Don’t Give Me Your Hat

This morning, I found myself yelling to my husband over the phone that people should not give me this kind of work to do. I wasn’t yelling at him. He wasn’t the one who had abdicated his job and left it to me at the eleventh hour. I wasn’t yelling at him, but I was yelling to him. I like volunteering for jobs I enjoy. I do not like apologizing to people I just met, people whose signatures my Boy Scout troop desperately needed. I don’t like asking for money either.

I have a theory. I might be good at something, let’s say engineering. I used to be good at engineering, but I never loved engineering past understanding how something worked. I absolutely loved understanding how something worked, but once that was done, I was pretty much done with it. It was play to be able to describe it. I loved writing about it’s intricacies. I even liked drawing pictures of these intricacies. But I did not like designing anything myself, redesigning it, or even building it. I might be good at a particular job, but I’d never be great at that job if I didn’t love it. I might be able to design something, but it would never be a great design. That should be left to the little kids who were taking apart their parents TV sets when they were five years old.

I sucked at building tinker toy bridges when I was a kid. I excelled at drawing tinker toy bridges. I liked words like cantilever and ultraviolet and radioactive. And I told stories, usually dragging them out well past my brother or sister’s patience and extending the truth to the point of breaking. I was known for my ability to exaggerate. I was the ultimate hyperbolist.

I did not sell lemonade, organize kids to play certain games, or direct other kids to jump out of trees. I liked to talk, but not to the new kids and certainly not to adults in charge, most of whom were terrifying. I was not a natural leader or moneymaker. I joined in with kids riding bikes, playing traffic when they played traffic, stopping to poke a hog-nosed snake with a stick when they found a poor snake by the road and only after they got their own sticks first. I might have made bracelets to sell, but I didn’t come up with the idea and I certainly didn’t make any of the money. I was not the leader. The only thing I ever led, an expedition to find dinosaur bones in the creek in the woods behind our houses, fizzled to a solitary halt when my friend’s big sister came along – she was at least eight- and laughed at the knobby fossil we had dug out of the mud in the creek-bed in the woods. Suddenly, I was alone with my toothbrush, exposing the glittering crystals on one side of my fossil. I had a story about it being a dinosaur’s knee, but no one to tell it to.

So today, when I was asked, no expected, to meet a new Boy Scout executive, to ask for signatures and money, to apologize for what looked like my job, one I had procrastinated well past politeness, I was not happy. It was not my thing, I told my husband, to meet new people while indicating that I was inept at the job I had been assigned because I needed signatures and a check today because today was the deadline.

There’s something about applying for a job. I got to decide what my career was when I went to college and sent out resumes. When volunteering for an organization, especially now that I ‘don’t work and have lots of free time,’ people thrust anything on me that they don’t want to do or don’t feel is worthy of their time.

Keeping the Boy Scout troop running is important to me. The kids really benefit from all the camping, biking, hiking, and swimming. My husband benefits from showing all those kids how to safely go camping, biking, hiking, and swimming. Shoot, I would like to go camping, biking, hiking, and swimming, but I generally don’t get to do that fun stuff with the troop. No girls allowed. I get to do the shit work. I have to use obscure software to keep track of information I don’t care about. I have to ask people for signatures and money. I clean out crates of moldy pots and pans. I get to drive home to get extension cords, gloves, and a Phillips head screwdriver when someone forgot them. I get to do the things, no matter what they are, that other adults were supposed to do but didn’t. Ask me to cook, to bake, to paddle a canoe, to write an article for the newspaper, and I’ll happily set out to work. Sometimes I even like working with the boys on a merit badge.

But don’t leave me to meet with a new executive for the first time with a request that has to be completed today because the whole job was left to the last minute, no, the last millisecond. And yet, if all of this were to be requested of me tomorrow, I’d pick up the slack and do what I needed to do. It’s a labor of love, but sometimes I hate it.

Thank you for listening, jules



I just sent my husband the ultimate guilt text. I know I shouldn’t do shit like this, but I did it anyway.

    ‘My phone just dinged, telling me I got a new text and I got excited because it might be you, but it wasn’t you. It was a reminder for physical therapy tomorrow. It wasn’t anybody. Not really.’

I thought, when I was writing it, that it would make him laugh. He laughs at existential angst. He reads Nietzsche. He does. I can’t stand Nietzsche. I tried to start a book by Nietzsche again the other day.

I’m still unpacking books that I’d put into storage back in June when we got new flooring and had to pack up all our bookshelves, all six of them, to get them out of the way. I haven’t been as conscientious about putting books back onto the shelf afterward as I was about packing them away when I found out my mother was coming for a visit and could possibly look at all of those titles. ‘A Natural History of the Senses’ by Diane Ackerman? It has a naked body on the cover. I just didn’t want my mom looking at that in my house. I loved that kind of book, but I couldn’t picture my mother knowing that. And there were titles my husband had added like, ‘On Being and Nothingness’ by Jean-Paul Sartre. Really, if I pull that book out and read it, I imagine that I’d follow right in the footsteps of Robin Williams, minus all the sweet and funny stuff he gave to the world. Nope. Didn’t want my mom thinking about that title either.

When I put the Nietzsche book back up on the shelf, I found an old photo of me in it, a photo my husband had taken, one he’d had on his desk for seven or eight years until I stopped resembling it in any way shape or form. I was cute back then. I really was. What the hell happened? And why the hell was I ever on a diet when I looked like that? So I took a stab at reading Nietzsche again, seeing as how my photo had resided there for who knows how long. Big mistake.

The man hated women. He hated any kind of spirituality. Worst of all, he wrote whole tomes about thinking. How do you do that? What is there to say except “That shit, that babbling stream of language that flows through my head, is just crazy.” Nietzsche didn’t say any of that, but I was spiraling down and down and down the toilet as I read, so I took my photo out of it and put it back onto the bookshelf.

For some reason I can’t fathom, my husband likes Nietzsche. Oh, he’s read Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Nietzsche, Sartre, Nabokov, all those serious authors. Me? Not so much. I read literary candy. I spent four nights trying to read Dante’s ‘The Divine Comedy.’ Every night when I sat down to the spot where I’d finished the night before, I’d had to backtrack and figure out where I was in the book because nothing had stuck in my head from the night before. Nothing. Maybe I should read ‘On Being and Nothingness’ after all and see if that sticks.

But I can appreciate my husband’s love for the existential suffering. I can. If you pull that string really hard, it gets funny. I think it’s the only way he and I get through any kind of suffering together is to see how funny it can be. For a while, we had this early morning joke about how Paul Giamatti would play me as the insomniac, the person who sleep-walks through parent-teacher conferences, the person who walks out of the house wearing wool socks and Berkenstocks, the one who accidentally uses salt when sugar is needed. That shit made my husband laugh. It was better when Paul Giamatti played it. He’s just that good.

My problem is that I’m not as funny as I think I am sometimes. Sometimes I’m just pathetic. My phone just buzzed.

    ‘Ding! How are you today?’

It’s from my husband, the sweet guy. My text must have made him feel guilty. I didn’t help matters by replying about the bathmat, the one that had gotten wet last week when the toilet overflowed, yeah, that bathmat, and how it had been jammed into the hamper still soggy and now there is a hamper full of laundry that smells pissy and mildewed. It didn’t help that I texted about my favorite pissy-mildewed shirt and his pissy-mildewed plaid button-down and his pissy-mildewed gym shorts. It might have helped when I told him those shorts probably smelled pissy and mildewed before the bathmat even goobered them. Maybe.

I’m telling you that Paul Giamatti could do it all funnier than I could, but then my husband and I would have a different relationship than we do.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Thank you for listening, jules