Saturday, March 20, 2010

I'm Sorry, You're Not Good Enough

I recently took part in my community’s Big Read and read the book “The Great Gatsby.” A week later I took part in a book discussion. We talked about the themes of betrayal, infidelity, excess (they drank constantly), the roaring 20’s, how the rich behave, escaping the past, and other literary staples that have made the book stand the test of time but what caught my attention was the theme, “I’m sorry, you’re just not good enough.”
The fact that “rich girls don’t marry poor boys” is a hard lesson learned by a young man in love but is there a harder lesson learned by a rich girl who marries for love and lives broke?
I wasn’t good enough for someone when I started my career. She was beautiful, funny and charming and I’d like to think that I was at least charming because she did date me. I wanted to take her for a ride, to the top, over and over again.
She didn’t say to me I wasn’t good enough but I knew deep down in my heart she was waiting for something better. She wasn’t going to wait for me to “make it.” She went on to marry the son of one of the biggest grocery chains in the south, a move well played. I wonder if she stays up at night thinking of me? I’m kidding.
I’ve also been on the other side of this situation. Since my early 20’s crush I’ve run across women who thought the world of me but didn’t think they were equal to what I wanted them to be in my life. In one scenario it wasn’t that the girl wasn’t rich. It was her mother. I thought her family was freaking crazy and I didn’t want to get involved with a bunch of nut cases that scared the hell out of me, even though this time she thought I was the person who was handsome, funny and charming. Here’s the bitch, it made me unaware of the fact that with her I wouldn’t have had to make it to the top. I could have been me.
She ended up leaving her crazy-ass family, knowing they weren’t good enough for her either. She also believed in the next guy, and his ability, and started a business with the gentleman who really loved her and they are now rich. For me, another lesson learned. By the way I’m still working on my career.
I have a friend who is a triple threat, good looking, funny and charming, who, years ago, was crazy about a woman, willing to do anything for her. She kept telling him she didn’t want to have a boyfriend, just a friend, a close companion, a guy to do things with, and he hung in there and gave no pressure. He was madly in love and just willing to be by her side. She must have known and had one of the best excuses that keep us men at bay, “I’ve just gotten out of a relationship.”
“Hey! Honey! You’ve been my friend for six months. We’re technically dating, throw the dog a bone or better yet, let me throw you one and get it over with.”
But he didn’t. He kept on until he realized he wasn’t good enough for her.
All people want to be held close. I don’t believe people when they say they only want a friend. Was she getting over on him? Was he not rich enough?
But, love conquers all, right? Tell that to the woman who married for love and is dreaming of the life she could have had, had she held out, went with her brain instead of her heart and got the house, the clothes, the trips, or even the feeling of showing one’s entire family they’re not good enough.
I can only speculate on women holding out for love or marrying for money. I would think it ‘s the way the girl was raised. I would bet the farm that if a woman loved me and another man the same, the brightness of gold would diminish the glare from my red hair. After my experiences I don’t blame them.
Love and money, or lack of it, plays into such an interesting way man and woman form a relationship. Throw youth into the mix and holy Christ, innocence and lack of intelligence rears its ugly head.
I once saw a young couple in the French Quarter begging for money. I was sitting across the street by the Joan of Ark Statue. They couldn’t have been more then teenagers, dirty clothed, street urchins, and I was amazed at the fact that as they begged they would hold hands in-between accepting coins from passers-by. For a long time I wondered if they were in the beautiful world of being in love or were they just in poverty. I couldn’t tell.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

If walls could talk.

I find it fascinating when someone on the “Antique Road Show” has an item they don’t know anything about sells for an unbelievable amount of money, lots of money, plenty of money. I enjoy sitting on the couch waiting for the dollar amount to pop up on the screen. It’s a game I play. “How much is that piece of crap worth?” Fifteen hundred dollars? Wow! What? 35,000 dollars for a stool. I’d love to get 35,000 dollars for my stool.
Collections are always fun too. It lets me reminisce about things that I had that I didn’t save. I couldn’t save a dollar to save my soul but isn’t it interesting that somebody was wise enough to save a collection of love letters from “Joe Blow,” a person that they didn’t know anything about? Their grandparent’s parent did and now it’s worth a lot more then they ever thought it would, which makes me think of what someone told me about value.
He held up a pen and said, “This pen is worth a buck. I’d sell it to your for seventy-five cents if you need to use it, but if president Bush walked in and used it to sign his name I could get at least 10 dollars for it.”
Old coins are something like that but if you put 19th century nickels in a snack machine you’ll only get a bag of chips.
Things passed down intrigue me because it’s an heirloom. That’s a three-dollar word, “heirloom.” Say it again. I won’t write it, just say it.
Taken from Wikepedia:

In popular usage, an heirloom is something, perhaps an antique or some kind of jewelry, that has been passed down for generations through family members. “Loom” originally meant a tool. Genuine heirlooms were almost unknown by the beginning of the twentih century.

“Tools” weren’t handed down in my family, into it they were born.
I own a few antiques, a bed I got from my uncle that he died in, the TV set he watched, one of the first ever made, which is an old bulky, tiny screened, black and white that I gutted. I even put a portable TV in it and played some old fifties TV shows. When the Three Stooges came on I could feel the presence of my dead uncle watching along with me. It asked me to pull his finger.
I also own a really cool, wooden, portable bench. I’m told it’s from the 19th century. I paid seventy dollars for it about 20 years ago. It really is cool. Closed, it looks like a guitar case but when you open it, it folds out and becomes a bench. It’s heavy to carry and I don’t use it much but it really is amusing to walk into a crowded outdoor setting with people sitting on the ground and in I walk with what people think is a guitar and proceed to open a bench, then sit on it towering above everyone’s head. I get a kick out of it. I think I’ll use it this summer.
I’m a history buff and I’ve always liked the phrase, “If walls could talk,” which makes me wish antiques could talk, too. For something to be in a place for an extremely long period, collect dust, take in time, and repeat what it saw, would be worth $35,000. Oh, wait. That’s what old people do. So, listen to them.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Brother can you spare a dime?

Are you the type of person who doesn’t ask for anything? You have that feeling that if you accept something from someone you owe something in return and you don’t want to be indebted. Or, you just don’t want to bother someone because their act of kindness that should make you feel good inside would only fall short because you felt they had gone to some trouble, over you, and that would make you fell like a nuisance.
So, possibly you’ve developed an “I’ll make it on my own” type of existence. “I’ll do without,” is what you tell yourself, “If I can’t afford it, I don’t need it,” as if it’s a penance, to do without and show the world you're on your own.
Have you ever then swallowed your pride and accepted a gift or money for the baby’s dippers, or rent, or Christmas for your kids? How about that yearbook or class ring for your kid or that present you wanted so much for someone you love so dear?
When did those feeling of not asking for anything begin to emerge?
For me it began when I was thirteen years old, my parents had divorced after separating twice and I was happy just to see my father, a weekend day, and a situation that had him missed quite often. He had a very good job and the courts had him paying child support for my older sister and I. My brother had reached eighteen and past the threshold for giving money because of one’s sperm.
Every two weeks the child support check was due. I remember it was one hundred and eighty dollars every two weeks for two slightly teenage children living with their single parent mother. The exact cost is seared in my brain because often my sister or I had to ask for the check.
We would take turns asking so we could even out the uncomfortable humiliation that we knew was inevitable. We knew he would write the check it was just that at that point we both learned that it wasn’t fun asking for something even though it was ours and even deserved it.
We would never do this as the first thing when he picked us up on Saturday, we knew we would spend a great day together doing the things that kids love to do, going to a skating rink, seeing the latest movies, or eating at fast food restaurants and we didn’t want to spoil the time. My sister and I enjoyed the cool things we got to do with my father and because my mother couldn’t afford it and had to work on Saturdays we never wanted to make waves. That’s a divorced fathers luxury if he chooses to take it.
My mother hated asking us to ask for the check and we were mature enough to know she needed it but still, I’m sure she felt that he should remember. That fact that it cost him less in the long run should have reminded him. He had mayonnaise, ketchup and bachelor crap in a refrigerator, inside a trailer with minimal furniture that wasn’t in the best part of town. He couldn’t have been paying more if we weren't living with him but that is only thinking in hindsight. Sometimes we’d even lie and say we forgot to ask for the check. My mother knew and this went on for two more years.
I was now fifteen could drive and although the every weekend pattern of going to his former home had subsided because of our age and changed lives I still relished his company very much.
It was one Saturday that we were in his new home with his new young wife, my day with him had come to an end and it was time to ask for “The Check.”
We were sitting at the kitchen table; talking I guess and I said it was time to get back home. As I got up to leave I was thinking to myself, “Please, dad remember the check, remember the check, remember the check.”
Walking to the door in the process of saying goodbye he said, “OK Son, well, it was great to see you. You’re always welcome here”
As he hugged me I said, “I love you dad.”
He said, “I love you too, son.”
Now, next to the door I had the feeling I would not hear the much-anticipated words, “Oh! Here give this to your mother,” I turned around and said, apologetically, “Mom asked me to ask you for the check.”
He gave a ‘tis” sound, shook his head and walked to his desk which was in the room next to the foyer. He abruptly pulled his checkbook from the right top draw, and started writing the check. That’s when I heard the words that changed my life.
In a mild disgust he wrote down the amount of $180.00, and then, as he wrote out, on the check, the obligatory words, “one hundred and eighty dollars” he said without picking up his head, “Sometimes I think this is the only reason you come here.”
My heart fell into my stomach and I blinked real hard and when I opened my eyes he was singing the last part of his name. It felt like a gut punch as he pulled the check away from the stub and handed it to me.
Not wanting to take the hit, I said, “I’m sorry Dad, Mom asked for it”
He said, “Aw, don’t worry about. You kids are good kids.”
He walked me to the door, we hugged again and I left. All was forgotten except the fact that when I got back to the car I swore I would never ask anyone for anything again.

Some moments are defining in ones life and that was one for me. I don’t mind accepting gifts from people. I enjoy getting gifts. It lets me know they like me and as some might say I need to be liked. Plus, I like having more stuff.
Acts of kindness toward me thrill the hell out of me and when I accept a gift I don’t think that person has an ulterior motive. Although you should be careful of the people who give you stuff and then constantly tell you about it.
I once heard my father who has given me many gifts since then, complain about my mother’s father who he said “would give you the shirt off his back.” My mother’s father would have. But, the end of my dad’s complaint was “But he’s going to let you know about every time.”
Now I don’t remember my grandfather ever throwing any acts of kindness into anyone’s face. Maybe that was my father’s self-consciousness of leaving his wife and three kids but I certainly understand the concept and that’s the freaking rub.
I can accept anything you want to give me whole-heartedly, ever so accepting, graciously wanting, and extremely thankful, but don’t throw it in my face. Don’t you realize that I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t need it? That I haven’t deep down dug into my soul and ask you because I think first you might have what I’m asking for and second you might give it to me, and now third you won’t need it back anytime soon?
Of course you have to know whom you want to loan things to and whom you don’t and the first rule of lending to a friend is don’t. But please consider this, most people don’t want to ask and most really don’t want you to give it to them.