The Secret Life of Melanie O.
Monday, February 20, 2006
Something punny
My husband Dan is a pretty emotional kind of guy - a double edged sword. When he’s “up,” he’s fun to be with and he’s full of passion. He’s loving and enthusiastic when he’s feeling positive. I love it when he’s in this mood, because he brings me up, as well.

When he’s down, he’s sullen, quiet, and snappy. Usually, he’s upset over our tenants and property manager. Dan’s not cut out to be a landlord. He stresses when the rent is late. He stresses if we have to make repairs. When he stresses, I stress.

Yesterday, we were grocery shopping, and Dan was in a good mood. We had just returned from lunch with friends who had flown up to Sydney for a concert the night before. It was good to catch up, and we were both feeling in good spirits, although we had a debate over lunch as to what the most popular sport in the world was. (He said netball – played by school-aged kids all over the world, except in the USA. I said soccer. I looked it up on the Internet, and apparently, it’s volleyball. I digress, however.)

So, we’re in the grocery store, in the checkout line, when Dan tells a punny joke. Dan is the master at word jokes and sometimes they’re funny. Sometimes they’re not. This time, it must not have not been as funny as they usually are, because I just gave a bit of a distracted chuckle.

Dan was a bit insulted. “You never laugh at my jokes,” he complained.

Without missing a beat, I protested: “That’s not true. I always laugh at you.”

He laughed. We both laughed. It’s a good thing we understand each other.
posted by Melanie O. at 4:29 PM - 3 comments
Friday, February 17, 2006
Online Dating: the Musical
I had a brainstorm today, after an online discussion about Online Dating. I’m going to write a musical about it. I was introduced to Online Dating back in the late ‘90’s, after a few years of being single. I was in my mid to late 30’s and became keenly aware that the eligible pool of men my age had dried up. They were all either married, gay, or not partner material. There were plenty of younger men who were interested, but, although they loved the physical aspects of a relationship, they couldn’t cope with the emotional ones and the fact that I was light-years ahead in terms of real life experience.

So, with the Internet becoming more and more popular, and with software becoming more “User Friendly,” I decided to try AOL’s online matchmaking service – a kind of browse-before-you-buy affair where you could search a database of potential love matches by age, location, and interests. In theory, like Marxism, a great idea. In reality, like Communism, filled with exaggerations, corruption, and downright lies. I did meet a couple of men who were decent, and one is a friend to this day, but most of them must have posted the one decent photo of themself in existence, where the light was just right that day and the moon was in the Seventh House of Virgo. They also must have misread the instructions when they signed up. They wrote down their wishlist regarding their own personalities, and not the truth about themselves.

They say that men lie about their height, and women lie about their age and/or weight. I can honestly say that both lie about everything. Not that I’ve ever lied about myself in my profile - ha. I figured, if my divorced single parent status was going to scare anyone off – better to get it over with early. But I met more psychos, weirdos, players, and egotistical men than I have ever met in my life. Maybe it was because of the age group. The 30 – 40 age range is an iffy one when it comes to men. If they aren’t married, you have to wonder, why? Are they super picky? Are they players? Commitment-phobes? Just plain quirky? The answer is ‘Yes.’

I had one yucky date after another. I thought I had entered Dating Hell. After a couple of years of one bizarre encounter after another, I fully resigned myself to Singledom Forever, which isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds, compared to Perpetual Bizarre Bad Dream Forever.

In Online Dating: The Musical, I picture our heroine. She’s just broken up with her long term boyfriend, and her girlfriends are pushing her to sign up for an online dating service. It’s a scene out of Grease. They’re singing and imagining a vast pool of hunky men who come parading by with offers of marriage and vacations to the South of France.

So, our heroine signs up for two online matchmaking services, and gets lots of replies. She lines up six dates. In the meantime, she totally overlooks the computer techie who comes out to her house to set up her Internet connection because he wears poplin shirts without a tie, and has a beard and glasses. He sings a lonely love song to her, like Tony sings about Maria when he becomes smitten with her in West Side Story.

Before each date, our heroine (who looks amazingly like yours truly) fantasizes about what a wonderful, handsome man he must be. He’ll be the perfect match a la Fiddler on the Roof. Each fantasy sequence will have a dance routine and chorus line, lots of color and spectacle.

And then she goes on her date and the house and stage lights dim. He’s odd. He’s quirky. He’s “a problem like Maria” the nun in The Sound of Music. Except not as likeable. He does nothing but talk about himself and his money, and then is critical of women because they're just after his money. Or she finds out that he sleeps with his dog and smells like his dog. Or he’s a wolf and he eyes her like a quail that he plans on bagging.

Undaunted, our heroine continues to experience this revolving door of fantasy versus reality, with the audience laughing and crying along with her, until, one day, the computer techie guy, the guy who shows up every week when her Internet connection goes down, brings her a new DVD burner and flat screen monitor. It’s then that the bells and whistles go off and they stroll off, arm in arm, singing to each other, like Belle and the Beast.

Irony of ironies, I eventually did meet my husband Dan online. But not through an online matchmaking service. He just saw my profile on AOL and decided to email me for the fun of it. He lived in Sydney, Australia, and I lived in the United States, so nothing could possibly come of it, right? Shheeeyeah!
posted by Melanie O. at 1:07 PM - 2 comments
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Parental homesickness
From the moment a child is born, his or her presence is engraved on the heart (and often the body in the form of stretchmarks and episiotomy scars) of their mother forever. Kids don’t know this until they have their own kids. When you’re a kid growing up, you don’t understand why your parents are trying to control your life. If you don’t have a parent who is trying to control your life, you think you have a parent that doesn’t care about you, so you push the boundaries, waiting for the shoe to drop and your butt to get kicked.

When kids grow up and move away, in the short term, the kids miss the parents more than the parents miss the kids. The kids find the world a bit intimidating and usually fly back to the nest a few times before they are truly independent. Mom and dad eagerly await the day when their lives aren’t filled with dirty clothes lying all over and bathroom mildew that never gets clean. Why, in my house, there had to be a film of soap scum in the shower that was visibly measurable with a ruler. Mom and dad heave a sigh of relief when a whole weekend passes without them having to bail a fledgling adult out of some difficulty.

As the kids find their independence, however, the tables start to turn. The kids get partners and jobs and find out that they can stand on their own two feet. Mom and dad start to feel less and less needed. Mom, especially, starts feeling rather maudlin and gets out the baby books and photo albums for an occasional cry at the childhood that went whizzing by. Everyone told her that childhood was short. At the time, it didn’t seem that way, but looking back – it was barely giggle in the matrix of the Universe. The kids in the meantime, are having a ball. They can now stay out as late as they want to (and suffer the consequences), they can be as messy as they want to (ditto), and they don’t have to live the “not while you’re under my roof” rule.

Why do Moms miss their kids more than the kids miss their moms? I guess that’s nature’s way of ensuring the continuation of the species. It’s also nature’s way of ensuring that Momma’s boys never reproduce.

My kids don’t realise that I miss them more than they miss me. They have their girlfriends, jobs, social lives. They’re quite grown up now. And I don’t know what to do with myself when weekends and holidays roll around, which have always traditionally been the times when I’ve cooked up the big family dinner and had a large group around the table. I miss the noise, the conversations, the feeling that I was never alone, the feeling that I was part of something bigger, more important than myself.

My husband doesn’t quite understand this maternal yearning of mine. He never had his own offspring. In a way, I envy him – and in a way, I feel sorry for him. They were the best times of my life, and the worst times. I think this is why mothers start to nag their kids about giving them grandchildren, but I actually dread that day because right now, I am so far away from them. But I can tell you one thing – when that day comes, I will be like so many other grandmothers. I won’t care about the dirty clothes on the floor, the fingerprints left by little hands, the Legos left in the hallway that stab you on the bottom of your feet as you get up in the middle of the night to pee. I figure that will be my prerogative for enduring the empty nest syndrome and being homesick – for the kids my adult children once were.
posted by Melanie O. at 11:41 AM - 0 comments
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Dan the Salad Man
Dan the Salad ManMy husband is a great blend of Aussie blokiness and liberated man. He takes great pride in helping around the house, and has taken it upon himself to be responsible for making dinner during the week, since neither one of us wants to wait for me to get home to have dinner on the table by 8 pm, just so that we can get to bed by 9 pm. Even when I do cook dinner, he does the salad. Just call him Dan the Salad Man.

During the week, we have salads for dinner. To me, this is pure bliss because, as much as I enjoy cooking, I hate the prep work. If I could have my own sous-chef to prep all of my fruit and veggies for me, I would be in heaven. I don’t know when I developed this aversion to scraping, chopping, snipping, and cutting, but I’m thinking it was somewhere around the age of 12, after I cut myself for the umpteenth time after struggling with an acorn squash. OK, I confess – I am a klutz in the kitchen, although I cook up a mighty tasty spread.

So, Dan does the salad. And he makes a great salad. We were invited to a picnic and movie in the park this past weekend, and Dan decided that he was going to make us a tossed salad to take with the chicken and coleslaw. He even packed up the Eskie cooler and threw in some extras.

Dan and I have only ever been on a picnic together once, several years ago when we went with some friends of his to a model train park. They had young kids. It was chaos. So, this was our first official picnic as a couple.

So, we got to the park and spread out the blanket on the ground (forgetting to put the carry bag somewhere safe,) and set down the picnic basket and cooler. The plates and things were dirty, so Dan rushed off to the public restroom to rinse them off. Meanwhile, I had seated myself next to the cooler, in preparation to start dishing out salads and chicken when Dan got back. I was already helping myself to some French bread. I was starving.

Dan got back and couldn’t understand why I was sitting next to the cooler and kept telling me to move back. ‘But I can’t serve us if I’m sitting this far away from the stuff,’ I am thinking, and I half heartedly moved back a little. I thought he just wanted a little extra room to seat himself next to me. But no – he was getting irritated with me. “Would you PLEASE move back,” he ordered.

Not wanting to argue, I gave up and decided that I was not going to serve us anything. Dan had already “taken charge” and this was HIS picnic. He wanted to set out all of the food on the blanket and I was in the way. We did it his way. Never argue with the person who makes the salad.

Today is Valentine's Day. He couldn't afford to get me roses, but he made me a salad. When you look at it that way, it's Valentine's Day almost every day.
posted by Melanie O. at 8:47 AM - 0 comments
Monday, February 13, 2006
I do not tent
My mother recently wrote about some of her favourite summer memories from when she was a kid. They mainly revolved around her trips to the lake with her father and sister, renting a cabin, and getting back to nature.

When I was a kid, she decided that her outdoor nature experiences should be carried over to the next generation: to my sister and me. So, sis and I joined the Brownies and Girl Scouts, went on a few camping trips as Scouts (earned a couple of badges), and went camping with my mother and father once or twice.

idyllic cabin in the mountainsI learned a lot on those camping trips. As Scouts, we stayed in cabins, on folding cots. We enjoyed everything about camping, with the exception of being kept up all night. In fact, it was so perfect, I often fantasized about having my own little cabin in the woods, as long as I wasn’t bunking with 16 other girls who snore and giggle all night. My mother came with me on one of those Scout trips, and it was the best camping trip ever. None of the other moms had indoor activities planned for a rainy day, but my mother, with her experience as a teacher, came prepared. So, we had sing-alongs with the lyrics drawn in large letters on huge sheets of white paper, visible to all in the room. There’s nothing funnier than a room full of 12-year olds singing “Georgie Girl” and “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.”

Camping with my family was a bit different, however, even with Mom there. I have figured out why. It’s because we slept in tents. I’ve decided that tents are no fun, and, as an adult, I’ve never had the desire to buy one.

Tents are hot and sticky in the summer. If you want to take a break during the day and have a rest in a cool place, a tent is not the place to go.
Bear in a tent
Tents do not keep out the bugs and nature. I know of people who have woken up with a) a snake in their sleeping bag, b) a bear in their tent, and c) wearing their tent in a downpour. On these tenting trips, I woke up covered head to toe in mosquito bites. I am severely allergic to mosquito bites. I looked like I had chicken pox.

Tents are great for backpacking, but how much can you get to know an area if you’re just walking through it? I’d rather spend a few days in one area in a cabin and discover my favourite spots.

I’ve gotten sick on camping trips. You do not want to be stuck in a stifling, sweaty tent when you are sick. Especially if they smell of mildew and you have a sensitive stomach. I usually wound up getting sick on camping trips, after the S’mores. At least I got to have S’mores.

My sister and I used the two little 2 man tents we owned, to camp in our back yard. It was fun camping out in the summer, to sleep in the yard, as we felt a sense of adventure overtake us. We had our pocket knives for whittling, some Tang in a thermos, and our flashlights and books. By 2 am, however, we were back inside because the mosquitos were eating us alive, even though we covered ourselves head-to-toe with OFF! repellent. You have to understand – our property bordered on a marshy creek. It was mosquito heaven and we were the banquet.

So, I don’t do tents, as much as I love the outdoors. People have tried forcing me to try to reconnect with tenting. It’s never worked. Thankfully, I am married to a man who does not tent either. We’re a match made in camping heaven.

posted by Melanie O. at 4:25 PM - 2 comments
Saturday, February 11, 2006
A fifties housewife in a millenial world
I think I finally have figured out from where my median level of discontent is originating. I am actually a 'fifties housewife, working in a technical field in the new millenium. You see, I grew up in middle class suburbia in the 60's and 70's, when housewives were the "norm." Our neighborhood was mainly blue collar, and most of the moms stayed at home, kept house, cooked dinner and looked after the kids. My mother is one of the few moms that actually worked outside the home, but only part time, as a teacher.

In the summer, people piled into their Dodge or Ford station wagons, and went camping or visited the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls. Kids fought in the back seat and threw up on each other. The Fourth of July was always a big affair with people having cook-outs, town parades, flag flying, and three footed races in the park. Kids hunted crayfish in the creek and caught fireflies in a jar. Adults sat out at night in the summer, in their lawn chairs, sharing a beer with the neighbors. Winters were long and cold, but my mom always had a hot meal at the end of the day to come home to.

Of course, when you grow up in Baby Boomer haven, you expect that you will follow in your parents' footsteps. You expect that one day, you too will go off to college and get married, buy a house, have a couple of kids, and you too will head off to see Mount Rushmore in the trusty family wagon with the family dog lapping up the scents of the highway with its head and tongue hanging out the window.

So much for idyllic dreams of what life was supposed to be like. Some time in the late 60's and early 70's, frustrated career women and young women at university campuses all over America, decided that they didn't care for suburbia, OR housewifery, OR station wagons. They wanted to run corporations, learn how to shoot a rifle in the army, and if they didn't ever get married or have kids, that was their choice and no one should judge them badly for it. In short - they wanted to be more like men. Some burned their bras in protest of what they perceived as the shackles of a male-dominated world. Thankfully, they put them back on again when they learned about gravity.

By the time I graduated high school, there were still plenty of us who believed we would live our parents' lives as adults - and some of us did. I grew up with a girl who married, had kids and bought a house with her husband in the same neighborhood as her parents. Something strange was happening to me, however.

I was soon learning that there was no middle ground. Men, having born the brunt of the women's revolution, began to expect that their wives would hold down a job, too. The economy changed to adapt to these attitudes. With more money in the hands of the populace, prices skyrocketed. President Nixon issued several wage and price freezes in the early 70's to try to curb this, but it was like trying to stop a tidal wave with a few sand bags. Homes were no longer affordable on single incomes. A mortgage, car payment, holidays AND saving for kids' educations became near impossible on one income. If a woman stayed at home with the kids and looked after the house, it was because she was content to have nothing, (like my sister who always requires financial assistance from family, but who still manages to have her own car and some of the family antiques,) or because her husband earned more money than God and she had a nanny and housekeeper to help her out. In the meantime, I've worked my butt off. I don't know who is smarter - me, or my sister? I'm thinking it's not me.

So, I wound up having to shift gears and expectations once the 80's rolled around. I took all kinds of low paying jobs to help makes ends meet, which meant I didn't have 100% to give to anything. I was raising kids, taking care of the house, and working for a wage all at the same time. Of course, I was married to a man, who, while he enjoyed the extra income, didn't understand that having a working wife meant he had to do 50% of the housework. He was slower to catch on to these changes in society.

Twenty years later, I've put myself through school, have a good job in a technical field, my kids are grown (I feel like I missed half their childhood), and I have a mortgage jointly with my husband Dan, for a house we don't live in because we couldn't afford to buy anything close to
where we work in the city. Wow! Things have really become so totally removed from what I knew as a kid. And do I like it? Sometimes I tolerate it. What happened to a Happy Medium? Not only do we "have it all" as women, we're expected to "do it all." I often feel spread as thin as a scrape of Vegemite on toast. Even Gloria Steinham stopped thinking of men OPPRESSED WORKING WOMENas "the enemy," and got married.

So, I'm rushing around, trying to make up for lost time, and collecting things that remind me of the Boomer Era: garter belts and stockings, girdles, bullet bras, turquoise appliances, art deco Heywood Wakefield furniture, and one day, I hope, a '56 Nomad. I want to refinish my Heywood Wakefield furniture, but I never have the time. I sense it's time for another Revolution.
posted by Melanie O. at 2:00 PM - 5 comments
Friday, February 10, 2006
Banning pantyhose
I decided yesterday that I am going to ban pantyhose from my wardrobe. An incident occurred that spurred me on to this decision. One that I can now look back at and shrug my shoulders about – actually, I shrugged my shoulders over it yesterday when it happened – spilled milk and all that.

I decided yesterday, to wear a lovely longish skirt with a matching tunic length sweater and matching tie belt. It was casual, but smart. Everything was coordinated, from my jewelry to my shoes. I felt confident as I walked out the door in the morning, to head to work.

As it happens, once I got to work and had my morning tea and coffee, I had to visit the loo. Nature calls and all that. So, I did what one does once inside the confines of one of the stalls in the women’s bathroom, and then, did myself back up, including pulling up my pantyhose and straightening my skirt.

I did a little more work at my desk, and then it was off to lunch. I decided that I was going to have lunch in the shopping mall next door, but not before I had a conversation with a construction worker at the lift. We rode down to the street level together, and I didn’t think anything of this. One usually does have conversations with strangers in lifts to keep the silence from being too awkward. Even “have a nice day” is acceptable. The construction guy followed me out of the lift and we headed down the hall.

So, I left my office building and walked into the mall next door, and was riding the escalator to the second floor food court, when a woman came running up behind me, noticeably agitated. It was obvious that she was desperate to tell me something important. I thought perhaps that I had dropped money from my wallet, which I had clutched in my hand.

She bent over and said “Your skirt is caught up in the back.”

“What?” - I am thinking. I know I checked my skirt when I left the loo – I always do. But, no, I had missed a spot. It was, after all, a rather longish and full skirt, and a bit of the hem had gotten caught up in my pantyhose, which was on display for all and sundry, including the construction guy who followed me out of the lift.

I tripped as we got to the top of the escalator, reached ‘round frantically to try and discover where the offending bit was, pulled it out, thanked the woman profusely, and went off to enjoy a nice lunch of pumpkin and ricotta lasagne. After I shrugged my shoulders. Just another Melanie Moment.
posted by Melanie O. at 12:35 PM -
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
My In-laws' 50th
My in-laws celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this past weekend, and Dan and I went to their home, where they decided to have a dinner and invite their closest personal friends. The night was filled with lots of laughter and memories. They had the wedding photo album out and I had a chance to look through a window that let me see things as they were 50 years ago. Everything, from the bride's dress to the bridesmaid's gowns were sewn by my mother in law. They were made out of materials you can't even get any more: taffeta and flocked nylons. All the women had short, permed hair (but not poodley like it was back in the '80's). It was perfectly shaped and chic.

As the evening progressed, we all loosened up a little, and it was my husband's turn to make a toast to his parents. He left no room for doubt that the reason he annoys them so much, is because he loves them. If this is the case, no doubt my husband loves me very much, too. In fact, when he's quiet and stops being talkative and annoying, I know that something is bothering him, and I worry.

Don't get me wrong, I love my husband to bits, but he is like a kid when it comes to annoying me. He always wants to grope me when I'm folding laundry and putting it away. I only do my laundry once a week. Why he chooses that time to decide to grope me, I don't know. I spend a few hours every evening, just relaxing and not doing much of anything, but he doesn't grope me then. He watches DVDs. He also decides to grope me when I'm a) washing dishes b) vacuuming c) getting ready to get in the bath (OK, this one's a bit understandable) , d) grocery shopping, or e) getting the cat's worming tablets.

I think that men learn this behavior early in life. My sons always decided to act up and annoy me when I was on the telephone and couldn't just drop what I was doing to yell at them. And then they drove off to see their girlfriends and annoy them, too. It's worrying that they don't ever outgrow this sort of thing.

I am amazed that anyone stays together for 50 years, nowadays, what with easy divorce, delayed marriage, and so many other options. I can picture my husband and I being together maybe 40 years from now (if we live that long,) but I have warned him: if he dies first, I am going to become a Merry Widow and use young 65 year old men for fun. He doesn't seem too upset by this declaration. In fact, I kind of think he expects it.

How annoying.

posted by Melanie O. at 7:59 PM -

About Me
Name: Melanie O.
Home: Durham, North Carolina, United States
About Me: Female, American health and beauty-conscious professional who has rekindled a childhood love of dolls.
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