Dinner

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On the struggle with technology.

Published March 5, 2016 by mandileighbean

I absolutely loathe my dependence on technology.

I know this may seem like quite the hypocritical statement as I am using my computer and the internet and social media to update my narcissistic, self-indulgent blog, but hear me out. I want to be a writer, so in this digital age of selfies and tweets and whatnot, I’m going to have to adapt and get on board or die (metaphorically speaking, of course). If people take to Google and social media for book recommendations, I have to be on Google and social media. It’s a concession I can live with to help build my writing career. It’s almost unavoidable.

So let me rephrase my earlier statement: I absolutely loathe my dependence on technology in my personal life.

My phone is nearly always in my hand. If I’m not texting (but hardly anyone ever messages me because I physically interact with those who matter most, which is certainly a good thing) or checking e-mail (does anything important ever really come via email?), then I’m using Safari to check Facebook (I deleted the app to make a statement, but I found a way to be on the social media site constantly anyway). I’m scrolling and scrolling and scrolling on Instagram and Twitter, looking for likes, re-tweets, mentions, whatever. When there’s nothing satisfying there, I play Bubble Mania, Candy Crush or Tetris. I’m always looking down, disengaged and only pretending to listen to the authentic life happening all around me because I’m obsessed with this piece of technology and all the artificiality that goes along with it.

It’s my greatest weakness, and what I dislike about myself the most.

In my opinion (so please only take it for whatever it may be worth), social media only reinforces the crippling need for outside validation that seems to plague the human race. I recently traveled to Philadelphia to see David Cook in concert with my sister, and I took pictures. That in itself would be harmless if the intention had been true, if I had honestly taken pictures to create memories. However, creating and saving and storing memories was only part of my motivation. I wanted to take those pictures so I could upload them to Instagram and Facebook so I could count the likes and comments so I could feel cool and hip and modern, so I could feel like I belonged at the metaphorical watering hole of this super progressive, hyper intellectual, digital age. How stupid. How vain. Why do I need everyone to know where I am and what I am doing at all times? Why do I think everyone wants to know where I am and what I am doing at all times? If I put everything out there all the time, there’s no mystery left. I’m essentially robbing people the opportunity of getting to know me because I’ve created this false persona using technology and social media which could easily satisfy anyone even remotely curious. I’ve created an alternate version of myself for the masses and have rendered myself lonelier than ever. What kind of masochistic nonsense is that?

A wonderful colleague recently told me she’d read a few of my blog entries. She complimented me on my writing (yay!), but said I broke her heart (oh no!). She told me I was too hard on myself, and I know this to be true. Self-deprecation is usually the only humor I can handle, and I am constantly screaming at myself for all of the awkward, dumb, harmful, and lazy behaviors I engage in on a daily basis. Reaching for my phone and idling instead of reaching for a book to expand my mind fulfills all of those categories. It’s awkward to sit in a room – any room at anytime, anywhere – full of wonderfully interesting humans and ignore all of them to go on a phone. It’s dumb to not expand one’s mind and perception through reading, writing or conversation and instead retreat to multicolored candies that need crushing. It’s harmful because it perpetuates the idea that self-love is indulgent and ugly, and that worth is truly determined by society and the media and this new social media. We are all forced to become our own PR people and it’s weird and gross, and I dislike it more and more the more I think about it. It’s lazy because all I need is my thumb and a pair of glazed-over eyes.

Now, I’m not saying I’ll go completely off the grid by any means. Family and friends and loved ones can be scattered from one end of the globe to the other, so it is important to stay connected. I love that my aunt in Pennsylvania likes the memes I share about weight loss, and I love that she likes the sexy pictures of Elvis I find and post from time to time. I love that my cousins in Alabama can be brought up to speed with my life by a few pictures here and there, and vice versa. My coworker is going to the Big Apple today to see “The Crucible” on Broadway, and I’m looking forward to pictures and her review. My cousin is currently overseas serving his country, so we need the social media to keep in touch, to share messages of love and support. These are harmless human connections that are beautiful and wonderful.

But it’s all about moderation, right? It’s all about keeping our minds right and prioritizing.

The best part about the David Cook concert was not the blurry pictures I posted on Instagram a few hours later. It was spending time with my sister. It was shouting out the word “bipartisan” when David was struggling to find it, him thanking me for doing so, and my sister rolling her eyes because I’m “such an English teacher.” What a beautiful moment to feel validated about my passion and career. I did all of that without my phone. When my former phone was destroyed last month and I was without a phone for a few days, I survived. The world did not end. I was okay.

I did lose thousands of pictures, though. That was my own fault because I never backed them up using my computer. I assumed those treasured images would always be on that phone, because I tricked myself into believing technology is infallible and perfect and the answer to every question I ever had. That is simply not true, and I just feel that if I remind myself of that, I’ll regain faith in nature and people and all that surrounds me.

I fell in love with a great friend, but he didn’t feel the same way, and the friendship has since changed and is beginning to fade. Some of the pictures I lost were of the absolute greatest day we ever spent together. This makes me sad for many valid reasons. However, I was inspired to write this post (but really, it’s become a rant, hasn’t it? My bad) because in mourning the loss of the digital images that I never printed (what a metaphor for the relationship, huh? I’ll save that for my next novel), I realized that I felt I needed the pictures because I didn’t trust myself, didn’t trust my own memories and feelings. Those pictures became a kind of talisman that helped me pretend the friendship wasn’t fading, that I was right about everything, so look, look everyone! Look how we’re smiling with our arms around each other! I’m not crazy! There was something there, and I can prove it!

Why should I have to? I don’t have to, and that’s my point. I want to reduce my dependence on technology and social media in my personal life because I need to love myself and my life in reality. I don’t need the approval of others, and I don’t need to know everything about everyone because then what will our conversations be made of? What will I discover in intimate moments?

When I’m at the dentist’s office, or waiting for friends at a bar, I’ll pull out my journal or a book, but never my phone. That’s a new resolution. That’s a promise to myself.

I’ll post to promote my writing and my writing career, but not to start some drama or for attention or to start a pity party. That’s a new resolution. That’s a promise to myself.

And now, I’ll post those pictures of me and my sister and David Cook, since I invited you in.

Enjoy the weekend. xoxo

 

 

On delivering pizzas.

Published April 20, 2012 by mandileighbean

My little brother made his Confirmation today. It was a very nice ceremony, and I was happy to see so many students with their families. Afterwards, we had a nice pasta dinner.

I finished lesson plans, and plan to get my gradebook up and functioning this weekend.

I wish I had an update about the publishing of my manuscript, but alas; I am empty-handed. I sent in my unformatted manuscript so the editing process could begin and while that is underway, I am beginning to fill out the media forms. I am to provide the publishers with contact information for local media sources so the publishers can send out a press kit. It’s exciting but if I’m being honest, I’d rather be writing – just simply writing.

That being said, enjoy tonight’s prompt.

🙂

PROMPT: “Pizza Delivery Driver”
You’re a pizza delivery driver and it’s your last stop of the night. The house is on an unlit, unfamiliar street. As you ring the doorbell, you’re greeted by an unusual character who invites you in while he gets cash- and abruptly knocks you out cold. When you wake up, you’re tied to a chair. What happens next?

PIECE:

My eyes blinked slowly and out of sync. My left eyelid rose higher and just a moment before my right eyelid, so that it took a few blinks before the room surrounding me came into focus. At first, it was only two halves that my sluggish mind was having a hell of a time connecting. I went to bring my hands to my face to rub my palms up and down my cheeks in an effort to wake myself up, but my hands were tied securely behind me. The fear and implications of the realization were enough to jolt me to reality, and revitalize my lethargic senses. The room came into a startlingly specific kind of focus; the walls that were not quite white with the cobwebs hanging in the corners; the scratched, wooden floors that had probably been a point of pride some time long ago; the chair across from me; the emptiness of it all. I could find no identifying detail that would be used later to apprehend the individual who lived here, and who had clearly tied me to a chair.
I tried to recall what had happened. I was working at the local pizzeria, delivering pies for lackluster tips. My 1995 Ford Explorer was wheezing away from the pizzeria – and unknowingly away from the safe harbor there – towards an address I had never delivered to before. The rain had just let up and as I neared the destination, I let my foot off of the gas pedal so I was just rolling along, the rubber tires crunching against the damp pavement in the still night air. It was late, true, but it was eerily quiet. No one stirred, and there were no lights – not even lamps besides televisions that could just barely be seen through curtained living room windows. When I stopped outside 85 Potter Lane, the house was just as dark as the street and I debated on whether or not I should even get out of the truck, let alone walk up the driveway and knock. But I knew there was money to be made, cash to be in hand, so I willed the hair on my arms and neck to relax and headed for the front door. I knocked, and it sounded casual and sure.
That confidence with which I knocked quickly fed when the door opened and revealed a stooped, older man with delicate, fragile-looking hands that were clasped together and resting against his thin, frail chest. His hands were the first thing I noticed and from there, my eyes observed his dark blue velvet sweater, and loose jeans that had never been and never would be in style. He had no shoes to cover his wrinkled, nauseating feet and he was bald. I wonder if I observed everything I possibly could before meeting his eyes because in some unexplainable way, I knew it would be creepy. The lines were muted so that though he was older, his face did not show it. His eyes were nearly blank and unremarkable, as was his small and twitchy mouth. He smiled wide and it did nothing to disarm me. “Oh, pizza’s here,” he breathed. I could smell tuna and an abundance of patchouli – a combination that offended the nostrils and turned the stomach. “I just have to get some cash from my dresser. Won’t you come in?” He was still smiling.
I stepped in, smiling and holding the pizza box as if it ensured a barrier between the two of us. He shut the door behind me, and I silently prayed he would be quick in retrieving the money. I also scolded myself for my unwarranted feelings of distrust and hostility to this stranger who had so far been awkward and nothing more. Turning to look at a picture hanging on the nearest wall, the world fell to black.

I awoke tied to a chair, with only an empty chair before me to keep me company.

“You’re awake,” he breathed from somewhere close behind me. I couldn’t help it; I screamed and struggled against the ropes binding me.

“All the cash is in the car, and you can have all of it! Just let me go, please! Please don’t hurt me!” I screamed.

“I don’t want money,” he argued, sounding offended. “It’s not about what I want at all. It’s about what you want.”

“I don’t understand,” I readily admitted. Ignorance could translate to innocence.

“I saw you, looking around my home. You were looking to rob me, to take from my home!”

Clearly, this man was psychotic. “Sir, I was just looking around because there was nothing else to do! I swear, I had no intention of robbing you!”

“They sent you to spy on me, then.” He walked around the chair to stand before me, and his blank eyes were no wild. His hands were at his sides and his fists were clenched tightly. There was a palpable energy exuding from him, one of rage and paranoia. I swallowed hard.

“Sir,” I gasped, trying to relax and be rational, “I’m just a delivery guy. You ordered a pizza, so I brought it to your house. If you keep me here like this, you’re going to be in trouble.”

“Let them come,” he said. He seated himself in the empty chair opposite me. He leaned over to his left and pulled a knife that had been resting on the floor. Delicately, he placed it on his thigh and looked to me. “I’m not afraid anymore.”

My jaw dropped open and I screamed. What else could I do?
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On farewell food fights.

Published April 4, 2012 by mandileighbean

I had an interview today for a long-term maternity leave at the high school. I think I looked nice, and more importantly, I think the interview went very well. I thought the same thing the last three time though, so who knows? One teacher gave me advice on dressing more professionally, and how to wear my hair and whatnot, and I appreciated the kind words, but it made me feel insecure and icky. I debated not going to the baby shower after school today, but I knew that I had to and in retrospect, I am very glad that I did.

I went to dinner with an old friend tonight. We went to Hibachi, and I stuffed myself like a big, fat pig. My friend is going through a rough time, and I was glad I could talk to him about it.

I’m not crazy about today’s prompt, so you’ll have to let me know what you think.

THE PROMPT: “Retirement Party Food Fight”
After 40 years at the same job, you are finally ready to retire. Your coworkers throw you a party with cake and ice cream. Everything is going well until the end of the celebration when they ask you to speak. Instead of using this opportunity to thank everyone, you reveal a deep, dark secret about your boss that leads to a massive food fight.

THE PIECE:

I remember standing at the podium – an aged, cheap wooden contraption that had been at the school as long as I had been. Most of the faculty had gathered in the large cafeteria, with its harsh halogen lights burning overhead, and their asses were all going numb from the uncomfortable benches and chairs that students were only subjected to for thirty minutes. Inexpensive plastic plates holding remnants of ice cream cake that had my name plastered on it, with the words “Happy Retirement.” Forty years ago, I walked through the doors of the high school and my boobs were firmer and further above my waist, my smile displayed more of my real teeth and my hair was longer. It seemed like forever ago, and as I looked out at the faculty members in attendance, I realized that they were infants – children, toddlers, and babies. Not a single soul had been present for my first day on the job, save for one, and he was my boss.
Mr. Smith was only a few years older than me when I started as an English teacher for the 12th grade, but he was older enough for me to be impressed and intimidated. He was charismatic and charming, and he was married. But that didn’t seem to matter to me when he took me by the hand and kissed me near his car, or when we slept together after the teachers’ convention in Atlantic City. After the sex, and after the mystery and intrigue had vanished, we hadn’t seen each other socially. He stayed with his wife and had a family. We were young, optimistic, romantic and stupid – I convinced myself that was all it was, and was comfortable with our past. For forty years, I had let sleeping dogs lie but for some reason, in front of these strangers, I opened my mouth and said, “I’d like to thank Mr. Smith for the best sex I’ve ever had. And for giving me a job, I guess.” I offered an awkward smile stretching across my crooked mouth, and met only silence.
Then suddenly, from the back of the crowd that was facing me with open mouths, I heard a woman shout, “You pig!” I closed my eyes and braced for the impact, because I was sure she had thrown something. I hoped it was just a plastic cup, or maybe some plastic cutlery, but a small piece of me feared it might be the knife we had used to cut the cake. Nothing hit me though, and I remained unscathed, so I opened my eyes. The young woman in the back, the newest hire in the foreign language department, had thrown a full cup of diet soda at Mr. Smith. Her hands were trembling at her sides, so she clenched them into fists and breathed deeply through her nose like a raging bull. I wondered if I should clarify that I had slept with Mr. Smith a lifetime ago, but then Mrs. Radner, another English teacher, stepped between Mr. Smith and the young woman. She had a freshly cut slice of cake upon a plate in her palm. She faced Mr. Smith on steady feet, and demanded to know how many others he had conquered.  He looked down at his feet, mumbled something quietly and whatever it was, Radner did not find it satisfactory. Not caring for dignity, and mustering up all the anger and shame that she could, she shoved the cake into his face.
Several faculty members gasped and shuffled backward. It became eerily quiet and again I wondered if I should say something, explain myself perchance, but then an older math teacher entered the circle and faced Radner. The math teacher, Mrs. Northampton, had cake of her own and slammed it into Radner’s face, screeching that Mr. Smith deserved more respect as a supervisor and besides, Smith was in love with her, and would be leaving his wife. Radner’s best friend, Ms. Schue, dumped the bowl of pretzels over Northampton’s head and told her she was crazy. Soon, all sorts of female faculty members were throwing condiments, entrees, appetizers and desserts at one another, while the male members stood back to watch with goofy, juvenile smiles.
I felt responsible, but enjoyed my removed position, and so I very discreetly stepped off the podium and headed to the double doors to the right, which was far from the fray. I had my purse, coat and car keys, so I was good to go. It wasn’t exactly the note I had wanted to end on, but I felt satisfied that no one would ever forget the day I left those hallowed halls of education. I was smiling in spite of myself, but stopped when I saw the ever-popular Mr. Smith, sitting just inside the exit doors, wiping cake from his face. He looked to me, and he looked ridiculous – covered in cake and deflated; somehow smaller than he had been just moments ago. “Happy trails, Linda.”
“Good luck, Frank,” I said. Then I left the building.

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