Politicizing Everything

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I thought after November, my social media would be decluttered of the endless political posts. As it turns out, the election was just the beginning. Somehow everyone on Facebook, Twitter and even mainstream news channels feels the need to politicize everything.

For example: Apparently Beyonce is pregnant with twins. Great. Go Queen Bey.

I am honestly indifferent to the fact that some singer I feel ambivalent about is having twins. To me, that is not national news. But not only has Beyonce’s pregnancy become national news, it has become a breeding ground for more political posts, like this one:

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There are more black people inside Beyonce right now than in Trump’s cabinet.

Oh, really? Are we calling them “people” now? I thought they were just fetuses. 

Technically they are just fetuses, but that doesn’t change the fact that Trump is a racist bigot.

Trump has multiple minorities in his cabinet, including Ben Carson and Nikki Haley. And let’s not forget that Republicans ran a black man and two Hispanics, whereas Democrats ran two old, white people – exactly what the left accused the right of being.

I thought we were talking about the inane topic of Beyonce’s pregnancy. Why did this turn into a political discussion?!?!?!?!

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Super Bowl ads used to be a source of humor and joy, filled with heartwarming commercials of lost puppies finding their owners, hilarious nods to raw masculinity, and adorable clips of children who believe in magic.

This year, the Super Bowl commercials were thinly-veiled (or, at times, overt) commentaries on feminism, immigration and Trump himself. Not only were the once-enjoyable ads politically laced, but Lady Gaga’s halftime show has been somehow called a triumph for the LGTBQ community, despite the fact that she did not come out and make the strong political statement she’d alluded to (for which I am thankful).

Can we go back to a day without political booby-traps at every turn? I’d like to be able to go shopping without being bombarded with news about Nordstrom dropping Ivanka Trump’s line. I’d like to be able to go to work without facing questions about my view on evil “Big Oil”. I never thought I’d long for the days when I missed all of the engagement pictures and pregnancy announcements on my Facebook newsfeed, but congratulations, world. You have pushed me over the edge… Bring back the Clydesdales, and bring back the baby pictures!!!

Authentically Aurora

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Paris – Day 2

IMG_5639.jpgRachel and I started our second day in Paris with a mid-morning brunch at Le Tourville near Ecole Militaire. I ordered a Croque Monsieur and cafe au lait; then watched people hurrying through the morning rain from the safety of my covered awning.

While Rachel made use of the cafe’s Wi-fi connection, I met a nice German couple from Stuttgart and also made friends with our waiter, Leandre. He taught me some new phrases (“C’est bon”) and invited us to join him that evening at Hobo Club discotek.

Due to the EuroCup, Champs de Mars was closed to the public, but we were able to at least walk by, and in the process, we also passed right by the base of the Eiffel Tower. Circling back to Ecole Militaire, we found Rue Cler and enjoyed its Open Air Market despite the drizzling rain. Rachel bought raspberries, I got blueberries, and we strolled in the rain eating our bite-sized fruit.

IMG_5672.jpgAround the corner, we stumbled upon LeNotre. The little bakery specialized in macaroons, and although I have never liked macaroons in the US, I decided to try some, and they were the best macaroons I’ve ever had! Throughout the rest of the trip, Rachel and I ate a lot of macaroons, but no one – not even the famous Laduree – came close to LeNotre’s macaroons: soft and flavorful with just the right amount of chewiness.

While eating my strawberry hibiscus and dark chocolate macaroons, I accompanied Rachel to a bookstore where she bought a children’s book in French for her nephew. She has decided to buy him a book in every country she visits. He won’t be able to read them, but she thinks someday he will appreciate having a collection of children’s books in other languages. Time will tell.

In the afternoon, we made our way to Rue du Commerce, a street of boutiques where the locals shop. I got a really cute coral pencil skirt with scalloped edging. Afterward in the Metro, we got stuck behind a Polish football fan whose RATP card wouldn’t work, so Rachel gave him one of hers.

IMG_5743.jpg“Where you from?” he asked us, wondering at the kindness of strangers. When we told him America, he invited us for beers and to join them in watching the soccer match. I told him we were on our way to a cafe instead. “Cafe?! No, no no,” he said to me. “Cafe bad. Beer good!” the boisterous Polski declared with a grin before running off with his friends singing a song in Polish at the top of his lungs.

Back at Rue Cler (quickly becoming one of our favorite hideaways), Rachel and I each ordered cafe au lait and split a scrumptious raspberry tart at Le Petit Cler. Although the maitre d’ was outrageously rude, the food was delicious, and we made a lot of new friends:

  • 3 British soccer fans took a liking to us and poured us some champagne when I joked that, “obviously,” I was pulling for Britain in the EuroCup.
  • 2 Welsh guys in their 40s, one of whom (Garreth) took a liking to me and had a great, long conversation about politics (e.g. effect of the legal drinking age of 21 in the US and decline of the pub scene in Britain) as well as religion. Garreth just started reading his childhood bible about two months ago and invited us to the Half Penny Pub when he left. We got invited for drinks by nearly everyone we met!
  • 2 young, fashionable women were seated next to us at Le Petit Cler, and when I heard one of them speak, I picked up her American accent. Daria, as she soon introduced herself, turned out to be from my hometown, and she’d met Agathe – her French companion – when they both attended Fashion School in London.

IMG_5755.jpgRachel and I hit it off so well with Daria and Agathe that we all walked down the block to Cafe Central where Agathe insisted we all try the famous Berthillon gelato. I ordered the nut flavor, and it was delicious (similar to Nutella)! After we all exchanged contact information (yay for new friends!), we said good night (“bonne nuit”).

Our Metro line 6 skipped over our Passy stop, so Rachel and I got off at Trocadero and walked through the picturesque Palais de Chaillot – lit up at night – to get home to our shared full-sized bed and porta-shower at the top of our seven flights of stairs. I found that our temporary “home sweet home” made my actual home all the sweeter. C’est bon.

Authentically Aurora

Dancing Around Dating

Cinderella Story DanceOn the evening before my birthday, my best girls took me out for dinner and drinks. Laughing about work and boys and life, we enjoyed the night air, strolling around an outdoor shopping mall before stopping into a quaint chocolate shop for dessert.

Over brownie-and-nut chocolate ice cream, my friend Cindy suggested we all go out dancing. It was nearly ten o’clock by that point, and now that I’m pushing 30, I was ready to call it a night. Like me, Ashley and most of the other girls were planning to head home, but Rachel’s blue eyes sparkled as she suggested I invite Seth and his friends to come dancing.

Cindy and Rachel are roommates and two of the girls I’ve gotten closest to in my bible study, although they are as different as can be. Cindy is a tall, curvy blonde with a bold spirit and an independent streak to match my own. We’ve had similar life experiences and only recently discovered we attended sister high schools, which just adds to our joke that we are twins separated at birth. Fraternal twins. Rachel is short and petite like I am, but her porcelain skin is dotted with freckles, and the red lipstick she loves to wear stands in strong juxtaposition to her shy, quiet demeanor.

“I don’t know…” I told the girls in response to their suggestion. Cindy and Rachel both knew I’d been disappointed that Seth’d had to work late on Wednesday and so missed our group that week. “I’m trying to let him lead, and I want him to be the one to ask me out if he decides that he’s interested.”

The girls exchanged a glance. “Oh, he’s interested!” they teased with knowing giggles. “He just needs a little encouragement,” Cindy added with a shrug.

“I guess it wouldn’t hurt to invite him and a group of his friends,” I agreed, mentally trying to frame up the conversation in my mind before I called him. Ten minutes later, Seth and his buddy Brent were on their way to meet us at Stampede, a local two-stepping bar and dance hall.

Seth, Brent, Cindy, Rachel and I gathered around a pool table once everyone arrived. Seth and I played on a team against Brent, all of us battling for who was worst at billiards. After Brent accidentally knocked in the eight ball, we relinquished the table to another group and migrated over to the dance floor. Seth bought me a beer, and we all sipped and talked, laughed and danced. I was glad to have him there for my birthday celebration.

After Seth and I danced three songs in a row together, he took Cindy and then Rachel for turns on the dance floor. I appreciated that he was mindful of the other girls. I’ve discovered that Seth is both perceptive and thoughtful; a true gentleman.

At one point, I found myself alone with Brent, so I asked him a bit about himself; then about his relationship with Seth. “Is he the real deal?” I asked. “Is he a solid, godly man?”

Brent was all too happy to tell me about his impressions of Seth, and he had nothing but respect for the man, describing him as wise, grounded and genuinely humble. “I don’t think he knows what a man he is,” Brent told me with a laugh. “Sometimes he tells stories about life on the ranch – cutting down trees or branding cattle – like it’s no big deal. He doesn’t seem to realize that’s not normal for us city boys.”

I was struck, later, by how differently Seth responded to my inquiries than Bryan did. When – this time last year – I asked Bryan’s friends about his character, Bryan had turned irate, screaming at me that I had broken his trust. But Seth commented to me later, with admiration on his face, that Brent had been impressed with the questions I’d asked. Seth appreciated that I took the time to understand how he was perceived by his friends. He saw the wisdom in it. The differences in reaction between Bryan and Seth were telling in their extreme contrast. Seth is a solid man of character, secure in who he is and confident in his friends’ mutual care and respect for him. The more I get to know him, the more I admire him.

When Parmalee’s “Already Callin’ You Mine” came over the speakers, Seth grabbed my hand and pulled me onto the floor for one more dance. This time, instead of two-stepping around the perimeter of the dance floor like all the other couples, Seth kept us spinning as one unit in our own little corner of the floor.

I felt like we were in a movie scene with the camera panning around us in a circle, twinkling lights blurred out in the background as we spun around one another. We locked eyes and turned eight, nine, ten times before I dropped my gaze, suddenly shy and feeling dizzy, only partially from the dancing.

As the song ended, Seth whispered in my ear, “Do you trust me?”

I nodded, so he eased me into a low dip. The dip required me to trust him with my weight, but as we’ve continued getting to know each other, the same question – Do you trust me? – has come up in ways that have nothing to do with dancing. And my answer is still, “Yes.”

I barely know you, you barely know me,
We ain’t but two slow dances into this thing.
Come on and sit down, I’ll order us a round.
I want to know everything. Girl, where’s your hometown?
Are those your momma’s eyes?
What are you doing for the rest of your life?
…’ Cause I’m already calling, I’m already calling you mine. ❤

Authentically Aurora

Elevator Speech

Elevator

I get asked out all the time – at least once a week. Ladies, I’m told the secret to my unintentional success is that I am both pretty and approachable.

I say “unintentional success” because I generally try to look as unapproachable as possible. Like Ron Swanson, I call my coworkers my “work proximity associates”. I occasionally intentionally call people the wrong name if they start to get too chummy with me. As I type this, I am wearing a shirt that says, “I didn’t choose the grumpy life. The grumpy life chose me.”

I’m not sure how my perpetual scowl and look of disdain are mistaken for being welcoming. Maybe that’s why none of my dates work out. I only attract utterly imperceptive men who think that my grimace secretly means “take me, I’m yours!”

In any case, historically, I’ve been asked on dates by complete strangers at the most random of places, among them the yogurt aisle in the grocery store, the gas station and the sci-fi section of a Barnes and Noble. Now I can add to the list: an elevator.

The first week of the year, fresh from my commitment not to date for a while, I was invited to a party at a friend’s apartment. I’d never been to this particular apartment before, so only when I showed up did I realize that it is a veritable fortress.

There were multiple towers – Tower A and Tower B (“The Two Towers,” I thought to myself… See why I got asked out in an aisle of sci-fi books?!) – and a huge lobby with multiple elevator banks protected by armed security guards. I’ve learned over the years that no one questions you if you look confident, so I strutted past the security guards like I lived in the place, and I made it to the first set of elevators.

A cluster of residents was exiting an elevator just as I arrived, so I snuck in before the door closed. Sighing in relief at how easy that had been, I pushed the button for floor 7. But nothing happened. I tried again. Nothing. So I tried pushing floors 6 and 8. Still nothing.

Eventually the doors opened back up to the lobby, and, puzzled, I got out. Just then, I spotted one of my girl friends across the lobby on the other side of the security guard’s post. I waved her over, but she’s not as bold as I am. She shyly shook her head, so I went to her where she stood in the safety of the public area of the fortress.

As I started to explain to her my difficulty getting to the 7th floor (the hostess also wasn’t answering her phone), I spotted an attractive young man returning to the lobby from walking his dog outside. Assuming he was probably a resident, I said loudly enough for him to hear, “Well he looks like a nice guy. I bet he’ll help us.”

My friend looked horrified at my widely-heard proclamation, but it did the trick. The young man turned to look over his shoulder at me, and I smiled winningly as I strode forward.

“Hi!” I lowered my voice so the nearby security guard wouldn’t be able to hear. In my experience, security types like this tend to either have big egos or inferiority complexes. In either case, they are more trouble than help. “My friend and I are trying to get to the 7th floor for a party, but we’re having trouble with the security system in the elevator.” I batted my eyelashes for good measure. “Do you live here?”

I saw the dog owner looking down at my left hand. I followed his gaze down to the six-pack of beer I’d forgotten I was holding. “Do you want one? I’ll owe you a beer if you can help us out.”

“What? Oh.. uh, yeah. I’m… uh, I’m on the 8th floor.” Clearing his throat, the young man straightened his shoulders and explained importantly, “You have to have a key card to operate the elevators. Come with me!”

Thanking him profusely, I winked at my friend to follow. We waltzed past the security guards and got onto the elevator. Sure enough, our guide slid a badge in front of a card reader, and he was able to push both 7 and 8 for us. “I’m Trevor, by the way,” he told me, reaching out to shake my hand.

Like the frog from Harry Potter? I thought. Then I inwardly rebuked myself for that being my first reaction to his introduction. “Nice to meet you, Trevor. I’m Aurora. Which beer would you like?” I extended the sampler pack to him so he could choose one. Shiner. Good choice.

We were almost to the 7th floor when Trevor handed his phone to me. “Let me get your number,” he said as I took the phone from his hand. “After all, I owe you for this beer.”

Ugh. I wasn’t supposed to be dating, but I didn’t want to reject him in front of the other people in the elevator. I typed in my number and figured I could explain myself later.

Within an hour, I already had a text message from Trevor: “So at 100% interest a day, we need to get drinks real soon. I might not have went to Harvard, but I know all about compound interest.”

I thought his compound interest comment was charming (yes, I’m a nerd), but I was confused about his random reference to Harvard until I glanced down and realized I was wearing my ex-fiance’s sweatshirt. Classic.

I figured we could go for one round of drinks, I’d explain that I’m not dating, we would end up going dutch, and that would be that. So I asked when he was free. His response? “I’m always free. This is America.” And with that comment… my brothers would love him. 

We went to a wine dive a few days later. Typically, my first date mindset is: Ask all the hard questions – premarital sex, politics, family dynamics, religion. If he has potential, he’ll stand up under it and give all the answers I hope for. If he’s weak sauce, I use the Socratic method to challenge his thinking and make a positive difference in his character before exiting his life forever. Of course, now that I’m not dating, there is no former option; just the latter, which – while satisfying – is significantly less exciting.

Trevor ended up identifying as a Christian who never reads his bible and has yet to find a home church in this city where he’s lived for the past three years. (Disclaimer: Going to church and reading your bible are not necessary to go to heaven. We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, not by being a “good person”. But reading the bible and being involved in a church are evidences of someone who takes their faith seriously and is actually living it out. Disclaimer over.)

As predicted, I gave my “I’m not dating” speech, Trevor agreed to split the check, and I haven’t heard from him since. I guess that’s one less frog I have to kiss before I find my prince. This whole “fasting from dating” thing is a breeze.

Authentically Aurora

Fools in Love – Part I

man with girly drink“Wise men say, ‘Only fools rush in.'” -Elvis Presley

My first and only date with K.A. was painful. He spent the entirety of our two-hour dinner complaining about his coworkers. He is a somewhat effeminate history teacher who speaks with a whine to his voice, even when he is not endlessly bad-mouthing his coworkers.

K.A. was not just disgruntled about his work situation; he was a downright bitter person – and not in a fun, acerbic, Grumpy Cat kind of way. He actually fantasized to me about his plans for revenge on one of the other history teachers, calling her an unkind name. As if listening to his ranting wasn’t painful enough, he didn’t ask me more than two questions about myself the entire night. Clearly he was looking more for a venting partner than a romantic date.

He’d taken me to a pub where they served beer and not wine, so although I’m not much of a drinker, I ordered a cherry beer, deciding to try something new (and perhaps dull the pain)! K.A. asked to try it, and he liked it so much that, when our waitress came back, he asked for a cherry beer of his own.

Some men can pull off drinking cherry beer. Maximus Decimus Meridius could pull off drinking cherry beer. Indiana Jones could pull off drinking cherry beer. Paul Bunyan could pull off drinking cherry beer (not that he would). But whining, effeminate K.A.? On a first date, no less? Not a great choice, bro.

Obviously K.A. did not get a second date. But that didn’t keep him from trying. A couple of weeks after our disastrous first date, he sent me a text: “We should go out again for cherry beer.”

First of all, don’t ask a girl out on a date over text message, especially after two weeks of radio silence. Secondly, don’t draw attention to the fact that you ordered a cherry beer for yourself on the first date.

I turned him down again, but he tried again the following week, sending me three late-night text messages: “Wish u were here out dancing… I could use a cute girl like you… Maybe you should come over here.” He sent a fourth text the following morning apologizing; then said: “I want to try taking you out. Will you agree???”

I worded my reply carefully: “Thanks for being bold and asking outright, but I honestly don’t think we are a fit romantically. You have a lot to offer a girl, but I don’t believe I am the right girl for you.”

Instead of accepting my repeated rejection of him, he sent a text back: “Oh I disagree.”

“Whole heatedly,” he added; then corrected, “Heartedly* …heatedly as well.”

I cringed. So awkward! “I’m sorry, but I’m not interested.”

His response came swiftly: “Whatever. Thought it would be fun. Have a nice life.”

Classy. That’s a great way to make me regret my decision. 

He’s probably drowning his sorrows in cherry beer. And sadly, that’s probably the only hint of honey he’s going to get in this lifetime unless he changes his sour attitude.

Authentically Aurora

Life at Sea – Part II

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 3.42.39 PMIn my recent adventure on the high seas, our sailing crew was comprised of starkly different characters. Tony, our skipper, encapsulated everything I’d imagined a skipper would be: rugged and weathered, with a tangled mass of shoulder-length hair, tattooed arms, beer in hand and never clad in anything more than a pair of swim trunks.

Elle, a curvy blonde in her 50s, is a British lawyer who smokes like a chimney and never ends the evening without her friends Gin & Tonic. Elle lives with abandon and a zeal for life that has led her on countless adventures of dancing in the sand and running off with passionate lovers. She’s lived a full and exciting life but, childless, divorced and advanced in years, she seems lonely. She travels the world but has no one to share life with but the locals who she inevitably befriends, but between throaty laughs, she speaks longingly of community and companionship.

While I found in Elle much that I hope to emulate – her zeal, passion and friendly playfulness – I learned the most from observing Jenna, a single 35-year-old from Boston. Jenna aced all of our written sailing exams, but when it came to working together on the rigging, she tended toward stress, either barking bossy orders and criticisms at other crew members or getting panicked and defensive when Tony pointed out something she needed to do differently.

I saw mirrored in Jenna my own perfectionism and the toll it took on not only her enjoyment of the trip but also her relationships with others. During long stretches of sailing on a single tack, Jenna would often read aloud to us from a sailing book she’d brought along. “Oooh, listen to this article on retractable keels!” I frequently saw Tony and Elle exchange glances – Is this girl for real? – but she remained oblivious to the way her unsolicited readings were received.

One night ashore at a beach bar on one of the many remote islands of the Grenadines, Jenna met a young American man over rum punch. After about six beers, Tony was ready to take the dingy back to our boat, but Elle ssh-ed him and gestured to Jenna. “Look at her! She’s forgotten all about her allergies and her Kindle and her lactose intolerance. Give her some time. She may dance in the sand yet!”

Although I agreed with Elle – this girl seriously needed to loosen up – I remember wondering if those are the kinds of comments people make about me when I’m out of earshot. As sweet at Jenna was, it pained me how much I related to her because I saw in Jenna not only my strengths – intellect, ambition and focus – but also many of the things I dislike about myself.

I know I should be who I am, but I hope that as I age, I will relax, live in the moment, and develop a bit more Elle in my Aurora.

Authentically Aurora

Networking No-Go

NetworkingAt the large corporation where I work, networking is key. Success in the workplace is largely dependent upon one’s ability to connect with the right people. I recently decided to apply the same concept to my personal life, figuring that success in spousal identification is largely dependent upon one’s ability to connect with the right people. So I committed to myself that I would attend at least one large social event every weekend this month.

The first weekend of August, a group of friends took a road trip to the Texas hill country. I was really excited about the weekend, especially when my married friends told me that the new guy who would be riding in the back with me was single. I was less excited when said single guy turned out to be a male ballerina-turned-barista who wore an amethyst pendant with his V-neck and told us about his crystal powers while playing anime video games on his handheld Nintendo.

The second weekend of August, I was invited to a housewarming party for a friend of a friend, who also happened to be a single guy. I thought to myself, “This could have potential. He just bought a house, so he’s probably mature and ready to settle down.” It turns out I was right about his maturity; he was over a decade my senior, and the “housewarming” ended up being a party to celebrate his moving into a new apartment. On the plus side, he did spend most of the evening introducing me to the various beers in the Craft Beer Room of his apartment, trying to find one that this wine drinker would be able to taste without making a face like a five-year-old.

The third weekend of August, I attended a play at our downtown theatre with a random group of people brought together by an old friend. We went to dinner beforehand, and I was seated diagonally across from an attractive, single, petroleum engineer named Andrew. We were having a wonderful conversation until some young blonde in three inch heels showed up half an hour late. Andrew’s eyes lit up, and he asked me to trade tickets so that they could sit together during the play. From their conversation, it sounded like they knew each other from before, so I at least took comfort in the fact that I wasn’t passed over based on physical appearance alone. Regardless, here’s hoping this weekend proves to be more fruitful than the rest!

Authentically Aurora