my hard drive.

#WeekendCoffeeShare: 25 Going on 90, Herb Gardens, Bake Sales, and New Ventures

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you to pass the cream and sugar, chuckling as I pour them into my cup, because the barista always manages to put too much expresso in my milk, and I probably shouldn’t be ordering coffee anyway, since I never liked the taste of it, and adding more sugar to anything cannot be deemed healthy. I’d consider ordering tea on my next visit to the café, since the only coffee I ever drink are flavored lattes and frappuccinos, and maybe I’ll lay off the sweets next time too—trying to lose weight and all.

If we were having coffee, I would proudly tell you that I finally listened and responded to God’s call for me to be a teacher, using my natural talent of writing to offer biblical teaching and insight to as many people as I can. Teaching doesn’t always have to involve standing in front of a group of people, which has always terrified me. And I’ve always been more eloquent in my writing anyway. So, after sporadically sharing it on this blog and others, and even on a short-lived Hubpage, my project, Sunday Morning Word, finally has a home, and it’s looking quite welcoming and homey on a new clean, quiet blog. I’m so excited to share its content, starting  with my first post, “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People,” which should be an inspiration to anyone who is currently going through a hard time in life.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that at age 25, I fear I’m getting senile. Last night, I forgot I had a load of clothes in the washer, and I’ve only just now put them in the drier. Thankfully the weather is not too hot or humid, and the clothes don’t smell moldy, so maybe I can get away with not washing them a second time and wasting water, energy, and detergent. Another “senior moment” happened when back to back two phrases that should’ve easily come to mind, like “activate a credit card,” and “engage with an audience,” completely escaped me, and I sat there frozen for minutes (I am not exaggerating), thinking, “What’s the word. What is that word?!” Dementia runs in my family, and it terrifies me that I could be losing it already when there’s still so much to do. So maybe I should pay closer attention to what I’m putting in my body, i.e. drink more water, eat more “brain food”—salmon, carrots(?)—get more anal stricter about my diet again because that belly pouch is starting to come back and the number on the scale is going in the wrong direction. Plus it’s just over two weeks before the start of bikini season, and I’ve got to get in shape!

If we were having coffee, I would show you pictures of the herb garden I planted—because I finally got fed up with paying $4.00 a pop for herbs and spices at the grocery store, and fresh always tastes ten times better that freeze dried, store bought, or picked too damn early anyway. The basil is looking delectable, and the marjoram, parsley, and thyme I can’t wait to eat, but my cilantro is struggling and hanging on for dear life, and I’m so bummed about it because I was really hoping to use it to make some authentic Mexican guacamole, or salsa, or cilantro lime rice for a southwestern dish. So if you’re a foodie or you have a green thumb, I could really use some advice on how to save my dying cilantro. My dinner plans are in a crisis!

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that while watching a kids show on qubo tv (don’t ask), I heard a little girl, maybe five or six, say she wished she was 25, and immediately I said, “No you don’t,” because I’ve been at it a little over two months now, and this 25 shit ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, and how exactly do you “adult” anyway, because I’m pretty sure I’m not doing it right, in fact, nine times out of ten, I have no idea what I’m doing, but somewhere in the nonsensical definition, it’s called “adulting,” so I just BS and roll with it.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that my granddaddy is selling cakes for $2 a slice at the bowling alley to raise money for the cancer foundation at our local hospital. It’s just one of many fundraisers he has leading up to the annual bowl-a-thon he hosts in honor of his second wife, who died of breast cancer. We had five cakes (four of which Granddaddy made himself) on display—lemon, five flavor (vanilla, almond, butter, pineapple, and coconut) plain and with icing, chocolate, and almond—plus a dish of banana pudding. Twice I had to resist the urge to smack some people. The first was a lady who stuck her nose all up in the cake, like she couldn’t smell it from 10 feet away. Don’t you hate it when people do that? The second was when a man paid for his cakes with a $2 bill. I would’ve kept that! They don’t make those anymore; in a few years, they could be worth more than two dollars!

Despite minor setbacks, we made $119 this weekend and will be back again next Saturday. Of course, I’ll probably be doing all the work because Granddaddy and his lady friends just sat off to the side, gossiped about Trump, and occasionally yelled at people waking by who tried to pretend they didn’t see our delicious cakes (diabetes the excuse). But it doesn’t bother me—hey, I used to work in food service, I’m a pro at it—I only ask that somebody pay attention to take the money because I don’t want to be handling the desserts and touching dirty dollar bills too. That’s just nasty.

If we were having coffee, I would glance down at my watch and say I have to run, because there’s always something urgent on my calendar that completely slipped my mind until now—me being so forgetful and all. I would thank you for this lovely chat, and promise that I’ll let you speak next time, but you’re such a good listener and I just get so carried away sometimes. I’d sneak a wink at the barista on my way out the door, and halfway down the street, I’d spin around and rush back in to get my cup of milk with too much coffee that I absently left on the table.

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

Sunday Morning Word has moved to a new site! This is a project I’ve been working on for years now, both here, and on my other blog, Lovely Curses. It’s come and gone over the years, as I’ve repeatedly put it on the back burner for months at a time, wanting to focus on different things. But God continues to bring it back to the forefront, and I’ve come to accept that this is my assignment from Him—to teach His word and simplify it in a way that others will understand. But instead of bogging it down and having it get lost amid the content of my other blogs, I’ve created a dedicated blog for it. And no, I won’t only be posting on Sundays; there will be much more content to come. So head over and read my first post about why bad things happen to good people and feel free to follow!

Sunday Morning Word

This week I’ve been reading the book of Job. This is my second time reading the book in its entirety, and I’ll be honest; the first time I read it, I didn’t like it. I thought all Job did was whine and complain about his problems. He questioned why all this calamity had befallen him when he was guilty of no wrong doing, he demanded to have an audience with God so that he could prove his innocence, he even wished for death so that all his suffering would end, and I just wanted him to shut up. I even wrote in my prayer journal that I didn’t want to be a complaining saint like Job. In the end, I didn’t really understand what the point of all of it was, what the book was really trying to tell me about God, about myself, about how to live this life when…

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To Buy or Not to Buy a Baby Shower Gift

If last month it was flu season, then this month is definitely BABY season! I just got the news that two of my closest friends are both pregnant with baby number two—the irony being that five years ago, they were both pregnant at the same time with baby number one, along with my cousin…which leads me to wonder if she may be pregnant again too. A brother and sister, whose mom used to babysit me when I was little, are both expecting, and I have two co-workers whose wives have delivery dates in May and June.

Meanwhile, I can’t buy a man. Well, I guess I could, but I don’t want to. I practically bought that last one, and he had TWO jobs, despite being too broke to do anything.

But that’s a different story for another day.

Getting back to my co-workers (did I mention one of them just has a baby last January? Needless to say, this one wasn’t planned), the department is throwing a baby shower for them later this afternoon, and everyone is urged, though not required, to buy a gift, give them a piece of change, or do something nice for the dads-to-be.

If I’m being honest, I just want to slap them across the back, give my congratulations, get a free slice of cake and pizza, and go back to my cubicle, where I know it will be deathly quiet with everyone else still at the party.

Does that make me a bitch?

I haven’t even thought about buying a present since the day my boss said, “Let’s give them a baby shower,” a few months ago. While I was enlisted to assist in the initial planning, all we did was sit at a round table in her office and go over food, drinks, a half-baked potential theme idea, what conference room to book, and where the guys were registered. After that, the other admin in the department basically took over the planning, so I let her have it. She was all too excited to be included while I couldn’t care less. Since that short planning session, I’ve only gotten an email invite to the party and a link to the registries, which I’ve looked at maybe twice.

Now that it’s the day of the party, I’m probably the only one who will show up empty-handed, if I even show up at all. I didn’t have the best experience at the last joint baby shower we had (when co-worker who is currently on unplanned baby number 2 was expecting baby number 1 along with another co-worker who was pregnant with baby number 2). The admin at the time had sent out an email to the entire department, saying that she will be collecting baby shower gifts up to a certain date, and also asking if anyone wanted give money to put in a card. I didn’t bother to respond because buying expensive baby gifts for two people was not in the budget, and I didn’t really want to give them money either… which apparently meant I didn’t get to sign the card.

Fast forward to the day of the baby shower, the wife and husband of the two co-workers were both there, the table in the back of the room was piled with gifts along with the two cards that had everyone’s signature but mine, and as I stood off to a corner of the room, nibbling on cookies and mints, I realized that I didn’t have a close relationship with anyone in this department. Being a temp, I am often excluded from a lot of functions. the most recent one being just yesterday when the whole department disappeared for what I thought was a full-time employees only meeting but actually turned out to be a party for my boss who’s getting married in June. I was informed of the leftover cupcakes from the party at 5 that afternoon, after everyone had already gone home.

Which leaves me to ask the question: Why should I waste my money on people who treat me like an afterthought? My mom has pointed out to me that even my friends, whose kids I spend too money on, don’t do the same for me (probably because I don’t have any children, but I guess I see where she’s coming from). And when I think about all the things I’ve got my money tied up in—I’m saving for a cruise to Alaska this summer, I’ve yet to file my taxes because I’m afraid I might owe (as if the government hasn’t taken enough out of my checks), my car is three months overdue for an oil change—expensive baby shower gifts for people I don’t particularly like isn’t really in the budget.

One of my resolutions at the beginning of the year was to save money—because eventually I do want to move out of my mother’s house—but two things will keep me from reaching that goal: impulse spending—buying stuff I don’t need or won’t use but once—and giving when my heart’s not in it.

The Bible says that God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). It also says when you give freely, you gain even more (Proverbs 11:24). I’ve thought about, if nothing else, giving my co-workers a card. It’s not too late to make a quick trip to Dollar General on my lunch break. But then I would feel obligated to put money in it, because what’s the significance of a card other than to hold money, right? I learned that the hard way when my granddaddy copped an attitude because I only bought him a card for his birthday. Apparently a card doesn’t count as a present (even though that’s all I got for my birthday three weeks later, but I digress).

But even in buying a card, it would still be a reluctant gesture under the compulsion that everyone else is probably getting them something and that I have to, too. My heart still wouldn’t be in it. Does that make me a bad person? I hope not, because I really don’t mean to be. There are times when giving to someone comes as easily as breathing, and others when the thought just slips my mind until the day of. Like today.

So after all that rambling, have I come to a decision? I think I’ll pass on buying a gift. I don’t want to. I don’t feel lead to from a kind and sincere heart. And feeling obligated to do so because “it’s the right thing to do” and “everyone else is doing it” isn’t a good enough reason.

So what’s left? Will I skip out on the party? Will I go just to mingle for a few minutes, grab some free food, and slip out (who would notice anyway? These people never notice me)? Or will I fade uncomfortably into the background like I did at the last baby shower? The more I think about it, the more I convince myself not to even go. Again, who would notice?

A Birthday Conundrum

My birthday’s coming soon, and I couldn’t feel more stressed out. Not as stressed as my co-worker, who decided to propose to his pregnant girlfriend on his birthday, but pretty darn close.

To be honest, I could care less about my birthday, but everyone around me is trying to make it a bigger deal than what it is. Hence my stress. Birthdays stopped being important after 21, and once you pass 30, they only serve as cruel reminders that you’re getting old and have nothing to show for your uneventful life.

When you’re a kid, birthdays are exciting. You spend the days leading up to your birthday anticipating what presents you’ll receive. Maybe your parents plan a Disney themed party at your house and invite all your friends from school, or maybe you celebrate at the arcade, or the pizza place, or the children’s museum, or the McDonald’s Play Pin (do those even still exist?), or any other place where young children gather. You and your friends eat all the cake and ice cream you can cram into your tiny little stomachs until you pass out on the floor, bodies contorted in strange positions, with brightly colored blue, purple, red, or green tongues, and dried frosting crumbling around your lips.

Once you reach adolescence, the next big birthday is 16, the age also known as the peak of teenage-y-ness (because 17 is merely an afterthought). Maybe your parents buy you your first car, or you throw a wild, outlandish party like the ones on MTV’s Sweet Sixteen. Maybe you’ve decided that this is the day you lose your virginity, although if you’re smart, you’ll wait until prom, because good things always happen on prom night. (Did you catch the sarcasm there?)

Two years later, you’re 18, an adult, eager to do everything you previously needed a parent’s permission to do; get a tattoo, stay out late, date that no-good boy who will definitely shatter your heart (if you still live at home and have strict parents, this may still prove challenging), buy cigarettes—a friend in high school made this a huge deal on her eighteenth birthday, only to have the cashier deny her the privilege because her ID was expired. Maybe you’re gearing up for college, to finally be free of mom and dad (although not completely, because they’re more than likely flipping that hefty tuition bill), become your own person, discover you!

And lastly, there’s 21. The only thing cool about this birthday is that you finally get to drink . . . legally . . . but we all know you’ve been “turning up” since 16.

So what’s left after 21? Well if you’re me, you have the displeasure of having your brother’s girlfriend (a college student who still parties like she’s 21) feel sorry for you because she thinks you have no friends and you never get out of the house to do anything fun (probably because that’s what your insensitive brother—who’s mind is perpetually frozen at age 16 because of all the weed he smokes—has told her), and now she feels obligated to make you her charity case and drag you to the club with her uptight friends—who think they’re too cute for clothes that fit—to “turn you out.”

Well, excuse me for assuming when I graduated from college, I left behind the constant peer pressure to accept that “fun” meant drinking like you have no liver, dressing like you’re about to make your vixen debut on a rap music video, dancing in the dark with some sweaty man breathing down your neck, and going deaf from the noise they have the audacity to call music these days.

Call me an old soul in a twenty-something-year-old’s body.

That kind of “fun” has never interested me, not even when I was in college. My kind of fun is watching a classic horror movie marathon while eating a huge bowl of popcorn, going midnight bowling with my girlfriends (yes, I do have friends) and between games having a beer or two and sharing a plate of chili cheese fries, going to the bar for the hot wings and home chips and to watch the game and maybe even find someone to teach me how to play pool.

Notice how going clubbing with my brother and his girlfriend was not mentioned. Why? I because I’d rather not be miserable on my birthday doing something I hate with people I don’t particularly like. Don’t get me wrong, I love my brother, but we have nothing in common. The things he likes to do for fun I absolutely abhor, and the things I like to do for fun he thinks are boring and lame. Is there a way we can find common ground? Probably. We just haven’t found it yet. And we won’t find it by my birthday. And that’s perfectly fine, because like I said, I really don’t care to do anything but eat some cake and go to bed.

The last few years I’ve spent my birthday with a gang of squealing children. You see, I basically share a birthday with my friend’s (yes, another friend) five-year-old. She was born two days after my birthday, and since the baby shower, I’ve celebrated with her and her family, and have had so much more fun. Why? Because I can actually be myself. My family tries too hard to control my birthday—my brother is always trying to make me be “cool,” my granddaddy always has something more important to do, my mom always has to have a “plan” to go by, and if by some miracle I do come up with a plan, everyone wants to change it!

Wait a minute, whose birthday is it, again?!

Then there’s the issue of presents. If I don’t care to have a party, I don’t care to get any presents. Of course, my granddaddy is probably going to try to “make a statement” of not getting me anything simply because I only bought him a card for his birthday earlier this month.

According to what’s he whined to my mom in private, I didn’t get him anything. Apparently a card with a beautiful message doesn’t count as a present?

And what exactly do you buy an 88-year-old man who already has everything? He has enough shirts, he has enough ties, he has enough power tools. I’ve yet to see him wear the hat I bought him last Christmas (as in Christmas 2015). And if you ask me, my brother didn’t give him a present either, just a wad of cash in card that I bought! Does the thought not count anymore? Only the dollar bills? Well I’m sorry my money’s all tied up in a summer cruise to Alaska and a $1400 doctor’s bill that my bogus insurance won’t cover.

If he tries to give me a long drawn out speech about “being a good family member” and buying presents “to show that you care,” I swear I’m going to lose it. At the end of the day, presents are just things—they break, they tear, they stop working, they get worn, and eventually we throw them away. I can do with less things. We all can.

I’ve considered disappearing on my birthday. Maybe I’ll take a spontaneous road trip down to Georgia to visit my best friend, make a pit stop in Charlotte to pick up my other best friend, and the three of us spend my birthday together. Or maybe I’ll just go off on my own, take a rest and relaxation getaway to the beach or the mountains. Hey, I live in the Piedmont of North Carolina, both are equal distances away.

But the most logical solution will be what I always do. Suffer along with my controlling family, and then party with the five-year-olds. One more year won’t kill me. But the planning for next year’s birthday getaway trip starts TODAY! Don’t ask me what I’m doing for my birthday. I’m already gone.