Reading Is Fundamental, And Not Just For Nerds

Friday night on the porch. Lemonade with a shot of Hendricks. Feet up in my wicker chair while the rain makes its beautiful music. And a brand new volume of Uncle Walt to annotate and highlight. Curious as to how many of my friends were also spending their Friday night delighting in solitary literary pleasures, i posted the fact on Facebook. I was surprised at how many of my friends enjoyed something similar… And overjoyed that so many obviously knew who Uncle Walt was. (Walt Whitman, for you non-poetry geeks.) But i do have to admit that, before i posted it, i wasn’t sure if the fact made me a geek, or a nerd, or just a dork. I had to look it up. Thankfully, there is a simple Venn diagram to help (This one is courtesy of Laughing Squid).

Screenshot 2018-06-23 at 08.11.14

 

Truthfully, i wasn’t sure if i was more of a geek or a nerd. But yep, nerd it is. Kind of hard to be a geek and NOT be a nerd, really. I mean, social interaction is difficult when people don’t “get” your Klingon vernacular and Chemistry jokes. I have to say, tho, that it is getting easier, and i believe we have filmmakers to thank for that. I mean, millions of people who never read any Tolkien now understand what all the geek-fuss was about. The Star Wars and Star Trek franchises have made it to mainstream action film lovers. And Marvel… Well, come on… Who wouldn’t want to see Robert Downey Jr’s sexy visage on the big screen? Because of these cinematic successes, people who never would have otherwise are actually reading books! Ok, mostly e-books (My hardline feeling on the distinction will be saved for a later post), but none-the-less, people are reading. How glorious is that?

We all know, as it has been repeated for decades, the benefits of reading to children. But more and more, science is proving that reading as adults has a multitude of advantages as well: Improvements in critical thinking, analysis, vocabulary, writing skill… Not to mention mental focus and stress reduction. (Rather than me posting a solitary website to cite, please GTS. There are articles on it from all corners of the scientific community) And You don’t have to be reading Dostoyevsky or Shakespeare. Non-fiction, poetry (Yes, song lyrics count), self-help (Which is often halfway between fiction and non-), religious texts, cheap romance novels, short stories … Even reading children’s classics has a positive effect. Some studies go as far as to say that in-depth magazine articles make a measurable improvement.

I admit, the last makes me happy. Tho i know it is a sin against Mother Earth, i do enjoy a nice, glossy magazine.  Online versions, just like with books, just aren’t the same to me.

Reading makes you smarter. It makes you better able to communicate. It provides entertainment. And it makes you more entertaining at parties because it gives you something to talk about other than TV shows and our volatile Orwellian jello mold of a government. It can also be relatively little cash. I generally buy used books because i prefer hardcover, and those aren’t inexpensive when new. Your local thrift store likely has whole bunches of books on the cheap. And more e-books (Ugh, i just tasted bile) than you’d imagine can be gotten for free on many websites.

If you prefer something more  politically relevant, there is Machiavelli if you want to impress people, and Limbaugh if you don’t. And whether you are religious or not, reading religious texts is a good thing because, on top of the benefits of reading, they help you to understand why other people think how they do. (Reminder: You don’t have to agree to understand.) And if you haven’t read one recently, pick up your weedling’s history or Social Science textbook. Things have changed a lot since we were their age. Hell, the globe doesn’t even have the same countries on it.

Before you say you don’t have enough time…. Writers from Stephen King to Rosamunde Pilcher have short story anthologies. And i personally own quite a few compendiums of short stories by groups of authors. There are short novel writers à la Steinbeck and Bach.  There are observationalists like Robert Fulghum. If you have a spiritual bent, the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa both have books to their credit with short affirmations to consume. There are great articles in National Geographic for the naturalists, and in The New Yorker if you are an urbanite. If you love song lyrics, try some poetry. Pick up some Maya Angelou or Dylan Thomas. So many options, so little time.

If you have some brain wiring that makes reading difficult, try a large print edition or one made specifically for dyslexic readers (They use specific fonts and paper color/types that are known to make it easier). From what i found with a little research, there are a lot of resources out there for you. Do not give up!

If you don’t know what to start with, ask your favorite voracious reader. Tell them the kinds of things you like. Those of us who read a lot are usually pretty good at recommendations. Your librarian or bookstore clerks are good to tap. Or, perhaps my favorite option, What should I read next?, a website where you type in a book that you enjoyed, and it makes recommendations.

So make yourself a cup of tea, or a cocktail, or a special soda, put your feet up somewhere pleasant with good light, and dig in. Even if it is just a chapter a day, it will make a difference. And whether you are like me and have a tendency to highlight and annotate as you read, or you are one of those who tries hard to keep the book like new, there is no wrong way. Just like physical exercise, the what and the how are less important than the fact that you do it.

Now, if you will excuse me, Uncle Walt is waiting. I am counting on him to help keep my brain working as i head toward decrepitude. Well, him and his cousins Heinlein, and Poe, and Allende, and Avi, and Thoreau, and Chopra, and Lawrence, and St Paul, and….

 

 

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To Have My Cake, And Date It Too

I am really starting to doubt myself.

I bought a short-term membership to a dating website. I put a decent picture of myself on there and a positive and realistic short writeup on who i am. I didn’t expect much. I mean, well, it is what it is. So i wasn’t expecting a thousand Prince Charmings waiting to message me. But i expected more than i got. With a couple of exceptions, i got recommended a bunch of the same basic profile:

Men who looked like Gandalf on crack, can’t put three words together lyrically, and swear they are only 40 years old.

The first time i joined an online dating service, i spent an inordinate amount of time filling out my profile and picking out just the right picture.  When i activated it, it took me a full week to get a single match. And i kid you not, that single match was a man who looked like an old tinker from a fairytale, who listed his job as “ghost hunter”… And who lived over 4,000 miles away on another continent.

It wasn’t the first blow to my ego. Nor the last. Online dating sites keep you humble.

I have met a couple very cool people via these websites. Friends that i might not have met otherwise. So it hasn’t all been for nothing. But on the whole, i have to believe that one of two things are true:

A) I am truly so incompatible that my choices will always have the visage and affect of well-chewed dog toys, or

B) People lie so much that no dating service will ever be reliable, so i either need to lie just as much or stop using them altogether.

And i had actually stopped using them. Then i guess my ego needed a smack upside the head, or i forgot about the lying.

And yes, i realize that people lie because they want to up their chances and make themselves look their best. We don’t want to admit our flaws and potentially hurt our chance at someone good. No one is ever going to post a profile that reads, “I’m generally a decent person. I am smart and funny. But i drink milk straight from the carton, and, typical of my engineering background, i often wear socks with my sandals.” It doesn’t paint the best picture. But to be honest, i’d be more inclined to go for that. At least it is real and probably true, and that scores points with me.

And in the name of all that is holy, random dating site members, if you are going to lie, at least make it plausible. If you look like Mel Brooks from last Tuesday, don’t say you just made Blazing Saddles. And conversely, don’t post pictures of you wearing your Don Johnson blazer because you look young in it. We know that blazer hasn’t seen the light of day in at least 25 years. And what the hell is it with you obviously shady-side-of-the-hill men saying you only want women 25-35? You looking for a date, or someone to adopt?

To be fair, i’m sure most women do the same thing. I’ve been told there are far too many of us posting Glamour Shot photos and posting our weight in kilograms instead of pounds. That isn’t cool either.

If, indeed, you are hoping to meet someone in person, it doesn’t make sense to lie about your appearance.

I am what i am. And i try to market myself that way. But perhaps the readers see it as, “If this is the best she can come up with, she must be really bad!” Or maybe they aren’t really looking for a date at all. Maybe they are looking for an escape from reality.

Now there’s an idea. A dating website that isn’t about real dating, but instead, one that is about fantasy dating. You can be whomever you want and have the kind of relationship you want… But only online. You never meet them, so you never know the truth. You never get to wake up to anyone for real, but you also don’t wake up to the mess they left in the bathroom. The idea does have merit. But i am thinking there are easier and cheaper ways to have that.

Anyway, i’m glad i only bought a short-term membership. Perhaps my ego needed a smack, but it doesn’t need more permanent scars. Rather than the online meat market, maybe i just need to get out more. Meet new people. Let serendipity have a chance. But the last three times i went out like that, i was receiving crass comments and photos before i ever left the venue.

Dude, if “I want to see those boobs” is the best line in your arsenal, you need to go back to 7th grade.

I really shouldn’t care about any of this. Truthfully, i have no reason to complain in my life. I have a great one. Awesome weedlings, a home, a job that i enjoy most of the time, good health, loving friends. Why do i need more?

I don’t.

So i’m just going to quit bitching and get on with life. Forcing a connection isn’t going to work, i have no control over what people post, and Liam Neeson isn’t on there anyway. (If i ever saw him on there, i’d assume it was a lie and go right past it!)  Maybe that’s why i join periodically – to remind myself that i don’t need this. I have plenty, and any icing on the cake is just that… Icing on the cake. And my cake is pretty damned good.

But a little frosting wouldn’t hurt every now and then.

Making It and Digging It

I spent the weekend on a creative bender. You know, like a regular bender, except without the barfing and with something to show for it other than a bad one night stand and unexplained car dent.

Yesterday i spent most of the day in my yard. I had about 2 1/2 square meters of jungle that i had yet to touch after almost 2 years in this house. There was a large shrub / small tree in the middle of it that i had hoped was a Rose of Sharon or something pretty like that. It turned out to be nothing more than some pitiful leaves on lame branches. Hardly decorative. More like the biological equivalent of a paper bag. So i cut it down.

Remember me saying that my tap dancing fitness routine didn’t prepare me for scraping and painting? Well, it didn’t prepare me for using a bow saw either.

After i got it down, i commenced to clearing out the weeds. We’re talking deep-rooted runner weeds growing for decades in the red clay. Old and rotted wood barriers sunk into the ground with rusty railroad nails. And vines that were dug into the brick of my porch with a grip that rivaled a man with compensating issues. This was no normal bit of garden variety weeding.

This was a green hell.

Two hours i spent clearing it. TWO HOURS for a space smaller than a pool table. That tells you how bad it was. But i got it done, dug two holes, and planted the climbing roses that have been sitting in my driveway for nearly two weeks. Between the dirt and the sun and the sight of the newly cleared area, i felt sore, but accomplished.

After cleaning myself up and making dinner, i went back to work on my sewing that i had started earlier in the week.  I finished up one dress and then took my fabric out to the porch to cut another design. Yes, i actually cut the pieces on my porch. It was too beautiful out to stay inside! A couple of my neighbors gave me an odd glance, but they’ll get used to my weird ways before long.

Sleep and breakfast and then back to the bender. Cleaned and repainted some plastic end tables for the porch. (I inherited them from the previous owner. Apparently, she not only liked her shrubbery boring, she liked beige plastic porch furniture. There is very little about me that is beige. Or boring. Those tables were bugging me with their blandness.) Got them dolled up apple red in between working on the dress i had cut out last night.

The dress is now done. My first time using a downloaded pattern. I won’t lie, it was a much bigger pain in the ass than a regular pattern. But the other dress i had made this week was a pattern i had drafted myself, and i wasn’t willing to trust myself with another so soon. I will say this, both dresses got positive reviews from my son – Remarkable because he isn’t one to give more than an offhand, “It’s ok, ” as a review of most everything that isn’t a computer game. So i guess i did good.

It’s getting towards the gloaming now. I’m chilling on my porch with my fabulously colorful tables while my new creations get their first washing as garments. I’m not quite over my bender, tho. I’ve got 2 more patterns to cut tonight. No doubt that i will keep on later than i should, and i’ll wake up tomorrow with a hangover. Granted, there will be no desperate prayers to the gods for my head to explode or stench of alcohol coming out of my pores, but it will be a hangover just the same. And just like any other bender, i will tell myself that i should exercise moderation more often, tho i know in my heart that i won’t. It may be weeks. It may be months. But some time in the future, i will once again be up to my ears in fabric or paint or dirt or all three, stiff and sore as hell because of the fun-but-not-quite-taxing-enough nature of my fitness plan.

Bless me, Father, for i have sinned. I got drunk on creativity.

And God/Goddess/Universe will smile pour me another.

Extreme Makeover: Bird House Edition

After spending the week in Wisconsin for work, i came home to beautiful weather here in Chattanooga. Yesterday was so perfect, in fact, that i went and picked up some wooden birdhouses and painted them for the springtime nests. This is something i’ve done before, and it always catches me off guard when people find it such an amazing feat.

I always get a lot of, “I’d never think of that”s. Especially from people my own age. I don’t understand it. I mean, we all did things like this in art class, or scouts, or Sunday School, or 4-H. It was a common craft for the Garanimals set back in the day. Maybe too many of us associate it with kid stuff? (And further, think of kid stuff as things we aren’t allowed to do as adults.)  Or maybe our heads are so full of the extremes – Hard work and sleep – that we forget there are things in between. Maybe we forget that creating, on any level, is good for both our brains and our souls. Maybe we forget that it is important to show the younger generations that we can have fun without electricity or screens. Maybe we forget how fun it is.

The other remark i get a lot is “I can’t paint.” Ummm – There are pigs and elephants selling paintings for hundreds of dollars, and they don’t even have opposable thumbs. I’m pretty sure you can paint a bird house for your own yard. Just sayin’.

And this is where i get on Momma Hol’s Soap Box #3.

Nowhere, in anyone’s religious text (Or motivational text, if you are not religious) does it say you must be “good” at something to try it. God/Goddess/Universe only asks that you make a joyful noise… It never said you had to be Streisand or Sinatra. Creativity is one of the few areas of life where you score points for effort. And i am thankful, as my efforts often come out looking like a Pinterest fail. But sometimes not. Sometimes i really nail it.

And before you shake your head and say, “Well, mine would turn out ugly,” i remind you that the birds don’t care. They don’t read Martha Stewart, and i’m pretty sure they don’t judge each other on the paint job of the shelter. They just want a protected place to lay and set their eggs. And they will be grateful you did it, even if all you did was paint it all one color. They aren’t living in some decorating reality show. They are living in your yard. Just your average bird looking for a safe family haven. It will still be their home.  Besides,  i’ll bet you do a better job than you think you do…

At least when you aren’t criticizing yourself and worrying about it.

I have a bestie who teaches art. She tells her students, “The difference between (her and them), other than schooling and practice,  is that at some point, most people start believing the kid or person next to them. They stop believing they are an artist and give it up.” They get negative feedback from others, or start comparing themselves to others, and they devalue their own work as a result. Granted, Rembrandt is Rembrandt, and we are not. but we all have our moments. That one picture that came out just right. The meal that was perfect. That one well-turned phrase where you feel, “Ya, those were perfect words.” But that doesn’t mean that our other efforts don’t have value. Even if that value is just an enjoyable afternoon with some cheap paints and a bird house.

And if you feel silly doing it all by your lonesome, invite some kids over. Or do it as part of a wine and cheese thingy. Or don’t tell anyone. But i really hope you take a bash at some of these simple arts again. Get in touch with your inner artist. Your inner child. Build yourself a bird house. Or do like i did and buy one to paint at the craft store. Whether you make it look like a flower covered cottage or keep it simple, it’s still a place for the birds to place their eggs. And i like to believe that the love you put into making it will be felt when they move into it.

Or maybe that’s the artist in me talking.

 

Have You Met My Son, Black+Decker?

I am dirty. Like, literally. I am covered in dirt and leaves and twigs and sweat. My deodorant gave out about 30 minutes ago, and i just pulled a little spider out of my hair. All that, not including a couple minor injuries… And i feel wonderful.

The first warm day in ages. Granted, in a couple of months, this will be considered cold; but after weeks of hard freeze and some snow, my son and i are both in short sleeves and bare feet as we revel in the sunny outdoors. (Well, truthfully, i’ve been reveling for a few hours. My son only came out when i finished my part and gave him no choice but to do his.) Because it is almost time for the palmettos to come out of their winter hiding, i took the opportunity to get all their food – the aforementioned leaves and twigs – raked and blown to the curb. Of course, this is at least the 6th time i’ve done that this season. Hopefully it will be the last. I have far too many deciduous trees in my yard, including one hickory whose nuts are the bane of my existence, but i am loath to cut them down. Trees are so majestic and mistreated that i can’t bring myself to take them out just because i am too lazy to deal with the leaves (and nuts.)

The nuts… Good Lord… If there isn’t a chipmunk city in my yard, i can’t imagine why. That tree produces enough in a year to make nut condos for every small, furry mammal in the neighborhood. In the summer, i find them half buried in my planters where they are being squirreled away for winter. And stepping on them is almost as bad as a Lego. But this time of year…. Oy…. Strewn about the side yard, it’s a bit like a roller skating rink, except the wheels are on the ground instead of your footwear. Twice today i did the cartoon can-can when they caused me to lose my footing. Legs and arms in all different directions, once being “saved” by body-slamming the shed, and once by falling forward into what was meant to be a push-up, but became more of a belly flop.

Then there is the little matter of bushes and corners. These are, of course, the explanation for the dirt in my eyes, the twigs in my hair, and the leaf mold setting up like cement in my nostrils. I know my life would be easier if i’d just rake or pull the leaves out from the corners and that little strip between the bushes and the house… but that seems a step backward from the leaf blower. I keep telling myself that i am smart enough at math to find just the trajectory to aim the air stream where the leaves will shoot out from the corner in a perfect arc and land in a neat pile away from the house.

I am, apparently, not that smart.

Instead, about a quarter of the leaves blow away from the house, a quarter blow at me, and the other half ends up, inexplicably, back up against the wall behind me. It was one of these frustrating moments that gave me my first ego-blow of the day. Backed up against the drain, battling a whirlwind of yard flotsam,  i look up and see my neighbor laughing at me thru his window. I wanted to yell something snarky, but i couldn’t open my mouth without choking on flying ivy. Instead, i shot him a “Come on! Cut me some slack!” face, and he mouthed a chuckling apology before ducking out of sight.

At the last leg of my chore, i see the mail man drive up to the post box next door. This caught my attention because, as Vernon Dursley says, “There is no post on Sundays.” Now, in my head, i know being distracted while using yard tools is a no-no, but the sight of the mail truck didn’t distract me quite enough to make me stop and turn off the leaf blower. Instead, i kept on blowing and slowly moving backwards while my eyes stayed glued to the truck and my mind wandered.

Right about the time i figured it must be an overnight delivery, my heel caught on a wayward weedbush. As i went ass-over-teakettle, something in my wonky brain made me hang onto the leaf blower like it was a newborn baby. And when i landed with a thud in the damp earth, the damned thing was still cradled to my chest, with its hard plastic snuffle extension perfectly positioned between my face and the ground, motor whirring in my ear as if it were Peewee Herman screeching sweet nothings. I sat up just in time to see the mailman, having turned around in the cul-de-sac, staring at me from the road, a look of horror on his face.

At first i thought the look was because he was worried i was hurt. Then i realized my t-shirt was clear up to my armpit on one side, as if i were nursing my leaf blowing baby.

I turned the machine off, threw the postman a little salute, pulled my shirt down, and told my son it was his turn.

So now he is finishing the last quarter of the chore. I am on the porch, still barefoot, enjoying a cold drink and hoping against hope that i can move my arms tomorrow and wondering how long it will take to get all the dirt out of my nose. The polish i put on my fingernails yesterday is a little worse for wear. I can feel the layer of grime on my skin. My eyes and head are already aching because i didn’t take an allergy pill first. And i can feel that i have leaves in places i shouldn’t.

But the sun is still up. It is still warm. The yard is looking better. I just found out that i burned about 700 calories. All my other chores are done.  And, since i started my day making a wonderful vegan ragu, i have a great meal coming up in about an hour.  I feel accomplished and content.

So yes, i am dirty and sore and a little bit battered. I lost a bit of my dignity to the neighbor and the postman. And i will be looking for more spiders in my hair all night. But those things pale in comparison to all the good i get from working outdoors. There is no anti-depressant like a warm, sunny day in the middle of winter. There is no chore as fulfilling as ones that get dirt under your fingernails. And there is no sleep as deep as the kind you get after a day of yard work.

Tomorrow may be a bitch of a Monday, but today was glorious.

 

 

Distinctive Similarity

Sitting on the front porch, cup of Lapsang Souchong, messaging a Brit friend of mine, and watching the remnants of Nate pass thru… Siri had been at my side, but then she saw a chipmunk and took off. I messaged this to my Brit friend, and then i got to thinking. A few Google clicks later, i discover that there are no chipmunks in England. Seriously. Zero. But i’ll bet they still have rodents that dig up the bulbs in their garden. He bet that his cats, familiar with chipmunks or not, would chase and eat one.

They don’t have groundhogs in the U.K. either.  But i’m sure they have some other kind of cute-but-destructive whistle pig.

I have friends in Australia… If i went there and saw a Tasmanian Devil, i’d be awed, even tho we have our own version of the “Trash Panda”, the American Raccoon.

I suppose it is natural to assume that all places and people are both the same and different. Parents work, kids learn, and politicians make rules that they don’t follow. But not all parents work an eight hour day and come home for supper. Not all children get to go to school. Not all politicians are criminals. All cultures have music, but each has it’s own melodic sound. We all eat bread, but indigenous grains make it taste different in different cultures. And we all tolerate idiots, regardless of what language we speak. Same in principle, different in detail.

Let me tell you a story:

During the Gulf War, i spent time in the Middle East. Even having a full schedule with my Navy duties, i still occasionally had time to explore. For example, a friend and i had heard about this great hole-in-the-wall Turkish restaurant on the edge of the city where we were temporarily stationed, and ventured out one night to go there. Now, the city wasn’t a large place, but somehow we still got lost. We ended up in an outskirt neighborhood after dark, and one of the local kids came over to us.

“My mom says this isn’t a good place for you to be. Why are you here?”

“We were looking for a place to eat that we heard was very good, but we got lost.”

He runs to his mom and tells her. She motions us over. She is stirring a big pot over a fire in what could essentially be considered a dirt floor garage. There are other women around her, and a whole mess of kids running around playing. Thru her son, who is maybe 8 or 9, she tells us we were nowhere near where we were headed, will never get to the restaurant on time and were welcome to eat with them instead.

We take her up on her hospitality. Some of the kids stick close by to translate. I ask about her recipes, her husband, her family. She asks about our children and what it is like to be a woman in the military. Someone starts playing music… Unfamiliar to me, but upbeat and pop-ish. Periodically, a young weedling will come tug at skirts. I can’t understand the words per se, but i’m sure it is something like, “Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. MOOOOOOMMMMMMYYYY!” Sometimes, after this, i see Mom’s eyes roll, and then she looks at me and laughs. She knows i know what it’s like.

We shared a delicious, if humble, meal of lentils and flatbread. More talking and laughing and friendship afterwards because, tho of different backgrounds, the concepts of “Family” and “Meal” are universal. Tho literally on the other side of the globe, as women, as mothers, we are sisters.

As we got up to leave, we handed the woman money. She vehemently refused. Her son let us know that she would not take money from our children’s mouths. Hospitality was part of their culture, and the exchange of money wasn’t allowed. It wasn’t til we explained that we had been given this stipend by our government specifically for eating, and that it was not taking anything from our family, that she relented. We reasoned that our experience that evening was something every government should encourage. And then we laughed and hugged, and her son gave us directions back to our hotel.

I relay this story because even tho from two different worlds, the woman and i were the same. Different language, culture, lifestyle… Everything that, on first glance, would make you think we had nothing in common. And yet, we were both “Mom”, both curious, both building a bridge with a total stranger. Our children were dressed differently, would be educated in a completely different way, and certainly had different opportunities… But our kids were all loved, raised, and taught to be kind. She had likely never seen a chipmunk, and i have never seen a jerboa, but we both know a rodent when we see one.

Differently the same. Similarly different. All of us. Everywhere. We all have blessings. We all have problems. We all know friends and family and music. We all know bills and illness and assholes. We all seek the pleasure in little things. We all seek the occasional epic event. We all cope with politicians. We all deal with rodents.

But maybe those last two are the same thing.

Not Everyone Needs a Goatherd

When did dating cease to become a thing?

It seems like, nowadays, if you go on two dates with someone, you are expected to be linked as an item. Why aren’t people allowed to take their time and investigate their options anymore? It’s like going to a restaurant, ordering a couple things off the menu, and then being expected to declare that it’s the best restaurant in the world and you only want to eat there from now on.

I don’t think so.

And i am speaking from experience.

I think that is part of why divorce has become so prevalent – We commit before we are truly certain that, out of all the people on the planet, this is the one we want forever. I always thought that Nantucket was the most beautiful island ever… Until i started traveling and seeing other islands. Nantucket is beautiful, but so are Sicily, St John, St George….

Which brings me to point two. As much as i’ve traveled, i still can’t tell you what the most beautiful island in the world is. There are too many i haven’t seen to authoritatively make that choice. And honestly, i don’t see why i have to make a choice at all.

To those of you who have found your soulmates and work hard to make and keep a good marriage, i applaud you. I know how hard it is. And i know the payoff when it works (Contrary to the jokes i make, i had some beautiful experiences as a married woman that i wouldn’t trade for anything.) I just don’t believe that all of us are destined for that same level of connectedness.

For some reason, we feel that we MUST get married. Why? What if you are a baker in Newark, and your soul mate is goat herder in Mongolia? Are you supposed to settle for the “next best” so you can fulfill the American expectation before you die, since the likelihood of you and the goatherd meeting is on par with Donald Trump being named Miss Mexico?

It has been many generations since our species was in need of propagation. There is no longer a reason to push for people to settle down and pop out babies for the good of their nation.

We no longer live in type of world where we need marriages between ruling families to bring nations together.

And, at least in our country, it is no longer impossible for a woman to support herself without the help of a husband.

This means that the selection of a permanent mate, the producing of progeny, the joining of houses… These are choices. And not bad ones. But also not required ones. When the time is right for you, go ahead and make it. I will be happy for you. I do, tho, hope that the choice isn’t made after date two. I hope the choice isn’t made out of false expectation. I hope the choice isn’t made before you meet your goatherd.

And to that end,  i hope that we will stop berating those who are still on the lookout. Stop shaming those who can’t choose between spaghetti, pad thai, or poutine. Stop patronizing those who haven’t found their soulmate. Not everyone has the same destiny. Not everyone has the same options. Hell, not everyone gets the same menu. So let them be.

Those of us with curious minds and curious, well, everything, could very likely leave this world unmarried. And most of us aren’t sad about it. Or, at least not most of the time. Those of us who value our solitude realize that we may never find someone who can accommodate that need full-time. And those of us who feel like the human equivalent of a ceramic chicken, with its beak chipped off, paint peeling, sitting on a battered shelf in a little-visited second-hand shop, understand that there might never be a day when someone lifts us up, looks underneath, and discovers that we are actually a signed Michelangelo. And even if they did, they still may not want to claim us as their own.

So let us be. Let us travel to more of the islands. Let us visit some new restaurants and order different things from the menu. You enjoy your goatherd with our congratulations. And be ok with us living our lives without one.