Tuesday, November 19, 2013

In the Middle of Some Age By: Karen Pilarski

I'm the dork in blue with the bowl cut.
In my childhood and early teens years the mall wasn't the hip place to be. Cough, at least for me. My brothers enjoyed walking with a swagger up and down the floors of the crowded Southridge mall.

Greasy smells from the food court and near toxic cologne sprays ambushed shoppers upon arrival. Gold chains, spiked hair and loose pants were used as ploys to catch a honey's eye or digits. Pagers beeping randomly and flirty laughter kept the ambiance in tact. There was a McDonald's that had a forest decor.

When I did go to the mall it was with my friend April who lived across the street. Her mom drove us there sometimes.

April tended to keep up with the 90's styles. I was content with the non hand me downs. We would peruse gaudy earrings and skimpy. Her mom would arch her eye brow in a disapproving way but within a second we were checking out the overall bibbs and jean jackets.

Over the weekend a time warp occurred.  My thirteen year old was making me look at clothes in the mall with her. Evidently the style that is in is the 90's.

 Had I saved my wardrobe from decades ago my stepdaughter would be set.  Colorful and skimpy clothes hung on hangers and other teenagers remarked how cool the clothing was.

From our mini excursion to the mall I felt the following three things.

1. Fat- The clothes were tight and the sizes were small. I haven't observed a number that small since looking at the calories in a Tic Tac mint.

2. Broke- Geesh, was clothing always this expensive? We bought jean jackets and bleached then or cut holes in our own jeans. I don't miss clothes from the turbulent teen years. That is one bouncy and bumpy ride I don't have the urge to recreate.

3. Old- Where did the time go? Now April and I are taking our kids to the mall and being dragged around. We are now the embarrassing adult in sea of mopey adolescents.

I felt a bit granny-ish but by Monday I felt better. That evening I attended a fancy dinner. My husband Jason wanted to us to sit with a colleague of ours. My husband and the older woman knew each other very well from church. She brought another lady from church as a guest.

As I networked with a fellow table mate, the church ladies were engaged in reminiscing about my husband's former wife. "Jason, remember when you and *** taught bible study together?" Awkward!  Then the conversation settled on personal family matters. I nudged my husband (hard) and asked him to knock it off.

The church lady out of nowhere said "The first time I met you I thought you were twelve." Ouch. She could have said I looked very young or she was unsure of my age.

Church lady was flapping her gums with no realization of my increasing annoyance. "I told someone that I thought Jason was sitting with a child". I excused myself from the table before my plate of food landed on her head.

After my return the church ladies asked where I worked. "So Karen, what do you want to be when you grow up?" I snapped "I am grown up thank you." That silenced the church lady chit chat. My husband and I made our exit shortly after that.

How did I go from feeling ancient to feeling like the Shirley Temple back in the day? I forgot to cake on the blush and put my long straight hair in tight spiral curls. The ruffled dress was at the dry cleaners, my apologies.

Jason said I take things to heart and am hard on myself.

This morning I had an epiphany about the statement. I may take myself seriously but only because not many people take me seriously. One glance and it is assumed I'm a girl who is wet behind the ears in terms of writing and life.

While the trends from my youth have been made to look brand new, my age hasn't. What tired eyes don't see is a published writer, wife, mother and master's degree holder.

 Somewhere between being an old spinster, a dimple faced child  or mall loving hipster, resides me.

                                         "Lets Go To The Mall." How I Met Your Mother (CBS) 2006

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Married People Have Crushes By: Karen Pilarski

Marriage is work. I hear single people complaining over their status often. On the flip side attached people complain about the opposite.

It seems no matter how long a person has been involved in a relationship, there is always some small speck of something missing. What happens when a married person starts to search for the missing piece in the form of a forbidden crush?

After some online research I discovered more information about married people having crushes.

It seems perfectly normal for people to have crushes. As long as it stays just a fantasy. An attraction highlights the point that crushes manifest for women who are stressed either from motherhood or live complications.

There is some truth to this theory. Awhile ago I struggled with anxiety and stress over grad school and lack of fulfillment. My husband and I were dealing with serious setbacks and struggles.

Suddenly I began thinking of another man in a romantic way. My 'crush' was in a serious relationship and the fantasy seemed safe. He seemed be dismissive or aloof towards me in our limited interactions. He was a nice guy just reserved.

Over a few drinks I confessed to a girlfriend about my secret admiration this unsuspecting person. Giggling as if we were teens it felt exhilarating to discuss this newness of the feelings.

 I revealed being curious about his lifestyle and wondering about intimate aspects of him. Laughing hysterically we pondered what it would be like if he unexpectedly kissed me.

There was other inappropriate talk suitable for a locker room but I won't divulge. Oddly enough the friend admitted she was attracted to another man too.

Maybe there is something in the proverbial water cooler, or it is natural to feel the electricity of an unintentional attraction?

I felt immensely guilty as if I was having an affair. However, it was all contained in my confused head. I felt immensely horrible that I researched if it was normal for someone in a committed relationship to have these scandalous thoughts.

Apparently according to my go to 'therapist' called Google, it is completely normal for people to have crushes. While the diagnosis was reassuring, it still weighed heavily on the heart.

One evening I broke down sobbing to my husband that I had a crush on someone. When he found out who he just chuckled. Not the reaction I was anticipating.  Strangely, I was put off that he wasn't a wee bit jealous.

He explained that due to our different shifts that I probably have been feeling lonely. Also due to finances we couldn't afford for me to have fertility treatment.

 I was attracted to someone I thought could provide me with the solution to my sorrows. Maybe even a distraction from the problems.

The object of my affection was similar to my husband. Both men are smart, nerdy in a cute way, sensitive and yet very confident. In addition, both of them could be irritable and moody.

What it comes down to was I developed a crush on someone not my husband, yet exactly like my husband.

That figures..

I deeply missed the excitement of unrequited love and the powerfulness of a crush.

Thankfully, I never put myself in a bad situation and it actually worked for my marriage.
 My husband and I would try to send each other cute messages or spice up our evenings together.

As far as my husband is concerned, he finds other ladies attractive but the biggest crush he has is on me. Secretly I fantasize my husband will reveal his feeling by planting a huge smooch on my warm lips.

Ah, the crush cycle continues.

The Apartment By: Karen Pilarski

It seems like yesterday we moved in the apartment surrounded by weeping willow trees. Only it wasn't yesterday but seven years ago. Years of memories and boxes of the past compacted and sealed shut. As I put away our things, a flashback will zing my head like a ice cream headache.

 The wedding veil my mom made for me is tucked away in the living room closet. Five years ago after our wedding, we forgot to pack some items for our honeymoon. We walked through apartment parking lot in our wedding attire.

Strangely no one batted an eye at the woman wearing a golden specked wedding gown and gold slippers. A few weeks ago I hurt my ankle and the only flats I had were the golden slippers from that day.

Looking out the window I remembered strolling out the door with luggage in tow and heading to the airport for one of our trips. The annoyance in your voice when I asked a dozen times if you locked the door.

In the nightstand were pictures the kids drew for us. Tiny misshaped hearts and misspelled words on loose leaf paper. I found a note from one of the kids apologizing for being disrespectful. Smiling and reminiscing about the years when they were shorter than me.

The old apartment has been the backdrop of this life we built together. I'd like to think if the walls could talk they would haven taken my side when we quarreled. Although angrily hurling our wedding cake topper at the wall wasn't the best decision I could have made.Then again the reason why it was chucked wasn't the best choice you made too.

Every Christmas the kids and I would put up the Christmas village. When we started that tradition it was a few houses and a Santa figure. Now there is enough items to make a city!

In all honesty, I have always resented the Charlie Brown tree that was from your first marriage. Yet, I never tossed it out or bought another one. Somehow the tree was perfect and small enough for the crowded space.

Our apartment has big disadvantages, for example it is above the boiler room. The bathroom floor burns bare feet in the winter. The windows have to propped open in the dead of winter. Heat is included in the rent, but is not a benefit since the heat is never turned on.

The dishwasher doesn't do an adequate job of cleaning our plates. Often dried stains are on the bowls. The ceiling fan in the dining room creaks and cracks when turned on.

The other apartments doors have a peep hole but oddly our door does not.  People randomly knock on our door to try to sell something or they knock on the wrong door. 

We can hear everything the neighbors say and do. I mean EVERYTHING. From fights to love making the apartment has heard it all.  We can't be self righteous in that department. Hence the wedding topper incident.

The past year or so hasn't been the greatest in the chapter of our story. Some highs and miserable lows have been encountered. 

In the meantime the old apartment is poised to become someone's new home. I hope it will provide the same shelter and warm tidings to the new occupants. It certainly has served us well.

Next month we are moving into a house. That has always been our dream. Although we are still just renting, I feel we have moved up in the world. Even if only slightly. Perhaps this is the beginning of good things to come?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Puppy Love By: Karen Pilarski

Freckled face and long lashes suited Sean well. When we first became acquainted we were pipsqueaks in Mr. Mansfield's fifth grade class.

Sean had brown hair with blondish strands. His eyes were warm and inviting. Together we sat and worked on assignments together. In the age of written communication notes were used instead of texts.

Scribbled in pencil, with doctor type handwriting I put my pitter pattering heart on the line. Mind you this was in grade school. "Dear Sean, I kinda lik you." While Mr. Mansfield was chalking up the board I enlisted a classmate to give it to him just before recess.

Afterwards I was given a note with his shaky handwriting "Hi Karen, I sorta lik you two." Over the unintentional sexual innuendos and bad grammar we were in the midst of serious puppy love.

That is where the crush was left, somewhere over the stinky coat room, grotesque cafeteria food and monkey bars outside. We didn't cross paths again until middle school.

The whole school knew I had the hots for Sean. There was relentless teasing that ensued during middle school. Sean had hit a growth spurt and towered over me. Damn he still had the boyish good looks. I was still a stumpy looking girl who was underdeveloped and scrubby.

Somehow he still thought I was cute and sweet despite my lack of height and breasts.

It was the 90's so he wore his cute track suit, often. I think that was his uniform. Mom agreed to let us older kids have a boy/girl party one weekend. Nervously I invited Sean who seemed happy for the invite.

The party was not roof raging or high school level of partyhood. Bowls of M&Ms, chips and soda cluttered on the kitchen table. My twin who thought he was the cat's meow wore his bright red jeans.

As soon as Sean was spotted nearing the house on his bike my brothers sprang into action. "Karen, your wannabe boyfriend is here!!" This was followed up by kissing and lip smacking noises. Funny that the boys announced his arrival and not my giddy girlfriends. Wusses.

For two hours we all did the typical middle school dating dance. Boys in one room and girls in the other.

Suddenly Color Me Badd was blaring from where the boys were congregating.

"A tick tock don't stop (stop to the).."

My friends and I were in the kitchen when we heard yelling and things moving.

" (Ooh a tick tock don't stop) I wanna sex you up.
(Ooh a tick tock don't stop) All night."

My bully brothers were trying to get Sean to kiss me. The pushed him into the kitchen and took off his shirt in the process. One of the macho guys screamed "Sean wants to sex you up!" How mortifying for us both.

He laughed it off as I did too. I was too young to be offended that a male recoiled at the thought of kissing me.

Somehow we ended up being a couple. In fourteen year old code that meant nothing more than maybe holding hands and saying I love for the sake of proclaiming it.

For our first date we went to see "Home Alone 2, Lost in New York." Only it wasn't just the two of us. All five of my brothers were required to go with me. Sigh. He did give me a bear with a heart on its tummy that said "I love you" when squeezed. 

During rollerskating I made him hold hands with me. His hand was sweaty and clammy. A bit disgusted I wiped my hand on my jeans. He just looked plain uncomfortable.

As it turns out with puppy love, it lasts exactly the same lifetime as a fruit fly. Sean dumped me and went out with my friend. As a erratic teen, I played Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" as I clutched my Sean bear and sobbed.

The last time I interacted with him was when we were sixteen and working at a fast food place. He had a nice girlfriend who was expecting his baby. He was going through the rock/punk stage and had long dark hair. No more cute boyish looks. Just a man flipping burgers and trying to support an impending family at a young age.

In high school I had my share of crushes and boyfriends. I even broke a few hearts myself. My thirteen year old step daughter is in that weird stage of life where everything is a big deal. One slight from the heart's desire feels like a deep wound. From the story above, it happens to the best of us.

Honestly, even as adults people have crushes and feel devastated when the feeling isn't reciprocated. It would be mocking to her if I didn't admit that crushes happen to the best of us.

The ones we become infatuated with may take awhile before we get to the "What the hell was I thinking?" stage. I think it is actually worse to get to that point. How exhausting it is knowing you wasted so much time and energy on some lame jerk.

I could say that her crush doesn't know what he is missing. However, rejection is part of life. As much as it hurts me to see either one of my kids in personal anguish, that is the truth.

In the movie "Sixteen Candles" the father is listening to daughter Samantha's problems. She confesses to having a crush on Jake Ryan and being upset he didn't seem interested. The sympathetic father consoles her by saying "That is why they call it crushes, if it was any easier they would call it something else."

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cynical or Realistic? By: Karen Pilarski

Hoaxes and scams create a splash of embarrassment that washes over it's victims and spreads like a virus. Soon the aftermath spirals onto others. 
The first big scam I remember clearly is when I was in middle school. On the news in Milwaukee, WI was the story of Kitty Wuerl who claimed to have found a syringe in her soda can. 

Everyone was terrified if the tab of soda was opened they might discover a needle bobbing within the fizzy drink.  Due to this, I only drank clear soda from a bottle for awhile. Her claims made a sensational news piece. Unfortunately for the local newspaper she worked at, it was a false sensational story. 

Wuerl's hoax was uncovered but not before the damage was done. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1993-06-19/news/9306190061_1_needle-hoax-vending-machine

After Wuerl was found out, people were steamed. First she caused public fear, hurt the newspaper and the soda company's reputation.  Although silly nonsense, my siblings and I would often say "Kitty is off her whirl" when her picture would appear on the news.

As a receptionist while in college, I had random people come up to me. Frequent scams were quick change artists, people who claimed to have 'run' out of gas and needed money.

One incident that made me furious was a lady kept coming around saying she was an alum and was starting a new job. She said she didn't have gas money. I told her I couldn't help her and that she should try contacting a friend or family member.  She managed to swindle other receptionists who worked different shifts and locations out of money.

This 'alum' changed her story and conned a few more employees out of money. I swore if I found her I would tell her off and threaten to call the cops. How dare she take advantage of hard working women and friends of mine?!

I mentioned to my colleagues and friends that they shouldn't give money to everyone with a sad tale. Yet their big hearts would hear none of my cold cynicism.

Turns out the frizzy haired lady with pants on fire was caught and someone must have beaten me to the punch. I never noticed her around again. She is lucky.

Every so often I receive emails and tweets about some sob story about an alleged illness or some guy in a foreign city that needs help. Let me first state I'm very compassionate and care about others. I just refuse to be conned if I can help it.

This past week there was an interview on ABC's Nightline showcasing country star Brad Paisley and his wife, actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley. http://abcnews.go.com/US/uncovering-dying-daughter-hoax-lured-celebrities/story?id=20793858

In the interview the couple admitted to being duped by a person claiming her daughter was dying of cancer.

Williams-Paisley mentioned that the woman who reached out to her was able to prey on her love for children. As a mother herself she was able to identify with the other mother's plight. During the interview she stated "As a mother, wanting my kids to be okay, she hit my softest spot."

As it often turns out the Paisleys weren't the only victims of the scam. Other celebrities fell for the bait.

Tonight I was discussing this with my friend Ellen and she said she has fallen for scams. She figured karma would get those who were frauds. "God knows the good I did." I told Ellen I wish I could be like her.  Ellen made a brilliant observation after I said I can't pinpoint why I'm cynical of people's motives. "You tend to think the worst. Perhaps because you have actually seen the worst. " 

If friends or people I know are in need I'm willing to lend a hand. I support cancer charities and children's safety initiatives. As a writer I want to inform people and inspire. Many celebrities use their fame to do the same.

 "That's a huge part of why I do what I do is so that I can use my influence for good and to help," Kimberly Williams-Paisley said. "And if there is someone that I can help, I will help."

The lesson is to not distrust everyone, just be a bit cautious and protect the most valuable thing. Your heart.