Pre-Wedding Post

I leave for our wedding tomorrow morning, so I thought I should leave a note that I’m not neglecting my blog, I will just be disconnected from all things electronic for the next week. I’ve got some fun plans for the blog once I return in June, so get excited!

In the meanwhile, enjoy some wedding comic strips* and be jealous of our honeymoon destination in Cabo, Mexico.

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*Wedding comic strips seemed like a good idea until I couldn’t find anything particularly funny.

Small Talk

I hate small talk.

It’s not that I’m not good at it, in fact I think I can fake it with the best of them. I just don’t get it. It’s a waste of my time and yours. I like to talk about substantial things, mind-blowing things.

I will begin tutoring with a company in Bethesda this summer, and the hiring process involved a four-hour extravaganza of teaching, interviewing, and testing. It turned out to be very enjoyable (and I got the job), but I went in dreading the small-talk I would have to use to fill four hours of my time.

During the actual “interview” portion of my interview, I got some of the usual questions that I answered appropriately, but I was happy to find that my potential co-workers and employers were more interested in the oddball things I list on my resume: coffee, animals, and running. Thankfully (not surprisingly?) no one asked me about the running, since I look and feel out-of-shape right now, but the other two topics made for bearable small-talk.

After a few minutes of back-and-forth with one interviewer with whom I spoke with easily, I heard myself saying, “When you’re driving, do you ever look around and realize all the people around you have the same complexity of thoughts and emotions that you do? They are living their lives, just like we are living ours.”

I don’t remember what led me to say this, but it was somewhat relevant. Thankfully I had read the interviewer correctly, and she excitedly responded that she had thought of that before, and also thought it was pretty mind-blowing.

I like to think of my honesty as charming rather than socially awkward. It’s perhaps also disarming, as it was for my coworker on a midday trip to Tyson’s Corner. Surrounded by a sea of mall-walkers, I made a similar comment as I had to the interviewer. She laughed it off and said “that’s really random,” but I pressed her for a response. It led to a brief but interesting conversation about our place in our world and in the world of others.

Why would I give that up for innumerable conversations about the weather? If you talk to me about the weather, you’re going to get a lot more than you bargained for. Every conversation is a learning opportunity. It’s probably to the point that I am such a pain to make small talk with that most people no longer even start.

Ah, but isn’t that the point?

So next time you ask me if I’m excited about my upcoming (or “impending,” as one guy accidentally said to me) wedding, don’t be surprised when I reply with a cursory “yup!.” What do you expect me to say? I understand that you are giving me an opener to talk about all the emotions I’m feeling or plans that I have made, but just because you offered me the opening doesn’t mean I have to take it. I’m really not trying to be rude, but I’d rather talk about something with a less-obvious answer.

“All done planning?”

“Yup.”

“Wow, really?”

“Yup.”

“Getting nervous?”

“Nope, I’m looking forward to it.”

“You don’t sound like you’re looking forward to it….”

What is someone that is looking forward to their wedding supposed to sound like, exactly? Why does Matt not get the same constant barrage of wedding questions that I do? Just because I’m the female in the relationship does not mean that I’m automatically covering myself in bridal magazines and imagining white lace and Tiffany blue table settings.

It’s going to be great, honestly. I’m really excited to publicly declare my love for Matt in front of most of our friends and family and have a wonderful celebration of our relationship. We’ve really personalized the ceremony and reception, and our families have put in a lot of time and effort to make the day awesome as well. I’m sure we will both cry, and I think that’s really awesome too.

But that doesn’t mean that the rest of my life is on hold until the wedding. I’m still scooping litter boxes, doing laundry, editing documents, and debating what to eat for three meals a day. Living in the future–be it tomorrow or five years from now–does a serious disservice to the present. And to the future as well, as it will never live up to the expectations you’ve set for it.

Neanderthals

Last night, Matt and I watched a NOVA episode about Neanderthals. We had previously watched a documentary on Netflix tracing human evolution that discussed the relationship between Neanderthals and homo sapiens, so we thought we were pretty up-to-date. For those of you unaware, Neanderthals are thought to have evolved separately from the homo sapien line; eventually the Neanderthals died out, leaving humans behind.

As far as I knew previously, it was assumed that humans had wiped out Neanderthals through war with our more-developed brains. It also helped that we outnumbered the Neanderthals ten to one at some point. What we learned last night is that the most recent hypothesis for Neanderthal extinction is interbreeding. Geneticists have found that our DNA is close enough to that of Neanderthals to have mated and produced fertile children. This was previously considered highly unlikely, given that other interspecies offspring (e.g. mules) are often infertile.

Not only did we breed out Neanderthals, we actually still have some Neanderthal DNA mixed in with our human DNA. Certain races/heritages (i.e. South American and Asian) were more likely to have  components of Neanderthal DNA given the locations in which our caveman ancestors lived so many years ago.

EvolutionOfMan

I’m sure many of you have seen some version of the “Evolution of Man” comic, showing us crawling up out of the primordial ooze to become upright hunter/gatherers…and ending with a picture of a man hunched over in his cubicle in front of a computer.

What happened?

I’m not here to hypothesize on the whys of where we are today, but the show last night got me thinking about the consequences of this progression. We did not evolve to sit in front of a computer all day, eyes fixated to an endless stream of information that we can access almost anywhere. The show last night said that our caveman ancestors were able to bench press 300 – 500 pounds! For comparison, today’s man, on average, can bench press slightly less than his own weight if not training, while a man regularly lifting weights can bench press almost his own weight.

These realizations have led to increased interest by many in a Paleo diet and lifestyle, which includes CrossFit, a form of exercise based around tasks that early humans would have been able to do. Meanwhile, I’m sitting at my cubicle with a heat wrap on my back from typing all day while sipping on an overpriced coffee drink pumped full of sugar to get me through the afternoon.

Imagine telling our ancestors–even 200 years ago–that we would live such sedentary lifestyles, on average, in developed countries that we now have to make time out of our day to go to a room and move around for awhile. We call this room a gym. Also, because we have so much food available to us, we actually have to restrict ourselves from eating because it’s making us even more out of shape. Oh, but just because we’re eating a lot does not mean we are well nourished. In fact, many people in developed countries are now  fat and malnourished due to a diet of convenience foods. All of these things add up to a depressed population, with one in ten adults in the United States suffering.

But that’s ok, because we now have pills to fix all these things. Or cover the symptoms. Same difference, right?

Catcalls

Today’s topic may be more appropriate for my friend, Charles, who runs a feminist blog and website. I’ve seen this subject covered on women’s pages before, but between my incident yesterday and a discussion with Erin last night, I wanted to add my insight.

My commute home on the D.C. beltway generally takes around 40 minutes if I leave after 3:30. I left at 4 p.m. yesterday and moved at a fairly constant pace towards Rockville, mentally creating stories for the people in the cars around me and letting my brain relax. It’s hard for my brain to relax, and since driving requires a lot of concentration (if you’re doing it right), I find driving to be an unexpectedly relaxing part of my day.

Somewhere near the American Legion bridge, I noticed a trucker in the vehicle next to me yelling out his window. Since I was not weaving in and out of traffic–where do those people think they’re going to get in rush hour?–I assumed his noises were directed elsewhere. Over the next 15 minutes, however, I watched as he hurried to pull up in front of me in the lane adjacent to mine, leaning out the window and making suggestive faces at me.

The dreaded catcall.

I’ll say up front that it gives me a momentary ego boost, but that fleeting moment turns quickly into self-consciousness. Am I showing too much cleavage? Is my skirt unknowingly hiked up? Thankfully, the catcalls usually come from a car passing by while I’m outside walking, and I know I won’t see that person again.

Catcalling is something I think many men have a hard time understanding. It’s just a compliment, right?

In college I went for runs around the Mary Washington neighborhoods. I brought my cell phone and keys with pepper spray. It was usually the middle of the day. At some point during one particular run, a truck full of young guys catcalled me, and it 1) messed up my running flow and 2) made my hand instinctively go to the pepper spray.

I got back to the dorm and told my then-boyfriend that a group of guys yelled at me from their truck. Chris replied: “Were you running in the middle of the road?”

Catcalling did not occur to him as a possibility. Why would it? He doesn’t think about running with pepper spray, and, in fact, he initially made fun of me for it.

Yesterday I was stuck next to this guy for a decent part of my commute, unable to escape his leering. It made me really uncomfortable. This is not ok. Unless someone cuts me off in traffic (then God help you), I don’t interfere with other cubicle dwellers’ commutes, and I’d like the same courtesy extended to me.

I mentioned this incident to Erin at dinner last night and brought up the discomfort that came with being unable to “escape” this particular guy. She recalled an incident from this past weekend in which she was stopped by a man sitting outside at a local cafe to compliment her look. This was fine in and of itself, and I certainly welcome strangers to tell me they like my outfit–male or female. But the stranger continued, “Where are you going? Where do you work? Do you live around here–is this your neighborhood?”

Creepy.

Before I get hounded by Redditors, let me say that Rules #1 and #2 do not apply here. For those of you unfamiliar:

Rule #1: Be attractive.

Rule #2: Don’t be unattractive.

Erin and I both agreed that even if these men had looked like [insert attractive male here], the way they went about hitting on us was creepy. Period.

I get it–how am I supposed to meet women then? For starters I’m sporting a shiny diamond ring to let you know I’m off-the-table. If I were in a polyamorous relationship I’d make that known in some other way, but since I’m flashing my ring at you it means leave me alone unless you legitimately just want to chat.

Well what about Erin? She’s single as far as we can tell. If you see someone on the street purposefully walking somewhere, they probably have somewhere to be. If you see someone in their car on the Beltway, wtf, they definitely have somewhere to be. Erin commented that if the same interaction had occurred while waiting in line somewhere or in a restaurant, it would have been an acceptable conversation. I agree.

Bottom line: just because you find me attractive does not mean I have to stop my day to make yours.

Struggles of a Budding Freelancer

I’ve been keeping busy lately. In addition to planning my wedding (which is in less than two weeks), I continue to work my full-time job as a technical writer/editor while looking for supplemental freelance writing and editing work. It may not sound like a lot, but answering to multiple bosses with multiple deadlines (and the wedding is a deadline of its own) takes a toll on a day-to-day basis.

In a turn of good fortune, I got picked up by U.S.A. Today to do a few profiles of members of the Army Corps of Engineers. I absolutely loved these assignments because I got to interview interesting people from around the country about the work they’re doing to improve Science, Technology, Education, and Mathematics (STEM) education in their local communities. It was a great opportunity to combine my passion for writing with my passion for science education. I also got some insight into how a big company manages its freelancers, and, of course, I got to add U.S.A. Today to my writing resume.

During my quest for exposure, I also signed up for a few content mills and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) sites that pay pennies an hour. I was also picked up by some slightly higher-paying copywriting agencies. At some point during this process, Matt asked me, “Is this really what you want to be doing?” I dismissed him at the time, excited that someone liked my writing enough to offer me one cent per word on topics I didn’t care about. It was sometime between writing my fifth article on lake eutrophication and determining how to spin two articles about air conditioning to be intriguing and informative that I took a moment for self-reflection.

I really have no interest in writing a 500-word article about tinted windows on cars for $10. Can I do it? Unfortunately, I have to admit that I have used precious brain power on some of these articles. I’m actually kind of proud of a couple of my environmentally-oriented articles, but, due to my contract, I cannot link you to those articles since I did them as a ghostwriter.

To review: joined company for exposure–>cannot link to any articles I write.

I’m in a fortunate position in the world that I can afford to say no to this particular stream of money in favor of writing and editing that really stirs my imagination and mentally engages me. It’s not that I am “too good” for the money, it’s that I have other opportunities to make my voice heard. I started freelance writing to make an impact on the world, not to pump out advertising disguised as mediocre information.

After I left grad school, I vaguely identified my ideal career as one that would act as a bridge between science and the public. My science writing, academic editing, and tutoring all contribute to that goal. Anything else I need to leave behind.