Instead of clipping, sorting, and filing newspaper ad coupons every week, I watch for coupons through member perks. Everyone has a membership program these days. I have three coffee shop apps that track my activity, send me coupons, and even let me pay, all on my phone. Everyone from convenience stores to Chinese restaurants message me to stop in and pick up the latest special just for the trouble of showing them the text.
Text coupons are convenient. They don’t clutter up my purse. I always have them with me. There is nothing to throw out when they expire. The problem? Half of these coupons are BOGOs.
Technically, I’m not a single. I’m not married, but Bubba and I are a pair. Two peas in the same pod. I’d love nothing more than to take him out on one of my BOGOs and spend a lazy morning conversing over two cups of coffee, one of them free. Except he doesn’t like coffee. He doesn’t like hot chocolate, frozen blended drinks, or teas — neither hot nor iced. The only thing he wants from my coffee shop is a muffin and a Coke. And he doesn’t want to laze around watching the sun come up while eating his muffin. No. In fact if you blink, you might miss seeing him eat it at all. So I happily go alone.
When my kids were in school, they sold coupon books for fundraisers. My mom would probably have bought one, except they were mostly BOGOs and she was a widow. When they were both alive, Mom was a loner, and had no problem seeing a movie or stopping for lunch by herself. A BOGO would have gone unused even then.
I get what they’re doing. They want your business, but they also want you to bring someone else. That way they can get more add-on sales with food, beverages or desserts. They’re also trying to double their pay-off for the marketing. Except they are excluding half of their audience, so in a way I really don’t get it.
For Valentine’s Day, my coffee shop sent out a BOGO text. I wondered how irritating that is to those who have no valentine, or for those who have loved and lost. It’s not enough that I have to listen to those horrible diamond commercials on the radio. Now I have to consider buying two small lattes in the drive-through, drinking them both on the way home.
How about they just give me a percentage off my entrée? Or a free dessert? What about buy a coffee, and get a free muffin? Now that’s something Bubba could sink his teeth into. Or swallow whole, whichever comes first.
Yesterday the sun was shining, beckoning me, like most Minnesotans, out of my stuffy house into the fresh air. There was enough of an early spring wind to keep my hat pulled low over my ears. Yet, it was one of those days that reminds me spring is on its way.
As my car now doubles for a mobile office, I’d been hoping for a day such as this to give the old Neon a little spring cleaning. Salt and sand brought in from boots and dog lined the carpet, which now looked less like the floor of a car, and more like a beach. Grime collected in the crevices, and coffee (or was that ketchup?) spotted the seat.
Let’s face it, cars are designed by men. Men sell them to men, with women leaning seductively against the grill. If they ever placed a car ad with this guy waxing the front fender, I’d have to buy it. But they haven’t figured that out yet.
So when I pull out the toothbrushes, rags, shop vac, and steam cleaner to scour the inside of my automobile, it’s likely I’ll have a few sexist remarks to mutter under my breath.
I hate cleaning, and I usually tackle what bothers me the most first. That way, if I succumb to boredom, fatigue, frustration, or procrastination, at least I have made the biggest difference for my peace of mind. In this case it was the floor, so I hauled out the shop vac. Automobile carpeting is a pretty shallow nap. Yet, it never ceases to amaze me how much dirt it can hold. And not only does it hold a lot, it won’t let go. I took those floor mats out, raised them high above my head, and brought them slapping down to the driveway time and again. I kneeled on them to hold them in place while I vacuumed, little grains of sand bouncing around like it was some sort of disco rave. And vacuumed. And vacuumed.
That was when I remembered. It doesn’t matter how many times you slam them on the ground, beat them with a bat, or vacuum over the same spot. There will always be a little sand rave party going on inside the nap of the floor mats. You just have to get it good enough to look clean when you get in the car.
Then I started on the carpeted floor. Remember when we all got carpeting in our houses? It was so that we could get out of bed and not feel the cold hard floor beneath our toes. Somebody tell me why we started carpeting our cars. In my house, I can take off my shoes before dragging mud in on the carpet. Should I dedicate a little floor mat for muddy shoes in my car? Wouldn’t it make more sense if I could simply run a rag over a vinyl floor and be done? A woman would have designed it that way.
No, the floor has its own little dance party going on as I vacuum it, and something more. My long blonde hairs whip around when the windows are open and somehow fall out and weave themselves into the short nap. The shop vac can suck at that thing all day, but it’s not coming out. The rug acts like some sort of hair Velcro, which would be great if you wanted human hair carpeting. I developed a system which involves using the vacuum to lift up the end of the hair. I then pinch the hair against the vacuum hose while pulling back to draw the hair out of the carpeting. Once the hair is out, I let go of the pinched end and the hair sucks up the tube. Apparently a man would rather bitch about a woman’s hair falling out in his truck than design a vehicle with bare flooring.
Next I tackled the dash and center console. Mostly it’s just dust that gets wiped off, but then there are those crevices. The little cracks that give the car sophistication when it’s new, make great places for grime to collect as it’s used. This is where I start losing patience and fingernails. And believe me when I say I don’t have a lot of either to begin with.
If a woman had designed my car, she would have made the air vents removable. They would snap out, be dishwasher safe, and snap back in just as easily. The cup holders would do the same. Those things are never coming clean. I literally poured Windex in and let it soak before the coins came loose from the bottom.
The lid on my center console swings up and over to double as a cup holder for passengers in the back seat. It houses a mini tissue dispenser as well. It is the single best thing about my car right after the sunroof. I’m convinced some dude was given an ultimatum when he designed it.
“Either design this lid with functionality, or we’re going to my mother’s for the Super Bowl.”
But he could have gone further, and possibly secured his place in bed indefinitely. You see, the dog seems to think that console was made for her. She stands on it, sleeps on it, and uses it to reach the sunroof in the summer. I can see a lot of design options here. My favorite would be a piece that flips up to make a wall, blocking her to the back seat where she belongs. The second best option would be a dog-safe place to stand or lay that would keep her from flipping up into the front seat when I brake suddenly. Of course, the best option would be a boyfriend who wouldn’t have botched my attempts to train her to stay off of it in the first place.
As I clean the paw prints off of the console lid, I am reminded of how it all comes down to flaws in the working of the male mind.
Finally, I drag my steam cleaner out to the driveway, and heat up the water tank. The seats are thankfully black, and made of fabric which is neither too hot in summer nor too cold in winter. The length to which I would go for a clean ride surprised Bubba. He asked, “Next is my car?”
He’s so funny.
The liquid the steam cleaner pulled out of my seats was a putrid brown, like that of stale latte, becoming clearer the longer I worked. Eventually, the results of my efforts pleased me. I replaced the tools on shelves and in drawers. Wiping my feet before entering the car, I drove it into the garage. I filed the shredded edge of my nails to smooth nubs, and I took a wonderful hot shower.
Fully dressed for some errand running, we decided to take Bubba’s Pontiac because my seats were still damp. As I slid my foot through the open car door, I saw it. A banana peel lying next to an empty food container. “Oh my God! This is disgusting!” . . . This coming from the woman who just drew sewage-colored liquid from her car cushions.
I plucked the banana from the rubber floor mat and hauled it to the trash. After returning to settle myself into shotgun position, Bubba smiled at me.
The nice thing about being with someone who has been a bachelor most of his life is that we can live somewhat autonomously. That is, he does his thing. I do mine. We don’t nag about when the other is coming home, or synchronize what we’re going to eat for dinner. If we’re hungry, we eat. If I want to cook I do, and if he wants to cook . . . um . . . he brings home takeout. But sooner or later , just like every other couple, we need to plan and compromise, and that takes communication.
The measure of a great communicator is how well she is understood, not how well she is heard. Talking louder will only get you heard. Real communication will get you understood. My favorite book on relationship building is How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. It is, of course, marketed to parents, but I say the title should be How to Talk so ____ Will Listen & Listen So ____ Will Talk. Readers can fill in the blank. They would have sold a lot more copies, and there would be a whole lot more people communicating.
How to Talk So Your Spouse Will Listen & Listen So Your Spouse Will Talk
How to Talk So Your Doctor Will Listen & Listen So Your Docter Will Talk
How to Talk So Your Boss Will Listen & Listen So Your Boss Will Talk
I’m serious. This should be on every business management reference shelf. After all, children and adults are all just people. No one wants to be ordered around or controlled. We want respect and freedom to choose. We all want to know that we are heard. The methods in this book absolutely work for all of your relationships.
At a previous job, my manager’s manager had something she asked me to do. It wasn’t an altogether unreasonable request. It was a good idea, and I was the right person for the job. It just wasn’t the right time for the job. There were higher priorities, and I knew it. I said to her, “That’s a great idea! Would you like me to do that now, or after I finish reporting the monthly inventory?”
Either answer would have been fine. After all, she was my boss’s boss. But I knew as well as she that the inventory was a higher priority. In the end, she felt heard, I let her make a choice, and the work got done in the proper order. I also got to show her that I am a person who communicates.
I could have told her “Sure, no problem!” then rolled my eyes and talked about her behind her back, but I chose to understand and be understood. Talking and listening. That’s communicating. The best things I learned about management I learned while parenting, and this book was a great resource.
Another method of communication I like to use is to relate to people the way they relate to you. I try not to swear around people who don’t swear. If someone is very casual and calls me Hon, I have no problem calling them Dude. If someone is very straightforward, maybe even blunt, most likely they won’t want me beating around the bush. People who are in a hurry, will not want me babbling about the weather.
And sometimes you need to talk in the language they understand. Not like French versus Italian . . . but especially in my home, I need to use language a bachelor can relate to.
For instance, yesterday at the dog park, Sabbie wouldn’t take the new balls we found lying around. She only wanted to play with the ball we brought from home. Bubba didn’t understand . . .
Bubba: Why won’t she bring that ball back? Me: It’s not her ball. Bubba: But it’s just another ball. Me: She isn’t invested in it. It’s like when you meet a girl at the bar. Bubba: Ah . . . Me: If you just bring her home for one night, you aren’t invested. But after you play with her a while, get used to the way she smells, and bounces, and snuggle up against her at night, you start to worry that you might lose her. So you don’t want to play with the other new girls. You’d rather stick with the one whose smell is familiar, even if she smells like dog slobber. Bubba: Oh yeah . . . that makes sense.
Okay, maybe that didn’t come out exactly like I wanted to, but I got my point across. You see, to be understood, it helps if you know your audience.
Life is pain. It is beauty and comfort and love too, but those things don’t come without a lot of pain along the way. I’ve had problems that have made me wish it would all end. I’ll bet you have too. There is nothing like pain to teach us about life.
The words I can’t take back. The promises I broke. The poor choices I made.
You could probably protect yourself from this kind of suffering. You could lock yourself away from the world. You could deny yourself the chance to find love and friendship and face challenges. And that would not be a life I’d want to live.
Check your pride.
Love until it hurts.
Speak your mind.
Do something frightening.
Run the race.
Let the pieces fall where they may. It might be years before you get them all put back in place again. But when you do, you will be older and wiser and you will have learned.
For years I hid myself under the wings of people who chose what was best for me. I sheltered myself there where, looking out from underneath, the wold looked scary. I eventually atrophied and became weak.
One day, I got a job at a mall, and was quickly promoted. As I became more proficient at my job, I learned a lot about myself. I found out I was wise, sometimes witty, and even strong. I learned that when I was happy, I had a great smile.
I also realized the world wasn’t so scary. Not the people with purple hair, nor piercings, nor tattoos, nor any of the people I had been taught were frightening. In fact, I found out I kind of liked the world.
But more than that, I found out that the world kind of liked me too!
My new friends came in all different colors and cultures and ages. Some of them were smart, some made me laugh, and some had interesting talents.
I have moved on from that job, but I still hold many of those friendships. Some have grown, and some have waned. All were important to me in so many ways.
This is a song that found me at that time. It reminds me that my best friend is the one with whom I can be myself, and likes me anyway.
It’s been almost two years since Bubba moved in. Or is it three? There was some adjustment at first, but then we seemed to fit in like two peas in a pod. A very small pod.
We moved Bubba in slowly. First it was blankets and seasonal boxes. You know, the things no one really notices showing up at your house. Later, we would move in a knick-knack or two, maybe some boots or coats. I emptied out half of my dresser space and one of the bedroom closets. As those filled up, I hardly noticed he was starting to occupy what used to be my space.
Then one weekend, we piled the rest of his apartment into the back of a rental truck like it was a championship game of Tetris. *All at once I understood George Carlin when he said, “Have you ever noticed that their stuff is shit and your shit is stuff?”
By American standards we live in a small house. In fact, according to **Apartment Therapy, we live in a house much closer in size to the average French. For this reason, I prefer the minimalist look — you know, tuck all the clutter out of sight, so it looks like I don’t own any. Bubba likes the honest approach. His things are all out where he can access them. No matter what devices I employ to keep his useful shit hidden, he always finds a way to keep it out next to my pretty stuff.
My grandparents, who lived in an even smaller home than we, demonstrated compromise in the most basic way. Grampa would turn up the heat and Gramma would open a window. If they were displeased with the other, they never showed it. This was possibly my first and best lesson in cooperation.
Someone once said it’s never to late to teach an old pea new tricks . . . or something like that. Bubba and I are still finding new ways to live together in this wee pod.
When we make our grocery run, we share a cart; my food on one side, Bubba’s on the other. The fact that we disagree about whether to place the soda in the cart or underneath it, or how to park the cart in the bagging area fade in comparison to the system for which we have devised for loading it into the car. We are a well-oiled machine. If grocery-loading were an Olympic sport, we’d take gold.
Provided we take my car out on errands, I drive. When I’m backing out, Bubba yells out “Clear!” as if I’m paying him for it. If we take his car, he drives. When Bubba backs out, I just close my eyes. Keeping my eyes closed keeps me from gasping, which in turn keeps peace in the car.
I like listening to my audiobook during my morning routine. Bubba says absolutely nothing in the morning, preferring to grunt unintelligibly akin to a Neanderthal. This is how our mornings pass; him not interesting in speaking, me not interesting in listening. The perfect non-communication.
These are a just a few of the ways that couples such as us become a partnership through tolerance, teamwork, and cooperation. What works for one pair may not necessarily work for another, which makes it all the more fascinating. I would bet that some of the most retold stories in your family are those of couples coming to terms with their relationship. They are the lessons of life, fables for the future.
Bubba loves his treats, and once they’re in the house, I can’t resist. The thing is, Bubba likes his cookies and bars soft and chewy. I like them crisp and crunchy. One day he was breaking off the outside edge of the cookie.
Me: What are you DOING?
Bubba: Ish aw hard (with a mouthful of soft middle-cookie).
Me: That’s the best PART!
Bubba: Mmm . . . nooo . . Dish ish d goob part.
Me: Are you THROWING these OUT?
Bubba: Mmm-hmm (with a look of serious disgust).
Since then, Bubba and I buy one cookie between us. He eats the middle. I eat the outside. If I make a pan of brownies, I get the edges, he eats the gooey middle, and as it turns out we are quite happy. As happy, in fact . . .
. . . as two peas in a very small pod.
Peace . . .
*George Carlin was one of Bubba’s favorite people. He can quote several of George’s bits, and he hung a large poster of “An Incomplete List of Impolite Words: 2,443 Filthy Words and Phrases Compiled by George Carlin” in our bathroom. Just one more way we live together in this little pod fit for two.
I’ve been thinking lately, because that’s what we introverts do. We think. A lot. That’s why we’re so damn smart.
Clicking on the dashboard icon on my ancient 6-year old MacBook pops up a Widgets selection. The one I use most is the Oxford American Dictionary/Thesaurus. I was a little disappointed to find these definitions:
Introvert: a shy, reticent and typically self-centered person. A person predominantly concerned with their own thoughts and feelings rather than with external things.
Extrovert: an outgoing, overtly expressive person. A person predominantly concerned with external things or objective considerations.
My alarm goes off a good two and a half hours before I am due at work. In the who-can-get-out-of-the-house-fastest competition, I lose. People are amazed. “What do you DO in the morning?”
Well? . . . . I let the dog out, use the restroom and find my glasses and phone. I get dressed and take the dog for a walk, the length of which depends on the weather. During that time, I am engrossed in some type of auditory experience. I have radio programs, podcasts, audiobooks, and music apps that all bring entertainment to my morning walk. Every now and then I just listen to the birds waking up and connect with nature. But generally, I like something for my brain in the morning. It gives me something to think about during the day. Because as I already stated, we introverts think a lot.
Back at home, Bubba may or may not have started to stir. He’s not a talker in the morning. He’s more of a grunter. It’s one of the things that leads me to believe he is also an introvert. He grunts. I sigh. And somehow we manage to let each other know we need to get in the fridge, or use the toilet. It works.
I make breakfast and lunch for myself in the time I have allotted. I feed the dog. The rabbit gets a nice salad. After a quick healthy breakfast, I read, finish whatever I was listening to earlier, or maybe just play a word game on my phone.
For me to get out of bed, dress, shower, grab a cup of joe and head out would be disastrous. I would arrive at work edgy, tired, weak, and unsociable.
Instead, I arrive with a smile. The faces of my coworkers are beacons of light in an otherwise dingy grey warehouse. I’m already contemplating the work before me, prioritizing tasks in my head. I walk confidently, calling out a good morning to fellow coworkers and clients alike. I doubt anyone other than the Oxford American Dictionary would define me as a shy, self-centered person.
Meeting with my manager for a one-on-one, she is surprised to hear me describe myself as an introvert. Misconceptions abound over this term. As I talk, I gaze out the window of her office. Sometimes those I talk to will glance over their shoulder or out the window to see what I am looking at. I’m not looking at anything. Nor does my averted gaze mean I am lying. It means that I am so in tune to your facial expressions and body language, it actually distracts me from my story. I have to look elsewhere so that I don’t lose track of what I am saying. My manager likes to refer to me as a thinker.
I spend the day in a customer service atmosphere. I charm. I sell. I mediate conflict. I make things right. It demands a personality of communication, interaction, and a genuine love of people. I walk a sometimes-thin line between customer understanding and employer loyalty. We are the peacemakers. The referees. The crusaders. It is not a job for the meek.
On my lunch hour, you will not find me in the break room with my coworkers. I will be on a walk, or more likely at home snuggled up with a book, or writing on my laptop. I suffer the loss of networking and gossip, but reap a much-needed respite for this introvert.
Far from being the shy one at a table of my peers, I am the one biting my tongue. I am the class clown. The heckler delivering one-liners. But also the one who interjects thought-provoking counterpoises to the conversation. Sitting with friends is more thinking, and being clever. No, better to re-energize over a home-cooked lunch, nuzzling with a dog, and some quiet time.
In a team meeting, I choose my words wisely. I wait to make sure what I say is practical, unique, and intelligent. The team is often on to another topic by the time I have fully constructed my thought, and I ask to go back to the previous point. I apologize. As in any group setting, I am often the last to leave, waiting for a chance to talk to one particular person alone. While presenting a prepared speech in front of group exhilarates me, I communicate spontaneous thoughts better with one person. I appreciate a group leader who asks us to contact her later if we think of anything else.
The workday ends in reverse of how it began. Smiles and goodbyes and wishing people a good night. Not connecting with someone on my way out would be a letdown.
Suppressing my desire to head home, I try to ignore excuses for avoiding the gym. Exercise does more than rev up my heart. I breathe. Breathing releases any anxiety I have incurred in the form of outside stimuli. I try to spend some time each day in repetitive exertion at the gym, or even better, on a walk in some natural setting.
Once at home, I do like I have always needed to do for as long as I can remember. Like coming home from school, or shopping, or lunch with friends, I need to sit down alone and re-energize. To skip this step would be harmful to my relationships and my mental health. Word games, Sudoku, cooking, gardening, watching television, and cuddling with a pup are all ways for me to re-energize. I can’t read because my mind is too full. Sometimes I can write to empty it. Sometimes I make lists. Particularly bad days include a glass of red wine, maybe two. Chocolate is optional. Nuts are nice.
If I’ve had enough time to decompress, Bubba can enter like a whirlwind, propelling gloves, empty lunch containers and shoes in his wake, and it won’t bother me a bit. I welcome him home with a kiss and a smile. Other days I greet him with a hug and maybe point him to the stove for dinner. Usually he takes the dog out for some tongue-dragging playtime. This gives me a few moments to adjust to having someone else in my space. Then he will often let loose with the news of his day. Sometimes we just retreat to the television, exchanging weary smiles.
From my point of view, it is not the concern of my own thoughts and feelings that makes me an introvert, it is the way I use those thoughts to recharge myself to face the external demands of life.