Category Archives: friendship

Dating is Like a Chocolate Pecan Cupcake

Yesterday I wanted Pecan Pie. I also wanted Chocolate Cupcakes. So, I decided to put the two together. Seeking guidance, I turned to the internet, where I found dozens of recipes, all written by witty ladies and teeming with glamorous photos of food.

My photo doesn’t look like that. Mine looks like this:  20150809_115211-1

Messy. Complicated. A work in progress.

And so, I bring you: Dating Is Like A Chocolate Pecan Cupcake.

The photo shows you my first tentative efforts. I’ve got the ingredients, I’m ready to go. I’ve told all my friends I’m going to pursue this, so I’m pretty much committed.

The internet ladies didn’t mention that there would be a cat in the kitchen, the one that wove itself between and around my legs while I tried to cook. The cat represents the things about the dating relationship that were cute at the beginning, but soon become a major annoyance, like his snoring or the way I sing Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry” all day on Sunday when I do, well, the laundry.

Let’s say you get past the cat (although it never leaves the kitchen), and you make it to the point where you’ve got all the ingredients mixed together, the batter in the little fluted papers, and the pan in the oven. You look on the counter and there you see the pecans, which were supposed to go in the batter, and the Hershey’s Cocoa, which wasn’t even in the recipe. These are the little things you didn’t expect, like his friends being complete assholes or your insisting that he go with you to the “80’s Retro Dance Party” on the third Saturday of every month.

You try to recoup by pulling the pan out of the oven and sprinkling the pecans on top of the half baked cupcakes. The pecans are the guy in the accounting department who you keep flirting with, just in case your new relationship crashes and burns and you need a last minute date to your cousin Yvonne’s wedding next April. Speaking of crashing and burning, the pecans begin to smoke. No need to explain this, you all know the beginning of the end when you smell it.

But you remain hopeful, and leave the cupcakes in that 350-degree heat for another little while.

When you finally admit that they’re done, your friends look at your ruined cupcakes and put on fake smiles. “It’s not that bad,” they say. “You can try again another time, maybe use a new recipe.” That’s what all happily married women with 2.5 beautiful children say to their hopelessly single friends.

And now you’re stuck with the dishes. You’ve used every pot and pan you own to make this mess. You fill the sink and squirt in the detergent, you pull on the worn yellow gloves. You can hear your friends telling you that it won’t take as long as you think it will, that you’ll feel so much better when it’s done. You vow that next time you’ll do things differently, you’ll read the recipe all the way through, you’ll, you’ll – oh screw it, there is no positive spin to this. Everyone hates to do the dishes.

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Filed under aging, autobigraphy, chocolate, communication, conflict, cupcakes, dance, divorce, fiction, flash fiction, food, friendship, humor, irony, relationships, sarcasm, the 80's, women, writing

It Ain’t Pretty, and It Certainly Ain’t Good

Pretty. Good.

Two perfectly fine words, yes? Sure they are, if they’re hanging out at the same party or stuck beside each other in traffic. But should those two words hook up, or say, carpool, then those two words ain’t fine at all, no sir. Put those two words together and you have a harbinger of doom. Let me explain.

The phrase ‘pretty good’ has two meanings. Adjectival. One indicates that the thing being described is acceptable, admirable, close to good. The other indicates that the thing being described is unacceptable, subpar, and no good.

“Pretty good.” The cavernous dichotomy of meaning tied to this two-word phrase is highly problematic. The meaning of the received message depends greatly on the body language and intonation of the communicator.

For example: you are out with a friend and you want to tell her that you think Pizza Hut’s new Stuffed Pretzel Crust is to your liking. You’d smile, turn your face a few degrees to one side and nod. “It’s pretty good.” However, if you think the pizza tastes like rusty nails covered in ketchup but observe that your friend is loving every bite, your response to the question “What do you think?” would be to cock your head slightly to the one side while shrugging your shoulders and offering a politically correct half smile. “It’s pretty good.” See the difference? Same words. The entire message depends on body language. This is why talking to people face to face is ideal.

Another tool in relaying the intended meaning of ‘pretty good’ is tone. Intonation. The way words are pronounced is a powerful indicator of their meaning. “Pretty good”, with a short ‘pretty’ and a drawn out, warm ‘good’, tells your listener that the thing at hand is satisfactory, pleasing. “Pretty good”, said with ‘pretty’ and ‘good’ being of the same length but with a drop in tone that ends in flat-lined silence means that the thing could be, in a pinch, somewhat satisfactory. Try it. Go ahead. Say “pretty good,” and then say “pretty good.” Hear the difference? And that’s just the tone of your voice. This is why talking to people on the phone is only quasi-ideal.

But what if there is no opportunity for body language nor tone? Let’s say your communication is limited to the written word. Now what? You can write paragraphs of exposition, you can state your case clearly and cite examples, but at some point, you’re doomed to use the words “pretty good.” And then, how the reader interprets your meaning is entirely out of your control. Two perfectly innocuous words, put together, could imply only one of two things. It could be “it’s not too shabby” or it could be “it sucks.” This isn’t a big deal if you’re telling a friend about pizza, but it is utterly disastrous if you’re reporting third quarter performance to the board of directors. This is why email totally blows.  jenny phone

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A Frog to Remember

“Tell me you seriously don’t remember.”

Stacy is sitting in a lawn chair on the deck of her three-story townhouse, looking out at the colorful autumn leaves in the woods. Breaking her gaze is the banister of the railing, even more so, the two foot high resin frog sitting there.

“You are actually telling me that you don’t know where I got that thing,” Stacy says, jutting her chin toward the frog.

“Yes, I am. What’s the big deal?” Karen asks. She’s visiting from Fort Lauderdale, grateful for Stacy’s guest bedroom and the chance to sit outside in the cool air of Charlotte in October. “You going to tell me?”

Stacy raises an eyebrow and looks at Karen. “How long have you been divorced now?” she asks.

“Two and a half years,” Karen answers, involuntarily wrinkling her nose. “What does Thomas have to do with it? Wait, I know, Thomas looks like a frog.”

“Rude,” Stacy says. “No, I’m talking about how that frog got there.”

“Did he give it to you? Figures he’d give you something. He never gave me anything. Except now, now he gives me alimony, child support, and grief. Other than the grief I’d say I’m getting a better deal than you got with that damn frog,” Karen says.

“Bitter much?” asks Stacy. “No, your in-laws gave that frog to y’all. For a wedding present.”

“Really? I don’t remember that at all.”

“Yeah, you got married on a Saturday and you put that frog on your front stoop on Monday and you complained about it every day for six years. I’d always liked it, so when y’all were breaking up I asked if I could have it. But you said ‘no’; you made a big fuss about how it was the ‘last bastion’ of your marriage and how you couldn’t possibly part with it.”

Karen stands up and walks over to the frog. She reaches out and strokes its plastic head, running her hand over its smooth haunches and webbed toes.

“When I visited you a year ago I took it,” Stacy says. “It’s been sitting on my banister ever since. You’ve been here twice since then,” she sighs. “You never even noticed.”

“I never even noticed,” Karen repeats, looking out at the trees and wishing there was an autumn in Fort Lauderdale.

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Brisk Walk: dirty

Once outside the building, Jessie took a walk around the parking lot. She pulled out her phone and dialed her Mom’s number, but then hung up. She took a step up onto the curb and pointed her phone at a clump of sod the landscapers had turned up and tossed aside. She snapped a photo and smiled to herself. This was the kind of art she liked now: destruction art. Her friend, Laura, had dragged her to a show by that name over the weekend. Jessie had been sure she’d be bored by room after room of framed images depicting destroyed buildings and wrecked cars, but afterwards she decided that this was who she would be: a destruction artist — edgy and mysterious. She texted her photo of the chunk of soil and grass to Laura and then called her.

Laura sounded annoyed when she answered. “I only have four minutes to talk,” she said. “I’m walking to my car and there’s this new Nazi law that I can’t talk on the phone while I’m driving.”
“No worries; I just wanted to say hi. Did you get my photo? Why don’t you just get Bluetooth?”
“I refuse to kowtow to the man,” Laura replied. “Why should I have to spend extra money just because a few idiots don’t believe that I can use both hands at the same time? I tell you what; if someone can’t drive while they’re talking on the phone it’s unlikely that they can drive when they’re not. It’s just another way for the government to tell us what to do.”
“Yes, I’ve heard your rant before,” Jessie said. “And I still think you should get Bluetooth.”
“And that attitude, my friend,” Laura said, “is why I’m hanging up on you.”

Jessie stuffed her phone into her pocket and kicked the dirt clod into the street. It was too damn early to go home.

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