Saturday, April 12, 2014

treehouses, blind faith & the luxury of scrambled eggs

As usual, it is my mother who dispenses the best advice, when I tell her about something that is bothering me. She says, "Don't think about it this weekend. Make sure you fill your days." When did my mother become so clever? So, I rode a bucking bronco this morning in the form of my just four year old horse -- enough of a workout for anyone, I can assure you -- and went to meet my ex-husband and two of our oldest friends for lunch in Malibu. Malibu, if you don't live in Los Angeles sounds glamorous and ritzy, but until quite recently it was a little bit of a pit. Now, with the new Malibu Farm opened at the end of the pier, where the legendary Alice's used to be, it's quite a lovely place to spend a Saturday lunchtime. After brunch, we walked on the beach and chatted to a friend's surfer son, watched the paddle boarders and the lovers, and the pelicans. We marveled at the blue and told each other we didn't spend enough time at the beach, as you do.

I don't know how not to be full on. I wrote this yesterday.

I believe it has something to do with this quote from Roald Dahl:

“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. He taught me that if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.”

So, for me, it's full speed ahead. It's how I get on in life. I don't do things by halves and I don't just like people. I usually love them or I don't really give them the time of day. As you can imagine, sometimes this leads to some disappointment. Because more often than not, people aren't as enthusiastic as I am. (My personality is that of a ten-year-old child with a new puppy, I fear.)  I have no Be Cool switch. It's FULL ON or OFF.

from The Treehouse Book by Peter Nelson

Last night I had dinner with a few close girlfriends, and one or two I know less well, but mostly women I've been friends with for years, sweet, good, funny women, in a beautiful house nestled in the trees in one of the canyons of West LA. The house is charming. White and light and filled with flowers and pictures and dogs, warm and inviting, and in the garden an enormous treehouse, which of course you immediately want to use for a tea party. I do adore these girls nights. There is wine, some delicious food, and usually the kind of conversation that you can't have in a "couple" type of environment. As you can imagine, we talked about relationships and sex and girl stuff. All fun. All light. Lots of laughter. And then one woman, who, to be fair, may have had one too many glasses of rose, started to lay into me with advice that was unwarranted, about a situation she knew next to nothing about. It's very unlike me, but she got a rise out of me. "I don't think you should spout off about something you know so little about." I said. There was a shocked silence. No-one quite knew what to say. She stuttered a little. Apologized. It was mild. I played it off like it wasn't a big deal, but to be honest, I wanted to deck her. She had spent the whole evening making nasty jabs at me (while all along grabbing my arm in mock warmth, for emphasis), and I have no idea why. Just weird little snipey asides, thrown delicately into the conversation, and suddenly my fist felt like it would feel very good thrown very hard at her nose.

The moral of the story is, don't air your problems with anyone but those you know extremely well, those who have your back. It's rather like having someone read your unfinished writing. You want support, not advice, I suppose.

And so, to hear my mother this morning tell me so delicately to enjoy my weekend, made me more or less weep with joy. "You've gotten through so much" she said. "You have a lovely life there, and good friends, and your daughter is coming home this weekend."

I read Andrea Gillies' piece about going through divorce and getting back onto the dating wagon with joy. It's a perfect piece: brave and funny and poignant and true. You can read it here.

It's so much more difficult than you would imagine. I'm not yet divorced and I'm lucky enough to have a soon-to-be-ex-husband that I get along well with. We can laugh together and joke with each other, and it's okay. But the dating thing? Oh dear. Los Angeles is not where you want to be when you're starting out again with two grown up children. Los Angeles is where all the beautiful, sometimes thick, people migrate to when they want a career in the movies. LA has a glut of beautiful women under the age of 30, and an entire other population of women who live in the youth culture and are trying to keep up, desperately, so that their husbands don't go off with their perky-breasted assistants. I don't know a lot of people who've gone under the knife, but people "have work done," which usually means filler, or botox, or oxygen facials, and they dye their hair (there are NO grey-haired people in Los Angeles) and they work out. I'm no slouch, but I've never set foot in a gym in my life, and truthfully, I like to go out without a full slathering of face paint if I can possibly help it. I'm opinionated, self-sufficient, and I don't suffer fools. It is very hard to find quality dating stock. And dating is anathema to me. I've said this before. Maybe I'm picky. Maybe clever and kind and funny and not completely physically repellant doesn't exist in Los Angeles in one package.

And so I'm seeing someone who isn't from Los Angeles. Someone clever and kind and funny and handsome. But this, this "Long Distance Relationship" is terribly, terribly hard. There is an 8 hour time difference, first off, which is virtually impossible to get around. They're sleepy when you're awake, you're perky and full of morning light when they're about to have supper, and so on. It's so un-spontaneous and you have to be grown-up and organized and have systems in place to deal with these things. And you have to remember what they look like and smell like and what their hand feels like in yours, because you don't see them for great stretches of time. And you have to remember not to become estranged or alienated, or offended when you don't hear back and are imagining the worst. It's awfully hard. Especially for someone who is as full on as me. I don't know how to play it cool, how to wait for a phone call, how to play games. I missed out a whole chunk of dating life that my peers have had. I am a complete neophyte and half the time it feels as if I'm about eighteen years old, with the same emotions and the same dorky, jerky, unsmooth movements of a colt.  I want to be Princess Grace or even Joan Collins but I'm more like a Kirsten Wiig SNL character, awkward and hopeless (though without doll-sized arms).

Kirsten Wiig

And of course when you see each other it's literally the best thing in the world. But in between, it's hell.

The phone seems to be the best way to communicate. It's easy to have long silences, just listening to each other breathe, without feeling awkward. Skype feel more demanding, somehow, of being on show. And there are emails, which I love, and he doesn't, where you get the things that seem hard to voice. But there is a such a huge element of blind faith that has to be present in order for these things to work.  It's such a luxury to be able to touch the sleeve of your beau, or to just hand the book over to them to read a line, or to hear the same bird singing together, or make scrambled eggs for two. Or, to laugh in the same room, till you weep.

(Saturday joke: A hamburger and a hot dog walk into a bar. The bartender says "Sorry guys, we don't serve food here.")

I just don't know how not to be full on.

And a recipe:

proper scrambled eggs (serves 2)

Gordon Ramsay's scrambled eggs with chives

break three eggs into a bowl
add sea salt & freshly cracked pepper & a little slosh of milk
beat with a fork till frothy (you can add chopped chives too if you like)
melt a good glob of butter in a pan over a medium/medium-high heat (you don't want the butter to brown but you want a little sizzle)
add the eggs and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon, scooping the cooked bits up and into the rest of the mixture. continue until the desired consistency is formed.
serve immediately, preferably on some wholegrain toast


LPC said...

What could I ever possibly do to thank you sufficiently for your writing?

Katherine C. James said...

Lisa, I was just thinking the same thing. This evening's offerings from Bumble are a particularly rich treasure trove. I wanted to go to sleep an hour ago, but then I saw miss whistle in my email, and her I am. So much to ponder.

Katherine C. James said...

Bumble, I share your full-on tendency. I'm either full-on or full-off in a way that made a friend remark that I'm like a blender with two speeds: Off and Puree. I can't do life any other way. I am resigned to it and the occasional embarrassments it causes, and I do prefer it to too much cool. Life is astonishing; even when I am sad I can get excited quickly by the wonder of something. Thus the Einstein miracle quote.

Anonymous said...

Wonderfull writing ..and well done standing up to that woman .that sort always says ..oh it's a joke
We say 'no such thing as a joke' in our family ,
And dating so hard ..and time zones worse
Good luck..there are a lot of people wishing u well x